Saturday, January 05, 2008


We celebrated on the 29th of December the feast of the "Holy, blissful martyr" St. Thomas Becket, one of the great saints of the middle ages, and one of my favorites as well. He was slain by knights of Henry II who thought they were following orders. It was a martyrdom that shocked Europe and made the cathedral of Canterbury a place of pilgrimage as important as Rome or Compostella. The Archbishop was also the Abbot of the cathedral monastery and as is described by William the monk below:

"He suffered on this day, who was Primate and Legate, in the Church and on behalf of the Church, about the hour of the evening prayer, while the choir of monks sang psalms round about, and the clergy and the company of the people stood by, and while reigned our Lord Jesu Christ to Whom be honour for ever and ever. Amen."

I had the privilege of praying at the place of his murder and in the crown chapel in 2002 (so called because one of the knights sliced off the top of his skull with his sword). The knights wounded him terribly, and after slicing off the top of his skull used their swords to scrape out his brain onto the pavement. One of the monks almost had his arm cut off as he raised it to try to fend off the blows that the Archbishop-Abbot was receiving.

St. Thomas Becket's shrine in the cathedral became one of the most richly endowed. St. Louis of France sent a special stone for it called the "Regale of France" that became part of the shrine for several hundred years, until the heresiarch and fornicator, Henry VIII, destroyed the shrine, taking the votive offerings for himself and destroying the relics of this saint who dared defy his king.

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