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.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Requiem at St Benet's

I was asked last week by the organiser if I would be willing to be thurifer at an EF Requiem Mass for old members of St Benet's Hall here in Oxford which was planned for this morning. I was happy to help and spent the morning doing so.

We began by meeting at the Oxford Oratory at 9.20 to borrow various pieces of necessary paraphanalia, including four catafalque candlesticks and a thurible, and loading them into his people carrier, along with a moveable footplate for the altar and a table to act as the catafalque which he had brought with him. The short journey to St Benet's accomplished we unloaded this improvised tatmobile and began setting up the simple chapel at the Hall for the Requiem, whilst the schola rehearsed.
Once covered with a black pall and flanked by the candlesticks the otherwise ordinary table made an excellent catafalque.

I then realised we had left the communion plate behind at the Oratory, so I had to change out of my cassock and hurry back to collect that, return down St Giles street, get back into St Benet's - I did not, of course, know the door code - and get back into my cassock and sort out with the other servers who had now arrived who was doing what. We were fortunate in our MC, a brother of the London Oratory, who had travelled up to Oxford with the celebrant, Fr Edward van den Bergh, Cong. Orat., who is himself an old member of the Hall.

The Mass went well until, during the prayers following the Canon the thurible, now safely back in the sacristy, set off the smoke alarm none of us had realised was there...I decided that others knew what to do to overide it and, like a well conducted person, went on calmly saying my prayers.

We retrieved the offending thurible for the absolutions and managed that well in the small amount of space the chapel afforded us.

Afterwards we packed up all our borrowings and returned them by road to the Oratory, making sure we had neither lost nor damaged anything, before joining the celebrant, MC and singers for a convivial lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant, which was generously provided for us all.

Despite the need to transport things to and fro and the irritant of the smoke alarm this was dignified occasion, a prayerful intercession for the departed. I gather it is hoped to make it an annual occasion.

No comments: