Saturday, October 25, 2008

Oxford Pilgrimage - more photos

I've been beaten to the punch by Br Lawrence, but here are some more photographs which I took myself. The numbers at the pilgrimage for the Oxford martyrs exceeded my expectations - I printed out three times the number of booklets for the day as we needed last year, and ran out. The Priory Church at Blackfriars was completly full - we got out all the extra chairs we could and I counted 36 people standing at the back and up the sides: there were about 230 people in all. What is more, the great majority came on the procession and stayed for Benediction; it was a tremendous witness to the faith. We have been training a large group of student singers in the Te Deum and other chants and this we made a very good show among the early Christmas shoppers.

Clearly the blessing of a plaque to the Catholic martyrs of 1589 by an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese, Bishop William Kenney, made this a special occasion. Among others the colleges of the martyrs were represented: Oriel College, which absorbed St Mary Hall, the alma mater of Bl. Thomas Belson, and Brasenose College, the alma mater of the priest Bl. George Nichols. Several members of the Belson family were there, and the last survivor of Bl. George Nichols family, who was unable to come, made a contribtution to the plaque. Christine Kelly, the author of an excellent book on Bl. Thomas Belson, which was published to coincide with the beatifications in 1987, was also there. One of the picture shows Dorrien Belson, the head of the Belson family, talking to Bishop Kelley at the lunch; Christine Kelly is behind them. Among the other historical Catholic families of Oxfordshire, the Stoner and Mockler-Barret familes were represented. And a good number of local clergy came along, including Fr John Osman of the parish of St Birinus in Dorchester-on-Thames, a church which has made a number of appearances on the NLM.

We are enormously grateful to the Dominicans, not only for their hospitality but their enthusiastic help and participation in the liturgy. Fr Dominic Jacob or the Oxford Oratory was celebrant, and Bishop William Kenney preached very appositly on the meaning of martyrdom for Catholics today, when the Church once more finds herself under attack. A number of members of the Confaternity of the Precious Blood, who are based at the London Oratory, came and joined the procession in their robes; you can see them in one of the pictures. Thanks are also due to the Oxford University Newman Society which provided the marshalls for the procession, which proved very necessary because of its large size.

The picture of the plaque itself included here (which I took when it was beinf fixed to the wall by the craftsman, Alec Peever) also appears in the current issue of the The Tablet. Grateful as I am for publicity for this event, it is perhaps inevitable that they should ask whether, in these 'ecumenical times', it is appropriate to have such 'tribal' monuments as Oxford's 19th Century Protestant 'Maryrs' Memorial' and now this plaque. I can't speak for the Protestants, but my own response to this question was that it is not only or principally a matter of the Catholic community getting one over on the other side, but a devotional matter: since it is appropriate to visit and pray at the the sites of martyrdom, it makes sense for them to be publicly and permanently marked. If we want the martyrs to pray for us, we should honour them!

I've posted more about the martyrs here.

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