by K. M. Booth, Si.
QT. RICHARD was born at Droll" wieh, in Worcestershire, about 1197, consecrated Bishop of Chichester in 1245, and died in 1253.
His life reads like a fairy story. His parents died when he was young, and the family property was left in the hands of a wicked guardian—possibly a -wicked uncle—who ruled the estate. Richard's elder brother, Robert, appealed to him for help. Richard left
school and took charge of the estate and not only took charge but sometimes took a hand with the plough himself. Thanks to him the family fortunes were restored and Robert in a fit of gratitude gave him the estate.
The fit did not last long. Impressed by Richard's ability, some friends attempted to marry him to a rich heiress. Robert began to repent of his. bargain and Richard, who was not attracted by the prospect, gave back the estate and made his way to Oxford to resume the studies he loved.
For some unknown reason he was poor at Oxford. Perhaps his brother married the heiress and the rejected lady cut off supplies. Certain it is that Richard had to share a gown with some other poor students and, gowns being indispensable for attendance at lecteres, they took it in turns to attend. Richard did part of his studies in Paris but returned to Oxford to take his degree. But zeal for knowledge drove him to Bologna where he spent seven years studying canon law, BACK TO ENGLAND AGAIN Romance again brought his cared' here to an end. His master's daughter wanted to marry him and suggested that her father make Richard his heir. The father and daughter were willing but Richard was not. 1-k excused himself gently and returned to England where he was made chancellor of the university of Oxford.
But he had already attracted the attention of two great and holy bishops, Robert Grossetete of Lincoln and St. Edmund of Canterbury. Roth invited him to become chancellor of their dioceses and Richard acceded to the request of St. Edmund and went to Canterbury.
St. Edmund, Hie his martyr predecessor, St. Thomas, was having trouble with the king, the worthless Henry III, who was using his influence to secure the appointment of unworthy favourites to rich parishes and sometimes kept parishes and bishoprics vacant in order to keep their revenues for himself.
When Richard went to Canterbury, Si. Edmund was beginning to weary of the ' struggle, but Richard gave him every support and it was possibly due to his influence that St. Edmund went into voluntary exile as a protest against the evil conduct of the king. With him went Richard and when St. Edmund died in France Richard did not return to England, but made his way to Orleans, where tie studied theology under the Dominicans and was ordained priest. He seems to have intended to join their order, hut for some reason returned to England and tried to hide himself in the obscurity of a parish.
TROUBLE WITH THE KING But the new archbishop of Canterbury, Boniface, again made him chancellor of the diocese, and in 1244 used his influence to have him elected bishop of Chichester. This led to serious trouble with the king. Henry had forced the canons of Chichester to elect one of his favourites as their bishop. Boniface summoned the bishops of his diocese, quashed the election, and persuaded the canons to elect Richard.
Both the king and Richard appealed to
plate, arid added the saint, " if that is not sufficient I have a perfectly good horse."
Nor did he wait to be asked for aims. He quoted and acted on the adage, " That is dearly bought which is got by begging."
It was noticeable that it was at the request of thc poor that most of his miracles were
worked. For them on one occasion he multiplied loaves. Nothing could stop his relentless generosity. When his houses had been burned down he comforted his troubled household with the remark that this was a sign from heaven that he had not been generous enough in giving to the POW.
Bur there was a stern side to his character. The same grim determination which had helped him to restore his hrothers fortunes made him inflexible in punishing bad priests, When the king and the archbishop asked for mercy for one who had sinned against chastity, the saint refused to yield. " Let my lord the archbishop," he said, " do what he would want to have done when he comes before the judgement seat of the most high."
HE DIED AT DOVER His last task was to preach the crusade. Exhausted with his labours he died at Dover. He knew death was coming and asked his household to recite " Maria mater gratiae, meter misericordiae, to nos ab hoste protege . . ." while he was dying. They took his body to he buried at Chichester and there he continued to work the miracles he had worked during life. Nine years later he was canonised at the request of his former foe, Henry III.
St. Richard is a good patron for Sussex Men. During the years of his episcopate he must have visited on foot every part of the beautiful county in which his diocese lay, seeking out the poor, visiting the sick in person, urging his clergy to be worthy of their vocation. And in these days when the church is again at war with the state we may well ask the intercession of the saint who defied the king and carried on his work without any temporal aid—St. Richard of Chichester pray for us.