blessed william of toulouse

Blessed William is the only French Augustinian friar who has been declared blessed by the Church.

William was born around 1297 in Toulouse, France, and joined the Augustinians there at the age of nineteen. At this time the Augustinian Order was beginning to spread rapidly in France, chiefly due to the influence of the Augustinian archbishop of Bourges, Giles of Rome. Shortly before William’s entrance into the Order, the French province had been divided into two, and William was affiliated to the new province of Toulouse. Since this city was the site of a general house of studies of the Augustinian Order, it is likely that he received his theological education there. He was sent to Paris for further studies, and then he returned to his native city where he devoted himself to preaching and other forms of pastoral ministry. Because of his effectiveness as a preacher, he is reputed to have drawn many people to religious life. The church and monastery of the friars in Toulouse, constructed in 1341, were the focal point of devotion to Mary under the title of the Sorrowful Mother. William was an ardent promoter of this devotion as well as devotion to the souls in purgatory.

Blessed William’s spirituality was specially marked by simplicity of life, mortification, and assiduous prayer.

He died in Toulouse on 18 May 1369, at the age of seventy-two, and was buried in the cemetery of the monastery. So many favors were received by the faithful through his intercession that his body was later exhumed and interred inside the church. While the monastery of Toulouse was suppressed during the French Revolution, as were all monasteries in France at that time, devotion to William continued long after normalcy returned to the country. Of all of William’s writings, only his Vision of the Punishments in Purgatory and Hell remains.

Unfortunately none of his sermons, which made such a deep impression on his contemporaries, survive.

His feast is celebrated by the Augustinian Family on 18 May.