4 July 2017

Country church-crawling

Ickford Church has wonderful vibes. Its Rector, 1911-1933, was Canon Vernon Staley, author of The Catholic Religion. This was a standard manual for Anglo-Catholics in the first part of the twentieth century, and went into a number of editions. Staley was pre-papalist; for example, he believed that our Lady was purified before her birth rather than conceived Immaculate. I suppose he would have been at home, dogmatically, in the forteenth century. Not good enough, I absolutely agree. But then, I gather that one Hans Kueng, despite his noisy heresies, still holds an unrevoked celebret. Is it really so very much better to devote a long life to subverting the Faith from within the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church than to work unremittingly outside those boundaries to teach the common people of England a version of the Faith with which S Thomas Aquinas might not have had much of a problem?

Staley was apparently not untouched by the more developed Catholicism of the later twentieth century; he secured Sir Ninian 'Patrimony' Comper to work on the glass at Ickford. A window depicting S Bede the Venerable is said to have Staley's own face. But Fr and Mrs Staley had a great grief. Their only son, aged 19, was killed in the last six weeks of the First World War. A candelabrum (with adjacent Latin inscription) hangs as a memorial; a Comper window of S John Baptist commemorates him (was the Baptist's face based on that of young Staley?); and a three-light Comper window, our Lady between two sainted soldier princes, is in his honour. Before he went back to the front for the last time, the young man coloured a representation of the royal arms which his father had carved (Canon Staley also himself carved the font cover and the tester over the altar).

Ickford retained Comper's services after Staley's death; a good window of S Thomas More, 1947. Perhaps Thomas Batterbury was responsible; a brass tablet commemorating him (1959) offers two Sapphic stanzas in honour of the Saint:

Te Pater, Thomas tuus adiuvante
pertulit duras hilaris catenas,
pertulit mortis faciem imminentis

Cuius exemplum doceat fideles
ut petant laetis animis coronam;
sic in aeternae veniamus omnes
gaudia vitae.

Not great poetry; but unusually late for Latin verse in a monument; and an uncommon metre for this purpose. I wonder what the old school-marm of Lesbos would have made of it. And, most satisfying, these two stanzas and the window above them would have had Henry Tudor spitting nails ...

Beta double plus.

Oops ... I forgot the Recusant aspects of Ickford church. I'll polish that off a little later.

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