Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding.

I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop...
It was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Countdown to the end of Christian civilisation

Rorate Coeli has a post about a video produced about the outbreak of the First World War and its impact upon western civilisation, which includes interviews with a number of distingushed historians. It can be viewed at 100 years ago, the Dual Monarchy delivered its ultimatum to Serbia - A recommended video on World War I -- and the end of Civilization

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Fr Dominic's anniversary Mass

Yesterday Father Dominic celebrated the evening Mass on the feast of St Mary Magdalene, wearing the same vestment in which he was ordained on the same day in 1989.


Bishop Robert preached at the Mass, and Fathers also came down from York. Here are the original "Birmingham Three", who arrived in Oxford in 1990. From left to right: Bishop Robert Byrne, Fr Dominic Jacob and Fr Richard Duffield.


Text and images: Oxford Oratory

Monday, 21 July 2014

Silver Jubilee of Fr Dominic Jacob

Yesterday the Oxford Oratory celebrated the twenty fifth anniversary of the Ordination to the priesthood of Fr Dominic Jacob.

I have reproduced, with some emendations, the post from the Oratory website. It is quite long, but it includes pictures of the 1989 Ordination, of yesterday's Mass and of the parish party afterwards. For those readers who have not had an opportunity to visit the Oratory it gives a good idea of life at St Aloysius.

Here is Fr Dominic giving first blessings on that day:

Fr Dominic1

A first blessing for Fr Michael Napier, then Provost of the London Oratory and Apostolic Delegate of the Holy See to the Confederation of the Oratory:

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And a first blessing for the youthful Br Richard Duffield:

Fr D3

The sign of peace during the ordination Mass from Fr Ignatius Harrison, now Provost of the Birmingham Oratory:

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Fr Dominic was ordained by Bishop Joseph Cleary, Bishop of Cresima and auxiliary in Birmingham:

Fr D6

 Fr D2

 Here is his first Mass, assisted by Father (now Bishop) Robert Byrne:

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Fr D9 First Mass

Yesterday, Fr Dominic offered a Votive Mass of Christ the High Priest, in thanksgiving for his Silver Jubilee. The emphasis from Fr Dominic and from Fr Daniel in his sermon was on the exercise over these twenty five years of the Eternal Priesthood of Christ through Fr Dominic.

The entrance procession and the ascent to the altar:

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The very handsome set of vestments is one  that comes from a convent which has now closed and they now belong to the Oxford Oratory.

The Gloria:

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During the Sermon given by Fr Daniel, the Provost of the Oxford Oratory, who was deacon of the Mass:

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The choir sang a specially composed Salve Regina by Edward de Rivera, and a new Mass written by Andrew Knowles: the "Missa Respice de Caelo", which drew upon themes from different pieces in honour of St Philip, such as "This is the Saint", Sewell's "Pangamus Nerio" and "Respice de Caelo", and "O Filippo!".

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Incensing the altar:

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The Canon of the Mass:

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Fr Dominic says a few words at the end of Mass:

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The procession at the end of Mass:

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 The return to the sacristy:

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Afterwards there was a party in the Parish Centre. Here it is being prepared:

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Our parishioners enjoying themselves in the Parish Centre, which has been created as part of the Oratory Development Appeal. It is an excellent asset:

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Greeting the Silver Jubilarian:

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The cutting of the celebratory cake:

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Then and now:

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The young Fr Dominic in the Library at the Birmingham Oratory
Ad multos annos!

Images and core text: Oxford Oratory

Friday, 18 July 2014

Stratford Caldecott

I was very sorry to hear, though not alas surprised, yesterday evening of the death of the Oxford based Catholic thinker and educationalist Stratford Caldecott. His last few years have been lived out with the support of his family under the shadow of cancer, which has finally claimed him. To his family I send my condolences and the assurance of my prayers.

I did not know him well, but I have worked with and for various Catholic and Christian initiatives initiated by him and his family, and they have made a serious and sustained contribution to Catholic apologetics.

An indication of his range of interests can be found in the profile of him and his wife here.

The New Liturgical Movement has a tribute to him at Stratford Caldecott R.I.P.

A gentle and thoughtful man with a continuing concern to share the riches of the Faith he had come to he leaves a continuing legacy, but will be sorely missed by those around him.

May he rest in peace. Jesu Mercy, Mary Pray.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Chasse royale at Chinon

When I wrote my recent post King Henry II I added to it, almost as an afterthought, an image of the painting of the King and his family in the chapel of St Radegonde in Chinon, slightly adapting the accompanying text. I reflected as I did so that the suggestion that it has something to do with Queen Eleanor's captivity after 1173 struck me as something of a non sequitor. A comment by reader suggested that the latest thought is taht the painting depicts not Queen Eleanor but Henry the Young King and his brothers riding after their father. The key point was the position of the clasp of the cloak. As a result I thought I would look into more about the painting.

File:Chasse royale, fresque de la chapelle Sainte-Radegonde.JPG

The Chasse royale fresco


The painting is in Sainte-Radegonde, a chapel half built into the rock-face and about twenty minutes walk outside the town. There are pictures of the chapel and an account in a blog here which I have used and edited in writing this post . An underground natural spring at the back of the current chapel was a in pre-Christain times the site of pagan worship. The site was Christianized in the sixth century when St Radegonde came to visit a hermit called John ( Jean Le Reclus, or St John of Chinon) who lived and was buried there,  and hence, ultimately, the dedication of the chapel.

St Radegonde herself was born circa 520 in the kingdom of Thuringia, in  central Germany. She and a brother were taken hostage by their uncle, who had killed their father to claim the crown of the kingdom. When this uncle refused to honor a treaty with the Merovingians he lost his kingdom and his life when the Franks invaded Thuringia.  Radegonde and her brother were again captured and she was forced to marry Clothaire, a son of Clovis, the first King of the Franks. Marriage did not suit Radegonde but piety did, and she soon assumed the life of an ascetic. Radegonde eventually learned that her brother had led a revolt against her husband's rule of their native lands and had been assassinated by order of Clothaire. She repudiated her husband, took sanctuary, and eventually became a nun. Clothaire did not take kindly to his wife's abandonment and Radegonde sought spiritual direction from Jean Le Reclus in the face of obstacles Clothaire placed in her way. She founded L'Abbaye de Saint-Croix at Poitiers and was revered by the women who joined her there. The convent declined following her death in 587 but Radegonde's personal legend strengthened;part of her legend credits her with single-handedly killing a marauding, nun-killing dragon. She was canonised in the ninth century and a number of towns, churches and chapels in both France and England were dedicated to her, and an abbey founded in Dover in her honour in 1191.

The entrance to the chapel

At Chinon itself the two naves of the chapel were created in the twelfth century, one carved directly out of the rock, and the other one built.

Queen Eleanor would have been familiar with Radegonde given their shared city of Poitiers, and could well have identified with a Queen consort with familial troubles.

Jean of Chinon was supposedly a refugee from the Saxon raids on Britain, Radegonde revered him for his wisdom and spiritual direction, so much so that legend has it that upon his death Radegonde had a chapel built here to house his remains. 

If Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine considered St Radegonde to be a saint of particular personal devotion, then it is not unreasonable that she  may have endowed this chapel, or visited it when in Chinon, and that her personal interest was indicated by the wall painting of her family. That is assuming that this is not just a scene from the life of St Radegonde. Identifying the Planatgenets with figures from the life of a saint would not be unusual, but the likelihood does appear to be that this does depict King Henry II and his family, whether as themselves or as representitives of figures in the life of the chapel's patroness.

In addition to its subject matter, this painting is of outstanding quality in its execution, its vivacity and the variety of colours.

As to the precise subject matter there have been many theories. One is taht it depivcts King John's marraige in 1200 to Queen Isabella, but that does not seem to fit with the other figures.

The oft repeated suggestion that it depicts Quuen Eleanor's detention after 1173 or her release seems unsclear, and also not something to be depicted - the Angevins doubtless had some regard for presenting an ouwardly serene impression of dynastic unity for as long as possible.

A general view of the chapel apse. The figure of Christ in Majesty suggests Cluniac influence.

The Plantagenet group is on the upper part of the right hand wall

 The painting from below

The Chasse royale

A more detailed view of the left hand side of the painting

Given the indications of a family group, then surely it is King Henry II in the lead. The presumption has been that it is Queen Eleanor is in the centre, and probably her daughter Joanna, later Queen of Sicily beside her - the other daughters Matilda Duchess of Saxony and Leanora Queen of Castile were married and absent, so this may be meant to be the family who might be at court.

Then which sons are in the rear? The future Kings Richard and John does not fit with the dynastic dynamics. Is it the Young King and Richard, but that excludes the younger sons Geoffrey and John.

if the painting is after 1183 or 1186 then the two decesed sons can be excluded, but that raises all kinds of additional problems.The idea that it is a servant beside Eleanor seeems unlikely - this is a depition of ahierarchical family, not asnapshot of how peopel might actually have travelled.  If it is after 1189 and it is King Richard I leading then it is suggested Queen Eleanor could be riding with his Queen Berengaria but that seems unlikely given not only her lack of a crown,but her posture is wrong for awoman of her station.

However if all the figures are male, them it is clearly King Henry II, the Young King - so after 1170, but before 1183 when he died - and the other sons Richard, Geoffrey (who died in 1186) and John.

Queen Eleanor or King Henry the Young King?

Images :eleanorfootsteps.blogspot.co.uk

The blog author is convinced the regal figure is Queen Eleanor. Personally I am inclined to the solution that it is King Henry and his four sons after 1170. The Young King, fifteen when he was crowned, is shown beardless and with the longish hair of a youth, as are the other three figures. If it is agroup image of the Angevins it is, of course, both stylised and contrived - medieval Kings did not go hunting in their state robes anymore than their successors did or do. The painting suggests a united family of father an dfour sons out enjoying themselves. The reality may have been different, but this was the impresson aimed for by the artist and whoever commissioned him. maybe it was Queen Eleanor and maybe it was her fervent prayer to St Radegonde that it might be so.  

Other paintings, depicting the story of Sainte Radegonde and Saint John, were made during the 17th century. The chapel was deconsecrated following the French Revolution and used as dwelling places. In 1878, it was bought and restored as a sanctuary by a benefactress of Chinon, Madame Charre. It is doubtless to her that we should give gratitude for preserving this remarkable painting.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A novel by a friend

My friend Rhidian Jones has written a novel that depicts the trials of one Anglo-Catholic family as they try to reconcile their differing opinions on women in the priesthood. His new book “Cycling On” is published by Lulu, and is available both as a traditional book and an e-book.

After serving as a vicar in the Church in Wales before his reception as a Catholic layman, Rhidian Jones is well placed from both clerical and lay standpoints, as well as being a canon lawyer, to realize the importance of the conversation surrounding women in the clergy. The anecdotal story within “Cycling On” examines this issue through a fictional tale about the Goodchild family.

Each character highlights a new facet of the book’s women-in-priesthood debate – a debate that threatens the family’s unity throughout the course of the plot.

“My book is not only about issues but also about inner journeys of faith,” Jones says. “There are serious issues but there are also amusing anecdotes. Minute observations made and the enigmatic style of the narrative bear a resemblance to Barbara Pym and Iris Murdoch. Hopefully, readers will gain an insight into clerical life.”

An excerpt from “Cycling On”:

“A number of clergy and lay people from the diocese attended Mortimer Goodchild’s lecture on the role of canon law in the life of the Church, at the University law faculty in Freeland … In his lecture, Mortimer stressed the importance of having sound rules in order to ensure the efficient running of the Church and to avoid the possibility of scandal. He explained how the law was developing all the time to assist the Church in its sacred mission.”

“Cycling On”
By Rhidian Jones
Softcover | 5.83 x 8.26 in | 109 pages | ISBN 9781291224214
E-Book | 109 pages | ISBN 9781291650952

About the Author
Rhidian Jones served for several years as an Anglican vicar in Wales. He has a longstanding interest in Anglican and Catholic worship and liturgy and in canon law. His other publications include a spiritual anthology of poems and collections of devotional readings in Welsh.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

St Bonaventure

Today is the feast of St Bonaventure, who died whilst attending the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyons in 1274. Born in 1218 he became a Franciscan, head of the Order, composer of the Second, definitive, Vita of St Francis, and for hisd last year of life was Cardinal Bishop of Albano. There is an illustrated online life of him and introduction to his works here.

St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio
St Bonaventure


My interest in him comes includes the fact that he was offered the Archbishopric of York in 1265, but declined it. What might have happened had he accepted and settled in England?

In connection with my work on Bishop Fleming whose personal theology may reflect Bonaventuran themes I learned something more about the Seraphic Doctor, and I need to do more thereupon, as well as for my own devotional interest.

A few years ago I attended an interesting lecture about the issues surrounding St Bonaventure at the Oxford Centre for Franciscan Studies. The speaker's argument was that although some Franciscans tend to see St Bonaventure and his second Vita as taming the spirituality of St Francis and confining it within ecclesiastical respectability, he however made a good case for the view that Bonaventure should be seen as maintaining the Franciscan vision. In his persuasive argument St Bonaventure expressed in scholastic theology the ecstatic ideals and insights of St Francis. To him Bonaventure provided a means whereby Francis'message could become part of the mainstream.

St Bonaventure