IT IS ALWAYS a great pleasure to visit Ushaw College, that north-eastern bastion of Catholic priestly training. And the pleasure is immeasurably enhanced by the wonderful hospitality of the college's distinguished president, Mgr Philip Loftus, as it was again when I was there last week.
Happily, the controversy about whether there should be one or two major seminaries in the north has now been satisfactorily settled. And Ushaw will next September take in the major seminaries from Upholland in Lancashire. The latter college will continue as a junior seminary and theological institute.
One felicitous by-product of this agreement is that the large amount of surplus space at Ushaw (since its . own junior seminarians moved out to make room for the expected intake of' Uphollanders) will now be nearly filled again. But ingenuity has found yet further potential space, and some of it had already been occupied.
It was thus that l was introduced to Fr John Keegan of the Discalced Carmelites, who is superior of a house of studies for Carmelite novices attending; lectures and classes at Ushaw. They have their own community on the top floor of the college, use the former "domestic" chapel on the ground floor, and lead their own Carmelite life semidetached, as it were, from the Ushaw divines.
This particular development at Ushaw is a welcome sign of renewed life in the Carmelite Order as far as England is concerned. One must, of course, be careful to distinguish between the two historic branches of this venerable Order, which traces its origin to the pre-Christian monks inspired by Elias on Mount Carmel.
Soon after the Reformation, a reform within the Order was initiated by St Teresa of Avila, and the reformed friars returned to the "primitive" observance which enjoined, among many other things. that the feet
should be bare. The barefoot friars thus came to he called "discaliced"; their othel brethren, retaining the "ancient" observance, came to be called "calced."
The Order came to England with St Simon Stock, but were "dissolved" along with all other monks. Then, in our own time's, the "caleed" friars reestablished themselves in their former home at Allington, Kent. The "discaleed" branch, however, though long flourishing in Ireland, did not at first regain any independent existence in England.
Their church in London has admittedly been well known for many years at its vantage point on the bend of Church Street, Kensington. Then came the establishment of other small communities, including a house at Boar's Hill, near Oxford, where I once went for a stirring retreat given by Fr Raphael.
From this community came Fr John to form the house of studies at Ushaw, and there are now about a dozen recruits for the Order from English rather than entirely Irish homes. They are of various ages, and seem to be edifyingly dedicated to the contemplative life that .basically distinguishes the disc al ced from the calced Carmelites.
* C sv There are, of course, female as well as male contemplative Carmelites, and one community in the former category flourishes at Quidenham, Norfolk. (I was amazed, when visiting this house about three years ago, at the very large number of nuns, even allowing for the fact that there had been a merger of three separate communities.) Finally, there is the "Third Order" of the Carmelites, consisting entirely of lay members. Most of these belong to formal groups, but many are "isolated" and contribute, though scattered far and wide, to the spiritual power-house that makes up the contemplative life of the Church, according to the Carmelite tradition, Fr John, from Ushaw, coordinates the activity of these isolated "tertiaries" with newsletters and other information, He would, I am sure, welcome any inquries about this important, hidden apostolate, which profoundly affects the daily life of countless people and seems to be more appealing to many than at any time in living memory.
Full name and address are: Fr John Bernard Keegan, ODC, Discalded Carmelites, Ushaw College, Durham, DH7 9RH.
* * 4 I I was particularly pleased while at Ushaw to have several very interesting talks with Fr John McHush, whose jollity and bonhomie almost belie his profound learning, especially in the world of scripture. An important fruit of the latter, after a gestation period of no less than ten years, is his work on "The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament" to he published in the spring by Darton, Longman and Todd. It should be a landmark of exigetical writing, and will give biblical scholars something to talk about for many long nights to come. It is highly refreshing in being able, after painstaking and erudite probing of scripture and expert commentaries, to come out with some startling traditional conclusions.
Long live tradition, I say, even though some of its upholders do not always serve it wisely. In which connection, let me express appreciation for the recent remarks of my old friend Er McKeeisand Mr Boyce on the letters page. Their analysis of the definition and interpretation of various words and expressions was most painstaking, even though in no way related to Holland and the special developments in that country on which I was commenting after a visit.
Nevertheless, the lecturettes on semantic niceties were of distinct, if mainly academic interest.