THE ARCHBISHOP knew he was going to be killed. King Henry's men had threatened him. But he was not halted as the procession filed into the dark Cathedral, lighted only by the candles held by the Monks chanting Vespers. First came the clerks of the Archbishop's household, walking slowly, two by two; last of all came the tall Archbishop. He was hurried into the church by two of his friends, who then ordered the doors closed and barred. But the Archbishop set aside the order saying, "The House of God should not be made a castle! I command you, under holy obedience to open those doors." - The monks could not disobey.
*King Henry II had made Thomas a Becket his chancellor. He was also his good friend, and as Chancellor of England Thomas ran the country well, was extremely popular, dressed in rich garments, and was considered by Henry II as the most dependable man in the realm. When Archbishop Theobold of Canterbury died, Henry told Thomas he must be appointed to the post. Thomas said: "I know your plans for the Church: You will assert claims which I, if I were Archbishop must needs oppose." But Henry would have his own way.
*Thomas was ordained priest on Saturday, June 2, 1162 and consecrated Bishop the next day, which was Trinity Sunday. Now he changed his way of life, and practiced secret penances, fastings and disciplines, long vigils and constant prayer.
*He stripped himself of all signs of luxury, and resigned his post as Chancellor. This annoyed Henry, and relations between the two men who had once been bosom friends were more and more strained. King Henry tried again and again to exert his authority over the Church. He wanted the donations of the people to go to him instead of to the Church. He refused to allow Bishops to leave England without his permission. He also wanted to select his own friends as Bishops in England.
*The Church could not consent to this. Thomas a Becket opposed him. After a time, a sort of peace was made between the King and the Archbishop. But of course something came up that again offended Henry and in one of his violent tempers he said: "Won't somebody get rid of that priest for me?" And four of his Knights left the palace immediately to do so. When his fit of temper was over and he had calmed down, Henry forgot what he had said, but it was too late.
*As the Archbishop came into the Cathedral the armed knights cried: "Where is the traitor?' the Saint replied: "Here I am, no traitor, but Archbishop and priest of God." They tried to drag him from the church to take him prisoner, but could not, and in the end they beat him to death where he stood.
*The people were greatly affected by the martyrdom of Saint Thomas a Becket. Within a very short time devotion to him had spread through Europe. Within two years Henry did public penance, and let himself be scourged at the Archbishop's tomb. Numbers of miracles were worked, and Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, accomplished in death what he had worked for in life.
*Who are my friends? I can recognize the good from the bad by what they say and what they do.
A coloring picture can be found below.