St. William of Bourges
St. William, (also known as Guillaume de Donjeon), was born around 1140 in Nevers, France.
His father initially intended for Guillaume to join the army. However, Guillaume took the ecclesiastical way of life instead. His ecclesial tutoring was handled by his uncle, the Soissons archdeacon Pierre (Peter the hermit). William eventually abandoned worldly pursuits and joined the Order of Grandmont.
He stayed at the order for some time and followed their practices with immense dedication. When he discovered that the members were no longer cordial with each other, he left and joined the Cistercians. At the Pontigny Abbey in France, he donned the habit and was soon made Prior. He was appointed Abbot of Fontaine-Jean Abbey in 1184. Also, in 1200, he was made the Abbot of Chaalis Abbey.
Saint William nurtured a genuine and true dedication to the Blessed Sacrament. For this reason, he was often at the altar meditating on the true meaning of the Sacrament.
Call to Dedication and Devotion
In 1200, William was appointed the Archbishop of Bourges. He was reluctant to accept this new appointment because it meant abandoning his solitary life of meditation and prayers. Pope Innocent III as well as other religious superiors encouraged him to take the position. William agreed but continued his asceticism practices throughout the rest of his life. He always wore a shirt made from hair beneath his Bishop habit and completely gave up meat.
Bishop William oversaw the ongoing building of the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Stephen that had been started by his predecessor in 1195. He paid visits to the poor and sick regularly. He did not forget the imprisoned as well. He also stood up for the rights of the clerics against government intrusion.
Death and Canonization
Saint William of Bourges died in 1209 at midnight while meditating at the foot of the altar. He died at the age of 59.
Before his death, he had been making plans to visit the Albigensians as part of his missionary work. In his will, he asked that his body be buried in ashes while wearing his hair shirt. His remains are currently interred in the Basilica reliquary chapel.
Pope Honorius III declared the canonization of Saint William on the 17th of May, 1218.
The feast of Saint William is celebrated on the 10th of January.
Saint William is the patron saint of Gunsmiths.
Some people claim that Saint William carried out eighteen miracles while he was alive and another eighteen after he died.
5 Interesting Facts About St. William of Bourges
- Did you know Saint William is the patron saint of the University of Paris?
- Saint William once issued an interdict against Innocent III for divorcing his wife. This action made King Philip II very angry at him.
- Did you know Saint William was born into an old family of illustrious counts? This makes his devotion to Piety all the more remarkable.
- Saint William was one of the most sought-after confessors in France
- Did you know Saint William never wore any extra clothes during the winter or lesser clothes during the summer? His dedication to a life of austerity was truly absolute.
Prayer to St. William of Bourges
St. William, we ask that you watch over us and pray that we may combat pride and remain aware that all we have and all we are is from God. Pray for us, dear St. William, that we serve Him in love and humility, praising Him always for His mercy and kindness. Amen.