Christmas: December 29th
Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas; Optional Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr
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Today is the fifth day in the octave of Christmas. The Church celebrates the optional memorial of St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr. He was born in London and after studying in Paris, he first became chancellor to the king and then in 1162 was chosen Archbishop of Canterbury. He went from being "a patron of play-actors and a follower of hounds" to being a "shepherd of souls." He absorbed himself in the duties of his new office, defending the rights of the Church against Henry II. This prompted the king to exile him to France for six years. After returning to his homeland he endured many trials and was murdered by agents of the king.The Fifth Day of Christmas
St. Thomas Becket (also known as St. Thomas of Canterbury)
Thomas Becket was born in 1118 of a merchant family. He studied in London and Paris, entered the service of Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury, became Lord Chancellor under King Henry II in 1155, and in 1162 Archbishop of Canterbury. Till then a submissive courtier, he now initiated a fearless struggle against the king for the freedom of the Church and the inviolability of ecclesiastical property, occasioning his imprisonment, exile, and finally martyrdom (December 29, 1170). Canonization came quickly (1173); in 1539 King Henry VIII ordered his remains burned.
Often Portrayed As: Archbishop with a wounded head; archbishop holding an inverted sword; archbishop kneeling before his murderers; archbishop being murdered in church; crosier with a battle-axe head at the topHighlights and Things to Do:
- Read more about this historical event. For some web sources see The Murder of Thomas Becket, 1170, and more information on Henry II. Watch this You Tube video of Canterbury Cathedral.
- Read more about this saint:
- See these photos of some of the articles of St. Thomas, including reliquaries.
- Some wonderful literature is based on this saint. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1342 - 1400) follows a group of 30 pilgrims traveling to the Canterbury Cathedral, the pilgrimage spot of St. Thomas Becket. T. S. Eliot wrote a play called Murder in the Cathedral based on St. Thomas' murder.
- You can see the spot in Canterbury Cathedral where he was murdered. There is more information on this page. This IG post gives a short video.
- During the English persecution of Catholics, some of Thomas a Becket's relics were destroyed, and some were whisked away for safekeeping. There are now relics found in Ladyewell Shrine. Read to find out more of the journey of the relics.
- Catholicsaints.info has a long list of "e-books" which are archived out-of-print books on St. Thomas.
- See Catholic Cuisine for other recipe ideas for St. Thomas Becket.