Day by Day

Everyone of my generation will recognize the song “Day by Day” by Stephen Schwartz. It was made popular in the 1971 musical Godspell:

Day by day,
Dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by day.

I was a junior in college and the lilting melody of the tune perfectly expressed the sentiment of the times. I probably hummed along to the melody a thousand times before learning that it came from a prayer attributed to my patron, Saint Richard of Chichester whose feast day is today, April 3.

Richard didn’t have the panache of more famous saints. He was an archbishop in Sussex, England. He broke no glass ceilings like Joan of Arc. Unlike Stephen the Martyr (the name I chose for Confirmation), Richard died of natural causes at age 56 in 1253. He never gained global notoriety as has Dominic who died in 1221 or Francis of Assisi who died in 1223. You will not even find reference to him in the Roman Missal for this date!

Today Richard is really only remembered for the popular prayer ascribed to him:

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.

Richard is believed to have recited the prayer on his deathbed with the words transcribed, in Latin, by his confessor Ralph Bocking, a Dominican friar.  If you care to know more, Wikipedia is as good of source as any [link]. 

My purpose is simply to share a great prayer in celebration of my feast day. Saints gave kids of my generation our own version of super-heroes! Only quite a while later did I make any association between such characters and the creedal formula about a “communion of saints” which we unreflectively mumble through at church on most Sundays.

I’m not looking for Richard to garner a great cult-following. Sarcastically I’d say, find your own saint! Who do you claim? When is your feast day? Next time you recite the Creed at church, be a bit more intentional when you profess faith in a “communion of saints.” There are so many good reasons to celebrate — day by day!

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