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, 11 January 2011

In the footsteps of Newman

I spent this morning giving a tour to a party of seminarians from St Paul's Seminary School of Divinity in St Paul Minnesota. They are visiting this country to study the life of Bl. John Henry Newman, and I was called upon to provide a guided tour of places associated with Newman in central Oxford.

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Newman in 1844
by George Richmond

Starting as we did from the Oxford Oratory I was able to show them St John's College, with its links to St Edmund Campion , the site of the Catherine Wheel inn where the Oxford Martyrs of 1589 were arrested, and Balliol with its associations with Cardinal Manning, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Graham Greene en route to Trinity. After visiting the chapel, hall and having looked at Newman's memorial bust in the grounds we went past the site of his lodgings in Catte Street to St Mary's. Here I was able to talk about the place of that church in the life of Newman and the Oxford Movement, as well as Campion's bravado in leaving copies of his Decem Rationes there in 1581.

Having been photographed as a group in the shadow of Newman's pulpit, and allowing the students time for a coffee break, I then took them into Oriel, showing them the hall, the exterior of the library and SCR, and finished off in the chapel, with the various Newman links, including a visit to his so-called oratory above the entrance with its modern commemorative stained glass window. After that they departed for lunch and a visit this afternoon to the College at Littlemore.

They were a lively and interested group to show around, with plenty of questions for me to answer, and conveyed a genuine enthusiasm for their studies, as well as one, on the part of two them, for counting single-gear bicycles. Well, it's a harmless hobby. It was a great pleasure to meet a class of young men of obviously wide ranging gifts who are preparing to enter the priesthood in two and a half years time, and also to meet up again with Fr Thomas who was leading the pilgrimage. They were all positive evidence of a strong and confident Catholicsm in the American mid-west.

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