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Tuesday, December 29, 2009
St. Thomas of Canterbury

Image: The martyrdom of St Thomas from the St Thomas Altarpiece commissioned in 1424, from Meister Francke by the Guild of English Merchants in Hamburg

Double (1955 Calendar): December 29
Optional Memorial (1969 Calendar): December 29

St. Thomas of Canterbury ( 1118 - 1170) - also known as St. Thomas Becket - was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 to December 29, 1170, the date of his assassination.

St. Thomas Becket grew into a dispute with King Henry II of England when Henry II wished for St. Thomas Becket to sanction customers contrary to the liberties of the Church - an action that would undoubtedly make the Church subservient to the secular rule of the King.  In his definance, St. Thomas Becket refused to consent to this request.  As a result, St. Thomas Becket - ever faithful to the Lord - was slain in the Cathedral in Canterbury on December 29, 1170.

As sings the Introit for today's Mass Propers: "Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festal day in honor of blessed Thomas the Martyr: at whose martyrdom the Angels rejoice, and praise the Son of God.  Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just: praise becometh the upright."

Account of the Assassination according to Edward Grim:
The wicked knight leapt suddenly upon him, cutting off the top of the crown which the unction of sacred chrism had dedicated to God. Next he received a second blow on the head, but still he stood firm and immovable. At the third blow he fell on his knees and elbows, offering himself a living sacrifice, and saying in a low voice, 'For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.' But the third knight inflicted a terrible wound as he lay prostrate. By this stroke, the crown of his head was separated from the head in such a way that the blood white with the brain, and the brain no less red from the blood, dyed the floor of the cathedral. The same clerk who had entered with the knights placed his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr, and, horrible to relate, scattered the brains and blood about the pavements, crying to the others, 'Let us away, knights; this fellow will arise no more.
 Source: This Sceptred Isle: 55 BC - 1901: The Roman Invasion to the Death of Queen Victoria p.73 Christopher Lee
In 1173 — barely three years after his death — he was canonised by Pope Alexander III as a saint.  On July 12, 1174, Henry II visited the tomb of St. Thomas Becket in a display of public penance.


O God, for the sake of Whose Church the glorious Bishop Thomas fell by the sword of ungodly men: grant, we beseech Thee, that all who implore his aid, may obtain the good fruit of their petition.  Through our Lord.

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

Image Source: 

High Mass on Feast of St. Thomas Beckett in the Birmingham Oratory, 2009 via Catholic Mom of 10.

St. Thomas Becket, ora pro nobis!


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