'To love thee more dearly': The 13th-century prayer that inspired a hit song
What links a 1970s hit musical and a 13th-century English saint?
The answer is, a prayer.
The musical is Godspell, a stage show by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak that became a film in 1973 and broke the mould when it came to religious drama. Condemned by conservatives as irreverent, it's based on parables from Matthew and Luke and shows Jesus as warm, human and real.
The saint is Richard of Chichester (1197-1253), whose feast day is today, and his famous prayer provided the text for one of the songs in the show – Day by Day.
Richard rose to be Bishop of Chichester, but didn't have an easy time of it. He was chosen by the Archbishop of Canterbury over King Henry III's candidate and the King objected. In spite of the Pope ruling in his favour, the King refused to allow him the lands that went with the bishopric and would have supported him. He travelled round his diocese penniless and on foot, and even after his rights were restored he lived a frugal and simple life. He was much loved by the people and was formally made a saint on January 22, 1262.
This is the text of his prayer, as it's given by the Diocese of Chichester:
Thanks be to thee,
my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which
thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults
which thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer,
Friend and Brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly.