A former Anglican priest and member of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham gave the Latin Sermon at the University of Oxford this weekend. John Hunwicke, who is well known for his erudite writing on liturgy and Classics, gave the sermon — not a sermon in the usual ecclesiastical sense — in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on Sunday 15 January, the first anniversary of the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, with the permission and blessing of the Ordinary. Whilst still an Anglican, Blessed John Henry Newman (who is the patron of the Ordinariate) was the Vicar of St Mary’s and it was from the same pulpit that he preached and John Keble gave his Assize Sermon, that the Latin Sermon is given. John Hunwicke joins other Catholics, including Professor Richard Parish, in giving the Latin Sermon.
Sunt autem, Oxonienses, et alii pro quibus Omnipotentem deprecari possimus. Mensis enim Ianuarii dies iam quintus decimus lucescit; qui dies quamquam non omnibus candidus laetitiam tamen nonnullis haud minimam adferre debet. Nam annus unus elapsus est ab illo die quo Benedictus papa eius nominis sextus decimus, advocatis beata Maria et beato Iohanne Henrico, huius ecclesiae quondam Vicario, Ordinariatum ut vocant erexit. Quem vero pontificem, in Anglia peregrinantem, hos apices somniantes non visitasse, virum doctissimum a doctis non esse receptum, virum erga Dei Genetricem tam pium in hac eiusdem ecclesia locum orandi non invenisse, virum scriptis beati Iohannis Henrici inter primos eruditum, eius altare, eius ambonem, non vidisse – dico aperte – admodum doleo. Fingite, Academici, pontificem porticum illam appropinquare per quam beatus Iohannes Henricus hanc aedem precaturus contionaturus litaturus saepe ingressus est; porticum dico iuxta mentem archiepiscopi illius aedificatam qui nomine suo martyrii sui LAUDes designavit, cuius porticus locum summum rite coronata Deipara Virgo tenet. Columnas idem papa agnovisset quales salomoniacas nuncupatas Iohannes Laurentius circa altare clavigeri discipuli in colle Vaticano eisdem fere annis ponebat quibus hunc imaginem hanc porticum has columnas, pignora duco populi Christiani in unitatem coniuncti, alma Academia Oxonii erigendas curavit.Quae vero facta sunt in aevo cum oecumenico tum Mariano quo tempore Roma et Cantuaria paene inter se osculatae sunt; quo aevo Catholicae Ecclesiae gubernacula summus ille pontifex et Urbanus et doctus tenebat cuius auspiciis vates quidem Polonicus, vir ipso Flacco minime indignus, Virginis“teretes pedum suras non humilem lambere Cynthiam” canere non dedignatus est.
Quae tamen mentibus profanioribus hodie non placere videntur. En! – Produco vobis virum Philosophiae Naturalis peritum qui thymiamata foetida corda sacrata suavitatem insulsam ineptias denique virginum polystephon ausus est clamitare. Qualisvir et quot elegantiarum refertus! Non sic Iohannes vester Henricus, qui, ut ipse dixit, cultum verum beatissimae illi Virgini adhibuit cuius in collegio vitam degit cuius area inserviebat quam iuvenis in concione Immaculatam confessus est. Cuius vocem argenteam quae ecclesiam hanc abadulescentibus frequentari effecit illi muri penitus hauserunt; quae vox doctrinam Ecclesiae Anglicanae ne cum decretis Concilii Tridentini discreparet subtiliter illustravit. Alii quoque hic auditi sunt: Hebraicae dico linguae professorem illum Regium, Eirenici auctorem, quo non alius eo tempore doctior, qui Sacram Eucharistiam, scriptis partum ecclesiarum Graecarum perpensis, tanta claritate tamque mirifice exposuit ut ab onere infra Universitatem per biennium praedicandi iniquo iudicio semotus sit. Num immemores sumus mathematici theology pastoris, Aedis Christi quondam Canonici et Praelectoris Bamptoniani, qui de Catholica veritate et Unitate Christianorum tam occidentalium quam orientalium indesinenter scribere solebat; quales viri theologizantes (ut a praesule haud ignoto dictum est) infra sonum campanarum ecclesiasticarum, quamquam in Communione Anglicana mortui, nihilominus doctores seiuncti Ecclesiae Catholicae iuste appellati sunt. Ideoque et nos, tantam habentes impositam nubem testium, Omnipotentem deprecemur pro Ecclesia, quam pacificare custodire adunare et regere sic dignetur ut per orbem terrarium Deo Patri, Filio, et Spiritui Sancto sit Gloria et magnificentia, imperium et potestas, et nunc et in omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
What a long list of names! But I want to suggest some others we could mention. Today, January 15, is exactly one year since the occasion, joyful for many of us, when Benedict XVI erected an ‘Ordinariate’ under the title of Our Lady of Walsingham and Blessed John Henry Newman. A shame, don’t you think, that, during his visit to England, the Pope was unable to visit Oxford to receive a fitting welcome from his fellow academics and – as a man with a great devotion to our Lady – to say a prayer in this church of hers. A leading expert on Newman, he could have seen Newman’s altar and pulpit. Just imagine him, walking down the High to that porch through which Newman so often entered to pray, to preach, to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice. As he entered this church through the porch built at the instigation of the martyred Archbishop William Laud (whose enemies held against him the fact that it contains a crowned statue of our Lady), His Holiness would have been made to feel at home by seeing a brace of twisty baroque pillars, so closely similar to those which Bernini contemporaneously built in S Peter’s, Rome!
Laud’s and Bernini’s decade was one marked with apparently realistic expectations of unity between Rome and Canterbury. I do not only refer to those exuberant columns: the crowned statue of Mary reminds us that, during the Barberini papacy, Laudian Oxford seemed to be joining Catholic Europe in devotion to the Mother of God – a devotion which could be learnedly and divertingly combined with a humanistic appreciation of Classical literature. One of Urban VIII’s associates, Maciej Kazimierz, ‘the Christian Horace’, was emboldened to embody the triumphantly Marian Woman of Revelation 12: 1 (who has the moon under her feet), within the metre and format of Odes III:28, and brought together, in seven concise words, the tragic figure of Cleopatra in Odes I:37 and the slave girl’s ankles from Odes II:4! All this is not perhaps quite in the style of a modern secular university. It seems a far cry from Richard Dawkins’ attack upon the Catholic Church with her “stench of incense and a rain of tourist–‐kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins”! Indeed, Newman was certainly no Dawkins; he looked back upon his years as Vicar here and wrote “I had a true devotion to the Blessed Virgin in whose college I lived, whose altar I served, and whose immaculate purity I had in one of my earliest printed sermons made much of”.
The walls around us heard Newman’s ‘silver voice’ gathering in great herds of young men. As an Anglican, he worked for unity in writings uch as Tract90; but his voice was not the only one to do this. Edward Bouverie Pusey, most learned man of his age, author of an Eirenicon, preached a University sermon on the Eucharist, crammed with quotations from the Greek Fathers, which led to his suspension, for two years, from preaching before the University! A Bampton Lecturer, Eric Mascall, mathematician as well as theologian, defended Catholic truth and wrote of the unity of the Eastern and Western Churches. Such men exemplified Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s description of the Anglican theological method as “Divinity done within the sound of church bells”! These and men like them may have died as Anglicans, but they are such as Aidan Nichols, a Roman Catholic theologian, had in mind when he coined the felicitous phrase “separated doctors of the Catholic Church”.
Surrounded, then, by so great a crowd of witnesses, let us ask God to grant his Church such peace, protection and unity, that throughout the world, to Father Son and Holy Spirit there may be ascribed glory and praise, sovereignty and power, both now, and world without end. Amen