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December 29

St Thomas Becket - December 29

Saint Thomas Becket

Archbishop, Martyr

(1119 – 1170)

I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood, the Church may obtain liberty and peace.

Saint Thomas Becket

Saint’s Life Story

His Youth

Thomas was born in London (Cheapside), England, on December 21, 1119 to Gilbert, sheriff of London, and Mathilda.  At the age of 10, Thomas was sent as a student to study at Merton Priory in Surrey and then later attended a grammar school in London. Around the age of 20, Thomas spent about a year at the University of Paris studying law. After his father died, Thomas was left with no estate or money to live on. So, Thomas joined the household of Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury and was sent to Rome on several missions as his representative. In 1144, Thomas went to Bologna and Auxerre to study canon law. 

Deacon, Priest,  and Chancellor Archbishop of Canterbury

Thomas was ordained deacon in 1154 and then became archdeacon of Canterbury when Archbishop Theobald nominated him. Thomas became a favorite of Henry pf Anjou when he convinced Blessed Pope Eugene III to recognize Henry’s claim to the throne as Henry II. In 1155, Thomas was appointed chancellor of England becoming a the most powerful man in England next to King Henry II. Although Thomas objected several times after Archbishop Theobald died in 1161, Thomas was nominated by King Henry II and was ordained a priest the day before he was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162. 

Archbishop of Canterbury

After Thomas became Archbishop, he changed completely, putting aside his lavish lifestyle and soon clashed with the King over clerical and Church rights. In 1164, Thomas defended the Church by refusing to accept the Constitutions of Claredon, which denied the clerics the rights to be tried by ecclesiastical courts and to appeal to Rome. King Henry responded with a condemnation of Thomas forcing Thomas to flee to France for protection under King Louis VII. This exile lasted for 6 years from 1164 to 1170.   

Thomas appealed to Pope Alexander III and spent 2 years in the Cistercian abbey at Pontigny. Then Thomas moved to the Benedictine abbey of St. Colombe, in Sens, in response to a threat from King Henry II that he would expel all Cistercians from England if Thomas remained with them. In 1170, King Louis negotiated a settlement. King Henry and Thomas met in Normandy, France and Thomas returned to England in November of that same year.

His Martyrdom

The conflict between Thomas and King Henry II headed up quickly as Thomas refused to lift the excommunication penalty to the Archbishop of York and other religious who had participated in the coronation of Henry’s son unless they swore allegiance to the pope. King Henry reacted angerly and in a fit of rage, he stated aloud that he wished his was rid of this troublesome archbishop. Then four knights, William de Tracy, Reginald Fitz-Urse, Hugh de Morville, and Richard le Breton, travelled to Canterbury and the evening of December 29, 1170 murdered Thomas and a companion in a side chapel of the cathedral. Thomas declared at his death, “Willingly I die for the name of Jesus and in defense of the Church.”

Pope Alexander III canonized Thomas on February 21, 1173 and in the following yer on July 24, 1174, King Henry performed penance before Thomas’ tomb. In art, Thomas is depicted as an archbishop bearing a crossier or an inverted sword.

There was a universal outcry against this murder. Miracles were soon reported followed by pilgrims coming to Thomas’ shrine. Although his tomb became one of the most popular sites for pilgrims, in 1538, the shrine was destroyed under King Henry VIII. 

Beatified:           By Pope Alexander III

Canonized:        February 21, 1173 by Pope Alexander III

Feast Day:         December 29

Patron Saint:    Secular Clergy (priests and deacons who serve pastorally in parishes)

Source:

     

    Reflection

    No one becomes a saint without struggle, especially with himself. Saint Thomas knew he must stand firm in defense of truth and right, even at the cost of his life. We also must take a stand in the face of pressures—against dishonesty, deceit, destruction of life—at the cost of popularity, convenience, promotion, and even greater goods.

    Source: Saint Thomas Becket | Franciscan Media

    Prayers

    Saint Thomas Becket, your last few heroic minutes on earth made you a saint. Help us all to emulate your holy virtues in standing strong defending the Church in all seasons, whatever the cost, during our whole life in all that we encounter.

    Saint Thomas Becket, pray for us. Amen.

    Saint Links 

    Aleteia – The holy, horrible history of St. Thomas Becket

    Anastpaul – Saint of the Day – 29 December – St Thomas a Becket (1118-1170) Martyr, Archbishop of Canterbury

    Angelus – Saint of the day: Thomas Becket

    Bartleby.com – Rev. Alban Butler. Volume XII: December. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. December 29 St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr

    Catholic Exchange – St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop and Martyr

    Catholic Fire – St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr

    Catholic Ireland – Dec 29 – St Thomas Becket (1118-70)

    Catholic News Agency – St. Thomas Becket Feast Day: Dec 29

    CatholicSaints.info – Saint Thomas a Becket

    Franciscan Media – Saint Thomas Becket

    Independent Catholic News – St Thomas Becket – Reflection by Cardinal Vincent Nichols

    Loyola Press – Saint Thomas Becket Feast Day December 29

    My Catholic Life – Saint Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr

    New Advent – Thurston, H. (1912). St. Thomas Becket. in The Catholic Encyclopedia

    Newman Ministry – Saint Thomas Becket

    Saints, Feast, FamilySaint Thomas Becket’s Story

    Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Thomas Becket (1118-1170)

    uCatholic – Saint Thomas Becket

    Wikipedia – Thomas Becket

    Video Link

    St Thomas Becket – YouTube Video (Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – USA)