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.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Père Grou - a prophetic voice

Fr Jerome's address to the Oratory Brothers on Tuesday evening was based on a reading from Père Grou's 1786 La Morale tirée des Confessions de Saint Augustin.

In the book Jean Nicholas Grou (1731-1803) the Jesuit director and spiritual guide sought to use Augustine's understanding of morality to answer the problems of his own day and the consequences of the "Enlightenment" and the world of the Philosophes, Voltaire and Rousseau and their followers. In it Père Grou addressed the eighteenth century misuse of 'philosophy', notably in respect of family life and marriage, the pursuit of personal interests at all costs and a view which saw the role of government as being to secure whatever made one happy, with no wider sense of obligation. Frankly it all sounded quite horribly modern and contemporary to my ears. Within only a few years the whirlwind began to be reaped, and his comments anticipated and are reminiscent of Burke's reaction to events in France.

Père Grou himself came to England and became the chaplain to the Weld family at Lulworth Castle on the Dorset coast, published books in England and died at Lulworth in 1803.

His Spiritual Maxims from 1788 can be read online in this Catholic Treasury version here.

He is a writer of whom hitherto I knew the name rather than the works, but I think he is someone I ought to read - if I can ever find the time.

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