Today we celebrate the life and ministry of St. Chad, Bishop of Lichfield who died in 672 A.D. He was one of four brothers, each of whom dedicated their lives to the church. His older brother, Cedd (who later also was beatified as a saint) built and governed the monastery at Lastingham. The monastery was left to Chad after his brother’s death and Chad gained renown as a just and learned abbot.
Chad was appointed by the king to be Archbishop of York and was ordained by British bishops who had not been properly or canonically ordained. Four years into his episcopate the newly enthroned Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore, came to York and informed Chad that his consecration as Bishop had been “irregular.” This decision effectively made Chad’s consecration null and void as the consecration had not been fully according to Roman custom. Upon hearing the news, according to the Venerable Bede, Chad humbly offered to step aside and resign from office: “Indeed, I never believed myself worthy of it,” he said.
Theodore soon after properly consecrated Chad Bishop of Mercia and Northumbria due to his great humility. Chad was so humble that he continued in the apostolic tradition of traveling about his diocese solely on foot (sorry, bad pun) as he had done for the four years he was Archbishop of York.
The collect for St. Chad reads as follows:
“Almighty God, for the peace of the Church your servant Chad relinquished cheerfully the honors that had been thrust upon him, only to be rewarded with equal responsibility: Keep us, we pray, from thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, and ready at all times to step aside for others, that the cause of Christ may be advanced; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
The part of the collect that keeps on catching my ear and my thoughts is: “…and ready at all times to step aside for others, that the cause of Christ may be advanced…” How difficult is THAT to do? I think we have a difficult time stepping aside when we are not, “the one.” And we have an even more difficult time doing it readily, which implies that we are not hurt or upset by being not the chosen individual.
The piece that may be missing from our thought process when this happens is the idea that our staying in place or doing what we are doing may just very well be inhibiting the work of Christ in the world. It is not easy to contemplate that not only are we NOT the person for the task but our stubbornly staying in place could actually be hindering the work of Christ in the world.
I have seen this refusal to allow others to be the hands and feet and body of Christ at work most often in parish churches. It is important to do the work of the parish, and all who labor are important and necessary. However, stepping aside and letting other members or even new members do the work of the parish often brings vitality and reinvigorates our ministries. It also allows us to find new areas of ministry that may very well change our lives. Odd how the Holy Spirit will do that when we let go and allow the Spirit to work in and through us.
As we continue down our Lenten path towards Holy Week experiencing a time of self-examination and contemplation, where are those moments when we can, “step aside for others, that the cause of Christ may be advanced”? Where can we try new ways of advancing the Gospel in our lives and in the world around us, stepping aside as St. Chad did and walking humbly forward as apostles in the world on a new path?
In Christ’s Name,
Source: Move it, St. Chad!