Saint Thomas de Cantelupe, also known as Saint Thomas of Hereford, was born in Hambleden, England sometime around the year 1218 A.D. His mother was the Countess of Evreux and his father was a baron who had served King John (1167-1219).
Thomas had three brothers and three sisters but did not get along with any of them. Consequently, he was, at a very young age, placed under the care of his uncle, Walter de Cantelupe (unknown-1266), Bishop of Worcester. Thomas’ uncle sent him to Oxford University and later to France. Thomas was ordained around the year 1245.
After his ordination, Thomas became a canon lawyer. In 1261, he became the Chancellor of Oxford University. Three years later, Thomas left Oxford and became the Chancellor of England under King Henry III (1207-1272). He held this office for only one year.
On August 4, 1265, Simon de Montfort (c. 1208-1265), Earl of Leicester was killed by King Henry’s soldiers. De Montfort had been the leader of a rebellion that is now known as the Second Barons’ War. Thomas had expressed support for de Montfort and, consequently, fell out of favor after the latter’s death.
On September 8, 1275, Thomas de Cantelupe became the Bishop of Hereford. This diocese was in great need of reform. The previous bishop had been remiss in many things including supplying confirmation to local young adults. Shortly after his consecration, Thomas walked all over his diocese and asked every young person he met if he or she had been confirmed.
Also, an old practice called pluralism was being abused all over England including in the Diocese of Hereford. In many countries, those who held ecclesiastical offices would receive gifts of land as a reward for their work. These gifts were called benefices. Pluralism began when priests and bishops started taking on more and more religious duties in order to gain more land. During Thomas de Cantelupe’s time, pluralism was only supposed to be practiced if the priest or bishop received special permission from the Pope. Many dioceses in England had ignored this condition.
While Thomas was fighting pluralism and other ecclesiastical problems, he crossed swords with John Peckham (c. 1230-1292), the Archbishop of Canterbury. Dispute over religious matters and personal dislike led to Thomas’ excommunication around the year 1279.
Thomas went away to Paris and then to Rome where he appealed to Pope Martin IV (1210-1285). After the excommunication was lifted by the Holy Father, Saint Thomas de Cantelupe died on August 25, 1282. He was canonized by Pope John XXII (1249-1334) on April 17, 1320. His feast day is October 3.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints