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, 22 November 2010

St Cecilia's Day

Although St Cecilia is the patron of musicians this post is not about music. As someone with no musical skill - once eloquently addressed by a distinguished Anglican clergyman renowned for his pastoral sensitivity thus "Do n't sing! You have the worst voice I've ever heard" - I leave such matters to others.

However it is a day on which the church and parish of St Cecilia at Parson Cross in Sheffield is in my thoughts and prayers. The parish website is here.

It was originally established as a parish and priory in 1938 by the Society of the Sacred Mission (the Kelham Fathers) for a sprawling re-housing scheme on the northern edge of the city. When I came to know it SSM had left and the vicar was Canon Geoffrey Bostock, a relatively late ordinand who had previously spent about twenty years with the Anglican Franciscans. I responded to an advertisement in the Church Times publicising the parish as a community within which one could explore one's vocation. In the years 1989-91 I stayed on several occasions at St Cecilia's

Life there in the clergy house was cultured and urbane, and somewhat eccentric. It was the nearest thing I ever saw in those Anglican days to an Oratory. Not that it was very Anglican - full modern Roman rite, and Papal blessings to the faithful of the parish at the back of church. Many of the church furnishings were Fr Geoffrey's own property and followed him on his travels. You met interesting people at the clergy house. In part he ran the Priory as a place where clergy who had had difficult experiences could recover and move on to new ministries.

Geoffrey Bostock became a good and valued friend, and we maintained contact when he moved early in 1992 to the Bilham group of parishes - Hooton Pagnell, Brodsworth, Marr and Frickley - and I spent Christmas and New Year 1995-6 and Easter 1997 there. In 1997 he retired to a house-for-duty arrangement at Burghwallis and died the following year. As with some other places where I have been happy I have no wish to go back to visit St Cecilia's - I understand part of the priory buildings have had to be demolished - but I certainly wish it well, and am very thankful for my several visits there.

He was a very kind, generous, humane man, and very much in the best traditions of Catholicism within the Anglican church. I feel sure he would have welcomed the Ordinariate. Staying at St Cecilia's opened up my awareness of what Catholicism is about, and time there and at Bilham helped shape my journey that eventually led me to Rome.


The High Altar of St Cecilia's Parson Cross.
Austrian work of 1923, formerly in Holy Trinity Preston.
Suitable, I think, as a picture for the day after Christ the King.

I remembered the parish and Geofrey Bostock in my prayers at Mass and in the Office today.

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