Becket Dies: A Briefest Meditation on Ministry


Sometime before this day in 1170, King Henry II uttered something in his court. According to Wikipedia “The king’s exact words are in doubt and several versions have been reported. The most commonly quoted, as handed down by ‘oral tradition,’ is ‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?,’ but according to historian Simon Schama this is incorrect: he accepts the account of the contemporary biographer Edward Grim, writing in Latin, who gives us ‘What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?’ Many variations have found their way into popular culture.”

Me, I prefer the simpler and more eloquent allusion to wishing to be rid of that turbulent priest.

And as one who wishes to be a turbulent priest, or at least a pebble in society’s sandal, I identify with the archbishop. As, I gather, have many of us in the clerical state of various religions. Therefore, small wonder Thomas Becket is the patron of our band, at least within the Roman expression of the clerical state.

On this day in 1170 four knights came into the cathedral and killed the archbishop. The downside, I guess, of being a turbulent priest.

These days, fortunately as I see it, the spirit or the point is perhaps better captured in a saying popular among rabbis, “A rabbi not in danger of being fired is no rabbi.”

Hot or cold.

Give it one’s all.

And with that, fond wishes to all in this strange and mysterious trade that we usually simply call ministry. Whatever your tradition, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, pagan: you know who you are.

May your calling be dangerous.

And may it be worth a life…

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