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.

Wednesday 30 June 2010

Thought for the Day

Prince Metternich
Portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

"What is true of religious dogma is equally true of principles of government. To discuss them is often dangerous and always useless."


I know you will be wondering (go on, admit it), if of course you do not already know, but, in addition to the jewel of the Order of the Golden Fleece, I believe that the riband the Prince is wearing is that of the Order of St Stephen of Hungary.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

EF Masses in Oxford in July

Regular Masses:

Sunday 8am (Low Mass) Oxford Oratory

Wednesday 6pm (Low Mass) SS Gregory & Augustine, Woodstock Road

Thursday 9am (Low Mass: readings in the vernacular) St Anthony of Padua, Headley Way
(not on July 1st )

Saturday 9.30am (Low Mass) St Birinus, Dorchester on Thames

Other celebrations in July:

Thursday July 1st Precious Blood
6pm Low Mass, SS Gregory & Augustine

Friday July 2nd First Friday
pm, Low Mass, SS Gregory & Augustine

Sunday July 11th Solemn Parish Mass
10.30 am,
SS Gregory & Augustine

Petrine claims

The Lion And The Cardinal recently had this picture of one of the less well known Papal tiaras. and I thought I would share it to mark the Feast of SS Peter and Paul.

It was presented to Pope Pius IX in 1871 by the ladies of the royal court of Belgium to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his coronation, and was made by Jean Baptiste Bethume of Ghent.
  • Upper crown inscribed: IESV CHRISTI VICARIO INFALLIBILI - To The Infallible Vicar of Jesus Christ.
  • Middle crown inscribed: ORBIS SVPREMO IN TERRA RECTORI - To the Supreme Governor of the World on Earth
  • Lower crown inscribed: REGUM ATQVE POPVLORVM PATRI - To the Father of Nations and Kings.
In recent year this tiara has been shown in various exhibitions around the world. Personally I think this one of the least attractive of the surviving Papal tiaras, but it is an interesting example of the genre.

And, just in case you feel you need to ask - of course I am in favour of the restoration of the use of the Papal tiara.

Monday 28 June 2010

Sarajevo remembered

Few events in human history, even allowing for the dangers of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning, have had as direct an impact on the lives of everyone ever since as the assassination of Archduke FranzFerdinand and his wife in Sarajevo on this day in 1914.
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The Archduke and Duchess leaving Sarajevo Town Hall

With those two pistol shots the world changed forever, whether we like the fact or not. In those split seconds the modern political world was born. We were and are all affected by what happened that morning. At that moment an older world, founded on traditional perceptions was symbolically as well as literally shot down by the forces of disorder and revolution.Whatever devil's brew of Bosnian history lay behind the actions of the plotters they fell into the dangerous trap of believing that one person can and should be punished for grievances, real or imagined, in the past as much as the present - things for which their victim was hardly responsible. They had the dangerous delusion that the violent overthrow of a traditional order will produce something better. It doesn't. It will almost certainly result in horrors far worse than before.

Whatever the military arguments about Austria's policy in the Balkans and how to respond, the assassination of the heir to the throne of the Dual Monarchy was an assault upon the very principles upon which it was based - Franz Ferdinand may not have been popular with many in Vienna or Budapest, but he was the next in line to the throne which held the whole together. The evidence since 1918 suggests that such a Danubian union was no bad thing.

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The car leaves the Town Hall on its fatal journey

Last year I read David James Smith's One Morning in Sarajevo, which is an eminently readable account of the events. Published in 2008 It is based on established research plus insights he has derived from visits recently to Bosnia, and contact with relatives of some of the conspirators. Written with pace and a feeling for the locations it has something of the sense of a film or television script which engages the reader's attention. In all that it builds upon Vladimir Dedijer's classic and magisterial The Road to Sarajevo of 1967, although Dedijer has far more about the background - I am in the course of reading it at the moment. Smith has, however, been able to use a definitive account of the trial of the conspirators, which was not available in a full edition in the 1960s.

Smith is fair minded and even-handed, though I would be less inclined to the human sympathy he at times shows towards the Young Bosnian terrorists.

What emerges from his interpretation is, amongst others, a group of young radical nationalists engaging in "gesture politics" - the Archduke is coming to Sarajevo - one of us ought to try to kill him - appears to have been part of their reasoning. Princip himself showed no remorse for the death of the Archduke himself and excused his responsibility for the Great War by saying it would have happened anyway. Others were typical of a certain type of political fanatic - family men with settled careers who were driven by political extremism to terror with unimaginable consequences, yet men seemingly rather surprised to be brought to account for what they had done.

What is also terrifying is the way in which a series of misadventures allowed Princip to be where he was and given the opportunity to shoot. The actions leading to the assassination and the events of the day itself, let alone what happened during the next month, open up a whole range of "what ifs" and "if onlys". I am no great believer in 'counter-factual history' per se, but here such thoughts do bring to mind the range of possibilities that might have happened, with very different consequences.

Whether or not a world war would have broken our sooner or later is, in my opinion, open to question - I am not an inevitabilist - and Smith points to indications of a desire on the part of European leaders to defuse international tensions by 1913. Princip's shots were to prove fatal to that hope - they had the effect of bringing the house down, whether or not it was destined to fall. To blame the war on impersonal forces, however much they contributed to the mind-set of the day, is to deny personal responsibilty for individuals' actions, and their consequences - forseen and unforeseen. That applies to the choices made by political and military leaders in the wake of the assassination, but it must also, definitively, apply to the conspirators. Had there been no assassination we cannot be sure there would have been a conflict anyway. There is no escape clause there.

Since Dedijer wrote the union of the South Slavs as Yugoslavia has disintegrated, and Smith highlights this and its consequences. He also informed me of something I did not realise, that the last of the conspirators,Vaso Čubrilović, only died in 1990. Perhaps Smith's most chilling, or shocking, quotation comes from a Muslim Sarajevo taxi driver who when asked by Smith to take him to the conspirator's graves - once a shrine to Slav nationalism, but now largely shunned and neglected - said "Why do you want to go there? If it had n't been for them we'd still have been in Austria and better off." Thus two world wars, the terrible events in Yugoslavia between 1941 and 1945, post war reprisals, years of Tito's rule, the disintegration and fighting of the 1990s and since, the still unresolved questions, the years of human misery of flight and exile, misery and oppression, brutality and murder, not to mention what has happened to Europe and the world - all are somehow put in a context that challenges all of the decisions and choices made since 1914.
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The bodies of the Archduke and Duchess lying in state

As I read these detailed accounts of what happened, so minutely recorded - including a photograph taken only seconds before Princip fired - you can see the car wheels turning to take the car along the original not the revised route, which gave the assassin his chance (and much more interesting than who might or might not have been on the grassy knoll in Dallas in 1963), I felt a mounting, palpable urge to shout out "Don't shoot!" Mentally I did, yet I know, of course, it echoes down a void of almost a century, unheeded.

I would urge anyone interested to read not only Dedijer or Smith but other books on the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - to understand what happened, and indeed what might have happened, is to understand more about the way our civilisation has gone in the last century. To ask questions about what happened, and why, and was it all avoidable is, I have long believed, important. However one interprets those years, whoever you are inclined to support, in the choices being made one sees much more then "mere" political or military history.

The Archduke's funeral procession in Vienna

Pray for the repose of the soul of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie, and for all those affected by their deaths, both departed and living - which is, lest we forget, all of us.

Saturday 26 June 2010

Valle Adurni on Anglican difficulties

Fr Finnegan at Valle Adurni has had several reflective and sympathetic articles on his blog this week about the issues facing Anglo-Catholics and Anglicans less likely to make the transit of the Tiber. He looks at the issue of taking one's church with one - he is not optimistic , at Anglican priestly formation - commented on by Fr Hunwicke, and at the decline in traditional Anglo-Catholic parishes - all of us former Anglicans have witnessed that. These are pieces well worth looking at, and have been picked up by some of the other blogs.

He stresses the need for the prayers and charity of Catholics who want to see those who believe as they do gathered into full communion.

Friday 25 June 2010

Swedish Royal Wedding

The wedding last weekend of the Crown Princess of Sweden appears, from what I have seen and read to have been a splendid occasion. There is official coverage on the Swedish Monarchy website, and on the Radical Royalist site.

As in this country it gave an opportunity for the mean-spirited and such like minorities to mutter republican ideas and grumble about the cost, all of which seems to have been rather confounded by a successful and joyful wedding. Some of the coverage in the lead up to the wedding touched on this as in a rather predictable Royal wedding triggers Swedish monarchy debate - Washington Times but the general health of the Swedish monarchy as an institution appears good, as in the articles on this site Official Gateway to Sweden, The and in this article analysing the place of the monarchy in Swedish society The monarchy gives Sweden political innocence.

This is interesting in the light of the new Constitution of 1974 which removed all direct exercise of prerogative power from the monarch and the 1980 legislation which gave complet parity in the succession to women - hence the Crown Princess has a younger brother Prince Carl-Philip, who was briefly Crown Prince from his birth in 1979 until the following year. Whatever one might think of these pieces of legislation they do not appear to have weakened the monarchy - indeed giving women equal inheritance rights was seen as strenthening it by the centre-right government in 1980.

I am old enough to recall the idea being circulated around 1973 when King Gustav VI Adolf died that the age disparity between him and his grandson, the present King Carl XVI Gustav was such that the monarchy would wither between the old age of one monarch and the youth of his successor. That does not seem to have happened - the monarchy appears youthful, glamourous and popular. The instant pundits were wrong again it would appear.

From a British standpoint it was, in my opinion, sad that on the official group photograph the Earl and Countess of Wessex were not included, and seem to be excluded along with members of non-regnant houses, such as Romania and Serbia, or the Liechtensteins. Whatever the reasons the presence of the Queen's youngest son and his wife seems rather less high profile than the representation of the other reigning dynasties. This looks rather like the public tendency of the House of Windsor to keep other reigning, never mind non-regmant, dynasties at something like arms-length on occasions other than when they choose their presence - as in the Garter procession with other monarchs to mark the Queen's Jubilee in 2002, or at the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1981. This seems to go back to King George V's choices in 1917 about his name and foreign titles, and one that seems very different to those meetings of the "Royal Mob" in the days of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII. Other royal houses seem much more comfortable displaying monarchical solidarity.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Ordinariates(s) continued

Following on from my piece about responses to plans for provision for Anglo-Catholics within the Church of England as opposed to the Ordinariate offered by the Pope the former Bishop of Richborough has commented further in this post The points he makes should certainly be considered by those directly affected, and tested against what the General Synod might offer. The proposals look like an Archiepiscopal response produced in something of a panic. If they has wanted to offer this as an active, positive, option they should have done so at the shambles they helped create at the York Synod two years ago. Now it looks like a spoiling move to attempt to mollify opposition without giving anything of substance - the "Third Province" - and to prevent some of those who might be tempted to move to the Ordinariate from doing so, but so as not to upset those anxious to create female "bishops".

It all looks too 'political' - the type of playing politics which led to the whole mess in the first place. That is not the way to do the Will of God, even in the Church of England - although the General Synod exists for that very political purpose. It really is decision time for Anglo-Catholics - they and their friends need courage and streadfastness at this time.

Traditional Dominican Liturgy

I have recently discovered through NLM Fr Augustine Thompson O.P.'s blog Dominican Liturgy. This is concerned with all aspects of the ancient Dominican rite, and a valuable resource for historians of the liturgy and the Church as well as for the Blackfriars themselves. It is well worth looking at and I have added it to my blogroll.

My own interest is increased in it by the fact that not only do we have an excellent Dominican house here in Oxford today but one of those little historical projects that I mean to do sometime is a new edition of the history of the medieval Dominican house in my hometown of Pontefract. Founded in 1256 it was closed in 1538, but a local historian produced in the late nineteenth century a study of the house that in its detail was unusual and poneering, basing his research on bequests and other sources. Over a century and a quarter later that could be supplemented by new research in the sources, archeological evidence from the site and by the wider scholarship on mendicant history. This is something I would like to do, and the work of Fr Thompson would be of great assistance.

Nativity of St John the Baptist

Today's feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist prompts me to pass on an observation from working at the Christ Church Picture gallery here in Oxford. The collection of fourteenth and fifteenth century Italian devotional paintings - I will not call them "Primatives" - include a number of depictions of St John. In addition to his usual camel- skin habit he is usually shown wearing a pinkish- purple or what today one would call mauve robe, and carries a scroll with the words Ecce agnus Dei. In the surviving English medieval depictions I have seen I am of course used to the camel-skins, and rather than a scroll a carried lamb or plaque with a lamb, but the colour coding had not struck me. I wonder if this was an Italian rather than a more general notion. I assume the colour was chosen as being one suitable for repentance. One is used to blue for Our Lady, but I wonder how widespread purple tones were for St John? Is it just that where statues survive here they have often lost their painted decoration.

The sequence for the feast by Adam of St Victor can be found on The Lion and the Cardinal for today'

Depictions of St John remind me of a friend who as an Anglican curate described the Baptist in a homily as not being the sort of young man you would want your daughter to bring home...Think about it - afternoon tea with John the Baptist...

Earliest Roman images of the Apostles

The recently discovered icons of the Apostles in Rome from the fourth century have attracted considerable interest. In case people have not seen reports I am reproducing Fr Blake's post from St Mary Magdalen, Brighton.

What strikes me is the further evidence these provide of the maturity and integrity of Christian practice soon after the era of Constantine, and that it was clearly established amongst the wealthier sections of late Imperial society. I do not think this type of art can be termed "the corrupt following of the Apostles" - though come to think of it, what on earth does that famous phrase actually mean?

Anyway, enter the world of the church of the age of Theodosius and Ambrose...
click images to enlarge

The catacomb of St Tecla last year yielded up the earliest icon of St Paul, this week the Holy See anounced that the same burial chamber also contained icons of the Apostles Peter, Andrew and John. These icon's date from the latter half of the fourth century. Though there are earlier images which form part of narrative scenes, these images are the earliest individual portraits, which indicates that there was devotion to these apostles in Rome at this time.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

St Etheldreda

Today is the feast day of St Etheldreda, the founder of what was to become Ely Cathedral, and who died in 679.

One of her hands is preserved in the Catholic church in Ely and there is another relic at St Etheldreda's in Holborn. Unfortunately I cannot find on the internet a picture of the hand preserved at Ely.

Her most obvious monuments are much later than her own time, and include the spectacular cathedral at Ely. This is a Norman and Early English structure which in the wake of the collapse of the central tower in 1322 was restored in spectacular fashion with the creation of the octagon at the crossing, the rebuilding of the western bays of the choir arm and the addition of the Lady Chapel, and later the top of the western tower. The result is some of the most exuberant and exhilarating architecture from medieval England.

Angleterre, Ely by Jacqueline Poggi.

This was not confined to the cathedral, and other examples of the period from the see of Ely include the church of St Etheldreda in Holborn. This is all that now remains of the bishop's London residence, and after along and chequered history after the reformation returned to Catholic ownership and use. I have attended a couple of EF Masses there offered by the Society of St Catherine of Siena. The website of the church is here. The interior is shown to the right.

Both the cathedral and the Holborn episcopal chapel have the nature, even if they are perhaps a generation earlier, of what is meant by the line from Kind Hearts and Coronets where the elderly canon says of the west window of his church "It has all the vitality of the age of Chaucer with none of the concomitant vulgarity"

For these wonderful buildings we have St Etheldreda to thank, as well as the skills of the masons who created them and the devotion which commissioned them.

Bishop Elliot in Oxford

I have taken the following piece from the Oxford Oratory website as it may interest readers. The photograph is from yesterday's 10 am Mass at St Aloysius, which was celebrated by Bishop Peter Elliot from Melbourne. It is of interest partly because of the subject matter of his homily on the feasts of SS John Fisher and Thomas More, and partly because of the relatively rare sight of an episcopal biretta on a preacher...and, well let's face it, we like things like that.


"Bishop Elliot is the delegate of the Australian bishops for the implementation of the Ordinariate for former Anglicans within the Catholic Church. At Mass on the feast of SS John Fisher & Thomas More, he spoke of the need to pray for this project, which will be the last ever possibility of any kind of corporate reunion.[My emphasis] Just as Thomas More and John Fisher stood for conscience, so many are called to do today in seeking union with the successor of St Peter."

Tuesday 22 June 2010


With the approach of the July meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have come up with proposals to amend the proposed legislation to create "women bishops" so as to perpetuate a version of the current "Flying Bishops" system. I wonder if it is not too late to do this - no, I think I'm sure that it is - and in any case I wonder if those committed to having lady bishop-persons would wear it.

The comments of the former Bishop of Richborough, Edwin Barnes, here , and the two pieces by the p-in-c of St Thomas Oxford, John Hunwicke, here and here are worth reading.

This is an issue about which we must continue to pray for, praying for unity - real unity - and fraternal charity, and for those faced with difficult practical decisions. It is also a time for courage, and holding on to the vision held out to those of Catholic mind.

Perhaps we should turn to John Henry Newman for his intercession.

Celebrating St Aloysius

Last night's Solemn Mass at the Oratory was the main celebration for St Aloysius here in Oxford.

As something of a surprise we had a Pontifical Mass with Bishop Peter Elliott, a long- standing friend of the Oratory. I gathered that he just happened to be in Oxford and was recruited at short notice. We had an excellent sermon from Fr Simon Bishop S.J., the Chaplain to the University. This brought out the lessons that can be applied by everyone in their own lives from the example of St Aloysius' life,and concentrated on the future saint's remark to his father when he told him of his vocation: I am made for greater things.

After the Mass, and on the way to the splendid buffet supper there was an opportunity to admire the completed work on the statue of our patron saint. I am basically reproducing, with a few alterations, the piece about it from the Oratory website, and would add that I have a personal interest in this in that I found at an auction the pillar base on which St Aloysius now stands. It fits in so well I wonder if it had wandered from the church at some point in the past. The capital is just visible. The statue is a handsome piece, and representitive of the way St Aloysius is usually depicted

... the statue of St Aloysius in the Relic Chapel has now acquired a splendid shield of the Gonzaga arms by Tom Meek. The original statue was wood, from Ammergau, and was mysteriously sold away just before the Oratory came to Oxford. The one we have now was given to us by the nuns of Oulton Abbey, and recently restored by Richard Pelter's team from IFACS. With the ihs and sa monograms on the background, it is a little reminder of four hundred years of Jesuit ministry in Oxford, from Fr Edmund Campion to Fr Richard Manners SJ.

Monday 21 June 2010

Flos paradisi

Salveto centies! Flos paradisi!
are the first words of the hymn we shall no doubt sing this evening to mark St Aloysius' day at the Oxford Oratory, as we sang it last night at First Vespers.

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St. Aloysius Gonzaga as a youth

St Aloysius (1568-91) was a Jesuit, and when the present church in Oxford was built by the Society in 1875 he was chosen as patron. I assume this was partly because he was seen as a suitable role model for young men in the university city as well as being a Jesuit. There is a short biography here
St. Aloysius Gonzaga

The contemporary portraits of St Aloysius suggest, as does his life, a young man of considerably more determination that the later, hagiographical images, where he looks decidedly wimpish.

As we were reminded in a good sermon on this day last year from one of the Jesuit Chaplains to the University St Aloysius can appear a rather uncomfortable figure - the pious youth of aristocratic family who renounces all to become a Jesuit and dies at the age of 23 whilst nursing plague victims, a young man of austere life and spirituality who never, according to his confessor, committed a mortal sin. He stands in a tradition that includes the fourteenth century Avignon teenage Cardinal, Peter of Luxemburg, as someone one may admire, but feel it impossible to follow. It was perhaps for this reason, that is with conscious irony, that Lord Sebastian's teddy bear is named Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. As, however, last year's preacher pointed out what we need to see is the young man who is possessed of self knowledge - the member of Renaissance aristocratic military society who sees only too clearly the temptations the world has to offer, and rejects them. A little known English parallel would be the member of the great Bohun family who, in the fourteenth century, renounced his inheritance to join the Austin Friars.
Presented in that way St Aloysius becomes a much more accessible figure, one who is re-configured in Christ, and who can speak to all of us as to the possibilities of spiritual transformation in our own situations.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga in Glory

May St Aloysius continue to pray for the Oratory and its parish.

Friday 18 June 2010

Feast of the Dedication of St Chad's Cathedral

Today is the feast of the dedication of St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham. For those who have not visited this great work by Augustus Welby Pugin I would urge you to do so.

Birmingham March 2008 by David @ Marchwood.

Though it suffered in the 1960s from some serious wrecknovation, restoration work in recent years has done much to redress the damage done, and the plans for more work as outlined to us on a visit by the Brothers of the Oxford Oratory were very impressive.

The feast is, of course, not so much concerned with the building as with it as the symbol of the Church as built up of living stones. However by focusing on the cathedral it reminds us of our Catholic unity with the Archbishop as the cornerstone of our local edifice which itself is a stone of the whole Ecclesia Dei held together by the Pope as Vicar of Christ. By blending the symbol and the reality it also reminds us of how Christ and the Church sanctify creation - us and Pugin's bricks and mortar - as an act of praise to the Creator.