Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Pontifical Mass at Oxford

Yesterday evening the Oxford University Newman Society arranged for Pontifical High Mass at the Oxford Oratory, celebrated by Abbot Cuthbert OSB of Farnborough Abbey. (The photo is from Joseph Shaw's Flickr set.) I was Assistant Priest, which obliged me to some intensive study of Fortescue since this was the first time that I have acted in this capacity. The MC Yaqoob Bangash directed us all expertly and the choir sang Monteverdi's Mass for four voices as well as Victoria's Te Deum after Mass.

It was an "Et in Arcadia Ego" evening for me since I used to attend daily Mass at St Aloysius as an undergraduate, and lived just round the corner at 14 Wellington Square. Dinner after Mass was at St Benet's Hall and I had the opportunity to meet the Master, Rev J Felix Stephens OSB, a monk of Ampleforth Abbey who was a most gracious and genial host. The Newman Society seems to be thriving and the after-dinner speeches had various arcane references to shenanigans on the committee which, as I commented, were impenetrable to the outsider but all seemed to be good fun. It brought back memories from my own term as President in Hilary 1979.

My rambling as guest speaker was partly (and I hope excusably) taken up with reminiscence of 30 years ago, including the conclave of 1978 and the "Habemus Papam" announcement which I listened to on Vatican Radio in John Hayes' set at Keble. John was always an ardent follower of Vatican affairs and probably one of few people in the world to have exclaimed immediately at the word Carolum "My goodness: it must be Wojtyla!"

After dinner I got to re-visit Keble College for a gathering in the MCR. As ever, it was a little sad to have to take the train back to London after a brief opportunity to catch up with old friends and young friends. One of the men drew my attention to the number of vocations that have come from the Newman Society - a fact to which I had not explicitly adverted before. Long may heart speak to heart in that most venerable of Oxford societies.
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