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Thomas was a close friend of Henry II, King of England.  He was learned but very ‘worldly’ in outlook.  In other words, he was not overly devout in his Christian life.

When the see of Canterbury became vacant, the king used his influence to have him appointed as the Archbishop.  This was the most important see in the Church in England (which at this stage was still Catholic).

The king expected him to be loyal to him, and to take the king’s part in any dispute, including disputes within the Church.

When Thomas found himself in the role of Archbishop of Canterbury, he went through a conversion experience

He decided to follow his conscience and do the right thing.

He stood up to his friend, the king, in regard to the independence of the Church from the monarchy.

The king felt betrayed by his trusted friend.

Thomas had to flee to France for six years.

When he came back the king, who was noted for his temper, said some rash words about ‘who would free him from this troublesome priest’!

Four knights set out and murdered Thomas in his Cathedral.

There are a number of things that we can learn from Thomas.

  • The Church needs to follow the teachings of Christ, to do so even if it clashes with the pressures of civil government. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”.

  • Personal friendships should not influence us to go against our conscience.

  • Henry spoke rashly, something he lived to regret.  We need to be careful with our temper and the words we use.

  • We can always choose to grow and change for the better, just as Thomas did when he changed his lifestyle because of his conversion.


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