Feast Day: December 29
Born:1118 :: Died:1170
Thomas Becket was born in London, England. After his parents died, he worked in an office. He loved hunting and other sports. When Thomas was about twenty-four, he went to work in the house of the archbishop of Canterbury and then began to study to become a priest.
He was handsome, very intelligent and pleasant to talk with. Soon he became a great favorite of King Henry II himself. People said that the king and Thomas were such close friends that they had only one heart and one mind.
When Thomas was thirty-six, King Henry made him his chancellor. As chancellor of England, Thomas had a large household and lived in grand style. Yet he was also very good to the poor.
Although Thomas was proud and quick-tempered, he did many hidden acts of penance. He prayed long hours, often until late at 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 made a priest. But Thomas said that he did not want to be the archbishop of Canterbury.
Thomas knew that, as archbishop, he would have to defend the Church from the king 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 were fine. But soon, the king began to demand money from the Church, which Thomas felt was not right.
The king grew more and more angry with his friend. Finally, he began to treat Thomas very unkindly. For a while, Thomas was tempted to give in to the king. 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 and only did what was right.
One day, the king was very angry. "Will no one rid me of this archbishop?" Some of his knights took him seriously and went off to murder the archbishop.
They attacked him in his own cathedral. Thomas 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.
Soon miracles began to happen at Thomas' tomb and he was proclaimed a saint by the same pope in 1173.
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