Saint William 1155 – 1209
Born to a wealthy family in 12th century France, from an early age St. William showed great devotion for God. He spent much time in prayer and he was always joyful and an inspiration to others. A Cistercian monk, he became abbot of his community and was eventually chosen Archbishop of Bourges. He served his diocese by traveling widely to preach, ministering to the poor and sick, and spreading the message of Christ to all he met.
William’s father Baldwin, planned for William, like his brother, Guy, to continue the family tradition of becoming a knight and going to the Holy Land as part of the Crusades. Before that would happen, William was sent to be educated by his uncle, Peter, Archdeacon of Soissons. As a result of his theological studies, William felt that God was calling him in a different direction and decide to become a priest instead.
William became a monk at the Abbey at Grandmont and later joined the Cistercians. He became the abbot of Fontained-Jean and then some time after of Chaalis, a much larger monastery. William had an extraordinary gift of prayer and a humility that regarded himself as least of his brothers. He reluctantly accepted the position of Archbishop of Bourges in 1200 only after receiving orders from the general of his order and from Pope Innocent III.
William led a life of prayer and service to others. As Archbishop of Bourges, he personally cared for the poor, the sick and the imprisoned. He converted many of the contemporary heretics, the Albigensians, in his Diocese to the Christian faith. According to witnesses, William performed 18 miracles in his lifetime and another 18 after his death. At his request, at his death he was laid on ashes in the haircloth he always wore under his vestments. He died on January 10, 1209 at Bourges, France.