I reprint the following piece from 12 February 2010, when we were still in the remains of the C of E. The thread, with a fascinating contribution from the (late and most lamented ) Bishop emeritus of Richborough, retains the 2010 entries.
A cold day; but we went to look at Cassington church. A brass memorial to Thomas Neal, Regius Professor of Hebrew in this University. Neal was one of those distinguished followers of the New Learning who so adorned the Church of England in the days of Good Queen Mary and of that exquisite humanist Reginald Cardinal Pole .... the last occasion when our dear C of E was in truly congenial hands. He had enjoyed the patronage of Sir Thomas White, founder of the Marian Counter-Reformation Catholic stronghold of S John's College; and had kept safely abroad during the dark days of Edward Tudor, perfecting his skills in Greek and Hebrew. When the good times returned, so did Neal, by now an ambitious intellectual in his 30s, to be made a Chaplain to Bishop Bonner (the Broadhurst of the decade). In the confusions of 1558-9, he is said to have conveyed to the vacillating Bishop of Llandaff (who appears to have negotiated an obscure fudge with the regime enabling him to remain in office without too much swearing of oaths) Dr Bonner's threat of excommunication should he participate in episcopal consecrations sine mandato Apostolico.
Like so many of us, Neal had trouble discerning whether the End really had come. He stayed in post at Oxford, and even took part in the official welcome on the occasion of Elizabeth Tudor's visit. In those days it was none too difficult to practise the Faith in Oxford, to keep one's fingers crossed, and to hope for better times. Henry's bastard might die; or she might marry a Catholic ... Above all, the persecution was, in Tudor terms and for the time being, quite moderate.
But by 1569 the Catholics of the North had had enough. In the bloody and dangerous aftermath of the Northern Rebellion, Neal packed his books and fled to this rural backwater four or five miles from Oxford, where he spent the years until his death in 1590 producing Latin translations of rabbinic commentaries on the Prophets. By the time he died, the Puritans were riding high. But he composed his own epitaph which ingeniously asked, in the tactful obscurity of Latin Elegiacs, for the prayers of his coreligionists: "Vos ergo Thomae Neli quos* lingua iuvabat/ Elinguem lingua (quaeso) iuvate pia." [You therefore whom TN's tongue helped, now that he is tongueless, please, help him with a dutiful tongue.] I've marked a day to say a Requiem for him, pius pro pio. He's Patrimony. It's what he asked for. We don't forget our own.
The other Professor of Hebrew? In the choir at Cassington (a Christ Church living) are some fine Jacobean stalls ejected from the Cathedral in Oxford when Gothicism became the rage. On one of them a little brass inscription reveals that, from 1828 to 1870, it was Dr Pusey's stall. He's Patrimony too, and one of the very greatest Catholic teachers and spiritual directors of the modern period. Oret pro nobis, oret, oret. Seu potius Ora dicam?
Is it within the competence of an Ordinariate to initiate the Cause of Pusey's Beatification?
*Note the heavy succession of spondees. I think Neal is saying: "Seriously, I mean this".