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 30 November 2013

The Ordinariate Use

Earlier this evening I attended the Mass in the Ordinariate use celebrated at Holy Rood here in Oxford. This was the first opportunity I have had to attend this liturgy, and the first time it had been celebrated in Oxford as a Missa cantata.

My first reaction to the liturgy was to see it as a reinvention of the English Missal - I understood a  while ago there was hope that this might, at some future date, be authorised as an Extraordinary Form for the Ordinariate - and others commented afterwards on its resemblances to the Interim Rite of 1965. The source for those aspects doubtless is in Rome itself.

Looked at in these respects the Use should be seen in the context of the Reform of the Reform. It is centred on the Roman Canon, used elevated language and restores the prayers at the foot of altar, the last Gospel and threefold prayers with elements such as the "Lord I am not worthy..."

This was augmented by the liturgical style that former Anglo-Catholics have brought to the Ordinariate that serious concern to offer Mass worthily and with appropriate vesture - the maniple had reappeared on Fr Lloyd's wrist I noticed - and that very real concern, in my opinion, may well be the most important part of Anglican patrimony that the Ordinariate has to offer to the wider Church.

For these reasons I know it appeals to some cradle Catholics who like the return to greater dignity and a more traditional tone. It should on that basis appeal to a considerable number outside the formal; structure of the Ordinariate.

The use of familiar prayers and phrases from the pen of Cranmer did at times seem odd in an emphatically Catholic liturgy - you are somewhat surprised to suddenly have the Comfortable Words addressed to you in a Catholic Mass. Yes they were from Cranmer's better effort with scissors and paste in 1549 rather than 1552, and they certainly are in dignified English (as, of course, Cranmer consciously intended himself) but they can seem like odd interpolations in the adapted/restored Novus Ordo. At times the links seemed awkward, causing jerks in the tempo - yet the texts are, and have been approved as being, theologically eminently orthodox, and the phraseology is very much that of Transubstantiation.

The congregational Confession is before the Offertory - I suspect that most Anglo-Catholics have got used as I did to having that moved to the beginning of the service - and the use of the old General Confession sits a little oddly alongside the introductory prayers for the priest and servers, or if you interpolate yourself the traditional Confiteor immediately before Communion.

Those points made this is a dignified serious liturgy, accessible for former Anglicans and lifelong Catholics alike. It ought to attract, but I suspect many ex-Anglicans have probably become used to the latest version of the current Roman Missal, or have tended towards the Extraordinary Form. I suspect that the Use may prove to be maybe more important in the US or Australia with the Ordinariates there than it will in England.

For Catholics interested in the Reform of the Reform it is an important example, indeed proof of what can be achieved under the auspices of the Holy See. It is, in its significant points of obvious restoration, a heartening example of what can and will be permitted. In that sense it is a real tribute to Pope Benedict XVI's vision both for the liturgy and for the Ordinariates.

One friend, who had not been present, opined that Newman himself would not liked such a mixed rite, and that may indeed be true, but that is not the point about this newly authorised Use

It ought to be sampled by those interested in vernacular liturgical developments in the English speaking world, and judged on its own merits.

The Oxford group are intending to use the Use in Advent at least for the Sunday Vigil Mass  - so if you are interested or intrigued come along to Holy Rood at 6pm on Saturdays and see for yourselves.

Friday 29 November 2013

Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV

Today is the 635th anniversary of the death in 1378 of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, of whom there is an illustrated online biography here. There is another online account here, also with illustrations, but in occasionally quaint English  and a third one, with links to accounts of other aspects of Bohemian history and places of interest, can be accessed here.


Emperor Charles IV kneeling before the Virgin and Child
The Emperor, who is sponsored by St Sigismund, wears the Imperial Crown with the white mitre which was worn with it until the sixteenth century, and inspired the form of the crown of Emperor Rudolf II - the later Austrian crown

From the votive painting of Archbishop Jan Ocko (from the atelier of Master Theodoric), before 1371


As those accounts all show it is with his kingdom of Bohemia that the Emperor Charles and his artistic patronage is always particularly associated. He encouraged the building of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, which had been begun in 1344, two years before his accession, with its shrine chapel of the national patron St Wenceslas, to whom Charles, whose own original name was indeed Wenceslas, a name he also gave to at least two of his sons, was devoted. He commisioned the Crown of St Wenceslas  in 1347,  founded the Charles University, the first within the Holy Roman Empire, built the Charles Bridge with its great ceremonial gateway, redolent of Imperial glory, and created the palace fortress of Karlštejn, south west of Prague.Under his influence and encouragement mid-fourteenth century Bohemia had a rich and vibrant court culture, with a wonderful legacy in art and architecture. The religious revival encouraged by the Emperor was to bear fruit in these aspects as well as eventually leading to the rise of Hussitism - a legacy that would no doubt have horrified him.

Within the wider Empire he is best remembered for the Golden Bull of 1356 which regulated the election of subsequent Kings of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperors down to 1806.

One of his daughters by his fourth marriage was Anne of Bohemia, who married King Richard II in 1382, and there were clear and important links between the two courts and countries - one can see obvious parallels between the courts of the Emperor Charles and of King Richard, as well, of course, as the Wyclif-Hus nexus.

Nicolas Wurmser of Strasbourg.Emperor Charles IV and his wife Anne of Swidnica adore the cross.1350s.KarlstejnCastle,Ch. of Relics of Suffering of the Lord.W.wall 

Emperor Charles IV and his third wife Anne of Swidnica (Schweidnitz) - who died in 1362 - adore the Cross 
Karlstejn Castle, on the west wall of the Chapel of Relics of the Suffering of the Lord 
Nicholas Wurmser of Strasbourg, late 1350s.

Image: 'German 1' by arthistory390 on Flickriver 

Thinking and writing about the Emperor and his life and times has inspired me to go and hunt down a copy of Fr Bede Jarrett's biography of him.

Thursday 28 November 2013

Bidding farewell to a Carthusian postulant

Yesterday evening I went up to north Oxford to SS Gregory and Augustine to the celebration of a votive EF Mass of St Bruno, the founder of the Carthusian Order.

The intention of the Mass offered by Fr John Saward was for a young man who has been living in the parish for almost a year and who has been assisting in serving and in the sacristy. A former monk of the Anglican Benedictine house at Alton in Hampshire he was received as a Catholic earlier this year and is going to try his vocation as a Carthusian monk. His clothing as a novice will be on Saturday at Parkminster in Sussex. The website of this, the only functioning Charterhouse in Britain, which was established in 1873, can be viewed at St.Hugh's Charterhouse Parkminster, UK, and it has links to pages about the Order.

In his homily Fr Saward stressed the continuity of the Order, faithful to St Bruno's eleventh century vision. He also held before us the fact that the Carthusians would be praying when we are either  asleep or lying in bed sleepless - and that they would be praying for us and on our behalf.

Following the Mass there was abrng and share parish party and achance to did farewell to the Finnish born candidate and to wish him every belssing in his vocation. it was clear that he was widely respected by the congregation and held in real and genuine affection.

We followed this with fireworks on the lawn outside - Fr Saward in cassock, capa nigra and biretta was to be seen enthusiastically setting off rockets, Roman candles and flower bursts of pyrotechnics, with gunpowder rather than incense as the prevailing scent.

I will preserve the candidate's Carthusian anonymity but will aim to keep him in my prayers, and commend him and his new community to those of my readers. 

St Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminster


Colouring in the medieval church

A post on the Medieval Religion discussion group pointed me to an article in last weekend's Observer about the use in this country at Norton priory in Cheshire of laser projections to supply the colour to medieval sculpture that time and neglect have destroyed. The article can be read here.

The technology to do these recreations of medieval splendour was developed for the cathedral in Amiens, and I have posted about this before. However I have no scruples about making the point again, that medieval cathedrals were splendidly painted on the outside as well as the inside. At Exeter cathedral you can buy a guide leaflet which indicates with what splendour and sophistication the statues late-fourteenth century screen of the west front were painted. This is the result of careful study of the surviving fragments of pigment.

File:Cathedral of Exeter edit.jpg

The west front of Exeter cathedral

As the Observer article suggest this is not an expensive technique maybe we can hope to see such spectacular effects as are achieved at Amiens this side of the Channel.

The loss of the polychrome decoration of the walls and statues of medieval churches whether romanesque or gothic both in the interior and on the exterior is an impoverishment of the original concept and of our appreciation of what the patrons and builders intended.

These magnificent buildings retain their physical grandeur, but their walls, now usually plain stone, would appear incomplete or "bare ruined choirs" to a medieval worshipper or visitor. Too often even those knowlegeable about the middle ages do not give thought to what is missing, or, if they do, they dismiss it as having been crude and gaudy. There really is no case for that view when you look at surviving examples - such as the restored scheme at Issoire in central France - or at medieval manuscripts or glass, or indeed at serious reconstructions, as by Pugin and others. At the basilica in Maastricht there is an external doorway still painted as it would have been originally:

Image: churchmousewebsite.co

Once you realise the colour should be there you become ever more concious of its absence.

The west front of Amiens cathedral by day

Image: Daniel Mitsui

None of the great thirteenth century French Cathedrals have had their exterior repainted, but Amiens cathedral can offer visitors an idea of its original scheme. On summer nights and special occasions, spotlights and lasers are projected at the façade, bathing the ornaments and statuary in bright colours and creating the illusion of what was once for all to see. 


Amiens cathedral by night - medieval splendour recreated through modern technology

Image:amyinberlin on Flickr

One of the western portals of Amiens at night with the colour projected on to the sculpture

Image:amyinberlin on Flickr

Fr Hunwicke's reflections on Pope Pius XII

My friend Fr John Hunwicke is blogging again, under a slightly new title at Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment , and he has an interesting post about Pope Pius XII and the revision of the liturgy. This seeks to understand that process not so much in the context of what Vatican II did or did not mandate or think butrather in what was already happeningby the early 1950s. It can be read here.

The idea that it was Pope Pius XII who laid the foundations for radical liturgical reform with the revised Easter liturgy is not, of course, new, but Fr Hunwicke gives a clear exposition of how he thinks the process came about and how it should be understood historically.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

St John's College Oxford vestments on display on November 30th

On Saturday November 30th St John's College here in Oxford is once again holding its termly public exhibition of its remarkable collection of medieval and Laudian vestments. These include two banners used at the dedication of the college chapel at the foundation in the reign of Queen Mary I and the scull cap worn by Archbiship Laud to the scaffold in 1645.

The vestments are on show from 2pm until 5pm. The collection is housed in a display room in the Garden Quadrangle - itself worth seeing as a fine example of skillful and inventive 1990s collegiate architecture - and entrance, free of charge, will be via the Main Lodge on St Giles.

If you are able to go to this exhibition I would recommend it, as the vestments are rare survivals of great historic interest.

Monday 25 November 2013

The Pope on the Council of Trent

Rorate Coeli had an interesting post yesterday where it publishes the text of the letter from the Pope appointing Cardinal Walter Brandmuller as his representitive at the ceremonies to mark the 450th anniversay of the closing of the Council of Trent in 1563. In it the Pope reaffirms for Trent the key point made by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 about the Hermeneutic of Continuity and Conciliar authority. The post can be read at  Francis, writing on the Council of Trent, explicitly affirms the authority of the 'hermeneutic of reform in continuity'.

Blessed by St Peter

Yesterday in Rome to mark the end of the Year of Faith the Pope had the major relics of St Peter displayed for the first time on the High Altar of St Peter's for public veneration.

St Peter

Image: St Peter's Basilica website

"Not to be outdone" as Fr Dominic put it, the Oxford Oratory marked the day by offering to the congregation the blessing of their own, miniscule, relic of St Peter, following the celebration of Mass. Along with many of the congregation I availed myself of this opportunity.

During Mass the relic, was on an altarino on the sanctuary and under the bust of St Peter - all that now remains of the church's copy of the statue in the Vatican basilica of the Apostle attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio (1243-1302) that was regrettably destroyed long before the Oratorians took over the care of the church.

Friday 22 November 2013

Rites of reburial

A friend has very kindly sent me the link to an online BBC article about the rites of reburial used in the later middle ages when bodies of those killed in battle or by the executioner subsequently received an honourable reburial. It concentrates on the work done by Dr Alexandra Buckle from St Anne's and St Hilda's here in Oxford on a seventeenth century copy in the British Library of a fifteenth century liturgy - the only one known to survive.

The specific point of interest is the proposed reburial of the bones of King Richard III following their rediscovery in Leicester. He himself would have been present when his father and brother Edmund's remains were removed from their initial burial place at the Dominican friary at Pontefract and taken to Fotheringhay in 1476. 

The article can be read here.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Oriel College - A History

Yesterday evening I was at a reception in the Senior Library of Oriel to mark the publication of Oriel College - A History. Edited by Jeremy Catto this is a very substantial collaborative work, with a series of studies covering the history of the college since its foundation in 1324-26.

Image: Amazon

The project, similar to thos eundertaken or being undertaken by other Oxford colleges, was initiated under Provost Ernest Nicholson, and formally begun under his successor Sir Derek Morris in 2006. Both were present to hear the new Provost, Moira Wallace, introduce the book and Dr Catto as its editor. In his remarks Jeremy Catto referred to the often fraught relations within the fellowship over the centuries and to the fact that Oriel had produced "One saint, two beati and a member of Hitler's cabinet" - which does rather sum up the varied alumni of the college.

This was an evening which was Oriel at its bext with many familiar faces present and a general agreement as we sipped our champagne and ate our canapes that whatever rows may have plagued the SCR over the centuries Oriel is an essentially happy and friendly college, and one with a rich diversity of members to its credit.

Some years ago there was the possibility that I would have had a behind- the-scenes role in assisting the history project, something I would have been delighted to do. To my very great disappointment that did not come about, but it is good to see so handsome and impressive a book now in print.

Floreat Oriel!

Oriel College - A History. Edited by Jeremy Catto is published by Oxford University Press at £85.00. It is avaialble to Oriel members at the special price of £49.50.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Religious change in 1558

Today marks the 455th anniversary of a set of events in 1558 which shaped the future religious history of England. On that day there occurred the deaths, early in the morning, of Queen Mary I and, later in the same day, that of Cardinal Pole of Canterbury, and the accession of Queen Elizabeth I. With these events the 1559 settlement of the Church of England became possible.

Queen Mary I


If Queen Mary had lived longer her government and bishops might well have been able to continue with further success the work they had carried out to restore Catholic belief and practice to the country, something they can now be seen to have done to a great extent as has been shown by Professor Eamonn Duffy with The Stripping of the Altars and more particularly in Fires of Faith. Given that the majority appear to have favoured traditional religion this made the likelihood of a deeper renewal of the Papal allegiance and acceptance of Tridentine initiatives would follow. For this the Queen needed a  Catholic heir. If she herself did not have child, then Elizabeth was the next heir under the 1544 Succession Act, and Elizabeth played her cards skillfully. The next Catholic heir was Queen Mary of Scots, Dauphine of France and unacceptable on those grounds to both Mary of England and her husband Philip of Spain. King Philip did not possess the crown matrimonial under the 1554 marriage treaty, so he had no continuing rights. He may have offered to marry Elizabeth - with, no  doubt, no likelihood on either side of interest - but what he sought was diplomatic security for hios domains in the Netherlands. Had he and Queen Mary I had a son then he would have joined England and Ireland in a union with the Habsburg lands in the Low Countries- which raises some intersting possibilities of what might, in theory, have happened. The crucial thing was the need for a securely Catholic heir, and that there was not.

  Reginaldus Pole (1500–1558), Cardinal Pole

Cardinal Reginald Pole
Cristoforo Dell' Altissimo
Portrait at Shute Barton

Image: National Trust/BBC My Pictures

Cardinal Pole - royal by descent, Cardinal, papabile in 1550, dangerous liberal or dangerous reactionary depending how you looked at him - by dying when he did removed the leadership of the English hierarchy at a critical time. How he would have dealt with the new Queen Elizabeth is an unknown, and, I think, unknowable. Without Queen Mary's backing he might have had to depend upon King Philip for aid against his old sparring partner Pope Paul IV, who suspected Pole ( and not only Pole of course) of heresy. How he might have got on with Pope Pius IV, elected when Pope Paul died in 1559, and the reconvened Council of Trent, which was yet to complete the restatement of Catholic belief in a time when so much seemed shifting and unsure, again raises imponderables.

Queen Elizabeth I in the 1560s
The portrait stresses the Queen's evangelical credentials, with her restrained dress and the prayer book she is holding

Image: philipmould.com

Queen Elizabeth I was to be both initially cautious in her religious policy and then bold in re-establishing asystem based on her half-brother's settlement. That it may not have been what she herself favoured is likely - David Starkey's interpretation of her as favouring a Henrician style of a Catholic style combined with evangelical reforms, a liturgy with ceremony and certainly the crucifix as well as music appears convincing to me. A Papal settlement was not acceptable - had not the Pope bastardized her in the womb as she herself said, and her legitimacy and right of succession was central to her  being. Unfortunately for the new Queen, and to her surprise, the surviving Marian bishops were not prepared to abandon the barque of Peter - well, all save Bishop Kitchen of Llandaff - and she was forced to deprive them. Finding replacements led her to men less attracted than she was by the more traditional forms of worship. Given an international settlement at Cateau-Cambresis which brought peace to Europe the new Queen had more room to manoeuvre diplomatically, and to play anot especially string hand very skillfully. By not pushing conformity too far, although legislation existed to do that, the Queen and her ministers maintained a consensus that for a few years proved manageable. However both Ctaholic and Puritan opposition remained, and bevcame more assertive as time, and the reign, went on. Nevertheless the curious compromise that is  the 1559 Settlement is one which, for all its cobbling together, has survived for more than 450 years. Not even the Civil War and regicide in the mid-seventeenth century could destroy it. I am somewhat surprised more was not done to mark the 450th anniversary in 2009. The pity of it is that under the second Queen Elizabeth the Church of England seems to be doing to itself what its adversaries have failed to do over the previous four hundred years.

Had Queen Elizabeth died in 1562, as she very nearly did of smallpox, then the country would have faced a real crisis. The Council were divided as to who to approach as the next heir - Lady Catherine Grey or Henry Earl of Huntingdon. The Queen solved the problem by recovering, but had she not done so her legacy would be very unclear. With either of those two candidates on the throne a more Protestant Church of England might well have ensued, as of course might Catholic opposition, not to mention Queen Mary I of Scots, as  yet unbesmirched by scandal...

If for Queen Mary I the succession was a continuing dilemma, then so it was for her half-sister - indeed almost more so. Queen Elizabeth I held out against naming an heir for almost forty five years, and turned the whole matter into  a national concern that dare not really speak its name. Their father's break with the Papacy and Rome had made the nation's religious life a matter for the monarch to determine, and yet there was no way to determine the way a new monarch might take the Supreme Headship or Governorship. Not until 1688-9 and 1701 was a settlement made to limit that range of possibilities.

Saturday 16 November 2013

The Ordinariate Use in Oxford - November 30th

On the vigil of Advent Sunday, November 30th, the Oxford Ordinariate group will hold an Advent Carol Service of music and readings at 4pm in Holy Rood Church, followed by refreshments.

Following this at 6pm their Mass for Advent I will be a Sung Mass in the newly authorised Ordinariate Use. The preacher will be Fr Mark Woodruff, Priest-Director of the Catholic League.

The Ordinariate Use was first publicly celebrated some weeks ago at their Warwick Street church in London. Here in Oxford it has been used on Thursdays by the local group for the celebration of Low Mass, and has been well received by those who have been present, although so far I unfortunately have not been able to attend. However on November 30th there will be this sung celebration, and that will be the pattern for the other Sunday Vigil Masses of Advent so as to present this new Use to the congregation.
For both services music will be provided by the Newman Consort, so it will be a display of patrimony and shared heritage at its musical best.

Thursday 14 November 2013

The Prince of Wales at 65

Today is the birthday of the Prince of Wales, and the day on which at sixty five he reaches what for most men would be the age of retirement. He is now the eldest Heir Apparent in the history of the monarchy.


The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall on their recent visit to india

Image:Daily Telegraph
For the Prince that is certainly not the case, as he remains active both in formal public life and in the many and various causes to which he has devoted so much energy and genuine commitment over many years. Furthermore at some unknown date in the future there lie the still more onerous responsibilities of being King, not just of one realm, but of a series across the world.  In a recent interview he was reported as saying that, quite apart from personal considerations as to succeeding to the throne on the death of his mother, he fears thbat in the position of Sovereign he would not be able to be active in the causes he has worked so hard to publicise and to actually make a real and positive contribution.

I have always had great respect for the Prince not just as Heir Apparent but for the seriousness with which he has tried to make the public aware of a series of fundamental issues facing our society, and for that he deserves very considerable gratitude and support.

Over the last few years with a clearly very happy marriage, a married eldest son and now a grandson the Prince seems again to have the wider approval from the public that he deserves, and long may that continue.

So today is an opportunity to express my good wishes to the Prince, to thank him for his service on behalf of Crown and people, and to wish him well in all his endeavours on all our behalfs.

Watching the RSC's "Richard II" live on screen

Last night I went to the cinema here in Oxford to watch the live broadcast of the Royal Shakespeare Company's  Richard II - the Clever Boy having spotted a poster for this presentation outside the Odeon
last weekend he decided to treat himself to a bit of culture for the evening.


David Tennant and his role


This was the first such broadcast by the RSC worldwide - but there is plan to offer all 36 First Folio plays in this way over the next few years.

Richard II is a play I have seen before both on television - starting with An Age of Kings on BBC in 1960-61 and then the BBC Shakespeare production in 1979 and stage, with Sir Derek Jacobi as the King, as well as a splendid and memorable open air production at Oriel in 1996. It is set in my particular period of historical interest, and, of course, I come from Pontefract where the King died early in 1400.

As the director Gregory Doran pointed out in a pre-broadcast interiew the play does not take sides in the conflict between the King and Bolingbroke - it carefully shifts the emphasis between them as it progresses, leaving the playgoer or reader to reflect upon the themes that are raised and explored.

In this production the King was played by David Tennant, and with established figures such as
Jane Laportaire as the Duchess of Gloucester and Michael Pennington as John of Gaunt. Other cast members are not so well known, but there was a consistency of performance that made for unity. Oliver Rix's excellent eagerly self-serving Duke of Aumerle/Earl of Rutland reminded me not a little of an Oxford acquaintance of former years who has political aspirations - no names, no pack drill, but my observation is not a very complimentary comparison!

The pace was quick, and used the redesigned RSC theatre with its thrust stage very well - I have not visited the theatre since this reordering took place, so that was quite a revelation.

In his pre-broadcast interview Gregory Doran spoke about David Tennant's ability to speak Shakespeare's words as if they were contemporary, and that he did indeed do effectively. The slight hesitation I have about that is that at times the King sounded too shrill, verging on the hysterical even, and in the early scenes his voice perhaps lacked the magisterial tone one might expect from a KIng with so clear an idea of his innate authority. The effect was to make the King sound more lightweight than the subtleties of the play demand.

The production was costumed more or less in the style of the Ricardian period, and clearly a great effort had been made to provide David Tennant with a red wig or hair extensions on the lines of King Richard's appearance in some manuscript illuminations from circa 1390.

David Tennant as Richard II in Richard II. Photo by Kwame Lestrade

The King becomes aware of his power crumbling on his return from Ireland
Bad hair day?

The effect, and whatever its historical accuracy for the years 1398-1400, was perhaps unduly luxurient, if not OTT. Similarly some of the King's ourrfits were somehow lacking the splendour which we know the real King affected, whilst the entirely unhistorical, but theatrically crucial deposition scene, found David Tennant in what looked like a modern cassock-alb and barefoot. The effect was odd more than dramatic to my mind - unless it was somehow a visual reference to depictions of the Passion of Our Lord.

David Tennant as Richard II and the cast of Richard II. Photo by Kwame Lestrade

The deposition scene
Bad heir day?


Perhaps predictably there was one ecclesiastical costume howler - the Bishop of Carlisle was provided with a splendid crozier and mitre, and a vestment that was a combination of cope and chasuble... very curious to the observant eye.

The production ended with a twist that was daring and one which I will not reveal to spoil the effect for anyone who goes to see the play. From Decvember 9th until January 25th it is on at the Barbican in London.

Overall I think I agree very much with the points made in his Daily Telegraph review by Dominic Cavendish which can be read here.

Notwithstanding the points I have made this was nevertheless an excellent production that was very well worth seeing, and which I would recommend to others - and all for £13. I shall definitely avail myself of futurte opportunities to watch the RSC live at the cinema.
One final irony - this , the most poetic of Shakespeare's Histories, is about a King who in reality, according to a contemporary biographer, the monk of Evesham, spoke abruptly and with a stammer.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Love and Mercy

Fr Blake has an interesting reflection on his blog about the Pope's emphasis on Christ's Mercy in his homilies rather than using the word Love, and on what it means if one chooses to reject that proffered Mercy. It can be read at Implications of 'Mercy'

Monday 4 November 2013

Hollister's biography of King Henry I

Over the weekend I finally finished reading C.W.Hollister's Henry I , which is published by Yale UP in their series on English Monarchs, and which I been reading for over two years in fits and starts - it is a substantial volume.

The original text of the volume was completed in 1990, but that year the print-out, back-up computer copies, notes, library and home of the author were destroyed in a forest fire in California. By the summer of 1997 he had re-written the bulk of the book, together with drafts of the remaining chapters when he suffered a fatal heart attack and the completion of the volume was left to a former research student, Amanda Clark Frost, who has done a splendid job in editing it all together plus filling in the missing chapters - notably on the King's support for the abbey of Cluny and its place in the religious culture of the era.

This is a very readable biography which presents a convincing, humane portrait of an able king who has not always been so clearly understood as he was by Hollister. For him King Henry is an able pragmatist, and reading the book one appreciates both the King's skill in the art of governanace and Hollister's skill in the art of history.

This is a big and comprehensive study which opnes up to the reader the challenges and possibilities facing a ruler in the early twelfth century, and it treats its material in a clear-sighted way - you appreciate the realities of the issues King Henry faced and the means by which he dealt with them.

A book very well worth reading, and well worth going back to pursue particular fields of study and interest. Written by an expert it is not just a book for other experts - anyone with an intererst in the period can gain from looking at it.

Friday 1 November 2013

Forthcoming Extraordinary Form Masses in or near Oxford

I have received the following information from Dr Joe Shaw of the Latin Mass Society:

The Latin Mass Society

Forthcoming Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the Oxford area.

A brief reminder: tomorrow, Sat 2nd Nov, is All Souls' Day.
  • There will be a Sung Requiem Mass in the Oxford University Chaplaincy at 3pm.
The Chaplaincy is in Rose Place, off St Aldates in Oxford, OX1 1RD. It is very near the Westgate Car Park.
  • Another Sung Requiem will take place in Milton Manor at 11am, accompanied by Chant and Polyphony from the Schola Abelis and the Newman Consort. Milton Manor is near Abingdon, OX14 4EN
  • There will also be Low Mass at 9.30am in St Birinus, Dorchester on Thames, OX10 7JR
  • and 12 noon Low Mass in SS Gregory & Augustine's, Woodstock Road Oxford OX2 7NS.
Please do not neglect to pray for the Faithful Departed in November!
Newly confirmed:
  • There will be a Sung Requiem in St Benet's Hall on Saturday 23rd at 11.30am; all are welcome. St Benet's is in St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3LN.
  • There will be Mass in Wardour Castle Chapel on Saturday 16th at 11am;
  • There will be a Solemn Mass for St Birinus, in St Birinus, Dorchester on Thames, 5th Dec at 7.30pm.
  • There will a Solemn Mass for St Lucy's Day, Friday 13th December, in SS Gregory & Augustine's, 6pm.
*The annual candlelit 'Rorate' Mass in honour of Our Lady will take place at 7am in the Oxford Oratory on Saturday 14th December.

The picture is of Mass at Milton Manor, celebrated by Fr Daniel Lloyd of the Ordinariate.