In a pastoral letter read in parishes on the Nativity of St John the Baptist, 24th June 2018, Cardinal Vincent Nichols focuses on priesthood.
Looking to the example of St John Southworth, ‘a key patron of priests of this diocese,’ the Cardinal calls him an ‘inspiration and intercessor us’. The body of the saint, whose feast day is 27th June, is placed in the central aisle of Westminster Cathedral for the Mass of priestly ordinations, when the candidates will prostrate themselves face down with their ‘special patron’ in their midst.
Like St John Southworth, priests today strive to express in their ‘daily ministry exactly the same dedication to the mission of Jesus Our Lord as he did’. Like the saint, they ‘depend on the support and love of faithful people’.
‘While the deadly drama has ended, over the centuries a marvellous tradition has remained of genuine love for priests and a readiness to support them, through thick and thin. I ask you, today, to continue that tradition and share it with your families,’ he added, asking the faithful to pray for all our priests, especially the six new priests to be ordained the following week and all priests serving in parishes.
The Cardinal also acknowledges that priests and bishops are sinners. ‘There is no hiding our mistakes and faults. Indeed, we have learned painfully, that trying to hide major failures, especially in relation to the most vulnerable, seriously compounds the failures and betrayals that so damage our shared mission. Today, I express my sorrow at our failings and I ask for your patience, forbearance and, indeed, forgiveness.’
In this 450th anniversary year of the founding of the English College in Douai, when so many martyr priests are remembered, the coming months will be a time of renewal of ‘priestly mission and purpose’, which will come to a key moment on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 28th June 2019, a day set aside by Pope Francis for prayer and renewal of all priests. On that day, diocesan priests from England and Wales will be invited to Westminster Cathedral for a Mass of thanksgiving and renewal.