Rorate Caeli

Ecce sacerdos magnus

We know that at the tribunal of the last day, the great Judge will not pass over offences; and the wounded and suffering Church is daily crying out to Him, "Lord, I suffer violence, answer thou for me." In her cry do we join, and for her behalf. Though meanwhile we clasp this shadow of reconciliation which is held out to us, until the day shall dawn and the shadows shall flit away and disappear. We will hold fast to the favour of this man [the King]as much as is possible, consistently with the liberties and honour of the Church, and will make trial by experiment whether he can be brought back to tranquility. is our wish to remove every occasion of schism in these our days, and by your bounty to restore perpetual peace to the English Church. We say this to you before Him, who is the Judge of both of us, and to whom we must give account for all things. May He inspire you and show you what you ought to do. You have heard our anguish, but according to a proverb of our country, those only feel the heat who are near the fire.


We believe that we shall return to England, but whether for peace or suffering, we know not. God knows in His providence what our lot shall be. We commend our lives to your prayers, Holy Father, and thank you for all the consolation you have given us in our time of need.
The Archbishop of Canterbury to the Pope, 1170

You know, my most serene lord, that the man who has the power to correct what is wrong and neglects it, becomes a party to the crime. The above-named Ralph [de Broc] can have nothing to do in the matter, unless backed by your wishes and supported by your authority. Your discretion will be made acquainted with the answer which he returns to the king your son's letter, and you will judge of it according to your good pleasure.

And whereas the church of Canterbury, which is the spiritual mother of the British isles, is evidently perishing in consequence of the odium which falls on us, we will serve her at the peril of our own life; we will expose our own head, with God's permission, to that persecuting Ralph and his accomplices; he shall kill us, not once but a thousand times, if God will only, by his grace, give us strength and patience to endure it.

It was our intention, my lord, to return to you, but woe is me, necessity drives me to my suffering Church. I go thither by your licence and under your protection, to die in its behalf, unless your filial piety vouchsafe speedily to give me consolation. But whether we live or die, we are yours in the Lord, and ever will be: whatever may happen to us and ours, may God bless you and your children!

The Archbishop of Canterbury to the King, 1170