Friday, 20th May 2016
I took my RS class to Blackfriars on St Giles on Tuesday. I had not been there before but it is inhabited by Dominican Friars, an order set up in 13th Century France to counter the Cathars and their heretical views about the evil of substantial things. As such they are an order which specialises in preaching. Brother Richard, one of their number, came to talk to us earlier in the term and invited my RS class back to the Friary as a consequence. There were several things which struck us about the place. What the boys remembered most clearly were the stations of the cross in the church itself. (what pious young men!). The villains in the stations of the cross, which all of Form 6 can now tell you are pictures of various moments in Christ's journey towards his crucifixion, were portrayed as strange looking creatures with rather oddly shaped bald heads. It was here that JRR Tolkien worshipped (Brother Richard was able to show us the precise chair on which he sat) and it was from these strange creatures on the stations of the Cross that Tolkien gained the idea of the Orcs which terrorise the decent creatures in his great work The Lord of the Rings. It brought home, yet again, how lucky we are in being educated in the very heart of this extraordinary city where surprises and resonances await one around every corner.
At the end of the tour someone asked whether it was a problem living in a community which demanded the promises of obedience, chastity and poverty or whether it was a good thing. Brother Richard said he found it extremely liberating in that he did not have to worry about money – he had none – and he did not need to wrestle with career plans – that was decided by others – or refused to be drawn on any of the other vows - for him the simplicity of his life was something he loved. He also loved the company of his fellow Dominicans; their love of discussion and talking and their laughter and joy and their real sense of community. To my mind, such a life sounded very appealing; there seemed to be a sense of calm and peace about the whole place which those of us outside such places could learn much from. Fear not – we are not going to become an extension of Campion Hall nor am I going to run off to a monastery – I'm not sure how pleased my wife would be about that ..... but I do believe that an important aspect of our role as educators is to teach our pupils to be calm and to teach them to be contented. What I loved most about the visit was that the genuine sense of contentment, which was tangible, seemed to breed a striving to do things well and the positive mental energy was extremely powerful. Sometimes contentment seems to lead to complacency; here that did not seem to be the case and my hope is that here at CCCS that contentment is intimately bound up with taking a real pleasure in achievement.
I have just come back from the School Hall where the art exhibition has been mounted. I know that very many of you will come tomorrow to hear the wonderful music – a real highlight of my year – but I would beg you to have a look at the extraordinary art. The inventiveness is extraordinary; there is so much talent here. I cannot thank Mr Cotterill and Miss Biddell enough for all their hard work over the past few days.
This week our Form 8s have started their Common Entrance. It was French Orals and mental Maths this week and I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the Form 8s well.
The most memorable moments of my weeks are always ones involving pupils. Today at pre–prep assembly a young boy was given a certificate. He was asked by his teacher to explain why he had been given the certificate. "Because of my dancing!" he said. "It was very slow dancing because I was being a caterpillar and caterpillars dance very slowly." At such a lovely time of year, I hope that we all keep our eyes peeled for the miracles of nature, most particularly the dancing caterpillars! If that doesn't slow you down, nothing will!