Sat, 2 Dec 2000 09:19:28 -0800
Thought there was nothing weird left to discover about the 2000 election?
It seems there is a patron saint of disputed elections, and his name is (I kid
you not) St. Chad.
Thirteen hundred years before "dimpled chad" stalled America's transfer of
power, the name Chad came to mean wrongfully holding office and stepping down
selflessly in the name of unity.
The year was 664, in Dark Ages Britain, just as the Latin and Celtic churches
were uniting after a big fight over the date of Easter. A monk named Wilfred
was named bishop of York and went off to Paris to be consecrated. He stayed for
two years., preferring the city to the desolate moors of his new diocese.
Possibly thinking Wilfred dead, King Oswy of Northumbria picked a humble abbot
named Chad for the post. Chad was consecrated by the only two bishops left in
the plague-struck area, but because they insisted on the Celtic date of Easter,
they were technically out of communion with the church.
When Wilfred finally returned from Gaul in 666, the archbishop of Canterbury
determined that Chad wasn't a proper bishop and charged him with holding office
illicitly. "I willingly lay down the office, for I have never thought myself
worthy of it," Chad said, according to Bede's medieval history of the church
written in 731. The archbishop was moved at his graciousness and made Chad
bishop of Mercia.
Some readings of the Chad story paint the saint as a usurper who was ordained by
two shady Welsh bishops and was properly deposed. But most retellings dwell on
the selfless way he stepped aside to preserve peace within the church. The
plague caught up with Chad in 672. One biographer says he is "best known for
NOT being the archbishop of York."
The prayer for the Feast of St. Chad (March 2nd) starts:
"Almighty God, whose servant Chad, for the peace of the church, relinquished
cheerfully the honors that had been thrust upon him, only to be rewarded with
equal responsibility: Keep us, we pray Thee, from thinking of ourselves more
highly than we ought to think, and ready at all times to step aside for others."
St. Chad is still popular in the British Midlands, which is peppered with
Chadwells and Chadfields and Chadworths. His bones, stored at St. Chad's
Cathedral in Lichfield, England, were carbon-dated in 1996 and found to be from
the right time period, though there was an extra leg mixed in with the relics.
An ancient well dedicated to St. Chad in London, the waters of which were said
to cure indigestion and hangovers, was destroyed to build King's Cross railway
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