By Michael de la Bedoyere
By Fr. Henry Keane, S.J.
(FORMER PROVINCIAL OF THE ENGLISH PROVINCE)
Forty years ago I first met. Alban Goodier. He was a scholastic teaching Rhetoric at Stonyhurst. Characteristically enough he was sitting on a rock overlooking the Hodder, while his boys disported themselves bathing in the river below. He was reading and would lift his eyes and gaze dreamily into the far distance, though he indignantly repudiated the suggestion that his book was the Idylls of the King. Even then he had a wonderful literary gift as well as a quite exceptional power with certain types of boy.
After his ordination his first important appointment was to Manresa House, Roehampton, where he was Prefect of Juniors. This was a fruitful time alike for him and for those who were privileged to be taught by him. It was here that he was first brought into touch with Mother Janet Stewart at the Sacred Heart convent. She was the first to admit her debt to him, while he could never say enough in his appreciation of her. It was at this time, too, that he began to write, producing a series of carefully considered articles in the Month on the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum He also conceived the idea of a Catholic Library (it was the day of the Everyman series) to consist In reprints of Catholic Classics as well as of original work. The venture met with great success at the beginning, but was disorganised and finally stopped by the war.
Meanwhile his spiritual work was growing in all directions, but especially in the giving of retreats, for which he had great aptitude, and for which he was in constant demand. It was this continual giving of the Exercises which directed his thoughts first to a series of studies in the life of our Lord. and finally to his niagnitm opus, as he always considered it, the Life of Christ. Like all his more important writings it was the fruit of long-continued thought, of travel (he spent some months in Palestine in search of mtiterial), and the unwearied labour of the file.
ARCHBISHOP OF BOMBAY
In 1919 came his appointment to the Archbishopric of Bombay. He was then no longer young. But he went with zeal and even enthusiasm.
The result was a very solid achievement, not unaccompanied by many diffictilties and disappointments, and marked throughout with the hall-mark of the Cross. For live years he spent himself and was spent. No man worked harder: but he was inclined to tell him
self that the results were only meagre, and he would even playfully dub himself a complete failure. Whatever else he was he was very far from that in his work in Bombay, as after events proved. It was in Bombay that be first began to suffer from what, he called mild heart attacks. These ho utterly disregarded. He returned to England in 1926. The five years in a tropical climate had left their mark and he was visibly ageing. Nor was his way very clear before him. An Archbishop without a see is in a somewhat anomalous position. He had left much of his heart in India; but his broken health forbade him to think of ever resuming work there.
He found a great friend in Cardinal Bourne who, after some time, suggested his being in nominal charge of a small London parish and acting as a kind of unofficial co-adjutor to himself. The Archbishop readily agreed: but a short experience convinced him that in practice the two offices were incompatible. Thereafter he became chaplain to the Benedictine nuns at Teignmouth, a position which he retained till his death.
This latter period was one of great activity in writing and retreat-giving. Clergy retreats, convent retreats, retreats to his own religious communities, absorbed most of his time in the summer months. Whenever he was free from such engagements, he devoted his time to writing, and the Life of Christ was one of the results. He was also asked to (El the chair of Ascetical Theology at Heythrop College,' Oxfordshire, where he gave an admirable historical survey of the vast field of asseetical literature. As usual with him. he wrote every word of his course, afterwards published in book form. He was also a regular contributor to the Month, and was one of its review staff.
All this time, too, he was much sought after as an " occasional " preacher, Here he was always effective. His manner was simple in the extreme, It derived its effectiveness from his scholarly treatment of his subject, from the terse and vivid language in which it was expressed, and above all, from the rich personality of the speaker and his burning zeal. He never failed to hold an audience, though he spoke quietly and almost without gesture.
There was a mellowed store of spiritual wisdom in Alban Goodier which made him an ideal director for many souls. He was before all things a man of prayer with an unbounded confidence
in the dispositions of Providence in his regard. Some five or six years ago a
heart specialist told him that he was suffering from angina and that he must expect a possibly sudden termination of his life. The report left him absolutely unmoved. He altered nothing in his way of living and refused to contemplate the future. Deep faith, an awareness of God, an unobtrusive piety, and a burning though never paraded, love of Our Lord were characteristic of this great Archbishop, and our Catholic life in England, especially on its literary and devotional side, is the poorer for his passing.
I only had the opportunity of meeting Mgr. Goodier on one or two occasions, and I am afraid that I have only read a 'very few of his smaller works. It may seem strange then that I should attempt to-day to write about him. I do so for two reasons. The first is that Mgr. Goodier must be numbered among the strongest supporters of the work which the CATtioLic Marcell) is trying to achieve. The second is because few men about whom I knew so little directly either by personal contact or through the written word have made a greater impression on me.
Mgr. Goodier not only sent encouragements to those who reorganised the CATHOLIC HERALD With a view to widening the scope of the Catholic Press, but offered his services to the Editor for any help that might he needed.
Often in his accompanying letters he would interpolate some such remark as as "I mn very pleased to help you in your good work in any way I can, and I thank you for your kind words of appreciation of the little I an able to do."
REVIEW IN THIS ISSUE Our issue this week carries, as it were automatically, a notice from the Archbishop's pen. Two or three further reviews of his are in hand— and then will end a real labour of love that must have given so much happiness to many a Catholic writer, as it certainly edified and instructed the general Catholic reading public.
One thought further has struck me on this topic. Mgr, Goodier was a person of exceptional refinement and beauty of mind, as well as the sternest critic of whatever was not clearly hall-marked with the stamp of Catholicity. A newspaper like this one, hurriedly put together by laymen and catering for a very diverse public, cannot hope week by week to escape criticism on the score of cheapness, crudeness, lack of judgment and even occasional unorthodoxy. Yet Mgr. Goodier has never once sent us anything but uncompromising congratulations.
It could not have been wholly any merit of ours: it was rather the great charity and width of his mind and the rare understanding that could make him —so very far removed from the rough and tumble of journalism—sympathise with our difficulties and recognise our good intention's.
A STRONG TOWER
On the second point there is little more to say. Mgr. Goodier's beautiful and holy face, the gentleness of his words, the kindliness of his smile, the firmness of his judgment on the spiritual life—aiming always at the essential, an essential developing naturally and richly through the sheer abundance of the love of God and deep familiarity with the life of Our Lord—these remained in the forefront of the mind of any man who had met him, even only occasionally.