England

The Gospel today is  Luke 7:36-8:3, about a woman who washes Jesus' feet with her tears. I offered a reflection on it for theWord, based on a homily gave at a youth retreat in Kintbury, England.

Two things I dearly love—hiking and theological debate—come together beautifully when I get the chance to take some time off with Peter Hunter. Peter is a Dominican of the English Province from South Africa, and he is one of the few people who will stay in a theological debate with me literally for days. Here Peter is walking next to a field of canola in the Wiltshire countryside as we discuss Wittgenstein and what it means “to know”, after a long debate about the nature of the world and a discussion of the state of the intellectual life of the order.

Dominican friars doing dishes after supper in Oxford, England

I made it to Oxford, England, visiting the brothers here at Blackfriars Hall. I love this community and its great mix of study, prayer and common life. The brothers live together in a charming neogothic shoebox, and while their prayer is a bit more formal than I would care for (they are English, after all), I love the fact that they all show up for it (or mostly, I suppose) and all pitch in to put supper on the table and to do the dishes afterwards. There is something very essentially Dominican here that always challenges me to embrace our life a bit more fully.

While in Oxford, I had the opportunity to get away for a couple of days hike with Peter Hunter OP. We went to the Ridgeway, a trail that runs just outside of Oxfordshire following a chalk ridge through the English countryside. The pastoral scenes along the ridge remind one of the Tolkien's descriptions of the Shire in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Lying between Oxford and London, sandwitched between the intellectual ferment of Oxford and the incredible bustle of London, the trail seems oddly peaceful, like the Shire sandwitched between the warring nations of middle earth. All is calm here, and walking the trail, one has no concerns for what might be going on in the outside world. No cell phones, no newspapers, today we simply worry about where we will stop for lunch, how far to the next pub, and how the harvest is doing in the fields we pass.

The wonders of modern travel. I fell asleep in Cleveland, Ohio and woke up in London, England. A short bus trip then brought me up to Oxford for a couple of days.

Oxford is so lovely and perfectly collegiate, that walking around it, one gets the sense that it is almost a caricature of itself. Everything is proper and well kept and in neo-gothic splendor. The tourists in shorts really look out of place, almost as much as I do. Quick, someone loan me a tweed jacket!