25 September 2009

The Pope in Oxford

According to my Irish Times this morning (just about the only paper I can bear to read nowadays; despite the fact that even it has more than a whiff of the Grauniad about it) the Sovereign Pontiff is to visit Oxford next year. I expect there will be a lot of stuff about how he is the first Pope to come here ... Paenebeatus John Henry Newman, however, records in Loss and Gain a rumour that circulated in the febrile atmosphere of mid-forties Oxford:
"Have you heard the news?" said Sheffield; " I have been long enough in college to pick it up. The Kitchen man was full of it as I passed along. Jack's a particular friend of mine; a good honest fellow, and has all the gossip of the place. I don't know what it means, but Oxford has just now a very bad inside. The report is, that some of the men have turned Romans; and they say that there are strangers going about Oxford whom nobody knows anything of. Jack, who is a bit of a divine himself, says he heard the Principal say that, for certain, there were Jesuits at the bottom of it; and I don't know what he means, but he declares he saw with his own eyes the Pope walking down the High Street with the priest. I asked him how he knew it; he said he knew the Pope by his slouching hat and his long beard; and the porter told him it was the Pope ..."

Happy days, when Jesuits were sinister figures of subtle intrigue. BTW, the old Jesuit church of S Alyoggers, taken over by the Oratorians a few years ago when the Js became defunct, is looking very much the better for the change. A spectacular makeover is under way, and the Relic Chapel - also the seat of our Lady of Oxford - is going to look splendid. I hope Professor Ratzinger will have time to drop in there and admire the fresh paintwork.


Joshua said...


I really must reread that novel; it was very amusing, and I'll wager when published its humour was even more to the point.

Independent said...

Some Oxford college, perhaps Oriel, should make Professor Ratzinger a Fellow.

One hopes however that he will also visit Cambridge which has done so much for his cause in maters of history in recent years. While there he could bless Dr Dawkins.

Patricius said...

J.R.R Tolkien sometimes went to Mass at St Aloysius church. I wonder if the Holy Father knows this? When he comes to my parish, I shall have to inform him myself. I hope he visits Merton College Library.

johnf said...

Great news Father. The Pope at Oxford - it does have a certain pre-reformation ring about it.

Joshua - I bought the novel Loss and Gain through Amazon after Fr H's last recommendation.

I enjoyed the book, but it's the only book I have have ever seen without page numbers