Graduation – Oxford March 2016

On a lovely bright sunny Saturday, my Dad, the Boy and I graduated as Master of Arts in the beautiful Sheldonian theatre.

The ceremony is all about tradition.

The Oxford MA is a relic of the Middle Ages when students would study for seven years, after which they would be able to teach, and become a full member of the university (and at some colleges walk on the lawns). It therefore predates ‘taught’ Masters qualifications. Oxford BAs can have the MA conferred on, or after the 21st term after entering the university.

Now that I work at Blackfriars, it’s useful for me to have the MA, as there are still various administrative bits and pieces you can only do if you have MA status. However, the day was about more than that. It was a chance to celebrate our achievements, and remember all the people who had gone before us.

Although Dad went to Magdalen, and Adam and I went to St Hugh‘s, Fr Richard Conrad OP kindly took us through under Blackfriars’ wing.

It was lovely that I could graduate with my Dad, who only did it to make me happy (although he did get a good party afterwards).

It was an unexpectedly moving day. A big thank you to all our friends and family who came, and to Sandy who catered a brilliant party at Cornucopia afterwards.

[Photographs by David Hunt]

Milan 2015 – Santa Maria delle Grazie

Santa Maria delle Grazie is the home of the Dominican Friars in Milan, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The community’s former refectory is the home to Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper.

The interior is absolutely lovely…

with stunning colours…

…a friar here and there…

…and a couple of cherubs.

Sadly, the magnolias had finished flowering in the cloister.

I think a froggy fountain would be a great addition to the quad at Blackfriars in Oxford.

You work for monks…?

That’s the usual reaction I receive when I explain that I work at Blackfriars in Oxford. It can take a while to explain. Thought I’d prepare an FAQ.

Who do you work for?
I work at Blackfriars, Oxford, part of The English Province of the Order of Preachers (which also covers Scotland, Grenada and Barbados).

Dominican friars (the word friar is derived from the Latin word frater, which simply means brother), a religious order in the Roman Catholic church. In the UK they’re also known as Blackfriars, as they wear a black cloak over their white habit.

Monks then
No, monks are tied to a particular monastery, and although Dominicans live in communities, they can be called to serve anywhere they’re needed. That’s why I’ve had three managers in three years, not because I’m difficult to work with (honest).

So what’s Blackfriars, Oxford?

Blackfriars is three institutions:

  •  The Hall, a PPH, a Permanent Private Hall, an Oxford college (sorta, I told you it’s complicated) with males and female students, a mix of all religions, and none, studying a variety of subjects.
  • The Studium, a Roman Catholic study centre, training male members of religious orders to be ordained, with a few female members of religious orders and lay students studying philosophy and theology.
  • The Priory, the convent or friary where the brothers live. Services in the community chapel are open to the public, so although the brothers don’t run a parish, there is a large congregation associated with the Priory.
What do you do?

I’m the Assistant Bursar, and Academic Administrator, so I have a wide brief which covers finance, student housing, admissions, visas, and a variety of other things.
Isn’t it a bit weird working there? They can’t like women or they wouldn’t have chosen to be monks?
  1. It’s a unique environment certainly, and I love it. 
  2. They’re not monks (see above), not that it really matters that much.
  3. I’ve yet to meet a friar that doesn’t like women. Maybe it’s because they don’t have to live with them…:-). 
  4. I love working at Blackfriars.
Any more for any more?

Blackfriars Spring Fair

It takes more than a spot of rain to put paid to a Spring Fair. I don’t think the refectory had had a bouncy castle in it before.

After all, Br. Robert, and Br. Ursus had made some delicious fudge…

…(nothing like a bit of celebrity endorsement)…

…even Fr. Ben was in party mood, although I couldn’t persuade him onto the bouncy castle!

Magnificent Magnolias

One of the things I look forward to most in the Spring, is our magnolia coming into flower.

It’s absolutely wonderful this year…

…such a shame it doesn’t last very long.

Ours has a while to go before it’s as big as the one in the Priory garden.

Lady’s Tool Kit (spelling mistake now amended)

My boss, fr David, and I buy a fair amount of stationery (I love my job). This means that we’re sent a fair amount of special offers. One of them was for a pink ladies (sic) tool kit. It was free if you bought about £30.00 of stuff. How could I resist? We put an order together, and unfortunately it was delivered to the Regent, fr Richard.

David and I received an email which included the fantastic comment, “How many pink ladies do we need to repair exactly?”.

BTW – this photo doesn’t do justice to the day glow, Barbie pink, of the tools.