Saint of the Day – 19 December – Blessed William of Fenoli O.Cart. (1065-1120) Carthusian Monk, Hermit, miracle-worker – born in 1965 in Garessio-Borgoratto, Diocese of Mondovi, Italy and died in 1120 in Casotto, Italy of natural causes. He is also known as Guglielmo, Gulielmus and is venerated by the Carthusians on 16 December but by the universal Church today, 19 December.
William was born in the early twelfth century, in the township of Monferrato, in the Diocese of Alba, in Northern Italy. His family was, no doubt, an ordinary but very devout family. He was drawn to solitude and did in fact become a hermit. We may think that his life of prayer as a hermit deeply united him to God. However, a woman of ill repute came to disturb him in his hermitage. He was able to resist her temptations but, afterwards, he realised that he needed the protection of a cloister.
So he took the road to the nearby Charterhouse of our Lady of Cazotto, Asti and asked to be admitted as a brother. As Brother William, he became an outstanding member of the community. He faithfully followed the observance of the Rule. He looked upon his superiors only with the eyes of faith and was always disposed to obey them immediately. The virtue by which he shone the most, was that of simplicity. “If the eminent practice of virtue is admirable when joined to the splendour of doctrine, better still is its charm when it has for its company the ingenuity, the candour, the simplicity of soul. This simplicity must serve as the supreme wisdom especially for those called to live in the obscurity of the cloister” (Statement of the Postulator). How well Saint Bruno’s words to the lay brothers of the Grande Chartreuse apply to William:
“As regards you lay monks, brothers so close to my heart, I have only this to say – My soul glorifies the Lord, since I can perceive the glories of His mercy toward you, from the account of your beloved Father and Prior, who boasts a great deal about you and rejoices over you. I share in this joy, since God in His power, never ceases to inscribe on your hearts, however little education you may have, not only love but understanding, of His holy law. For you show by your lives, what it is you really love and what you know. That is to say, when you are careful and zealous to observe a genuine obedience, conceived not only as the carrying out of God’s commands but as the original key to the spiritual life and its final stamp of authenticity, demanding as it does deep humility and outstanding patience, as well as sincere love for the Lord and our brothers, then it is clear, that you are gathering with relish, no less than the most delectable and life-giving fruits of Holy Scripture.”
His simplicity of heart was a great preparation for contemplation. His piety focused on Christ crucified and he could not think of the Passion of our Lord without becoming deeply afflicted. And so, freed from all fear and earthly plans, his only desire was for Eternity, preparing himself for it with constancy until his death, which occurred around the year 1120.
Bl William is widely known for the following miracle:
One day, when he was returning from his field work, he was set upon by robbers and defended himself by tearing the leg off his donkey, using this as a cudgel to drive off his attackers. Afterwards, he miraculously healed the donkey, restoring it’s leg. Blessed William is, therefore, often depicted in iconography with his donkey, brandishing the donkey’s leg.
He was buried in the cloister cemetery of the Charterhouse but God let it emphatically be known that He wanted him to be buried at the gatehouse, outside the enclosure, so that the faithful could come to pilgrimage to his tomb. It is this popular veneration century after century, with accompanying miracles, which are the proof of the sanctity of this humble brother of whom we know so little. Pope Saint Pius V authorised the transfer of his relics in 1568 and Pope Blessed Pius IX authorised, in 1862, the veneration of Brother William, whose body was still incorrupt.
Rejoice, because you have escaped the various dangers and shipwrecks of the stormy world. Rejoice, because you have reached the quiet and safe anchorage of a secret harbour. <> Saint Bruno’s letter to his sons the Carthusians