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.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Solemn profession of a Knight of Malta

Earlier today I attended the Solemn Profession at the Oxford Oratory of Fra' Julian Chadwick as a Knight of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta. This was a most impressive occasion, and I had not attended a similar event previously. The church filled up with friends and acquaintances of Fra' Julian, whom I have known since 2004, before teh processional entrance of Dames of the Order, clergy associated with it, Knights of Grace in their various classes and Knights of Justice of both simple and solemn profession - two of simple professiopn were to renew their vows as part of the assembly.

Presiding from a canopied throne over these ceremonies was HMEH the Prince and Grand Master,  Fra' Matthew Festing.

Given that this year is the 900th anniversary of the bull of  Pope Pascal II in 1113 which formally established the Order, which had originatedin 1048, this was a very suitable way to mark that anniversary here in Oxford as well as to witness Fra' Julian's Solemn Profession.

The whole ceremony was in the context of the celebration of an Extraordinary Form Mass of the Holy Cross - very suitable for a former Chairman of the Latin Mass Society.

The Profession was in two stages - the taking of oaths and the giving of the sword,and indeed its symbolic brandishing three times in symbolic defence of the Faith and Church, at the offertory, the clothing after communion. I was told afterwards that the form is fifteenth century at least, although I thought the English translation sounded a little self-conciously arcane, rather as if it were nineteenth century in the spirit of the middle ages. Nonetheless it witnessed to a spiritualisation of the vows of medieval knighthood in the service of Christ and the Poor.

Following the Profession and the Mass and Communion there was then the clothing with the traditional black mantle with its badge of the eight pointed white cross- emblematic of the Beatitudes - over Fra' Julian's red uniform, which was covered with a red tabard with a white cross, the arms of the Order. He then received his Stola, worn over the shoulder, with its emblems of the Passion, and which is the distinctive item of a solemnly professed Knight. The significanc eof each emblem was poined out to him and how he should lead his own life accordingly.

Following the ceremonial in church there was a reception at St Cross college in warm sunshine, and an opportunity to catch up with old friends, of whom there were many present and to meet new contacts. 
In his brief speech the Grand Master said he thought the service the best conducted of the several Solemn Professions at which he had presided.

There is more about the events of the day in this blog post Congratulations to Fra Julian Chadwick

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