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Saint Thomas Becket

Murdered while praying vespers


HVH | CC BY-SA 3.0

Bishop and Martyr – (1118-1170)

His life

+ Thomas was born in London in 1118. A cleric of the diocese of Canterbury, he was appointed Chancellor to King Henry II, whom he served with great fidelity.

+ In 1162, as part of the king’s attempt to undermine the power and influence of the Church, Thomas was appointed archbishop of Canterbury.

+ Becket proved himself to be true to his responsibilities as archbishop and defended the Church and her rights.

+ After living in exile for more than six years, Thomas Becket returned to England, where he was brutally murdered by agents of the king during vespers on December 29, 1170.

+ A complex man, Thomas sought glory in his early political career; in the end, by courage and self-denial, he found it in his faithful service.

+ Canonized in 1172, his shrine at Canterbury cathedral became one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in Christendom.

Worth knowing

Between 1387 and 1400 Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a collection of 24 stories, presented as part of a story-telling contest among a group of pilgrims traveling together to Saint Thomas Becket’s shrine in Canterbury Cathedral. Known today as the “Canterbury Tales,” this book is considered the first great work of literature in the English language.


“Remember how the crown was attained by those whose sufferings gave new radiance to their faith. The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth that without real effort no one wins the crown.”—Saint Thomas Becket


O God, who gave the Martyr Saint Thomas Becket
the courage to give up his life for the sake of justice,
grant, through his intercession,
that, renouncing our life
for the sake of Christ in this world,
we may find it in heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal)

Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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