Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Feast of St Thomas of Canterbury

"I never go to Canterbury but I think of it as the city of the Empty Space, the empty space in the heart of England. Of St Thomas, the hero of Canterbury and its maker, the friend and champion of the poor, you find no memorial in this stricken city, the city of the empty space.

Passing the battered but beautiful gate which leads into the precincts, and whose chief adornment is an empty niche, I enter the Cathedral. It is an extraordinary experience to stand in Trinity Chapel, on the site of St Thomas's First Mass, among those splendid columns erected to encircle his shrine, and there to contemplate the Empty Space. No vestige of the shrine remains; only the hollow worn in the hard stone by the feet of centuries of pilgrims as they knelt there tells me where it stood. In the surrounding arcade, crowding into this place of honour lies buried a king, a cardinal, an archbishop, a prince and a dean; but of the saint himself there is no memorial save the worn stones of that desolate pavement." Comments in Boulter's Pilgrim Shrines of England which all Catholics can make their own.

But just to prove anti-Catholicism and the spirit of Henry VIII (who forbade the cult of St Thomas) lives on in England.