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 31 May 2013

Celebrating Corpus Christi

Twice yesterday in Oxford I was able to attend celebrations according to the Extraordinary Form of the Feast of Corpus Christi on its traditional day.

At 12.15 I attended the Low Mass at the Oxford Oratory celebrated by the Provost Fr Daniel Seward. He was wearing a particularly fine golden chasuble, in a Roman cut but with orphreys bearing embroidered figures of saints in the  late medieval style. I do not think I have seen this vestment in use before at the Oratory - it is certainly a handsome addition to the collection.

The Mass attracted a reasonable number in the congrgation, with wide selectioon of ages, toddlers through to the elderly, although I think numbers were reduced by the fact of there being the evening Mass at SS Gregory and Augustine, which I was also due to attend.

After a session in the Oratory lodge and shop as a porter, a voluntary activity I always enjoy, I went with a friend for afternoon tea at a nearby restaurant - a civilised way of celebrating the feast we thought.

Thus replenished we got the bus up to SS Gregory and Augustine in north Oxford in good time for the 6pm Mass, to be celebrated by Fr John Saward, and at which I was due to serve.

This, it emerged was to be a Missa cantata, and indeed a Mass in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament Exposed. Much work had been in preparation, with the cghurch handsomely decorated with flowere in the style the church usually adopts - an emphasis on small scale, country flower arrangements. My eye was especially caught, as was no doubt it was intended to be, by the ears of wheat flanking the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament, and above it a crown of thones decorated with tiny red flowers. In front of the altar there was a carpet of flowers representing a host and chalice, and one which managed to survive surprisingly well the passage of the celebrant's feet.

There was a good congregation, making for well filled church, drawn from the parish and from wider afield, and fine music sung from the west gallery.

I was a torch bearer at the Mass and for the procession. The  weather was kind, and so,  unlike last year, we were able to process around part of the grounds of the church, with a station at an altarino set up in the baptistry at the west end.

Oriel was well represented with a member of the SCR as an acolyte, myself from the MCR as a torch bearer and a JCR member as thurifer - a fairly unusual coincidence I should think.

Afterwards there was a reception in the parish hall and an opportunity to catch up on news from friends, before agroup of us returned to the city centre for coffee and further refreshment and talk. All round a very good celebration of this feast day.

The parish website has some pictures of the Mass:

'Ecce Agnus Dei'

Rather unfortunately the Clever Boy is all too prominent on this other photograph, but ignore me and admire the carpet of flowers:

The carpet of flowers for Corpus Christi, and the newly painted Altar Frontal.

Image: SS Gregory and Augustine website

For more photos of the Mass and Procession click here.

There are three Extraordinary Form Masses this coming week at SS Gregory and Augustine: Wednesday June 5th and Friday June 7th at 6 p.m. as usual, and the First Thursday Votive of Our Lord Eternal High Priest at 12 noon on June 6th.  The latter, inspired by the teaching of Pope Pius XI, gives a monthly opportunity to pray for priests.
The following Sunday, June 9th, (this month the second rather than third Sunday) there will be a Sung Extraordinary Form Mass at 12 noon. 

Thursday 30 May 2013

What the Pope really said

There was quite a flurry on the blogosphere yesterday about reports as to what the Pope had said or not said about the Extraordinary Form of Mass to a group of bishops from Apulia. The key report appears to be this one, from Rorate Coeli, which is usually a well informed and reliable source. It can be read at Did the Pope say to resisting bishops: "Summorum will not be touched"? Not really.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Ordinariate Evensong of the Blessed Sacrament

Following the lecture at Oriel I hurried across a drizzle spattered city centre to attend the Ordinariate's Votive Vespers of the Blessed Sacrament at Blackfriars. This was their way of observing the traditional date for Corpus Christi tomorrow

Image: cathapol.blogspot.uk

Music was provided by the Newman Consort  with settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Palestrina, and the motet Ave Caro Christi Cara, by the late medieval Flemish composer Noel Bauldeweyn. This is  a setting of a text which appeared in both Flemish and English (Sarum Use) collections of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

Fr Daniel Lloyd preached the sermon; typically rich in its literary allusions he also recounted to us the Roman tradition of eating gnocci on Thursday as a custom to recall the institution on that day of the Blessed Sacrament. This led him to the point that traditional practice lays emphasis on specific days and actions as a way of celebrating the Faith day by day, week by week, year by year.

Following this there was Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament to conclude this beginning to the celebration of Corpus Christi.

The reception of Newman in France

Earlier this evening I went to the annual Oriel Newman lecture in the college. The speaker was  Fr Keith Beaumont of the Oratory of France, an organisation inspired by that of St Philip, but established on rather different lines in 1611.

His subject was the reception of Newman in France since the 1840s. This was an excellent talk by an expert, and it contained too much to give here at length - we were provided with a full and useful set of notes t accompany the delivery of the elcture - so I will confine myself to a summary.


Bl. Cardinal Newman by Millais


Fr Beaumont saw three main themes or views in the French awareness of Newman. The first was of the brilliant and indeed controversial Anglican don who converted to Catholicism in 1845. Many of his works were translated - in some cases very badly indeed - in these years, and his particular appeal was as an apologist, someone the French church could enlist to reconvert a nation that was still recovering from the serious attempt to de-Christianise it during the worst excesses of the French Revolution. After 1870 the French were too preoccupied with their own internal turmoils to pay as much attention to the works of Newman,and his later writings did not attract translators.

The second themes was in the misunderstanding of Newman in the Modernist crisis. Those rightly or indeed wrongly accused of those errors could look to some of Newman's ideas, or at least their expression as a seemingly kindred spirit. Newman himself believed in a continuing tradition that developed so as to remain faithful to itself, not as Modernist apparently did, in one that merely developed as a historical process. In this matter Newman was unfortunate in attracting the interest of Fr Henri Bremond, who wrote extensively about Newman but, in Fr Beaumont's view, in a very flawed way, as one who saw Newman only in terms of his psychological insight and not as a defender of  received truth. The result was to associate Newman in the eyes of many in the Vatican with Modernist tendencies. This was despite Pope St Pius X's explicit exoneration of Newman in a letter to an Italian bishop of any charge of Modernism, but that remained little known at the time and for along period afterwards.

The third, contemporary view can be seen to derive from the work of Fr Louis Bouyer of the French Oratory in the 1950s. This re-established Newman's coherence as an orthodox thinker worthy of interest, and led to a group such as the Amies de Newman who publish a journal of studies and encourage work on the Cardinal.

Fr Beaumont thought part of the limiting factor in the French perception of Newman was a failure to understand the complex nature of Anglicanism, either in the era of the Oxford Movement or today.  There are also humorous misunderstandings, such as publishers who seek to Germanisize him as  John-Henry Newmann...

In his view the point that was often missed about Newman was that people concentrated on one aspect of him rather than the totality - they saw the theologian, the pastoral figure, the preacher, but not that all were one and the same man, integrated around his essential faith.

Fr Beaumont expressed his personal prayer  for the canonisation of Bl. John Henry, so that he could be also proclaimed eventually as a Doctor of the Church.

Following the lecture there was a lively and interesting series of questions to the speaker - including references to Newman's own attitude to France, notably travelling across Paris in 1833 with the carriage blinds down so as not to see the hated tricoleur, symbolic of the 1830 revolution, which had so concerned him and others as a warning to the British estabishment.

As is the custom on these occasions there was a reception afterwards and the chance to meet both Fr Beaumont and others, many of them old friends from Oriel or the Oratory.

Oak Apple Day

Today is Oak Apple Day, the anniversary of King Charles II's entry into London on his thirtieth birthday in 1660, and the symbolic date of the Restoration of the Monarchy.

I have posted about the day in previous years in Oak Apple Day in 2011 and last year in Oak Apple Day. I have also posted in 2010 Restoration, and in 2011 the relevant post The Battle of Worcester 1651

There is an account of the traditions associated with the day here, and of its history as a public holiday, with its own special Book of Common Prayer service until its removal in 1859.


The statue of King Charles II - the "pious founder" - at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, 
decorated for Oak Apple Day

Image: inpursuitofhistory.wordpress.com 

I would argue that it should be restored as a public holiday, or linked to the end of May Spring Bank Holiday.

It is certainly a day on which to give thanksgiving for the Restoration and the contined blessing of the Monarchy in our national life.

The problem is finding oak leaves to wear in one's button hole - I did manage it once here in Oxford, when some friends raided a tree in the Parks, but only once.


Listening to the Akathistos Hymn

Yesterday evening I went to Pusey House to listen to the singing of the Akathistos Hymn about which I posted in The Akathistos Hymn at Pusey House on May 28th and where there is a link to the text of the piece.

We began with an introductory talk by Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, who is always a stimulating and interesting preacher and speaker. He outlined the historty ofg the hymn, which is dated to the first half of the sixth century, and pre-dates the fixing of the feast of the Annunciation under Justinian. It may be the work of the greatest Byzantine hymnographer St Romanus. Given its date it may have originally been intended for the feast of the  Synaxis of Our Lady on December 26th.
The current Greek use is to sing sequential parts of it on the Fridays of Lent, but the more ancient or traditional practice is preserved in the Russian use, where it is sung in its entirity on the fifth Friday5 of Lent.

In the Orthodox tradition, unlike the western one, the feast of the Annunciation is never transferred - thus if it falls on Good Friday its celebration has to follow that of the passion. This cannot happen with the modern calendar, but with the Julian calendar such a coincidence with Good Friday can sometimes occur

Bishop Kallistos drew attention to three themes in the hymn. The first was that of Joy  - the repeated call upon the Virgin, and the believer, to rejoice in all that she embodied and represented.

The second point was the Christological thought of the hymn - Mary, however exalted, is always subordinate to her Son.

The third point was the mystery and paradox described by the hymn in its account of the Incarnation and how they are integral to the life and story of the Virgin Mother of God.

The hymn is now prefaced and followed by the singing of a kontakion in which the City - that is Constantinople - gives thanks for deliverance from its assailants. this appears to originate with the 626 Persian siege, and the kontakion being the work of Patriarch Sergius after its lifting. The hymn also gives thanks for the delivery of the city from the 718 siege by the Arabs, and that of  846 by the still pagan Russians.

The hymn was sung in its entirety in English in a liturgical translation published by the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary together with another by Roger Green which draws out the richness of the original Greek. Green himself describes the expereince of the hymn as being "caught up in a brilliant firework display." Copies of this translation were available for purchase.

To someone used to the western tradition the most obvious parallel is with litanies such as that of Loretto, but in the case of the Akathistos Hymn the officiant and schola divide the piece between them as a series of collects and invocations, whilst the icon of Our Lady is censed throughout the rite.

Listening to the hymn and looking at the text I was reminded of Fr Hunwicke's  point that for the most advanced expressions and forms of Marian devotion one should look to the Orthodox tradition

Icon of the Mother of God "of the Akathist"

The Vatican Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (December 2001) lists many approved "popular pieties" and devotions outside the Liturgy, and includes the Akathistos Hymn. This seems to have been a particular favourite of the late Pope John Paul II.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

St Philip's Day at the Oxford Oratory

Yesterday was the celebration of the transferred Solemnity of St Philip Neri at the Oxford Oratory.

On Sunday evening there was Solemn Vespers of Trinity Sunday, but during the singing of the Magnificat the altar of St Philip was also censed after the High Altar, and the service concluded with the giving of the blessing of St Philip's relic.


St Philip's altar on his feast day 

Yesterday there was a Solemn Mass at 6pm, when the celebrant and preacher was Dom Cuthbert Brogan OSB, Abbot of Farnborough. In his sermon he pointed out the complimentary contrasts in the approach of St Benedict and St Philip - one who fled Rome, the other who fled to it - but that the end of their labours was one and the same, the pursuit of holiness of life. He gave this personal reminiscence of the establishment of the Oxford Oratory:

" I arrived here in Oxford for my studies at roughly the same time as the Fathers of the Oratory arrived. All agreed that the Oratorians would add a certain je ne sais quoi and we eagerly waited to see what the quoi would be. I remember Abbot Alan Rees of Belmont remarking that now the Oratorians were in St Giles with the Dominicans and Benedictines, the whole Church was present – the Church militant, suffering, and triumphant – and all this in the one street! "

The full text of his sermon can be read and more photographs of the Mass can be seen on the Oxford Oratory website at St Philip's Day 2013


The altarino of St Philip on the sanctuary, which was used throughout the Novena preceding the Solemnity


Br Oliver reads the Epistle


The Abbot preaching his Sermon:


The incensation of the Abbot

Images: Oxford Oratory website/Tessa Caldecott

During the Mass there was sung a new setting by Prof. John Caldwell of Cardinal Baronius' prayer to St Philip "Look down from Heaven Holy Father...."written by Baronius in the wake of the saint's death and a regular devotion of Oratorians.

Following the Mass there was reception for the congregation, and an opportunity to share in the celebration of the community's founder and patron. One of the great strengths of parish life here at the Oratory is the genuine friendship that develops amongst the worshippers at the church - not a forced sense of "community", but  real friendliness and warmth towards old and new friends alike.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Holy Trinity

Today is Trinity Sundaya day to celebrate and to attempt to reflect upon the ineffable nature of the Godhead.


The Holy Trinity
Robert Campin (circa 1375-1444)

Image: casa-in -italia.com

This type of depiction of the Holy Trinity was very popular in the late middle ages, and popular in alabaster carvings for churches, tombs and domestic use. However it became the object of particular hatred to Lollards and other such heretics, who saw it as breaching the Second Commandment and as being idolatrous, and increasingly fell out of favour in the Catholic Church at Trent because it was open to such theological misunderstanding.

I have posted paintings by Robert Campin before, both because I like them as works of art and devotion and because they are works produced in a period in which I have a particular interest as a historian.
Three works by Campin - a Standing Virgin and Child, Saint Veronica, and Holy Trinity (all now in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt) - were wrongly thought to have come from a non-existent abbey at Flémalle, near Liège giving rise to the creation of an anonymous Master of Flémalle. It is now generally agreed that this painter is identical with Robert Campin.

Campin's origins and exact date of birth remain obscure. In 1410 he acquired his citizenship in Tournai, where he was already working as a painter by 1405-6. He was dean of the Guild of Saint Luke between 1425 and 1427 and was elected to the town council. Probably the head of a large workshop, Campin accepted commissions from city officials, churches, and the bourgeoisie, made designs for banners, coats of arms, and costumes, and sometimes produced manuscript illuminations. He had two famous pupils, Rogelet de la Pasture (Rogier van der Weyden) and Jacques Daret, both of whom worked for him until 1432. The early works of Rogier and those of his master are sometimes confused.

A triptych with the Lamentation (Courtauld Institute Galleries, London) is considered the earliest of his works. Among the latest is the Von Werl Altarpiece, dated 1438 (Prado, Madrid), sometimes ascribed to Rogier. While the Annunciation Triptych has traditionally been viewed as a key painting by the master, its attribution within the Campin group, is a matter of controversy. Campin's influence was widespread, and some of his compositions were frequently copied well into the sixteenth century.

Adapted from the Casa-in-Italia website

Here is an example of a textile of the Holy Trinity by Campin. Worked in  gold. silver silk embroidery, pearls, glass beads and velvet on linen it is dated to 1433 and is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna:


Image: Wikipaintings

Here is a list of other paintings by Campin together with links to them:

Thursday 23 May 2013

A bell for Blackfriars

Yesterday evening, after Mass and the Novena to St Philip at the Oratory, I was back at Blackfriars for Solemn Vespers, which was presided over by Bishop Mark Jabalé OSB, formerly Abbot of Belmont, Bishop of Menevia, and now the parish priest at Chipping Norton in this archdiocese.

The reason for this special celebration was the installation of a bell in the bell tower of the church and its blessing by the Bishop. In his sermon my longstanding friend the Prior, John O'Connor, linked the history since 1221 of the Order in Oxford to its continuing witness and ministry today, and to continuing prayers for the souls of benefactors, both in the middle ages and of the present era.

The bell itaelf had been presented to the Dominicans by the President and Fellows Corpus Christi college. In 1936  Robert Mowat, a former Fellow, and Paul Patrick, a former scholar, gave the bell to hang in the gatetower, but, I understand, it was never installed due to its weight, and was thus unused when the college offered it to Blackfriars. In its new home it has been named Bede in honour of Fr Bede Jarrett OP.

Father Bede Jarrett (1881—1934), revered by his fellow Preachers as an administrator  - he served as  Provincial from 1916- 32 and founded what is now the magazine  New Blackfriars - author, preacher, friend, and above all, as a man who gave a distinct stamp to the English Dominican Province. Probably his most important single achievement was to bring the Dominicans back to Oxford after an absence of nearly 400 years. 

The foundation stone of the present Priory was laid on 15 August 1921, the seventh centenary of the first Dominican foundation in Oxford. Dedicated to the Holy Spirit, it was founded by Fr Bede, himself the first Dominican friar to study at Oxford since the Reformation. In bringing the Order back to the university and to the city he was helped by an American donor, Mrs Charlotte Jefferson Tytus, who purchased the site, then partly occupied by three houses on St Giles'.
The new Priory was designed by the architect Doran Webb and construction stopped in 1929. The full community arrived on 17 May 1929, and the church was consecrated three days later. A tower was added in the 1950s, but not all the envisaged building was completed and, in some respects, remains essentially unfinished.

Fr Bede Jarrett OP

Fr Bede Jarrett OP

Image: bfriars.ox.ac.uk 

At the appropriate point the Bishop, Prior and other officers of the friary, together with the lady Chaplain of Corpus Christi in her Anglican choir dress, depaerted to the blessing of the bell before returning to the choir. Afterwards as the procession moved out of the church the rich tone of the bell was heard as it was tolled, leading in to the strains of Vierne's  Carillon de Westminster on the organ.

This was a fine and dignified occasion, with a real sense of the continuing, living history of the Dominicans in Oxford. May that long continue, enhanced by the chimes of Bede in the bell tower.

Bodleian acquires manuscript of Hopkins' 'Binsey Poplars'

The Bodleian Libraries have recently acquired at auction a late autograph draft manuscript of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem 'Binsey Poplars'.

Image: Oxford Mail website

The last known major Hopkins manuscript to have been in private hands, ‘Binsey Poplars’ is the most significant Hopkins item to have come to the market in over forty years.

Binsey Poplars

Image:Bodleian Library 

The acquisition was made possible by strong financial support from a number of individuals and funding bodies, including the Friends of the Bodleian, the Friends of the National Libraries and the V & A Purchase Grant Fund.

A Balliol man who converted to Catholicism whilst at Oxford, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) is regarded as one the Victorian era's greatest poets. Very few of his poems appeared during his lifetime, and he owes his posthumous reputation to his friend the poet Robert Bridges, who edited a volume of Hopkins' Poems that first appeared thirty years after his death in 1918. His revolutionary ‘difficult’ style, characterized by new rhythmic effects, influenced the work of Modernist and later writers.


Gerard Manley Hopkins

Image: Wikipedia

'Binsey Poplars' was written in response to the felling of trees running alongside the Thames in Binsey, a village on the west side of the city of Oxford. Hopkins was a curate at St Aloysius Church in the city when he wrote the poem. The trees were replanted after the poem was first published in 1918 (the poem seems to anticipate the ravages of the Great War), and there was an outcry which I recall when they were felled again in 2004. The poem formed part of the successful campaign to replant the trees. The poem has a very particular local meaning but speaks to a much broader audience in its plaintive evocation of spiritual desolation through the destruction of nature.

The only other known manuscripts of ‘Binsey Poplars’ survive in four copies kept in the Bodleian. The Library stresses that the textual importance of this newly acquired manuscript cannot be overstated. It has never been properly studied and presents critical evidence of the evolution of one of the most celebrated poems in the modern English literary tradition. It includes important unrecorded and unpublished reconsidered readings, with extensive autograph deletions, revisions and repetitions.

Dr Christopher Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections, Bodleian Library, said: "The Bodleian holds the world’s most important collection of manuscripts by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It is wonderful to be able to add this draft of one of his most celebrated works to that collection. The various revisions in the draft, particularly when studied alongside the other drafts, give us a remarkable insight into how the poet crafts his passionate lament on man's disregard for the sanctity of nature. It’s an enduringly relevant poem everyone should know."

Adapted from the Bodleian website 

I studied Hopkins for A-level English, and whilst I did not get a lot out of him then I recognised that in him and T.S.Eliot were the two amongst the poets we studied in whom I was aware of something powrful and insightful. I am still, forty years on, meaning to return to studyin them properly... Occasionally I do a little, and find them to be a very rich vein to explore. Anyway, worshipping at Hopkin's former church and a member of a college adjacent to Eliot's Merton I really have no excuse - other than laziness - for not looking further at these two writers.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

The Pentecost Vigil at Blackfriars in pictures

I have now found two photographs of last Saturday's Vigil Mass at Blackfriars on the Dominican Godzdogz blog:

Images: Godzdogz/ Fr James Claffey OP


Thereis more about their celebrations of their patronal feast over last weekend from the Godzdogz site at  Pentecost Vigil and Doorkeepers' Dinner


Ordinariate Evensong on May 29th

Next week, on Wednesday May 29th, the Oxford Ordinariate Group will again celebrate Solemn Evensong and Benediction according to their approved books in the church at Blackfriars in the city. The service will be at 7.30, and the office will be a votive of the Blessed Sacrament, to coincide with the traditional eve of Corpus Christi.

The music will be provided again  by the Newman Consort, who have developed a formidable repertoire of early modern music in the service of the Ordinariate's liturgies.

If you are free to attend please do so, and if you have not attended beforehand at on eof these services you are assured of a warm welcome.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

The Akathistos Hymn at Pusey House on May 28th

On Tuesday next week, May 28th,  Pusey House is hosting at 5 pm a joint event by the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius when Bishop Kallistos Ware, Bishop of Diokelia  will give an introductory talk and lead the singing of the Akathistos hymn to the Most Holy Mother of God.

The text of this great sixth century hymn to Our Lady can be read in translation here.

Literally akathist means standing - this is a devotion during which one remains on one's feet because of its solemnity.

The Theotokos orans
A thirteenth century icon from the Spassky cathedral at Yaroslavl

Image: Wikipedia
When the word akathist is used alone, it most commonly refers to this, the original hymn known by this name. This, the sixth century Akathist to the Theotokos , is attributed to St. Romanos the Melodist. The tradition is that the Theotokos appeared to him, gave him a scroll and commanded him to eat it. The result was a miracle: Romanus received a beautiful, melodic voice and, simultaneously, the gift of poesy.

This hymn is often split into four parts and sung at the "Salutations to the Theotokos" service on the first four Friday evenings in Great Lent; the entire Akathist is then sung on the fifth Friday evening. Traditionally it is included in the Orthros (Matins) of the Fifth Saturday of Great Lent, which for this reason is known as the "Saturday of the Akathist". In monasteries of Athonite tradition, the whole Akathist is usually inserted nightly at Compline.

The four sections into which the Akathist is divided correspond to the themes of the Annunciation, Nativity, Christ and to the Theotokos  herself.

The hymn itself forms an alphabetical acrostic—that is, each oikos begins with a letter of the Greek alphabet, in order—and it consists of twelve long and twelve short oikoi. Each of the long oikoi include a seven-line stanza followed by six couplets employing rhyme, assonance and alliteration, beginning with the greeting Chaíre and ending with the refrain, "Rejoice, Bride without bridegroom!" (also translated as "Rejoice, thou Bride unwedded!") In the short oikoi, the seven-line stanza is followed by the refrain, Alleluia.

The Salutations to the Theotokos service, often known by its Greek name, the Χαιρετισμοί/Chairetismoí  (from the Χαίρε/Chaíre! so often used in the hymn), consists of Compline with the Akathist hymn inserted. It is known in Arabic as the Madayeh.

As next Tuesday is the eve of 560th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 this seems a not inappropriate day on which to celebrtae the glories of Byzantine liturgy and culture.

Monday 20 May 2013

Pentecost Vigil at Oxford Blackfriars

On Saturday evening, following my return to central Oxford, I went to the Pentecost Vigil at Blackfriars, which I advertised in a recent post. Last year I was unable to attend, but I had been on two previous occasions. This was, as I mentioned, a celebration of their patronal feast, so the candles were in place and burning before the consecration crosses around the church, adding to the sense of occasion.

The rite was a Dominican adaptation of the Novus ordo provision for the Vigil, consisting of First Vespers, Vigil readings  - four in number, from Genesis, Exodus, Ezekiel and Joel, with responsorial psalms or other sung pieces and prayers  - and Solemn Mass. The liturgy, staging of the ceremonial and the overall appearance of the church, all could be described as fulfilling the idea of "noble simplicity." Thus, although one might be drawn instinctively to a more ceremonious style, this was an elegant and dignified way of marking one of the great feasts of the Church by more than just Sunday observance - one felt that something significant was indeed happening in the life of the Body of Christ.

Thus in a simple context the use of handsome red vestments, the presence of six tall candles in simple holders on the forward altar  as well as those burning in the candlesticks on the high altar, the plentiful amount of smoke produced by the thurifer -  he is, incidentally, a young Dominican I had the privilege of teaching medieval church history in the autumn - and the extensive use of latin produced a fine blend of old and new, and with asense of the distinctively Dominican heritage.

The principal celebrant and preacher was Fr Richard Ounsworth OP. His sermon drew out the inherent meaning of the Spirit's action in "sighs too deep for words" - these are not mearly sighs, they are the groans of childbearing, and that through that pain comes the joy of new birth. Maybe having been to baptism that very afternoon made this all the more apposite, but it was a forceful elucidation of the spiritual quest of us all, and the action of the Holy Spirit in shaping our lives.

As in previous years this was a good liturgical occasion to participate in, and an indication of what other churches could perhaps offer to mark the Vigil .

If I can find some photographs of the liturgy online - I noticed  they were being taken - I will post them when I can.

An Extraordinary baptism

On Saturday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending the baptism of Alice Curry, the daughter of my friends Owen and Emily Curry. We all met originally in our Pusey House days, a time which was fruitful for forging lasting friendships. Owen and Emily married in 2011 at SS Gregory and Augustine here in Oxford and according to the Extraordinary Form. It was therefore to that church, and to the Extraordianry Form, and to Fr Saward who conducted their wedding service that they returned for the baptism of their daughter.

Beforehand I met up with another old friend who was here for the occasion and we had a very enjoyable lunch together before travelling up the Woodstock Road to the church.

I was called upon to act as the proxy for the godfather, Fr Martin Stamnestro, who was unable to make the journey from his parish in his native Norway. So it fell to me and to the godmother, Kate Miller, to make the latin renunciations and affirmations the rite required. The older rite does make it very clear that the infant is being well and truly exorcised of Original Sin - and as Mgr Knox used to say, the Devil understand latin.

During the ceremony there was a sudden realisation that the re was no white garment to place on young Alice, and in a moment of inspiration the veil was brought from the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in the Lady Chapel to act as a baptismal covering. We then processed, as planned, to that altar, with Kate carrying Alice and myself bearing the baptismal candle, to place Alice upon the altar and consecrate her to Our Lady. I suspect the use of the Virgin's veil may now become part of the Use of SS Gregory and Augustine...


Our Lady keeps a prayerful eye over Alice who is held in her mother's arms, and with her father on the left. Between them is Kate Miller the godmother, and I am standing behind Fr Saward.

Image: Br Andrew Wagstaff C.O.on Flickr

Afterwards most of use made our way to Owen's mother's house for tea in the garden and the drinking of Alice's health, and a general catching up of news and ideas between old friends.

A very happy and enjoyable afternoon, and at its heart the sacramental regeneration of a new Catholic.

Friday 17 May 2013

Novena to St Philip Neri

Saint Philip Neri

St Philip Neri

Image: findagrave.com

This evening at the Oxford Oratory we shall start the annual Novena to St Philip Neri in preparation for his feast day - transferred this year to Monday May 27th. The Novena will be observed each day after the evening Mass at 6.30 on weekdays, and at 6 at the weekends. 

On the vigil, Sunday May 26th, there will be Solemn Vespers sung at the Oratory at 5.15pm  and on the feast day itself there will be a Sung High Mass at 6pm, when the preacher will be the Abbot of Farnborough, Dom Cuthbert Brogan OSB.

Please join in praying for the life and work of all the Oratories and Oratorians.

Thursday 16 May 2013

St Simon Stock and Aylesford

Today is the feast of St Simon Stock, the English Carmelite who is traditionally believed to have received the brown scapular from Our Lady, and who died in 1265. There is more about him and the scapular here.  The scapular is also discussed on a blog post  here

Fr Finigan has a post today about the restored Carmelite priory at Aylesford in Kent which can be read at The importance of St Simon Stock.

File:Pietro Novelli Our Lady of Carmel and Saints.JPG

Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Carmelite Saints
Simon Stock is standing,receiving the brown scapular, on the right, with Angelus of Jerusalem kneeling in the forground,  and on the left are Mary Magdalene de'Pazzi and Teresa of Avila
A painting by Pietro Novelli, 1641
Museo Diocesano, Palermo

Image: Wikipedia

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Pentecost in Oxford - additional Masses

In addition to the usual pattern of Masses in Oxford this coming Sunday there are two others for Pentecost which might - indeed should - interest anyone with an appreciation of liturgy who is free to attend.

On Saturday evening to mark their patronal feast the priory of the Holy Spirit of Oxford Blackfriars are again celebrating the Vigil of Pentecost. This is a liturgy they have re-established in recent years as a novus ordo version of the traditional practice. It begins at 9 pm and consists of First Vespers, the Vigil readings and Office of Readings culminating in the First Mass of Pentecost.

On Sunday there will there will be a Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form at 12 noon at the church of SS Gregory and Augustine in Woodstock Road.

The parish currently has the largest number of regular Masses in the Traditional form, and indeed the longest recent history of advertised public celebration of them, of any parish in a very wide radius. It has every Wednesday and Friday Masses offered in this at form 6 pm, as well as sung or solemn celebrations on days such as Ascension and Corpus Christi.

The Oxford Oratory will have Solemn Vespers of Pentecost at 5.30pm that evening - a three cope occasion.

Monday 13 May 2013

Queen Maria Cristina - a miracle

I was interested to read that on 3 May 2013 Pope Francis authorised a decree recognising a miracle due to the intercession of Queen Maria Cristina of the Two Sicilies, a further stage on her process towards beatification.  Her cause was first introduced in 1872.

Maria Cristina di Savoia.jpg

Queen Maria Cristina

Image: Wikipedia
There is a biography here of this princess of Savoy who married King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies on 21 November 1832 and who died on 21 January 1836 aged only twenty three as a result of giving birth six days earlier to her only child, the future King Francis II of the Two Sicilies, who was to be the last reigning monarch of the Regno, and who died in 1894.

A less formal portrait of the young Queen 

Image: gogmsite.net

Should her cause proceed to beatification or canonisation it will be interesting to see how some Italians may react to such veneration of a member of the House of Savoy and Queen of the Two Sicilies.


The Queen at prayer