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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.
Preface of a Saint (2)
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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