Oxford University’s Latin Sermon

Fr. John Hunwicke apparently received permission from Msgr. Newton of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham to preach Oxford University’s Latin Sermon from Newman’s pulpit.

The text (I received along with it the paraphrase, which is not my rendering):

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. Qualis vir 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 arae inserviebat quam iuvenis in concione Immaculatam confessus est. Cuius vocem argenteam quae ecclesiam hanc ab adulescentibus 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 patrum ecclesiarum Graecarum perpensis, tanta claritate tamque mirifice exposuit ut ab onere infra Universitatem per biennium praedicandi iniquo iudicio semotus sit. Num immemores sumus mathematici theologi 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 terrarum 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 such as Tract 90; 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.

And, keep repeating, Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Maltese says:

    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 heart…

    Is this the same Dawkins who can’t explain-away Irreducible Complexity so he postulates that aliens brought life to earth? (Why is it that the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens and Hawking rely on ad hominem attacks on the Church, rather than reason, to make their points?)

  2. dhgyapong says:

    Is it Fr. Hunwicke now? Has he been ordained a Catholic priest?

    I certainly hope so, as the deferral of his ordination once he entered the Ordinariate a year ago, sent shock waves among those who love traditional Anglican liturgy.

  3. philologus says:


    Aren’t attacks against the Church almost always rhetorical?

    When I was preparing to be received into the Church my good friend and I used to have conversations about it. He would ask me questions about why I would want to do such a thing (he is agnostic). Often I would turn the question around on him – why wouldn’t he want to do such a thing? His answer usually had something to do with “not wanting to be associated with those kinds of people.” i.e. people who go to church.

    It was a major epiphany to me. My friend’s “irreligion” really had nothing to do with any kind of principled disagreement with the central tenets of Christianity. When it came down to it, he simply didn’t want to “be the sort of person who is a Christian.” Clearly he got this idea about “the sort of person who is a Christian” from the rhetoric of pop-culture.

    It occurs to me that we as Catholics can fall into the same trap. Our faith has the potential to be merely something we identify with, as opposed to the means of our salvation. Think of prayer. It is so easy to come before God, not as we really are, but as we think we ought to be. There’s a huge difference! My most fruitful prayer is always when I can somehow avoid being self-conscious in the act of praying. Self-consciousness and self-knowledge – paradoxically not the same thing!

    So “characterizing” rhetoric is effective in bashing the Church because that’s the world most people operate in, and it’s the world we operate in unless we are very careful in our practice of self-knowledge which, of course, is a great grace. And isn’t true knowledge of self a requirement for a true reception of the sacraments?

  4. josephx23 says:

    The even-tempered tone of the comments in the sermon makes for a striking contrast with Dawkins’ characteristically inflammatory language. It’s a tone worthy of Blessed Newman himself, a careful thinker and a true man of letters. It’s not necessary for a cleric to be a man of letters, necessarily, but what a blessing it is when these gifts are used for the greater glory of God. It certainly challenges me to make better use of the words I speak and write.

  5. asperges says:

    A pleasing and fluent style. Yet I shudder to think how many of our present clergy freely admit to knowing little or no Latin. However did this come about?

    I cannot work out why “porticum illam appropinquare per quam..” is not “illum” and “quem” unless they refer to “aedem” (ll 10-11), but that is surely my problem. Here is a man whose erudition shines through. Perhaps in certain circles there are those who might wish it didn’t lest it overshadowed theirs?

  6. philologus says:


    porticus, ?s, f.

  7. A wonderful sermon – thanks for drawing attention to it.

  8. asperges says:

    @philologus. I know it as 4th decl m, but I see it can be f: Thank you. Problem solved.
    porticus, porticus
    common (masculine and/or feminine)
    colonnade, covered walk

    Source: Oxford Latin Dictionary, 1982 (OLD)

  9. philologus says:


    You’re welcome! Cf. “porticus, in qua gestetur dominus,” Juv. 7. 178

  10. MWP says:

    “Maciej Kazimierz” is Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski, Poland’s finest Latin poet. Oxford, Warsaw, Rome, the European baroque, FrZ’s blog on the internet: Catholicism is the bridge (and the only one that really works) over all ages and cultures!

  11. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    A real pleasure to read. Kudos also to the paraphrase, which is really more of an explication. I am not learned enough to have caught the oblique references to Bernini, Pusey, Mascall, Ramsey, or Nichols without it. I also did not know that Laud had placed a statue of the Virgin in that church, nor realized that the hope of reunion was so strong in his day.

    None of which keeps me from being chuffed at spotting the reference to Matthias Casimirus Sarbievius’ ode.

    The curse of a paraphrase, though, is that it doesn’t really help your Latin qua Latin. What, exactly, does “polystephon” mean? Is it a feminine plural genitive? My dictionary, like me, is ignorant of it.

  12. Robertus: What, exactly, does “polystephon” mean?

    I took it as having to to do with garlands.

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