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    Say a little prayer to St. Chad

    By DIANE ROBERTS

    © St. Petersburg Times, published November 19, 2000


    What with all the fussing and fighting and filing of lawsuits by both the Gore and Bush campaigns, with all the uncertainty over who actually won the blessed election, surely it's time to appeal to a higher power -- St. Chad himself.

    This is not made up: St. Chad was a seventh-century Saxon bishop. He was, according to the Venerable Bede, a prodigiously holy fellow, educated at the monastery of Lindisfarne in the north of England. St. Chad traveled to Ireland to commune with St. Egbert (saints are generally happier hanging out with each other) and check out the Guinness in local pubs (okay, that part's made up). In the year 666, Chad was called back to England and was elected to the Bishopric of York, which was an extremely big deal in those days.

    Now here's where the story gets scarily relevant: St. Wilfrid suddenly showed up from France, charging electoral and procedural irregularities (this is really true, honest, you can look it up). St. Theodorus, the archbishop of Canterbury and thus the head guy for the English church, declared the See of York for St. Wilfrid. St. Chad conceded gracefully, saying, "I willingly resign this charge, having never thought myself worthy of it, but which, however unworthy, I submitted to undertake in obedience."

    St. Theodorus was so impressed with Chad's sportsmanship, he overturned his original decision and awarded York to him. Chad was duly inaugurated (or consecrated, as they called it in those days) and Wilfrid retired to a monastery where he played golf (or the seventh-century equivalent thereof) and baptized heathen Vikings.

    As for St. Chad, he died of the plague on March 2, 673 (now his feast day), and his relics now rest in Lichfield Cathedral.

    St. Chad obviously never saw a butterfly ballot or a punch-card ballot, and he probably wouldn't be thrilled to share a name with a little piece of paper designed to be popped out and discarded. But maybe Al Gore and George W. Bush ought to say a little prayer to him anyway as the courts of Florida figure out the profundities and lineaments of all those chads -- hanging, dangling, three-quarter, dimpled or pregnant.

    -Former Times editorial writer Diane Roberts is now teaching at the University of Alabama and is a commentator for National Public Radio.

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