Fr Michael Scott NAPIER 
- Born: 15 Feb 1929
- Died: 22 Aug 1996, London aged 67
Page 26, 31st August 1996
Michael Napier must rank as one of the most outstanding superiors of the London Oratory since its foundation by Newman and Faber in the last century. On 22 August, on his way to the altar to celebrate Mass, he suffered a brain haemorrhage and died, aged 67.
For 43 years, he lived the life of an Oratorian, giving a remarkable witness of consistency to the very end. As he lay dying at the foot of the altar, clothed in his priestly vestments, he gave silent testimony to a life devoted to his community and to the worldwide Confederation of the Oratory he had served so well.
The son of Major-General Charles Scott Napier, a relation of the Lords Napier and Ettrick, Michael Scott Napier was born in India in February 1929. He was educated at Wellington and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. While at Cambridge he became a Catholic, having been instructed by Mgr Alfred Gilbey, who remained a close friend, mentor and example for the remainder of Napier's life.
Like so many converts before him, he entered the London Oratory in November 1953 and was ordained priest in Rome in 1959 after completing his studies at the Beda College. He was elected provost in 1969, and it fell to him to guide the London Oratory through the difficult period of post-conciliar adjustment. This he did with tact and firmness of touch.
The liturgical tradition of splendour combined with prayerfulness and deep interior participation made the Oratory vulnerable in a time of profound change in the Church's worship. Fr Napier, supported by his community, maintained and enriched that tradition while remaining absolutely faithful to the Apostolic See.
Having re-elected him for four consecutive three-year terms as provost, the worldwide Oratorian Confederation chose him as Visitor of the Apostolic See in 1981. As each Oratory fiercely guards its autonomy, this is not an easy task. Fr Napier fulfilled it with great delicacy and was re-elected for a further six years in 1987.
During his time as Visitor, he encouraged and nurtured several infant congregations, two of which, those of Vienna and Toronto, took particular inspiration from the life and customs of the London Oratory. He was again elected provost in 1991 and combined the two duties with unstinting devotion.
Passionately interested in travel and history, particularly in the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, Napier felt great sympathy for the work of Aid to the Church in Need and was a member of its executive committee. He also continued a long-established Oratorian tradition by serving as a chaplain of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
He was tall and imposing, but his external appearance hid a tenderness and capacity for affection and friendship which perhaps he himself never fully realised. Sensibility and discipline were the two very different forces which grace brought into harmony. He could have been a soldier or he might have been an aesthete. God combined the qualities of both to excellent effect.
It is a truism that a real Oratorian is known only in death. As he rendered his soul to God, attended by a former provost and his first novice, Michael Napier confirmed this in a remarkable way.