The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 29, 2000 Issue
Saint of the Day

This educator saint got caught up in English politics

Thomas of Cantelupe stood under many setbacks

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

When we face difficulties in life it can be difficult to keep our perspective. We might even think we're the only ones who ever encounter setbacks.

St. Thomas Cantelupe certainly knew about setbacks. He had several in his life, including excommunication by his archbishop.

Thomas was born in Hambleden, England, into a distinguished Norman family in about 1218. His father was Baron William of Cantelupe, who served as steward for the household of King Henry III. His uncle, Bishop Walter of Worcester, taught Thomas at Oxford and Paris before Thomas' ordination in 1245, probably while he was with his father at the General Council of Lyons.

After completing studies in law at Orléans and Paris, he taught canon law at Oxford. He was named chancellor at Oxford in 1262 and was known as both a friend of poor students and as a strict disciplinarian. At the time, students were divided into opposing camps of northerners and southerners and were allowed to carry weapons, which Thomas would seize if they misused them.

Soon he found himself allied with a group of reform-minded barons against King Henry III. After Henry was defeated at Lewes, he was named chancellor of England.

But soon, following the death in 1265 of Simon de Montfort, who had led the revolt against Henry, Thomas was dismissed and retired to Paris.

In 1274, Thomas was again named chancellor at Oxford and the next year became bishop of Hereford in western England, where he recovered the rights that had been taken away by the lords. He also was known for his prudence and abilities.

When traveling in his diocese, he would ask every child he saw if they had been confirmed. If they hadn't, he would administer the sacrament immediately. He was also known for publicly rebuking and excommunicating sinners.

But there were more troubles ahead when he got caught up in a jurisdictional dispute with Abp. John Peckham of Canterbury. Thomas led a group of bishops who opposed the archbishop at the Council of Reading in 1279.

Three years later, the archbishop excommunicated Thomas, who set out to appeal his case directly to Pope Martin IV, but the trip exhausted him and he died on Aug. 25, 1282.

Hundreds of miracles were attributed to him after his body was returned to Hereford and enshrined in the cathedral and it became a pilgrimage center.

Pope John XXII canonized him in 1320. We celebrate his feast on Oct. 3.

Despite the problems he faced, St. Thomas Cantelupe never gave up and he never seemed to feel sorry for himself.

Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints, 365 Saints and World Book Encyclopedia

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