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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

CATHOLIC NEWS WORLD: WED. DEC. 29, 2010












CATHOLIC NEWS WORLD: WED. DEC. 29, 2010: HEADLINES-

AMERICA: USA: DEATH OF FATHER JOHN HARVEY OF COURAGE

LIBERIA: PRESIDENT JOHNSON VISITS CATHOLIC SICK ARCHBISHOP

ASIA: NEPAL: GOVERNMENT PROTECTS CHRISTIANS AT CHRISTMAS

AUSTRALIA: PEACE BETWEEN ABBOTT AND GILLARD DURING CHRISTMASTIME

EUROPE: GERMANY: MISSION OF CHILDHOOD ON STREETS WITH CAROLS

TODAY'S SAINT: DEC. 29: ST. THOMAS BECKET

TODAY'S GOSPEL: DEC. 29: LUKE: 2: 22-35



CATHERINE OF BOLOGNA: SPIRITUAL WEAPONS AGAINST EVIL

VATICAN CITY, 29 DEC 2010 (VIS REPORT) - The Holy Father dedicated his catechesis during today's general audience, held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 8,000 people, to St. Catherine of Bologna (1413-1463).

Born to a noble family in the Italian city of Bologna, at the age of ten she moved to Ferrara where she entered the court of Niccolo III d'Este as a maid of honour. There she received a very careful education which would later serve her during her monastic life when "she used the cultural and artistic knowledge acquired over those years to great advantage", the Pope said.

In 1427, at the age of fourteen, she left the court to dedicate herself to religious life in a community of young women. Two years later the leader of this group founded an Augustinian convent, but Catherine and a number of others preferred Franciscan spirituality and transformed the community into Poor Clares.

The saint "made great spiritual progress in this new phase of her life, though she also had to face great trails", the Pope explained. "She experienced the night of the spirit, tormented even by the temptation of disbelief in the Eucharist. After much suffering, the Lord consoled her. In a vision He gave her the clear awareness of the real Eucharistic presence". In another vision God revealed the forgiveness of her sins, giving Catherine a "powerful experience of divine mercy".

In 1431 the saint had yet another vision, this time of the Final Judgement, which led her "to intensify her prayers and penance for the salvation of sinners. Satan continued to assail her as she increasingly entrusted herself to the Lord and the Virgin Mary. In her writings, Catherine left us essential notes on this mysterious struggle, from which, by the grace of God, she emerged victorious".

These notes are contained in her one written work, the "Treatise on the Seven Spiritual Weapons" in which Catherine teaches that to combat evil it is necessary: "(1) to be careful always to do good; (2) to believe that we can never achieve anything truly good by ourselves; (3) to trust in God and, for His love, never to fear the battle against evil, either in the world or in ourselves; (4) to meditate frequently on the events and words of Jesus' life, especially His passion and death; (5) to remember that we must die; (6) to keep the benefits of heaven firmly in our minds, (7) to be familiar with Holy Scripture, keeping it in our hearts to guide all our thoughts and actions".

"In her convent Catherine, though used to the court of Ferrara, ... performed even the most humble tasks with love and ready obedience", said the Holy Father, recalling also that, out of obedience, the saint "accepted the job of mistress of novices, although she felt she was incapable of carrying out the role". In the same spirit she agreed to move to Bologna as abbess of a new monastery though she would have preferred to end her days in Ferrara.

Catherine died on 9 March 1463 and was canonised by Pope Clement XI in 1712. "With her words and life", Benedict XVI concluded, "she strongly invites us always to allow ourselves to be guided by God, to do His will every day even if it does not always correspond to our own plans, and to trust in His Providence which never abandons us. In this perspective, St. Catherine also invites us to rediscover the value of the virtue of obedience".

AG/ VIS 20101229 (600) IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA


SPECIAL ENVOY TO CLOSING OF JUBILEE YEAR OF VIETNAM CHURCH

VATICAN CITY, 29 DEC 2010 (VIS) - Made public yesterday afternoon was a Letter from the Pope, written in Latin and dated 21 December, in which he appoints Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, as his special envoy to the closing celebrations of the Jubilee Year of the Church in Vietnam, called to mark the 350th anniversary of the creation of the first two apostolic vicariates in the country, and the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Catholic hierarchy. The celebrations are due to take place at the Marian shrine of LaVang from 4 to 6 January 2011.

The cardinal will be accompanied by Fr. Antoine Duong Quynh, chancellor of the archdiocese of Hue, Vietnam, and rector of the cathedral of Phu Cam in Hue; and by Fr. Francois Xavier Vu Phan Long O.F.M., secretary of the biblical commission of the Episcopal Conference of Vietnam.

BXVI-LETTER/ VIS 20101229 (170)

AUDIENCES

VATICAN CITY, 29 DEC 2010 (VIS) - Following today's general audience, the Holy Father received Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, apostolic nuncio to India and to Nepal.

AP/ VIS 20101229 (30)

OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS

VATICAN CITY, 29 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

- As members of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum": Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Archbishop Douglas Young S.V.D. of Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea; Msgr. Manfred Ertl, currently consultor of the same dicastery; Laurence de la Brosse, president of the "Association Internationale des Charites"; Fr. Simon T. Faddoul, president of Caritas Lebanon; Michael Thio Yauw Beng, president of the "Societe de Saint Vincent de Paul ‑ Conseil General International"; Roberto H. Tarazona Ponte, "Asistente de la Oficina de Asesoria Pastoral de Caritas" in Peru; Henrietta T. de Villa, currently consultor of the same dicastery, and Carlos Augusto de Oliveira Camargo, currently consultor of the same dicastery.

- As consultors of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum": Fr. Paolo Asolan, professor at the "Redemptor Hominis" Pontifical Institute of Rome's Pontifical Lateran University; Fr. Silverio Nieto Nunez, director of the "Servicio Juridico Civil" of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, and Paolo Luca Beccegato, head of the international unit of Caritas Italy.

- As members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

- As members of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches: His Beatitude Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt; Cardinal Francesco Monterisi, archpriest of the papal basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, and Cardinal Kurt Koch.

- As members of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments: Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, archbishop of Warsaw, Poland; Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka; Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B.; Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura; Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, and Cardinal Velasio De Paolis C.S., president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.

- As members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints: Cardinal Francesco Monterisi; Cardinal Fortunato Baldelli, penitentiary major of the Apostolic Penitentiary; Cardinal Paolo Sardi, vice chamberlain of Holy Roman Church and patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

- As a member of the Congregation for Bishops: Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke.

- As members of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples: Cardinal Medardo Joseph Mazombwe, archbishop emeritus of Lusaka, Zambia; Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, and Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum".

- As members of the Congregation for the Clergy: Cardinal Donald William Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, U.S.A., and Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz.

- As a member of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life: Cardinal Paolo Sardi.

- As a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza.

- As a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura: Cardinal Velasio De Paolis C.S.

- As members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity: Cardinal Paolo Romeo of Palermo, Italy; Cardinal Robert Sarah, and Cardinal Paolo Sardi.

- As members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: Cardinal Donald William Wuerl, and Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B.

- As a member of the presidential committee of the Pontifical Council for the Family: Cardinal Raul Eduardo Vela Chiriboga, archbishop emeritus Quito, Ecuador.

- As members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, and Cardinal Robert Sarah.

- As a member of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum": Cardinal Medardo Joseph Mazombwe.

- As a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples: His Beatitude Cardinal Antonios Naguib.

- As members of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts: Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, and Cardinal Velasio De Paolis C.S.

- As members of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue: Cardinal Kurt Koch, and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church, and of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology.

- As members of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications: Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida, Brazil, and Cardinal Mauro Piacenza.

- As a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi.

- As a counsellor of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America: Cardinal Francesco Monterisi.

- As members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America: Cardinal Raul Eduardo Vela Chiriboga; Cardinal Paolo Romeo, and Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis.

- Msgr. Marcello Bartolucci, under secretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, as secretary of the same congregation, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop. The archbishop-elect was born in Bastia Umbra, Italy in 1944 and ordained a priest in 1968.

- Fr. Boguslaw Turek C.S.M.A., bureau chief of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, as under secretary of the same congregation.

- Msgr. Celso Morga Iruzubieta of the clergy of the diocese of Calahorra y La Calzada - Logrono, Spain, under secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, as secretary of the same congregation, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop. The archbishop-elect was born in 1948 and ordained a priest in 1972.

- Msgr. Serge Poitras of the clergy of the diocese of Chicoutimi, Canada, official of the Congregation for Bishops, as adjunct under secretary of the same congregation.

AMERICA: USA: DEATH OF FATHER JOHN HARVEY OF COURAGE



Report from Oblate Website:

Reverend John F. Harvey, OSFS, 92, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales for 73 years, died on Monday, December 27, 2010, at Union Hospital in Elkton, Maryland.


Fr. Harvey, son the late Patrick J. and Margaret (Harkins) Harvey was born in Philadelphia in 1918. He attended St. Columba Parish School, and after graduating from Northeast Catholic High School for Boys in 1936, he entered the Oblate Novitiate, making his first profession of vows on September 8, 1937. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 3, 1944 at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia by the Most. Rev. Hugh Lamb, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia.


After earning his bachelor of arts degree in philosophy in 1941 from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Fr. Harvey continued his studies, earning graduate degrees in psychology and theology, and completed a doctorate in moral theology there 10 years later.


“Fr. Harvey’s commitment to pastoral care in the Church was tireless. Even in his later years, his travel would take him all over the country and world to offer a voice of compassion,” Rev. James J. Greenfield, OSFS, Oblate provincial said. “His work in helping to found both the DeSales School of Theology and Courage were examples of his commitment to the Church that he loved so much.”


Fr. Harvey’s ministerial assignments following ordination included serving as a teacher at his alma mater, Northeast Catholic High School (1945-1947); graduate student at Catholic University (1947-1951); professor of moral theology at Dunbarton College, Washington, DC (1948-1973); professor of moral theology at the DeSales Hall School of Theology, (1949-1987); president of DeSales Hall School of Theology (1965-1977); and professor of sexual and medical ethics at DeSales University, Center Valley, PA (1987-2009). Father Harvey retired to Annecy Hall, Childs, Maryland in January, 2010.


Fr. Harvey was the founder and national director of Courage, which is a spiritual support group for homosexual women and men. He had been director of Courage since its foundation in 1980 at the request of the late archbishop of New York, Terrence Cardinal Cooke. Courage continues to reach out in the United States, in Canada, England, the Republic of Ireland, Poland, Mexico, Slovakia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, the Philippines, and New Zealand. Today, there are more than 100 Chapters of Courage worldwide.


Since he began teaching in higher education in 1948, Fr. Harvey has written more than 45 articles in professional theological and psychological journals on questions of human sexuality and counseling. He has addressed the full convention of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on ethics and psychology. He has been interviewed by national media representatives and has lectured abroad in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Guam.


In addition to the members of his religious community, Fr. Harvey is survived by his sister, Margaret Smith, and many nieces and nephews and grand nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by his siblings, Catherine Egan and James Harvey.


Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, December 31, at 11:15 AM, at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 9th and DuPont Streets, Wilmington, DE, 19805. Preceding the Mass will be a wake from 9:30 – 11:00 AM, and the interment will follow the Mass at the Oblate Cemetery, 1120 Blue Ball Road, Elkton, MD, 21921. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Oblate Retirement Fund, P.O. box 87, Childs, MD, 21916.

NOTE UPDATED FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS


WAKE AND MASS TO BE HELD AT

ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA CHURCH,

Ninth and DuPont Streets, Wilmington, DE, 19805.


http://web.me.com/kmnadolski/In_Memoriam/Rest_in_Peace!/Entries/2010/12/27_Rev._John_F._Harvey,_OSFS.html

LIBERIA: PRESIDENT JOHNSON VISITS CATHOLIC SICK ARCHBISHOP

ALL AFRICA REPORT: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday, December 27th, visited the ailing Catholic Archbishop Michael Francis to extend season's greetings.

The President thanked officials and staff for the love, concern and care Bishop Francis continues to receive.

She expressed delight at the physical appearance of the Bishop, and prayed that God would continue to provide the care and protection for him.

In response, The Most Reverend Lewis Jerome Zeigler, Co-Adjutor Archbishop of Monrovia, thanked the President for the concern she has demonstrated toward Archbishop Francis since he became ill more than five years ago.

The Bishop expressed satisfaction that God continues to demonstrate his love and care for the ailing Archbishop Francis.


In a related development, in keeping with the Christmas spirit of sharing, the Liberian leader on Thursday, December 23rd, visited the J. F. Kennedy Medical Center and the Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town, where she shared toys, food items and Christmas pleasantries with the children and other patients.According to an Executive Mansion release, the visit is one of several the President has paid on the Archbishop since his illness.

The President thanked staff of the two hospitals for the care they are providing, and urged them to continue to remain committed.

Several orphanages and other centers have also received Christmas gifts from the President, including the Monrovia Central Prison.

ASIA: NEPAL: GOVERNMENT PROTECTS CHRISTIANS AT CHRISTMAS

ASIA NEWS REPORT: The initiative lets Catholics and Protestants celebrate Christmas without fear from Hindu extremists. “Christian activities that do not harm the country are welcome in Nepal,” Foreign minister says.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Faced with a serious economic crisis, the Government of Nepal is trying to attract Christian tourists to the Himalayan nation, promoting it as a place of destination for Christmas and New Year holidays. For this reason, the authorities are protecting Christian places of worship from possible attacks by Hindu extremists. Local Catholics and Protestants were thus able to celebrate Christmas Mass and conduct processions in relative security. The increased volume of sales also pleased local businesses.

Prachandaman Shrestha, chairman of the Nepal Tourism Board, announced support and promotional packages for tourists who wish to visit the country at Christmas time.

“Our country is secular and people of any religion are welcome to Nepal,” Nepali Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala added. “This was not the case before but now we invite Christians from the world to come and celebrate Christmas here. Christian activities that do not harm the country are welcome in Nepal,” she said.

In 2007, Nepal became a secular state. The change came after ten years of civil war and centuries of Hindu monarchy. However, Christian and other minorities still survive on the margins of society.

Not only has the government banned apostolic work and proselytising, but in the recent years of political instability, Catholic and Protestant communities have often been the object of attacks from Hindu extremists.

Fr Robin Rai, a priest at Kathmandu’s Assumption cathedral, told AsiaNews, “In the 21st century, the state cannot ignore the presence of religious minorities and ban their activities. Circumstances have changed and Hindus are starting to accept and understand our faith.”

At the same time, Nepali business people and travel agencies have praised the government for its initiative. After being hard hit by the crisis, the national economy got a shot in the arm because of the great opportunities generated by Christmas.

For Rameshwor Tapa, who runs a gift shop near Assumption Cathedral, “one week of Christmas doubled sales for the whole year.”

The government’s action also created greater trust between the Christian minority and other religions. “In addition to Protestants and Catholics, I saw people from other religions buy Christmas gifts and exchange best wishes,” Mr Tapa said.

http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Nepal-government-protecting-Christmas-to-counter-economic-crisis-20380.html


AUSTRALIA: PEACE BETWEEN ABBOTT AND GILLARD DURING CHRISTMASTIME

THEAUSTRALIAN REPORT: JULIA Gillard and Tony Abbott have called a halt to hostilities over the festive season.

The Prime Minister has spent the Christmas break with her parents, Moira and John, with some additional visits to relatives, while the Opposition Leader spent Christmas at his home on Sydney's upper north shore.

He briefly spiced up the break with a trip to Melbourne for the first day of the Boxing Day Test.

Mr Abbott has not had any public engagements since a brief Christmas Eve press conference where he attacked the government's health reforms.

He has so far taken a low-key approach to the rest of the holidays, having scheduled some leave.

His days have begun with a surf and he has been doing some paperwork and reading, and working his way through a long list of domestic duties that have been planned for him by Mrs Abbott, whose parents have been visiting the couple.

"It's a very special part of who I am and who my family is that we get to come together in South Australia each year, no matter how far afield we may have been in the 12 months in between," she said.Ms Gillard yesterday attended Adelaide's Proclamation Day celebration, where she told the crowd that every Christmas of her life had been spent in the city since she migrated to Australia at the age of four.

"Hindmarsh (SA's first governor, John Hindmarsh) proclaimed South Australia 174 years ago.

"My wish for 2011 is that each of us makes our own proclamation . . . that we will dedicate our best efforts for our state and country in the year ahead, confident in its future as we should be."

The Australian understands Ms Gillard has spent her time with her parents catching up on some paperwork and watching the odd movie.

Having returned from leave in the middle of the month after the Christmas Island asylum-seeker tragedy, she is expected to remain on active duty over the holiday season.

SOURCE http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/gillard-abbott-call-holiday-truce/story-fn59niix-1225977466133

EUROPE: GERMANY: MISSION OF CHILDHOOD ON STREETS WITH CAROLS

Agenzia Fides REPORT - For the 53rd time, around the time of 6 January, the “Star Singers” (Sternsinger) of the German Mission of Childhood, will be on the streets of Germany with their Christmas carols. “Children show their strength” is the motto of this year's campaign in the German dioceses that will see around half a million German girls and boys go from door to door in the clothes of the Magi kings, bringing the stars with them.
Cambodia is the symbolic country for the 2011 campaign and they want to draw attention especially to children with disabilities who live in the country to educate people to social problems. Cambodia still suffers the consequences of dictatorship and civil war. Malnutrition and lack of basic sanitation are the cause of many disabilities. In addition, there are still four to six million anti-personnel mines that kill or maim. “The children of Cambodia show us that you can play football with no legs and write with no hands,” said Msgr. Krämer, President of the German Mission of Childhood, which together with the Association of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ) is organizing the campaign. The children show that with a little support, despite a handicap, you can achieve almost anything. “Children are often an example and model, when even with great misfortune they are able to overcome certain situations,” said Msgr. Krämer. The campaign also aims to spread this message.
At the formal opening of the 53rd Campaign by the Star Singers to be held on 30 December in the diocese of Essen, approximately 1,500 girls and boys from various dioceses will participate. On 1 January 2011 there will be 22 Star Singers from the diocese of Mainz participating in the celebration presided over by Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter's Basilica. Three of them, wearing the traditional clothes of the Magi, will participate in the offertory procession. On 5 January, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will receive 108 Star Singers in her offices in Berlin. Four girls and boys from each of the 27 dioceses in Germany will represent their peers participating in the campaign.
Wearing clothes of the Magi, with their guiding star and their songs during the Christmas season and the beginning of the new year, the Star Singers will be knocking on the doors of German homes. About half a million children from 12,500 Catholic parishes in Germany will bring the blessing “C + M + B” (“mansionem benedicat Christus - Christ bless this house”) to families, collecting donations for their contemporaries who are suffering throughout the world. The gathering of German Star Singers has become the largest initiative of solidarity throughout the world, which sees children working for their contemporaries in need. (MS)

TODAY'S SAINT: DEC. 29: ST. THOMAS BECKET

St. Thomas Becket

ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY AND MARTYR

Feast: December 29



Information:

Feast Day:December 29
Born:21 December 1118 at London, England
Died:29 December 1170 in the Cathedral at Canterbury, England
Canonized:21 February 1173 by Pope Alexander III
Patron of:clergy

There is a romantic legend that the mother of Thomas Becket was a Saracen princess who followed his father, a pilgrim or crusader, back from the Holy Land, and wandered about Europe repeating the only English words she knew, "London" and "Becket," until she found him. There is no foundation for the story. According to a contemporary writer, Thomas Becket was the son of Gilbert Becket, sheriff of London; another relates that both parents were of Norman blood. Whatever his parentage, we know with certainty that the future chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury was born on St. Thomas day, 1118, of a good family, and that he was educated at a school of canons regular at Merton Priory in Sussex, and later at the University of Paris. When Thomas returned from France, his parents had died. Obliged to make his way unaided, he obtained an appointment as clerk to the sheriff's court, where he showed great ability. All accounts describe him as a strongly built, spirited youth, a lover of field sports, who seems to have spent his leisure time in hawking and hunting. One day when he was out hunting with his falcon, the bird swooped down at a duck, and as the duck dived, plunged after it into the river. Thomas himself leapt in to save the valuable hawk, and the rapid stream swept him along to a mill, where only the accidental stopping of the wheel saved his life. The episode serves to illustrate the impetuous daring which characterized Becket all through his life.

At the age of twenty-four Thomas was given a post in the household of Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, and while there he apparently resolved on a career in the Church, for he took minor orders. To prepare himself further, he obtained the archbishop's permission to study canon law at the University of Bologna, continuing his studies at Auxerre, France. On coming back to England, he became provost of Beverley, and canon at Lincoln and St. Paul's cathedrals. His ordination as deacon occurred in 1154. Theobald appointed him archdeacon of Canterbury, the highest ecclesiastical office in England after a bishopric or an abbacy, and began to entrust him with the most intricate affairs; several times he was sent on important missions to Rome. It was Thomas' diplomacy that dissuaded Pope Eugenius III from sanctioning the coronation of Eustace, eldest son of Stephen, and when Henry of Anjou, great grandson of William the Conqueror, asserted his claim to the English crown and became King Henry II, it was not long before he appointed this gifted churchman as chancellor, that is, chief minister. An old chronicle describes Thomas as "slim of growth, and pale of hue, with dark hair, a long nose, and a straightly featured face.

Blithe of countenance was he, winning and lovable in conversation, frank of speech in his discourses but slightly stuttering in his talk, so keen of discernment that he could always make difficult questions plain after a wise manner." Thomas discharged his duties as chancellor conscientiously and well.

Like the later chancellor of the realm, Thomas Moore, who also became a martyr and a saint, Thomas Becket was the close personal friend as well as the loyal servant of his young sovereign. They were said to have one heart and one mind between them, and it seems possible that to Becket's influence were due, in part, those reforms for which Henry is justly praised, that is, his measures to secure equitable dealing for all his subjects by a more uniform and efficient system of law. But it was not only their common interest in matters of state that bound them together. They were also boon companions and spent merry hours together. It was almost the only relaxation Thomas allowed himself, for he was an ambitious man. He had a taste for magnificence, and his household was as fine—if not finer—than the King's. When he was sent to France to negotiate a royal marriage, he took a personal retinue of two hundred men, with a train of several hundred more, knights and squires, clerics and servants, eight fine wagons, music and singers, hawks and hounds, monkeys and mastiffs. Little wonder that the French gaped in wonder and asked, "If this is the chancellor's state, what can the Ring's be like?" His entertainments, his gifts, and his liberality to the poor were also on a very lavish scale.

In 1159 King Henry raised an army of mercenaries in France to regain the province of Toulouse, a part of the inheritance of his wife, the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Thomas served Henry in this war with a company of seven hundred knights of his own. Wearing armor like any other fighting man, he led assaults and engaged in single combat. Another churchman, meeting him, exclaimed: "What do you mean by wearing such a dress? You look more like a falconer than a cleric. Yet you are a cleric in person, and many times over in office-archdeacon of Canterbury, dean of Hastings, provost of Beverley, canon of this church and that, procurator of the archbishop, and like to be archbishop, too, the rumor goes!" Thomas received the rebuke with good humor.

Although he was proud, strong-willed, and irascible, and remained so all his life, he did not neglect to make seasonal retreats at Merton and took the discipline imposed on him there. His confessor during this time testified later to the blamelessness of his private life, under conditions of extreme temptation. If he sometimes went too far in those schemes of the King which tended to infringe on the ancient prerogatives and rights of the Church, at other times he opposed Henry with vigor.

In 1161 Archbishop Theobald died. King Henry was then in Normandy with Thomas, whom he resolved to make the next primate of England. When Henry announced his intention, Thomas, demurring, told him: "Should God permit me to be the archbishop of Canterbury, I would soon lose your Majesty's favor, and the affection with which you honor me would be changed into hatred. For there are several things you do now in prejudice of the rights of the Church which make me fear you would require of me what I could not agree to; and envious persons would not fail to make it the occasion of endless strife between us." The King paid no heed to this remonstrance, and sent bishops and noblemen to the monks of Canterbury, ordering them to labor with the same zeal to set his chancellor in the see as they would to set the crown on the young prince's head. Thomas continued to refuse the promotion until the legate of the Holy See, Cardinal Henry of Pisa, overrode his scruples. The election took place in May, 1162. Young Prince Henry, then in London, gave the necessary consent in his father's name. Thomas, now forty-four years old, rode to Canterbury and was first ordained priest by Walter, bishop of Rochester, and then on the octave of Pentecost was consecrated archbishop by the bishop of Winchester. Shortly afterwards he received the pallium sent by Pope Alexander III.

From this day worldly grandeur no longer marked Thomas' way of life. Next his skin he wore a hairshirt, and his customary dress was a plain black cassock, a linen surplice, and a sacerdotal stole about his neck. He lived ascetically, spent much time in the distribution of alms, in reading and discussing the Scriptures with Herbert of Bosham, in visiting the infirmary, and supervising the monks at their work. He took special care in selecting candidates for Holy Orders. As ecclesiastical judge, he was rigorously just.

Although as archbishop Thomas had resigned the chancellorship, against the King's wish, the relations between the two men seemed to be unchanged for a time. But a host of troubles was brewing, and the crux of all of them was the relationship between Church and state. In the past the landowners, among which the Church was one of the largest, for each hide of land they held, had paid annually two shillings to the King's officers, who in return undertook to protect them from the rapacity of minor tax- gatherers. This was actually a flagrant form of graft and the Ring now ordered the money paid into his own exchequer. The archbishop protested, and there were hot words between him and the Ring. Thenceforth the King's demands were directed solely against the clergy, with no mention of other landholders who were equally involved.

Then came the affair of Philip de Brois, a canon accused of murdering a soldier.

According to a long-established law, as a cleric he was tried in an ecclesiastical court, where he was acquitted by the judge, the bishop of Lincoln, but ordered to pay a fine to the deceased man's relations. A king's justice then made an effort to bring him before his civil court, but he could not be tried again upon that indictment and told the king's justice so in insulting terms. Thereat Henry ordered him tried again both for the original murder charge—and for his later misdemeanor. Thomas now pressed to have the case referred to his own archiepiscopal court; the King reluctantly agreed, and appointed both lay and clerical assessors. Philip's plea of a previous acquittal was accepted as far as the murder was concerned, but he was punished for his contempt of a royal court. The King thought the sentence too mild and remained dissatisfied. In October, 1163, the King called the bishops of his realm to a council at Westminster, at which he demanded their assent to an edict that thenceforth clergy proved guilty of crimes against the civil law should be handed over to the civil courts for punishment.

Thomas stiffened the bishops against yielding. But finally, at the council of Westminster they assented reluctantly to the instrument known as the Constitutions of Clarendon, which embodied the royal "customs" in Church matters, and including some additional points, making sixteen in all. It was a revolutionary document: it provided that no prelate should leave the kingdom without royal permission, which would serve to prevent appeals to the Pope; that no tenant-in-chief should be excommunicated against the Ring's will; that the royal court was to decide in which court clerics accused of civil offenses should be tried; that the custody of vacant Church benefices and their revenues should go to the King. Other provisions were equally damaging to the authority and prestige of the Church. The bishops gave their assent only with a reservation, "saving their order," which was tantamount to a refusal.

Thomas was now full of remorse for having weakened, thus setting a bad example to the bishops, but at the same time he did not wish to widen the breach between himself and the King. He made a futile effort to cross the Channel and put the case before the Pope. On his part, the Ring was bent on vengeance for what he considered the disloyalty and ingratitude of the archbishop. He ordered Thomas to give up certain castles and honors which he held from him, and began a campaign to persecute and discredit him. Various charges of chicanery and financial dishonesty were brought against Thomas, dating from the time he was chancellor. The bishop of Winchester pleaded the archbishop's discharge. The plea was disallowed; Thomas offered a voluntary payment of his own money, and that was refused.

The affair was building up to a crisis, when, on October 13, 1164, the King called another great council at Northampton. Thomas went, after celebrating Mass, carrying his archbishop's cross in his hand. The Earl of Leicester came out with a message from the King: "The King commands you to render your accounts. Otherwise you must hear his judgment." "Judgment?" exclaimed Thomas. "I was given the church of Canterbury free from temporal obligations. I am therefore not liable and will not plead with regard to them. Neither law nor reason allows children to judge and condemn their fathers.

Wherefore I refuse the King's judgment and yours and everyone's. Under God, I will be judged by the Pope alone."

Determined to stand out against the Ring, Thomas left Northampton that night, and soon thereafter embarked secretly for Flanders. Louis VII, Ring of France, invited Thomas into his dominions. Meanwhile King Henry forbade anyone to give him aid.

Gilbert, abbot of Sempringham, was accused of having sent him some relief. Although the abbot had done nothing, he refused to swear he had not, because, he said, it would have been a good deed and he would say nothing that might seem to brand it as a criminal act. Henry quickly dispatched several bishops and others to put his case before Pope Alexander, who was then at Sens. Thomas also presented himself to the Pope and showed him the Constitutions of Clarendon, some of which Alexander pronounced intolerable, others impossible. He rebuked Thomas for ever having considered accepting them. The next day Thomas confessed that he had, though unwillingly, received the see of Canterbury by an election somewhat irregular and uncanonical, and had acquitted himself badly in it. He resigned his office, returned the episcopal ring to the Pope, and withdrew. After deliberation, the Pope called him back and reinstated him, with orders not to abandon his office, for to do so would be to abandon the cause of God. He then recommended Thomas to the Cistercian abbot at Pontigny.

Thomas then put on a monk's habit, and submitted himself to the strict rule of the monastery. Over in England King Henry was busy confiscating the goods of all the friends, relations, and servants of the archbishop, and banishing them, first binding them by oath to go to Thomas at Pontigny, that the sight of their distress might move him. Troops of these exiles soon appeared at the abbey. Then Henry notified the Cistercians that if they continued to harbor his enemy he would sequestrate all their houses in his dominions. After this, the abbot hinted that Thomas was no longer welcome in his abbey. The archbishop found refuge as the guest of King Louis at the royal abbey of St. Columba, near Sens.

This historic quarrel dragged on for three years. Thomas was named by the Pope as his legate for all England except York, whereupon Thomas excommunicated several of his adversaries; yet at times he showed himself conciliatory towards the King. The French king was also drawn into the struggle, and the two kings had a conference in 1169 at Montmirail. King Louis was inclined to take Thomas' side. A reconciliation was finally effected between Thomas and Henry, although the lines of power were not too clearly drawn. The archbishop now made preparations to return to his see. With a premonition of his fate, he remarked to the bishop of Paris in parting, "I am going to England to die." On December 1, 1172, he disembarked at Sandwich, and on the journey to Canterbury the way was lined with cheering people, welcoming him home. As he rode into the cathedral city at the head of a triumphal procession, every bell was ringing. Yet in spite of the public demonstration, there was an atmosphere of foreboding.

At the reconciliation in France, Henry had agreed to the punishment of Roger, archbishop of York, and the bishops of London and Salisbury, who had assisted at the coronation of Henry's son, despite the long-established right of the archbishop of Canterbury to perform this ceremony and in defiance of the Pope's explicit instructions. It had been another attempt to lower the prestige of the primate's see. Thomas had sent on in advance of his return the papal letters suspending Roger and confirming the excommunication of the two bishops involved. On the eve of his arrival a deputation waited on him to ask for the withdrawal of these sentences. He agreed on condition that the three would swear thenceforth to obey the Pope. This they refused to do, and together went to rejoin King Henry, who was visiting his domains in France.

At Canterbury Thomas was subjected to insult by one Ranulf de Broc, from whom he had demanded the restoration of Saltwood Castle, a manor previously belonging to the archbishop's see. After a week's stay there he went up to London, where Henry's son, "the young King," refused to see him. He arrived back in Canterbury on or about his fifty-second birthday. Meanwhile the three bishops had laid their complaints before the King at Bur, near Bayeux, and someone had exclaimed aloud that there would be no peace for the realm while Becket lived. At this, the King, in a fit of rage, pronounced some words which several of his hearers took as a rebuke to them for allowing Becket to continue to live and thereby disturb him. Four of his knights at once set off for England and made their way to the irate family at Saltwood. Their names were Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy, Hugh de Morville, and Richard le Bret.

On St. John's day Thomas received a letter warning him of danger, and all southeast Kent was in a state of ferment. On the afternoon of December 29, the four knights came to see him in his episcopal palace. During the interview they made several demands, in particular that Thomas remove the censures on the three bishops. The knights withdrew, uttering threats and oaths. A few minutes later there were loud outcries, a shattering of doors and clashing of arms, and the archbishop, urged on by his attendants, began moving slowly through the cloister passage to the cathedral. It was now twilight and vespers were being sung. At the door of the north transept he was met by some terrified monks, whom he commanded to get back to the choir. They withdrew a little and he entered the church, but the knights were seen behind him in the dim light. The monks slammed the door on them and bolted it. In their confusion they shut out several of their own brethren, who began beating loudly on the door.

Becket turned and cried, "Away, you cowards ! A church is not a castle." He reopened the door himself, then went towards the choir, accompanied by Robert de Merton, his aged teacher and confessor, William Fitzstephen, a cleric in his household, and a monk, Edward Grim. The others fled to the crypt and other hiding places, and Grim alone remained. At this point the knights broke in shouting, "Where is Thomas the traitor?" "Where is the archbishop?" "Here I am," he replied, "no traitor, but archbishop and priest of God!" He came down the steps to stand between the altars of Our Lady and St. Benedict.

The knights clamored at him to absolve the bishops, and Thomas answered firmly, "I cannot do other than I have done. Reginald, you have received many favors from me.

Why do you come into my church armed?" Fitzurse made a threatening gesture with his axe. "I am ready to die," said Thomas, "but God's curse on you if you harm my people." There was some scuffling as they tried to carry Thomas outside bodily.

Fitzurse flung down his axe and drew his sword. "You pander, you owe me fealty and submission!" exclaimed the archbishop. Fitzurse shouted back, "I owe no fealty contrary to the King ! " and knocked off Thomas' cap. At this, Thomas covered his face and called aloud on God and the saints. Tracy struck a blow, which Grim intercepted with his own arm, but it grazed Thomas' skull and blood ran down into his eyes. He wiped the stain away and cried, "Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!" Another blow from Tracy beat him to his knees, and he pitched forward onto his face, murmuring, "For the name of Jesus and in defense of the Church I am willing to die." With a vigorous thrust Le Bret struck deep into his head, breaking his sword against the pavement, and Hugh of Horsea added a blow, although the archbishop was now dying. Hugh de Morville stood by but struck no blow. The murderers, brandishing their swords, now dashed away through the cloisters, shouting "The King's men! The King's men!" The cathedral itself was filling with people unaware of the catastrophe, and a thunderstorm was breaking overhead. The archbishop's body lay in the middle of the transept, and for a time no one dared approach it. A deed of such sacrilege was bound to be regarded with horror and indignation. When the news was brought to the King, he shut himself up and fasted for forty days, for he knew that his chance remark had sped the courtiers to England bent on vengeance. He later performed public penance in Canterbury Cathedral and in 1172 received absolution from the papal delegates.

Within three years of his death the archbishop had been canonized as a martyr. Though far from a faultless character, Thomas Becket, when his time of testing came, had the courage to lay down his life to defend the ancient rights of the Church against an aggressive state. The discovery of his hairshirt and other evidences of austerity, and the many miracles which were reported at his tomb, increased the veneration in which he was held. The shrine of the "holy blessed martyr," as Chaucer called him, soon became famous, and the old Roman road running from London to Canterbury known as "Pilgrim's Way." His tomb was magnificently adorned with gold, silver, and jewels, only to be despoiled by Henry VIII; the fate of his relics is uncertain. They may have been destroyed as a part of Henry's policy to subordinate the English Church to the civil authority. Mementoes of this saint are preserved at the cathedral of Sens. The feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury is now kept throughout the Roman Catholic Church, and in England he is regarded as the protector of the secular clergy.

source http://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/saints/T/stthomasbecket.asp

TODAY'S GOSPEL: DEC. 29: LUKE: 2: 22-35

uke 2: 22 - 35
22And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord")24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."25Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.27And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law,28he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,29"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word;30for mine eyes have seen thy salvation31which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."33And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him;34and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against35(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."

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