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, 27 November 2014

Messiah at the Oxford Oratory on Saturday

This coming Saturday evening there will be a " Come and Sing " performance of Handel's "Messiah" at the Oxford Oratory. The performance commences at 8 pm, and tickets will be on sale at the door, and cost £10. I understand this will be the first performance of Handel's masterwork in a Catholic church in the city.

If you are free why not come along and prepare for Advent and Christmas with this soaring and majestic celebration of our redemption?

Ordinariate Use Wedding at Spanish Place


The New Liturgical Movement has a post about the recent marriage of Mr and Mrs James Turner according to the Ordinariate Use at St James Spanish Place in London. 

I knew James when he was here as a student in Oxford. He is a former Sacristan of Pusey House - after my time there - and someone whose reception into the Catholic Church at the Oxford Ortaory I attended. That was just before the establishment of the Ordinariate group here. James was involved with that before moving to London, and I occasionally meet up with him on Ordinariate major celebrations. 

The post, with some fine pictures of the liturgy and of the very splendid church, can be seen at Pictures of a Wedding in the Ordinariate Use

My congratulations and good wishes to the happy couple.

 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Images of St Catherine


Yesterday was the feast of St Catherine of Alexandria Virgin and Martyr.

In The Golden Legend, initially compiled circa 1260 by Jacobus de Voragine, is an account of her life and death, including this passage about the origins of her emblem, the Catherine wheel:

"Thereupon a certain prefect commended the following plan to the furious king: in three days four wheels, studded with iron saws and sharp nails, should be made ready, and by this horrible device the virgin should be cut to pieces, that the sight of so dreadful a death might deter the other Christians. it was further ordered that two of the wheels should revolve in one direction, and two be driven in the opposite direction, so that grinding and drawing her at once, they might crush and devour her. But when the engine was completed, the virgin prayed the Lord for the praise of His name and for the conversion of the people who stood by, the machine might fall to pieces. And instantly and angel of the Lord struck the monstrous mill, and broke it apart with such violence that four thousand pagans were killed by its collapse." 

(Jacobus de Voragine Golden Legend, New York, 1969; p. 713 -
 quotation by Matthew Heintzelman on the Medieval Religion discussion group)

There does seem to be a sense of quiet satisfaction on the part of the writer in the thought of so many pagans being killed by the exploding infernal device.

After centuries in the devotion of the Church St Catherine disappeared in the 1970 Missal, on the basis of the then fairly widespread doubts as to her historicity. However in the 2002 edition she reappeared as an optional memoria.

At our meeting of Brothers of the Oxford Oratory last night Fr Jerome Bertram C.O. examined the case for her existence, basing his talk on the first edition of Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints. Fr Jerome concluded that the probability of St Catherine having lived and died as a witness to the Faith was not to be discounted, and that despite later corruption of her Acta the likelihood was of her existence and that the traditions about her, properly interpreted, were credible.

In past centuries St Catherine was very popular, and there is considerable surviving evidence as to the regard in which her cult was held. On the Medieval Religion discussion group there was a post from John Dillon today about images of her, together with photographs of medieval English and French stained glass and wall-paintings from the Rev Gordon Plumb. This can be seen with the appropriate links at  St. Catherine of Alexandria This is a wonderfully varied collection, and well worth perusing. It subsequently transpired that a couple of the links do not work, and in the second example the image is inaccurately attributed, and for that see the additional post here.

Progress at Preston


I see from a post on Rorate Caeli that the good work is progressing at the church of St Walberge in Preston - recently transferred to the ICKSP by the Bishop of Lancaster to be a centre for Eucharistic devotion and for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form.

St Walberge, Preston
The tallest free standing tower and spire in England

Image: Rorate Caeli

The latest news is contained in an article by one of the clergy which was published in Regina Magazine. It is very positive about what is happening at St Walberge's, and has some splendid illustrations of the church and the liturgy, and can be accessed here.


Ad Orientem for Advent


The Zenit online news service has an article citing the pastoral letter of the Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, setting out a policy for the priests of the cathedral and the Bishop himself at the Midnight Mass, to celebrate facing east during Advent, in the expectation of the coming of the Lord. He suggests other clergy may do the same.

This looks like intelligent Reform of the Reform, and a way of reacquainting the faithful with the traditional priestly posture. It certainly looks to be a case of leading by example, and hoping that example will be followed.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Another Oxford Union Library List


Once again I have prepared a list of suggested books for the Oxford Union Library Committee to consider. On this occasion I compiled the list with a fellow committee member.

Here are the books I suggested, and which i would recommend to others, together with some notes about them, largely adapted from the Amazon website - but, if you want to purchase them in hard copy as opposed to kindle versions, do support your local bookshops if possible - you will miss them if they disappear:


Peter Heather  The Restoration of Rome ; Barbarian Popes and Imperial Pretenders. Pan  £12.99

In 476 AD the last Roman Emperor was deposed by a barbarian general, the son of one of Attila the Hun’s henchmen, and the Imperial vestments were despatched to Constantinople. The curtain fell on the Roman Empire in Western Europe, its territories divided between successor kingdoms constructed around barbarian military manpower. But if the Roman Empire was dead, the dream of restoring it refused to die. In many parts of the old Empire, real Romans still lived, holding on to their lands, the values of their civilisation, its institutions; the barbarians were ready to reignite the iIperial flame and to enjoy the benefits of Roman civilization, the three greatest contenders being Theoderic, Justinian and Charlemagne. But, ultimately, they would fail and it was not until the reinvention of the Papacy in the eleventh century that Europe’s barbarians found the means to generate a new Roman Empire, an empire which has lasted a thousand years.

ISBN 978- 1447241072

Chris Wickham Medieval Rome:Stability and Crisis of a City 900-1150   Oxford UP   £35

This analyses the history of Rome between 900 and 1150, a period of major change in the city. It does not merely seek to tell the story of the city from the traditional Church standpoint, but rather engages in studies of the city's processions, material culture, legal transformations, and sense of the past, seeking to unravel the complexities of Roman cultural identity, including its urban economy, social history as seen across the different strata of society, and the articulation between the city's regions. This new approach serves to underpin a major reinterpretation of Rome's political history in the era of the 'reform papacy', one of the greatest crises in Rome's history, which had a resonance across the entire continent. This book is the most systematic analysis ever made of two and a half centuries of Rome's history, one which saw centuries of stability undermined by external crisis and the long period of reconstruction which followed.


ISBN 978-0199684960

James  Hannam God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science  Icon Books   £10.99

This sets out to reveal the roots of modern science in the medieval world. The adjective 'medieval' has become a synonym for brutality and uncivilized behavior, yet without the work of medieval scholars there could have been no Galileo, no Newton and no Scientific Revolution. James Hannam debunks many of the myths about the Middle Ages, showing that medieval people did not think the earth is flat, nor did Columbus 'prove' that it is a sphere; the Inquisition burnt nobody for their science nor was Copernicus afraid of persecution; no Pope tried to ban human dissection or the number zero. The book is a celebration of the forgotten scientific achievements of the Middle Ages - advances which were often made thanks to, rather than in spite of, the influence of Christianity and Islam. Decisive progress was also made in technology: spectacles and the mechanical clock, for instance, were both invented in thirteenth-century Europe. Charting an epic journey through six centuries of historythe book brings back to light the discoveries of neglected geniuses like John Buridan, Nicole Oresme and Thomas Bradwardine, as well as putting into context the contributions of more familiar figures like Roger Bacon, William of Ockham and St Thomas Aquinas.

ISBN 978-1848311503

Mark Greengrass    Christendom Destroyed: Europe 1517-1648. Penguin (History of Europe V)  £12.99

From peasants to princes, no one was untouched by the spiritual and intellectual upheaval of this era. Martin Luther's challenge to church authority forced Christians to examine their beliefs in ways that shook the foundations of their religion. The subsequent divisions, fed by dynastic rivalries and military changes, fundamentally altered the relations between ruler and ruled. Geographical and scientific discoveries challenged the unity of Christendom as a belief-community. Europe, with all its divisions, emerged instead as a geographical projection. It was reflected in the mirror of America, and refracted by the eclipse of Crusade in ambiguous relationships with the Ottomans and Orthodox Christianity. Chronicling these dramatic changes, Thomas More, Shakespeare, Montaigne and Cervantes created works which continue to resonate. The book is a rich tapestry that fosters a deeper understanding of Europe's identity today.

ISBN 978-014197852X

Hugh Thomas  World Without End: The Global Empire of Philip II   Allen Lane   £30.00

Following Rivers of Gold and The Golden Age, this is the conclusion of a magisterial three-volume history of the Spanish Empire by Hugh Thomas
It describes the conquest of Paraguay and the River Plate, of the Yucatan in Mexico, the only partial conquest of Chile, and battles with the French over Florida, and then, in the 1580s, the extraordinary projection of Spanish power across the Pacific to conquer the Philippines. More significantly, it describes how the Spanish ran the greatest empire the world had seen since Rome - as well as conquistadores, the book is people with viceroys, judges, nobles, bishops, inquisitors and administrators of many different kinds, often in conflict with one another, seeking to organise the native populations into towns, to build cathedrals, hospitals and universities. Behind them - sometimes ahead of them - came the religious orders, the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and finally the Jesuits, builders of convents and monasteries, many of them of astonishing beauty, and reminders of the pervasiveness of religion and the self-confidence of the age.
Towering above them all, though moving rarely from the palace of the Escorial outside Madrid, is the figure of King Philip II, the central figure in the book. The Venetian ambassador thought him 'the arbiter of the world'. Once the Philippines had been consolidated, Philip's advisors contemplated an invasion of China: the Jesuit Father Sanchez called it 'the greatest enterprise which has ever been proposed to any monarch in the world'. It was an enterprise never undertaken, but never explicitly abandoned.
Was it a great or a terrible empire? In contrast to other empire builders, the Spaniards entered upon arguments with each other about their right to rule other peoples, and their ruthlessness was often tempered by humanity. Hugh Thomas's conclusion is unequivocal: 'The speed with which the sixteenth-century conquistadores conquered such large territories on two vast continents, and the comparable success of missionaries with large populations of Indians, stands as one of the supreme epics of both valour and imagination by Europeans.'

ISBN 978-1846140839

James Anderson Winn      Queen Anne: Patron of the Arts  Oxfird UP.   £ 30.00

Queen Anne (1665-1714) received the education thought proper for a princess, reading plays and poetry in English and French while learning dancing, singing, acting, drawing, and instrumental music. As an adult, she played the guitar and the harpsichord, danced regularly, and took a connoisseur's interest in all the arts.
In this comprehensive interdisciplinary biography, James Winn tells the story of Anne's life in new breadth and detail, and in unprecedented cultural context. Winn shows how poets, painters, and musicians used the works they made for Anne to send overt and covert political messages to the Queen, the court, the church, and Parliament. Their works also illustrates the pathos of Anne's personal life: the loss of her mother when she was six, her troubled relations with her father and her sister, James II and Mary II, and her own doomed efforts to produce an heir. Her eighteen pregnancies produced only one child who lived past infancy; his death at the age of eleven, mourned by poets, was a blow from which Anne never fully recovered. Her close friendship with Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, a topic of scabrous ballads and fictions, ended in bitter discord; the death of her husband in 1708 left her emotionally isolated; and the wrangling among her chief ministers hastened her death.
Richly illustrated with visual and musical examples, Queen Anne draws on works by a wide array of artists - among them composer George Frideric Handel, the poet Alexander Pope, the painter Godfrey Kneller, and the architect Christopher Wren - to shed new light on Anne's life and reign. This is the definitive biography of Queen Anne.

ISBN 978- 0199372195

Munro Price  The Perilous Crown: France between Revolutions 1814-1848. Pan  £14.99

Using substantial unpublished research as he did in his celebrated The Fall of the French Monarchy, Price focuses on the amazing political machinations of Madame Adelaide, sister of King Louis Philippe. Though only mentioned rarely in other histories of the time this book shows how her intelligence and behind the scenes wrangling secured her brother the throne, thereby creating France's only long lasting experiment with a constitutional monarchy.
Munro Price vividly brings the period alive with all its instability and political intrigue, while at the same time illuminating our understanding of a difficult and tumultuous time.

ISBN 978-1447249092


Michael and Eleanor Brock (eds.)  Margot Asquith's Diary: The View from Downing Street 1914-1916   Oxford UP £30.00

Margot Asquith was the wife of Herbert Henry Asquith, who led Britain into war in August 1914. Asquith's early war leadership drew praise from all quarters, but in December 1916 he was forced from office in a palace coup, and replaced by Lloyd George, whose career he had done so much to promote. Margot had both the literary gifts and the vantage point to create, in her diary of these years, a compelling record of her husband's fall from grace. She once described herself as 'a sort of political clairvoyant', but she did not anticipate the premier's fall, and it is for her candour, not her clairvoyance, that the diary is valuable.
Margot was both a spectator of, and a participant in, the events that she describes, and in public affairs could be an ally or an embarrassment - sometimes both. Her diary evokes the wartime milieu, as experienced in 10 Downing Street, and describes the great political battles that lay behind the warfare on the Western Front. Her writing teems with character sketches, including those of Lloyd George ('a natural adventurer who may make or mar himself any day'), Churchill ('Winston's vanity is septic'), and Kitchener ('a man brutal by nature and by pose'). Witty and worldly, Margot also possessed a childlike vulnerability: 'This is the 84th day of the war' she wrote in October 1914, 'and speaking for myself I have never felt the same person since. I don't mean to say I have improved! On the contrary...'.
This volume brings together a wealth of previously-unpublished source material with an introductory essay from Michael and Eleanor Brock, two of the leading authorities in the field.


ISBN 978-0198229773


Alexander Watsom Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria - Hungary at War 1914-1918  Allen Lane  £30

For Germany and Austria-Hungary the Great War - which had begun with such high hopes for a fast, dramatic outcome - rapidly degenerated as invasions of both France and Serbia ended in catastrophe. For four years the fighting now turned into a siege on a quite monstrous scale. Europe became the focus of fighting of a kind previously unimagined. Despite local successes - and an apparent triumph in Russia - Germany and Austria-Hungary were never able to break out of the the Allies' ring of steel.
In this new history of the Great War all the major events of the conflict are seen from the perspective of Berlin and Vienna. It is fundamentally a history of ordinary people. In 1914 both empires were flooded by genuine mass enthusiasm and their troubled elites were at one with most of the population. But the course of the war put this under impossible strain, with a fatal rupture between an ever more extreme and unrealistic leadership and an exhausted and embittered people. In the end they failed and were overwhelmed by defeat and revolution.

ISBN 9871846142215

R. F. Forster  Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland 1890 - 1923. W.W. Norton
£22


Having attended Prof Foster's fascinationg Ford Lectures on this material the other year I was very keen to recommend this book.
A searing cultural history of the remarkable generation who transformed Ireland Vivid Faces surveys the lives and beliefs of the people who made the Irish Revolution: linked together by youth, radicalism, subversive activities, enthusiasm and love. Determined to reconstruct the world and defining themselves against their parents, they were in several senses a revolutionary generation.
The Ireland that eventually emerged bore little relation to the brave new world they had conjured up in student societies, agit-prop theatre groups, vegetarian restaurants, feminist collectives, volunteer militias, Irish-language summer schools, and radical newspaper offices. Roy Foster's book investigates that world, and the extraordinary people who occupied it.
Looking back from old age, one of the most magnetic members of the revolutionary generation reflected that 'the phoenix of our youth has fluttered to earth a miserable old hen', but he also wondered 'how many people nowadays get so much fun as we did'. Working from a rich trawl of contemporary diaries, letters and reflections, Vivid Faces re-creates the argumentative, exciting, subversive and original lives of people who made a revolution, as well as the disillusionment in which it ended.


ISBN 978-0393082791


John Lukacs  Five Days in London: May 1940  Yale UP £8.50

A well received account of the events of May 24 - May 28 1940, the debate about continuing the Second World War and the emergence of Churchill as Prime Minister. It is worth recalling that some of the government records of that period are, I understand, still classified.
  
ISBN 978-0300084665

The list was approved by the Library Committee yesterday afternoon.


Monday, 24 November 2014

St Francis Xavier continues to pull in the crowds


Over the weekend the BBC website had a report about the public display of the body of St Francis Xavier in Goa. This is a ten yearly event and veneration continues until January 4th. The report, which has a series of photographs, can be seen at Pilgrims flock to Goa to see Saint Francis Xavier remains.

The Daily Telegraph has a report about the celebrations at Sacred relics of St Francis Xavier carried in procession.

There is an illustrated online account of his extraordinary life from 1506-1552 and of his achievements as a missionary at the online account in St Francis Xavier.

Given its age, the climate of the region and the distance between where St Francis died at Shangchuan and Goa, whither it was transported in 1553, the survival of his body is little short of miraculous in itself.