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, 21 February 2012

Meme me up

I have been invited by Stephanie Mann of the blog Supremacy and Survival to respond to a meme ( I thought that was something to do with poor old Professor Dawkins... but no matter) which she forwarded to me and which is working its way around the Blogosphere. The idea is to ask bloggers to list their three favourite books and pass the meme on to five other bloggers.

Now my instinct is always rather to ignore chain letters, and thinking which three books I should list could easily worry me to death - which should I choose out of the books I have read and appreciated?. In general I am not one for lists and such like compliations. There are so many books I have read and enjoyed - and even more I want to read and enjoy.

Nonetheless I do not want to be unsporting, and as I see the idea is to list three favourite Catholic books it becomes a bit easier - and I shall not do the cop-out of choosing the Missal, the Breviary and the Bible!

The three books I shall list are therefore books, not necessarily "favourite", but rather three which reflect my decision to be received as aCatholic in 2005 - one was read afterwards - and which I would recommend. Indeed I realise I have posted about all three already - to see my prevuious comments on them follow the links at the bottom of the post to the authpr. I will list them in the order I read them and my reasons for choosing them:

Walter Ullmann A Short History of the Medieval Papacy which I read in 1994. I had read other books by Ullmann as an undergraduate and subsequently, and appreciated his vast knowledge of medieval political ideas and concepts. From this book the phrase which haunted my mind was from the Introduction :

the papacy is the only institution in the European or Western orbit of civilization which links the post-Apostolic with the Atomic age

That great continuity described not in a theological or polemical work, but in a standard history book - yes, that impressed me. This is a great standard work, well worth reading, and now available in a new edition and online.

Glyn Redworth In Defence of the Church Catholic: The Life of Stephen Gardiner, published in 1990, was a book I read early in 2004 in connection with my academic research in the library of Pusey House here in Oxford. What Dr Redworth shows witjh clarity and elegance is the way in which the supposed;y "conservative" Bishop of Winchester from 1531 until his deprivation in 1549 was not the standard bearer of a henrician Anglo-Catholicism, but rather someone who reluctantly went along with change, telling himself and his hearers that such changes were all right...really. Until that is he realised just what had actually happened. Hence his return to the Roman obedience, and his great and moving sermon in December 1554. To the Anglo-Catholic I then was it shook the certainties of continuity with the pre-Reformation Church. Although not a direct cause of my conversion - as one friend has been known to claim - I could claim that Stephen Gardiner made me fully Catholic - I was to be received about a year later. An immensely readable and insightful book, but, alas, out of print.

Robert Hugh Benson Confessions of a Convert, which was published in 1913, but which I did not read until the summer of 2011. Here was an account of a conversion which recorderd emotions and conflcts so very similar to those I had experienced. However different our individual lives here was someone speaking so many of the same thoughts as I had had - notably the fact that once received the things which you could once articulate as an Anglo-Catholic simply slip away - you cannot really recall those compelling arguments which kept one outside the one true Church. A very readable and charming book, easy to share with intending or enquiring converts.

I shall now contact other bloggers as to their choice...

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