Henry VIII was starting the English Reformation when printing was starting to contribute to a more literate clergy, let alone a growing number of men and women who at the very least used printed prayer books. Jane Richardson of Canterbury Christ Church University here discusses how the beginnings of the Reformation are reflected in one particular breviary, now in the Canterbury Cathedral library.
Was a thin crossing out with a very fine nib enough to satisfy Royal agents that a book’s owner had deleted Thomas from his heart, as well as from his book? Was Wycliffe, an earlier would-be reformer, now a saint in the King’s, or maybe the breviary’s owner’s opinion?
In 1120, Thomas Becket was born in London; in 1170, he was murdered in his Cathedral. By the time his remains were translated (moved) to a new shrine in the cathedral, Canterbury had become a major pilgrimage destination and a place of healing. Perhaps relatively few of the healings recorded by the Benedictine custodians would be recognised as miracles today but those who were healed, whether by divine intervention or the workings of human psychology – mind over matter, if you will – went home rejoicing. Even King Henry II, whose tempestuous outburst spurred the four knights to confront and kill the Archbishop, came as a penitent pilgrim.
But in 1538 another king was angry. Henry VIII wanted a divorce from Catharine of Aragon, who had borne a daughter but no son. Unable to attack militarily the Pope who had refused the divorce, he divorced the Church of England from the Catholic church. Thomas, the low-born bishop who had stood up to the king was now, not a martyred saint but a traitor, whose name was to be forgotten, written out of history, even out of prayer books.
Thomas Becket was the focus of pilgrimage to Canterbury from his death in 1170 to the destruction of his shrine in 1538. This exhibition at the city’s Beaney Museum is only running to 4 July, so it might be as well to try and book now, though you can take a chance and turn up and hope for a slot.
Sat 29th May 2021 to Sun 4th July 2021
A major exhibition in the context of Becket’s story, Canterbury pilgrimage and health & wellbeing. 2020 marked the 900th anniversary of Thomas Becket’s birth, 850th of his death, and 800th of moving Becket’s relics to a new tomb and chapel in Canterbury Cathedral.
Miracles after Becket’s murder, recorded in stained glass, led to Europe-wide spread of relics and images, making Becket a world ‘celebrity’. As well as presenting this story, displays will explore Becket’s fame as a symbol of conflict between Church and state, conscience and duty.
Photographs, designs and cartoons will feature portrayals in theatre and film from Henry Irving to Richard Burton, and writers including Tennyson and Eliot creating Becket’s enduring legacy as a rebel.
The exhibition will be part of a programme of events developed by partners from across the UK and a platform to commemorate the remarkable life and death of Thomas Becket.
The exhibition showcases loans from The British Museum, The Arts Council Collection, University of Kent , Canterbury Cathedral and Canterbury Museums & Gallery.
Another of Fr Anthony’s thoughts, this time about our unofficial second patron saint, Oscar Romero.
On 24th March 1980 Saint Oscar Romero Archbishop of San Salvador was shot and killed while celebrating Mass. In his sermon the day before, Romero ordered the army to stop killing people: “In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I beg you, I implore you, I order you, in the name of God, stop the repression!” We are very privileged to have some of his vestments here at St Thomas’s in the Martyr’s chapel.
Here are some words from a sermon he gave in November 1977
Do you want to know if your Christianity is genuine? Here is the touchstone: Whom do you get along with? Who are those who criticise you? Who are those who do not accept you? Who are those who flatter you? Know from that what Christ said once: “I have come not to bring peace, but division.” There will be division even in the same family, because some want to live more comfortably by the world’s principles, those of power and money. But others have embraced the call of Christ and must reject all that cannot be just in the world.
We give thanks for the witness of his life and death and ask that through his intercession we may also be a powerful witness to Jesus and his Gospel in our lives today..
If you want to know more about his life and message click here.
We ought by now to have included a few more posts from St Thomas’ church as well as from St Mildred’s! So here is Canon Anthony’s thought for today, fresh from his retreat at home. We’ll include a few more as time goes by. Will T.
My Thoughts on 20/03/2021
I have finished my 5 day retreat and would like thank you for all your prayers and good wished. It was organised by the Jesuit Spirituality Team for Catholic Clergy. Although it was not the same as going away, I found it a great blessing and hopefully prepared me for the coming Holy Week.
In today’s gospel the chief priest and the Pharisees wanted Jesus arrested. They didn’t like what he was saying and doing. They wanted to arrest him and certainly refused to consider him a prophet.”Go into the matter, and see for yourself : prophets do not come out of Galilee.”
This reminds me of the report in the Guardian newspaper in January about the persecution of Christians face today in many parts of the world.
“More than 340 million Christians – one in eight – face high levels of persecution and discrimination because of their faith, according to the 2021 World Watch List compiled by the Christian advocacy group Open Doors. It says there was a 60% increase over the previous year in the number of Christians killed for their faith. More than nine out of 10 of the global total of 4,761 deaths were in Africa.”
Here in the UK we are blessed to have the freedom to express our belief freely and unhindered. Let us pray for all those who at this time are persecuted and suffer imprisonments torture and even death for being followers of Jesus Christ.
29 December used to be kept as King David’s feast day as well as Saint Thomas’s.
Pope Francis spoke about King David to a recent general audience .
Jesus, said the Pope, is called “Son of David” and fulfilled the ancient promises of “a King completely after God’s heart, in perfect obedience to the Father.”
David’s own story, said Pope Francis, begins in Bethlehem, where he shepherds his father’s flock. “He worked in the open air: we can think of him as a friend of the wind, of the sounds of nature, of the sun’s rays.” The Pope said David is first of all a shepherd. He defends others from danger and provides for their sustenance. In this line, Jesus called Himself “the good shepherd”, who “offers His life on behalf of the sheep. He guides them; He knows each one by name.”
Later in life, when David goes astray by having a man killed in order to take his wife, he immediately understands his sin when the prophet Nathan reproves him.
“David understands right away that he had been a bad shepherd,” said the Pope, “that he was no longer a humble servant, but a man who was crazy for power, a poacher who looted and preyed on others.”
Pope Francis went on to reflect on what he called David’s “poet’s soul”.
“He has only one companion to comfort his soul: his harp; and during those long days spent in solitude, he loves to play and to sing to his God.” He often raised hymns to God, whether to express his joy, lamentation, or repentance. “The world that presented itself before his eyes was not a silent scene: as things unravelled before his gaze he observed a greater mystery.”
David, said the Pope, dreamed of being a good shepherd. He was many things: “holy and sinful, persecuted and persecutor, victim and murderer.” Like him, events in our own lives reveal us in a similar light. “In the drama of life, all people often sin because of inconsistency.”
Pope Francis said that, like David, there is one golden thread that runs through all our lives: prayer. “David teaches us to let everything enter into dialogue with God: joy as well as guilt, love as well as suffering, friendship as much as sickness,” he said. “Everything can become a word spoken to the ‘You’ who always listens to us.”
David, concluded Pope Francis, knew solitude but “was in reality never alone! This is the power of prayer in all those who make space for it in their lives. Prayer makes us noble: it is capable of securing our relationship with God who is the true Companion on the journey of every man and woman, in the midst of life’s thousand adversities.”
A parishioner recommended this book: “Whenever, I pick up this book and flick through to a random page, I am always surprised at the peacefulness it brings. It is an inspiring little book and well worth a read”.
As well as opening at random, the reader can turn first to an index which recommends readings for different occasions: anxiety, bereavement, disappointment, the future, and so on. The texts are words that Fr Wooley received in prayer and are linked to Scripture Readings; indeed, the book is proposed as an aid to reading the Bible.
Those who have read Christopher de Hamel’s Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts’ will attest that he is a delightful and informative guide to mediaeval thought and culture. This little book was produced for the postponed anniversary celebrations – Thomas was born in 1120, murdered in 1170, his remains translated into a new shrive in 1220. It is not a potboiler however, but a work of scholarly detection and a good read. It would be a perfect stocking-filler for anyone with more than a passing interest in Becket or Canterbury or mediæval art.
De Hamel loves manuscripts and tracking and tracing those who produced and owned them, with all their personal foibles, not to mention the scholars who study and care for them today. He brings a story teller’s art to an historical detective mystery, which includes two sainted martyrs and other archbishops of Canterbury, artists and scholars in Anglo-Saxon England and mediæval France – the Æ symbol is one of the clues – but I’ll spare the spoilers, except to pose the question, why is Thomas shown so often with book in hand, when he was not a writer like Dunstan or Anselm?
Not all will be revealed; Becket remains an enigma, was he a holy man, was he a scholar? Much of what remains of his library is in Cambridge, including manuscripts that de Hamel cared for. Of one he says, ‘I suspect that I handled it more often than Becket did. I used to show it to classes of students sometimes, and remarkably often one would furtively reach out a finger to touch the edge of a page, evidence that a sense of momentary encounter with Thomas Becket still carries a secret thrill.’ (p17) Yet for the mediæval monks, books were books, whosoever had owned them; they were not so personal as a lock of hair of a scrap of clothing. (My ‘reach out a finger’ moment came on a Cathedral Open Evening. Two ladies had a dish filled with sweepings of iron from the floor of a Saxon smithy in the precincts. From the time of Saint Dunstan, metal worker and one of the greatest of our Archbishops. Could it be metal he had worked? But that’s another tale.)
This little book should be bought in a touchable form, not an e-book. It is well presented, cloth-bound in martyr’s red, witness to the fascination of history. And it is eminently readable. You must know someone who would enjoy it!
I thought we might look at what St Thomas’s Catholic church was saying about the virus. I’d just copied the paragraphs below when my wife said, ‘He’s making is announcement now’, and my daughter, part of our household, called us to dinner. We could do something about dinner, but not about the Prime Minister.
As the Prime Minister considers a potential National lockdown across England next week, bear in mind that this could mean that our Church may be closed within a week so please keep informed by the various news outlets or phone the Parish Office before making your way to our Church. We are fortunate to be able to continue with our live-stream Masses if Churches across England do close.
Hopefully we will know more next week and will keep you informed on the implications of this potential lockdown on St Thomas’ and what we can do to help those who may need a little help. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have been affected by Covid-19.
Please keep safe.
So it looks like another month without being physically present at Mass, for all the cleaning regimes that have been introduced, the social distancing within and outside the building.
As well to remind ourselves that Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter happened once and for all; and to join St John Paul II in Christ’s offering ‘on the altar of the world’, before and ever after he suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose on the third day.
Every meal, we should remember, is a part of the Eucharist, especially when it is shared, and when the Lord is thanked for his bounty as we sit down. We are never far from the Mass, and the live stream will remind us of that.
Sharp eyed Kentish Maids and Men of Kent will recognise the coats of arms behind the altar: this is the chapel of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, but in Saint David’s Cathedral in Wales. Far enough from London not to incur the wrath of a turbulent Tudor; I don’t know when the dedication was made to our local hero but under Henry VIII more than a couple of churches in England were switched from Saint Thomas of Canterbury to the doubting Apostle.
When we were in Saint David’s they had this banner on display. Let’s accept their invitation, and put ourselves in the presence of God.