Stories of Saints and Martyrs - Jetta S. Wolff

St. Richard of Chichester

April 3; A.D. 1253

The story of this, the latest-born saint of our Calendar, is one of noble devotion and duty, even more than duty, towards his family. His parents had once been very rich, but things went wrong, they fell into great poverty, and the eldest brother was thrown into prison for debt. Richard at once set to work to try and put matters right. He was ready to turn his hand to anything. The roughest work about the house was welcome to him; he only asked to be of use, and he managed the family affairs so well that they were soon put quite straight, the brother released from prison, and his property saved for him.

At first the brother was so grateful that he would no longer take his place as the elder. "Richard," he said, "had saved their honour and their goods; Richard must be looked on henceforth as the head of the family."

But by-and-by these warm feelings changed. The brother said he had been foolish after all to give up his birthright. At once Richard gave back everything. He was quite ready to work and to earn his own bread, he said; and he went out into the world as a poor scholar.

He went first to Oxford in order to study, then on to Paris. At one time he lodged with two other students, both as poor as he was. They had but one tidy coat between them, and used to take their lessons in turn, one wearing the coat while the others stayed at home without it! But, poor as he was, Richard used to say that these were the happiest years of his life. He did not wish for riches. He did not regret his brother's portion, nor long for what had been taken from him. Then he went to Bologna in Italy, like so many poor students of those days, for here there was a famous school. He worked for himself and taught others, and when, after a time, one of the chief professors fell ill, it was proposed that Richard should fill his place and marry the old man's daughter. But Richard was a true Englishman at heart. The thought of giving up his native land, and settling down for life so far away, was too much for him. He left Italy and went back to Oxford, where, after a time, he was made Chancellor of the University. His greatest friend was Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury. Edmund died, to the great grief of Richard, who was with him in his last hours. Then he was ordained Priest, and in time became Bishop of Chichester. All his life St. Richard was free-handed, and fond of giving what he could to others. His elder brother, who indeed must have been far from having so kind a heart, would often rebuke him for being so liberal.

"Our father ate and drank out of common crockery," was St. Richard's reply. Shall I, then, wish for gold and silver plate? No, my brother, what was enough for me in my youth is all I ask for myself now, though through GOD'S mercy I am supplied with the means of comfort."

Then came the third Crusade. St. Richard went about from village to village throughout the whole country, preaching the duty of joining the sacred war.

By-and-by he fell ill. He might have recovered, but he had fixed a day to go to Dover to consecrate a church and burying-ground for the poor, in the name of his friend St. Edmund. He would not put off the day. "No, no," he said. I must do the work before me, I cannot set aside my duty. Who knows what may befall? Before I die, let me at least consecrate this church in the name of my friend and master."

The church and burying-ground were consecrated, but the Bishop went home to his death-bed. "Dear in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints."