Tag Archives: Saint Thomas Canterbury

16 March, Human Will XI: Conscience and Freedom.

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Fr Daniel Weatherley of St Thomas’ Church in Canterbury continues our reflections on the Will with his thoughts on Thomas’s choice to follow his conscience and God’s will.

It would be easy to look at the martyrdom of St. Thomas in a rather narrow and triumphalist way as the authority of the Church ultimately winning over the State.

Thomas refused to allow divine law to succumb to the earthly, giving his life in its cause…yet, after his murder, the King repented – so all is settled nicely: Thomas is a martyr and the King has admitted his fault and made his peace. End of the story…?

Far from it. Thomas’ self-sacrifice teaches us something more than just the authority of one institution over another. It is certainly true that the divine law can never be dictated to by an earthly one. Indeed, the Gospel must be permitted to critique society: so that earthly matters might be enlightened by the divine.

But Thomas’ supreme testimony is to the primacy of conscience.

In accepting and following the voice of his conscience, fed by divine law and strengthened through a life of piety and devotion, Thomas exercised the true freedom of one whose house is built upon rock, not sand. Like another Thomas, four centuries later, the human pain of becoming an enemy of one who was a close friend did not weaken his resolve to serve God above all others. And in choosing the ‘narrow way’ of integrity and obedience he won for God countless souls who were to flock on pilgrimage to the site where he laid down his life.

We today will do the greatest honour to Thomas (and give glory to God) by doing all we can to feed, nurture and sharpen our consciences by immersion in the Word of God, the teachings of Holy Mother Church and the Holy Sacraments, with a humble confidence that Jesus Christ will transform us and, through us, the world around us.

Seven centuries after Thomas’ martyrdom Cardinal Newman raised his glass to the Pope – but to conscience first. There is a tendency for us to see conscience as ‘choosing what I prefer to do’ rather than the God-given faculty which enables me to exercise my freedom in choosing what would most please Him, and bring about the highest good, even though it may well cause me more suffering in the short term.

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18 January: Relics VIII- Some stare with bewilderment.

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Fr Daniel Weatherley, a Kentish Man, is assistant priest at Saint Thomas’ parish in Canterbury. We welcome him to our team and look forward to more posts from him. He resumes our occasional series reflecting upon relics.

The stream of pilgrims and tourists to see the place of Thomas’ martyrdom continues – becketcarvingburgateand many come into our Church to see his relics. Some stare with bewilderment as to why we should pay honour to a piece of finger-bone! But let us think just what a finger that was! The finger of a hand which was extended in peace to friend and foreigner, to kings and serfs; which held the sacred texts of psalms chanted in long hours of pray; the hand raised in admonition and correction – even unto the King; which was raised in blessing and in the absolution of sins; the hands which offered to the Eternal Father the Body and Blood of His Son, whom Thomas served with such zeal and devotion.

May those who visit us here at St. Thomas’ own parish witness the invisible yet real testimony of lives lived every more consciously and deeply-immersed in the light of God’s Word, revealed in Scripture and explained in the teaching of the Church, and wonderfully strengthened in us by the Holy Spirit and humble participation in the Sacred Mysteries. And then might the earthly realm be seen in its true context: as the willing servant of and, ultimately, reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Canterbury Cathedral, Eleanor Billingsley
Carving of St Thomas at his church, MMB

 

DWY

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29 December: Thomas Becket 1170, Oscar Romero, 1980.

 

 

becketcarvingburgateFile:Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez.jpg

 

 

On the evening of this day in 1170, Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury was hacked to death in his Cathedral. In March 1980, Oscar, Archbishop of San Salvador was gunned down while celebrating the Eucharist.

Two big names from the recent and distant past, both remembered as saints: but what of the thousands suffering persecution and death for their faith today? Not just ‘professional Christians’ like the two archbishops but men, women and children, starved, beaten, exiled, murdered.

Let us pray for those suffering persecution and those trying to help them, including the Franciscans of the Holy Land in Syria. Let us pray, too, for a change of heart among those who are persecuting their brothers and sisters, choosing hatred and fear over love as their way of life. And let us pray that our own hearts be changed, our eyes opened to see what our part might be in this mess: cheap bananas, means low wages, means workers repressed; or cheap petrol,leading to  invasion of Iraq, leading to persecution of allegedly ‘West-sympathising’ Christians.

And we can ask for the support of the martyrs as we pray:

  • Holy and blissful martyr, Thomas of Canterbury: pray for us
  • Blessed Oscar Romero: pray for us
  • All holy martyrs: pray for us.
  • Mary mother of the Church: pray for us.

MB

 

 

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26 December: Christmas Prayers.

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This  battered Madonna and the star come from the cemetery chapel of the former French Jesuit School in Canterbury, whose pupils helped Saint Thomas’s through some lean years in early days. 

When I was writing the history of Saint Thomas’s Catholic Primary School in Canterbury I found in 1970s parish magazines these prayers written by children:

 

Dear Jesus, please help me to go to Mass at Christmas. Give my family a happy day without any fighting or fussing. – EMc

Dear Lord, please make my Christmas joyful and happy. I will try not to be greedy, but I hope I get enough. – JG.

O Lord, thank you for a happy year. I ask for 100 good new ones. – LE.

Surely LE’s childhood was happy: to ask for a hundred good new years implies that the nine or ten she had lived so far were good. Deo Gratias indeed!

JG’s prayer suggests that he knew his attitude could contribute to a joyful and happy Christmas. Perhaps greed had blighted Christmas or other times past?

Greed will never admit to having enough. Let’s pray for an attitude of gratitude! Christmas gifts should be tokens of love, not awards for being good.

I hope EMcC knew only the sibling squabbling and bossiness that drives parents mad but is not deep-dyed animosity.

He clearly valued being at Christmas Mass. When I was little, Midnight Mass was long anticipated. An army of altar servers somehow managed not to trip up each other or the priest, deacon and subdeacon. The MC had to be creative in allocating duties, so that everyone had something to do: all those torchbearers? Well, we had a place to kneel, out of the way, our hands out of mischief; perhaps those flames added a little to the solemnity?

(When Friends of FISC visited the cemetery chapel this summer, we lit candles as we prayed; they certainly added to the solemnity.)

Let’s pray, finally, for something deeper than solemnity: for awe. Awe at the bundle of cells that has become baby Jesus; awe at who Jesus is, and that his coming tells us how ridiculously the Father has loved us. 

MMB.

 

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Mercy in Saint Luke’s Gospel.

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Tomorrow night is the third of Fr Tom Herbst’s four talks on Mercy  in the Gospel of Luke  in Saint Thomas’s Church Hall, Iron Bar Lane, Canterbury  from 7.30 to 9.00.
The final one is next week, 12 October. Please feel able to come, even if you have not attended all the lectures so far.
You are asked to make a donation to cover Fr Tom’s expenses.

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Mercy in Luke’s Gospel

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Mercy in Saint Luke’s Gospel

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July 8; Relics VI: ‘The knick-knacks that define us’

‘The knick-knacks that define us’ (see Tuesday’s blog post) – Bro Guy Consolmagno has his meteorites in the Vatican Observatory while my wife has a collection of pebbles in the bathroom. The red one came from Dylan Thomas’s Laugharne beach, the grey, crystalline shard from Saint Maurice in Switzerland; a smooth grey one, mottled with Saint Cuthbert’s beads from Lindisfarne; pink and white ones from Assisi, the colours of the buildings there.

One day one of our descendants will toss them all out for they are not even labelled. None are gemstones, so they are not valuable in this world’s eyes, and while Cuthbert may well have walked over our pebble on Holy Island, the shard from St Maurice was quarried not long before we found it on a roadside heap and cannot have been seen by the Saint.

Nevertheless I find such souvenirs as potent a call to prayer as Becket’s bones.

Francis and Cuthbert are two saints who go well together, resolutely poor men who lived for God; Maurice and his mess-mates died for Him. I can at least hope to stumble along in their wake.

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And Dylan? A pebble from his beach at Laugharne reminds me (as do the others) of time spent with loved ones, but also the daily call to live to the best of my love.

Hark: I trumpet the place,
From fish to jumping hill! Look:
I build my bellowing ark
To the best of my love
As the flood begins,
Out of the fountainhead
Of fear, rage red, manalive.’ [1]

Saint Maurice and companions, African Martyrs in Europe:          pray for us.

Saint David of Wales, faithful in little things:                              pray for us.

Saint Cuthbert, friend to the wild creatures of the sea:               pray for us.

Saint Thomas of Canterbury, holy and blissful martyr:                pray for us.

 

[1]  Dylan Thomas: ‘Collected Poems: 1934 – 1953’, London, Dent, 1998; p2.

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July 6, Relics IV: Thomas’s elbow returns to Canterbury

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The Eztergom relic of Saint Thomas carried in procession to Canterbury Cathedral. MMB

I am not alone in finding the treasuring of bones of saints a mite disturbing. I do not need to visit my father’s grave in Leicestershire to remember him; but it’s not hard to see how being at the graveside, even decades later, helps some people connect to their loved ones. We all know someone who talks to a spouse or parent in this way; their own little portion of the Communion of Saints.

But what set me thinking about relics was the pilgrimage made by St Thomas Becket’s elbow to Canterbury. We were invited to walk the last mile and a half from Saint Michael’s church at Harbledown, on the old London Road that he would have travelled.

The fragment of bone was in a new reliquary, displaying, even proclaiming, the relic rather than simply containing it. The procession to the Cathedral combined the solemnity of papal knights in splendid robes and a guard of honour from the Hungarian Scouts of London; and relaxed conversation, as if we were walking with a member of the family, as indeed we were.

The family included not only us locals, who are well aware of Thomas’s presence at the Cathedral and the Catholic Church nearby, but also the Hungarian delegation, eager to tell how important this European connection is to them. Thomas stood up to secular power as they had to during Communist times. The relic says that we are one family, one body, across the world and across time. No need to emulate the Church of the Latterday Saints in genealogical research to know that. We may hold solemn acts of remembrance in November, but a photo, a book, a loved one’s spoon that we use daily can stir our hearts to think of them in love and prayer. Even a fragment of bone in a crystal monstrance.

Archangel Saint Michael:                       pray for us.

Saint Thomas of Canterbury:     pray for us.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary:        pray for us.

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29/12 Saint Thomas Becket

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December 29: Feast of Thomas Becket

The idea that a middle class kid from Cheapside can grow up to become the Archbishop of Canterbury is somehow appealing. But there is more there than meets the eye. The blood of the conquerors (not so distant past in his lifetime) flowed in Becket’s veins and, though his parents weren’t exactly rich, they were, ah, quite comfortable (thank you) and pretty well connected. Young Becket learned to ride and hawk down in Surrey (something I have always wanted to do but was never invited…), got a really decent education, and was pretty well ear-marked as a ‘mover and shaker’ by the time he hit his stride.

I remember as a kid watching the old Hal Wallace film and completely missing the point. The Archbishop (played by Richard Burton) was certainly praiseworthy, but failed to really inspire a ten year old. Henry II (played by Peter O’Toole) seemed to get all of the best lines- a favorite; ‘Don’t be tiresome, Thomas…’ (they were both after the same woman), and my favorite character by far was the boisterous young Saxon monk/patriot who, in the final climactic scene, tried to use a processional cross as a bludgeon in his attempt to save St Thomas from the murderous knights. But I had a thing for knights and castles in those days. My younger brother whiled away the hours with his plastic WW II soldiers, while I oversaw battles from the ramparts of a Styrofoam castle that my dad made for me one Christmas; the king safely on his throne, guarded by a host of lead warriors, banners always waving…

What ten year old knows much about conversion? Some, perhaps, but I wasn’t one of them.

Later, I (along with the rest of the world) witnessed another martyrdom, a different Archbishop on the far side of Thomas Becket’s world, laid his life down in a spray of bullet-riddled violence. Some things never change. In a flash (I wasn’t a kid anymore) I realized what carpe diem really meant. Thomas of Canterbury and Oscar of San Salvador had both known privilege and preferment. Both had also had their hearts broken by Divine Love so that, like Augustine before them, they could finally love in return…and do what they had always wanted to do. Each man became a champion of the poor, God’s little ones, both lovers of what was simply right. Choosing to live in the light of that day takes a lot of courage and there is always a price to be paid…or, might one say, a greater gift to be given?

TJH

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Canterbury from the North. Thomas’s Shrine was at the West, (Left hand) end of the Cathedral. ESB

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