ORATORY is a queer term with varied significance. When not understood in right context can be quite misleading.
In the literary sense it refers to Oration, Oratory, Public speaking, etc. It focuses on once skill of language and public diction. In a religious context, Oratory is known to be a place of worship. “Oratio’ in latin relates to all sense of prayer and reverence to the divine. In the middle ages as even today, Oratory is known more as a place where one spends time in pray.
Don Bosco had the uncanny knack to bring spirituality and holiness on the playground. Through his own struggle and experience in youth work during the time of the industrial revolution in the early eighteenth century, Don Bosco felt the powerful need of mixing faith with real life struggles to build ones personality. Promoting the Oratory as he began his mission for the youth, Don Bosco had to make do with any space available for all his activities: recreational and religious. In his educative method of the Preventive System, built on the three pillars of: Reason, Religion and loving Kindness, Don Bosco was keen to find a healthy blend of Value, Spirituality and Recreation. He ensured that every Salesian house would first have a space where the youngster could run, jump and play, and every effort spared to put away Sin. Healthy and Holiness and recreation thus becomes a formula for youth work that has borne rich dividends in very continent where Don Bosco is spread over 132 Countries.
Reflecting on the Oratory, we can clearly identify four areas of Importance:
ORATORY IS HOME: Every Salesian presence for Don Bosco was to be a family. This was a place were every youngster would find security and happiness. The Rector of every community was to be a father figure. A home is an embodiment of various virtues of deep relationships, concern, safe environment and deep trust in each other. It’s difficult to get the ideal situation of a Home away from Home. When a youngster enters the oratory, he needs to build relationships, be comfortable in the ambient that constantly cares and nurtures his needs. Home is the way we relate to one another.
ORATORY IS PLAYGROUND: Don Bosco found that the true expression of character is in the spontaneous expression of participation in sports. “If you want to see the real character of a boy, make him play his favourite sport!” Don Bosco would say. The young have tremendous energy that we need to find a way to utilising in a positive manner.
The playground is the wide open area of ones free expression. Don Bosco’s oft remembered quote: “Run, Jump, play but do not sin” was a perfect way to say, the true expression of sports is sure foundation to ones character.
ORATORY IS CHURCH: One typical trait of Don Bosco’s spirituality was Happiness. He inculcated in the little boys left on the streets, that being happy and truly making others happy was a means to attain holiness. Happiness is a sign of contentment. Thus being happy for Don Bosco meant an attitude of being at Peace with God. This makes perfect sense to believe that if we develop an attitude of truthfulness in our manner of expression, even if we be apparently entertaining ourselves, we are Praying!
ORATORY IS A SCHOOL: Oratory is a place where learning takes place, both for sport, health and life. Learning that is often taken of granted is that exposure a child gets in sports games. The child learns to compete in a healthy manner, s/he learns to handle difficult situation, s/he learns to reach out in charity. Learning thus is a part of the growing process.