The University of Oxford not only begins each term with a celebration of a Holy Communion Service in the Latin Tongue (vide this blog last week); it also offers, on the First Sunday of the Hilary Term, a Latin Litany and a Latin Sermon. Is it the only university in the UK to do such stuff? When I preached the Sermon, I complained about the fact that the University had not welcomed Professor Ratzinger during his recent Apostolic Visitation to our country; and spoke critically about a Professor Dawkins (who, sadly, was not present to hear me).
An hour spent browsing in Bodley through old University Calendars reveals the following about the history of these latinophile practices.
They are not, as one would have loved to believe, a survival from Medieval Oxford, but a piece of Tractarianism. By the start of the nineteenth century, each of Oxford's four terms [our modern Trinity term in the summer is historically a conflation of the old 'Easter Term' and the old 'Trinity, or Act, Term'] began with Latin Litany, Latin Commemoration of Benefactors, and Latin Sermon, apparently at about 10.00 in the morning in the University Church [the S Mary's where S John Henry Newman was Vicar, and with the baroque porch and statue of our Lady which became part of the indictment leading to the martyrdom of Archbishop William Laud]. In 1862 "and Holy Communion ... also in Latin", was added. I suspect this was a result of the Oxford Movement aka the Catholic Revival. So things continued until 1901, when the Holy Communion was separated from the Litany and Sermon and was now to be "Earlier in the day". I put this down to either or both of the following: the preference of Anglican Catholics to communicate fasting; and the growth in numbers of non-Anglican or non-communicant dons. In 1920, the Latin Litany and Sermon were reduced to once a year - on the first Sunday of the Hilary Term, when they still happen - but the Latin Communion was and still is three times a year.
I rather relish the recollection of having both preached and celebrated in S John Henry's Oxford patch, the old Newmanopolis ... but not half so much as I relish having celebrated and preached in the new Newmanopolis, his Birmingham Oratory!
The Proctors, representing formally the body corporate of Chancellor Masters and Scholars, attended until 2008, when they decided that it was invidious for them thus to privilege [by getting out of bed for an 8.00 service!] one religion and a fortiori one sect of one religion.
I have reproduced an old thread upon the same subject.