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, 10 January 2012

Showing US Seminarians around Newman's Oxford

As I did this time last year 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 England to study in particular the life and thought of Bl. John Henry Newman, and I was again asked to provide a guided tour of places associated with Newman in central Oxford.

We started after the mid-morning Mass at the Oxford Oratory and after an introduction as to life in Oxford in Newman's time I was also able to show them St John's College, with its links to St Edmund Campion, the backhanded compliment to the Oxford Movement that is the Martyrs Memorial of 1841 and the site of the Catherine Wheel inn where the Oxford Martyrs of 1589 were arrested on our way to Trinity.


Trinity College Chapel

Image: panoramio.com

Here I was able to show them the chapel, little changed since Newman made his first communion there as an Anglican in 1817, the hall and, having pointed out the windows of one of the rooms he is known to have occupied, finally we looked at Newman's memorial bust in the grounds.

From Trinity we went past the Sheldonian Theatre, scene of the moves to condemn the Tracts, the Bodleian and the site of Newman's lodgings in 1822 and where he heard of his election to the Oriel Fellowship. At St Mary's, currently starting a major set of repairs and renovations, I was able to talk about the place of that church in the life of Newman and the Oxford Movement, with its mixture of acadmic preaching and pastoral care as well as pointing out the south porch and its controversial design incorporating a statue of the Virgin and Child from the time of Archbishop Laud.

As last year the group was photographed in the shadow of Newman's pulpit, and I then took them across the High Street into Oriel, showing them the chapel, with the various Newman links, and concluding with a visit to what is now known as the Newman Oratory above the entrance, and now with its modern commemorative stained glass window by Vivienne Haig.

Stained glass window in Newman Oratory

The Window in the Newman Oratory

Image: Oriel college website

This afternoon the seminarians are going to visit the College at Littlemore, and, after more lectures in Oxford, will then go to visit Maryvale, Ocsott and the Birmingham Oratory at the beginning of next week.

As with their precedessors last year they were a lively and interested group to show around, with plenty of questions about Oxford and Oxford life for me to answer. 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 the near future. It was also very good to meet up again with Fr Tom who was leading the pilgrimage. Once again they were evidence of a confident and approachable Catholicism in the American mid-west.

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