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 28 February 2014

Reform of the Reform? The continuing debate


The recent upsurge in discussion as to Reform of the Reform or rejection of the Reform in the liturgy continues on the Internet. I cannot claim to keep pace with all of the posts but here are some I have seen which strike me as interesting.

On the New Liturgical Movement Clarifications on the Reform of the Reform Controversy, which seeks to take the debate forwards and contains links to online articles he cites and commends by my friends Fr John Hunwicke and Dr Joseph Shaw, the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society.

In addition to these posts on his own blog Dr Shaw has an additional post on Rorate Caeli about one of the points raised in this discussion which can be read at The Mass of 1965: back to the future?Why it is not an option

Also on Rorate Caeli is a post by their blogger New Catholic which does touch on the debate in the context of the change of Supreme Pontiff last year and can be read at Abp. Gänswein: "Yes, Francis and Benedict's liturgical sensibilities are different, it's not an offense to say so."



Thursday 27 February 2014

Mass at Merton with the Order of Malta

Earlier this afternoon I attended a celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the glorious setting of the chapel of Merton College. The Mass was attended by HMEH the Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, Fra' Matthew Festing. The Grand Master is visiting Oxford for a couple of days and is due to address the University Catholic group the Newman Society this evening about the function of the Order in the presert day under the title of Charity in the 21st Century. There is a biography of the Grand Master here.

The Mass was a Missa cantata for the feast of the Passionist St Gabriel of the Sorrows of Maryand was celebrated by Fr John Osman from Dorchester, a chaplain of the Order. This was a rather low-key affair - Fra' Matthew and the other Knights present were in ordinary day dress rather than their habits. Given that it was mid-afternoon on a weekday there was a good congregation - many of them young men who have become Companions of the Order and assist in its extensive care work.

When we arrived we were given prayer cards for the cause of the late Grand Master Fra' Andrew Bertie, of whom there is a biography here.

File:Grand Master Matthew Festing 20100409.jpg

The Grand Master on  previous visit to Merton in 2010


Thinking about the Sovereign Order it occurred to me that given the variety of options raised in the 1950s and early 60s as to the future of the island of Malta in terms of independence or integration into the UK befoe it became an independent Commonwealth nation in 1965 it might not have been such bad idea to have retuned tit to the Knights. They form a sovereign body - complete with an airforce at one point - , they had ruled the island from the time of the Emperor Charles V and Malta is a notably Catholic place. A missed opportunity?

St Columbanus on the knowledge of God

As intended the lections at the Office of Readings usually provide material to feed the mind, and I was particularly struck by this morning's second one. It is from the the Instructions of St Columbanus (543-615), an Irish itinerant abbot who established momasteries in Frankish Gaul, notably Luxeuil, and spent his last days as head of the abbey at Bobbio in northern Italy. There is a biography of him here. Incidentally he is today the patron saint of motorcyclists: what I wonder, would a sixth century motor cycle look like?

St Columbanus
Fresco in Brugnano cathedral - a dependency of Bobbio

Image: Wikipedia

The passage from his works complements the Wisdom literature from Ecclesiastes which is the first reading. What I think struck ne about the passage was its seeming modernity - which in reality is an illustration of the Vincentian point about always, everywhere and by everyone - but it does seem to speak to continuing and contemporary "crisis of faith". The message seems to be clear - stop fretting and start practising the Faith.

The translation is from the Universalis website; the version in the Divine Office (Thursday Week 7) is  by a different hand.
The immeasurable depths of God
God is everywhere. He is immeasurably vast and yet everywhere he is close at hand, as he himself bears witness: I am a God close at hand, and not a God who is distant. It is not a God who is far away that we are seeking, since (if we deserve it) he is within us. For he lives in us as the soul lives in the body – if only we are healthy limbs of his, if we are dead to sin. Then indeed he lives within us, he who has said: And I will live in them and walk among them. If we are worthy for him to be in us then in truth he gives us life, makes us his living limbs. As St Paul says, In him we live and move and have our being.
  Given his indescribable and incomprehensible essence, who will explore the Most High? Who can examine the depths of God? Who will take pride in knowing the infinite God who fills all things and surrounds all things, who pervades all things and transcends all things, who takes possession of all things but is not himself possessed by any thing? The infinite God whom no-one has seen as he is? Therefore let no-one try to penetrate the secrets of God, what he was, how he was, who he was. These things cannot be described, examined, explored. Simply – simply but strongly – believe that God is as God was, that God will be as God has always been, for God cannot be changed.
So who is God? God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God. Do not demand to know more of God. Those who want to see into the depths must first consider the natural world, for knowledge of the Trinity is rightly compared to knowledge of the depths of the sea: as Ecclesiastes says, And the great depths, who shall fathom them? Just as the depths of the sea are invisible to human sight, so the godhead of the Trinity is beyond human sense and understanding. Thus, I say, if anyone wants to know what he should believe, let him not think that he will understand better through speech than through belief: if he does that, the wisdom of God will be further from him than before.
Therefore, seek the highest knowledge not by words and arguments but by perfect and right action. Not with the tongue, gathering arguments from God-free theories, but by faith, which proceeds from purity and simplicity of heart. If you seek the ineffable by means of argument, it will be further from you than it was before; if you seek it by faith, wisdom will be in her proper place at the gateway to knowledge, and you will see her there, at least in part. Wisdom is in a certain sense attained when you believe in the invisible without first demanding to understand it. God must be believed in as he is, that is, as being invisible; even though he can be partly seen by a pure heart.

The troubled history of the Ukraine

Events over recent days leading to those last Saturday in Kiev have kept the Ukraine and its people in my thoughts and prayers. The situation is clearly still very unclear with the Russian response raising very considerable concerns and the internal politics of the Ukraineappears highly charged and dominateded by colourful, if not necessarily reliable, politicians with an uneven track record. I liked the linein The Times the other day that Yulia Tymoschenko has never met a rabble she has not tried to rouse.

The history of the Ukraine in the last century has been a troubled one to say the least, indeed a terrible one at times, with Soviet oppression and then famine, Second World War invasion and atrocities, restored Soviet rule and, since 1991, a fraught politics.

Some time ago I started, and indeed read much of, Timothy Snyder's The Red Prince, the strange and eventful story of Archduke Wilhelm of Austria.


 Image: Amazon
A member of the Teschen branch of the Imperial family, whose father, Archduke Karl Stephen was a candidate for the Polish throne in 1916-18, and himself a cousin of King Alfonso XIII and Crwon Prince Rupert of Bavaria, he became interested in and took up in the later stages of the Great War the cause of the Ukrainians. At one point he was considered a likely candidate for the position of King of Ukraine. The book is a fascinating insight into that era and of the Habsburgs in the interwar years and afterwards. A biography well worth reading - and I need to finish doing so rather than skim reading to the end as I did. His death from TB as a prisoner in Russian hands makes for a sombre ending to a colourful life. There is an online biography of the Archduke here.

Thinking about it I am inclined to the opinion that the Ukraine might have fared far,far better under the rule of the Habsburg Archduke turned Ukrainian nationalist than under the regimes which have done so since the early 1920s. Given Archduke Wilhelm's proclivities in later years he was perhaps unlikely personally to have established a new dynasty in Kiev, but doubtless a Habsburg nephew could have been brought in as a successor. 


Archduke Wilhelm of Austria. Teschen, also known as “The red prince”
He was the youngest son of archduke Karl Stephan of Austria Teschen and wife, Maria Theresa, pss of Tuscany.
He was cousin of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Crownprince Rupprecht of Bavaria (By father side) .

Archduke Wilhelm circa 1920

Image: marlenemelade.tumblr.com

A further thought - the much derided Treaty of Brest Litovsk of March 1918 created the independent Ukraine and stripped Russia of her western territories. The Germans and Austrians envisaged awhole new series of realms with Kings of Finland, Lithuania, Poland and the Ukraine and a Duchy of Courland for the Balts linked to the German Empire. Abrogated in 1918 and in 1922 and its effective creations in the Baltic states annexed by the Soviets in 1939-40, so that only an independent Finland survived.

Territories after the Treaty

The Treaty of Brest Litovsk

Image: web1.caryacademy.org
Nevertheless the post-1991 map of eastern Europe with the restored Baltic states , Belarus and the Ukraine looks very like the arrangement made at Brest Litovsk. Are we so sure it was wrong, or unrealistic, or unhistorical given the westward and southwards expansion of Russia under the Empress Catherine II had happened as recently as the late eighteenth century?

Tuesday 25 February 2014

The debate on the Reform of the Reform

I recently posted Reform of the Reform or Reversal of the Reform? about part of the current discussion about the way the Roman liturgy might or should develop.

This is, inevitably, very much a continuing debate and here are three recent contributions to it from the New Liturgical Movement site, which give a variety of viewpoints and possible lines of approach.

Reform of the Reform - Not Impossible
Bishop Peter J. Elliott


The Theology of the Offertory: A Response to a Recent Article Quoted on PrayTell (Part 1)
Fr. Anthony Ruff OSB, the editor and principal writer of PrayTell

Forty Hours at Littlemore this weekend

This coming weekend the Sisters of the Work are organising the Forty Hours Devotion at the College at Littlemore from Friday February 28th until Sunday March 2nd.

The Forty Hours Devotion
will be held in
in Bl. John Henry Newman's
Chapel at the College in Littlemore,
with prayers for any in need entrusted
to Blessed John Henry Newman’s intercession

Friday February 28th  9am Votive Mass of The Most Holy Eucharist 
followed by Exposition until 9pm

Saturday March 1st  Exposition 7am until 9pm

4.00 pm  Talk by Dr Paul Shrimpton, Magdalen College School, Oxford:

  “Newman's idea of human flourishing at University ”

Dr Shrimpton is the author of A Catholic Eton? Newman's Oratory School (2005) and the forth coming The 'making of men'; Newman's university in Oxford and Dublin (2014)

Sunday March 2nd   Exposition 7am until 9pm

Daily Prayer will be celebrated as follows:
7 am Morning Prayer
12 noon Midday Prayer
5 pm Vespers
8 pm Holy Hour
with meditations and hymns
concluding with Benediction and Night Prayer


Confessions will be available

Images: International Friends of Newman

Monday 24 February 2014

Who was responsible for the Great War?

A friend sent me the link to a piece on the BBC website where they had asked the opinions of ten historians as to whom they thought responsible for the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. Their answers can be read here.

It is perhaps easier to say who I do not agree with than those I do. Much as I respect his achievement in his massive three part biography of Kaiser Wilhelm II - I hope to post about the first volume covering in vast detail the period 1859 to 1888 in the near future - I do not agree with Professor Rohl's interpretation of the Kaiser. I find Christopher Clark's interpretation much more credible and convincing. Nor do I incline to others in the same vein, or to Sir Max Hastings' confident anti-Germanism.

I am much more inclined to the views of Professors Evans, Hirschfeld and McMeekin, though I would perhaps not agree wholeheartedly with them.

I would certainly want to avoid too much of the "We are all guilty"attitude exemplified by the late, great, Peter Simple's Professor Heinz Kiosk in this matter, but a collective failure by political leaders and, in their own way, the military, to understand what was at risk, or how the world had changed in the preceding decades seems to me a central point. Governmental machines had taken on a life of their own which made the slide to war, once it began, almost unstoppable.

The debate should not be so much "Who caused the War " - that has been argued with little positive result but much harm since July 1914, but more who caused what to happen as and when it did during the crisis. On that approach responsibility for specific acts  becomes more certain and more precise in its attribution, but the end result depends on the next reaction and  move in the diplomatic game.

Was the Great War an accident, or was it an accident waiting to happen, or was it some sort of conspiracy? I doubt the last explanation, as may already be clear. If it was a chance accident or an ever more likely one to happen it is a terrible warning. It may also be somewhat futile to be still trying to pin the blame on one or another country. Governments reacted as they might have been expected to do - perhaps as, by the light of the times, they should have, but perhaps also not - and the tragedy may be that no-one in the right position had the ability to see the way things were heading. In that situation that failure to restrain policy or offer mediation led to terrifying disaster.

However if it comes to responsibility we should not look to the Foreign Offices and General Staffs of Europe. Given the delicate balance of advantages and alliances maybe, just maybe we need to recall what set the engine of destruction in motion. Not a grand conspiracy, not a failure of diplomacy, nor a failure of a civilisation. No, we come back to a vile little oik engaging in gesture politics with a loaded gun when a freak of chance gave him the opportunity. Never mind the captains and the kings - locked within a complex system and unable to break out of it - put the blame on Gavrilo Princip.

Gavrilo Princip

Gavrilo Princip


Saturday 22 February 2014


Fr Blake has, as so often on his blog, an intersting set of ideas about the Septuagesima season - or, as he thinks we should call it in the traditional English usage, Shrovetide. His thoughts can be read at Pancakes and Excess.

Friday 21 February 2014

Peter Hitchens on the Book of Common Prayer

On Wednesday evening I went to an open public meeting at Pusey House of the Oxford branch of the Prayer Book Society to hear the thoughts and ideas of the Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens on the BCP. He entitled his talk "The Constitution of the Private Life."

peter hitchens

Peter Hitchens


He began his talk with the point that apart from the State Prayers there was little that was overtly or directly political in the Book of Common Prayer, and that the services of commemoration on such lines added in the seventeenth century had been removed in 1858, but went on to argue for its wider significance for national life.

This argument was that there was a social ethic outlined in the Prayer Book that did have far reaching implications for the country in that it gave a framework within which the individual could learn to exercise authority over themselves and their lives in such a way that it gave them autonomy from the undue involvement of the State.

He recalled reading the Catechism as a schoolboy, with the expectation that one might indeed be expected to know it by heart and to understand what it stated. He continued by wondereing how long it was since Anglican bishops actually examined children at their confirmation on its contents. He saw this as being a valuable tool in the formation of young people for adult and responsible life. Here was a clear exposition of the individuals spiritual and social obligations. Instead he saw modern life as ever more determined by unrestrained individualism and the fulfilling of consumer gratification.
He cited the marriage service as contributing to a proper understating of this as a building block of society. He contrasted what he saw as the fuss last year over same sex marriage - a concern for a tiny minority - with the virtual silence from Church leaders about the marriage crisis. He was sharply critical of the most recent divorce legislation which he saw as putting the State on the side of the partner who seeks dissolution of a marriage rather than being neutral. He thought the pamphlet produced by the Anglican bishops about this entitled Putting Asunder as a selling of the pass and an admission of failure or abandonment in this key area of social life.

He spoke less about the burial  service, but pointed to it as a reminder to everyone of their mortality.

One of his overiding concerns was that Britain has irrecoverably damaged itself as a society, and he was pessimistic as to its - our - chances of survival.

His dislike of the State involving itself in the lives of individuals and usurping the proper roles of parents and families is clear, and he sees the ideas adumbrated or inherent in the BCP as a safeguard against that if they are inculcated and developed in people.
The questions from the sizeable audience were mainly about marriage. I was somewhat surprised at such a gathering to sense so liberal an interpretation of ideas about this. Peter Hitchens was perhaps not. He stressed the indissolubility of Christian marriage as contrasted with other traditions - a point some clearly did not share. He also stressed the importance of finding a basis for authority in the life of a family that was natural and integral rather than the constraint of the modern State system or law.

Asked about the impact of feminism on family life  - had it led women to implicitly denigrate their sons for example - he took a more liberal line than I might have expected from someone speaking to the Prayer Book Society - he has, for example, never had objections to the ordination or consecration of women in the Church of England.

He also stressed that the language and concepts underlying it in the BCP draw the hearer and reader out of themselves towards that which is greater and the sense of wider truths. For Hitchens the Prayer Book puts the hearer in mind of eternity, and he clearly felt that dimension needed to be contrasted to the overly materialist world of so many people.

An interesting talk, and thought provoking, as one would expect. Peter Hitchens has a good dose of Burkean Tory pessimism about him -  I  share in that myself - and he is not afraid to express his ideas about the decline of the moral foundation and grounding of national life.  The ideas he sees contained in the BCP are part of a wider inheritance than just that of the Church of England, and his arguments can be appreciated by others of different traditions. 

This then was not just a lament for the absence of BCP services - though he would doubtless like to see it used more - but for the loss of moral grounding in national life. Whether one should be as pessimistic as he appeared to be at one point I do not know, but I do see that he makes a good case for striving to re-establish it through sensible and secure channels.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Walking round Wyclif's Oxford

This morning I gave a guided tour to some visitors on the Oxford of Wyclif and of the Reformers.

The Oxford DNB has an excellent and extensive biography of John Wyclif by Anne Hudson and Antony Kenny, which must be the best short account available, and one that combines scholarship of a high degree with lucidity and balance. It can be accessed here.

We began in the High Street with St Mary's Church. The thirteenth century tower and early fourteenth century spire are one of the relatively few surviving buildings from Wyclif's time. Along with the adjacent Old Convocation House of 1320, from which the University governed itself, they are buildings Wyclif would have known throughout his time in Oxford. In his time the church was used for meetings of the Masters of the University and for degree ceremonies; in the mid-sixteenth century it was used for the trials of Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer and for the procedural ceremonies before their executions in Broad Street.


The tower and spire of St Mary's Church



The Old Convocation House 


Along the High Street to the east is The Queen's College which was a college for 'Northeners', of which Wyclif was of course, one. He lived in the college in the early 1370s and paid  rent for a room there in 1380. This was one of the leading colleges in the University in these years.  The buildings he knew have all been demolished to be replaced by the present fine example of English Baroque. Fortunately we do possess David Loggan's birds-eye view of the college buildings drawn beforehand,and which show some features which Wyclif would have known.

The Queen's College as it appeared in 1675
The High Street is to the left, and the road in front is Queen's Lane


On the opposite side of Queen's Lane is the medieval church of St Peter in the East. It now serves as the library of the adjacent St Edmund Hall, but the building must be substantially as it was in Wyclif's time.

St Peter-in-the-East from Queen's Lane

St Peter in the East


St Edmund Hall became a notable centre for Wycliffite or Lollard academics in the early fifteenth century. Notable amongst these was Peter Payne, master of the adjacent White Hall before becoming Principal of St Edmund Hall and then fleeing to join the Hussites in Bohemia. His remarkable career can be read in the Oxford DNB life of him here

South of the High is Merton. which in the early fourteenth century had been the leading college in the time of the 'Merton calculators'. Wyclif was a Fellow of Merton in 1356, and the chapel he would have worshipped in still survives, with addition of the tower of 1450 and the completion of the transepts. Much of the glazing is glass which would have been there in the 1350s.


Merton College Chapel


Immediately to the south of the chapel is Mob Quad, the oldest quadrangle in either Oxford or Cambridge; there is an account of it here. The entrance and muniment room is referred to in the college accounts for  1288 -91. The north and east ranges date from 1310-20, whilst the south and west sides were built after Wyclif had left the college, but whilst he was still in Oxford, in 1373-8.

 The north and east sides of Mob Quad, with the chapel behind

Image: Wikipedia

To the west, in Oriel Square, is Canterbury Gate of Christ Church. This and the quadrangle it leads to occupy the site of Canterbury College - a college initially founded by Archbishop Islip to accommodate both secular and monastic clergy and of which Wyclif was a member in the later 1360s. This was until he and the other seculars were removed by the Benedictine monk- Arcbishop Langham in 1370; this was seen by K.B. Macfarlane as part of the origin of Wyclif's hostility to the possessioner monastic orders.
The old gate of Canterbury College before it was taken down in 1775, and the new gate of 1778
A print published by Joseph Skelton in 1820


Behind the site of Canterbury College is the cathedral. In Wyclif's time this was the church of the Augustinian priory of St Frideswide, housing the shrine of the patroness of both the town and university. Much of the building as it was in the mid- to later fourteenth century survives despite numerous alterations and adaptations of the church to meet different liturgical fashions and requirements.


The early thirteenth century tower and spire of St Frideswide's Priory from the south-east


In 1382 the Augustinian Canon Philip Repyngdon, then an enthusiastic supporter of Wyclif's ideas, preached a sermon in the priory churchyard at Corpus Christi, June 5th, endorsing Wyclif's ideas. This site is now probablty represented by the Canons' Garden to the north of the cathedral or may lie under part of Tom Quad.  Summoned before the authorities over a series of sermons and disputation speeches  he formally recanted his errors in St Frideswide's on November 18th that same year. Subsequently Canon Repyngdon returned to his home at Leicester abbey, where he may have previously introduced Wycliffite ideas to the town, but now retuned to orthodox belief, went on to became Abbot, confessor to King Henry IV, and was Bishop of Lincoln from 1405-19, and offered a Cardinal's hat by Pope Gregory XII. The Oxford DNB life of him can be read here.

We then walked up Oriel Street - one which Wyclif must have used to cross the High and into Radcliffe Square. In 1378 he was temporarily under house-arrest on the order of the Chancellor in Black Hall which stood on what is now the Square to the north of St Mary's.

The Osney Schools where he would have attended and given lectures were rebuilt after his time and then demolished to make way for Sir Thomas Bodley's extensions to the Divinity School and Duke Humphrey's Library (1420s-1480s), and their site lies just in front of the Proscholium of the Bodleian, which occupies what had been the continuation of School's Lane.

The Austin Friary, where Wyclif was detained in 1378, stood on the site of Wadham College and the King's Arms - a friend of mine used to describe this as wyclif being arrested in the pub.

Along Broad Street lies Balliol, another 'Northern College',where Wyclif was Master in 1361, and where he may have been before his sojourn at Merton. In recent year the college under the Mastership of Sir Antony Kenny has helped advance Wyclif studies, although today nothing remains of the buildings he would have seen - the oldest parts are early fifteenth century, and most of it a handsome Victorian rebuilding of 1863.

Balliol College, University of Oxford

The front of Balliol as rebuilt in 1863


The executions of 1555 and 1556 took place outside Balliol in what was then the city ditch - Oxford then was still an obviously walled city as it had been in Wyclif's time

File:Ralph Agas map of Oxford 1578.gif

Oxford in 1578
The middle part of Ralph Agas' map shows the city more as Wyclif and the Protestant Reformers would have known it. The map has the south at the top.
St Mary's is centre left, Merton top left, Canterbury College was just above Peckwater Inn, the Schools are just to the left of the lower centre, and Balliol at the lower right. The Queen's College is just off the view to the centre left. The city walls, still unencumbered by housing, can be seen towards the bottom of the view. The Northgate, where the Protestant bishops were imprisoned adjoins St Michael's church (lower right handside)
In Wyclif's time New College was just beginning in 1379 (bottom left), and Lincoln (1427) All Soulds (1438) and Brasenose (1509) in the centre had still to be founded.


All in all, after more than six centuries there are a surprising number of buildings still surviving and in use in Oxford which Wyclif would have known.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Archbishop Thomas Arundel

Today is the 600th anniversary of the death of Archbishop Thomas Arundel of Canterbury.

  Thomas Arundel (1353–1414) illuminated initial

Archbishop Thomas Arundel
The Archbishop is surrounded by monks of the cathedral priory at Canterbury or members of his archiepiscopal household.
Image: oxforddnb.com

Born in 1352 he studied at Oxford, and lived in Oriel, where he and his father, the Earl of Arundel, built the college chapel as an expression of their thanks. Leaving Oxford he was appointed in 1373 as Bishop of Ely at 21 - his youthfulness led the Pope to comment about him being the youngest episcopal appointment he was aware of - then, in 1388, Archbishop of York. He served as Lord Chancellor and was a significant political figure in the 1390s, until his translation to Canterbury in 1396, exile the following year and return with Henry of Lancaster in 1399, serving again as Chancellor twice under King Henry IV.

An aristocrat to his fingertips he was also able and conscientious as an administrator, and was to prove a resolute defender of the Catholic Church against Lollardy. His death was as a conseqence of a stroke which might have been triggered by his exertions in the preceding weeks in suppressing the Lollard Rising of 1414.

In late 1408 he had caustic things to say about the subject of my research, Richard Fleming and his associates in Oxford whom the Archbishop saw as supporting Lollardy even if only by resisting his authority to visit the University to root out the problem at its source.

The Oxford DNB life of Arundel by Jonathan Hughes can be read here. The 1885 DNB life by James Gairdner can be read at Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury and there is another online biographical account, with links to other sites, at Thomas Arundel.

His formal constitutions against the Lollards issued in1408 can be read in translation at Archbishop Thomas Arundel's Constitutions against the Lollards.

The nave of Canterbury Cathedral, completed under Archbishop Arundel about 1405.
His tomb was in the third bay from the east on the north side, just in front of the present pulpit, until it was destroyed by Cranmer in 1540.


The tomb of King Henry IV and Queen Joanna in Canterbury Cathedral.
Archbishop Arundel helped place the King in power and crowned him in 1399, and served him as Chancellor and advisor for much of his reign.


Saturday 15 February 2014

Burying the Alleluia

If one follows the Usus Antiquior then the eve of Septuagesiama was the day to bury the Alleluia until Easter. In the Novus Ordo it would be either the Sunday before Lent or Shrove Tuesday. Thus, for example, from tomorrow in the Roman Breviary at the end of versicles and responses instead of "Alleluia " "Laus tibi rex aeternae gloriae" is chanted at Solemn Vespers.

The custom was well established by the High Middle Ages as I have outlined in my past posts Burying the Alleluia and in Alleluia dulce carmen - another Neale translation.

There are examples of the practice being revived in places these days - indeed my post last year was followed by an e-mail from Christ Church cathedral here about their plans to do so.

There is are illustrated posts about the ceremony in 2010 in the Church of our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio in Texas which can be seen here and from 2011 here.

Also in the USA the diocese of Paterson in New Jersey has revived it with a diocesan celebration presided over by the Bishop. There is an article about this from the diocesan website at 'Burying the Alleluia' - Diocese of Paterson, and there is a link to slideshow of the Solemn Vespers, presided over by Bishop Edward Serratelli, at which the interment occurred here.


The funeral procession of Alleluia in Paterson Cathedral



Tomorrow is in the Usus Antiquior Septuagesima Sunday, and the beginning of the Pre-Lent season - and in some circumstances of the Lenten fast. There is an online introduction to the history and practice of Septuagesima here. I wrote last year about this season and the debate about its position in the liturgical year in The Season of Septuagesima.

My copy of the excellent St Andrew Missal (reprinted by the St Bonaventure Press) gives a good introduction to the development of this season, and explains it as originating in the liturgical themes of the three Sundays - the Fall, Noah and Abraham - and a consequential extension backwards of Lenten themes. One summary I have seen is that in Septuagesima we recognise that we are a fallen humanity, and in Lent by penitence we try to do something about it.


Earlier this evening I was at the Ordinariate Mass here in Oxford. In their calendar this weekend is called Septuagesiama, the next two Sundays have their traditional names. These terms were retained in the Book of Common Prayer, and have returned to the Catholic Church with the Ordinariate Use. 

However more than the name there is no change to Novus Ordo useage with this newly approved Use. The vestments are green not purple, the Gloria and Alleluia are not suppressed, and the readings are those of, this year, Sunday of Week 6 of Ordinary Time. Returning to the issue I linked to in my post Reform of the Reform or Reversal of the Reform? last week this is perhaps an indication of how far the Reform of the Reform could go at the moment. It is perhaps a pity that room for more provision of ancient uses has not been found with this liturgy. Maybe time will bring organic development.

Update Monday February 17th

The blog Rorate Caeli has this post about Septuagesima and its significance: Septuagesima: Christianity is as old as the world

Persian Prince interview

Following on from my post last week Persian Prince at the Oxford Union about the speech, followed by a question and answer session given by the Crown Prince of Iran at the Oxford Union there is an interview with him in the Oxford student newspaper Cherwell. It can be accessed at Interview: Prince Reza Pahlavi.

Friday 14 February 2014

Saints Cyril and Methodius

Today is the feast in the Novus Ordo of SS Cyril and Methodius, who are now, with St Benedict, co-patrons of Europe. There is an online account of the Apostles of the Slavs here.

Thursday 13 February 2014

The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI - one year on

Tuesday was the anniversary of the announcement by Pope Benedict XVI of his intention to abdicate as Supreme Pontiff at the end of the month.  A lot has happened in the intervening twelve months, and there has been much speculation as to why the Pope made his announcement, and reflection upon his legacy.

Pope Benedict XVI announces his impending abdication in 2013


Yesterday the Zenit Catholic news website had a series of reports about the anniversary, which may be of interest to readers, and are in any case a warm tribute to the Pope Emeritus and his contribution to the life of the Church.

As an academic friend and I agreed some months ago we are still mourning Pope Benedict's departure from the Chair of Peter, whilst respecting his decision. His legacy is significant and looks  capable of influencing the Church for many years to come. 

It also appears that there are some who are anxious to take the Church in different directions that Pope Benedict would like or wish, and indeed to undo what Pope Benedict achieved both before and after his election. That will, hopefully, be resisted within the life of the Church. The very positive statements quoted above are a remedy in part for that threat. Vigilance is required to secure the Ratzinger heritage and to continue to convey his message and insights. Nonetheless Pope Benedict remains his own best guarantee by his long and prayerful life and witness to the Church and the world.

News from France

Last night I had dinner with a friend who Twitters on line. One of his themes therein is French Royalism and he was flattered to find that he has recently gained a new member in his group of 3000 plus followers the Orleanist claimant to the throne, the Comte de Paris, or, as one thinks of him, King Henri VII.

This fortuitously links in with an interesting new post on Rorate Caeli which can be read at "The Reactionary Generation": traditional Catholic values sweep French politics.

The other week another friend introduced me to the blog Riposte-catholique: La réinformation catholique au quotidien. This is a collaborative effort from various contributors and highlights attacks on the Church in France and threats to Catholicism, both external, and internal through abuses of power and administration.

It  does look as though traditionalsm in various forms has quickened with the advent of a left-of- centre government and the questioning of some of the hitherto accepted principles of French political life - including the development of French Euroscepticism and the significant scale of the protests over same- sex marriage legislation there - which were, interestingly, hardly reported at all this side of the Channel. Funny that.

My own visits over the years to France always give me the sense of there being two Frances - that of the modern state and that of an older Catholic realm, by no means dead, but still alive, still breathing, and maybe, somehow,waiting. Waiting for what for may indeed be the question, but more than 200 years after the events of 1789, that older France - dare I call it an Ancien Regime? -  is more potent, more significant than many might think.

Reform of the Reform or Reversal of the Reform?

The blog Rorate Caeli is always a source of thought provoking reading matter, and there is a very interesting article on it about the future direction of the movement for a "Reform of the Reform" of the liturgy. It is well worth reading and reflecting upon, and can be read at The End of the “Reform of the Reform”:Father Kocik’s "Tract 90".

It will be interesting if this fuels debate, and if so hopefully in a positive way, and not in the rather depressing or angry way in which the perfectly good case for restoration is sometimes made. Has the process of reform reached its natural limit? Does its message still need to reach many parishes? Hoew practicable or possible is a reversal of the reform? can the Church accomodate such movements in tranquility? These and other questions immediately arise, and are important ones.

Liturgical reform or liturgical restoration is a vital topic for many and, as we know, often divisive. Let us hope that discussion will be positive and informed as this issue continues its course in the life of the Church.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

The bones of Charlemagne

January 28th was the 1200 anniversary of the death of the Emperor Charlemagne - so by the Julian calndar I am not far off the exact anniversary with this post.

There is an online biography of Charles the Great, which also looks at his legacy in governance and culture, with illustrations and links which can be read here.

Charlemagne denier Mayence 812 814.jpg 

The Emperor Charlemagne - an offical view from after his coronation at Christmas 800
 The inscription on the coin is  KAROLVS IMP AVG (Karolus Imperator Augustus)


The online biography given above includes contemporary descriptions of his appearance, which I have slightly adapted:

His biographer, Einhard, author after his death of the Vita Karoli Magni says in his twenty-second chapter:
"He was heavily built, sturdy, and of considerable stature, although not exceptionally so, since his height was seven times the length of his own foot. He had a round head, large and lively eyes, a slightly larger nose than usual, white but still attractive hair, a bright and cheerful expression, a short and fat neck, and he enjoyed good health, except for the fevers that affected him in the last few years of his life. Toward the end, he dragged one leg. Even then, he stubbornly did what he wanted and refused to listen to doctors, indeed he detested them, because they wanted to persuade him to stop eating roast meat, as was his wont, and to be content with boiled meat."
The physical portrait provided by Einhard is confirmed by contemporary depictions of the emperor, such as coins and his 8-inch (20 cm) bronze statue kept in the Louvre . In 1861, Charlemagne's tomb was opened by scientists who reconstructed his skeleton and estimated it to be measured 1.90 m (75 in). An estimate of his height from a X-ray and CT scan of his tibia performed in 2010 is 1.84 m (72 in). This puts him in the 99th percentile of tall people of his period, given that average male height of his time was 1.69 m (67 in). The width of the bone suggested he was gracile but not robust in body build. He has been described as a result as "very tall but not robust" by the modern researchers on his skeleton cited below.

[I am tempted to add that Einhard did not consider him exceptionally tall - our perceptions of medieval personal stature may well need revision - and also that for someone not robust he did n't too too badly - Clever Boy.]

Charlemagne wore traditional Frankish costume, described by Einhard thus:
"He used to wear the national, that is to say, the Frank, dress - next his skin a linen shirt and linen breeches, and above these a tunic fringed with silk; while hose fastened by bands covered his lower limbs, and shoes his feet, and he protected his shoulders and chest in winter by a close-fitting coat of otter or marten skins."
He wore a blue cloak and always carried a sword with him. The typical sword was of a golden or silver hilt. He wore fancy jewelled swords to banquets or ambassadorial receptions. Nevertheless:
"He despised foreign costumes, however handsome, and never allowed himself to be robed in them, except twice in Rome, when he donned the Roman tunic, chlamys, and shoes; the first time at the request of Pope Hadrian, the second to gratify Leo, Hadrian's successor."
He could rise to the occasion when necessary. On great feast days, he wore embroidery and jewels on his clothing and shoes. He had a golden buckle for his cloak on such occasions and would appear with his great diadem, but he despised such apparel, according to Einhard, and usually dressed like the common people.

These descriptions can now be set alongside the findings of modern reasearchers from a scientific examination of what are believed to be the Emperor's bones . He has therefore joined that group of medieval rulers like King Richard III and King Alfred or Edward the Elder, on whose post mortem examinations  I have commented on in recent months. I lifted this report from the Huffington Post story about the bones of Charlemagne:

"After 1,200 years, researchers have confirmed that a collection of bones, long interred in Germany, are those of eighth-century ruler Charlemagne.

Also known as Charles I or Charles the Great, Charlemagne controlled a wide swath of Western Europe between 768 and 814 A.D. Remembered for his efforts to unify Germanic peoples and convert them to Christianity, Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 and is sometimes referred to as the father of Europe.

Due to his holy status [He was beatified by the local bishop of Aachen in 814, a cult confirmed by Pope Benedict XIV in the eighteenth century, and canonised by AntiPope Pascal III in 1166; all his acts were revoked in 1179 by Lateran III - Clever Boy], Charlemagne's bones do not all rest in one place. Instead, they were scattered to various reliquaries and shrines.

The researchers have identified the ruler's skull, kept in a gold bust at the Aachen Cathedral in Germany, and his arm and leg bones, contained in an elaborate sarcophagus, Discovery News reported.


Dr. Frank Rühli and several colleagues examine a leg bone believed to have belonged to Charlemagne.

The finding is the result of a 26-year effort to match the cathedral bones to historical records describing Charlemagne at the time of his death.

"There is always doubt about this kind of bones, still I am quite sure (but not 100 percent) that they may belong to him," researcher Dr. Frank Rühli, of the Centre for Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich, told LiveScience.

Using X-rays and CT scans, researchers also confirmed that Charlemagne stood about 6 feet tall and was quite thin, Discovery News reported. "He must have towered over 98 out of a 100 persons in his time," Rühli told Discovery.

Part of a skull believed to have been Charlemagne's is kept in a gold bust of the ruler.
  File:Karl der große.jpg
  The reliquary bust of the Emperor at Aachen.
Given by Emperor Charles IV after 1349, the crown being that of the Kings of the Romans.
The Emperor is shown with both the Imperial eagle and the French lilies on his costume
File:Sarg Karl.jpg

The Karlsschrein which contains some of the Emperor's bones at Aachen. It was given by Emperor Frederick II (d.1250) in 1215
Image: Wikipedia