The Feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury
Sunday, 29 December 2013
“St. Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, is the martyr of the liberties of the Church, in the XII th century. Henry II, King of England, wished to him to sanction customs contrary to the liberties of the Church. St. Thomas knew that to make this divine society subservient to the secular power would be to violate her very constitution, and therefore as Bishop he would willingly suffer death in defense of the Church of Christ. He was slain in his cathedral by the king’s soldiers on December 29, 1170.” Roman Catholic Daily Missal, 1962, p. 308
Don Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Year Vol. 2 comments on the significance of this great martyr’s death for the Catholic Church. “…This glorious martyr did not shed his blood for the faith; he was not dragged before the tribunals of pagans or heretics, there to confess the truth revealed by Christ and taught by the Church. He was slain by Christian hands; it was a Catholic King that condemned him to death; it was by the majority of his own brethren, and they his countrymen, that he was abandoned and blamed. How, then, could he be a Martyr? How did he gain a Palm like Stephen’s? He was the Martyr for the liberty of the Church.”
“Every Christian is obliged to lay down his life rather than deny any of the articles of our holy Faith: it was the debt we contracted with Jesus Christ when he adopted us in Baptism as his Brethren. All are not called to the honour of Martyrdom, that is, all are not required to bear that testimony to Truth which consists in shedding one blood for it: but all must so love their Faith as to be ready to die rather than deny it, under pain of incurring the eternal death from which the grace of our Redeemer has already delivered us. The same obligation lies still more heavily on the Pastors of the Church. It is the pledge of the truth of their teachings. Hence we find in almost every page of the History of the Church the glorious names of saintly Bishops, who laid down their lives for the Faith they had delivered for to their people…. Pastors have another debt to pay, which is that of defending the liberty of the Church; …the Church has put upon her altars the glorious St. Thomas of Canterbury, who was slain in his Cathedral in the twelfth century because he resisted a King’s infringements on the extrinsic rights of the Church. She sanctions the noble maxim of St. Anselm, one of St. Thomas’s predecessors in the See of Canterbury: Nothing does God love so much in this world as the liberty of his Church; and the Apostolic See declares by the mouth of Pius VIII in the nineteenth century, the very same doctrine she would have taught by St. Gregory VII in the eleventh century: ‘The Church, the spotless Spouse of Jesus Christ the immaculate Lamb, is by God’s appointment FREE, and subject to no earthly power.’”
The Liberty of the Church
“Such is the Liberty of the Church. It is the bulwark of the Sanctuary. Every breach there imperils the Hierarchy, and even the very Faith. A Bishop may not flee, as the hireling, nor hold his peace, like those dumb dogs of which the Prophet Isaias speaks, and which are not able to bark. (Is. 56:10). He is the Watchman of Israel: he is a traitor if he first lets the enemy enter the citadel, and then, but only then, gives the alarm and risks his person and life. The obligation of laying down his life for his flock begins to be in forced at the enemy’s first attack upon the very outposts of the City, which is only safe when they are strongly guarded.” Gueranger, p. 303-05
Bossuet’s Panegyric on St. Thomas of Canterbury
The famous contemporary bishop of St. Thomas offers us a magnificent testimony to the noble life and death of St. Thomas of Canterbury: “It is established law that every success the Church acquires cost her the life of some of her children, and that in order to secure her rights she must shed her own blood. Her Divine Spouse redeemed her by the Blood he shed for her; and he wishes that she should purchase on the same terms the graces he bestows upon her. It was by the blood of the Martyrs that she extended her conquests far beyond the limits of the Roman Empire. (Editor’s note: FYI 12 million Christians died for the faith in the Roman persecutions.) It was her blood that procured her both the peace she enjoyed under the Christian, and the victory she gained over the Pagan Emperors. So that as she had to shed her blood for the propagation of her teaching, she had also to bleed in order to make her authority accepted. The discipline, therefore, as well as the faith of the Church, was to have its Martyrs.’” Gueranger, p. 306.
The Grace of the Martyrs’ Simplicity and Courage
Don Gueranger continues his commentary: “Hence it was that St. Thomas, and the rest of the martyrs for ecclesiastical liberty, never once stopped to consider how it was possible, with such weak means as were at their disposal, to oppose the invaders of the rights of the Church. One great element of Martyrdom is simplicity united with courage; and this explains how there have been martyrs amongst the lowest classes of the faithful, and that young girls, and even children, can show their rich palm-branch. God has put into the heart of the Christian a capability of humble and inflexible resistance which make every opposition give way. What, then, must that fidelity be, which the Holy Ghost has put into the souls of Bishops, whom he has constituted the Spouses of his Church, and the defenders of his beloved Jerusalem? St. Thomas yields not to injustice, under the pretext that it is armed with the sword, and that it is a King who commits it; on the contrary, seeing that its source is high up, he feels his obligation of resisting it to be the greater, just as men throw the embankments higher when the torrent swells.
“‘In the language of the Church,’ continues Bossuet, ‘fortitude has not the meaning it has in the language of the world. Fortitude, as the world understands it, is undertaking great things; according to the Church, it is goes beyond suffering every sort of trial, and there it stops. Listen to the words of St. Paul: ‘Ye have not yet resisted your enemies unto blood;’ (Heb. 12:4) as though he would say: ‘You have not yet gone the whole length of your duty, because you nave not resisted your enemies unto blood.’ You have not attacked your enemies and shed their blood; but, ‘Your resistance to your enemies has not yet cost you your blood.’” Gueranger, p. 307
St. Thomas Priest and Victim
Don Gueranger reminds us that St. Thomas’ martyrdom was a true sacrifice: “Christian! give me your attention. If there ever were a martyrdom, which bore the resemblance to a sacrifice, it was the one I have to describe to you….The Bishop is the victim chosen by God, and he is ready. So that all is prepared for the sacrifice, and they that are to strike the blow enter the Church. The holy man walks before them, as Jesus did before his enemies. He forbids his clergy to make the slightest resistance, and all he asks of his enemies is that they injure none of them that are present: it is the close imitation of his Divine Master, who said to them that apprehended him: ‘If it be I whom you seek, suffer these to go their way.’ (Jn. 18:8) And when all this has been done, and the moment for the sacrifice was come, St. Thomas begins the ceremony. He is both victim and priest: he bows down his head, and offers a prayer. Listen to the solemn prayer, and the mystical words of the sacrifice: ‘And I am ready to die for God, and for the claims of justice, and for the liberty of the Church, if only she may gain peace and liberty by this shedding of my blood!’ He prostrates himself before God: and as in the Holy Sacrifice there is the invocation of the Saints our intercessors, Thomas omits not so important a ceremony; he beseeches the holy Martyrs and the Blessed Mary ever a Virgin to deliver the Church from oppression He can pray for nothing but the Church; his heart beats but for the Church; his lips can speak nothing but the Church; and when the blow has been struck his and lifeless tongue seems still be saying: ‘The Church!’…The tomb of the Saint will become an altar; and at the foot of the that altar, there will one day kneel a penitent King, humbly praying for pardon and blessing. What has wrought this change? Has the death of Thomas of Canterbury stirred up the people to revolt? Has his martyrdom found its avengers? No. It is the blood of one who died for Christ producing its fruit. The world is hard to teach, else it would have long since learned this truth, that a Christian people can never see with indifference a pastor put to death for fidelity to his charge; and that a government that dares to make a martyr will pay dearly for its crime…” Bossuet gives a final comment in his panegyric: ‘He that infringes on the authority of the Church, let him dread that precious blood of the martyrs which consecrates and protects it.” Gueranger, p. 306-310.
St. Thomas Help Your Country Today
In conclusion from across the channel in France in the nineteenth century Don Gueranger beseeches St. Thomas to help his country to heal his country of those prelates who were not faithful after him in the Protestant Revolution: “Pray for thine own dear England, which three hundred years ago, made shipwreck of the faith through the apostasy of so many prelates who submitted to those usurpations which thou didst resist even unto blood. Now that the Faith is reviving in her midst, stretch out thy helping hand to her, and thus avenge the outrages offered to thy venerable name by thy country, when she, the once fair Island of Saints, was sinking into the abyss of heresy.” Gueranger, p. 335
Christmas Novena: Christmas Novena of Masses from Christmas Day 25th December 2013 to 2 January 2014. This novena will be for all of the benefactors, friends and relatives of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate. Thank you for all of your kind donations of alms and providence to us here in Lanherne.
Mission of the Immaculate Mediatrix (MIM) Saturday, 4 January 2014
“The fundamental aim of the MIM is the fulfilment of God’s plan for the salvation and sanctification of all souls through the maternal mediation of the Immaculate to the supreme glory of the Most Holy Trinity.” (Article 2: Statute)
The First Friday: 3 January The Promise of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary: "I promise you, in the excess of the mercy of My Heart, that Its all-powerful love will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the first Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under My displeasure nor without receiving the Sacraments, My Divine Heart becoming their assured refuge at that last hour."
The First Saturday: 4 January 2014
Our Lady told Sr. Lucia in 1925 “…I promise to assist at the hour of death, with all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months go to confession and receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary and keep me company for a quarter of an hour while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me
Solemnity of the Epiphany,
Sunday 5 January 2014
In all the dioceses of England and Wales: the External Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.