Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Thomas Becket (1118–1170)

Saint Thomas Becket (1118–1170)

Patron saint of the clergy, Exeter College, and Portsmouth, England

Feast day: December 29

Saint Thomas Becket was appointed chancellor of England by his friend, King Henry II. King Henry selected Thomas with the hope that he, Henry, could encroach on Church affairs. However, Thomas warned Henry that their friendship did not guarantee that he, Thomas, would always listen to him when making decisions.

Indeed, Thomas’s views and the king’s views clashed, and Thomas was exiled to France. When he returned, he still did not see eye to eye with Henry on important clerical issues. Enraged and frustrated, the king cried out, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!” Four knights took the king’s outburst literally, and they stabbed Thomas to death while he was praying in Canterbury Cathedral.

For his rage-fueled statement that led to the murder, King Henry II did public penance after Thomas was canonized in 1173. Saint Thomas Becket’s holy, steadfast life and tragic death inspired T.S. Elliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral

(Image by HVH, Wikimedia Commons)