Wednesday, June 24, 2015

St. William of Vercelli, Hermit, Abbot, and Founder

The saint of the day for June 24th is St. William of Vercelli, hermit, abbot, and founder of a religious congregation known as the Hermits of Monte-Vergine.

William was born to noble and wealthy parents in Vercelli, Italy in 1085. He lost his father and mother in his infancy and was raised by a relative. At age fifteen, he made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. When he returned, he became a hermit in Naples and lived there on an uninhabited mountain in solitude. However, he became famous after he worked a miracle, curing a blind man. His desire to live a contemplative life and to focus on God was interrupted; consequently, he moved to another mountain.

On this mountain, he built a beautiful church in honor of Our Lady. His holiness attracted  many followers and, in 1119, he established the Congregation of Monte Vergine, or Mount of the Virgin. These sons of Our Lady lived in great poverty. Some of the monks began to complain that the rule was too strict and the lifestyle was too austere. They desired better food and a less strenuous schedule. To resolve the problem, William  assigned a new prior to the monks. Then he and five faithful followers set out for southern Italy, where they founded another monastery, with the same strict lifestyle. Saint William founded several more monasteries, both for men and women, in various places in the kingdom of Naples. He assisted King Roger I of Naples in practicing all the Christian virtues of a worthy sovereign, and in gratitude, the king had a house of the Order built at Salerno directly across from his palace, to have him near for spiritual advice. William retired to his monastery of Gugieto, where he died, and was buried in the church.

When Saint William died, he had not yet written a Rule for his religious; his second successor, Robert, fearing the dissolution of a community without constitutions, placed them under that of Saint Benedict, and is regarded as the first abbot of the Benedictine Congregation of Monte-Vergine. William is the patron saint of Irpinia.


St. William,
You were a father to your monks
and a shepherd to your people.
Pray for us that we might have our sight restored --
that we might see
with the eyes of
our hearts and souls,
God's presence in and around us.
Teach us to nourish our spiritual
journeys with prayer
so that we too might be instruments
of God's light and love to others.
In the spirit of St. Benedict help us
to be people of hospitality who let
our work become prayer.
Let us find God in each other.

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