SAINT THOMAS BECKET (1118-1170), bishop and martyr – Patron saint of secular clergy
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Thomas Becket, an ordained priest and bishop, whose service to the Church was anything but peaceful. Yet, in his love for the faith and his devotion to serving Christ, Thomas remained steadfast in his pastoral responsibilities, even unto his death.
Thomas was born in London, England on December 21, 1118. From his early youth, he was educated in religion and the practice of holiness. After his childhood, Thomas was educated at a monastery and later at a school in London. After the death of both of his parents, Thomas decided to finish his schooling by studying Canon Law. He was successful in his studies and was made secretary to one of the courts of London.
After working for a while at law, Thomas decided to give the rest of his life to God and began to focus his interests on ordination. In all that he did, Thomas diligently applied himself and became well known as a holy, honest worker, eventually receiving the Sacrament of Ordination.
His work came under the scrutiny of King Henry II, and, in 1157, Father Thomas was asked to serve as Lord Chancellor to the king. And after the archbishop of Canterbury died, Henry sought to elect Thomas to the position; and, in 1162, this suggestion was accepted by a synod under Henry’s direction. Thomas warned the king that he might not accept all the king’s intrusions into Church affairs, but accepted the position.
Thomas served as the archbishop of Canterbury by seeking to help the people of his diocese and also develop his own holiness. He practiced many penances and was very generous to the poor with both his time and his money.
As Henry’s reign continued, the king began to intrude more and more into the affairs of the Church. This caused many disagreements between himself and Thomas; and after one especially trying affair, Thomas fled to France for safety and remained in exile for seven years. When he returned to England, he again became involved in disputes with the king, about which the king complained of this “troublesome priest”.
Some of the king’s agents interpreted this as treason and slew Archbishop Thomas in the Cathedral at Canterbury on December 29, 1170. It was later reported that, in 1174, King Henry did public penance at Thomas’ grave seeking forgiveness for the actions of his knights, and the tomb soon became a place of pilgrimage for the faithful.
Archbishop Thomas Becket was canonized a saint in 1173 by Pope Alexander III.
We commemorate his feastday on December 29.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Thomas Becket)
“Almighty God, You granted the martyr Thomas the grace to give his life for the cause of justice. By his prayers, make us willing to renounce for Christ our life in the world, so that we may find it in Heaven.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”