30 April 2016

S John at the Latin Gate ... should it be a Double of the First Class?

S John at the Latin Gate, a Prayer Book festival (also still to be found in the delightfully unreformed Calendar of the University of Oxford) long since abolished on the modern Roman Calendar, reappears on May 6 on the Calendar of the Ordinariate (disguised as "S John in Eastertide")! Since you have probably been wondering why, and because I know you are discreet, I will let you into the secret. Just within these four walls. Are you sitting comfortably?

Before the Ordinariates were canonically erected by the great, the erudite, the fabulous Benedict XVI, the Pope of Christian Unity, a group of us had a series of highly confidential meetings in catacumbis, or, to be more prosaic, in the Catholick Apostolick cellars of Gordon Square, guided by our Flying Bishops. Episcopopteryx Andrew Burnham decided to term these the 'Latin Gate' meetings, because the first of them took place on this day in 2010! So next Friday is the glorious celebration of the first synodos of that bold group, some of whom risked being bullied into premature resignation if their Anglican bishops had found out what they were up to (that is why the meetings had to be so secret). It celebrates the start of the process which led to those priests becoming the core of the founding presbyterate of the English Ordinariate. Imagine us as being rather like the courageous First Wave that stormed up the Normandy beaches on June 6 in 1944! I think that we battle-scarred heroes, we noble Band of Brothers, the Class of 2010, ought to be given special medals to pin proudly onto the Black Scarves of our Anglican choir dress. But, Fathers, the least we can do is to celebrate S John the Apostle at the Altar, and turn our money under the New Moon.

The subterranean meetings eventually morphed into the 'Formation' [not a word I much liked] meetings at Allen Hall, where we were made to feel wonderfully welcome by staff and students alike. It was an exhilarating experience for us, whose Catholic Faith was mediated to us within the Church of England, to feel, at last, our longed-for unity with the other great strand of English Catholicism, the Martyres. 

You will know that Allen Hall was founded at Douay following the accession of Elizabeth Tudor, Bloody Bess, after ex-vice-chancellors, Heads of Houses, Regius Professors, Fellows, students galore, had had to flee in a great Exodus from Oxford; and it was founded moreover by the indefatigable Cardinal Allen, sometime Proctor of this University and Principal of S Mary's Hall, who would have been Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England if only the winds had been a tadge more accommodating in 1588.

So Allen Hall is in a real continuity with Marian, Catholic, Oxford (so well evoked by Duffy's Fires). And it was a novel luxury for us to have access to its bibliotheca superbissima where the Bullaria of the Roman Pontiffs ... including the great Benedict XIV, Prospero Lambertini ... were just sitting there on the open shelves, immediately inside the door, generously available to anybody and everybody. Not even the library at Staggers was as well equipped! No wonder Allen Hall men are such excellent priests!

The food, too, was better than at Staggers. Both the teaching and the food were most graciously subsidised by the kindness of the Catholic bishops and, I gather, of a charity on which they were able to call.

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