Translation of the Relics of Saint Thomas Becket

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For many reasons I have had a devotion to Saint Thomas Becket whose liturgical memorial is observed on December 29. Becket was killed in 1170. His conversion and subsequent witness to the work of the Trinity in the world is one which inspires and challenges me to follow Christ more closely.

Today is the day that the Church in Canterbury observes a liturgical remembrance of the transfer of relics of Saint Thomas Becket. I should point out, however, there is a problem for some people in verifying Becket's relics being as true and therefore the subject of debate among some scholars. You can read any number of works on the subject if you'd like to enter the debate. I happen to come down on the side that the relics of Saint Thomas Becket are real. 

A transfer of relics from one shrine to another is similar to a reburying a body. As we know of tradition, it is in the second half of the 4th century that some local churches (dioceses) placed the relics beneath the altar and this placement of matryrs' relics became part of the dedication rites of a church.

The veneration of martyrs is a very ancient part of Christian faith. All sorts of practices surfaced with regard to the honor paid to a martyr-saint (and later to non-martyr saints) such as adorning the tombs, lighting lamps, paintings, inscriptions, offering the Eucharist on the martyr's anniversary of death, writing of the martyr's history, making a pilgrimage and the like. All these things first acknowledge the power of God over sin and death (the Resurrection) and then the confidence that we have in the martyr would intercede on our behalf before God. All this contributes to the belief that the martyrs were (and continue to be) true disciples of Jesus Christ. The martyr witnesses to us the reality and truth of the Paschal Mystery and our being able to be saved if we surrender to that Mystery. Why are we concerned with the transfer of relics? Why is this important? Existentially it is rather unimportant; as a matter of faith and Christian living the transfer of a saint's relics is important because of the honor due to God through the life of a blessed man or woman as interpreted for us by Christ crucified and risen; the martyr is only important insofar as he or she points to Jesus; the martyrs' relics and there occasional transfer illustrates an eschatology present in the baptism we daily live.

We venerate (we don't adore) the remains of a person we are morally convinced, that is, we have certainty that this person is among the saints in heaven and that the saint shows how to excel in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Today we remember the moving of Becket and we ask him to ask God for the grace of courage and greatness of heart.

from a letter by Saint Thomas Becket

For our sake Christ offered himself to the Father upon the altar for the cross. He now looks down from heaven on our actions and secret thoughts, and one day he will give each of us the reward his deeds deserve. It must therefore be our endeavor to destroy the right of sin and death, and by nurturing faith and uprightness of life, to build up the Church of Christ into a holy temple of the Lord.

The harvest is good and one reaper or even several would not suffice to gather all of it into the granary of the Lord. Yet the Roman Church remains the head of all the churches and the source of Catholic teaching. Of this there can be no doubt. 
Reliquary of St Thomas Becket.jpg
Everyone know that the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given to Peter. Upon his faith and teaching the whole fabric of the Church will continue to be built until we all reach full maturity in Christ and attain to unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Of course many are needed to plant and many to water now that the faith has spread so far and the population become so great.

Nevertheless, no matter who plants or waters, God gives no harvest unless what he plants is the faith of Peter, and unless he himself assents to Peter's teaching. All important questions that arise among God's people are referred to the judgment of Peter in the person for the Roman Pontiff. Under him the ministers of Mother Church exercise the powers committed to them, each in his own sphere of responsibility.

Remember then how our fathers worked out their salvation; remember the sufferings through which the Church has grown, and the storms the ship of Peter has weathered because it has Christ on board. Remember how the crown was attained by those whose sufferings gave new radiance to their faith. The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth that without real effort no one wins the crown.

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Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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This page contains a single entry by Paul Zalonski published on July 7, 2009 5:30 AM.

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