Tonight my diary had two events in it:
1) regular monthly meeting of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission
2) Fr Austin Cooper giving the Catholic Theological College “Knox Lecture” on “Newman in Australia”.
We had a small attendance at the first event, but continued with the meeting anyway, ending a bit early. I thought seriously about just going home at that point, and forgetting about item 2 on the agenda.
But I went to Fr Austin’s lecture in any case, and had the pleasure of sitting alongside one of our regular commentators on this ‘ere blog and his family (currently in his third year of the permanent diaconate course).
Fr Austin was suitably entertaining, as always, and informative, also as always. He got the whole audience rolling with laughter at one point, as he was answering a question concerning the exhumation of Newman’s grave.
“Yes,” he said, “I found it rather embarrassing when I heard the news that there were no mortal remains of Newman to found in his grave, because, only a little while earlier, I had received a package in the mail…”
Well, at this point, as you can appreciate, our imaginations took over, and hence the laughter. When we had all calmed down, he completed the rather strange story. Apparently the package had come from an Irishman who, years earlier, had cared for an old man in a nursing home. This Irishman knew of Fr Austin’s interest in Newman. The old man for whom he had cared had apparently acted as Blessed JHN’s barber, and had kept a lock of Newman’s hair after one of the regular haircuts. It was just this lock of white hair that was in the package which arrived in Fr Austin’s mailbox. So when he heard that there were “no mortal remains” of the new Blessed, Fr Austin felt very uncomfortable, knowing in fact that some mortal remains had survived – and were in his filing cabinet. He told us that he has since sent the relics back to the Oratory in Birmingham for their safe keeping.
“But I bet he kept one or two hairs,” said a certain Country Deacon with whom we are all well aquainted. I was delighted to bump into the Reverend Blogger on the way out of the lecture, and to compare a few notes on the latest news and gossip in the blogosphere. [BTW, have you noticed how his blog address is boacP.com and not boacD.com? How’s that for preparing ahead?] I then got to catch up with a few other seminarians, including a one-time Anima Education student who is now a first year seminarian.
But joy of joys – and this is the “God-Gift” to which the title refers – two of my brothers in the Lutheran ministry were at the lecture: the Venerable Pastor Cecil Schmalkuche, and the good Doctor Jeffrey Silcock from Australian Lutheran College. We happily passed the next couple of hours together, including coffee back at my office.
I would have missed out on so much had I decided to skip tonight’s lecture. Let that be a lesson to any of you who might be tempted to skip an event listed in your diary.
Thank you God. Time to go home to bed now.