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, 27 June 2014

Ten years ago

Ten years ago tonight the penny finally dropped that I needed to be received as a Catholic.

At the time I fully held Catholic views and was an active member of the congrgation - indeed the community - at Pusey House and was also churchwarden at St Thomas' here in Oxford. The previous week anumber of us had been on aholiday-pilgrimage to Normandy, staying at the abbey at Bec, and visting Jumieges,Caen, Honfleur, Lisieux and Rouen. Catholic culture wa sthus very much in my mind. We returned to Oxford on the evening of Friday June 25th. 

On the following Sunday with Pusey friends I attended, as was our wont, Vespers and Benediction at the Oxford Oratory and then three of us went off for supper at our usual Italian restaurant. We then went for another drink to the Eagle and Child (the Bird and Baby) on St Giles. As this convivial evening continued one of my companiosn asked the other, who was leaving Oxford in a couple on months time, when he was going to become a Catholic - that this friend would do so was our strong suspicion, but nothing had actually been said. The reply was that it would probably be months rather than years. I commented as to how this explained his choice for his next academic course, cliose to another Oratory. Then, and with the sens eof having an "out of body" experience I heard myself say "I don't know why we don't all go and become Catholics." As I said it, at 10.20 or thereabouts that evening in the pub, I, and my two friends, realised this was not a throw-away line it came from deep inside.

So what do you do in these circumstances? Well we did the obvious - the pub was about to close so we went back to the kitchen at Pusey house and talked and consumed whisky until about 1am.

The next morning I walked up and looked at the front of the Oxford Ortatory. Was this where I had to come? Well, it looked as if it was. Something I thought might happen about ten years hence - i.e. about now - had come to pass.

I kept these thoughts to myself and my two companions, thought and prayed through the summer, set to and read the Catechism through (on-line - which proved uncomfortable for the eyes, but spiritually valuable), and make plans to approach a priest at the Oratory. The way I collected my thoughts can be read in my post Nine years peace and full communion. The following March 31st I was received at the Oxford Oratory, my sponsor being the friend whose reply had led to my confession of intention, who had himself been received in the February.

Once set unequivocally on the path to Rome I did not look back. I had genuine concerns about being sure I was right and about the people and places I was leaving behind, and gave myself no small amount of anxiety and worry, but my hand had been set to the plough. I had to do it, and I did.

Many of my Pusey friends and others from St Thomas' have made the same journey since then, and doing so was right and proper for us all. However I do not know if they received the call to action sitting in a pub on a Sunday night...

1 comment:

Stephanie A. Mann said...

God bless you! That's a wonderful telling of your conversion story!