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.


Monday, 4 January 2016

Being a proxy godfather - again


Yesterday I attended the baptism of Eleanor, the second daughter of a couple who are long standing friends from my days at Pusey House and who like me have entered into full peace and communion with Rome. Eleanor was born just before Christmas. Owen and Emily invited me to join them on this happy occasion which followed on from the Morning Mass at SS Gregory and Augustine here in Oxford, the church in which they were married.

The baptism was conducted by Fr John Saward, who conducted their wedding and also baptised their elder daughter. The rite was that of the Extraordinary Form, with its series of exorcisms and associated prayers, and was preceded by Emily's churching at the door and High Altar of the church.

When their elder daughter was baptised I was assigned the role of proxy godfather, the actual godfather being unable to be present as he was out of the country. Yesterday I found myself being tapped on the arm and asked once more to be the proxy as the godfather on this occasion was unable to attend due to his car having broken down the day before. So once more unto the font I went...

The traditional liturgical form of the rite of baptism emphasises to those who are cognisant of what is going on the seriousness of being redeemed from Original Sin and the significance of what is happening. The stress in the responses made on the child's behalf by the godparents is very much of a personal desire for baptism - and  all it entails - rather than on rearing the child within a particular tradition - that is assumed. This I assume reflects the antiquity of the rite, when catacumens were of years of discretion.  A baptism in the traditional form is a very thorough process - nothing gets left out.

Following the ceremonies at the church door with exorcisms and salt and the signing with the cross, the oil of the catacumenate, the actual baptism and the Chrismation we proceeded to the Lady Altar, with Eleanor carried by her godmother Alex Lloyd and me bearing the baptismal candle, where the newly baptised infant was, as is the custom at SS Gregory and Augustine, consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady.

By a happy chance of coincidence in the congregation at Mass beforehand and then invited to the baptism, was the former Anglican clergyman, recently reconciled to the Catholic Church, who had baptised Owen as a schoolboy here in Oxford and prepared him for confirmation as an Anglican.

Afterwards I was one of those at a most enjoyable lunch party to celebrate the baptism with grandparents and other family members, and an occasion to toast the by now very sleepy centre of attention in her pram. 

Please pray for Eleanor Clare Olwen Curry, for Owen and Emily and their other daughter Alice, and for their families.


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