Saint Brigid Religious Education
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St. Thomas Becket

Feast day: February 29

Saint Thomas, son of an English nobleman, Gilbert Becket, was born on the day consecrated to the memory of Saint Thomas the Apostle, December 21, 1117, in Southwark, England. He was endowed by both nature and grace with gifts recommending him to his fellow men; and his father, certain he would one day be a great servant of Christ, confided his education to a monastery. His first employment was in the government of the London police. There he was obliged to learn the various rights of the Church and of the secular arm, but already he saw so many injustices imposed upon the clergy that he preferred to leave that employment rather than to participate in iniquity. He was perfectly chaste and truthful, and no snares could cause to waver his hatred for any form of covert action

He was employed then by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who sent him on missions to Rome and permitted him to study civil law at the University of Bologna (Italy) for an entire year. After a few years, witnessing his perfect service, he made him his Archdeacon and endowed him with several benefices.

When Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury died, the king insisted on the consecration of Saint Thomas in his stead. Saint Thomas at first declined. In the end he was obliged by obedience to yield. The inevitable conflict was not long in coming. Saint Thomas resisted when the king’s courtiers drew up a list of royal “customs” at Clarendon. Many of these pretended “customs” violated the liberties of the Church, and some were even invented for the occasion. Saint Thomas, obliged in conscience to resist, was soon the object of persecution, not only from the irritated king but by all who had sworn loyalty to his nefarious doings.

Saint Thomas took refuge in France under the protection of the generous Louis VII. The Pope at that time was in France, and he knew well how to pacify minds and protect the defender of the Church. Thomas retired to a Benedictine monastery for two years. After six years, his office restored as the Pope’s apostolic legate, he returned to England, to preach again and enforce order in his see. He knew well that it was to martyrdom that he was destined. The Mother of God appeared to him in France to foretell it to him, and that She presented him for that intention with a red chasuble.

Courtiers who hated Thomas, violated a monastic cloister and chapel to enter there while he was assisting at Vespers. The Saint himself prevented the monks from resisting the assassins at the door. Refusing to flee the church as the assassins summoned him to do, he was slain before the altar, by cruel and murderous repeated blows on the head. He died, saying: “I die willingly, for the name of Jesus and for the defense of the Church.”

The Pope in this conflict make clear what all of history teaches: the lives of the Church’s Saints themselves comprise the history of the world. The martyred Archbishop was canonized by Pope Alexander III on Ash Wednesday, 1173, not yet three years after his death on December 29, 1170.

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