12 February 2010

Two professors of Hebrew; is it the End?

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 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 a fudge with the regime enabling him to remain in office without too much swearing) 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, quite moderate.

But by 1569 the Catholics of the North had had enough. In the bloody and dangerous aftermath of the Northern Rebellion, Neal timorously 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 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. 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 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.

Will it be within the competence of an Ordinariate to initiate the Cause of Pusey's Beatification?

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Note the heavy succession of spondees. I think Neal is saying: "Seriously, I mean this".

4 comments:

Edwin said...

In the printed version of his sermon at the Consecration of Keble College Chapel, Pusey apologised (in a footnote) for including 'another' (viz Newman) when he said "to us it became a sorrow of our lives" - i.e. that they had not supported Keble for the Oriel Provostship. But in my copy of the sermon this footnote is scored though in Pusey's own hand, saying "Card. Newman writes to me 'I never expressed, I never felt any surprise whatever, any concern whatever at your words about me including me with yourself in what you said about Hawkin's election. That I had any personal feeling about your paragraph is a simple untruth'." ... so, thirty years after the event, Newman is writing to his old friend Pusey telling him not to fret about nasty gossip in the prints (in this case, I think, by Ollard).
It says a good deal about how the 'parting of friends' was not a total breach between these two holy men. I am sure we should run him for canonisation once we are in the Ordinariate. +Edwin

Joshua said...

Perhaps Fr H could compose a suitable Second Nocturn for Pusey, detailing his ecstasies, marvels, trials, and spiritual adornments, while sketching out his holy life?

Nothing unhistorical, but suitably edifying - say, similar to the relevant lessons for St Philip Neri...

Woody said...

One has already floated the idea of a suitable public memorial in the kalendar of the Ordinariate (for the US) for Charles, KM, to the redoubtable Fr. Christopher Phillips, with a rather favorable response.

Michael McDonough said...

If the Anglican Ordinariates don't put Pusey up for canonization (or should I be saying "run him for canonization"?), who will?

It's taken quite a while for us RCs to get even a Newman beatified, and Thomas More and John Fisher had to wait 400 years! We need the English here; people with a real penchant for enthusiasm!