Carissimi: Today’s Mass; Octave Day of St Thomas a Becket of Canterbury, Martyr

BecketOctave Day of St Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr; Comm. Vigil of the Epiphany & S. Telesphorus, Pope & Martyr: Missa “Gaudeámus omnes”

Saint Thomas a Becket, son of an English nobleman, Gilbert Becket, was born on the day consecrated to the memory of Saint Thomas the Apostle, December 21, 1117, in Southwark, England. The martyred Archbishop was canonized by Pope Alexander III on Ash Wednesday, 1173, not yet three years after his death on December 29, 1170, to the edification of the entire Church.

St. Telesphorus was the 8th Successor of Peter, St. Telesphorus was a Greek who composed the ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo’ and instituted the seven week fast before Easter (Lent) He decreed that each priest should celebrate three Masses on Christmas night and he inserted new prayers into the Mass. He undertook numerous labors to confess the divinity of Christ, and suffered a glorious martyrdom at Rome on this day in 138.

INTROIT Psalm 138: 17

Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festival-day in honor of the blessed martyr Thomas: at whose martyrdom the angels rejoice, and give praise to the Son of God. (Ps. 32: 1) Rejoice in the Lord, ye just; praise becometh the upright. v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Repeat Let us all rejoice…


God, for Whose Church the glorious Bishop Thomas fell by the swords of wicked men, grant, we beseech Thee, that all who implore his help may obtain the effect of their petition leading to salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever.

Commemoration of the Vigil of the Epiphany
O almighty and everlasting God, direct our actions according to Thy good pleasure; that in the Name of Thy beloved Son we may deserve to abound in good works.

Commemoration of St. Telesphorus
O God, who givest us joy by the annual solemnity of blessed Telesphorus Thy martyr and bishop, mercifully grant that we may rejoice in the protection of him whose birthday we celebrate. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever.

EPISTLE Hebrews 5: 1-6

Lesson from the Epistle of blessed Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews. Brethren, every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on them that are ignorant and that err, because he himself also is compassed with infirmity; and therefore he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. Neither doth any man take the honor to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was. So Christ also did not glorify Himself that He might be made a high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee. As He saith also in another place, Thou art a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedech.

GRADUAL/ALLELUIA  Ecclus. 44: 16

Behold a great priest, who in his days pleased God. V.There was not found the like to him, who kept the law of the Most High. Alleluia, alleluia. V. (John 10: 14) I am the good shepherd: and I know My sheep, and Mine know Me. Alleluia.

GOSPEL John 10: 11-16

At that time Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and flieth; and the wolf catcheth and scattereth the sheep: and the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling, and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know Mine, and Mine know Me. As the Father knoweth Me, and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for My sheep. And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”


Thou hast set on his head, O Lord, a crown of precious stones: he asked life of thee, and thou hast given it to him. Alleluia.


Sanctify, O Lord, the offerings dedicated to Thee, and, by the intercession of blessed Thomas, Thy martyr and bishop, look upon us with mercy for the sake of them. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son. Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R.Amen.

Commemoration of the Vigil of the Epiphany
Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the offering made in the sight of Thy Majesty may obtain for us the grace of loving devotion, and the reward of a blessed eternity.

Commemoration of Saint Telesphorus
Sanctify, O Lord, the offerings devoted to Thee, and by the intercession of blessed Telesphorus Thy martyr and bishop, do Thou look upon us, appeased by this sacrifice. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R.Amen.

PREFACE of the Nativity

It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God, for through the Mystery of the Word made flesh, the new light of Thy glory hath shone upon the eyes of our mind, so that while we acknowledge God in visible form, we may through Him be drawn to the love of things invisible. And therefore with Angels and Archangels, with Throne and Dominations, and with all the hosts of the heavenly army, we sing the hymn of Thy glory, evermore saying: Holy, Holy, Holy…


I am the good shepherd, and I know My sheep, and Mine know Me.


May this communion, O Lord, cleanse us from guilt and, by the intercession of blessed Thomas, Thy martyr and bishop, make us the companions of Him Who is our heavenly healing. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.

Commemoration of the Vigil of the Epiphany
By the working of this Mystery, O Lord, may our vices be cleansed, and our just desires fulfilled.

Commemoration of Pope Saint Telesphorus
Refreshed by participation in this holy gift, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God, that by the intercession of blessed Telesphorus Thy martyr and bishop, we may experience the effect of the worship which we perform. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Kudos to you, Your grace, for doing the Octave Day Mass! If you had a moment to supply information I would be grateful. I think I can remember seeing Sarum kalendars that simply did this, and placed the Octave of the Martyr above the Vigil – obviously ending at I Vespers-, but as far as I see online, the most comprehensive sarum presence is that of the Hamilton/Toronto reprint – or is it a reediting? That looks like the Portsmouth Breviary from the 1940s – there is only an Octave of S Thomas at all because he is patronal and the Vigil is so privileged, it trumps everything, with only the brief memorial of the octave. Have the Canadians deferred to a modern practice, or were there genuine editions outside Canterbury that allowed the Vigil to predominate? Most of my own books are in packing cases and so I am unable to check them. Somewhere I think I have the Burntisland, but also the Wickham Legg. For contrast.
    May God bless all His Church.

    1. No less a personage than Dom Prosper Gueranger refers in 1868 to the Octave of St Thomas of Canterbury…

      THE CATHOLIC CHURCH in England celebrates today the Octave of St. Thomas of Canterbury. It is but fitting that the Country which was beautified with the blood of the illustrious Martyr should honor his memory with an especial fervor, and keep up his Feast during the joyful Octaves of Stephen, of John the Beloved Disciple, and of the Innocents of Bethlehem.

      We have seen, on the Feast itself, how the Catholic world gave expression, through the sacred Liturgy, to its love of our great Martyr. In the Ages of Faith, a victory gained by the Church was considered as a victory for the whole human race. It is impossible for us to write the Lives of the Saints in our Liturgical Year, which is crowded enough as it is—and hence we cannot enter, with anything like detail, into the actions of this the Martyr for the Liberty of the Church. But we cannot withhold from our readers the following eloquent proof of the affection and esteem in which St. Thomas was held by those who had been eyewitnesses of his sublime virtues. It is a Letter written by Peter of Blois, Archdeacon of Bath, to the Canons of Beauvoir, a few days after the Martyrdom of the Saint, whose blood was still on the pavement of the Metropolitan Church of Canterbury. Let us notice, as we read it, the self-possessed and meek enthusiasm with which even the grandest victories of the Church inspire her children.

      “The Shepherd of our souls is dead, and my first impulse is to mourn with you over this death. Yet Death I may not call it, for the death wherewith our Lord has honored his Saint is rather a sleep than a death. It has been the harboring him into rest. It has been to him the gate of life, and the admission into the delights of the heavenly country, into the power of the Lord, into the abyss of eternal light. Having to set out on a long journey, he has taken with him all he needed, and will return on the day of the full moon; for his soul, full of merit, has left the body, in order to return to its ancient dwelling in the general and complete resurrection. Jealous and crafty Death came to scrutinize this treasury of merit, suspecting something to be there which he could claim. But Thomas was too circumspect and prudent, and never permitted his true life to be tampered with. He had long desired to be dissolved and to be with Christ; and at the close of his life, was pining to take his departure from the body of this death. He has now thrown a handful of dust into Death’s face, as a tribute which he owed to the old enemy: and the false report has gone abroad, and people are telling each other, that an evil beast hath devoured our Joseph. The coat, of which he has been stripped, has given rise to this false news of his death; for Joseph lives, and rules through the whole land of Egypt. His blessed soul, unburthened of its corruptible garments, and freed from the dust of this present life, has taken her flight to heaven.

      “Yes, he of whom the world was not worthy, has been called away to heaven. This light is not put out; it is but shaken by a passing wind, that it may shine all the brighter, and may, no longer kept under a bushel, give light to all that are in the house. He hath seemed in the eyes of the unwise to have died; but his life hath been hid with Christ in God. It has seemed as though Death had conquered and swallowed him up; whereas, in reality, Death is swallowed up in victory. Thou hast given him, O Lord, his heart’s desire, for he had long served thee, and because of the words of thy lips, had kept hard ways. From earliest youth, his conduct was such as to be worthy of one advanced in years, and he restrained the rebellions of the flesh, by watching, fasting, disciplines, hair shirt, and perpetual continency. The Lord chose him for his Priest, that he might be to the people a guide, and teacher; a mirror of life, a model of penance, and an example of holiness. The God of wisdom gave him eloquence of speech, and abundantly infused into him the spirit of wisdom and understanding, making him the most learned of the learned, the wisest of the wise, excellent even among the best, and superior even among the greatest men. He was a herald of the divine word, a trumpet of the Gospel, a friend of the Bridegroom, the support of the Clergy, an eye to the blind, a foot to the lame, the salt of the earth, the light of his country, a minister of the Most High, a vicar of Christ, a Christ of the Lord.

      “He was upright in his judgment, energetic in administration, discreet in his orders, modest in his speech, circumspect in his advice, most abstemious in his food, gentle in temper, an angel in human flesh, meek amidst injuries, humble in prosperity, most courageous in adversity, prodigal in almsgiving, and was ever exercising some work of mercy. He was the glory of Religious, the favorite of the people, the terror of Princes, the god of Pharaoh. If some men, when exalted to the supreme dignity of the Episcopacy, begin at once to be carnal-minded, and shun every bodily suffering as the greatest evil, and desire to enjoy as long a life as possible—it was not so with our Pastor. On the very first day of his promotion, he longed, but more ardently than can be told, for the end of life, or, more correctly, he thirsted to begin the life of eternity. For this purpose, he looked on himself and comported himself as a pilgrim, and drank of the torrent in the Way; therefore is his name glorified in the heavenly Country. Thus it is that our Brethren, the Monks of the Cathedral Church, are become as orphans, without their Father.”

      The sixteenth century brought an unexpected addition to the glory of our Saint. The enemy of God and man, Henry 8th, hated the very name of the Martyr that had died for the Liberty of the Church. There was an honor which such a Tyrant could still add to St. Thomas’ glorious name: he could insult the Shrine where, for four hundred years, the Saint had received the homage of the entire Catholic world. The venerable Relics of the Martyr were dragged from beneath the Altar: an absurd action was brought against Thomas, formerly Archbishop of Canterbury, and he was found guilty of high treason! His Relics were put upon a pile; and in this second Martyrdom, the fire destroyed the last remains of the holy man, whose intercession drew down upon England the protection and blessings of heaven. After all, how could a country that was on the eve of its great apostasy from the True Faith be expected to appreciate the rich treasure of such Relics? Besides, the See of Canterbury was defiled. Cranmer sat on the Chair which had been that of an Augustine, a Dunstan, a Lanfranc, an Anselm, and a Thomas à Becket. If our holy Martyr and Archbishop had looked through the then existing generation of his Brethren, he would indeed have found one who followed his example and died a Martyr—John Fisher—but he was the only one; and his sacrifice, glorious as it was, had not power to save his country. The Liberty of the Church had long before then been destroyed; Faith was sure to die out.

      The Mass and Vespers are as on the Feast.

      THY FEAST ENDS today, and we come before thee to pay thee a last tribute of our devotion, O glorious Champion of the Liberty of the Church! who standest near the Crib of our Emmanuel, as the representative of the combats he would have to fight in the future of his Church. The whole of Christendom implores thine intercession; but England claims thy special protection. Thou art one of her grandest glories, and neither heresy, which has laid waste the land, nor impiety, which has covered her with sacrilege, have made her forgetful of her great Martyr of Canterbury. She is now in the first years of a new period, which is fraught with promise of a bright future—and thy dear name is honored with a love, which is worthy of the devotion shown thee in times now long passed away. Churches are being built in thy honor on that very soil where it was once made obligatory to the number of members of the true Church; and they whose conversion thus gladdens the Angels of God are men whose early training taught them to look on contempt for Thomas à Becket as a sign of patriotism and refinement. Each year, as thy Feast comes round, the day is kept with greater solemnity; thy merits are better understood, and the increase of faith sets men’s hearts on thanking their God for having given thee to his Church as the type of a Bishop.

      Bless then, O holy Pontiff! this flock of thine own land, which is so fast increasing. Pray for them who are still wavering, that they may have light to see the light granted them by God. Four centuries of error and revolt!—oh! terrible but just chastisement of our dearest country! Pray that it may be taken away from her and show, by thy loving intercession, that thou art still the good Shepherd and the affectionate Father.

      At the bidding of the successor of Eleutherius and Gregory the Great, the Episcopal Hierarchy has reappeared in this beautiful Isle of ours, where thou wast once the Primate, vested with the sacred Pallium. Oh! protect the Bishops who are now so zealously governing the vineyard over which thou didst once preside, and for which thou didst shed thy blood. Ask our Lord to increase the number of his Priests; for the harvest is great, and the laborers are few. May they be endued, by the Master of the Vineyard, with the spirit of patience and courage; may they be powerful in word and work, and may their name, as thine is, be held in blessing by future generations!

  2. I did not know Peter’s letter. That is very moving. Thank-you for taking the time to post this

  3. I had not previously found your twitter. Have followed that now through a link here. Thank-you!

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