Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster reflected on the priesthood on Saturday, preaching at the Mass of the priestly ordination of Jonathan Goodall, a former Church of England bishop.
“As we come to this ordination, I suggest that there are two sets of words and images with which to understand the priesthood that we ask of God and affirm in our actions today. It is the priest who is to bear these promises of heaven. It is in his sacred ministry that these disclosures are made,” Cardinal Nichols said March 12 at Westminster Cathedral in London.
In September 2021 Goodall, the Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet, announced he was stepping down from that role “in order to be received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.”
Cardinal Nichols noted that “We come to this ordination at the end of the first week of Lent, seeking ‘the one thing necessary’, to do the will of God. Lent is the season of the promise of heaven, in which we prepare our hearts to receive afresh the gift of our redemption.”
He preached that the priest “is to break open the Word of God, diffusing its light into everyday circumstances,” setting “before his people the first and best fruits of the heavenly kingdom, the sacred Body and Blood of Christ, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet itself.”
A priest is who “lays bare the gifts of heaven, leading the pilgrimage on its heavenly journey, nurturing the assembled people, disclosing the joy and promise of what lies ahead,” the cardinal preached.
“The priest is to be the effective sign and standard-bearer of those glimpses of heaven. He is to constantly hold before us the promise of the fullness for which we are created, the perfection to which we are summoned, by the words of Jesus himself, to seek above all else. We thank God for the gift of such a priesthood.”
Remarking that “every man approaching Catholic priesthood does so in his own particular circumstances,” Cardinal Nichols stated that “today we recognise, and rejoice in, this next defining step being made by Jonathan and, indeed, by his family. It’s quite a journey, yet I know that it is driven by one sole quest, the desire for that one necessary thing: to live in conformity to the will of God.”
He added that “perspectives on the nature of this journey and the step being taken today are spelt out for us in the special prayer, inserted into the Rite of Ordination. This prayer helps us to see clearly the nature of this moment. It states that we, present as the Catholic Church, recognise the fruitfulness of Jonathan’s ministry in the Anglican Communion as ‘truly engendering a life of grace.’ We give thanks to God for that ministry, and, therefore, for the continuing ministry of his former friends and colleagues so many of whom hold him in their love and prayers even in this moment of leaving and receiving.”
“We pray that Jonathan’s ministry is now incorporated into the fullness of the priesthood as understood and lived in the Catholic Church. For us this is a gift, and a moment in which we give thanks to all who have fashioned and enriched Jonathan’s life and ministry over so many years,” the cardinal remarked.
The homily ended with a prayer for unity among Christians, “a unity which can only be achieved in as much as we are purified by the Lord himself. As Cardinal Hume often said, our unity will only be achieved when we are on our knees.”
“Indeed, shortly we shall all fall to our knees,” Cardinal Nichols said, “while Jonathan lies prostrate in prayer, imploring the prayers of the saints and the action of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, that he may pour out the gifts of heaven on this servant of his, Jonathan, whom he has chosen – many years ago and now afresh – to be a priest.”
Father Goodall will serve as parish priest of St. William of York in London, a parish of the Archdiocese of Westminster.
His ordination took place on the Saturday of the First Week of Lent, which is observed in the calendars of the Ordinariate and of the traditional Roman rite as the Ember Saturday of Lent; Ember Saturdays being traditional days of ordination.
Among the Anglican bishops attending the Mass were Jonathan Baker, who immediately preceded Goodall as Bishop of Ebbsfleet, and John Hind.
As Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Goodall acted as a provincial episcopal visitor, or “flying bishop,” supporting Church of England congregations that do not recognize women priests and bishops.
Goodall is the second Bishop of Ebbsfleet to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. In 2010, Andrew Burnham stepped down after 10 years in the post. He was received into the Catholic Church in 2011 and then ordained a Catholic priest, serving in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Goodall is one of four Anglican bishops received into the Catholic Church in 2021. John Goddard, who retired in 2014, was received in May, and will be ordained a priest in Liverpool in April. Michael Nazir-Ali, a former Bishop of Rochester, was ordained a priest in October 2021, and Peter Forster, once Bishop of Chester, was received into the Church in the autumn of 2021.
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