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.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Confessions of a Convert

I recently read Robert Hugh Benson's Confessions of a Convert, which was published in book form in 1913, but based on some articles he wrote for an an American Catholic magazine a few years previously, and recounting the story of his reception as a convert in 1903.

Confessions of a Convert

It is easily read, with a fluent style and is not , in any case very long. Nevertheless it is very well worth reading, both as an account of Benson's own progress as son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury and as an exemplar of a conversion narrative.

In that respect it stands in many respects alongside Newman's Apologia and Knox's almost contemporary Spiritual Aeneid. What struck me was not only its balance and readbility as an account but its continuing appositeness. More than a century since the events he describes it retains an immediacy that describes a process not dissimilar to that which led to my own reception. Benson's career as a clergyman and monastic was entirely different from my own, but his description of how he had justified and expounded his position as an Anglo-Catholic was one I could recognise very clearly. Here was that delight in doing things in the "proper Catholic way" that I too had once shared in whilst outside the full communion of the Roman obedience.

I was also aware of how true his comments are about how, once one leaves that world, and however much one had appreciated its charms, that then the thought patterns which had one explained its claims rapidly become a thing of the past, irrecoverable to explain why one had remained so long.

I heartily recommend this book to those who have already made the journey, to those thinking of it, and to those cradle Catholics who wonder what holds Anglo-Catholics back. An ideal present for those being received into the Ordinariate.

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