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.

Thursday 30 September 2010

Meanwhile in Oriel Square

Once again we had a film crew in Oriel Square today. I am not sure what they were filming, but they were catching the autumn sun. Three weeks ago, in damper conditions, there was another crew there filming for, as I understood it, the latest Inspector Lewis series. Normally one passes such things with the disdain of the Oxford resident who has seen it all before, but on this occasion there was rather more to see. There, in the middle of the Square, was what purported to be a religious procession, which eventually moved off towards Merton Street. Later on it returned from Merton. Several times knowing what filming is like. They were there all afternoon in fact.

Now what really caught my eye was not that it was a religious procession, but how wrong virtually everything was. Thus the "Procession" appeared to be led by a man in an all-purpose costumier's monastic habit - dark brown, Franciscan girdle, sandals - but a bit short - almost worthy of the fraticelli. He was holding, it appeared, but without a humeral veil and without wearing a stole, a monstrance at waist height. Behind him were a group in similar habits with some dark red involved somewhere, and beating side drums rather in the manner of the Sealed Knot. The effect was slightly Bhuddist*. Behind, under a splendid, stiffened and rigid canopy, came a figure in a white cope, but not carrying the monstrance or reliquary that preceded him. Behind were upwards of twenty more all-purpose monastics in their all-purpose habits, all bearing identical dark green banners. Behind them were a series of figures in academic dress, including at the rear, a D.D., but, of course, they were all too young to have attained such degrees in real-life. There was the whiff of incense in the air.

All very atmospheric no doubt, but woefully inacurrate. You would not get away with the equivalent mistakes with historic military, police, railway or any other uniform you care to think of.

But then, it is Oxford, and it is television.

* Remember the story about the automatic text added to televised coverage of Pope John Paul II's funeral which rendered "Karma lite nuns " for Carmelite nuns...

Anglican ructions - what would St Wilfrid say?

My friend and neighbour Fr Hunwicke is in fine fulminatory form on his blog about the proposed Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda. You can read his post here.

He is not alone in his views - nothing surprising in that - and Bishop Edwin Barnes, Ancient Richborough, has had some good posts on the relevance of the `Sacred Synod' and related matters. The main points can be read in sequence here,here,and here. I am very pleased to see his citation of the work of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

Chichester Cathedral - photograph by St Wilfrid's Bognor Regis

I too have doubts as to there being a very positive response to the Society from St Hilda, and certainly not from St Wilfrid, who was, let's face it, a Romaniser. To invoke his aid in the cause of a society that is " well, sort of, but not really, well, no, really, not actually Roman" is an insult to him and his entire career and also to historical scholarship. If the Synod of Whitby is to be used as a precedent let it be cited for what it decided - the unity of the practice English church with that of Latin Christendom, and all that implied about ecclesial unity. Indeed St Wilfrid might well consider the Ordinariates a bit dubious, but would see their essential commitment to unity. This new, misnamed, society looks more like the Celtic party who insisted on their calendar calculations and practices - Non-Jurors or Old Believers of the seventh century - who left the synod of Whitby unreconciled.


Image from St Wilfrid's Catholic Primary School, Ripon

St Wilfrid and St Hilda pray for the Catholic faith in England.

What the well-dressed prelate wore

The New Liturgical Movement recently had two very interesting illustrated posts on what clergy wore in the street in Rome in the early and mid-nineteenth century. This helped answer, I think, a query a friend had raised a couple of years ago.

The posts, which are two parts of the same article, are here and here, and very well worth looking at.

Treasure from the age of Charles IV

Whilst preparing the post on the Crown of St Wenceslas I came across, for the first time, articles about the Środa Śląska Treasure which appears to have been deposited about 1348-49, and includes items which apparently belonged to Charles IV's first Queen, Blanche of Valois. There is a brief biography of Queen Blanche, who died in 1348, here.

The treasure of Środa Śląska is described here, and there is another article, which unfortunately is not very well laid out typographically,but worth reading, here. It was rediscovered in this Silesian town in 1985 and 1988, and is a reminder of the splendours of court life in medieval central Europe.

The following pictures and text are from publicity about an exhibition at the National Museum in Wrocław in 2008-09.

The most exceptional item in the Środa Treasure is a gold female crown. The detachable trapezium panels forming the circlet are set with gemstones (sapphires, garnets, spinels, aquamarines, tektites, and pearls) and enamelled. Each panel is topped with an eagle holding a ring in its beak. The sections are joined by means of decorative pins with fleuron heads. It is a female crown. It was probably commissioned for a wedding ceremony as suggested by the ring motif symbolising the marital bond and good fortune. The jewel’s last owner was probably Blanche de Valois, the first wife of the Emperor Charles IV. She died in 1348, shortly before the treasure was hidden and lost. Another important jewel is a round brooch, the largest known example of the Mediaeval ring brooch, its centre decorated with a chalcedony cameo (representing an eagle) surrounded with gemstones (garnets, pearls and sapphires). Such ornamental clasps were used to fasten ceremonial robes or ecclesiastical vestments on the wearer’s shoulder.
The exhibition also features two gold filigree pendants from the late 12th century, and another pair, with more restrained decoration, gold rings, including a signet decorated with the half-crescent and star motifs, ornamental gold tape, and a selection from the hoard of gold coins.

Treasure of Środa Śląska discovered
In May 1988, a hoard of silver and gold coins was unearthed at a demolition site within the medieval town centre Several days later, gold ornaments were found at the municipal landfill among the rubble from other sites in the Old Town. The news spread quickly attracting amateur treasure hunters and professional archaeologists. Through the end of 1988, the subsequent archaeological excavations continued along with efforts to recover gold and silver objects from accidental finders. Considering the date the treasure was probably hidden and its location, as well as the character and style of the jewels, it seems likely that they belonged to the Bohemian rulers of the House of Luxemburg and were pawned to the Jewish bankers of Środa Śląska under the reign of the Emperor Charles IV (1346-1378).
The Treasure of Środa Śląska was entrusted to the National Museum in Wrocław and shown there for the first time in 1997. It was later transferred to Środa Śląska as the Museum’s permanent deposit.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

The Crown of St Wenceslas

As today is the Feast of St Wenceslas it seems a suitable day on which to post about the Crown that bears his name, although, like that of St Stephen in Hungary is later in date than the actual life of the saint.


The Wikipedia article about it is here. I am reproducing, with a few adaptations, two passages from that article:

"[The] Crown of Saint Wenceslas is the part of Czech crown jewels (also called the Czech treasure) made in 1347. The eleventh king of Bohemia from the House of Luxembourg, and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV [Charles I of Bohemia] had it made for his coronation and forthwith he dedicated it to the first patron saint of the country St. Wenceslas and bequeathed it as a state crown for the coronation of future Bohemian kings, his successors to the Bohemian throne. On the orders of Charles IV the new Royal Crown was to be permanently deposited in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle. It was used last time for the coronation of King Ferdinand V [Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria] in 1836."

"[A]n old Czech legend says that any usurper who places the crown on his head is doomed to die within a year, as the Crown is in personal property of St. Wenceslas and may only be worn by a rightful Bohemian King during his coronation."

Another Wikipedia article on the same set of links states that "[i]t was originally held in Karlstejn Castle, designed in the 14th century by Matthias of Arras. Since 1867 it has been stored in St. Vitus Cathedral of Prague Castle."

Another, independent, account says that Charles ordered a very rich crown to adorn the reliquary containng the skull of his predecessor and Bohemia's patron saint, St. Wenceslas. The crown was to be removed from the reliquary only for the coronation of the kings of Bohemia.

In the cross on the top is set a relic from the Crown of Thorns. The crown is inlaid with ninety one gems (emeralds, sapphires, rubies and amethysts) and twenty pearls and decorated with four large Fleur de Lys.

The Crown is but one example of the flowering of the arts in Bohemia under the Emperor Charles IV - a glittering period in the history of the kingdom which included the building of St Vitus Cathedral in Prague, including the shrine chapel of St Wenceslas, the castle at Karlstejn, and the foundation of the University of Prague - the Charles University. For a biography of the Emperor look here.

Here Charles as Holy Roman Emperor, and wearing the Imperial crown. In the painting, a votive picture of the Archbishop of Prague, John Ocko of Vlasim, by Theodore of Prague and circa 1370, and now in the National Gallery in Prague, he is depicted with his eldest surviving son and heir, Wenceslas IV, King of the Romans until he was deposed by the Electors in 1400, and of Bohemia until his death in 1419, accompanied by Charlemage and St Wenceslas (wearing the appropriate Ducal cap), kneeling before the Virgin and Child.

File:Meister Theoderich von Prag (Umkreis) 001.jpg

Here is a detail of the Emperor:

At least one later Bohemian monarch was not overly impressed by the crown's appearance - on the eve of her coronation Maria Theresa described it in a letter as looking like a "fool's cap" - in other words a jester's cap.

The last Bohemian coronation was, as mentioned above, in 1836, but in September 1871 the Emperor Francis Joseph informed the Bohemian Diet of his willingness to take the Bohemian Coronation oath. The proposal, presumably as part of a plan to establish a relationship similar to that Austria had estanblished with Hungary by the coronation there in 1867 was abandoned due to protests from the German speaking population of Bohemia, who disliked the idea of rule by the Czechs. It is possible that had the Habsburg Empire survived in 1918 that Bl.Charles I and IV would have overseen some such similar process of devolution within his hereditary lands and that the Bohemian coronation would have been revived.

The term the "Bohemian Crown" applies to the lands dependent upon it rather than to the actual crown, as explained here.

Coat of arms of the Bohemian Crown until 1635. Quarterly of five. 1.The checuered eagle of Moravia. 2 The eagle of Silesia.3 The wall of Upper Lusatia. 4 The eagle of Upper Silesia. 5 The ox of Lower Lusatia. An inescutcheon with the lion of Bohemia. Atop the arms is the Crown of St Wenceslas.

There is an illustrated list of the Dukes and Kings of Bohemia here.

Arms of the Kingdom of

Cardinal Newman exhibition in Birmingham

I have just discovered the blog Idle speculations, and added it to the list at the side. I have copied from it his post about an exhibition of Newman items which is on in Birmingham.

William Thomas Roden, (1817-1892)
Portrait of His Eminence Cardinal Newman (1879)

The Pectoral Cross of Cardinal Newman

The Mitre of Cardinal Newman

The crozier of Cardinal Newman

From the exhibition on the life of Cardinal John Henry Newman at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from September 10 until January 6 2011.

Monday 27 September 2010

John Aubrey

Last Saturday I finally got round to visiting the Bodleian exhibition "My wit was always working: John Aubrey and the origins of experimental science." This is part of Oxford's celebration of the 350th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Society, itself a development from the academic clubs of the University in the 1650s.

The exhibits provide a fascinating insight into the intellectual world of the later seventeenth century, and is accompanied by a book:

John Aubrey and the Advancement of Learning

What emerges is the wide range of Aubrey's interests, far beyond his Brief Lives and his antiquarian and historical works. Aubrey and the world of his friends - Antony Wood, Robert Hooke et al - is made visible in his books and notes.

The portrait on the book cover is from 1666, and is now in the Ashmolean collection. it shows a considerably more elegant figure than the one depicted by Roy Dotrice in his famous one-man play about Aubrey from 1967.

There is a biography of Aubrey here. He is buried in the churchyard of St Mary Magdalen here in Oxford, and there is a modern memorial plaque inside the church.

The exhibition, to which admission is free, is open until October 31st, and is to be found in the exhibition room in the quadrangle of the Old Bodleian. It is well worth visiting.

Venerating the True Cross

Just after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and just before the Pope was at Holyrood, Fr Blake at St Mary Magdalen, Brighton had an interesting post about the appropriate vesture and actions to be used when blessing with a relic of the True Cross. It can be read here.

Subsequently New Liturgical Movement has had pictures of the ceremonies at Heiligenkreutz in Austria at the Feast, which illustrates the account given by Fr Blake and his commentators. The images can be read here, and I am reproducing the first one to give an idea of what is on offer.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Oriel leaflet on Newman

Oriel has produced an illustrated leaflet on Bl. John Henry Newman, which can be downloaded here. It gives an account of his time in the college and describes what pilgrims and visitors can see today.

Newman 's first feast day

Here are details of how the first feast day of Bl. John Henry will be celebrated here in Oxford.

View Image

Friday October 8th
7.45 pm, starting at The Oxford Oratory, the annual Night Walk to Littlemore, stopping at places associated with Newman and following Bl. Dominic Barberi's route to Littlemore in 1845.
9.30 pm Candlelit procession from Rose Hill to Littlemore Church.
10 pm Holy Hour and Benediction in the church of Bl. Dominic Barberi.
10.45 pm Procession to the College for thanksgiving prayers.
This is always an enjoyable and interesting, as well as prayerful and reflective, occasion.

Saturday October 9th

12 noon Mass at Littlemore - Celebrant and Preacher Very Rev Fr Robert Byrne CO, Provost of the Oxford Oratory.

The College at Littlemore, Newman's church of SS Mary and Nicholas there, St Mary the Virgin in The High, Trinity and Oriel will all be open during the afternoon.

5 pm A Newman Sermon will be read from the pulpit of St Mary the Virgin by RSC actor Nigel Cooke.

Sunday October 10th
Feast observed at The Oratory, veneration of the relic of Bl. John Henry Newman after all Masses.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Rosary Crusade 2010

I am reproducing this from Laurence England's That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill blog. I am not sure at the moment if I can join the Rosary Crusade this year, but I have always enjoyed participating when I have attended. Anyway, read what Laurence has to say...

Forging a Catholic Identity

The Holy Father seemed to spend a great deal of time trying to forge a Catholic identity while he was here in the United Kingdom. The Catholic identity is really grounded in Holy Tradition and the 'Faith of our Fathers'. Also, when those not of the Faith think of Catholicism, they think of veiled women kneeling for Communion and hardened Mafia gangsters going to Confession just before leaving a horses head in an enemies bed. We have to return to this and lose the tambourines!

The recent, incredible scenes in London, Birmingham and Scotland showed just what an impact Catholics can make by proclaiming our Faith in numbers, so what better way to forge a Catholic identity in this country than to participate in the 26th Annual National Rosary Crusade of Reparation, which will take place on Saturday 16th October.

It takes place during the 40 Days for Life which began a couple of days ago, to bear witness to the Gospel of Life and to pray for an end to abortion. The Rosary Crusade of Reparation will assemble outside Westminster Cathedral at 1.45pm (Ambroseden Avenue). Nearest tube station is London Victoria. The Procession will go to Brompton Oratory, Brompton Road, London SW7. The nearest tube to there is South Kensington.

The Procession with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be led by Rt. Rev. Dom Cuthbert Brogan OSB, Abbot of St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, to Brompton Oratory, praying the Rosary en-route. There will be a Consecration to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary and interestingly, the Patron is His Grace Archbishop Vincent Nichols, so let's hope he attends. There will also be Solemn Pontifical Benediction, presumably at the Oratory. Sounds splendid, doesn't it?

The day will end at about 5pm and Mass is the anticipated Mass of Sunday will start at 6pm. For more information contact Francis Carey on 01494 729 223 or Mathias Menezes on 020 8764 0262 or on his mobile on 07950 384515. You can contact him by post at 27 First Avenue, Amersham, Bucks HP7 9BL.

Celebrating Newman in Dublin

The New Liturgical Movement has pictures of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form and the text of the sermon preached by Fr Gerard Deighan last Monday in Newman's University Church at St Stephen's Green in Dublin.

It is a post worth looking at and reading, and can be found here.

In his sermon Fr Deighan makes the point that the design of the church, based on that of early Roman basilicas, reflects Newman's study in and response to patristic texts, pre-dating later splits and schisms.

Thursday 23 September 2010

London Oratory Mass of Thanksgiving

Yesterday, having seen on New Liturgical Movement the following photographs of the London Oratory, I decided, more or less on the spur of the moment, to go to their Mass of Thanksgiving for the Beatification of John Henry Newman.

Similar festal hangings are also to be found beside the outdoor statue of Cardinal Newman which can be seen beside the Oratory church. Moving inside, you can not only see some of the red hangings which are to be found inside the church, do also take note of the image of Newman (and that of St. Philip Neri) to be found to either side of the High Altar.

However I was bit late getting away from Oxford and had to sit in a very long traffic jam north of White City. I disembarked at Notting Hill and eventually found a taxi - the necessary extravagance I decided upon if I was ever to get to the Oratory before Mass ended. The taxi driver was 'interested in the etymology of the word `oratory' - he had once been inside Brompton and thought it very fine. Before we had reached the Natural History Museum we were on to the Knights Templars and The Holy Blood and thh Holy Grail... Happily we arrived at the Oratory before we got too far down that route, though I assured him that stuff was, as it is, all nonsense.

I got into the Oratory at the words of institution, but at least I was there. I was able to see the procession of the clergy leading the Archbishop of Westminster, carrying a primary relic of John Henry Newman, to the new Newman altar and chapel. Following the litany of St Philip this was blessed by the Archbishop.

As well as the primary relic placed on the altar a number of secondary relics were on display. These included a mitre given by the Cardinal to the London Oratory and the missal used by Bl. Dominic Barberi when he celebrated the Mass at which Newman communicated for the first time as a Catholic on October 10th 1845 at Littlemore.

Afterwards there was time to meet up with old friends and admire the new chapel and the hangings put up to mark the occasion.

I was delighted to see that St Peter, whose statue - a copy of the famous one in the Vatican basilica - is immediately in front of the Newman chapel, was wearing not only a white cope, but also a triple tiara. I knew this piece of Papal insignia was on order for the Oratory, but had not seen it in place before. Clearly the London Oratory has everything.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Extraordinary Form Masses at SS Gregory and Augustine in October

I understand from Fr Saward at SS Gregory and Augustine in Woodstock Road here in Oxford that in addition to usual, weekly, Wednesday Mass in the Extraordinary Form at 6pm, there will be the First Friday Mass on 1st October at 6 (to be celebrated by Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP), and a special Mass for the First Thursday/Our Lady of the Rosary on the 7th, again, as always, at 6pm.

Mass of Thanksgiving at Oxford Oratory

Last night the Oxford Oratory celebrated the Beatification of John Henry Newman with a Mass in the presence of the Archbishop of Birmingham, his auxilliary Bishop William Kenney, the Abbot of Prinknash, and with representitives of Newman's colleges and the University, of the city and of the deanery.

At the conclusion of the Mass the Archbishop dedicated and blessed the new shrine to the new beatus. The account from the Oratory website is here. It includes pictures of the Beatification itself, and of the Pope's visit to The Birmigham Oratory.

The Newman Shrine. The picture is a copy of the painting of the Cardinal done by William Ouless, and still at Birmingham. The aedicule is by Timothy Newbery, the achievement of arms by Tom Meek.
(Picture from the Oratory Appeal website)

The Oratory's relic of Bl. John Henry was taken in procession to the shrine by the Archbishop. To see something about how this was prepared read the post here.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Papal visit - Day IV

So I got up at 11pm to get ready for the big day. I decided this was definitely an occasion on which to wear my Newman Society tie, as well as Oriel cuff-links and scarf - which was also an additional source of warmth. I made my way through the last late night revellers to get to The Oratory by 3am for the coach - one of five from there, plus two from SS Gregory and Augustine. The journey was fine - along procession of coaches winding their way to Cofton Park along the motorway and through suburban Birmingham.

We arrived to find the organisation smooth and efficient , and once past the security checks, found the park well laid out for the occasion. There has been talk that many of the souvenir items were less than ideal, but the ones I saw were suitable and well designed, and reasonably priced. I bought a commemorative mug with the official, and I think, well-designed official logo. I like its confident representation of the tiara and keys. I also bought a paper flag to wave, which long before the Pope arrived had to be replaced as someone managed to put their portable chair on it when my pilgrim pack was on the ground. Later on, as we were leaving, I bought acommemortaive rosary with the Pope on the medallion. A friend who bought arosary earlier found it bore the image of John Paul II rather than Benedict XVI, and went and got it changed. We speculated if one could ask for, and what was the premium on, rosaries with Alexander VI, Innocent III or Boniface VIII?

A group of us found a good site from which to view proceedings, just where the ground began to rise, and facing the sanctuary area. So we settled in for the wait. it was still dark, it began to drizzle, but no matter... as I commented to one of our party, it was all because a fellow of Oriel had started reading the patristic writers...

Dawn came, it stopped drizzling, but the sky remained overcast, though the sun was trying to get through. As one strolled round the area, with its swelling crowds, one met friends, but in so large a crowd one failed to see the others with whom we had travelled from Oxford.

The big screens kept displaying quotations from Newman and from the Pope, and at one point earlier on there had been a film and slide presentaion of Newman's life - it seemed slightly odd seeing familiar places, including Oriel, on a big screen in the middle of the night, but there was awilling suspension of normality for the occasion. As time passed there was a quiet, but definite, sense of a happy expectancy, a rising enthusiasm.

I suspect most of us could have managed to live without the live radio programme being presented from the sound stage, with its guitar supported renditions of Newman's hymns, but it occupied the waiting time. It is only fair to say that the wait did not in reality seem excessive - one had time to find a base, get one's bearings and to prepare in some way for what was going to happen.

The sun kept trying to get through. Then the big screens announced that the Pope had left London by heliopter. We applauded and cheered the pictures of him doing so. Soon after we saw a helicopter circling. Was that him? ... No, it wasa TV one... No, Yes, that's the one. We cheered and waved our flags. Then...ths sun came out. All right, not quite Fatima, but it all seemed very auspicious.

As the clergy processed in we were spotting clergy we knew or recognised as they passed by on the central walkway. The Mass itself proceeded in a calm and dignified way. For events such as this it is clearly the necessary way to stage such events and this worked well, with dignity and gravitas.

Of course all eyes were on the Holy father - we were close enough to see him clearly with the naked eye as well as on the screens. What is clear is his presence, you watched because he is the pope, and because he is who he is. If one could say there was a high point for me it was the reading of the decree of Beatification - to be there and hear the Pope say that by his Apostolic Authority he decreed that John Henry Newman henceforth be counted Blessed, and then to see the projection change to reveal Newman's features was profoundly moving - as a Catholic, as a convert, as a historian of the Church, as an Orielensis.

(Photograph from St Mary Magdalen, Brighton)

(Photograph from Papal visit)

Believe me, I am on this photograph, along with a few others...

Afterwards, a sthe papal car left Cofton the sun went in and the weather was once more overcast. It could not have been scripted better, and summed up one's feelings as having been present on a very special occasion, and to have participate din atruly historic event
When we got back to Oxford several of us took the opportunity to pray at the new shrine to Bl. John Henry Newman in the Oratory church, and which was on show pending its dedication on Tuesday.

Over tea we watched live on television the end of the Pope's speech to the bishops at Oscott, his meeting with seminarians - including looking out for friends amongst them - and then the coverage of his journey to the airport and the farewell speeches. The coverage was impressive - I cannot think any other world leader would receive such attention with full, live coverage of his every public move. That is a testimony to the pulling power of the Papacy, and of this Pope in particular.
Looking back over four extraordinary days the overall impression I have is of awe, awe not merely at the schedule pursued by an 83 year-old, or at the warm and positive response from so many people here - at which I am not actually surprised - but renewed awe at the office of Pope, and at this particular Pope.
Pope Benedict XVI is a truly great man, patently holy and possessed of a vision he is impelled to communicate. I genuinely think he stands alongside the greatest of his predecessors in what he seeks to do. Long may he reign ... ad multos annos.
Who would not want to be in communion with Pope Benedict XVI - a man of transparent holiness, an upholder of Truth, the guardian of the world's moral authority, a man who has undertaken the defence of the Christian Church and heritage?

Oxford Pro-Life Witness



3pm - 4pm

PLEASE attend this peaceful pro-life witness where prayers in reparation for abortion and for all the Mothers and Fathers of babies killed by abortion. We also offer prayers for the doctors and nurses involved with the sin of abortion, especially those in Oxford.

We meet at the Church of St Anthony of Padua, Headley Way, Oxford.

This is just beside the entrance to the JOHN RADCLIFFE HOSPITAL where we witness.

PLEASE keep the unborn in your prayers.

Refreshments available afterwards in the hall of the Church.

For more information please ring Amanda Lewin - 01869 600638

Monday 20 September 2010

Papal visit - Day III

Saturday morning and off to watch the Papal Mass from Westminster Cathedral on the big screen at the Oxford Oratory.

This I sensed was seen as the liturgical showpiece of the visit, and so it proved to be. Inter alia it helps make the case for restoring the Feast of the Precious Blood as a regular observance.

(Photographs from Papal visit)

What was very striking was the evident rapport of the Pope with young people in the meeting on the cathedral piazza.

(Photograph from Papal visit)

Unfortunately I had to miss the television coverage of the afternoon and evening events in order to get ready for the early start for the beatification in Birmingham. However I was rather taken with this picture of the Pope and Archbishop Smith of Southwark at St Peter's Vauxhall:

(Photograph from Papal visit)

I managed to get some sleep in the evening and woke up at 11pm to a text message from an Anglican friend "I went to see the Pope in The Mall - a very special moment."

(Photograph from Papal visit)

Other have commented subsequently about the effect of British and Vatican flags side by side - a vision of what might have been had history been different, but also a great sign of what has been achieved in recent decades.

Friday 17 September 2010

Papal visit - Day II

Day II of the Papal visit, and I am going off to London to see the Holy Father.

Of course I had not allowed for the traffic disruption caused by the visit - and so a long frustrating wait in the Oxford Tube on Park Lane, convincing myself that I was going to miss seeing His Holiness etc...

A very brisk walk along Victoria Street took me to Westminster and the crowd outside the abbey. There I spotted Fr Tim Finegan complete with camera recording events for his blog. I found the friends I had arranged to meet opposite the north transept and outside the old Middlesex County Hall(aka the Supreme Court),and was promptly provided with a yellow and white flag to wave. Indeed I had no sooner arrived than I was asked why I had come by a journalist from the Financial Times for their online comments. I granted them an interview, saying I had come as a Catholic both because the Pope is the Vicar of Christ and because I have enormous admiration and respect for the Pope as a leader and thinker. I was also asked about the media coverage. I said much has been negative but that it seemed to be improving.

After a while we began to see assorted Catholic and Anglican prelates walking into the abbey north door, and shortly after the Popemobile, and much more importantly, the Pope came into view. Yes, the journey had been worthwhile.

As the Holy Father moved on the crowd began to move and re-form. Hearing a loud cry of Viva il papa behind me I turned to find a family of friends from Oxford and the London Oratory. Shortly afterwards I came across Kevin de Athaide, another Oxford friend and now a seminarian at Allen Hall. who having seen the Holy Father at Twickenham he had walked down to Westminster. I also ran into another freind who is currently an Anglican seminarian.

Moving along Broad Sanctuary and into the area with both vociferous Catholics and the Protestant Truth Society some of my friends attempted to engage in dialogue with the latter. This, from experience at Walsingham, I realise to be largely futile - "proof texts" are quoted in a random and way as slogans, with no attempt to expound a case. Mind you there was one "Mad Catholic" lady who outdid them in volume and, possibly, eccentricity...

Looking around I saw Laurence England, author of That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill, and whose account of the afternoon you can read here. We greeted one another and I congratulated him on the piece I linked to in my last post. I then met up again with his parish priest, Fr Ray Blake from St Mary Magdalen, Brighton. His description of the event is here. Fr Blake was having some success in talking to one of the Protestants - at least they were talking, and along the way the issue of indulgences came up. Fr Ray was saying we wanted an indulgence; I suggested to him that given who was just across the road we should ask for a Plenary Indulgence. So a few of us started the chant "What do we want? A Plenary indulgence! When do we want it? Now!"

Two Spanish speaking girls were meanwhile making valiant efforts to hold their long banner bearing the text "Heart Speaks to Heart" or something similar in front of the Protestant Truth Society's banner. The whole sensation of being in this jumbled crowd was slightly unreal, but it was a case of "Tis good Lord to be here", even though it did mean missing live coverage on television of the Papal address in Westminster Hall or the service in the abbey.

Meanwhile inside the abbey:

(Image source: Getty Images/Daylife)

(Image source: Papal visit

(Image source: Associated Press/Daylife)

From these pictures it appears that the Abbey authorities has uncovered the marvellous thirteenth century Roman cosmatesque Sanctuary pavement for the occasion - a very dignified and gracious compliment to the Pope.

We saw the west doors opening and then the abbey bells started pealing and the pope and Archbishop emerged into the fading light. We cheered and waved our flags again.

(Image source: Reuters/Daylife)

The Papal party departed and three of us made our way up Victoria Street amidst a crowd of pilgrims and the remaining protesters, and not a few archbishops and bishops scattering outwards from the abbey.

I reflected afterwards that one of the Protestant protesters had had a placard citing the 39 Articles that the Mass is a "blasphemous fable and a dangerous deceit." Having seen the Holy Father and hearing his message over the years my answer is to say, kindly, but firmly, to Anglicans "Tear up the 39 Articles - you know you want to. Rome is the answer."

Thursday 16 September 2010

The Pope and the press

A friend forwarded me the text of a peculiarly offensive offering from the peculiarly offensive Johann Hari in that peculiarly offensive newspaper The Independent (the title of the rag is an oxymoron if you think about it for two seconds). I had thought of commenting on it, but I see that Laurence England of That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill has done a splendid deconstruction of the piece here.

It is well worth looking at both as an expose and an answer to the lies and
slurs told against the Holy Father.

Papal Visit - Day I

I will try to post some of my comments and reflections on the Papal visit over the next few days, though it may mean that they are a little delayed in reaching the blog.

Following Mass at the Oratory here in Oxford I watched the Pope's arrival and welcome at Holyroodhouse, and his journey through Edinburgh on the big television screen in the Oratory social centre, along with other parishioners and a group of recently arrived American pilgrims.

From their speeches both the Queen and the Pope seemed to be making much the same point about the place of faith in society - no surprise there, but still heartening. Metaphorically they were singing from the same hymn sheet.

(Photograph from Papal visit)

The way the Scottish dimension was stressed was very impressive, as were the numbers along Prince's Street right out to the Cardinal's residence. Cardinal O'Brien has clearly done a very good job in creating an identity for Scottish Catholicism that unites being Scottish and being Catholic. Has there been anything like this since 1560? One rather expected to hear the sound of John Knox quietly, or not so quietly, spinning, in his grave in the background. Mind you he does, it is said. have King Charles II's statue on top of his grave in Parliament Square in Edinburgh.

The emphasis on St Ninian was interesting - the first missionary to what became Scotland, and one with, it is said, links to the papacy in Rome as well as to St Martin in Gaul.

It was back to the Oratory to watch the Papal Mass at Bellahouston - again very impressive numbers - I hope Birmingham is as well attended. There was a poor commentary by a priest on Sky TV - Catholicism is all about community it would appear. There were several intakes of breath amongst the audience at that - not just mine.

All in all a very good start to the Papal visit - positive, well supported, resonating with people in the streets and at the Mass, and in no way oblivious of the Catholic Christian roots of these realms.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Royal Assent

Tribunus on his excellent and always well-researched Roman Christendom blog has two valuable and related articles answering the argument that The Queen could have refused to sign into law the 1967 Abortion Act.The first is here, and the follow up one here.

In the discussion there is reference to the situation in Belgium when the late King "abdicated" for the day, but that was under a written constitution. More recently we have seen a constitutional crisis and amendment to the powers of the Grand Duke in Luxembourg over the related issue of euthanasia legislation. The Spanish example is worth talking note of- when the King signed into law a liberalisation of the abortion legislation the Spanish bishops issued a statement clearly distinguishing between the King's position as Sovereign, bound by constitutional laws and norms, and his personal position as a Catholic.

They clearly understood something not always understood by people in this country whom I have heard criticize The Queen for not intervening by refusing to sign or exercising a theoretical veto. Understanding the constitutional position is one of the many benefits of reading Ernst Kantorowicz's The King's Two Bodies - it really is a "must read" book.

This post raises a further point - how common was it ever for monarch's to veto legislation? It last happened with a Scottish Militia Bill in 1707. I suspect apart from the occasional pesky bill sent up by Puritans in the time of Elizabeth I and the occasional spats of the Stuarts with recalcitrant Parliaments, it did not happen - and it did not happen because Parliament was managed by the Crown. That is why the Treasury bench is in the Commons. Good government is in part about managing Parliament, and has been since the thirteenth century. Legislation is killed off in Parliament, not by a veto. If you have to use the option of Le Roy or La Reine s'avisera something has gone wrong in managing Parliament. In 1967 the Abortion Act was tacitly backed by the government. Had The Queen sought spiritual advice on the matter she would have found that her Archbishop of Canterbury and many of the bishops had voted for the legislation - so no help there.

Friday 10 September 2010

Know the enemy

I have been alerted by a friend to the existence of a "Protest the Pope - In their own words" video:
It is a useful reminder of who the Pope's, and our, opponents are.

It is also featured on Fr Blake's blog from St Mary Magdalen, Brighton

Paix Liturgique British survey

Fr Blake has an interesting account of the survey of British Catholics undertaken by Paix Liturgique. You can read his post here, and from it there is a link to the full report. It is in many ways an optimistic assessment, or should I say a not unoptimistic assessment, of attitudes towards liturgy and worship in this country, and more positive than many European, and outwardly Catholic, countries. It is of particular interest to those of us favourable to the Extraordinary Form of Mass.

Bl. Agnellus of Pisa

Today is the feast appointed for Bl. Agnellus of Pisa OFM. in the Oxfordshire part of the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

I have based the following account on that in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.

The founder of the English Franciscan Province Bl. Agnellus was born at Pisa c. 1195, of the noble family of the Agnelli, and died at Oxford, 7 May, 1236. In early youth he was received into the Franciscan Order by St Francis himself, during the latter's sojourn in Pisa, and soon became an accomplished model of religious perfection. Sent by St Francis to Paris he erected a convent there and became custos.

Having returned to Italy, he was present at the so-called Chapter of Mats, and was sent thence by St Francis to establish the Order in England. Agnellus, then in deacon's orders, landed at Dover with nine other friars on 12 September, 1224, having been charitably conveyed from France by the monks of Fecamp. A few weeks afterwards they obtained a house at Oxford and there laid the foundations of the English Province, which became the exemplar for all the provinces of the order. Though not himself a learned man, he established a school for the friars at Oxford, which was destined to play no small part in the development of the University.However his solicitude extended beyond the immediate welfare of his brethren. He sent his friars about to preach the word of God to the faithful, and perform the other offices of the sacred ministry. Agnellus wielded considerable influence in affairs of state and in his efforts to avert civil war between King Henry III and the Earl Marshal, who had leagued with the Welsh, he contracted a fatal illness.

Thomas de Eccleston, the chronicler of the early Franciscans in England in his De Adventu Fratrum Minorum in Angliam , and a student at the Oxford house in the 1230s, has a brief account of his death. Agnellus's body, incorrupt, was preserved with great veneration at Oxford up to the dissolution of the religious houses in the time of Henry VIII.

The cultus of Blessed Agnellus was formally confirmed by Pope Leo XIII in 1882, and his feast is[or was?] kept in the Order on 7 May.

There is a detailed history of the Oxford Greyfriars from the Victoria County History of Oxfordshire vol ii (1907) here which is well worth reading through, and gives details of the building work in the time of Bl. Agnellus.

Excavations before the building of the Westgate Centre in the early 1970s revealed much of the plan of the house, including the remarkable layout of the church, which added to the usual friary plan of unaisled choir and aisled nave an enormous north transept, elongated northwards in plan, with a series of chapels, presumably to provide for the number of Masses being offered by the friars. There are plans in Oxoniensia and in the medieval volumes of the History of the University of Oxford.

Today there is very little to see of what was once a leading house of prayer and study. A patch of grass in the angle of the road below the Westgate Centre indicates the site of the choir. On an adjacent wall is a plaque commemorating Roger Bacon OFM. Apart from an archway built into another building that is really all there is to see. In terms of quiz trivia however this is a site with the body of a Beatus (Agnellus himself), the heart of a King (Richard of Cornwall, brother of Henry III, and King of the Romans 1257-72. His body was buried at Hailes Abbey), the body of a Queen (Richard's third wife Beatrix of Falkenburg, who died in 1277) and the site of the residence of a future Pope (Peter of Candia OFM, later Pope Alexander V 1409-10).

The website of the restored foundation of Franciscans in Oxford can be found at Oxford Greyfriars.

Thursday 9 September 2010

St Dominic's Downham Market

I posted recently that I had attended Sunday Mass at St Dominic's in Downham Market. Joe Shaw has some photographs of the church and something about it on his LMS Chairman blog. He visited it as part of a walking pilgrimage to Walsingham. I am copying his section about the church in Downham Market, and the work Fr Eggleston has done to enhance the appearance of the building.

Joe Shaw says:
The Catholic church of St Dominic at Downham Market ... is where the notorious Fr Oswald Baker refused to say the Novus Ordo from 1970 to 1975, when the Diocese took back control of the church; incredibly, he continued to live at the Presbytery, saying Mass elsewhere, until 1989, forcing his replacement to live down the road.

The church started life as a stable; since Fr Baker's time it has been extended, sideways.

2010 08 20_7559

The altar was originally on the left wall, where you can just see some votive candles.

2010 08 20_7562

The present Parish Priest, who is just about to leave, Fr Edmund Eggleston, has done great things to the sanctuary, which was little more than a wooden table in front a brick wall before. The limestone is all due to him, including a good permanent altar, which allowed the church to be formally consecrated for the first time. (Wooden altars are always classed officially as 'temporary'; a church with one can be blessed, but not consecrated.)

2010 08 20_7569

The Mass was of St Bernard; the fine vestments belong to Fr Eggleston.

The patronal statue of St Dominic, on the right, reminds us of the Dominican Sisters who initiated regular Catholic worship in Downham, in a chapel carved out of a large house next to this site.

I would endorse Joe Shaw's comments - what has been achieved at St Dominic's is a handsome setting for the liturgy in a somewhat unusual plan. It shows what can be done to enhance a church building.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Twenty years of Oratorian life in Oxford

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the formal beginning of the Oxford Oratory, when the founding members came from Birmingham and took over St Aloysius to commence Oratorian life in the city, which led on to its formal establishment as an independent community in 1993.

Through the initiative of Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville the Oratorians have fulfilled Newman's plans to establish an Oratory here, even if there was an interval of over a hundred and twenty years in doing so.

During the last twenty years much has been achieved with the development of the community, the revival of a church which it is said Somerville was looking upon as a potential new library in the 1980s, the commencement of the restoration and expansion of the building, and the faithful presentation of the Catholic faith to ann increasing and widening number of people. A great deal indeed for which to give thanks.

Our Lady of Lincoln

Today being the feast of the Nativity of Our Lady seems an appropriate day on which to post a view of one of the greatest churches built to her honour, the cathedral at Lincoln. Although I do not subscribe to the urge to list or decide which is the best amongst cathedrals or other works of art, I do consider Lincoln to be in many respects ina class of its own amongst English cathedrals, or indeed European ones.
This image is from the Churchmouse site about the cathedral, and is one of my favourite images of one of my favourite buildings.

Lincoln Cathedral (before 1808), Watercolour by Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832). Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester.

Lincoln Cathedral

Watercolour by Augustus Charles Pugin (1762-1832)
Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester.

The painting, by the father of the great architect, shows the cathedral before the removal of the spires on the western towers in 1807.

It appears likely that the towers and their spires were being completed about the time of the episcopate of Bishop Richard Fleming, which adds to the interest of the picture for me. However its real attraction is less academic - I simply think it is a beautiful painting of a beautiful building - itself one of the truly great works of medieval man. I regret, of course, that I cannot myself see the cathedral complete with its spires, but thanks to A.C.Pugin I can more easily envisage it. As a painting it captures an ethereal quality about the cathedral which I find particularly attractive. It is very much a case of dreaming spires and the last enchantments of the middle ages.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

St Giles Fair

Today is the second and last day of St Giles Fair here in Oxford. A popular saint in twelfth century England St Giles is the patron of the parish that developed at that time around the northern end of the wide road towards Woodstock and Banbury outside the north gate of the Anglo-Saxon city. As his feast day falls on September 1st it was in past centuries a good time at which to hold a fair to buy and sell as the autumn set in. Many towns held fairs at this season - most famously Winchester - but not many survive. In Oxford it still does.

Here St Giles' Fair is very much part of the life of the city, but not especially of the University, which is not up at this time of year. Oxford, happily, has not, like my home town of Pontefract did in the interwar years, exiled such a fair to waste ground away from the centre but gives up the whole of St Giles Street - still the main route into the city centre from the north - over to the Fair on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday following September 1st.

Picking one's way through a wide rage of ever more spectacular, noisy, flashing, and not infrequently, frankly terrifying, rides and sideshows, not to mention the pervasive smell of the cooking of burgers and hot dogs, gives a new quality to walking to and from Mass on these days. What St Giles - a hermit and then an abbot - would make of it is open for speculation, but it is, nevertheless, and even if the people attending never give him a thought, a celebration of him.

To my mind, what is also good about it, firstly, is that it is a living tradition - loud and
vulgar it may be, but it reasserts a popular way of letting off steam and enjoying oneself. Last nights drizzle and rain did not appear to be damping that.

Secondly, it is really heartening to see so many families there - fathers and mothers taking their children to the fair, rather as I was fifty years ago. The fair may be garish and dressed up in the latest modern fashion, but at heart it is as it was fifty or a hundred years ago. In a simple and unsophisticated way it reasserts popular family values, and long may it do so.

Monday 6 September 2010

Overheard in Oxford

On Saturday evening at about 10pm as I walked along Broad street in Oxford I am sure I heard the following. One of the younger, and more persistent, sellers of The Big Issue was leaving a group of other sellers and 'street people'. As he did so he invited them to come round to see him (implying he has a permanent base) and see a video game (implying he has a video player and television on which to play it) which he had bought for £40 the previous day (more than implying the availability of cash for, let's face it, an inessential).

I do not deny that there is a homelessness problem in Oxford. I have seen people sleeping and living rough in the city centre - not least people living in tents in the churchyard at St Thomas' a few years ago. However hearing such comments as his makes one very wary indeed of giving to beggars. The doubtful or fraudulent beggars' saddest victims are, of course, the genuinely homeless we don't help for fear - and a not unreasonable one - of being conned. That has happened to me in the past I have realised subsequently, and it made me very angry.

Icons at Christ Church

The new exhibition at the Christ Church Picture Gallery here in Oxford is Sacred Faces - Icons in Oxford. It brings together icons from both Greece and Russia from the early sixteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century from the Christ Church collection and from that of the Ashmolean. In addition there is some handsome mid-seventeenth century Russian silver altar plate, now owned by St Barnabas church in Oxford, on display.

The exhibition is on until December 22nd.

The Gallery is open 10.30 -5 Monday to Saturday and 2-5 on Sundays until the end of September. From October to December the opening hours are 10.30-1 and 2-4.30 on weekdays, and 2-4.30 on Sundays. Admission is £3 (£2 for concessions), and half price if you ghave paid to go round the college. Oxford students and alumni, and members of the Art Fund and similar organisations are admitted free.

Friday 3 September 2010

First and Final Professions

Last Saturday a friend from Oriel, Br. Stephen Morrison O.Praem., made his First Profession as a Norbertine at St Philip's Priory in Chelmsford. Br.Stephen, or Alex as he was in his Oriel years 2005-9, can be seen making that profession here in this slide show from the Norbertine Vocations website.

Also in August. on the Solemnity of the Assumption, Br Martin Mary F.SS.R of the Transalpine Redemptorists made his Final Profession on Papa Stronsay. I do not really know him, but I do know his father and brothers as they live in Oxford and we meet through celebrations of the Extraordinary Form. There are pictures of the day here.

Iberian liturgical websites

Having found these Iberian sites on the New Liturgical Movement I thought I would add them to the list for future reference, either for myself or interested readers.

From Spain there is the blog Inter vestibulum et altare, which is linked to the forum Ceremonia y rubrica de la Iglesia espanola. That is concerned with the study of distinctively Spanish liturgical practices, customs and architecture. The NLM's intoduction to these sites is here.

From Portugal there are Missa Tridentana em Portugal and Christus Vinchit. The NLM has a post with some interesting comments about a piece on the latter about blending the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms here.

They have some splendid illustrations, and even someone as limited as myself in command of other languages can follow the articles - or put it another way, it is a means of improving your Castilian or Portuguese whilst learning about the liturgy.

Thursday 2 September 2010

Peterborough Cathedral

When I was in Peterborough last week I did not have an opportunity to make a return visit the cathedral, which is a wonderful building, but not particularly well known by the general public. The west front is one of the most awe-inspiring facades in the country, if not indeed in Europe, and the impact of one's first sight of it remains in the memory long afterwards, indeed is virtually unforgettable. For a monastic church, and one that did not have a major pilgrimage shrine, it is all the more remarkable. It was usually the secular canons who built cathedrals with majestic west fronts, not the Benedictines. Perhaps it was a compensation for not risking building a commanding central tower, which the Benedictines did do, given the lack of a strong sub-stratum of rock.

Peterborough Cathedral oblique view.jpg

Peterborough Cathedral as it is today

As with other cathedrals it has suffered from the reformation and civil war - the latter saw the cathedral being sacked in 1643 and from neglect and the removal of features deemed to be surplus to requirements. Thus the Lay Chapel was demolished in the 1650s and the stone used to build a country house on the oustskirts of the city - Thorpe Hall, which is a fine example of its period - and the spire on the north-west tower was removed in the eighteenth century, presumably to save the expense of repairing it. If I had a say in the matter it is a feature I would want to see restored. Here is an engraving showing the west front with the spire still in place:

File:Peterborough Cathedral - West prospect C17 - Project Gutenberg eText 13618.jpg

Quite apart from looking at the architecture I would also liked to have had the opportunity to pay my respects to Queen Katherine of Aragon, who is buried in the cathedral. Her tomb was one of those destroyed by the Parliamentarians in 1643. This is where she is buried:

Go to fullsize image

One of the city of Peterborough's minor claims to fame is that it is said to be the last place in England where sedan chairs were used as a regular means of transport into the early nineteenth century, before the railways changed its character of the city from a sleepy cathedral city to an industrial town.