St. Thomas Becket was born in 1118, to a wealthy and influential family in London. He was destined for the church from a young age. He was educated in a monastery in Surrey, where he was a brilliant and gifted student. Thomas, as a young man, worked for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was recognized as a brilliant young man at an early age. Thomas was ordained as a priest and became very well connected, later serving at the court of King Henry II. Soon, Thomas became a trusted servant and even the friend of the king. Henry II appointed him as Chancellor of England, a very powerful position. With this fame, he became one of the most powerful men in England and grew very rich, living a lavish lifestyle and neglecting his role as a priest.
In 1162, Thomas was elected as Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church in England. However, Henry II expected his friend to make changes to the Church. Thomas refused and there ensued a conflict between the Church and the English King. This led to a rupture between Thomas and Henry II. It was during this time that Thomas became more spiritual, and abandoned his lavish lifestyle. He soon gave away much of his personal wealth to the poor, making him very loved by the poor people of England.
In 1164, he resisted an attempt by Henry II to prevent English clergy from appealing to Rome on legal matters. Thomas Becket had to flee to France after Henry threatened him for his opposition.
Thomas stayed in France for six years. When he returned, Henry II was heard to remark, “would someone rid me of this troublesome priest?”
Three knights heard this and believed that they would win favour with the king if they killed the Archbishop.
In 1170, as Thomas Becket was praying in the Cathedral at Canterbury, he was murdered by the knights.
The murder shocked Europe. The Pope excommunicated Henry II. Henry eventually made public penance for the death of the Thomas Becket, his former friend.
Thomas Becket was buried in Canterbury Cathedral, and his tomb became a site of pilgrimage.
In 1172, the Pope canonized Thomas a saint.
There were many miracles associated with Thomas Becket. Immediately after his death, people dipped cloths into the blood of the murdered Archbishop. The blood-soaked cloths had miraculous powers, and healed many sick people. There were many miracles reported at the tomb of Thomas in Canterbury. These were recorded by two monks, who documented a total of 703 miracles occurring at the tomb of the saint during the ten years after his death.
St. Thomas Becket believed that it was a Christian’s duty to fight for Church teachings:
“Oh God, give us the strength to uphold what is right.”
St. Thomas demonstrates to us that the secular power must never be allowed to dominate the Church, and that a Christian must always place his faith before all else.