This week I have been working with an Oxford Summer School run by Second Spring, who are based here in the city, on the theme of Catholic Faith and Culture. The students were from the USA and Canada and based here at Blackfriars. Their course was wide-ranging and included visits to local places of Catholic and historic interestv as well as a series of talks from experts (so-called in my case...).
On Tuesday afternoon I gave a talk on four Oxford educated Catholic writers - Hilaire Belloc, Ronald Knox, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. Although all of them were educated in Oxford, three of them at Balliol - Waugh was at Hertford - and three of them were converts - Belloc was a cradle Catholic, but had had a crisis of belief as a young man (but then in some senses he was a convert to being English, having a French father and being born in France himself) but the key point I stressed was their diversity of views on so many topics. They knew one another, but were not a group like the Inklings. What they did do was to bring a Catholic view or views into different aspects of writing and literature. By being well known and popular as writers and being known to be Catholics they thereby raised the profile of Catholicism in the perception of the wider reading public.
Today I gave the group a tour of Newman's Oxford. This was centred on visits to his undergraduate college at Trinity and Oriel where he was a Fellow. Along the way it was possible to visit St Mary's where he was Vicar and preached so many of his Anglican sermons.On such occasions one can indeed feel close to newman and that one is walking in his footsteps.
These were two very enjoyable sessions with agreeable people, and it was good to have a shared interest in the renewal and revival of an integrated Catholic visual and literary culture alongside the practise of the Faith.