Many of us will remember the song Day by Day for the 1971 theatrical production “Godspell.” The lyrics of the song are taken from the famous prayer of Richard, bishop of Chichester (1245-1253).
Richard began his studies for the priesthood at Oxford and went on to earn degrees in Paris and a doctorate in Bologna. He then accepted the appointment of Chancellor by the Archbiship of Canterbury, Edmund Rich. The Archbishop was then embroiled in a controversy with King Henry III who had a habit of delaying the appoint to vacant ecclesiastical sees. During the time of vacancy, the king would avail himself of revenues from the see. Richard accompanied the exiled Archbishop to France where he nursed the dying prelate for his remaining six years.
When Richard returned to England he was appointed Bishop of Chichester. The appointment was immediately refused by Henry who also refused the restore the see's properties and revenue. Henry when further to forbid anyone from providing support or accommodation to him. The impoverished new bishop for the next two years endured the hardship of visiting parishes on foot, sleeping where ever possible, sometimes in the open, and was at times forced to eat roots he pulled from the ground, as he carried out his diocesan responsibilities. Finally, under the Papal threat of excommunication, the king was forces to accept Richard’s appointment and restore the property and revenues of the see.
Not surprisingly Richard became a champion of church rights over those of the crown. He is widely recognized for his work in church and clerical reform. Although mostly he is revered for his life of humility, abstinence, piety and prayer.
The following prayer is attributed to him. I comment its use during this Holy Week as we reflect on the passion on our Lord.
“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.”
In the Book of Common Prayer we commemorate St. Richard of Chichester on April 3.