Home | About Us | Subscriptions | Advertising | El Centinela
Catholic Sentinel | Portland, OR Sunday, May 1, 2016
CYO Football 2015 2015 Priest Reassignments, Archdiocese of Portland Cardinal Francis George dies Mothering with faith Sisters of the Holy Names, 2015 Live Nativity at St. John the Baptist 2014 Fall CYO results Catholic Charities Donor Lunch 2014 Year of Consecrated Life opening Mass Holy Spirit Sisters Jubilee 2014 Seaside youth conference Mount Angel 125th Northwest Hub Furlow at papal Mass 2014 Rosary Bowl NW Brother André 2014 Fall 40 Days for Life 2014 Inauguration of Fr. Mark Poorman Coffee shop at abbey First day of school, 2014 Regis High School 50th anniversary 2014 Crooked Finger Pilgrimage Mass with migrant farm workers Maronite Ordination Consecration to "Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of Fatima" CYO track Southern Oregon Evangelization 2014 Priest Ordination Christ the King youth 2014 priest reassignments Our Lady of Lavang Confirmation, 2014 Memorial Day 2014 2014 Transitional deacon ordination Padre Foster Granados visits Albany Bishop Smith ordination Canonization of Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII Bishop Peter Smith 2014 Easter Vigil 2014 Walk of Cross 2014 Chrism Mass CYO basketball 2014 St. Patrick of the Forest 150th Catholic Charities Celebration of Hope, 2014 Boys2Men Archbishop visits Oregon State Penitentiary 40 Day Vigil for Life, 2014 Pope Francis creates new cardinals St. Henry shelter 2014 CYO swimming Funeral of Fr. George Wolf Travel on a budget Lunar New Year, 2014 Tech in Catholic schools 2014 Right to Life Rally Archbishop visits Santiam Prison First Mass in Oregon Milwaukie Posada St. Francis, Sherwood, Toy Drive Central Catholic football Typhoon Haiyan Deacon Ordination/ Kresbach, Schmitt A Catholic fisherman St. Cecilia Centennial Southern Oregon Welcome Mass Shepherd of the Valley, Central Point, dedication Grotto Anniversary 2013 Champions of Faith Dinner Gardenripe farms Coleman hop farm Corvallis Year of Faith Archbishop Howard at St. Rose Hitchhiking priests Franciscan Spiritual Center Sacred Heart, Medford Migrant Mass Tanzanians' jubilee World Youth Day 2013 2013 Blessing of the Animals 2013 Freedom Mass Albany school closure Fabric art Megan graduates from Catholic school St. Vincent de Paul Hillsboro 2013 Deacon ordination Sister Theresa Lamkin St. Helen Mission, Brownsville Marist Brainiacs St. Mary, Eugene St. Francis eighth graders Ascension confirmation 2013 Pastoral Ministry Conference St. Joseph Salem — Year of Faith Archbishop Sample's Installation Mass 2013 Archbishop Sample Chrism Mass 2013 2013 Young Catholics Pope Francis inauguration Celebration of Hope Vlazny Farewell Mass Archbishop Vlazny Farewell St. Paul Church in St. Paul Valley Catholic Green Building Rite of Election 2013 Water summit 2013 Lunar New Year Alveda King in Eugene New Monsignors, 2013 2013 Right to Life Rally MLK Mass, 2013 St. Henry, Gresham, Centennial Jesuit High drama School uniforms Friar in the mall Holy Trinity food ministry January Book Covers St. Andre Bessette food Year of Faith Mass Nestucca Sanctuary Hillsboro Choirs Father Betschart installation Salem Religious Freedom Rally Year of Faith Vespers, Awards Roy's Catholic School Adelante Mujeres 10th anniversary New Blanchet House Missionaries of Holy Spirit Priest, religious photos Providence Nursing Schools Pioneros Fortnight for Freedom Mark Bentz Deacon Ordination OLL School Walk Through Gaga over science St. Philip Neri Centennial Ordination of Bishop Cary SVDP, Grants Pass Holy Cross School centennial Confirmation - Mount Angel Holy Land Pilgrimage Blanchet Watershed Chrism Mass, 2012 Bishop-designate Cary Pope in Cuba, 2012 SSMO 125th Jubilee Mass Pope Benedict in Mexico 2012 Catholic Charities Celebration 2012 Madeleine Mardi Gras Centennial Rally for Life, 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Mass 2012 Day Laborers-Guadalupe Guadalupe 2011 Christ the King, Milwaukie, 50th Sesame Doughnuts Central Catholic Volleyball St. Peter Centennial Deacon Ordination, October 2011 St. Agatha Centennial Rosary Bowl 2011 St. Wenceslaus, Scappoose, Centennial Filipino celebration Polish Festival 2011 Holy War Football 2011 World Youth Day 2011 Sun Gold Farm Our Lady of Victory's New Church Freedom Mass 2011 St. Mary Church Steeple Removal Priest reassignments, 2011 Old Catholic Buildings Paige Rice, St. Mary's runner Graduation 2011 Easter vigils 2011 Pastoral Ministry Conference Basketball Holy War 2011 Search for Peace 2011

Mt Angel Towers 8.13

Home : Arts : Arts and Entertainment News
10/14/2012 1:24:00 PM
Compelling Becket biography will make you forget Richard Burton film
This is the cover of
This is the cover of "Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel" by John Guy.
Catholic News Service

John Guy's biography of Thomas Becket starts off with a bang: A prologue plunges the reader into the wintery nighttime chill of a doomed channel crossing in which King Henry I's only legitimate heir drowns. The effect is a sort of literary Bayeux Tapestry, setting the tone for the rest of the book. This bodes well for those of us who want our histories to feel immediate and compelling, to read more like storytelling than data reporting.

Guy, a fellow in history at Clare College, Cambridge, and an honorary professor at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, brings admirable descriptive powers to the biographer's potentially dry job. He cites endless, amusing and often graphic contemporary eyewitness accounts, letters and court documents with annotative objectivity, but he goes further than just reporting, and that's the beauty of this book.

There are reasons why one version of events might be told with a bias toward the king, on one hand, or toward Becket, on the other. History may be written by the victors but there was a lot of scrambling on both sides of the Henry/Becket affair, inspiring "spin" from a wide variety of sources. Guy lifts the heavy curtain of hagiography to expose a Becket that is as likely to have lived and breathed among us as to have bravely faced a martyr's death.

Guy's early chapters provide colorful detail to every aspect of his subject's life that led up to the "warrior, priest, rebel" of the book's subtitle. Becket's mother "is said to have habitually weighed her young son on the scales using bread, meat, clothes and anything else useful for the poor ... after which she would distribute these goods as alms." His middle-class childhood in London, his years as a student in Paris, his steady, ambitious rise in business and at court and his passion for the finer things in life are examined thoroughly.

If the most one knows about Becket comes from the 1964 film (based on the play by Jean Anouilh), by the middle of this book you will have dismissed all images of Richard Burton and embraced the taller, aquiline-nosed portrait of Becket as Guy presents him. Eager, intelligent, ambitious, the young Becket was soon employed by Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, whose own political and ecclesiastical prominence created every conceivable opportunity for Becket's swift rise to power.

The personal relationship between Becket and King Henry II is examined from every angle imaginable. Readers will get real insight into the breakdown of the working relationship (which actually began well before Becket was made archbishop), and how that breakdown heightened and sharpened the brittle, tenuous social, cultural and personal frailties of their "friendship."

"Thomas Becket's character as it has been understood for 900 years has a riddle at its heart," Guy writes. "If his clerk and fellow Londoner William fitz Stephen is to be believed, it would seem that Henry and his chancellor were always the best of friends ... as inseparable as lovers or blood brothers."

But Guy believes that Henry II "found Becket useful, amusing, and companionable, indulging him and treating him as a favorite," but all the while knowing "such privileges could always be withdrawn."

As chancellor, Becket's authority had stemmed "not 'from his own name' but 'from the hazard' of Henry's will, on which Thomas had been utterly reliant." (For all of Becket's finery, for all of his theatrical showmanship and high living, there lurked a "son of one of (King Henry's) villeins" who had a chip on his shoulder that Henry knocked off very publicly when he wanted to.)

Becket's view of that imbalance of power changed, of course, when Henry made him archbishop of Canterbury. Though Becket and Henry had butted heads before then, as Guy shows us, once he was consecrated archbishop, Becket no longer saw himself as Henry's servant. His abrupt resignation as chancellor, a decision made without consulting or even warning the king, drew an even sharper line between the two men.

Henry's struggle to enlarge his secular authority and Becket's parry on behalf of the Catholic Church pack strong punches thanks to Guy's sure-footed writing. He fully explains the political problems Pope Alexander faced: dizzying, slippery slopes filled with anti-popes, powerful emperors, the alternating threat and promise of support of mercurial state alliances. Each time an alliance shifted, the pope's problems, focus and priorities changed accordingly. Sometimes this worked in the archbishop of Canterbury's favor, sometimes not.

What you think you know about either man -- were they like brothers, in those early years? Were they "as inseparable as lovers"? -- may not be quite so. As Guy writes: "Given the often intractable nature of sources written 900 years ago, some things can never be proved one way or the other. But the mistake is surely never to ask the awkward questions in the first place."

Guy asks plenty of questions in this rich and demanding work, which makes for a rewarding reading experience.

Advanced Search

Mary Jo Tully ~ The Path to Resurrection

News | Viewpoints | Faith & Spirituality | Parish and School Life | Entertainment | Obituaries | Find Churches and Schools | About Us | Subscriptions | Advertising
E-Newsletter | RSS Feeds

© 2016 Catholic Sentinel, a service of Oregon Catholic Press

Software © 1998-2016 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved