Friday we took our first train trip out of town to visit historic Canterbury. I assured the girls that at some point in their academic careers they would read "A Man for All Seasons" and Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." They were not impressed.
Cathedrals were important to cities for their economic and social considerations in addition to spiritual concerns. If a cathedral had the good fortune of housing the relics of a saint more pilgrims would come to express their piety and along the way visit with friends and family, buy a variety of goods, rent rooms and enjoy themselves. Local businesses were indeed blessed.
Some things haven't changed. The train station and bus depot deposit today's pilgrims/tourists right in front of a modern courtyard-style shopping mall. After you wind your way through the shopping opportunities you find yourself on cobblestone streets worn smooth by the faithful over the centuries. (Augustine was the first Bishop of Canterbury and the construction of the cathedral itself begain in the 11th century). Like any good tourist site, pilgrims exit the cathedral grounds through a nicely-equipped gift shop. (I found a new preacher for my collection!)
Us baptists aren't too big on saints. But there is something impressive about the faith of a man who would stand-up to the power of the king-- even at the loss of his life. Beckett's martyrdom occurred in a cathdedral built as an expressiojn of faith and devotion by generations of craftsmen. As we toured the facility we could look up into the massive spans of the ceiling and look down at the imprints of the faithful who crawled on hands and knees to the memorial.
Beckett gave his life. Crafsmen gave their talents. Church folk and civic leaders gave their money. Pilgrims offerred their worship. All gave as an expression of faith in the One who gave His all.