Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Oxford, Jansenism, Newman, and Blessed Lucy of Narnia

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It is always a great pleasure to be invited to speak to the Oxford University Newman Society (OUNS) and to visit my Alma Mater. As a past OUNS President (Hilary 1979) I am a Life Member, and apparently, according to the Constitution, still a member of the Committee. I must go along sometime to propose a footling rule change to the Standing Orders. (Or perhaps not.)

Last night I spoke about Jansenism, Dissent, and the Liturgy. (In due course I will publish the paper on the internet but, since it is a subject which requires careful distinctions, I will need to check the text carefully when I have the time to do so.)

It was good to see the OUNS thriving. The dinner before the meeting is always a great opportunity to pick up on the kind of atmosphere in which the talk will be received. As ever, it was stimulating but a little intimidating; very bright young people were mixed with graduates who could also ask searching questions and, as ever, at least one D.Phil student who happened to be researching an area with significant overlap on the topic in question.

Everything seemed to go well enough, though. We met in the blue room of the Old Palace which is the home of the Oxford University Chaplaincy. This is a beautiful venue in which to speak and discuss things. The chaplain, Fr Simon Bishop SJ was graceful in his hospitality and most helpful in the question/comment which brought the evening to a good conclusion by focussing once again on the mercy of God which astounds us. In the course of my talk, I spoke very warmly of the work of the Jesuits in contradistinction to the influence of the Jansenists; this was sincerely meant, and I was glad that there was a member of the Society there.

This morning, at the request of the students, I celebrated Mass at the Oxford Oratory in the usus antiquior at the altar of Our Lady of Oxford. The painting was obtained for the Church by Hartwell de la Garde Grissell, an Anglican convert who served as Chamberlain of Honour to Blessed Pope Pius IX, was influential in the conversion of many Anglicans, and himself a founder member of the OUNS, together with Gerald Manley Hopkins.

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Visiting the Oratory also gave me an opportunity venerate the new shrine of the Blessed John Henry Newman. This is a temporary arrangement, since the Oratorians are planning the building of a new chapel for him. You might agree with me that this is impressive for a temporary shrine:

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The chapel of Our Lady of Oxford houses the magnificent collection of relics that belongs to the Oratory Church. It was amusing to think that the Jansenists would have heartily disapproved of this sort of thing. One curio that was brought to my attention was the relic obtained by Walter Hooper on a visit to Narnia. (There is such a place in Italy.) They have their own Beata, and Hooper persuaded the local Bishop that it was important for a relic to be given to Oxford, the home of C.S. Lewis. So here is a photo of the relic of Blessed Lucy of Narnia:

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