Thursday, December 29, 2011

Optional Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr

Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas.

Today’s saint was named chancellor of England by King Henry II in 1154. When the Archbishop of Canterbury died, the king, hoping to have someone he could control in that position, chose Thomas to replace him. But once Thomas began serving the Church he no longer went along with the king’s plans. This led to a fierce conflict, Thomas’ exile to France for several years, and the king’s excommunication. In a fit of anger, King Henry shouted “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” Four of his knights, hoping to win the kings special favor, went to Canterbury Cathedral and killed Thomas. As he died he declared, “For the name of Jesus and in defense of the Church, I am willing to die.” The poet T. S. Eliot’s play “Murder in the Cathedral” and the 1964 movie “Becket” are based on our saint’s life and death. As we pray for peace among all peoples and for children and youth, we ask God that the hearts of all may be converted so that we may courageously witness to the sanctity of human life. This reflection is from Pope Benedict as quoted in the book “Let God’s Light Shine Forth.”

The arrogance that makes us thing that we ourselves can create human beings has turned man into a kind of merchandise, to be bought and sold, or stored to provide parts for experimentation. In doing this, we hope to conquer death by our own efforts, yet in reality we are profoundly debasing human dignity. Lord help us; we have fallen. Help us to abandon our destructive pride and, by learning from Your humility, to rise again.

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