9 June 2002

June 9 1968

I here reprint my post from last year.

I have a signed and sealed document to prove it: that on this day, Harry, by divine permission bishop of Oxford, solemnly administering Holy Orders in his Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford, did duly and rightly ordain ME to the office of Priesthood ... etc.. Curious the things one remembers; during the imposition of hands by the Bishop and his presbyters simultaneously (so much more meaningful a collegiate action, inherited in the Church of England from the old Sarum Pontifical, than the curious little procession of individuals that does it according to the more recent Roman Pontificals) I was aware of a fluttering on my head; not so much the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove but the hand of one of the canons, a very distinguished Anglican Catholic theologian who was just starting Parkinson's disease. Cuius animae propitietur Deus. I use almost daily a work of reference which he compiled.

Then back to my place; and a few minutes later, as the Cathedral choir began the Sanctus, I began, for the first time as a presbyter, to murmur Te igitur, clementissime Pater, per Iesum Christum ... How many times, since ...

Harry Carpenter was a kindly and gracious, if rather shy, Father-in-God, and a very learned Bishop. He derived his episcopal succession not only through S Augustine's successors in the See of Canterbury (and, incidentally, through bishop Bonner, the hero of 1559), but also (via some rather iffy Dutchmen) through Bossuet and Cardinal Barberini, nephew of Urban VIII. It seemed difficult to imagine, back in 1968, how anything could happen that would make one wish to fulfill one's vocation as a Priest of the Catholic and Latin Church anywhere other than in the Provinces of Canterbury and York. So much holiness was there and so much real and profound learning; so much were they part of of the fabric of every English town and village.

I wonder how many generations it took for the once flourishing churches of North Africa to pass into sand and history and memories. Sic transit ... As Blessed John Henry Newman put it, Canterbury has gone its way, and York is gone, and Durham is gone, and Winchester is gone. It was sore to part with them. We clung to the vision of past greatness, and would not believe it could come to naught; but ... And even Oxford, in a sense, is gone; the Oxford which for Newman - and for Trollope! - was the bastion and symbol of all that was best in Anglicanism.

Some things, however, remain reassuringly the same. As on that day, Pam and I will go for lunch at the Luna Caprese (buon giorno Professore), where the menu is still unchanged. Except for the prices.

I shall drink a toast to my next 43 years in Christ's Sacred Priesthood.The character of His Priesthood is something of which even History can never rob me.