Then of course, COVID-19 shutdowns and crowd management intervened and, except for the usual celebrations of his feast at Mass during the Octave of Christmas--and an extraordinary proclamation from the White House of President Donald J. Trump--all those plans were scrapped.
But now, St. Thomas a Becket is back in the news again as the planned exhibit at the British Museum is going to open in April, so I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show at my usual time (7:50 a.m. Eastern/6:50 a.m. Central) on Monday, February 1st to talk with Anna Mitchell about his enduring significance--and a surprising discovery made when one of the surviving stained glass windows from his destroyed shrine (Henry VIII's work!) was put back together in the right order for the first time in 350 years! A conference at Canterbury Cathedral has also been rescheduled for April.
First, an excerpt from the December 28, 2020 Proclamation from the Trump White House:Thomas Becket’s martyrdom changed the course of history. It eventually brought about numerous constitutional limitations on the power of the state over the Church across the West. In England, Becket’s murder led to the Magna Carta’s declaration 45 years later that: “[T]he English church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished and its liberties unimpaired.”
When the Archbishop refused to allow the King to interfere in the affairs of the Church, Thomas Becket stood at the intersection of church and state. That stand, after centuries of state-sponsored religious oppression and religious wars throughout Europe, eventually led to the establishment of religious liberty in the New World. It is because of great men like Thomas Becket that the first American President George Washington could proclaim more than 600 years later that, in the United States, “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship” and that “it is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”
Thomas Becket’s death serves as a powerful and timeless reminder to every American that our freedom from religious persecution is not a mere luxury or accident of history, but rather an essential element of our liberty. It is our priceless treasure and inheritance. And it was bought with the blood of martyrs. . . .
To honor Thomas Becket’s memory, the crimes against people of faith must stop, prisoners of conscience must be released, laws restricting freedom of religion and belief must be repealed, and the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed must be protected. The tyranny and murder that shocked the conscience of the Middle Ages must never be allowed to happen again. As long as America stands, we will always defend religious liberty.
A society without religion cannot prosper. A nation without faith cannot endure — because justice, goodness, and peace cannot prevail without the grace of God.
Next, the explanation from Canterbury Cathedral of how the mix-up on one of the surviving stained glass Miracles was discovered and corrected:This is the first time one of the famed Miracle Windows – which were made in the early 1200s to surround Becket’s now-lost shrine in the Cathedral’s Trinity Chapel – have ever been lent, and the first time the glass has ever left the Cathedral, since their creation 800 years ago. The seven surviving windows, from an original series of twelve, tell several of the evocative stories of miracles attributed to Becket in the three years following his death, and are the only known depictions of Becket’s miracle stories in any media.
New research in collaboration with the foremost expert on the Becket miracles, Rachel Koopmans of York University, Toronto, has revealed that some of the panels have been in the wrong order for centuries. They were probably mixed up during a hasty rearrangement in the 1660s and the errors were discovered after close inspection of individual pieces under a microscope. When the window is shown at the British Museum, it will be rearranged in the correct narrative order, and this will be the first time in over 350 years that visitors will be able to view these panels as they were made to be seen. It will also be the very first time the window can be seen up-close at eye-level.
Leonie Seliger, Director of Stained Glass Conservation at Canterbury Cathedral, said: “The Miracle Windows are medieval versions of graphic novels illustrating the experiences of ordinary people. They greeted the pilgrims at the culmination of their journey to Becket’s shrine with images that would be reassuring and uplifting. The window that will be shown at the British Museum is only one of seven that remain, and they are one of Canterbury Cathedral’s greatest treasures.”