Fine tribute to a brilliant convert

Fr Ashley Beck, himself a former Anglican clergyman, now a Catholic priest of my diocese, has written an excellent and enjoyable booklet on Ronald Knox, published by the CTS.

Knox was a brilliant man in every way. He had the benefit of a classical education at Eton and Balliol and made the most of it. A friend to Harold MacMillan, Evelyn Waugh and G K Chesterton, fellow of Trinity, and later a chaplain to the Catholic students, always an "Oxford character", his bon mots were still being recycled when I was an undergraduate and probably still are today.

His love for the scriptures led him to undertake single-handedly the translation of the entire bible - a tragic project in that he met opposition while undertaking it and within a decade the restrictions placed upon him were lifted to allow the immensely inferior versions that we are today using in the Sacred Liturgy.

Although Fr Beck is keen to moderate the record concerning Knox's difficulty with the hierarchy over his translation, I have never forgotten his 1944 letter to Archbishop Griffin which expresses his frustration at the time, with characteristic wit. Griffin had offered to be a patron for him. Knox said:
"Is not a Patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water and when he reaches ground, encumbers him with help?"
Three major streets in centre of Oxford are the High Street, joined to Broad Street by Turl Street: known to students as "The High", "The Broad", and "The Turl". Turl Street is home to Lincoln College, Exeter College and Jesus College. One of Knox's famous quips at the Oxford Union (of which he was President) was to say, without needing the above geographical explanation:
The Anglican Church is like The Turl: it runs from the Broad to the High, passing Jesus on the way.
This was an older kind of ecumenism in which such ribbing was taken in good part.

Knox was an inspiration to me as a student and I greatly enjoyed his work and the folklore about him. Only recently, I read his book "The Mass in Slow Motion" which captures the experience of the priest saying the older form of the Mass and offers many helpful insights for prayerful participation at Mass. I was delighted to find that there is a website for The Ronald Knox Society of North America which is a wonderful resource for Knox enthusiasts. Fr Beck reports that at the end of his life, Knox said that he no longer recalled how much he had written and that he doubted whether the recording angel would know either. Nevertheless, the Ronald Knox Society have attempted a list.

Fr Beck has written a very fine tribute to Knox and it is a most valuable introduction to the man and his work. Let me quote a last anecdote from it - one that I had not heard before:
He received Holy Communion for the last time on 11th August [1957]; on the 20th he was asked if he would like extracts read to him from the New Testament. He declined and said, 'Awfully jolly of you to suggest it, though' which were his last words.

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