Richard of Chichester was born in 1197 in a village near Worcester, England. The son of a prosperous farmer, he and his brother were orphaned at an early age and their guardian squandered their inheritance. Richard worked hard to restore the family property, and when he had succeeded, turned it over to his brother and went to Oxford to become a scholar. He was too poor to afford a gown or a fire in winter but was an excellent student. He studied canon law there and in Paris. Having acquired a doctorate, he was appointed chancellor of Oxford in 1235.
One of his teachers who had become Archbishop of Canterbury appointed Richard chancellor of the archdiocese. When the archbishop rebuked King Henry III for keeping various bishoprics vacant in order to pocket their revenues, Henry forced him into exile. Richard accompanied him to France and nursed him until he died. Thereafter, Richard studied to become a priest at the Dominican house in Orleans, and was ordained in 1242. He returned to England to serve as a parish priest.
In 1244, Richard was elected Bishop of Chichester, but King Henry refused to recognize the election, locked him out of the bishop’s residence, and confiscated the diocesan properties.
Richard accepted shelter with a village priest, and spent the next two years walking his diocese to carry out his ministry. In 1245, Pope Innocent IV confirmed Richard’s election, Henry was pressured into recognizing Richard as bishop, and the diocesan properties were restored. Richard, however, continued to live a simple lifestyle.
Richard earned an excellent reputation as a bishop. He was kindly, accessible, compassionate, and generous. He gave as much as he could to feed the poor and heal the sick. On April 3, 1253, Richard died of a fever. He was canonized in 1262. In 1538, his shrine in Chichester Cathedral was destroyed by order of King Henry VIII.
Richard is well known for a prayer with a strong stewardship motif. It was adapted to a now popular song whose lyrics include the refrain: “Day by day, day by day, O dear Lord, three things I pray: To see Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly, day by day.
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