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.