St. William of York (Feast: June 8)
William, Archbishop of York, is a rather intriguing saint due to the conflicts surrounding his “on again, off again” reign as archbishop, due in part to its timing.
It was during a period of great civil unrest in England known as the Anarchy (1135-54) when the armies of the two cousins – Stephen of Blois and Empress Matilda – were fighting each other for the English crown. William was the nephew of Stephen of Blois, which launched his ecclesiastical career right into the middle of the political conflict.
William was the unusually young treasurer of York Minster prior to his election as Archbishop of the diocese in 1141; but, even though he was elected by majority vote and with the support of Stephen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald of Bec, who stood behind Empress Matilda on the other side of the political chasm, refused to recognize the canonical election and would not consecrate William. Indignant, Stephen authorized his brother, also William’s uncle, Archbishop Henry of Winchester, to consecrate him…without waiting for papal approval. Despite this, the clergy and people of York loved their new bishop for they saw in him a man of deep and intense piety, personal austerity, kindheartedness, and devoted generosity, especially towards the poor.
However, the Cistercians of Yorkshire, who had supported Henry Murdac, the Cistercian Abbot of Fountains Abbey, in the election, with the support and help of the renowned St. Bernard of Clairvaux, succeeded in accusing him of simony, sins against chastity, and intrusion, resulting in his deposition by Pope Eugenius III (also a Cistercian) and the corresponding appointment of Henry Murdac to head the diocese in William's place. However, the clergy of York refused to admit Murdac into the city and he was forced to withdraw and retire to Beverley for the remainder of his days. He died in 1147.
From this time until 1153, William took refuge with his friend the King of Sicily, where he lived a very austere life as a monk. By this time, the opponents to his election had died and the civil war in England had ended, and William appealed to the new pope, Anastasius IV, to restore him to his office. The Pope concurred and conferred on William the papal pallium. Thus, Archbishop William reentered his diocese in April, 1154, to the accompaniment of such a mass of exuberant supporters that the bridge over the Ouse collapsed under the weight. That no one was killed in the accident is considered a miracle.
Sadly, he was hardly back in office a month, before he died on June 8th, 1154, allegedly from his chalice being poisoned during Mass.
He was canonized in 1227, by Pope Honorius III due to the large number of miracles reported at his tomb.
DAILY QUOTE for April 6, 2020
SAINT OF THE DAY
St. William of Eskilsoë
He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.