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.
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I am a Catholic and a historian based in Oxford, where I am a member of Oriel College. My research, for a long delayed D.Phil., is a study of Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln in the second decade of the fifteenth century. I also work as a freelance tutor in History and as an independent tour guide.
I was received into the Church in 2005 and am a Brother of the External Oratory of St Philip Neri at the Oxford Oratory.
Last Thursday the Pope gave an address to the parish priests and clergy of the Diocese of Rome in which he reflected on Vatican II. This address is now being made available on the always useful Zenit website in installments, but the whole text can be read from the Vatican website here.
This is, it seems to me, a very important speech. Much more than a leave taking of his diocesan clergy it comprises the reflections of a man who has been at the heart of the debates about the choices facing and made by the Council since before it even met fifty years ago. The Pope is clearly a man with a profound historical sense about the Church and that is evident in this address.
It is also important as it is doubtless the last word we shall hear from Pope Benedict on these matters - I am sure his retirement to a life of prayer will be just that, he will not be writing, let alone speaking in public, about the Church or the Council.
The speech is quite lengthy, and I suspect some of my friends may not entirely like some of the views His Holiness expresses about the pre-Conciliar liturgy, but it is, as I said, an important text. It certainly stands in the tradition of the hermeneutic of continuity, and it also recalls the real enthusiasm of the young peritus Joseph Ratzinger for what the Council might achieve. It can also be seen as setting out an agenda for the continuing and future perception of Vatican II.