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.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Corpus Christi in Oxford

Last Sunday we had the Corpus Christi procession here in Oxford. I had observed the Feast in the Extraordinary Form on the previous Thursday - well I would, would n't I - but was very happy to have the Mass of the feast on Sunday (Octave of Corpus Christi, or Corpus Christitide if one wants to spin it that way). The procession, ever since its revival in recent years, has always been on the following Sunday afternoon.

The numbers of clergy, religious and laity taking part was impressive. Although the weather was not as kind as in previous years the rain did hold off until we reached the Catholic Chaplaincy for Benediction. There are some fine photographs of the occasion, taken by that excellent and indefatigable cameraman Br Lawrence Lew O.P. on the Oxford Oratory website and on Godzdogz.I have copied a few of his pictures to give you an idea of either what you were part of, or of what you missed.


Large numbers of the lay faithful were joined by a Passionist bishop, diocesan priests, Dominican friars and sisters, Oratorians, Jesuits, Salesian priests and sisters, Holy Child Sisters, Sacred Heart of St Aubin Sisters, the Sisters of the Work, Capuchin friars and novices, Knights of Malta and others as we processed from the Oratory down St Giles to Blackfriars for a sermon:



As well as Bishop William the Prior of Blackfriars and the University Chaplain both took turns to carry the monstrance as we made our way via Beaumont Street, Gloucester Street, New Inn hall St and Bonn Square to st Ebbes Street and the Chaplaincy:


As seems to have become usual in recent years I was attired with a yellow marshal's safety jacket to help keep the procession together and shepherd the faithful across the roads en route. Those of you who know me well may be amused by the mental image of me in red trousers, linen jacket and the all-important fluorescent yellow over-jacket scampering, nay running, along to get ahead of the procession to be ready at the next road crossing, complete with genuflections as I passed the Sacred Host. Of course, you may not.

Over refreshments we had a learned discussion as to what Fortescue would have opined about the way the priest leading the Rosary should carry the megaphone - should there be bandolier of the appropriate liturgical colour, with which hand should it be carried...?

One thing I noticed - as on previous years Sunday secular shoppers might have been a bit bemused but they were not at all hostile - other than a cussed cyclist - but that goes with a certain type of cyclist. This must be a great disappointment to those rabid secularists who keep trying to make ordinary, uncommitted people hostile to Catholics or any other Christian group.

Quite apart from the profound theological truths we celebrate at Corpus Christi I am very fond of the ceremonial and splendour of such public processions - they are good in themselves and a wonderful witness to the world.

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