Our first full day in Oxford was as enchanting as I had hoped.
Thankfully, we all got a great night’s sleep, including the kids, so we woke up mostly ready to start the day. We walked the mile or so to Mass at the Oxford Oratory of St. Aloysius. It is the parish church for the centre of Oxford and it’s run by the Oratorians. Bl. John Henry Newman, a saint special to me, was an Oratorian after he converted from Anglicanism and brought the first English-speaking Oratory to Birmingham. We went to the sung English Mass, which was lovely and had some great hymns for the Ascension.
After Mass, we prayed at the chapels in the church for a bit before grabbing some breakfast and coffee at Taylors and moseying down the street to Pusey House for little CJ Askonas’ baptism. Pusey House was the locus of Newman’s life as an Anglican, so we traveled along his religious journey in one morning. The primary congregation of the Oxford Movement, Pusey House has the premier liturgy of Anglo-Catholic worship. It was indeed beautiful, but the most beautiful part was the entrance of CJ into the family of God. I don’t just say that to be quaint and pious; I always cry at baptisms. There is an undeniable beauty to the beginning of a person’s grafting into Christ and unmerited adoption by our Father. No matter how fractured the church is, we are united by this one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We celebrated at a sweet reception afterward at Pusey House. We were milling around in the courtyard a bit and Chris and I realized we had lost Christopher. I thought I had seen out of the corner of my eye some students look confused as they shut a door on the perimeter of the courtyard. I ran that way while Chris looked outside. Eventually, I heard Chris laughing in another room. Christopher had crashed another party with some older Brits. A man turned to me and said, “Is the little one yours? He’s being rounded up. He’s on his second glass of red, but he’s fine.” Loved it. Didn’t love that we lost our kid in a different country for five minutes. I literally had a nightmare about losing him in Paris before we came. Let’s hope we got that out of our system.
We spent a good amount of time talking with our friends and feasting and drinking Prosecco. The profound gladness at being reunited with our friends is indescribable, so I won’t even try.
Chris and I walked back to our apartment around 4:00. Christopher fell asleep in the stroller. We literally ran into my friend Kari, which was so great. And then we relaxed and gave Christopher a good nap before heading out again.
Jon and Hannah took us to Evensong at New College. The boys choir sang evening prayer from the Book of Common Prayer and it brought me back to John Jay. An usher saw Christopher and said we should bring him to the open auditions for the boys’ choir the next week. They start them at age 2! We let him down with our whole living-in-Indiana thing. I also have to say how impressed I am that Christopher made it through three (three!) whole liturgies without having a meltdown. That kid is great.
New College is in the heart of medieval Oxford and dukes it out with Magdalen for the title of oldest college. Some of it was built in the 13th century. It was incredible. Christopher was impressed by its resemblance to a castle.
After a leisurely stroll, we ate at Gino’s Spaghetti House on Gloucester Green and had more rousing conversation. I’ve been thinking of CJ’s baptism as the prime example of this Christian unity. Our friends, our other brothers and sisters, brought together to gain a new brother in Christ.
Many years, CJ. May the Lord bless you and keep you.