Posted by: fvbcdm | December 29, 2015

Feast of Saint Thomas of Canterbury (29 December 2015)

I think that most of us remember our high school courses in English literature.  One of the earliest works that most of us studied was “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer. In the work, which is a collection of stories told by a group of pilgrims to one another as they were making their way from London to the famous shrine town of Canterbury in Kent, southeast of London.  The reason they were going to Canterbury is that in the year 1170 King Henry II of England let it be known among his knights that he wanted to get rid of Thomas a Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury and therefore the highest ranking prelate in all of England.  Thomas had been a close friend of the king when they were younger, but when the king began to encroach more and more upon the authority of the archbishop and the Church in general, the archbishop began to resist and the king saw him as an enemy to be gotten rid of.

On December 29, the king’s henchmen, wishing to curry favor with the king, entered the cathedral at Canterbury and stabbed the archbishop to death with swords and daggers. The sacrilegious crime horrified the nation and all of Christian Europe, and very shortly thereafter, Archbishop Thomas a Becket was canonized; we usually speak of him as Saint Thomas of Canterbury. From then until the destruction of his tomb in the church in which he was slain by King Henry VIII more than three centuries later, millions of devout pilgrims went on pilgrimage to Canterbury from all parts of Christendom. Today is the fifth day of the octave of Christmas when the Church continues to rejoice over the birth into our world of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But if we wish, we can also celebrate Mass in honor of Saint Thomas of Canterbury on this anniversary of his martyrdom.

This is a very appropriate day on which we might pray for the reunion of Anglicanism with Catholicism, and also pray for our Episcopalian brothers and sisters who are so grieved over the tumult within their own church which is causing individuals, parishes, and even entire dioceses to separate themselves from the Episcopal Church in this country. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

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