Fortitude in the Face of an Uncaring World

By Phillip Garside

The Church recently celebrated St. William of Rochester, who may be your best intercessor as a parent who feels underappreciated. William was a pious baker who gave every 10th loaf he baked to the poor and attended daily Mass.

One day on the way to Mass, he found an abandoned infant and took him in, naming him David. Years later, William took David on a pilgrimage and, from here, a thus far piously predictable hagiography (written life of the saints) takes a series of startling turns. 

During a stop-over, David inexplicably turned on William and clubbed him, cut his throat, robbed the body and fled. The story devolves from there. 

A local insane woman found William’s body and crowned it with a garland of flowers she made and then put the crown on herself. Miraculously, her madness was immediately cured. Local monks, seeing this as a sign from God and a potential revenue source, interred William in the local cathedral and began work on his shrine. His tomb became a site of pilgrimage and subsequent donations, even by the crown. 

The feeling of this story is one of objectification. Everyone in the story seems to use this simple and generous person, even down to exploiting his corporeal remains after his death. 

Everyone can probably relate to being treated inconsiderately, but as a parent it particularly strikes me how his child treated him. Williams’ response is benevolent generosity, he continually doles out intercessory healing from the heavens, much like he doled out bread to the poor on Earth. 

His methodology connects the situation of another saint celebrated on the same day, Spes of Campi. St. Spes was an abbot who was blind for 40 years only to regain his sight for the last 15 days of his life. To me, St. Spes signifies action without seeing or knowing until the whole story is played. 

Most of us can get bogged down in insults such as being taken advantage of. We tend to want an explanation or some immediate experience of justice. Both Spes and William do not get bogged down in the bitterness of what life deals them – they acted. 

Why wait? After all, habitual benevolence that glorifies God is what we would be doing even if we had all the sight and knowledge from the get-go. 

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