Sunday, April 3, 2016

St. Richard of Chichester

Richard was born about 1197, the second son of a land-owning squire in Wyche, England. Today known as Droitwich, his birthplace is commonly associated with him, such that he is also known as Richard de Wyche or Richard of Droitwich. He had an older brother, Robert, and a sister also. The three were orphaned at an early age and left in the care of one who mismanaged their estate and squandered what little remained of their fortune.

In order to help his brother restore the family patrimony and farm the estate, Richard gave up his own studies at Oxford. In grateful recognition of his younger brother's sacrifice, Robert made over the title to the family estate to his more capable brother and even arranged for Richard's marriage. But Richard, realizing that a bride had been chosen for him, and that his brother had changed his mind since then, relinquished both land and lady to Robert, and left for Oxford intent on studying for the priesthood.

From Oxford, Richard went on to earn degrees in Paris and proceeded to Bologna for further studies. Seven years later, he received a doctorate in canon law and, fleeing yet another offer of marriage, returned to Oxford in 1235.

Both the Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Edmund Rich, and the Bishop of Lincoln offered him the opportunity to become their Chancellor. Richard accepted the Archbishop's offer, assisting the saintly prelate in his overwhelming difficulties with King Henry III, who had a habit of either keeping ecclesiastical sees vacant and enjoying the revenues, or appointing his own man for the office. Richard accompanied St. Edmund into exile in France, and faithful in service to the last, he tended to the ailing Archbishop until his death five years later.
He was ordained in France in 1243, and served as a parish priest in England for a while only to be recalled to his former chancellorship by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Boniface of Savoy.

When the see of Chichester became vacant, the king’s appointee was refused by the archbishop who, instead, appointed Richard. Enraged, Henry III withheld the temporal benefits of the see.

At last, both Henry and Richard took the case to Rome, the Pope ruling in favor of Richard in 1245. Obstinate, the king still withheld the revenues, so the homeless prelate was taken in by a good priest, and from this humble abode ministered to his diocese traveling about mainly on foot. With great difficulties he succeeded in holding synods to deal with various abuses.

The king only relented when the Pope threatened excommunication, which finally gave Richard the means to fully administer his diocese and tend to almsgiving. He was beloved of his people.

At the Pope’s request, Richard ended his life calling for another Crusade against the Saracens. He died whilst on campaign, taken by a fever at fifty-five, and was canonized nine years later.

1 comment:

  1. Did he die on Campaign? I understood that he died at Dover when travelling to Rome
    Ken Green