Today, 18 May 2012, is the memorial of Blessed William of Toulouse (a.k.a. William of Naurose) , a priestly preacher, spiritual director and exorcist who brought many souls back to God in 14th century France. His spiritual effectiveness seems to stem from his deep prayer life and his willingness to remind souls of the things of eternity : heaven, hell and purgatory.
Blessed William of Toulouse was born around 1297. Why Naurose is linked to his name, I haven’t been able to find out. It doesn’t seem to be a current place name, nor a word easily translate-able from French to English. As with many saints, the interesting details about how he came to enter religious life have not come down to us. What we do know is that by the age of 19 William had entered the Order of Hermits of St Augustine at Toulouse. His superiors must have thought highly of him and of the intellectual gifts God had given him, because after his ordination they sent him to do further studies at the University of Paris.
When William returned to Toulouse he devoted himself to the ministry of preaching, having his base at the Augustinian monastery of St Stephen at Toulouse. It seems that he was quite eloquent when it came to preaching about religious life, speaking of obedience to the Father, poverty to the Son who became poor for us, and chastity to the Holy Spirit the spouse of Our Lady and all holy souls.
Apparently a written work entitled ” Vision of the Punishments in Purgatory and Hell” remains extant, but not online. To write something like this either he gathered together accounts of private revelation OR he was given a special revelation from God or perhaps both. People only bother to write about things that are close to their hearts or because they have been put under obedience. In his preaching William must have often reminded his listeners of the horrors of hell and the sufferings of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. With ardour he invited souls to seek the intercession of Our Lady of Sorrows and to pray sincerely for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Both these devotions are well known for the holiness they grow in souls.
When it came to preparing to preach, William used the motto, ‘Pray, look, speak of God’. Without prayer a person cannot receive God’s messages and inspirations. Without looking for the action of God’s grace, how will you be able to find it and cooperate with it? Without speaking of God all preaching is worthless, so speak only of Him.
Following a fruitful life as an instrument of God’s grace for souls, William entered into his eternal reward on 18th May 1369. Numerous miracles and answers to pray were received by those who visited his grave, so his body was exhumed and interred within the local church. Even when the devastations of the French Revolution rumbled through Toulouse, the people never lost their devotion to St William – which is high praise indeed for the enduring power of his intercession before the throne of God.
May the good Lord grant to modern preachers the courage and strength to remind souls of the eternal realities, heaven and hell and of the needs of those in Purgatory.
Blessed William of Toulouse, pray for us.