In an announcement that surprised and pleased many Catholics, the White House issued a proclamation affirming the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket on December 29.
President Trump’s statement traced the saint’s faithfulness in maintaining the religious freedom of the Church, even to the point of martyrdom. Becket was killed in 1170 by four English knights of King Henry II, who were prompted by the king’s infamous phrase, “who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
In the document, President Trump stated that,
“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.”
Becket was killed after refusing to follow the king’s demands that the Church give up its rights over trying its priests in the ecclesiastical court. The president said,
“When the crown attempted to encroach upon the affairs of the house of God through the Constitutions of Clarendon, Thomas refused to sign the offending document.”
A Prelude to America’s Religious Liberty
In strong words, the president’s proclamation traced Becket’s influence to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and to the development of America’s notion of religious freedom.
“That stand [of Thomas Becket], 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.’”
The Locked Lips of St. Raymond Nonnatus
Another type of governmental attack on religious freedom throughout the centuries has been that of radical Islam, which from the beginning has prohibited Christians from practicing their faith.
In the 1200s, St. Raymond Nonnatus, a priest of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, was captured by Muslims who then had his lips fastened with a padlock, as related by this YouTube video, by his Muslim captors to prevent him from preaching the Gospel.
The story begins when the young priest was chosen by the Order’s superior for the sacrificial role of redeeming Christians who had been captured by the Moors, or Muslims. These Christians, imprisoned under terrible conditions, would often be offered freedom if they denounced Christ and followed the religion of Islam.
The Mercedarian Order has as its special charism to ransom these Christians who were in serious danger of losing their faith. Raymond and his companions raised redemption funds to obtain the release of more than 750 captives in at least five ransom missions over the years.
Converts His Muslim Guards
The saint met his greatest trial during his final redemptive mission, which took place in Algiers in 1236. With all the ransom money spent, St. Raymond offered to stay behind as a hostage with the remaining Christian captives. Along with ministering to the prisoners, he preached to the Muslim guards, condemning the teachings of the prophet Mohammed and converting some of them.
So enraged were they that the Moors put an iron padlock through his lips. His captors could not stand the kind words, convincing reasons and love for Jesus Christ that he was showing toward them. St. Raymond endured this for eight months before returning to Spain.
Today, St. Raymond is the patron saint of Mercedarian novices, the falsely accused, expectant mothers, Christian family life, and of the unborn.
St. Raymond carried out his mission activities only about fifty years after St. Thomas Becket’s martyrdom. The two saints lived about 1,500 miles away from each other. Both saints stood up for religious freedom, and for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his redemptive mission to free us from the slavery of sin and death.
St. Raymond Nonnatus Kit
We recommend the popular St. Raymond Nonnatus Kit, which includes blessed St. Raymond water, a blessed candle, the Magnificat Prayer Book, a medal, a holy card and a brochure. St. Raymond has been invoked by married couples and families for centuries. The brochure includes “A Mother’s Prayer to St. Raymond Nonnatus,” which asks for the joy of bearing a healthy child. The kit can be obtained from the Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy, Development Office, 6398 Drexel Rd., Philadelphia, PA 19151. A donation would be kindly appreciated.
St. Thomas Becket and St. Raymond Nonnatus, pray that our faith be firm in these difficult times!
Join the Men of Mercy
Learn more about the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy who redeem Christians whose faith is in danger of being lost from today’s forms of captivity. Men 18-35, become a Mercedarian friar! Contact Fr. Daniel Bowen, O. de M. at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the Mercedarians’ website at www.OrderofMercy.org.
And see their latest video on their YouTube Channel: Mercedarian Friars USA.