Saint Thomas Becket
Bishop and Martyr
Thomas Becket was born in London and received a fine education. He was made the Archdeacon of Canterbury in 1154. The following year King Henry II made him chancellor of England. He worthily represented the King in diplomatic assignments and on the battle field. He lived large, thoroughly enjoying the privileges of his position.
In 1162, Henry appointed Thomas to the English church’s highest post, archbishop of Canterbury. To Henry’s surprise, Thomas traded his rich robes for a hair shirt and his feasting for daily fasts. His resolve to be a faithful pastor led to ongoing conflicts with Henry, who wanted to control the Church’s courts.
After Thomas defied the king and defended the Church’s rights against the Constitutions of Clarendon, he was forced to flee to France. Six years later, a truce was made, but Thomas returned to discover new abuses by Henry. With the backing of the pope, Thomas excommunicated the bishops who had sided with the king, Henry heard the new in a rage. Four courtiers took it upon themselves to ride to Canterbury, where they found Thomas in the church and slew him. “Here I am,” Thomas declared before their raised swords. “No traitor, but archbishop and priest of God.”
A crowd gathered to venerate the fallen archbishop. From that time until the reign of King Henry VIII, Thomas’ grave was England’s great pilgrimage site.
Father of all compassion, through the intercession of Saint Thomas Becket, make me loyal through and through.