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.