jeudi 10 janvier 2013

Saint GUILLAUME de BOURGES, moine bénédictin et archevêque




Saint Guillaume de Bourges

Né dans la première moitié du XII° siècle au sein de la famille des comtes de Nevers, Guillaume de Donjeon (ou Berruyer) fut élevé par son oncle maternel, archidiacre de Soissons, qui lui apprit à redouter les dangers du monde, à mépriser les richesses et à connaître les saintes joies de l'étude unie à la piété.

D'abord chanoine de Soissons puis de Paris, Guillaume rendit ses bénéfices pour se retirer à l'abbaye de Grandmont au diocèse de Limoges. Alors qu'il pensait trouver la paix monastique, il fut impliqué dans une querelle survenue entre les moines de chœur et les frères convers qui le fit partir pour l'abbaye de Pontigny où il reçut l'habit des cisterciens.

Le moine Guillaume fit tant l'admiration de ses frères qu'ils en firent leur prieur claustral. Il fut ensuite élu abbé de Fontaine-Saint-Jean (au diocèse de Sens), puis abbé de Chalis (au diocèse de Senlis). Ses frères conservèrent de lui le souvenir d'un moine doux et gai, encore que constamment préoccupé de la mortification des sens et des passions. Au demeurant, il exerçait avec talent ses fonctions de gouvernement et enseignait bien.

Or, il advint que mourut Henry de Sully, l'archevêque de Bourges, dont la succession s'avérait si difficile que le chapitre s'en remit à Eudes de Sully, évêque de Paris, pour choisir le nouvel archevêque entre les trois abbés de l'Ordre de Cîteaux.

Eudes de Sully se retira dans la prière puis s'en vint à Notre-Dame-de-Sales où, après écrit le nom de chaque abbé sur un papier différent, les déposa sur l'autel avant que de célébrer la messe. A la fin de la messe, il tira au sort et Guillaume fut désigné comme le nouvel archevêque de Bourges ; Eudes de Sully se rendit à Saint-Etienne de Bourges où l'attendait le chapitre qui proclama son nouvel archevêque (23 novembre 1200).

Effrayé par le poids de sa nouvelle charge, il ne l'accepta, à la demande du légat pontifical, qu'en obéissance à l'abbé de Cîteaux. Il fut sacré en présence des évêques dont il devenait le primat pour la part de l'Aquitaine qui lui revenait.

Archevêque, il continuait de vivre comme un moine, dans une grande austérité, touchant les cœurs par sa grande humilité, sa douceur et sa joie, autant que par ses mortifications et sa grande charité.

Dans l'exercice de sa charge pastorale, il se montrait toujours si ferme sur les principes qu'il s'attira la colère de Philippe II Auguste quand le roi était interdit par Innocent III pour avoir répudié Ingelburge et épousé Agnès de Méranie et que l'archevêque suspendit le culte dans son diocèse. Il connut aussi la haine d'une large partie de son clergé qui ne voulait pas se plier à la discipline. Philippe Auguste lui rendit son amitié et bien des clercs firent pénitence publique.

Guillaume gouverna l'archidiocèse de Bourges pendant dix ans où il fut remarquable dans les missions qu'il prêchait contre des hérétiques de l'espèce manichéenne, et c'est en se préparant à partir pour une nouvelle tournée pastorale qu'il fut saisi par la maladie et dut s'aliter pour la première fois de sa vie (9 janvier 1209). Il dicta son testament, reçut les derniers sacrements et entra en agonie ; il eut encore la force de se lever pour recevoir la Sainte Communion à genoux sur le pavé ; il fit jurer à son chapitre de remettre son cadavre aux cisterciens, puis, au moment d'expirer, exigea qu'on le couchât par terre, sur la cendre, et mourut (10 janvier 1209).

La population prit le deuil et refusa de rendre la dépouille du saint aux moines de Chalis qui s'inclinèrent à partir du moment où le pape Honorius III l'inscrivit au livre des saints (1218) et que son corps fut déposé dans une chasse magnifique derrière le maître-autel de sa cathédrale. Les moines de Chalis eurent un os du bras, et le Collège de Navarre, puisque l'université de Paris l'avait choisi comme patron et protecteur, eut une côte. Pendant les guerres de religion, les calvinistes détruisirent la chasse, mais les reliques furent recueillies et exposées en l'église Saint-Léger-d'Auvergne (au diocèse du Puy) où elles opérèrent de nombreux miracles avant que d'être profanées et détruites pendant la révolution.



Saint Guillaume, issu des anciens comtes de Nevers, vint au monde vers le milieu du XIIe siècle. Il fut élevé avec soin dans la crainte de Dieu.

Le Seigneur lui avait donné toutes les dispositions de la nature et de la grâce nécessaires à l’accomplissement des grands desseins qu’Il avait sur lui ; aussi fit-il des progrès rapides et acquit-il en peu de temps des connaissances au-dessus de son âge et un trésor croissant de sainteté.

Le monde lui souriait, avec sa gloire et ses plaisirs ; il renonça à tout, il s’éloigna même des honneurs ecclésiastiques qui semblaient le poursuivre, et s’enfonça dans la solitude d’un monastère. Non content d’avoir quitté le monde, il en perdit jusqu’au souvenir, et vécut dans la présence continuelle de Dieu ; sa modestie, sa dévotion, sa régularité, ranimaient la ferveur de ses frères ; il suffisait de le regarder au chœur ou à l’autel pour être embrasé du saint désir de marcher sur ses traces.

Il avait surtout un grand amour pour le Saint Sacrement, près duquel il trouvait ses délices, et ses larmes ne tarissaient pas durant le saint sacrifice de la Messe. Il fallut lui faire violence pour le nommer Abbé de son monastère ; pourtant il dut bientôt se résigner à monter plus haut et répondre à l’appel du Ciel clairement manifesté.

Sacré archevêque de Bourges, saint Guillaume montra, dès les premiers jours, toutes les vertus des plus illustres pontifes. Il demeura moine dans son palais, moine par l’habit et plus encore par les austérités. Il sut concilier les exercices de la piété avec les immenses occupations de sa charge ; il parcourait son diocèse, prêchait, instruisait les petits et les humbles, administrait les Sacrements, visitait les hôpitaux, délivrait les captifs, et multipliait les prodiges. Quand on lui demandait un miracle, il disait : « Je ne suis qu’un pauvre pécheur » ; mais il cédait aux larmes des malades et les guérissait par sa bénédiction.

On a conservé de lui quelques belles paroles : « Tel pasteur, telles brebis, » disait-il souvent. « J’ai à expier, disait-il encore, et mes propres péchés et ceux de mon peuple ».

Sa mort fut digne de sa vie ; il expira revêtu du cilice qu’il avait porté toujours, et couché sur la cendre. Au moment de sa mort, il vit distinctement les Anges battant des ailes au-dessus de sa tête, et il rendit l’âme en leur tendant les bras. Pendant ses obsèques, la foule aperçut au-dessus de l’église un globe de feu planant dans les airs.

C’était l’an 1209, le 10 janvier, Innocent III étant pape, Baudouin roi latin de Jérusalem et Philippe II Auguste roi de France.


Saint Guillaume

Guillaume de Corbeil

Guillaume, archevêque de Bourges, appartenait à l'illustre famille des comtes de Nevers. Son instruction et son éducation ayant été confiées à l'un de ses oncles, archidiacre de Soissons, il devint, très jeune, chanoine des églises de Paris et de Soissons. Parvenu à l'âge adulte et désireux de se soustraire aux fardeaux du monde, il se retira dans la solitude de Grandmont ; avec quelle pureté de conscience il y vécut, l'attestation en fut faite devant le Pape Innocent III, au quatrième Concile général du Latran. A la suite de divisions survenues dans l'ordre de Grandmont, Guillaume, qui craignait pour la tranquillité de son âme, entra au monastère de Pontigny, de l'Ordre de Cîteaux. Après y avoir séjourné assez longtemps, il en fut nommé prieur ; puis il devint abbé de Fontaine-Jean et de Châlis, donnant à ses religieux l'exemple de toutes les vertus, spécialement de l'innocence et de la mortification.

Sur ces entrefaites, il arriva que l'église de Bourges, veuve de son pasteur, était divisée par le choix qu'il fallait faire d'un archevêque. Après un long retard, provenant d'avis opposés, on tomba d'accord pour décider que la dignité de premier pasteur serait conférée à l'un des trois abbés de Cîteaux que nommerait eudes, évêque de Paris, ancien chantre de l'église de Bourges.

Eudes passa alors une nuit en prière dans l'église de Notre-Dame de Sales. Le matin, après la célébration de la messe, il lui fut révélé avec évidence que Guillaume, abbé de Châlis, devait être choisi. tandis qu'il sortait de l'église, afin de proclamer l'élu, il rencontra des délégués du Chapitre se rendant au devant de lui pour qu'il voulut bien désigner ce même candidat, dont le nom venait de rallier tous les suffrages. Il apparut alors que le choix était la conséquence d'un appel divin plutôt que d'une élection humaine.

Investi, bien malgré lui, des insignes épiscopaux, Guillaume se soumit à la charge, non à l'honneur, de la dignité qui lui était conférée, et pratiqua, comme par le passé, l'humilité, la mortification, la piété, le zèle, la miséricorde. Dans l'accomplissement de sa charge de Pontife, il ne cessa jamais de veiller avec soin sur les âmes qui lui étaient confiées ; pour les gagner au Christ il faisait en sorte que, soit par lui-même, soit par des prêtres spécialement aptes à ce ministère, les confessions fussent entendues et la parole divine annoncée. Ce saint presque toujours gai et joyeux, ce qui déplaisait à l'austérité de certains, se montrait sociable et aimable. Il avait tellement horreur de la détraction que, si parfois il tombait au milieu de quelques médisants, il coupait court leur conversation en détournant le sujet de l'entretien ; s'ils persévéraient dans leurs dires, il s'éloignait d'eux, ne voulant pas souiller ses oreilles par l'audition de paroles qui n'avaient jamais souillé ses lèvres. Éminent dans la pratique de toutes sortes de vertus, il reçut du seigneur, en récompense de ses mérites, la grâce d'accomplir, même de son vivant, des miracles éclatants. Un prêtre, chapelain de Saint Germain du Puy, près de Bourges, qui avait perdu l'usage de la main gauche depuis près de six mois, au point qu'il ne pouvait célébrer la messe fut guéri après s'être confessé au saint évêque.

La dixième année de son Pontificat, il décida de partir en croisade contre las Albigeois. Tandis qu'il faisait les préparatifs nécessaires à l'expédition, il fut surpris par un mal subit, et sentit que sa fin approchait. La veille de l'Épiphanie il voulut entretenir de sa mort prochaine son peuple assemblé en l'église de Saint Etienne. Le lieu où il parla était exposé à tous les vents ; or, comme on était au plus fort de l'hiver, son corps en fut gravement incommodé. Et cependant, comme s'il n'en eut pas besoin, il regagna son palais sans le moindre soutien. Le cinq des ides de janvier, il reçut humblement l'Extrême Onction et demanda très instamment à être fortifié par le pain céleste. Lorsqu'il vit son Maître et son Rédempteur venir jusqu'à lui, bien que très affaibli, il se leva de sa couche et, à pas pressés, à l'admiration de tous, il s'avança vers son Sauveur. il lui recommanda son agonie ; puis, ayant étendu ses bras en forme de croix et levé ses yeux vers le ciel il communia à la chair de son sauveur, avec larmes et d'un coeur contrit et humilié. La nuit suivante, tout étant bien préparé, il fit signe aux moines qui le servaient de chanter matines. une fois l'office terminé, il se coucha de lui-même sur la terre et, levant sa main, il bénit comme de coutume tous les assistants ; tout en donnant sa bénédiction, il rendit l'esprit : c'était l'an du Seigneur 1209.

SOURCE : http://catholique-bourges.cef.fr/histoire/archeveques/arch2/stguillaume.htm

William of Bourges, OSB Cist. B (RM)

Born at Nevers, France; died at Bourges, France, in 1209; canonized in 1217. William de Donjeon's father Baldwin planned for the saint, like his brother Guy, to continue the family tradition of military service as a knight and join the Crusade in the Holy Land. But William's father made an error in calculation. He entrusted William's education to Peter, Archdeacon of Soissons, and by some law of divine logic whereby saints beget saints, William forgot his armor, knighthood, and the fame that awaited him, and plunged himself instead into preparation for the priesthood.



William became a canon of first Soissons and later Paris. Then he joined the monks at the Abbey of Grandmont from where he migrated to the Cistercians of Pontigny. Successively, he was appointed abbot of Fontaine-Jean, abbot of Châlis, and eventually, in 1200, bishop of Bourges.

As a prelate he was distinguished for his pastoral concern for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the debauched, and the unfortunate in all walks of life. He made a great many converts among the Albigenses. According to witnesses, he performed 18 miracles in his lifetime and 18 years after his death, Pope Honorius III inscribed his name on the roll of Catholic saints (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).

SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0110.shtml

Saint William

Archbishop of Bourges

(† 1209)

William Berruyer, of the illustrious family of the ancient Counts of Nevers, was educated by Peter the Hermit, Archdeacon of Soissons, his maternal uncle. From his early childhood Saint William learned to despise the folly and emptiness of the world, to abhor its pleasures, and to tremble at its dangers. His only delight was in exercises of piety and his studies, with which he employed his whole time in an untiring application.

Saint William was made a canon, an ecclesiastic attached to a cathedral church, first at Soissons and afterwards in Paris; but he soon resolved to abandon the world and retired into the solitude of Grandmont, where he lived with great regularity in that austere Order. Finally he joined the Cistercians, flourishing with sanctity at the time, and later was chosen to be Prior of the Abbey of Pontigny, then made Abbot of Challis.

On the death of Henri de Sully, Archbishop of Bourges, William was chosen to succeed him. The announcement of this new dignity which had fallen on him overwhelmed him with grief, and he would not have accepted the office had not the Pope and his own Cistercian General, the Abbot of Citeaux, commanded him to do so. His first care in his new position was to conform his life to the most perfect rules of sanctity. He redoubled all his austerities, saying it was incumbent on him now to do penance for others as well as for himself. He always wore a hair shirt under his religious habit, and never added to his clothing in winter or diminished it in summer; he never ate any flesh meat, though he had it at his table for guests.

When he drew near his end, he was, at his request, laid on ashes in his hair cloth, and in this posture expired on the 10th of January, 1209. While this holy bishop was laid out for veneration, an infirm young boy who wanted to venerate him, but had to be carried to the church by his mother, was completely cured of his infirmities, and ran about proclaiming the miracle. The stone of his tomb in the Cathedral Church of Bourges cured mortal wounds and illnesses and delivered possessed persons; the deaf and dumb, the blind, the mentally ill became sound. So many miracles occurred there that the monks could not record them all, and he was canonized nine years after his death, in 1218, by Pope Honorius III.

Reflection. The champions of faith prove the truth of their teaching no less forcefully by the holiness of their lives than by the power of their arguments. Never forget that to convert others we must first see to our own soul.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 1

SOURCE : https://magnificat.ca/cal/en/saints/saint_william.html


St. William, Confessor, Archbishop of Bourges

From his life written by a faithful acquaintance at Bourges, (abridged by Surius,) and again by Peter, a monk of Chaalis, both soon after his death: collected by Dom le Nain, in his history of the Cistercians, T. 7. See also the notes of Bollandus, with a fragment of a third life, and Gallia Christ. Nov. T. 2. p. 63.

A.D. 1209.


WILLIAM BERRUYER, of the illustrious family of the ancient counts of Nevers, was educated by Peter the hermit, archdeacon of Soissons, his uncle by the mother’s side. He learned from his infancy to despise the folly and emptiness of the riches and grandeur of the world, to abhor its pleasures, and to tremble at its dangers. His only delight was in exercises of piety and in his studies, in which he employed his whole time with indefatigable application. He was made canon, first of Soissons, and afterwards of Paris: but he soon took the resolution of abandoning all commerce with the world; and retired into the solitude of Grandmont, where he lived with great regularity in that austere order, till seeing its peace disturbed by a contest which arose between the fathers and lay-brothers, he passed into the Cistercian, then in wonderful odour of sanctity. He took the habit in the abbey of Pontigny, and shining as a perfect model of monastic perfection, was after some time chosen prior of that house, and afterwards abbot, first of Fountaine-Jean, in the diocess of Sens, (a filiation of Pontigny, founded in 1124, by Peter de Courtenay, son of king Lewis the Fat,) and some time after, of Chaalis, near Senlis, a much more numerous monastery, also a filiation of Pontigny, built by Lewis the Fat in 1136, a little before his death. St. William always reputed himself the last among his brethren. The universal mortification of his senses and passions, laid in him the foundation of an admirable purity of heart, and an extraordinary gift of prayer; in which he received great heavenly lights, and tasted of the sweets which God has reserved for those to whom he is pleased to communicate himself. The sweetness and cheerfulness of his countenance testified the uninterrupted joy and peace that overflowed his soul, and made virtue appear with the most engaging charms in the midst of austerities.

On the death of Henry de Sully, archbishop of Bourges, the clergy of that church requested his brother Eudo, bishop of Paris, to come and assist them in the election of a pastor. Desirous to choose some abbot of the Cistercian Order, then renowned for holy men, they put on the altar the names of three, written on as many billets. This manner of election by lots would have been superstitious, and a tempting of God, had it been done, relying on a miracle without the warrant of divine inspiration. But it deserved not this censure, when all the persons proposed seemed equally worthy and fit, as the choice was only recommended to God, and left to this issue by following the rules of his ordinary providence, and imploring his light, without rashness, or a neglect of the usual means of scrutiny; prudence might sometimes even recommend such a method, in order to terminate a debate when the candidates seemed equally qualified. God, in such cases, is said sometimes to have miraculously interposed.

Eudo, accordingly, having written three billets, laid them on the altar; and having made his prayer, drew first the name of the abbot William, on whom, at the same time, the majority of the votes of the clergy had made the election fall, the 23rd of November, 1200. This news overwhelmed William with grief. He never would have acquiesced, had he not received a double command in virtue of obedience, from the Pope, and from his general, the abbot of Citeaux. He left his dear solitude with many tears, and was received at Bourges as one sent by heaven, and soon after was consecrated. In this new dignity his first care was to conform both his exterior and interior to the most perfect rules of sanctity; being very sensible that a man’s first task is to honour God perfectly in his own soul. He redoubled all his austerities, saying, it was now incumbent on him to do penance for others, as well as for himself. He always wore a hair-shirt under his religious habit, and never added, nor diminished, any thing in his clothes either winter or summer. He never ate any flesh-meat, though he had it at his table for strangers. His attention to feed his flock was no less remarkable, especially in assisting the poor both spiritually and corporally, saying, that he was chiefly sent for them. He was most mild to penitent sinners; but inflexible towards the impenitent, though he refused to have recourse to the civil power against them, the usual remedy of that age. Many such he at last reclaimed by his sweetness and charity. Certain great men abusing his lenity, usurped the rights of his church; but the saint strenuously defended them even against the king himself, notwithstanding his threats to confiscate his lands. By humility and resolution he overcame several contradictions of his chapter and other clergy. By his zeal he converted many of the Albigenses, contemporary heretics, and was preparing himself for a mission among them, at the time he was seized with his last illness. He would, notwithstanding, preach a farewell sermon to his people, which increased his fever to such a degree, that he was obliged to set aside his journey, and take to his bed. Drawing near his end, he received first extreme-unction, according to the discipline of that age; 1 then, in order to receive the viaticum, he rose out of bed, fell on his knees melting in tears, and prayed long prostrate with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross. The night following, perceiving his last hour approach, he desired to anticipate the nocturns, which are said at midnight; but having made the sign of the cross on his lips and breast, was able to pronounce no more than the two first words. Then, according to a sign made by him, he was laid on ashes in the hair-cloth which he always privately wore. In this posture he soon after expired, a little past midnight, on the morning of the 10th of January, in 1209. His body was interred in his cathedral; and being honoured by many miracles, was taken up in 1217; and in the year following he was canonized by Pope Honorius III. His relics were kept with great veneration till 1562, when they were burnt, and scattered in the winds by the Huguenots, on occasion of their plundering the cathedral of Bourges, as Baillet and Bollandus mention. A bone of his arm is shown with veneration at Chaalis, whither it had been sent soon after the saint’s body was taken up; and a rib is preserved in the church of the college of Navarre, at Paris, on which the canons of St. Bourges bestowed it in 1399. 2 His festival is kept in that church with great solemnity, and by a great concourse of devout persons; St. William being regarded in several parts of France as one of the patrons of the nation, though his name is not mentioned in the Roman Martyrology. The celebrated Countess Maud, his niece, out of veneration for his memory, bestowed certain lands in the Nivernois, on the church of Bourges. 3 B. Philip Berruyer, a nephew of St. William, was archbishop of Bourges from the year 1236 to 1260, in which he died in the odour of sanctity. Nangi ascribes to him many miracles, and other historians bear testimony to his eminent virtue. 4 Dom Martenne has published his edifying original life. 5

If we look into the lives of all the saints, we shall find that it was by a spirit and gift of prayer that the Holy Ghost formed in their hearts the most perfect sentiments of all virtues. It is this which enlightens the understanding, and infuses a spiritual knowledge, and a heavenly wisdom, which is incomparably more excellent than that in which philosophers pride themselves. The same purifies the affections, sanctifies the soul, adorns it with virtues, and enriches it with every gift of heaven. Christ, who is the eternal wisdom, came down among us on earth to teach us more perfectly this heavenly language, and he alone is our master in it. He vouchsafed also to be our model. In the first moment in which his holy soul began to exist, it exerted all its powers in contemplating and adoring the Divine Trinity, and employed his affections in the most ardent acts of praise, love, thanksgiving, oblation, and the like. His whole mortal life was an uninterrupted prayer; more freely to apply himself to this exercise, and to set us an example, he often retired into mountains and deserts, and spent whole nights in prayer; and to this employment he consecrated his last breath upon the cross. By him the saints were inspired to conceive an infinite esteem for holy prayer, and such a wonderful assiduity and ardour in this exercise, that many renounced altogether the commerce of men for that of God, and his angels; and the rest learned the art of conversing secretly with heaven even amidst their exterior employments, which they only undertook for God. Holy pastors have always made retirement and a life of prayer their apprenticeship or preparation for the ministry, and afterwards, amidst its functions were still men of prayer in them, having God always present to their mind, and setting apart intervals in the day, and a considerable part of the nights, to apply themselves with their whole attention to this exercise, in the silence of all creatures.

Note 1. See Bellarmin, de Arte moriendi. Iuenin, de Sacram. t. 2. et Hist. des Sacr. t. 7. [back]

Note 2. See Chatelain, Not. p. 161. Brev. Paris. [back]

Note 3. Gallia Christ. Nov. T. 2. p. 63. [back]

Note 4. Ib. p. 69. [back]

Note 5. Martenne, Anecdot. T. 3. p. 1927. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume I: January. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.