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.
Allow me to be your guide... and discover the history of Oxford with an Oxford historian.
I offer a wide range of guided walks around the city and university. These can be a general introduction to the history and architecture or looking at specific themes and subjects.
I am a Catholic and a historian based in Oxford, where I am a member of Oriel College. My research, for a long delayed D.Phil., is a study of Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln in the second decade of the fifteenth century. I also work as a freelance tutor in History and as an independent tour guide.
I was received into the Church in 2005 and am a Brother of the External Oratory of St Philip Neri at the Oxford Oratory.
On Saturday I took part in the annual LMS Oxford Pilgrimage. The High Mass was celebrated at 11 am in the church of Blackfriars on St Giles, and this year was in the traditional Dominican Rite. I do not know when such a Mass was last celebrated in the church, but I suspect it was forty odd years ago, and it was a wonderful and beautiful occasion.
The celebrant was Fr Richard Conrad, the deacon Fr Thomas Crean and the sub-deacon fr Gregory Pearson, with other Dominicans providing the team of acolytes and thurifer. This was the Mass for which the church was designed, and the dignity and solemnity of the occasion was enhanced by the sunlight streaming in through the windows and the clouds of incense within the sanctuary. One could not imagine a more beautiful way of celebrating the Sacrament, and the consequent ability to be drawn into a prayerful relation with the Divine. It is a precious part of the Dominican heritage, and that of the wider church, and I sincerely hope that it will be celebrated again there in the not too distant future and that others may both witness and benefit by it. I do hope that individual Dominicans and Dominican houses avail themselves of their recently confirmed right to celebrate Mass in this form.
It was very moving to attend Mass in a form with a continuous liturgical history and usage from the thirteenth century, and one which closely parallels the Sarum and other Uses of medieval England, as well as of other monastic orders. Thus it would be largely indistingishable from the Mass as celebrated in, for example, the Dominican friaries in Oxford or in my home town of Pontefract before their dissolution in 1538. There was, of course, something of the liturgical train-spotter about some of us, observing the various features specific or unique to the Rite, but, I hasten to add, it was the totality of the offering which really concerned us, not the minutiae.
The Mass offered was one special to the Dominican Missal - the feast of dedication of all Dominican churches which is assigned to October 22nd - and Fr Conrad preached an elegant and eloquent homily linking the dedication of particular church buildings to the dedication of the believer.
The Pilgrimage was well attended, with some travelling up from the south coast or the south-west to attend. When I can find some photographs online I will post them or links to them.
Following the Mass I had a most enjoyable Italian lunch with my good freinds Andrew Wagstaff of The Noise of the Crusade aka The Last Knight and John Hunwicke, before Andrew and I joined the procession commemorating the Oxford martyrs of 1589. Starting from the site of the Bocado prison adjacent to the tower of St Michael att the Northgate we processed with Fr Crean behind the cross and a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham along the route of the martyrs journey to execution, and past the site of their capture at the Catherine Wheel Inn - now covered by part of Balliol. In warm autumnal sunshine we made our way past tourists and shoppers as well as graduands and their families at a degree day, and the animal rights protesters by the Sheldonian, along Broad Street and Holywell Street to the site of the gallows. Returning the same way we sang the Te Deum in thanksgiving for the martyrs' witness (and, yes, we did genuflect at the appropriate point) and concluded with Benediction given by Fr Crean in the church at Blackfriars.
After that Andrew and I had our own nostalgic pilgrimage to the Eagle and Child (aka the Bird and Baby) before joining other pilgrims - including Paul Smeaton of Smeaton's corner and Sean Wright of Juventutem Oxford- in the Lamb and Flag for further refreshment. After this Andrew and I adjourned to the bar of the Oxford Union before heading off for supper and his departure on the London coach. So, all in all, a very pious and a very convivial day.