Thanks be to God for meddlesome priests

Today is the feast day of St Thomas a Becket, who tried to turn down the post of Archbishop of Canterbury, seeing in it the end of his lifestyle, as well as his close friendship with Henry II of England.

They had been close friends for many years. Becket had been Henry’s companion, servant, and Chancellor. But when Henry wanted to Becket to become Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket warned Henry not to go ahead, because as archbishop, he would need to oppose Henry’s plans for the Church.

Sure enough, Becket and Henry were soon in conflict. In 1164, Becket fled into exile in France, and remained in exile for several years. He returned in 1170.

On the 29 December 1170, four knights, believing the king wanted Becket out of the way, confronted and murdered Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

Becket was declared a saint in 1173 and his shrine in Canterbury Cathedral became an important focus for pilgrimage.

Let us pray to St Thomas Becket for the strength to stand up for religious freedom in defiance of governments and those who would drive the Church from the public sphere.

Here is the murder scene from the 1964 film, Becket, with Peter O’Toole as the king and Richard Burton as Becket.

Youtube has the whole movie, in 15 pieces.

About joyfulpapist

JoyfulPapist is an adult convert to Catholicism, with a passion for her God, her faith, and her church.
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14 Responses to Thanks be to God for meddlesome priests

  1. shane says:

    State interference in the Church is something that may become a big problem again (…how little things change!). The abuse scandals have convinced the chattering classes that the Church is so self-evidently corrupt that it simply can’t self-regulate and we’ll soon be hearing throughout Europe of legal measures striking at the Church’s institutional autonomy. Thomas Beckett, ora pro nobis.

  2. toadspittle says:

    ..As for Church interference in the State, well, chance would be a fine thing, as they say!

    Nevertheless, Toad is pleased to recommend a very beautiful little Romanesque church in Salamanca, the first in the world dedicated to Tomas, very soon after his death, it would seem.

    How this came about (the church that is, not the death) Toad has no idea. Nor can find anything on the web.

  3. toadspittle says:

    Re: The above.

    Toad has found out that the Salamanca church of Santo Tomas ‘was erected’ in 1175. Why Salamanca? No clue. Interesting, though.

  4. golden chersonnese says:

    Most interesting, Toad. Worth a bit of fieldwork? It’s a three hour trip about to Salamanca, isn’t it?

    I see too that old Tom was a bit of a celebrity in Norman Sicily too, where he got painted onto the walls of Monreale cathedral quite early on. I understand the Cathedral was built by William II of Sicily, who was son-in-law to Henry II of England by marrying Henry’s daughter, Joan in 1171, the year after Thomas’ murder.

    (He’s the guy in the middle.)

    The real connection with Sicily, probably, is that William II’s mother and regent, Margaret of Navarre, supported Thomas Becket in his struggle with Henry II of England, for which favour Thomas in turn supported Margaret against her enemies in Sicily, most notably the English-born bishop of Syracuse, Richard Palmer.

    Well, there’s a Spanish connection, Toad, although Salamanca is a long way from Navarre, isn’t it? Still, might be a lead to follow up.

  5. golden chersonnese says:

    Shane says: . . . and we’ll soon be hearing throughout Europe of legal measures striking at the Church’s institutional autonomy.

    Shane, I wonder if you have any particular meddlesome priests in mind?

    The one I’m thinking of is Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen & Brussels.

    He has ‘copped it’ a few times already from the civil powers in Belgium. The deputy prime minister there said of him:

    Church and State are separate in Belgium, but when there are problems in our society, all the social partners sit down around a table, including representatives of secularism and of religion. Cardinal Danneels was a man of openness, of tolerance and was able to fit in there. Archbishop Léonard has already regularly challenged decisions made by our parliament . . . concerning AIDS, he’s against the use of condoms even while people are dying from it every day. He is against abortion and euthanasia . . . the Pope’s choice could undermine the compromise that allows us to live together with respect for everyone.

    The Belgian socialist representative said that they:

    insist that Archbishop Léonard respect democratic decisions taken by the institutions of our country. For the Socialist Party, the rights and duties that people take on democratically take precedence over religious traditions and commandments, without any exception.

    He was also prosecuted for making ‘homophobic’ remarks and the police also illegally raided his cathedral and offices earlier this year.

    Cardinal Pell of Sydney is another that comes to mind as he was investigated in 2007, at the instigation of the Greens, by the privileges committee of parliament for contempt of parliament for reminding Catholic parliamentarians of the Church’s teaching on foetal stem cell research.

    Quite a few secular swords a-waving for overly ‘meddlesome priests’, it seems.

  6. shane says:

    golden chersonnese, yes I had him in mind. It really does show how one-sided the lefty conception of church-state seperation really is.

  7. toadspittle says:

    Golden: ( or anyone, come to that) see the link.

    Toad has, in fact seen and visited the St Thomas church in Salamanca, about a year ago. And he was lucky enough to find it open, which it normally is not. (I think they were installing a ‘sound system’ so they could play Kumbayah(?) more clearly. Just kidding!)
    Nice church, very austere inside. But what now interests him, in view of Joyful’s story, is how, or why, could, or would, a church be dedicated to Becket in a country where one would imagine they’d never have even heard of him so soon – and all within only five years of his death and two of his canonisation?

    Anyone got any ideas?

  8. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad queries: Anyone got any ideas?

    Did you see my post at 15.20, dear Toad?

    Might be a similar reason to why he was painted onto the wall at Monreale Cathedral in Sicily at around the same time?

    Cherchez le Normand?

  9. golden chersonnese says:

    Ah, Toad! To me it certainly looks like a Norman Romanesque church to me.

    I think we’re onto something here. 🙂

  10. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad, here’s you answer. Mystery solved.

    I was more than half right. Look for the Normans, as I said.

  11. golden chersonnese says:

    Sorry Toad, this link not that ^ one.

    Esta iglesia es uno de los pocos ejemplos en España de un templo consagrado al obispo de Canterbury, Tomás Becket. La fundaron en el año 1175 los hermanos ingleses Randulfo y Ricardo a los 5 años del martirio del santo inglés y estaba enclavada en el barrio de los repobladores portugaleses.

    Roughly, “This church is one of the few examples in Spain of a temple consecrated to the Bishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket. Two English brothers, Randolph and Richard, founded it in 1175, five years after the martyrdom of the English saint and it was located in the Portuguese settlement (in Salamanca)”.

    Got to find out who Randolph and Richard were now, but no doubt they were associated with the ” English nation” at the university where there were also many other “nations” (of foreign scholars and masters), just as there were at the other early medieval universities in Europe.

  12. toadspittle says:

    Yes, Golden, I suppose the R&R boys brought the news of Becket with them to Spain. But to build such a beautiful church so speedily! To a saint that was practically still warm! Bit of a miracle? No. Must have baffled the locals a bit. “¿Becket? ¿Quien?”
    And build it so beautifully that it still looks as good as new 900 years later. I wonder if they’ll say that about ‘Paddy’s wigwam?’

  13. golden chersonnese says:

    Actually, Toad, I’ve just been reading that the cult of St Thomas was widespread throughout Catholic Europe not long after his martyrdom and canonisation. It even spread to Hungary, Poland and Iceland! He was a popular saint indeed.

    But the Norman connection is clearer in Spain now. Henry II’s daughter, Eleanor, arrived in Castile in 1170 and consummated her marriage to King Alfonso VIII a few years later – and guess what – she was very partial to Thomas and set up many a church or altar to him in the kingdom.

    Here’s the required info, starting at about page 110:

  14. toadspittle says:


    Thanks for the information. You are clever to be able to do stuff like that.

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