Catholic Tradition Newsletter A52: Holy Eucharist, Sunday in Christmas Octave, Saint Thomas Becket

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Vol 12 Issue 52 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
December 28, 2019 ~ Holy Innocents, opn!

1.      What is the Holy Eucharist
2.      Sunday in Octave of Christmas
3.      Saint Thomas of Canterbury
4.      Family and Marriage
5.      Articles and notices
Dear Reader:

As we celebrate Christmas and encounter all the naysayers who would want to tell us Catholics that we celebrate pagan feasts (such as Christmas for Saturnalia—remember fake news is not news) and use pagan symbols, I want to point out that they must have an excuse for not accepting the Catholic Faith—even if their reason is made up —; but also that we understand the richness of the symbols that we use, especially at Christmas time. Understanding the meaning the symbol will inform us that it is not be simply a tradition, but a reminder of our beautiful faith. The Nativity Scene or Creche is always part of the Catholic home during Christmas, and understandably and you may recall I reflected upon that last year. But there is another symbol that is never absent in our Catholic homes during Christmas: the Christmas tree. Why? Because it also tells the story of Redemption—the mystery of which is celebrated at Christmas as the Redeemer is born.

It was from a tree that Eve took the forbidden fruit, and it was on the wood of a tree that Christ died for the salvation of mankind. It is, therefore, a symbol of shame and victory, of trial and triumph. The Christmas tree occupies a place in our dwelling, in our life. The choice of the evergreen is to express eternal life and hope. We adorn the tree with lights to express that Christ is come into the world to dispel darkness and give us the light of faith. We are reminded that we must be like the branches, ingrafted onto Christ.

The thoughts are brought out by various passages of Sacred Scripture, such as Psalm 95:

A canticle for David himself, when the house [the Church] was built after the captivity [Redemption]. Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing ye to the Lord and bless his name: shew forth his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the Gentiles: his wonders among all people. For the Lord is great, and exceedingly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the Gentiles are devils: but the Lord made the heavens.  Praise and beauty are before him: holiness and majesty in his sanctuary. Bring ye to the Lord, O ye kindreds of the Gentiles, bring ye to the Lord glory and honour: Bring to the Lord glory unto his name. Bring up sacrifices, and come into his courts: Adore ye the Lord in his holy court. Let all the earth be moved at his presence. Say ye among the Gentiles, the Lord hath reigned. For he hath corrected the world, which shall not be moved: he will judge the people with justice. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad, let the sea be moved, and the fulness thereof: The fields and all things that are in them shall be joyful. Then shall all the trees of the woods rejoice before the face of the Lord, because he cometh: because he cometh to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with justice, and the people with his truth.

So the Christmas tree is placed in the house and even in the Church during this season. Further, one reads these words of the Prophet Ezechiel (17:22-24)

Thus said the Lord God: I myself will take the top of the high cedar, and will set it: I will crop off a tender twig from the top of the branches thereof, and I will plant it on a mountain high and eminent. On the high mountains of Israel will I plant it and it shall shoot forth into branches, and shall bear fruit, and it shall become a great cedar: and all the birds shall dwell under it, and every fowl shall make its nest under the shadow of the branches thereof, and all the trees of the country shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, and exalted the low tree: and have dried up the green tree, and have caused the dry tree to flourish. I the Lord have spoken and have done it.

And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. (Isaias 11:1) The Jesse tree, that is, the ancestral tree of Jesus, is also exemplified—more so if the decorations relate to the various Old Testament figures: Adam and Eve, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Juda, Booz, Obed, Jesse, David and Solomon. And, as many of these men prefigured Christ, so many of their wives prefigured Mary. The Church, then, in blessing the tree, prays:

Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, Who hast caused Thy Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be planted like a tree of life in Thy Church, by being born of the most Holy Virgin Mary, bless, we beseech Thee, this tree that all who see it may be filled with a holy desire to be ingrafted as living branches into the same Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

Of course, the tree is not complete without a star or an Angel placed atop, remembering that stars are symbolic of angels; and, so we are reminded of the Angel who announces to the shepherds tidings of great joy of the birth of Christ in Bethlehem as well as of the star that guided the Wisemen to the Saviour so they could worship Him and offer Him their gold, incense and myrrh.

There is no tree worship, for as Saint Boniface cut down the oak tree that was worshipped to show it was merely a tree; so, too, our Christmas trees are cut down to the honor of the Christ Child.

Our use of symbolisms that are rich in meaning and expressive of our faith should not eliminated merely because of some anti-Catholic misguided zealot—rather may we use it to point out the faith to this person with a prayer that the light of grace will shine upon them that is reflected and provided through the tree.

As always, enjoy the readings provided for your benefit.—The Editor



By Rev. Courtney Edward Krier



Old Testament Prefigurements of the Holy Eucharist

AND this do Thou deign to regard with gracious and kindly attention and hold acceptable, as Thou didst deign to accept the offerings of Abel, Thy just servant, and the sacrifice of Abraham our patriarch, and that which Thy chief priest Melchisedech offered unto Thee, a holy sacrifice and a spotless victim. (Canon of the Mass)


After the fall of Adam and Eve and the promise of a Redeemer in Genesis 3:15, the people of the Old Testament (understood as all living before the birth of the Messias and placed in the history of mankind as B.C., or Before Christ, in distinction to A.D., or In the year of the LordAnno Domini) were preparing and waiting for the act of redemption, the atonement for sin and the reconciliation of mankind with God. This is immediately shown in the presentation of Cain and Abel as found in the fourth chapter of Genesis:

And Adam knew Eve his wife: who conceived and brought forth Cain, saying: I have gotten a man through God. And again she brought forth his brother Abel. And Abel was a shepherd, and Cain a husbandman. And it came to pass after many days, that Cain offered, of the fruits of the earth, gifts to the Lord. Abel also offered of the firstlings of his flock, and of their fat: and the Lord had respect to Abel, and to his offerings. But to Cain and his offerings he had no respect: and Cain was exceedingly angry, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said to him: Why art thou angry? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou do well, shalt thou not receive? but if ill, shall not sin forthwith be present at the door? but the lust thereof shall be under thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it. And Cain said to Abel his brother: Let us go forth abroad. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and slew him. And the Lord said to Cain: Where is thy brother Abel? And he answered, I know not: am I my brother’s keeper? And he said to him: What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth to me from the earth.

Now, therefore, cursed shalt thou be upon the earth, which hath opened her mouth and received the blood of thy brother at thy hand. When thou shalt till it, it shall not yield to thee its fruit: a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be upon the earth. And Cain said to the Lord: My iniquity is greater than that I may deserve pardon. Behold thou dost cast me out this day from the face of the earth, and I shall be hidden from thy face, and I shall be a vagabond and a fugitive on the earth: every one, therefore, that findeth me, shall kill me. And the Lord said to him: No, it shall not be so: but whosoever shall kill Cain, shall be punished sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, that whosoever found him should not kill him. (Gen. 4:1-15)

Abel was a type of Christ and, as one sees the type, there is also the fulfilment and a continuation of the fulfillment; that is, Christ continues to fulfill what was prophesied: Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever. (Hebrews 13:8). A few examples are Psalm 109:4, Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech; Luke. 1:32-33, the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end; and, I will set up one Shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David: he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd (Ezechiel 34:23).

Abel, then, was a shepherd—just like David. Our Lord says of Himself: I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep (John 10:11). Abel offered a lamb and God was pleased with the sacrifice. Christ offered Himself, the Lamb of God (John 1:29; cf. Apoc. 7:17) and God had respect to His Son, Jesus Christ, and to His offering:

This same God [Father] hath fulfilled to our children, raising up Jesus, as in the second psalm also is written: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And to shew that he raised him up from the dead, not to return now any more to corruption, he said thus: I will give you the holy things of David faithful. (Acts 13:33-34)

The Israelite sacrifices were accepted by God only as they were offered in view of the Sacrifice of Christ. But, faithless as the Israelites were, those sacrifices displeased God. Samuel tells Saul: Doth the Lord desire holocausts and victims, and not rather that the voice of the Lord should be obeyed? For obedience is better than sacrifices: and to hearken rather than to offer the fat of rams. (1 Kings 15:22) The Prophets warned the Jews:

To you, O priests, that despise my name, and have said: Wherein have we despised thy name? You offer polluted bread upon my altar, and you say: Wherein have we polluted thee? In that you say: The table of the Lord is contemptible. If you offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if you offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil? offer it to thy prince, if he will be pleased with it, or if he will regard thy face, saith the Lord of hosts. And now beseech ye the face of God, that he may have mercy on you, (for by your hand hath this been done,) if by any means he will receive your faces, saith the Lord of hosts. Who is there among you, that will shut the doors, and will kindle the fire on my altar gratis? I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts: and I will not receive a gift of your hand. (Malachi 1:7-10)

Cain offered of the fruits of the earth, and God did not accept. It is interesting to note the Novus Ordo service offers of the fruits of the earth (according to a Jewish blessing):

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,

for through your goodness we have received

the bread we offer you:

fruit of the earth and work of human hands,

it will become for us the bread of life.

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,

for through your goodness we have received

the wine we offer you:

fruit of the vine and work of human hands,

it will become our spiritual drink.

As consequence of God’s acceptance of the sacrifice of Abel, Cain became angry and killed his brother Abel by means of a wooden club. The Jews, angry that God accepted Christ (miracles were proof of God’s approval), killed Christ (their Brother) by means of a wooden cross. The Jews cried out: His blood be upon us and our children. (Matt. 27:25) God said to Cain: thy brother’s blood crieth to me from earth (Gen. 4:10) As the Jewish High Priest told the Apostles: you have a mind to bring the blood of this man upon us (Acts 5:28), the blood was not, as Cain and the Jews thought, for revenge, but for salvation: If thou do well, shalt thou not receive? (Gen. 4:7). Therefore Peter and the Apostles said of the death of Christ, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins.

Paul writes to the Hebrews: By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice exceeding that of Cain, by which he obtained a testimony that he was just, God giving testimony to his gifts; and by it he being dead yet speaketh. (Heb. 11:4) Saint Ambrose writes:

These two brothers, Cain and Abel, have furnished us with the prototype of the Synagogue and the Church. In Cain we perceive the parricidal people of the Jews, who were stained with the blood of their Lord, their Creator, and, as a result of the child-bearing of the Virgin Mary, their Brother, also. (Cain and Abel, I, 1, 2)

Paul Heinisch, in Christ in Prophecy, explains:

Abel, who was called “just” by Jesus, [Matt. 23:35] offered to God a pleasing and acceptable sacrifice. In the Canon of the Mass his offering is mentioned with relation to Christ’s. The blood of Abel called to God for vengeance. Before God Christ intercedes through His blood “better than that of Abel” [cf. Heb. 12:24] because it pleads for forgiveness and grace and eternal beatitude.

As these comparisons are presented, the point is that the Church sees in the sacrifice of Abel the sacrifice of Christ. The Apostolic Constitution states: And while You accepted of the sacrifice of Abel as of an holy person, You rejected the gift of Cain, the murderer of his brother, as of an abhorred wretch. (Apost. Const. VIII, xii, 39) In contrast, the boatmen of the ship to Tharsis recognized the sacrifice of Jonas would save them: And they cried to the Lord, and said: We beseech thee, O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee. (Jonas 1:14)


The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers

M. F. Toal


LUKE ii. 33-40

At that time: Joseph, and Mary the Mother of Jesus, were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; and thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser; she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow until four score and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day. Now she, at the same hour, coming in, confessed to the Lord, and spoke of him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel. And, after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong, full of wisdom; and the grace of God was in him.


LUKE ii. 33, 40

V. 33. And his father and mother were wondering at these things.

Photius from the Catena of Greek Fathers: As often as the memory of wondrous things returns to the mind, so often does the mind renew its wonder; hence is it said: And His father and mother were wondering at these things which were spoken concerning him. ORIGEN, Hom. 17 in Luke: both by the message of an angel and by the multitude of the heavenly host; by the shepherds and then by Simeon. BEDE, in Luke Bk. I: Joseph is called the father of the Saviour, though he was not His father; but that the good name of Mary might be protected, he is regarded by all as His father.

AUGUSTINE, de Consens. Ev. II 1: Although he may be called father in the same way that he is called the husband of Mary, but rightly understood without intercourse of the flesh, but in union of marriage. And thus was he closer in relationship to Him than if He had been adopted from without. Neither must Joseph be denied the title of father because he had not begotten Him carnally, seeing that he could be truly father to one not begotten by his own spouse, but adopted from elsewhere.

ORIGEN: Whoever is content with a simple exposition will say: the Holy Spirit honoured him with the title of father because he nurtured the Saviour. He however who inquires more deeply will say: since the order of the generation is brought from David down to Joseph; and, lest Joseph may not seem to be named to no purpose, since he did not beget the Saviour, that this order may have fitting reason, he is called the father of the Lord.

V. 34. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother. . .

PHOTIUS: Having offered up praise to God, Simeon turns to bless those who bring the Child. Hence follows: and Simeon blessed them. He bestowed a blessing on both of them; the intimation of things hidden he directs to the Mother only. In that he bestowed upon them a common blessing, Joseph is not deprived of the appearance of fatherhood; but by that which he said to Mary, separately from Joseph, he proclaims that she is the true parent; hence follows: and said to Mary his mother.

AMBROSE, in Luke 2: Observe the bountiful diffusion of grace among all at the birth of the Lord, and that prophecy is denied to the unbelieving, but not to the just. See also that Simeon prophesies that Christ has come for the fall and the resurrection of many. ORIGEN: He who interprets the words in a simple manner, may say that He came for the ruin of the unbelieving, and the resurrection of those who believe. CHRYSOSTOM, in Catena of Greek Fathers: For as light, though it may afflict the weak-sighted, is still light; so the Saviour goes on with His appointed work, though many perish. For their destruction is not His aim, but the consequence of their own unwisdom. Wherefore His power is made manifest, not alone in the salvation of the just, but also in the scattering of the wicked. So the sun, because it shines strongly, troubles those whose eyes are weak.

GREGORY NYSSA, Oratio in Occursu Domini: Observe the careful setting forth of the distinction. He is called the salvation that is prepared before the face of all peoples; but likewise the fall and the resurrection of many. The divine wish is the salvation and the sanctification of each person. Their fall or resurrection is within the will of the many; of those who believe and of those not believing. It is reasonable to believe that those who now lie prone, and unbelieving, will be raised up.

ORIGEN: A careful interpreter will not say that he falls who before did not stand upright. Give me then the one who stands upright for whose fall the Saviour came. GREGORY Nyss: By this the Evangelist means a fall to the lower world; because not in the same way, or equally, are those punished who are prior to the mystery of the Incarnation, and those coming after the Dispensation bestowed, and its public announcement. And of these last those especially who are of the Jewish people, shall be deprived of their former privileges, and made to suffer more grievously than all other peoples, for the reason that they refused to receive Him, Who of old was prophesied and adored among them, and from whom He came forth. Therefore are they in particular threatened with ruin, not alone by spiritual disaster, but also by the destruction of their city, and of those who dwell there. But resurrection is promised to those who believe, of whom some are still under the Law, and are now to be delivered from its servitude, and others have been buried with Christ and are risen with Him.

This child is set for the fall. Understand by these words that, in harmony of meaning with regard to prophetic utterances, the One and the Same God speaks both in the prophets and in the New Testament. For the prophetic speech declared, so that those who believe would not be confounded, that He would be a stone of stumbling, and a rock of scandal (Is. viii. 14; I Pet. ii. 6). Ruin is meant therefore for those who falter at the lowliness of His Humanity; resurrection for those who bow to the enduring of the divine decrees.

ORIGEN: We have to search deeper to oppose those who bark against the Creator, saying: behold the God of the Law and of the Prophets. See what kind He is. For He says: I will kill, and I will make to live (Deut. xxxii. 39). If therefore He is a bloody Judge and a cruel Creator, it is indeed evident that Jesus is His Son; since the same is written of Him: that He came for the fall and for the resurrection of many. AMBROSE: That He may judge between the merits of the just and the unjust, and that this just and stern judge may decree punishment or reward, according to the quality of our deeds.

ORIGEN: Let us consider whether or not the Saviour has come for the ruin of some, and the resurrection of certain others. For when I was standing in sin, it was at first profitable to me that I fall down, and die to sin. So also the holy Prophets, when they looked upon that which was sacred, they were wont to fall upon their faces, so that their sins might be more efficaciously wiped out by their fall. This the Saviour has conceded to you also, that you may fall to the ground. For you were a sinner; let the sinner in you perish, that you from there may rise up, and declare: For if we be dead with him, we shall live also with him (II Tim. ii. II). CHRYSOSTOM: A new manner of living is truly a resurrection. For when the lascivious becomes chaste, the avaricious merciful, and the fierce gentle, then we have here a resurrection; since sin being dead, justice is now risen. And for a sign that shall be contradicted. BASIL: The cross in Scripture is called a sign of contradiction. For Moses, it says, made a brazen serpent and set it up for a sign (Num. xxi. 19). GREGORY NY.: Shame commingles with glory. And of this, to us who worship Christ, this sign is an indication; for while by some it is regarded as a thing to be despised, and fearful, to yet others is it a sign to be venerated. Or perhaps he is speaking of Christ himself, the Author of signs, as a sign, being above nature. BASIL:For it is a sign of a wondrous, yet hidden thing; seen by the simple, but understood only by those whose minds are prepared.

V. 35. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce.

ORIGEN, Hom. 17 in Luke: All that history tells of Christ is contradicted; not that they contradict who believe in Him; for we believe as true all that is written concerning Him; but because among those who do not believe, all that is written of him is a sign to be contradicted. GREGORY NY.: These things are said of the Son; but they also apply to the Mother, in that she takes unto herself each single happening, the sufferings as well as the glories; for he tells her not alone of the propitious events, but of the sorrowful; for there follows: And thy own soul a sword shall pierce.

BEDE: History does not in any place tell us that the Blessed Mary departed this life by the death of the sword, especially since the sword is wont to pierce, not the soul, but the body. So here we must understand as the sword that of which it is said: and a sword is in their lips (Ps. lviii. 8); that is, that it was the pain of the Lord’s passion that pierced her soul, who, though she did not doubt that Christ, as Son of God, died of His own will, and also that He would overcome death, yet she could not without deepest sorrow behold Him crucified, who was born of her flesh.

AMBROSE, as above, in Luke Bk. 2: Or the words may show that the wisdom of Mary was not unacquainted with heavenly mystery; for the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two-edged sword (Heb. iv. 12). AUGUSTINE, Quaest. de N. & V. Test. 73: Or by this he signifies that Mary, through whom was wrought the mystery of the Incarnation, at the death of the Lord doubted in stupefaction, at seeing the Son of God humiliated unto death. As a sword passing close to a man causes fear, though it touches not, so doubt causes grief, though it slays not; since it does not lie upon the soul, but passes as a shadow.

GREGORY NYSSA: Nor does it mean that she alone would be caught up in this passion, when it adds: that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. For by saying that he points to a consequence; it is not placed causally. For when all these things had come to pass there took place in many a laying bare of soul. For as some confessed God upon the Cross, so others ceased not from revilings and recriminations. Or this was said in that at the time of the passion the thoughts in the hearts of many persons were revealed, and they were purified in His resurrection. For sudden certitude followed on their state of doubt; unless one wishes to understand illumination as revelation, as Scripture sometimes does.

BEDE: But even to the end of this present world, the sword of most dire tribulation will not cease to pierce the soul of the Church, when the sign of faith is contradicted by the wicked; when, the word of God being received, many will rise with Christ, but it will lead many to ruin through deplorable apostasy; when the thoughts of many hearts being revealed, where She has sown the perfect seed of the Gospel, there will she see, either that the seeds of the vices have overcome the just, or that they alone have germinated.

ORIGEN: There were also evil thoughts in men, that were revealed for this purpose, that He might destroy them Who dies for us. As long as they were hidden it was impossible wholly to destroy them. Hence, we also, if we have sinned, must say: My injustice I have not concealed (Ps. xxxi, 5). For if we have made known our sins, not alone to God, but to those who can heal our wounds and sins, our sins shall be wiped out.



HENRY II became King of England when he was only twenty-one, so he chose the cleverest man in the kingdom to help him rule wisely. This man was named Thomas Becket. He was fifteen years older than the King, and he was glad to be able to help Henry to rule the land well. They became very great friends, and were always together. At that time there were many strong nobles who tried to take no notice of the King’s law, but held little law-courts of their own, and Henry and Thomas were determined that this should stop. Every one, they said, must come under the royal justice.

When the Archbishop of Canterbury died Henry decided to make Thomas Archbishop in his place.

“No, no,” said Thomas. “You must not do that.” “Why?” asked Henry. “You are my closest friend, and you will be able to bring the Church courts under the King’s law. We have built up the law in this land—you and I. At the King’s Courts men can have justice and safety once more. My judges cannot be frightened by force or bribed by gold. There is only one kind of court left which makes its own laws—the Church court. If I make you Archbishop you can see that that too obeys the King.”

“No,” said Thomas. “If you make me Archbishop my first duty will be to the Church. And that will be the end of our friendship.”

But the King did not believe him. He was sure that Thomas would really do as he wanted, and he made him Archbishop, in spite of all his protests.

As soon as Thomas was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury he became a different man. Instead of living a gay, extravagant life, he became quiet and humble. Instead of wearing rich clothes and jewels, he dressed like a monk and wore a hair-shirt next to his skin. Instead of giving the great feasts he once did, he lived on so little food that he might have been a hermit. And instead of helping the King to do away with the Church courts, he did what he had warned Henry he would do—upheld the Church in every way he could.

The Church courts were never allowed to condemn anyone to death, though if any cleric had committed some dreadful crime, such as murder, he could be turned out of the Church, and then the ordinary law-courts could try him. Henry wanted clerics to have to appear in the ordinary courts in the first place, but the Church said that priests and other people in orders ought to be tried by Church people and not by lay people. The Church, because it was specially founded by God, was more important than the State, and it was wrong of the King to try to put the State over it.

When Henry found that Thomas was against him he broke out into a terrible rage. He said he was ungrateful, because everything he had he owed to the King.

“Are you not the son of one of my poor subjects?” he asked.

“Certainly I am poorly born,” answered Thomas. “I have no royal blood. But neither had St Peter, who was a fisherman, and to him our Lord gave the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and the headship of the whole Church.”

“True,” said the King. “But he died for his Lord.” “And I,” said the Archbishop, “will die for my Lord when the time comes.”

It was some years before that time came. Many people tried to make Henry and Thomas friends again, but it was always impossible, because the only thing the King wanted was that the Archbishop should give way on the matter of the Church courts; and that was the one thing he would not do. When it was time for Henry’s eldest son to be crowned to reign with his father—as was the custom in those days—the one person who should have put the crown on his head was the Archbishop of Canterbury. But Thomas was not in England, and thereupon, instead of waiting for him to come, the Archbishop of York and some other bishops performed the ceremony. When Thomas heard of it he excommunicated them—that is to say, he said they were no longer to be members of the Church.

The Archbishop of York, who was a particular enemy of Thomas’s, complained to the King, “My lord, as long as Thomas lives, we shall have no peace or quiet.”

Then the King broke out in one of his crazy rages.

“Why am I troubled with this? Why cannot my servants deal with this turbulent priest? This fellow I loaded with benefits dares insult the King and the whole kingdom. What cowards have I in my Court who care nothing for the duty they owe me? Will no one deliver me from this low-born priest?”

There were four ruffians standing by as the King said this, and they determined to do a deed which they thought would bring them much money and thanks from Henry. On the afternoon of December 29, 1170, they called on the Archbishop in his palace at Canterbury, and threatened to kill him if he did not do as the King wished. They gave him a few hours to think it over, and said they would come back again at sunset.

“I shall be here,” said Thomas.

The monks of Canterbury, who had found out what had happened, implored the Archbishop to fly to safety, but he would not. They asked him at least to go into the Cathedral, thinking that even the wicked knights would not dare to attack him there. And, as he would not do that either, they got hold of him by force, and in spite of his resistance they pulled, dragged, and pushed him, taking no notice of his orders to let him go, until they got him into the sacred building. They asked him to allow the doors to be bolted.

“It is not right to turn God’s House into a fortress,” said Thomas. 

 “But, Father, look! There are four soldiers there with drawn swords.”

“God will protect His own,” said Thomas. “We shall win by suffering rather than by fighting.”

Then suddenly out of the shadows of the Cathedral came the voice of one of the knights, “Where is Thomas, traitor to the King?”

“I am here,” answered Thomas, “a priest of God.” “For the last time, in the King’s name, we order you to obey the King,” shouted another of the knights.

“I cannot obey the King in things which he has no right to ask. But I am ready to die,” answered Thomas, “that with my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace. But, in the name of Almighty God, I forbid you to hurt my people.”

Then the four knights advanced to where he stood and murdered him there in his own Cathedral.

So St Thomas of Canterbury died, and, in dying, he won what he had been struggling for; for the King, horrified by the news, not only stopped all his attacks on the Church and the Church courts, but, so that the whole world might know how sorry he was, he allowed himself to be scourged at Thomas’s tomb.

 (Robert Hugh Williamson)




Planning the Family Activities for Christian Feasts and Seasons

By Mary Reed Newland (1956)




Advent was drawing toward its close, and we were discussing it all over again and suddenly one of the children said, as though really hearing it for the first time: “But—barns are so smelly!”

Yes, aren’t they? He was in a sheep cave where in rainy weather the shepherds brought their sheep to shelter. Sheepfolds are not the most fragrant places in the world. There is the smell of dung, the mustiness, the heavy oily smell of wool; and these caves were infested with vermin.

The child pondered this thought often and deeply. Later at a catechism lesson her answer to “Where was Jesus born?” was truly anguished: “In a dirty old, smelly old barn!”

Suppose our baby were to be born in a barn? They were beside themselves. No—never. The bitterness of it all: little Lord Jesus born in a barn . . . . They had penetrated the sweet coating on the story and tasted the sharp suffering beneath. That He should come to us this way . . . . incredible!

Hay is not so soft as we think. We would see, if we were to take our children to the countryside where there may be sheepfolds, cows in stalls, hay in barns. The sounds and smells of barns, the steamy breaths of animals, the never-ending munching—this is no place for a baby. We have spent our energy on far less appropriate trips, trips to see Santa, trips to see Toyland, trips to movies and theaters and entertainments, all because it is Christmas time. These are diversions but not the true joy of Christmas. They divert our gaze from Christmas, not to what Christmas really is.

Such a strange custom, celebrating Christmas and not knowing why. Much of the world does not know why—and that is very sad. There is only one reason in all the world to feast and be merry at Christmas: because we are redeemed, and Christmas is the feast of the beginning of our Redemption. In this bewilderingly beautiful season, in a most mysterious and beautiful way, God became a Baby.




CLOSER AND CLOSER comes the day, the day the Lord hath made.

December 16 is the day to begin the Christmas novena, so mark an X on the calendar for this day. The following is a novena in honor of the Infant Jesus which can be used at any time, but is usually made during the nine days preceding Christmas, to prepare for the coming of Christ in our hearts, and to obtain some particular favor. We ask especially for a spiritual favor.

Since it is customary to kneel before an altar or picture of the Nativity of Our Lord for the reciting of these prayers, the children might contribute simple shadow boxes (as described in chapter 3) from…

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