December 29: St. Thomas Becket
Thomas Becket was born in 1118, in London, England. After his parents died, he went to work in an office. As a young man, he loved hunting and other sports. When Thomas was about twenty-four, he found a position in the household of the archbishop of Canterbury. He began to study to become a priest. He was handsome, very intelligent and pleasant to talk with. Before long, he became a great favorite of King Henry II himself. People said that the king and Thomas had only one heart and one mind-such close friends were they. When Thomas was thirty-six, King Henry made him his chancellor.
As chancellor of England, Thomas had a large household and lived in splendor. Yet he was also very good to the poor. Although Thomas was proud and quick-tempered, he performed many hidden acts of penance. He prayed long hours, often into the night. When the archbishop of Canterbury died, the king wanted the pope to give Thomas this position. It would just mean that
Thomas would have to be ordained a priest. But Thomas told him plainly that he did not want to be the archbishop of Canterbury. He realized that being in that position would put him in direct conflict with Henry II. Thomas knew that he would have to defend the Church and that would mean trouble. "Your affection for me would turn into hatred," he warned Henry. The king paid no attention and Thomas was made a priest and a bishop in 1162. At first, things went along as well as ever. All too soon, however, the king began to demand money which Thomas felt he could not rightly take from the Church. The king grew more and more angry with his former friend. Finally, he began to treat Thomas harshly. For a while, Thomas was tempted to give in a bit. Then he began to realize just how much Henry hoped to control the Church. Thomas was very sorry that he had even thought of giving in to the king. He did penance for his weakness, and ever after held firm.
One day, the king was very angry. "Will no one rid me of this archbishop?" Some of his knights took him seriously. They went off to murder the archbishop. They attacked him in his own cathedral. He died, saying, "For the name of Jesus and in defense of the Church, I am willing to die." It was December 29, 1170. The entire Christian world was horrified at such a crime. Pope Alexander III held the king personally responsible for the murder. Miracles began to happen at Thomas' tomb. He was proclaimed a saint by the same pope in 1173.
"If you see anything in me that you regard as a fault, feel free to tell me in private. For from now on people will talk about me, but not to me. It is dangerous for men in power if no one dares to tell them when they go wrong."