Krsna Slava: St Richard of Wessex

The Serbian Orthodox have a custom of a Family Saint, a guardian, who is feasted every year with an heroic act of Hospitality, the Krsna Slava. I’m not Serbian, of course, and American converts don’t have such customs, but my family, the Richardsons, are not Orthodox. Neither are we related to St Richard of Wessex: but it seems good to have such a feast and to invoke the prayers of the saints for my family, living and departed, so, being the oldest male in this part of the clan, I think I’ll claim one for us.

St Richard, King of Wessex and Confessor, is celebrated on 7 February, the date of his falling asleep in the Lord in AD 722.

More than any other race, the Anglo Saxons are distinguished for the royal patronage bestowed upon the Christian Church, and for the way in which kings and their families have worked in the spreading of the gospel in their own lands and overseas. St. Richard and his family are outstanding examples. He was one of the kings or princes of Wessex, related to the royal house of Kent, and married to Winna, herself a descendant of Cerdic and aunt to Boniface of Crediton.

Richard was brought up as a Christian and his faith was real and firm. When his eldest son Willibald was three years old, the child fell grievously ill, and there seemed to be no hope for his recovery. His father wrapped him in a blanket and, mounting his horse, rode out into the night to a wayside crucifix at a crossroads near to the village where they lived… Richard placed the child at the foot of the cross and knelt in prayer, pleading for his son’s life. Willibald did recover, and two years later he was entrusted to Egbald, the abbot of Warham, near Winchester, to be trained.

When Willibald reached manhood, he returned to his family with a desire to spread the faith abroad, and persuaded his father and brother to accompany him on a pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land. 

When Richard had renounced his royal estate, he set sail with his two sons from Hamblehaven near Southampton. They made a leisurely progress through France, spending time at various Christian centres including Rouen, and it seems that at some time during their journey Richard took monastic vows.

Shrine of St Richard in Lucca

They reached Italy and came to Lucca, where the Cathedral had been built by an Irish monk called Frigidian, but known by the local inhabitants as Frediano. Richard, who was growing old and had become infirm during his travels, now succumbed to the heat and died.

When I began researching various saints named Richard who were Orthodox, I’d no idea I’d find one whose feast was so soon (literally the same week I sat down to do it) so here we are: our first Krsna Slava with no party save SF Beer Week Opening Gala (tonight) for which I have long had tickets, so we had Pizza & wings last night.  But next year this will be a party.  And maybe house-blessing weekend.  I’m looking forward to adapting the custom: I think my American Slava Bread would have to be Soda Bread.  We do put a cross on it, after all.

This year I couldn’t book a Panikhida on such short notice, so on the 15th there will be one at 5:30 PM for all the departed in my family (biological and pneumological) at the Cathedral: and I will host a bit of Refreshment after the Vigil that evening. Locals are, of course, invited! Of your charity I ask your prayers for:

Kenneth, Bessie Mae, Walter, Edward, Katherine, James, Gregory, Raymond, Matthew, Mills, Bernard, Timothy, William, Linda, Paul, Brian, Michelle, Edward, Elsa, Raymond, Grace, Sheila-Mary

Indeed, not all of them are Orthodox: only one.  But God can handle that.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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