tisdag 29 december 2009

St Thomas Becket

29th December is the anniversary of the murder in 1170 of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. It is usually celebrated as one of his two feast days but the feast seems to have been superseded on account of the readings which are those for the Feast of the Presentation.

At a time when Britain is plagued by bad government, it seems fitting to commemorate an Englishman who resisted it.

About twenty years ago, the curate of my parish church in Brighton was Fr Mark Elvins who is a descendant of the Thurnhams of Thurnham on the North Downs, who were connected to Ranulph de Broc, one of the four knights who committed the murder on the instigation of King Henry II. Whilst on a visit to Rome he had mentioned the fact to someone in a religious house and was presented with a relic of St Thomas. King Henry VIII had intended all relics of St Thomas to be destroyed, but Fr Elvins related to me that relics had been presented to the King of France and the Papal Legate at a state visit some time in the thirteenth century, and this was why Henry VIII's intention had been in vain.

Fr Elvins established the St Thomas Fund which runs a home for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics in Brighton. He subsequently became a Franciscan and is Master of Greyfriars Hall, Oxford.

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