"Saint William, you left behind worldly privileges and set your heart on God alone. Prince and peasant sought your wisdom. The needy found in you the compassion of God. By your example and intercessions, help this parish family, dedicated to your memory, to imitate your faith, hope, and love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen"
Saint William of Monte Vergine, was born in Vercelli, a city of Lombardy. He lost his father and mother in his infancy and was brought up by a relative. At fifteen years of age, he left his native region and made a pilgrimage to the St James of Compostella. Not content with the ordinary hardships of such a pilgrimage, he encircled his body with iron bands to increase his suffering. He next planned a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but God made known to him that he was calling him to a solitary life. He retired into the kingdom of Naples. There he chose for his abode an uninhabited mountain, and lived in perpetual contemplation. Soon a monastery was built, and by 1119, the Congregation of Monte Vergine was founded. This site is between Nola and Benevento in the same kingdom of Naples.
Saint William went elsewhere and founded several more monasteries, both for men and women, in various places in the kingdom of Naples. There is evidence of heavenly support for the austerities of William’s rule. For example, William did not permit the order to eat meat, eggs, milk, or cheese. If someone tried to violate this regulation, storm clouds would appear in the sky and the lightning would destroy the illicit foodstuff that had been brought into the monastery.
He assisted the king of Naples, to practice all the Christian virtues of a worthy sovereign, and the king in gratitude had a house of the Order built at Salerno opposite his palace, to have him near him more often.
One story about him relates that a wolf killed William’s donkey that he used for his necessary domestic tasks. When William saw that his donkey was dead, he turned to the wolf and ordered it to take on the domestic tasks that the donkey had been accustomed to doing. The wolf immediately became tame and docile and did all that the hermit required of him. The people in the surrounding countryside were amazed at the animal’s meekness when they saw him with the saint. Ever after, William was popularly depicted with a wolf.
Saint William died of natural causes on June 25, 1142 at the Guglielmo Monastery near Nusco, Italy, where he was buried. Church tradition holds that William predicted the date and time of his death, and went to meet his Maker with peace and joy. At the time of his death, he had not yet written a Rule for his religious to govern their affairs. His successor, fearing the dissolution of a community without constitutions, placed them under the Rule of Saint Benedict. The community, which continues to exist today, now belongs to the Benedictine congregation of Subiaco, and has a much venerated picture of our Lady of Constantinople, to which pilgrimages are frequently made by the faithful. While Benedictine monks generally wear black robes, the monks who reside at Monte Vergine today continue to wear the white robes of the Williamites in honor of this holy man.
Lawrence was a Roman deacon under Pope Saint Sixtus II. Four days after this pope was put to death, Lawrence and four clerics suffered martyrdom, probably during the persecution of the Emperor Valerian. The church built over his tomb became one of the seven principal churches in Rome and a favorite place for Roman pilgrimages.
A well-known legend has persisted from earliest times. As deacon in Rome, Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church, and the distribution of alms to the poor. When Lawrence knew he would be arrested like the pope, he sought out the poor, widows, and orphans of Rome and gave them all the money he had on hand, selling even the sacred vessels of the altar to increase the sum. When the prefect of Rome heard of this, he imagined that the Christians must have considerable treasure. He sent for Lawrence and said, “You Christians say we are cruel to you, but that is not what I have in mind. I am told that your priests offer in gold, that the sacred blood is received in silver cups, that you have golden candlesticks at your evening services. Now, your doctrine says you must render to Caesar what is his. Bring these treasures—the emperor needs them to maintain his forces. God does not cause money to be counted: He brought none of it into the world with him—only words. Give me the money, therefore, and be rich in words.”
Lawrence replied that the Church was indeed rich. “I will show you a valuable part. But give me time to set everything in order and make an inventory.” After three days he gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned, and widowed persons and put them in rows. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, “These are the treasure of the Church.”
The prefect was so angry he told Lawrence that he would indeed have his wish to die—but it would be by inches. He had a great gridiron prepared with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence’s body placed on it. After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, “It is well done. Turn me over!”