On Friday I joined Beatriz on her trip to Burford. While she had her tutorial, I walked over to the small neighboring village of Fulbrook, through fields dotted with cows and to the tune of crowing roosters. Nestled among charming English cottages with their flower gardens is a Norman church. It is incredible to be able to walk amidst so much history!
Saturday was spent writing up my last tutorial paper for Mr. Stephen Barrie. It was on the theory of double effect, which is the ethical principle that a person is not responsible for the side effects of his action, but only those consequences which he directly causes.
Dispersed among the paper writing were lovely chats with some of our Blackfriars friends, an essential part of what will be missed about the Blackfriars’ library.
Sunday we kept up the delightful routine of tea and coffee with friends after Mass at the Oratory followed by lunch at one of their favorite Asian noodle restaurants. Maximizing our time conversing with the lovely people we met!
On Monday Fr. Richard Conrad planned a countryside walk to view the wall paintings in different medieval churches. One of the students at Blackfriars studies religious artwork, and his tutor came along to act as a tour guide. We caught a bus out to the first little village, North Leigh, and stocked with rain coats and a picnic lunch, hit the country roads. The wall paintings date from the 14th and 15th centuries, before flying buttresses came into vogue in church architecture. Since the churches then had fewer stained glass windows and more wall space, the wall paintings were the usual way of decorating the church interior. The scenes that we saw were of the Last Judgment (hence they are also called “Dooms”), with serpentine demons struggling up to swallow souls on one side while angels welcomed the saved into the heavenly Jerusalem on the other. Our circuit covered St. Mary’s Church in North Leigh, the Church of St. James the Great at South Leigh, and Eynsham.
Fr. Richard was our dauntless leader as we braved the incredibly squelchy, muddy paths through the woods and tramped through the soggy barley fields. The signs were extremely scarce and far between, and we passed no one else adventurous enough (or would it be crazy enough?) to undertake a cross-country walk on this drizzling day. I’m amazed at how Fr. Richard would examine his map to try to puzzle out which side of the group of trees up ahead we wanted to steer towards. Despite the rain, we stopped for a picnic lunch which Fr. Richard most generously provided, complete with cheese, sausage rolls, apples, cakes, and Blackfriars labeled wine bottles.
By the time we finished our seven mile loop, my pants were soaked past the knees from brushing past the wet barley stalks, and I don’t think my shoes will ever be quite the same again. It never felt so luxurious to change into dry socks!
On Tuesday we journeyed via train through the English countryside to Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey, for those who are fans!). It was hard to imagine that a family still occasionally lived in the house (apparently they use it for dinner parties). I guess the notion of an aristocracy is especially foreign to American minds. In the family photographs decorating the rooms, you could see various family members strolling, chatting, and posing with the Queen and Princess Diana.
That evening, Brother Oliver invited us to a farewell ‘Dinner with Dominicans.’ We have been so privileged to be able to study and participate in the various activities at Blackfriars. All of the friars and student brothers were so welcoming, and it was lovely to be able to celebrate with one last meal with them at their long dining table in the refectory.
|Beatriz decorating the flag cake|