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St. Thomas Becket

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St. Thomas Becket

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PATRON OF Secular clergy; City of London

December 29 Saint of the Day

December 29 Saint of the Day

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Saint Thomas Becket, the well-known archbishop of Canterbury, England, is a saint with a checkered past. As depicted in the movie "Becket," Thomas did not at first take his responsibilities as a deacon seriously, but when King Henry II tried to use his friend’s lukewarm devotion to his advantage, he found a converted cleric who was a worthy match for any king.

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LITURGY OF THE HOURS - 2ND READING

Without real effort, no one wins the crown

From a Letter by Saint Thomas Becket, Bishop
If we who are called bishops desire to understand the meaning of our calling and to be worthy of it, we must strive to keep our eyes on him whom God appointed high priest for ever, and to follow in his footsteps. For our sake he offered himself to the Father upon the altar of the cross. He now looks down from heaven on our actions and secret thoughts, and one day he will give each of us the reward his deeds deserve.
As successors of the apostles, we hold the highest rank in our churches; we have accepted the responsibility of acting as Christ’s representatives on earth; we receive the honor belonging to that office, and enjoy the temporal benefits of our spiritual labors. It must therefore be our endeavor to destroy the reign of sin and death, and by nurturing faith and uprightness of life, to build up the Church of Christ into a holy temple in the Lord.
There are a great many bishops in the Church, but would to God we were the zealous teachers and pastors that we promised to be at our consecration, and still make profession of being. The harvest is good and one reaper or even several would not suffice to gather all of it into the granary of the Lord. Yet the Roman Church remains the head of all the churches and the source of Catholic teaching. Of this there can be no doubt. Everyone knows that the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given to Peter. Upon his faith and teaching the whole fabric of the Church will continue to be built until we all reach full maturity in Christ and attain to unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God.
Of course many are needed to plant and many to water now that the faith has spread so far and the population become so great. Even in ancient times when the people of God had only one altar, many teachers were needed; how much more now for an assembly of nations which Lebanon itself could not provide with fuel for sacrifice, and which neither Lebanon nor the whole of Judea could supply with beasts for burnt offerings! Nevertheless, no matter who plants or waters, God gives no harvest unless what he plants is the faith of Peter, and unless he himself assents to Peter’s teaching. All important questions that arise among God’s people are referred to the judgment of Peter in the person of the Roman Pontiff. Under him the ministers of Mother Church exercise the powers committed to them, each in his own sphere of responsibility.
Remember then how our fathers worked out their salvation; remember the sufferings through which the Church has grown, and the storms the ship of Peter has weathered because it has Christ on board. Remember how the crown was attained by those whose sufferings gave new radiance to their faith. The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth that without real effort no one wins the crown.

St. Thomas Becket

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St. Thomas Becket

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Most famous martyr of the Middle Ages

Thomas was a tall, handsome, intelligent, young legal clerk. He had a magnetic personality and made friends easily. His remarkable memory and business ability attracted the attention of the archbishop. The archbishop brought him to Canterbury. Noticing that Thomas was an excellent speaker and could solve complicated problems, he felt Thomas would be a good match for the King of England, Henry II. At the archbishop’s recommendation, Thomas was made chancellor of England, a post he held for eight years.
Thomas loved his life. He spent money on clothes, entertainment, hunting, and good times. A strong friendship developed between him and the king. Unfortunately Henry II wanted complete control of his kingdom, including the Church. He wanted to take some powers away from the Church, and he needed an archbishop to support him. Henry believed Thomas could do this. Thomas objected to the plan, but Henry had his way. Thomas became archbishop of Canterbury.
Faced with the responsibility of leading the people of God, Thomas changed his manner of living. He resigned as chancellor, sold his mansion, and went to live in a monastery. He sold his rich clothes and furnishings and gave the money to the poor. His personality was the same, but more noticeable were his generosity and determination to protect the Church. Thomas opposed Henry’s taxation of the Church. He refused to allow Henry to make Church appointments that suited him and blocked his other attempts to control the Church.
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SOURCE: LoyolaPress.com

Britannica Kids

Thomas Becket was the son of a rich London merchant. He grew up to be very powerful. He was archbishop of Canterbury and chancellor to King Henry II. However, he later fell out of favor with the king and was murdered.
When Henry II became king in 1154 he asked Archbishop Theobald who he should choose to be members of his government. Theobald recommended Thomas Becket. The king then made Becket his chancellor. A chancellor was an important member of the government. Becket prepared writs (legal documents) and royal charters. He also served as England’s representative on trips to other countries and led Henry’s armies into battle.
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Teaching History 100

Here are two ideas for activities encouraging close observation of the object to support its interpretation.
  • Show an image of the alabaster panel showing Becket’s murder in For the classroom. Ask your students to look closely and to say what they think is happening in the picture. Who might the characters be, and how can they tell? Where might the action be taking place, and how do they know this? if you are just starting the topic ask what other information they would want to find out in order to understand the image. The British Museum mini-lesson on reliquaries and pilgrimage can support you here with specific questions.
  • Before telling your students what is happening in the scene, divide them into groups and provide each with the three other images depicting Becket’s martyrdom – see For the classroom and the two caskets in A bigger picture. Ask each group to find similarities and differences between the images. Do they still think the characters, setting and action are the same as on the alabaster? Ask them to look closely at each object, including the alabaster: what materials are they made from, can they suggest where they might have been seen?
OTHER ACTIVITIES
Activities which explore the background to the death of Thomas Becket.
Activities which look at the religious and political messages of alabaster altarpieces.
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