April 3: Richard, Bishop of Chichester, 1253

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Richard and his older brother Robert were quite young when their parents died, leaving a rich estate with a guardian to manage it. The guardian allowed the estate to dwindle, and Richard worked long hours to restore it.

Pressure was put on Richard to marry, but he, who from earliest years had preferred books to almost anything else, turned the estate over to his brother and went to Oxford. Often hungry, cold, and not always sure of his next day’s keep, Richard managed to succeed in his studies under such teachers as Robert Grosseteste.

He continued to study law at Paris and Bologna, earned a doctorate, and returned to Oxford to become University Chancellor. Shortly afterward, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund Rich, appointed him to be his own chancellor. The friendship between the primate and his young assistant was close: Richard also became his biographer. Conflict with King Henry III eventually forced Archbishop Rich into exile in France, where Richard nursed him in his final illness. After the Archbishop’s death, Richard moved to the Dominican house at Orleans for further study and teaching. He was ordained priest in 1243.

He then returned to England, and was elected Bishop of Chichester in 1244. King Henry opposed the election, confiscated all the revenues of the diocese, and even locked Richard out of the episcopal dwelling. Richard was given lodging by a priest, Simon of Tarring. During these years he functioned as a missionary bishop, traveling about the diocese on foot, visiting fishermen and farmers, holding synods with great difficulty, and endeavoring to establish order. Threatened by the Pope, Henry finally acknowledged Richard as Bishop in 1246.

For eight years, he served his diocese as preacher, confessor, teacher, and counselor. While campaigning in 1253, for a new crusade against the Saracens, he contracted a fatal fever. Nine years after his death, he was canonized. His best remembered words are:

Dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:

To see thee more clearly,

Love thee more dearly,

Follow thee more nearly.


I    We thank thee, Lord God, for all the benefits thou hast given us in thy Son Jesus Christ, our most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother, and for all the pains and insults he hath borne for us; and we pray that, following the example of thy saintly bishop Richard of Chichester, we may see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

II     We thank you, Lord God, for all the benefits you have given us in your Son Jesus Christ, our most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother, and for all the pains and insults he has borne for us; and we pray that, following the example of your saintly bishop Richard of Chichester, we may see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Proverbs 16:16-20

Philippians 4:10-13

Matthew 25:31-40

Psalm 119:161-168

Preface of a Saint (2)

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

* * *

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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16 thoughts on “April 3: Richard, Bishop of Chichester, 1253

  1. This commemoration is already included in the Calendar. The Hebrew Scripture reading and the Psalm are new.

  2. He needs a ‘who he is’ and ‘why he is important’ statement in the first paragraph..

  3. Do we know when he was born?

    The quotatiion attributed to him is of course written here in modern English, but I doubt those words were Richard’s origiinal ones, just as I doubt we could read them. It would be more accurate to say “His best remembered words, rendered in modern English, are …”

    • According to Wikipedia Richard was born in the town of Wyche (modern Droitwich, Worcestershire) in the year 1197.

    • Ms. Gilliat’s comment about the prayer ascribed to Richard of Chicester or Richard de Wych sounded much too modern (20th century) to my ears so I found the following about the history of the prayer on the internet:

      “Richard is best remembered today for the popular prayer ascribed to him:

      Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ
      For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
      For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
      O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
      May I know Thee more clearly,
      Love Thee more dearly,
      Follow thee more nearly.

      Richard is supposed to have recited the prayer on his deathbed, surrounded by the clergy of the diocese. The works were transcribed in Latin by his confessor Ralph Bocking, a Dominican friar, and were eventually published in the Acta Sanctorum, an encyclopedic text in 68 folio volumes of documents examining the lives of Christian saints. The British Library contains what is believed to be Bocking’s transcription of the prayer.

      Gratias tibi ego, Domine Jesu Christe, de omnibus beneficiis, quae mihi
      praestitisti; pro poenis & opprobiis, quae pro me pertulisti; propter quae
      plactus ille lamentablis vere tibim competebat. Non est dolor sicut dolor

      Whoever translated the Latin into English was obviously skilled in their craft as they managed to produce a rhyming triplet, namely “clearly, dearly, nearly”. However versions of St Richards prayer, before the 20th century, did not contain the triplet and it is thought that the first version that did was published in “The Churchmans Prayer Manual” by G.R.Bullock-Webster in 1913. The first use of the rhyming triplet in a hymn was in the “Mirfield Mission Hymnbook” of 1922, and the first use of the phrase “Day by Day” was in the “Songs of Praise, Enlarged Edition” published in 1931.

      The author who is credited with translating the prayer from the original Acta Sanctorum and bringing it to public notice, was Cecil Headlam in 1898. The following version in the “Prayers of Saints” is quite different to the one that is familiar today.

      LORD JESU CHRIST, I thank Thee for
      all the blessings Thou hast given me,
      and for all the sufferings and shame Thou
      didst endure for me, on which account that
      pitiable cry of sorrow was Thine : ” Behold and
      see, if there was any sorrow like unto My
      sorrow ! ” Thou knowest, Lord, how willing
      I should be to bear insult, and pain, and death
      for Thee ; therefore have mercy on me, for to
      Thee do I commend my spirit. Amen” [http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Richard_of_Chichester]

      The rhyming prayer was adapted for the musical Godspell (1971).

      So it seems as though the sentence “His best remembered words are:” is incorrect and needs to be changed.

      Also, part of the prayer attributed to Richard de Wych, appears in the collects for Richard Rolle, William Hilton and Margery Kempe, September 28. These people all lived at least a century after the Richard commemorated today. Why was the prayer attributed to today’s Richard used for another Richard as well as in the collects for today?

      • I think that attributing the rhyming prayer to Godspell is bogus.
        The Hymnal 1940 included Richard’s prayer, and the Hymnal 1982 #654 cites it again.

      • I am sorry Mr. Hartney but you seem to have misunderstood me. I said that Richard’s prayer was ADAPTED for the musical Godspell. Specifically, it was adapted for the song, Day by day. My research turned up the rhyming prayer as first appearing in “The Churchmans Prayer Manual” by G.R.Bullock-Webster in 1913. That is certainly well before Hymnal 1940 and Hymnal 1982. In any case, the rhyming prayer was a 20th century “invention.” I do not have immediate access to Acta Sanctorum, so I will assume that Richard’s prayer was originally in Latin and the text is: Gratias tibi ego, Domine Jesu Christe, de omnibus beneficiis, quae mihi praestitisti; pro poenis & opprobiis, quae pro me pertulisti; propter quae
        plactus ille lamentablis vere tibim competebat. Non est dolor sicut dolor meus. Perhaps someome with access to Acta Sanctorum (which can be accessed on line) can confirm if this is the “correct” text or at least the one transcribed by Ralph Bocking.

  4. Perhaps use “young” or “very young” instead of “quite young.” Perhaps, “We thank you, dear Lord, …” in the collect.

  5. Thank you, Ms. Sauter! I had totally forgotten the “Godspell” connection. And of course I missed the boat on Latin – duh! – was thinking about [very] early English dialects.

    • You were thinking Middle English and I was thinking medieval French since Richard spent so much time in France though Latin would have been the language of the clergy. Still he had to be able to speak at least one of the Anglo-Saxon dialects of early Middle English when he preached to fishermen and farmers as the biography states.

  6. Right on the dialect he would need for fishermen and farmers. We forget, I think, how linguistically agile people in those times had to be. And our understanding of dialects, pronunciation, etc, is far more theoretical than we sometimes remember. There is a great revelation in Connie Willis’s time travel novel Domesday Book when the 2050s time travler to the era of the Black Death finds that most of what the Oxford lingusts have taught her about spoken Middle English is wrong.

  7. Richard, Bishop of Chichester, 1253
    GENERAL: The commemoration is a good one and any comments I have a seem minor. Yet, I do have a few. If none are heeded, so be it.
    Richard witnessed to the gospel by taking the gospel as his life’s path. He inspires because of the extent to which his behavior illustrates integrity, shown in his devoted service to God and to God’s people. Something of his sincerity comes through in an inspiring way.
    I have questions and ideas for revisions at several points. I append them without comment below (below the double line).
    The fact that no preliminary information is provided about his birth, his family’s circumstances, or other introductory data makes for an awkward beginning. I believe the comments by Michael (re: Richard’s importance), Cynthia (his birth), and Susan (his age) point to that sense of disorientation or incompleteness in the opening paragraphs.
    COLLECT: Overall, I like the collect. The use of the quote is both apt for this commemoration and meaningful as prayer. There is a “so that” clause!  Beginning as a thanksgiving (we thank …) is fine. The choice of “Lord God” as the invocation doesn’t seem to reflect any connection with the story. (A missed opportunity, but not harmful to the collect otherwise.) “Friend” and “brother” are connected to elements in Richard’s story. A couple of words could be omitted to make it slightly more compact, but not many. I like this collect. Thank you for it!
    READINGS: The Psalm selection is outstanding for the commemoration of Richard. It applies so well I can’t imagine it NOT working, regardless of the OT lesson, so long as the lesson fits.
    The gospel selection, likewise, is a great combining of the eschatological with the spirit of compassionate Christian living. Richard is portrayed as a man whose heart, soul, and life are truly express Christ’s care for those he saw with compassion – like sheep without a shepherd. (That passage, also, would serve – as would any expressing Jesus’ concern to bring people out of brokenness into the wholeness.)
    The epistle selection is far TOO “biographical” for my liking. To my (weird) ears it has the tone of a guilt-tripping elder, pointing out all the suffering they endure, while saying “don’t think about how much agony you put ME through.” A parody: (10 “It’s good to finally hear from you; I know you’re too busy to telephone me” 11 “I don’t need you to call to say you love me; the important thing is you’re happy, never mind you can’t manage 5 minutes to call your poor sick dying mother.” 12 “I’ve been through worse – I’ve had good years, it’s not like I need human contact every year from the fruit of my womb, my own flesh and blood offspring.” 13 “God gives me strength to get by, even though I can’t know how long I’ll have before I’m cold and in the grave and it’s too late to take a minute to call and say, “hi, how are you, mom?”)
    The actual NT lesson:
    10 I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me;
    indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it.
    11 Not that I am referring to being in need;
    for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.
    12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty.
    In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry,
    of having plenty and of being in need.
    13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
    As you might infer, I can imagine a better NT selection – one less focused on the details of the biography, and (hopefully) more to the point of serving God’s purposes, or about the Christian Hope, or about living in the spirit of the baptismal covenant, or even explicitly about Christian service and ministry in the NT church. There should be a ton of such readings. (“But it’s okay if you’re too busy to bother looking for one; I’m used to settling for what’s ready to hand; don’t go to any trouble on my account….”)
    As for the OT lesson, I am critical of wisdom passages, many of which strike me as offering conventional, cliche, hit-or-miss aphorisms about how blessed it is to live by conventional, cliche, hit-or-miss aphorisms. In this reading from Proverbs, I can see why verses 16 and (maybe) 19 would apply. (16 because Richard sought education over his wealth/estate, and 19 because he preferred serving God and people with integrity, rather than currying favor with the rich and powerful.) I can’t see verses 17, 18, and 20 as carrying much meaning in this commemoration. 17, “The highway of the upright?” 18, “Pride goes before destruction?” 20, “Those attentive to a matter will prosper?” Assuming the truth of each aphorism, do they really apply here, or are they just nice sounding truisms to hear in church? I don’t see it as a substantive reading for this context. (How about Solomon asking for wisdom, instead? 1 Kings 3:4-10.)

    16 How much better to get wisdom than gold!
    To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
    17 The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their way preserve their lives.
    18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
    19 It is better to be of a lowly spirit among the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.
    20 Those who are attentive to a matter will prosper, and happy are those who trust in the LORD.
    NB – The following does NOT attempt to retain every single element in HWHM.
    At the time of their parents’ deaths, Richard and his older brother Robert were too young to manage the estate they inherited, which their guardian’s negligence then allowed to dwindle. In time, Richard’s labors restored it, and he ultimately transferred it into his brother’s care. Richard then moved to Oxford, to pursue his education, where he completed studies under such outstanding figures as Robert Grosseteste.
    In Paris and Bologna he earned his doctorate degree, in law, returning then to Oxford where he secured the position of University Chancellor. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund Rich, subsequently chose him to be his own chancellor. The friendship between the primate and his young assistant was a close one, and Richard, in time, became his biographer.
    Conflict between the Archbishop and King Henry III led to the Archbishop’s exile in France. There, Richard nursed the Archbishop through his final illness. Richard then pursued further studies, and taught, at the Dominican house in Orleans, France. He was ordained a priest in 1243.
    Returning to England, Richard was elected Bishop of Chichester the very next year. King Henry, opposing Richard’s election, barred him from the episcopal residence and confiscated all revenues of the diocese. Despite the difficulties imposed by the King, Richard functioned as a missionary bishop, traveling his diocese on foot, visiting fishermen and farmers, holding synods, and endeavoring to establish order. In 1246 Henry acknowledged Richard as Bishop, having been threatened by the pope.
    For eight years Richard served his diocese faithfully as preacher, confessor, teacher, and counselor. Campaigning in 1253 for a new crusade against the Saracens, Richard contracted a fever, and died. He was canonized nine years later.
    His best remembered words are those that inspired the hymn, “Day by Day,” (The Hymnal 1982, #654):
    Dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:
    To see thee more clearly,
    Love thee more dearly,
    Follow thee more nearly.

  8. And, it should be noted, the dialects were geograpically diverse. I seem to recall reading that in the time
    of Chaucer someone from Yorkshire would not be understood by someone from Kent. “The History of
    English” TV program had a segment where two men from Yorkshire were in conversation — it was thought
    needful to have the segment shown with captioning so it could be fully understood. Another element in the biography I noted with a bit of interest– ” … he traveled on foot …”. That recalls the business with Chad
    who had to be ordered by the Archbishop of York to get a horse for his travels as a bishop.

  9. I suggest the tittle should be “Richard of Wyche”.

    Line 1, first paragraph: begin “Richard was born at Droitwich, England, in about 1197.” In the following sentence, substitute “He” for “Richard”.

    Line 3, second paragraph: add “to further his education” after “Oxford”. (Not everyone who goes to Oxford goes there to study!)

    Line 3, fifth paragraph: add “, dying on April 3 at Dover, England” after “fever”.

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