He was a son of William de Cantilupe, the 2nd baron (d. 1251), one of King John’s ministers, and a nephew of Walter de Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester (d. 1266). He was born at Hambleden in Buckinghamshire and was educated in Paris and Orléans. Thomas became a teacher of canon law at Oxford and Chancellor of the University in 1261.
During the Barons’ War, Thomas favoured Simon de Montfort and the baronial party. He represented the barons before St Louis of France at Amiens in 1264. He was made Chancellor of England on 25 February 1264, but was deprived of this office after Montfort’s death at Evesham, and lived out of England for some time. Returning to England, he was again Chancellor of Oxford University, lectured on theology, and held several ecclesiastical appointments.
In 1274 he attended the Second Council of Lyons and about 14 June 1275 he was appointed Bishop of Hereford and was consecrated on 8 September 1275. Cantilupe was now a trusted adviser of Edward I and lived at Earley in Berkshire when attending royal councils in Windsor or Westminster. Even when differing from the king’s opinions, he did not forfeit his favour. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Kilwardby, was also his friend; but after Kilwardby’s death in 1279 a series of disputes arose between the bishop and the new archbishop, John Peckham. The disagreements culminated in Peckham excommunicating Cantilupe, who proceeded to Rome to pursue the matter with the pope.
Cantilupe died at Ferento, near Orvieto, in Italy, on 25 August 1282; he was buried in Hereford Cathedral. Part of the evidence used to secure his canonisation was the supposed resurrection of William Cragh, a Welsh rebel who was hanged in 1290, eight years after Cantilupe’s death. A papal inquiry was convened in London on 20 April 1307 to determine whether or not Cantilupe had died excommunicate; if he had, then he could not be canonised. Forty-four witnesses were called and various letters produced, before the commissioners of the inquiry concluded that Cantilupe had been absolved in Rome before his death.
Cantilupe appears to have been an exemplary bishop in both spiritual and secular affairs. His charities were large and his private life blameless. He was constantly visiting his diocese, correcting offenders and discharging other episcopal duties, and he compelled neighbouring landholders to restore estates which rightly belonged to the see of Hereford. On 17 April 1320, Cantilupe was canonised by Pope John XXII, after a papal investigation lasting almost 13 years. His shrine in Hereford Cathedral became a popular place of pilgrimage, and its base can still be seen there today. Since 1881, a reliquary containing his skull has been held at Downside Abbey in Somerset.
INTROIT Psalm 131: 9-10
Let Thy priests, O Lord, be clothed with justice, and let Thy saints rejoice: for Thy servant David’s sake, turn not away the face of Thy anointed. V. O Lord, remember David, and all his meekness. 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.
Almighty God, who is glorified in all your saints, and gave such grace to your servant Thomas of Hereford, steadfastly to resist evil and uphold justice: grant that we who commemorate his holy life and angelic virtues may likewise live blamelessly and rebuke vice, that we may win with him an eternal crown. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
EPISTLE Hebrews 7: 23-27
Lesson from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Hebrews: Brethren, there were made many priests, because by reason of death they were not suffered to continue: but Jesus, for that He continueth forever, hath an everlasting priesthood. Whereby He is able also to save forever them that come to God by Him; always living to make intercession for us. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, and undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as the other priests, to offer sacrifice first for His own sins, and then for the people’s; for this Jesus Christ our Lord did once, in offering Himself.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Psalm 131: 16-17
I will clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall rejoice with exceeding great joy. There will I bring forth a horn to David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed. Psalm 109: 4 Alleluia, alleluia. The Lord hath sworn, and He will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Matthew 24: 42-47
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Watch, because you know not what hour your Lord will come. But this know ye, that, if the goodman of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open. Wherefore be you also ready: because at what hour you know not the Son of man will come. Who, thinkest thou, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath appointed over his family, to give them meat in season? Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord shall come he shall find so doing. Amen I say to you, he shall place him over all his goods.
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Psalm 88: 25
My truth and My mercy shall be with him: and in My name shall his horn be exalted.
Let the yearly festival of thy confessor and bishop, St Thomas, commend us to thy pity, Lord. May the service of loving atonement with which we keep it earn for him increase of glory and win us the gifts of thy favour. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Common
It is truly meet and just, and profitable unto salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks to thee, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, eternal God, through Christ, our Lord. Though whom the angels praise thy majesty, the dominions adore it, the powers are in awe. Which the heavens and the hosts of heaven together with the blessed seraphim joyfully do magnify. And do thou command that it be permitted to us join with them in confessing thee, while we say with lowly praise:
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Matthew 24: 46-47
Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord cometh he shall find watching: Amen I say to you, he shall place him over all his goods.
O God who rewardest loyal souls, grant that through the prayers of thy blessed confessor and bishop Thomas, whose worshipful festival we are keeping, we may obtain forgiveness. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.