After a visit to my doctor in Beaumont Street ... routine check-up ... and not feeling much like going straight home to where a mountain of proof-reading awaited me, I decided infaustum postponere diem and to visit a couple of friends. Into Ashmole, and to the left: to commune with Menander. His face is exactly at the level of my own, so the communing is quite easy. Then upstairs, and again to the left: to encounter one of the four greatest popes ever: no, not S Leo; not S Pius V; not Benedict XVI, but ... YES! ... you're right: Benedict XIV Lambertini. Rather sensual lips; penetrating blue eyes; a great sense of a dominating intellect. A contemporary bust, almost twitching with the humour for which he was so well liked.
I began: "Sanctissime Pater ... quid tu de Synodo?"
"Numquam ego sic egissem!"
"Of course not, Holy Father ... for yours was a different age!"
"Aetatem dicis! No; that's not the point. There's something you young people have forgotten. Although your Patron S John Henry Newman would have understood ... quid anhelas? .. Ah! Mea culpa! Patefeci fore ut canonizaretur ..."
This excited me. "Domine! When will he be canonized? Please, please, tell me".
"By no means. You would reveal it all on that blog of yours".
His twinkle intensified. I felt that, just for the fun of it, he would tell me, so I persisted. Having extracted from me a perfervid vow of secrecy, he quietly murmured the date into my ear. I shall not, of course, mention it to a living soul. Nor shall I let on that he is to be declared a Doctor of the Church. There are some things one just does not do.
"But what, Holy Father, have I forgotten? And what has Bsaint John Henry got to do with it?"
The sort of impatient look passed over his face that my Mods tutor sometimes displayed when I had forgotten the obvious.
"You seem to have forgotten S John Henry's teaching about Sin. Remember his Certain Difficulties, Lecture 8. ' The Church ... holds that it were better for sun and moon to drop from the heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions who are upon it to die of starvation in extremest agony, so far as temporal affliction goes ...' do you perhaps, miselle, remember ..."
I hastened to complete Newman's ample clauses: "' than that one soul, I will not say should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, though it harmed no one, or steal one poor farthing without excuse' ... but ... quid ibi de Synodo?"
He watched as I stood puzzling; it was indeed far from obvious to me, however much I thought, what this did have to do with the Synod of Bishops. After a few moments, he took pity on me.
"SCANDALUM! Nil unquam, puto, tu tuique de Scandalo didicistis!"
Scandal! "No; I don't think we had a course on that at Allen Hall. But ... ah! we did do it at Staggers! Scandal ... it means providing someone else with an incitement to sin ... yes?"
"Bene! S Stephen's House was indeed ... quondam ... one of the better seminaries. And I recall, carissime, that you do have on your own shelves a treatise on Moral Theology, by a contemporary of my own, a great writer, a great Saint whose Redemptorist Order I myself sanctioned, by whose prayers your splendid friends on Papa Stronsay eventually secured their canonical regularisation ... go and look at S Alphonsi Theologiae Moralis librum secundum in capite 43 et sequentibus capitibus ... and we will talk further about Scandal when you have done so."
So, deftly dodging the Cereals Merchants, I hurried down the Cornmarket ... where one of the buskers was playing the melody from Dad's Army ... and hopped onto a number 35 just by Wren's preposterous ogees above the entrance to Cardinal College.
Plura d.v. sequentur.
10 November 2014
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A true scholar and a gentleman.
Dear Fr. H.,
Now you have most of us curious: who are the other three greatest pontiffs?
I have my suspicions, but....
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