William was born in Vercelli, Italy, in 1085. His parents died when he was a baby. Relatives raised him. When William grew up, he became a hermit. He worked a miracle, curing a blind man, and found himself famous. William was too humble to be happy with the people’s admiration. He really wanted to remain a hermit so that he could concentrate on God. He went away to live alone on a high, wild mountain. No one would bother him now. But even there he was not to remain alone. Men gathered around the saint and they built a monastery dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. Because of William’s monastery, people gave the mountain a new name. They called it the Mountain of the Virgin.
After a while, some of the monks began to complain that the lifestyle was too hard. They wanted better food and an easier schedule. William would not relax the rule for himself. Instead, he chose a prior for the monks. Then he and five faithful followers set out to start another monastery, as strict as they were used to. One of his companions was St. John of Mantua. Both William and John of Mantua were leaders. They realized as time went on that they would do better if they split up, each to start a monastery. They were great friends, but they saw things differently. John went east and William went west. Both did very well. In fact, both became saints.
Later, King Roger of Naples helped St. William. William’s good influence on the king angered some evil men of the court. They tried to prove to the king that William was really evil, that he was hiding behind a holy habit. They sent a bad woman to tempt him, but she was unsuccessful. It seems that she repented and gave up her life of sin. St. William died on June 25, 1142.
He is also known as St. William of Vercelli, or St. William of Monte Vergine.
Symbols: Wolf; trowel; lily; passion flower.
Often Portrayed as: a pilgrim, usually near Santiago de Compostela; abbot near a wolf wearing a saddle; receiving an appearance by Christ; saddling a wolf that killed his ass.