The Saint of the Day

PART ONE

Today is Bishop Malone’s first name feast day. April 3rd is the feast of St. Richard of Chichester, an English saint who takes his title from the diocese of which he was bishop during the first half of the 13th century. Please join me in saying a prayer for Bishop Malone on his special feast.

st. richard.jpg

Bishop Malone told me about his patron early on in my Chancery tenure. Before he left for his annual July vacation that summer of 2015, he showed me a small booklet entitled St. Richard of Chichester by Reverend Henry E. Dunn. The booklet was first published in 1907 and Bishop Malone’s copy seemed to have been printed not long after. It was mostly legible, but no longer bound. The pages fell limp inside the light blue cover. Bishop Malone asked if I might be able to copy the pages and assemble them into a new booklet. There was an altar boy named Richard who served at the Cathedral and Bishop Malone wanted to share this biography of their mutual patron with him.

Looking at the booklet after Bishop Malone departed for the Cape, I immediately noted that the pages were not going to copy well if at all. At 32 pages, the relatively small booklet would be better re-typed than copied. Thus I began typing three or four pages a day during the weeks the Bishop was gone. Before he returned, I printed the new booklet with a cardstock cover that included a color image of the saint. I still remember Bishop Malone’s expression of delighted surprise when I showed him the finished product. I was thrilled to have helped him in this way. (I say this not to praise myself, but to demonstrate how much Bishop Malone loves his patron saint and how eager I was to do anything I could for the Bishop.)

One happy result of typing up a saint’s life story is that you are not likely to forget it! Here are some highlights of St. Richard’s life:

  • He was a gifted scholar and canon lawyer
  • As bishop, he personally visited the sick, attended to the poor and buried the dead. At one point his steward voiced concern that the bishop’s almsgiving was greater than his means. To this St. Richard replied by telling the man to sell some of his (St. Richard’s) belongings including his horse.
  • According to legend, he once accidentally knocked over the chalice while celebrating Mass. However, not a drop of the Precious Blood was spilled, which is why a chalice is one of the symbols associated with this saint.
  • He foretold his own death

All of these are noteworthy, but it is this description of St. Richard that is most incredible to me:

“In maintaining discipline St. Richard was inflexible, especially in chastising crimes in the clergy: no intercession of the king, archbishop, and several other prelates could prevail with him to mitigate the punishment of a priest who had sinned against chastity.”*

Wow. You canNOT make this stuff up, my friends.

This element of Saint Richard’s life reminds us of an important point: clerical sins against chastity are not a modern phenomenon. St. Richard lived from 1197-1253… a reminder that sins of this kind are nothing new. While St. Richard would be familiar with the sins that we are sadly aware of in the Church today, he would not relate to the cover up and conspiracy that have surrounded these sinful actions. St. Richard himself would never have stood for such a response to clerical misconduct of this nature. Neither would the pope who reigned during much of St. Richard’s lifetime.

innocent III.jpg

Pope Innocent III was a brilliant pontiff who “conquered heresies, clarified Church doctrines, corrected clerical abuses,” and sanctioned St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic to continue their respective reforms and ministries. In St. Francis and St. Dominic, Pope Innocent saw a powerful antidote to the vices which were plaguing the clergy at that time. During his 18-year reign, Pope Innocent authorized his papal legates to “deprive all unworthy clergy of their benefices [revenues due from their ecclesiastical offices] and there was no right of appeal.”*

How greatly does our Church need bishops such as St. Richard and a pope of Pope Innocent III’s caliber! Their moral discipline, moral courage and moral clarity plus their ability to effectively reform are sorely lacking at this time. On this feast of St. Richard, let us pray that God might inspire all of our bishops – especially Bishop Richard Malone – to act with the fortitude and conviction which marked every aspect of St. Richard’s life but especially clerical reform.

The following prayer of St. Richard of Chichester was made popular by the play Godspell where the words can be found in a song called “Day by Day.” 

Thanks be to thee, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which thou hast given us,
for all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for us.
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
may we know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly.    Amen.

_______________________________________________

PART TWO

Thinking about the “saint of the day” brings back many fond memories from my time at the Chancery. One of my regular duties there was to create and type the Bishop’s agenda for each day he was in the office. As I became accustomed to creating the agenda, I began adding “the Saint of the Day, pray for us” underneath each day’s date. This was a natural instinct of mine due to my upbringing. My wonderful Mom began every day of homeschooling with the appropriate reading from Saints for Young People for Everyday of the Year, a two-part series by the Daughters of Saint Paul. My siblings and I loved learning about our heavenly friends whose stories were filled with such fascinating details, heroic achievements and compelling holiness. We eventually branched out into Butler’s Lives of the Saints, which is considered the authoritative work on the subject, and many full biographies of individual saints.

Thus it surprised me when my “saint of the day” practice became such a remarked-upon addition to the Chancery routine. At least once a week, one of the Chancery bishops or priests would comment about a saint’s name. Usually they expressed surprise as they hadn’t heard of that particular saint. Sometimes they even questioned whether the saint was real or not! Well do I recall my debate with Monsignor Litwin as to whether St. Lidwina was a legitimate historical figure. (She most certainly is and she’s awesome!) When I told Bishop Malone the saga of St. Dymphna’s life, he was staggered by it and immediately called across the room to Bishop Grosz and Monsignor Slubecky: “Ed, David- you’ve got to hear this story!”

Bishop Malone frequently commented on my saintly selections and more than once noted that I was “giving the Chancery a lesson in hagiography.” I began to have a little fun with the practice and started to include some truly unusual saints when there was no “standard” saint assigned to a date. I particularly recall Sts. Ewald the Dark and Ewald the Fair whose feast is in early October. These two missionary martyrs shared the same name and were thus distinguished by the color of their hair. I can still hear Monsignor Slubecky’s robust laugh when I explained the saints of the day to him!

I don’t have many pictures of the Chancery because it never occurred to me to take photos of my workplace while I was actually working there. How I wish I’d taken a photo of the infamous vacuum closet wherein I discovered the notorious black binder! But I did take a photo of the final agenda I created. It was dated August 9th. My last official day was Friday the 10th, but I didn’t create an agenda that day because the Bishop took off on Fridays.*

last agenda.png[I maintained the name of the individual who had the first appointment that day since that person was my eventual replacement, Patricia. I remember how happy I was when her interview with Bishop Malone was successful and he determined that she would be the one to take the position. As it was my next-to-last day there, I was quite relieved!]

A wave of nostalgia came over me that morning as I surveyed the Bishop’s counter, which was attached to my cubicle. Bishop Malone did most of his work while standing at this counter. He would peruse the mail, jot notes to staff, review various materials, check his calendar, and collect any items he needed for evening events. When I think of Bishop Malone, I imagine him standing at this counter where I interacted with him countless times over the years.

Looking at this familiar counter for the final time in an official capacity, I took a photo of it:

last day counter.jpg

Here’s what the Bishop’s counter looked like that last day… and every day beforehand. There’s the Bishop’s mail at the far end of the counter. Beyond the wooden mail tray are the Diocesan coat of arms flags, which I had prepared for the Bishop’s new residence. They’re the white items wrapped in plastic.

The traffic signal colored folders contained the materials the Bishop would need for the various meetings on his agenda that day. The red folder next to the agenda contained information pertaining to the letters to Cardinals Dolan and O’Malley, which were my last drafting assignment from Bishop Malone. The oft-used “To Be Signed” blue folder contained the final versions of those letters for his signature. At the forefront of the photo, you can see part of the “office toolbox” I set up for the Bishop’s use… letter opener, paper clips, stapler, white out, post-it notes of all sizes. The bright pink post-it notes you see contained the names of Bishop Malone’s key staff. We designed them so that all he had to do was check a name and attach the post-it to a document, which I would then send off through inter-office mail.

The silver base of my standing desk is visible on the lefthand side of this photo and shows just how closely Bishop Malone and I worked. We were literally within an arm’s length of each other!

There are also the plastic bins that you can see peeking out from under the counter. I used them to store items which needed to be filed. I learned pretty early on that it wasn’t a good idea to file items too quickly because oftentimes the Bishop or other Chancery staff would need to review a document more than once and it was helpful to have such items near at hand. Always one to attach significance to colors, I designated the bins as follows:

~ The blue one contained all documents pertaining to the priests and deacons for blue is Mary’s color. I prayed that our Blessed Mother might intercede for the men who had generously devoted their lives to ministry within her Son’s Church.

~ The green one was for “people, places and things” because green is my favorite color and also the color of hope and harmony the latter of which I always strove to achieve in responses related to disgruntled people, challenging places or hapless things.

~ The orange one was for the Archives because orange is my least favorite color and I hated the Archives… for obvious reasons.

And there you have it – the memories that come back to me when I think of my “saint of the day” experiences in the Chancery. Despite all that has occurred since my last day there, these memories bring a smile to my face. It even makes me laugh to recall how often Monsignor Slubecky would emerge from his office waving an agenda and exclaiming something along the lines of: “St. Gosbert’s feast day is finally here – I’ve been waiting for it!”

God rest your soul, Monsignor.

God help our diocese.

May the saints of all the days intercede for us! 

 

 

*In case you can’t quite believe that quotation about St. Richard, you can read the online biography from which it was pulled.

*In fairness to Bishop Malone, I should note that his weekends were almost always filled with several Masses and other events. Thus he did not have Saturdays and Sundays off as people usually do and his taking Fridays off was an appropriate practice.

*Quotations in this paragraph were taken from this article.

 

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