29th December - 5th day - Thomas Becket

Fifth day within the Octave of Christmas

1 John 2:3-11 / Luke 2:22-35


On this fifth day in the octave of Christmas, the Church celebrates the optional memorial of St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr.
He was born in London and after studying in Paris, entered the service of Archbishop of Canterbury, became Lord Chancellor under King Henry II in 1155, and in 1162 Archbishop of Canterbury.

He went from being "a patron of play-actors and a follower of hounds" to being a "shepherd of souls" as he absorbed himself in the duties of his new office, defending the rights of the Church against king Henry II. This prompted the king to exile him to France for six years.

After returning to his homeland he endured many trials and agents of the king travelled to Canterbury and fell upon the bishop while he was attending evening prayer.

His priests rushed to his aid and tried to bar the church door; Thomas opened it himself with these words: The house of God will not be defended like a fortress. I gladly face death for the Church of God.

Then to the soldiers: I command it in the Name of God: No harm may be done to any of mine. Thereupon he cast himself on his knees, commended his flock and himself to God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to St. Denis and other holy patrons of the Church, and with the same heroic courage with which he had withstood the king's laws, he bowed his holy head to the sacrilegious sword on December 29, 1170."

St. Thomas Becket saw the light, the real light that was already shining, as the 1st reading puts it, and hence he was courageous in life as in death.

Like Simeon in the gospel, St. Thomas Becket also saw the light, and it was a light that shone in the darkness, a darkness of rejection and persecution and trial and finally martyrdom.

St. Thomas Becket became a beacon of light for the Church, so much so that in 1539, king Henry VIII ordered his remains to be burned, and that was like 400 years after his death.

Yes, darkness can never overcome or overpower the true light. May we see that light, follow that light, be enlightened by that light and become beacons of light. (SY)