Visit to Oxford

Yesterday I travelled to my one-time home of Oxford to give the first in a series of three talks at the Oxford Oratory to mark the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. The Fathers kindly invited me to join them for Oratory and Dinner beforehand. "Oratory" is a custom preserved unchanged since the time of St Philip with 20 minutes silent meditation before the Blessed Sacrament, followed by the Litany of Loreto, the Sub Tuum Praesidium and various other prayers. The community is thriving and indeed working very hard at various pastoral projects. They are also in the middle of a restoration of the area above the High Altar so there was scaffolding in the Church. I look forward to seeing the completed work.

Last year, I spoke to the Newman Society in Oxford on the same subject but this was an event mainly intended for parishioners of St Aloysius. There was a good response and I was delighted to meet a number of old friends. Andrew and Dora Nash were there Dora has had two excellent books published by Gracewing: "Confirmed in Faith" (for Confirmation preparation) and "Jesus Comes to Me" (for First Holy Communion). the easiest way to find them is to search for "Dora Nash" at Family Publications.

Speaking of Family Publications, a long-standing friend, Valerie Riches was also there. Valerie and Denis founded Family and Youth Concern and Family Publications. Many years ago, Valerie wrote "Sex and Social Engineering" which was a far-sighted and pioneering critique of sex-education. This has now been updated and published as "Sex Education or Indoctrination". Her dear husband, Denis, died last December: while he knew that he was dying, he and Valerie jointly authored "Built on Love: An Autobiography for Two."

After the talk, I was introduced to Robin Aitken who wrote the excellent book "Can we trust the BBC?" (you've got three guesses.) Chatting to him, it was fairly clear that we are, as Fr Z puts it "on the same page".

Oxford always brings happy memories flooding back. On this visit, I decided to make a pilgrimage to Blackwell's and in particular to the Norrington Room downstairs:

The Norrington Room has three miles of shelving and so I made my way down further into the bowels of the great bookseller "to whom we all owe so much" as one way but it in the days when they routinely offered credit to undergraduates. (Perhaps they still do?) The Philosophy and Psychology shelves are adjacent - these were my sources for course books, but they are also next to the Theology section where I spent a lot of my time. Impoverished undergraduates cannot always afford to buy the books they need to read and there were always people sat on the floor making their way through texts before putting them back on the shelves. I see that chairs are now provided.

On the way to the station, I called in to The Ashmolean for a brief wander among the antiquities.

I was particularly struck by this writing board from 2nd century AD Egypt:

The information board tells us that it is:
A school-boy's wooden writing-board inscribed in ink with a paraphrase and glossary of lines 349-373 of Book IV of Homer's Iliad describing an exchange between Agamemnon and Odysseus during the battle which followed Pandaro's treacherous attack on Menelaus
But of course, education has moved on so far since those times 0-)

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