William Fitzherbert was born in England in the twelfth century. He was the nephew of King Stephen. As a young man, William was rather easy-going and even a bit lazy. He seems to have given the impression to some that he was not very serious about taking responsibility in life. However, William was very popular with the people of his city of York.
Years later, when the archbishop of York died, William was chosen to take his place. In those times, princes used to interfere in the election of the bishops. This is why many priests did not think William had been properly chosen. It was his uncle, the king, who had appointed him. Even the great St. Bernard persuaded the pope to make someone else archbishop of York. William was asked to step aside because they felt his appointment was not valid. He left his bishop’s house feeling hurt and humiliated. He went to live with another uncle, a bishop. It seems that William became a much more spiritual person. He would not accept any of the comforts his uncle offered him. He prayed and performed penances. He began to show how much he cared about his faith and about the Church.
The people of York were angry at what had happened to their archbishop. They could not understand how something like this could take place. There were street fights between those who wanted William and those who did not. Six years passed. William lived a quiet life of prayer in the home of his uncle, the bishop. He asked the Lord for peace for his archdiocese. It did not matter any more if he had been treated unjustly. What mattered was that his people be taken care of.
Finally, his prayers were answered. When the other archbishop died, the pope sent William back to York. He arrived in May, 1154. The people were very happy. But William was an old man by this time, and about a month later, he died. He was proclaimed a saint by Pope Honorius III in 1227.
Hurts sometimes make us strong and perceptive about things that could happen. But how can we move on with our lives and not waste time thinking about them who cause our hurts? We can turn to Jesus and ask Him to free us from things that block us from living our life to the full.
St. William, you were chosen by God to be Archbishop of York, but were unjustly accused of simony. You’re election was opposed by many in favor of another. Even through all this, you never took your eyes off of Christ and his will for you. You devoted yourself to a life of prayer and mortification. After many years, you were finally restored to the See that was rightfully yours. Instead of reserving spite, you showed the utmost amount of forgiveness and love for those who had before been in opposition to your election. Please help us to follow your example of perseverance and forgiveness so that we may forgive our transgressors and always persevere in the Lord’s will. Amen.