Today, 28 March 2012, is sacred to the memory of Wilhelm Eiselin (a.k.a William / Wilhelmus) a German canon and religious of the Premonstratensian Order in the 16th century. Due to miracles at his tomb his local cult was approved 5 years after his death, but he has yet to have that beatification formally ratified by the Universal Church.
Given the passage of over 4 centuries from his death, not a lot of detail survives about the life of Wilhelm. What there is online is mostly written in German, and Google Translate does its best but it isn’t perfect. So I have done my best to read between the lines and guess at what the original language said ; thus if I have poorly interpreted, please forgive me.
Wilhelm Eiselin was born around 1564 in the Bavarian region of southern Germany. While still a child both of his parents died due to an epidemic of plague. It is quite possible that he was an able student. At the age of 17 he entered the Premonstratensian monastery of Rot an der Rot in Upper Swabia. During this period of time the monastery, which had been going for around 450 years was in decline after several local wars and was beginning to arrest that decline under the leadership of Abbot Martin Ehrmann (1560 – 1589).
It seems that Wilhelm really wanted to advance in his studies of theology so that knowing God better he could love Him more. This desire seems to have been thwarted to the extent that he never seems to have completed his Theology degree. His fellow monks seem to have given him a hard time over his ‘nerdish’ inclinations and his desire to live out the Rule as perfectly as possible. To pray was Wilhelm’s greatest happiness, followed closely behind by his joy in offering to God the fruits of his life of penance and acts of self-sacrifice. Some kind of serious illness beset him all of his life. With uncommon patience Wilhelm endured these sufferings and offered them to God in union with the sufferings of Jesus during His Passion. It is quite likely, given the troubles of his childhood, that Wilhelm contracted tuberculosis.
Death came on 28 March 1588. With his death, Wilhelm’s fellow monks began to realise what a treasure house of virtue he had been. Those who sought his intercession obtained miracles. After his remains were placed in a reliquary, they were displayed in the monastery church dedicated to St Verena (an early martyr), where they still reside. The actual monastery that Wilhelm lived in was destroyed by fire in 1681 and rebuilt. Perhaps this fire is the major reason why details about Wilhelm are so sparse.
Here is my paraphrase of the inscription attached to Wilhelm’s relics: ‘Stand still, you who pass by, pause a moment and be inspired. Within this reliquary are the remains of Brother Wilhelm Eiselin, someone much greater in virtue than in age, and more worthy of heaven than of earth. He lived as a flower, a lily, among thorns. God has taken this lily to Himself because it was most pleasing to Him, leaving us the smell and the stem : the fragrance of Wilhelm’s holiness and his earthly remains. These remains rest in this reliquary, proclaiming his holiness to all who pass by in the world. Wilhelm, servant of Christ, died in the year 1588 on 28th March at the age of 24 years.’
May the good Lord grant that more details of Wilhelm’s exemplary life come to light and that he may soon receive formal beatification.
Venerable Wilhelm Eiselin, pray for us.