Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Morbidity of Saints named Richard

In naming little Linus, I chose to give him my names as his middle name, Richard. For Catholics the middle name has the potential to become the child's confirmation name and it should be a saint's name. Technically, so should the first name, but as always tradition and innovation yield some creative tension. Linus is safe both ways in that Linus is a saint's name (and mentioned in the bible) and it is interesting and unique. As Richard is the middle name, I thought that I would investigate a little further the various Saint Richards and Blessed Richards to see whom Linus might use for inspiration in life and especially at his conformation.

The most famous Saint Richard is Richard of Chichester (pictured to the left)a kindly bishop who refused his families wealth for a life of study and the church, has some minor troubles with King Henry III over the supremacy of the Pope over the King, but dies a natural death. The topic of these troubles will be much more trouble for St. Richards later in history.

There are others, one of my favorites is a little known Saint Richard sometimes called King of the Saxons (pictured to the right), who's claim to fame lies primarily in being the father of other saints (father of Willibald, Winebald, and Walpurga). Saint Richard was a pilgrim who died on his journey, the King rumor grew up around him after his death and is unsubstantiated.

What was concerning is that as the list moves towards the reformation one realizes that Richard was a popular English name, and that Henry VIII and Elizabeth I persecutions generated many Catholic English martyrs named Richard during their reigns. The chart below shows that, at least for the lists I could find, being English and Richard and Catholic seemed to guarantee martyr and saintly status after 1500 AD.

Red in the chart above indicates a martyred death. Most deaths were due to being hanged, drawn and quartered. I suppose a theme for a Reformation Saint Richard would be to defend Catholicism against Protestantism and be executed for it. I am pleased that in modern times that the enmity between Richards and English monarchs has lessened some. However, in the 1900's being named Richard and Catholic was especially dangerous during the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Of 35 Richards, 28 were martyred. I wonder how that would compare to the entire list of saints. This is a clear case of selection bias as it is very much easier to become an official saint through martyrdom than after a natural death.

Linus will have many bloody stories of Richards defending the faith for his confirmation class.

(information for the St. and Bl. Richards came from Catholic Online Saints R page, the Saints.SQPN saints R page, and eCatholic Hub saints database saints with first name Richard with much reference to Wikipedia)

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