Saturday 21 November 2020

Thomas Becket Defender of the Church - Father John S. Hogan

Thomas Becket: 
Defender of the Church
ISBN 9781681925820
eISBN 9781681925837

This is the sixth volume from Father john Hogan that I have read. And it is the second of his on Thomas Becket, the first was Devotions to St Thomas Becket, which was an excellent read. In fact, I have given this book and then other five I have read by Father Hogan 5/5 stars. And each time I find out about a new volume I eagerly await the release. This is bar far the longest book that Father Hogan has written. The print edition comes in at 544 pages. It is the length of all his previous works combined. It was through Hogan’s writings in the Saints of the Isles series and his work A Book of Martyrs: Devotions to the Martyrs of England, Scotland and Wales, that I started taking a look at English saints. Due to bias instilled by Irish and Scottish grandparents I never even really considered the English saints. Now that is not to say that I was completely unaware of them, and especially Becket. But I never had an interest in learning about them. Father Hogan’s works played a major roll in that. And this book goes much deeper than any I have read on an English saint. The description of the volume is: 

“Thomas Becket: Defender of the Church reintroduces this enigmatic saint and invites us to consider his background, his influences, his progress in ambition and office, and his personal struggle for holiness. This biography reveals the relevance Thomas's life and struggle have to our own day. As secularism seeks to destroy faith, Catholics can turn to Saint Thomas for help. His is the story of every Christian; though the time and circumstances may differ, the struggle remains the same. Nine hundred years after his death, Saint Thomas Becket remains a man and a saint for our times.”

And the chapters are:

Part I: Ambition’s Servant 
1. The Ship 
2. A Boy from London 
3. Our Friend Richer 
4. The Anarchy 
5. Paris 
6. Return of the Wastrel 
7. Theobald 
8. Archiepiscopal Servant 
9. Peace 
10. Archdeacon 

Part II: The King’s Servant 
11. Henry 
12. Royal Chancellor 
13. The Trappings of Power 
14. Master and Servant 
15. Thomas the Warrior 
16. Thomas of Canterbury 

Part III: The Church’s Servant 
17. Of Scepters and Croziers 
18. Anselm 
19. Father 
20. Zeal 
21. Alexander 
22. Woodstock 
23. The Council at Westminster 
24. A Very Public Quarrel 
25. The Clarendon Affair 
26. The Darkest Hour 
27. Crisis at Northampton 
28. The Archbishop Goes to War 
29. Exile Part 

IV: Servant of Christ 
30. Pontigny 
31. Vézelay 
32. The Legates 
33. The Two Kings 
34. Ad Honorem Dei 
35. Patience and Impatience 
36. Montmartre 
37. The Crown Affair 
38. Return 
39. Christmas 
40. Alfege 
41. Vespers 
42. The Saint and the Penitent 
43. A Solitary End Epilogue

Arca Sancti Thomae 
Select Bibliography

This book is a deep read. It goes into the history, politics and theology involved in these events. It does not whitewash Becket. It presents a very clear well researched and honest biography of this saint. A saint that we could use much in these times. There is more depth in the material in this volume than many books I have read about specific saints. 

Becket was a man who changed, he changed because of God, and chose to try and live a holier life. He wanted his actions to live up to his calling. The extent of his piety and devotion only came to light after his martyrdom. And his cult has remained strong. 

His example is one all of us can try to emulate. To have our actions live up to our theology. To have a quiet, devotional, piety, that many may not see. To live for God, no matter the cost. And to be honest the church could use more bishops, archbishops, and cardinals like Thomas. Especially in the days and times we find ourselves in. 

This is an excellent biography, and wonderful example of hagiography. It nether aggrandizes or whitewashes. It presents a man who was much aware of his own faults, especially as time went on. But also, a man who tried to make amends. A man who love d God, loved his flock, and did everything he could for them. 

I think this is a book that any Catholic, any Christian would benefit from reading. It is masterfully written. I am sure you will be challenged in your faith. So, I strongly encourage you to pick it up and give it a try! 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan!

Reviews of other books about Thomas Becket:
Devotions to St Thomas Becket - John S. Hogan

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