Last night we rounded off the In(ter)dependence Week of the Oxford Oratory Reaffirmation and Renewal Appeal with a formal dinner at Harris Manchester College here in Oxford. I did wonder what its Unitarian founders would have thought of entertaining so many Papists - maybe their belief in religious liberty would overide any doubts.
Before dinner we were given a tour of the College chapel with its splendid Pre-Raphaelite glass by Burne Jones and William Morris glass. As a style it is not entirely to my taste, but it is fine craftsmanship, and one of the lesser known treasures of Oxford. Well worth seeing if, like me until last night, you have not seen it.
After the well attended and enjoyable dinner in Hall Fr Richard Duffield spoke about the appeal and about Newman. He stressed the way that American Catholics had managed to implement Newman's vision of a Catholic University education in ways that had never been achieved in Britain or Ireland.
He also spoke of the generous support given by American Catholics to Newman, especially at the time of the Achilli trial. This had enabled Newman to buy the site of the Oratory cemetary at
Rednal, where the Cardinal and his fellow founders of the Oratory were eventually interred.
There was also the gift of a ring, which Fr Richard had with him. It consists of an entire nugget of gold from the California goldrush mounted on a ring. It is, frankly, pretty hideous, but a remarkable gift. Newman, who perhaps reasonably does not seem to have liked it very much, gave it to Fr Faber, and it appeared through the good offices of Fr Ignatius Harrison, Provost of the London Oratory. Apart from its weight it would perhaps pass as a modern piece of expensive costume jewellery in an exhibition. It could never be worn in any conceivable circumstances other than as a knuckle-duster - which does conjure up some curious fantasy images of Newman, or Faber, settling disputes with it...
The evening ended with a successful auction, which helped swell the coffers of the appeal. All in all a very good evening, blessed with fine weather and good company.
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