Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor of England, martyred in his own cathedral in 1170, for protecting the rights of the Church in England in defiance of King Henry II. Patron of the pastoral clergy in England.
Several of my favourite saints have the name Thomas. And of all the Thomases in the calendar it is perhaps Thomas Becket that I find most difficult to relate to.
Thomas the Apostle, with his combination of faith and doubt is definitely someone I can identify with.
Thomas Aquinas, with his love of learning and the depth of devotion in his heart is another saint I can relate to.
Thomas More, family man, civil servant, man of integrity even when it meant sacrificing friendship, is my favourite saint and he is my confirmation patron.
But something to latch on to Thomas Becket we have to search for. Like the apostle, Becket had faith and times of doubt; and like Aquinas, he had an aptitude for learning and deep personal piety. Though not married like Thomas More, Thomas Becket was a servant of the king, but also a man of integrity even when it meant sacrificing friendship for the sake of the truth. Thomas Becket was a man outstanding for his loyalty to both the spiritual and temporal authority of the pope.
We live in an age in which the mark of many of our conversations is the theme that things would be much better off in the Church, if the pope and the bishops would listen more to us rather than if we were to listen to them.
Thomas Becket was willing not only to sacrifice status and security, but also friendship and life itself when opposing his king in the name of God appeared to require such a sacrifice.
Listening to some people’s conversations when the topic shifts from religion to politics, one could wonder whether our party affiliation is more indelibly marked on our souls than the mark that comes with Baptism.
Thomas Becket was a man committed to living a life of penance and conversion. For many people in our world today, any embrace of penance and mortification has become at best a quaint relic of the past and is considered arcane and irrelevant.
So what is there for us to learn from St. Thomas Becket, who if he were living now as he did in his own time, would not be a man many of us would be attracted to?
For one thing, Thomas Becket was a man of the Church, and no matter how sophisticated we think we may be we too will hopefully always be loyal sons and daughters of the Church.
May we do our best always to minimize the extent to which we are childish members of the Church, and recall always that it is the Church which is the first sacrament of the presence of our Risen Lord in our world today.
Thomas Becket was also a man of integrity.
As we prepare to begin a new year, it doesn’t matter how old or how young we are, or what our circumstances in life may be, we all very likely will encounter some moment in the new year when we may be challenged to sacrifice status or security, and perhaps even friendship itself for the cause of what we know to be true and good.
May we always have the courage of Thomas Becket to be people whose lives are marked with the virtue and the blessing of integrity.
Thomas Becket also knew the value of penance and conversion. None of us has attained perfection yet. Our task each day is to make progress in our way of following the Lord Jesus.
Today Saint Thomas Becket continues to be held up by the Church as worthy of praise and imitation, and especially for the pastoral clergy of England whose patron he is.
May we all resolve to honour Saint Thomas Becket by imitating his virtues of fidelity to the Church, integrity and continuing conversion in our lives.
St. Thomas Becket, pray for us.