Saint William of York

Saint William of York (Thwayt)

Feast Day: June 8


    William Fitz Herbert--son of Count Herbert, treasurer to Henry I, and Emma, half sister of King Stephen--had impressed many as canon and treasurer of York Minster. In 1140, after the death of Archbishop Thurstand, he was elected archbishop in turn by a majority of the cathedral chapter. At this point the smooth running of William's life ended. Archdeacon Walter of York and the diocese's Cistercian monks claimed that he had paid to be elevated to the archbishopric and that he was sexually incontinent. Others, including the Augustinian priors, said that his friendship with his uncle, King Stephen, gave him an improper influence in securing election to the see.

    The archbishop of Canterbury was reluctant to consecrate William under such a cloud of accusation. For a time even Pope Innocent III hesitated, before finally agreeing to support William. Henry of Blois, who was both bishop of Winchester and King Stephen's brother accordingly consecrated William and he took up his duties as archbishop in 1143.

    But the dispute did not end; matters soon became difficult again. William failed to receive the official 'pallium,' symbol of the pope's authority, before the pope who sent it had died. The papal legate took the pallium back to Rome.

    The new pope, Eugenius III, was a Cistercian and sided with the archbishop's opponents, including Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. William visited Rome to persuade the pope of his credentials. But the pope suspended him. To make things worse, a group of his followers now violently attacked some of the monks of Fountains Abbey, itself a Cistercian foundation, and set fire to the monastery farms. The abbot of Fountains, Henry Murdac, had been William's rival for the see of York in the first place.

    A council held at Rheims in 1147 now deposed William. He went to stay with Henry of Blois, and spent six chastened years living as a monk at Winchester. Only when both the pope and the abbot of Fountains were dead was he able to make a successful appeal to Pope Anastasius IV and return in triumph to York. Enormous crowds gathered on a bridge over the River Ouse as William arrived. The bridge collapsed. Fortunately no one was injured, and this was taken as a sign of good things to come. William, however, had reached the end of his life.

    William was mild and conciliatory towards his enemies, but within a few months he was dead, perhaps, it was rumored, from poison at the hands of Osbert, the new archdeacon of York. He was well liked by the people, and the rumored murder doubtless contributed to a popular demand for his canonization (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia).


Born: late eleventh century

Died: June 1154; buried in the cathedral of York, England

Canonization: March 18, 1226 by Pope Honorius III; the investigation was led by the Cistercians, including the abbot of Fountains who supported the canonization

Representation: Saint William is depicted in the Episcopal insignia on many windows in York, England. He might be shown (1) on a shield with eight lozenges near him; (2) crossing the Ouse Bridge; (3) on horseback, received by the Mayor at Mickelgate Bar; (4) kneeling to kiss the cross at the entrance to York Minster; or (5) as a tonsured monk praying in the wilderness with a holy dove nearby (Roeder).


St. William, you were chosen by God to be Archbishop of York, but were unjustly accused of simony.  You were 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 Lordís will. Amen.

Saint Zita

(Also known as Sitha as Citha)

Saint Zita

Feast Day: April 27

    Model and heavenly patroness of domestic servants, born early in the thirteenth century of a poor family at Montsegradi, a little village near Lucca, in Tuscany; died at Lucca, 27 April, 1271. A naturally happy disposition and the teaching of a virtuous mother, aided by Divine grace, developed in the child's soul that sweetness and modesty of character and continual and conscientious application to work which constituted her especial virtues. At the age of twelve she entered the service of the Fatinelli family of Lucca. Her piety and the exactitude with which she discharged her domestic duties, in which she regarded herself as serving God rather than man, even supplying the deficiencies of her fellow servants, far from gaining for her their love and esteem and that of her employers rather brought upon her every manner of ill-treatment of both the former and, through their accusations, of the latter. The incessant ill-usage, however, was powerless to deprive her of her inward peace, her love of those who wronged her, and her respect for her employers. By this meek and humble self-restraint she at last succeeded in overcoming the malice of her fellow-servants and her employers, so much so that she was placed in charge of all the affairs of the house.

    In her position of command over all the servants she treated all with kindness, not exacting from them any reckoning for the wrongs she had for so many years suffered from them. She was always circumspect, and only severe when there was a question of checking the introduction of vice among the servants. On the other hand, if any of them had been guilty of shortcomings, she took upon herself to excuse or defend them to their employers. Using the ample authority given her by her employers, she was generous in almsgiving, but careful to assist only those really in need. St. Zita died peacefully in the Fatinelli house on April 27, 1272. It is said that a star appeared above the attic where she slept at the moment of her death. She was 60 years old, and had served and edified the family for 48 years. By her death, she was practically venerated by the family. After one hundred and fifty miracles wrought in the behalf of such as had recourse to her intercession were juridically proven, she was canonized in 1696. So that she came to be venerated as a saint in the neighborhood of Lucca, and the poets Fazio degli Uberti (Dittamonde, III, 6) and Dante (Inferno, XI, 38) both designate the city of Lucca simply as "Santa Zita". The office in her honor was approved by Leo X.

    In 1580 her tomb was discovered in the Church of S. Frediano; thus was suggested the solemn approbation of her cult, which was granted by Innocent XII in 1696. The earliest biography of the saint is preserved in an anonymous manuscript belonging to the Fatinelli family which was published at Ferrara in 1688 by Monsignor Fatinelli, "Vita beatf Zitf virginis Lucensis ex vetustissimo codice manuscripto fideliter transumpta". For his fuller "Vita e miracoli di S. Zita vergine lucchese" (Lucca, 1752) Bartolomeo Fiorito has used this and other notices, especially those taken from the process drawn up to prove the immemorial cult.

[Saint Zita holy card]


Born: 1218 at Monsagrati near Lucca, Italy

Died: April 27, 1272 at Lucca, Italy

Canonized: September 5, 1696 by Pope Leo X and Pope Innocent XII (cultus confirmed)

Patronage: against losing keys, butlers, domestic servants, homemakers, housemaids, lost keys, maids, manservants, people ridiculed for their piety, rape victims, servants, single laywoman, waiters, wait persons, waitresses.

Representation: bag; keys; loaves; rosary; serving maid with a bag and keys


Prayer in honor of Saint Zita


 O Light of lights, Redeemer of mankind,
Whose glory most in mercy shines displayed,
Concede Thy favor to my humble mind,
Increase my feeble memory with Thine aid,
My heart to-day some fitting words would find,
To tell of Zita, Lucca's holy maid:
That Christians all may read her life, and how
She sleeps in old San Frediano now.



So listen kindly, friends, and I will tell,
The story of our saint, now raised so high:
And first I pray you to remember well
Her birthplace . . . To our city it lies nigh.
She who doth in the eternal glory dwell,
With other virgin saints above the sky,
Was born, long since, in Lucca's happy state,
At Monsagrato, so old books relate.

Twas in the year twelve hundred and eighteen
This noble flower blossomed first on earth:
And in a poor man's household was she seen,
A household poor in gold, but rich in worth.
Her elder sister led a life serene
Within a convent, ere Saint Zita's birth.
Giovan Lombardo was the father styled,
A worthy parent of a saintly child.

Her mother was so good, that every day
She loved her better, seeing how she grew
In fear of God, and walking in His way
From earliest childhood, with devotion true.
Prayer was her great delight, she loved to stay
In church alone, and dream of all she knew
Of how God lived on earth, and how He died;
Until her heart could hold no dream beside.


Time passed, the girl grew older, well content
To do God's work, whate'er that work might be.
Her brightest hours on her knees were spent,
And little thought of worldly things had she.
One day to saddening care her mind was lent:
'I eat my father's bread, he works for me!'
She raised her heart in prayer: 'O Lord', she said,
'To Lucca let me go, and earn my bread'.

And He who hears in secret, heard that prayer:
For both her parents came, the selfsame day,
And asked her, 'Daughter, would'st thou now prepare
As servant in a noble house to stay?
For since to serve the Lord is all thy care,
In Lucca hath He marked thee out thy way.
There may'st thou live, there labor and there die'.
'Thank God! So be it!' Zita made reply.

They reached the house for Zita's home designed,
And Casa Fantinelli was its name.
A family of noble life and mind
Dwelt in it, when the saintly maiden came.
Just to their servants, - to the needy, kind.
With them her life could pass, almost the same
As with her parents. She, rejoiced indeed,
Gave thanks to God who did such grace concede.


At twelve years old she did to service go,
And ever after in that house she stayed,
With love unwearied, which no change could know:
Her master's word she never disobeyed.
A humble mind her very looks might show,
So poor was all the dress of this poor maid!
The meanest garment pleased her best to wear,
And all the whole year round her feet were bare.

H er master and her mistress orders gave,
That Zita should in all things have her way;
Left all in Zita's hand to spend or save,
And told her, 'Do for us as best you may!'
And she, with care, and with attention grave,
Gave heed that nought were lost or thrown away;
But many things which wasted were before,
She gathered up, and gave them to the poor.

T he noble family with whom she dwelt,
Did many garments give for Zita's wear:
For all within the house great kindness felt
For her who served them with such loving care.
She thanked them humbly, yet her heart would melt,
For longing with the poor such gifts to share.
And as she could, in secret, day by day,
For love of God she gave the best away.

And often through the country far she sought,
If any sick in lonely cottage pined;
She helped them in their need, and to them brought
Of her own food, the best her hand could find:
And clothed them with her garments, caring nought
For cold or hunger, but with willing mind
Gave all, and did her chiefest pleasure take,
In toil and hardship for the dear Lord's sake.

 So would she visit in her loving care,
The hospital, and all who in it lay;
Or those in prison would her kindness share;
Or to some church, it might be far away,
At times with thankful heart she would repair,
Where, all unseen, unnoticed, she could pray.
For more she loved to be with God alone,
Than have by others her devotions known.

And every morning, when but first awake,
To San Frediano straight her way she made,
For early matins, ere the day could break
('Twas near the house where she as servant stayed)
Her place there in a corner she would take,
And listen till the Service all was said.
In holy contemplation lost, until
'Twas time her morning duties to fulfill.

It chanced one day, - and only one, 'tis said, -
That Zita lingered, being lost in prayer,
And quite forgot she had not made the bread,
Which on that morning should have been her care.
Till, service over, as she homeward sped,
She recollected and would now repair
Her error, so ran quickly all the way,
To make the bread , which must be baked that day.

But on the table what did she behold?
The loaves all there, a cloth above them laid.
At sight of which was Zita much consoled,
Not doubting but her mistress had them made:
But no, the house was silent; young and old
Had slept, while Zita in the church delayed.
She could but thank her Lord, with heart content,
Who by His angels had this favor sent.

One fest, 'twas the day when Christ was born,
When most in church all Christians love to meet;
An ice-cold wind, that freezing winter morn,
Made all men go with heads down, in the street.
When Zita, with her garment poor and worn,
But heart all glowing with devotion sweet,
Set out for matins ere the break of day,
Her master called her back, and bade her stay.

Full sad she was to lose the morning prayer,
On Christmas day of all days, and did so
Entreat her master, though the snow-filled air
Was piercing cold. At length he let her go.
But taking off the cloak himself did wear,
He did it kindly on her shoulder throw.
'Wear this', he said, 'what time thou wilt remain
In church, but bring it safe to me again'.

S he thanked her master, and with heart content,
Set off for church amid the driving storm;
With soul uplifted, praying as she went;
And in these words her prayer at length took form.
'O Lord, behold the cloak my master lent;
Too fine it is for me, too soft and warm;
Forgive me if I wear it on the night
When Thou didst leave Thy glory and Thy light.

The night when Thou was born on earth so poor,
To give us peace; but, Lord, 'tis not my will,
Thou knowest I would willingly endure
More than this cold, Thy pleasure to fulfill!
So help me, keep me in Thy love secure!'
Just then the church she entered, praying still,
And by the door a beggar, weak and old,
In scanty garments stood, half dead with cold.


She looked awhile, her heart with pity led,
Then called him, saying, 'Brother, come to me'
Come, take this cloak, and wear it in my stead;
It is not mine, or I would give it thee.
Then kneel beside me till the prayers be said;
Pray with me, and God's love shall with us be.
Then matins over, I would much desire
To lead thee home and warm thee by our fire'.


She said no more; her gown was old and thin,
Her feet were bare, but little did she heed:
And, praying fervently, did soon begin
To feel her heart and spirit warm indeed
For thinking how, when we were lost in sin,
The Lord Himself had pity on our need,
And how for us, on just so cold a day,
Himself on earth, a new-born infant lay.


Till, matins over and the Mass as well,
As home from church the people turned once more,
She sought the beggar, but it now befell
The sacristan made haste to shut the door.
She waited, but he came not, strange to tell!
She sought him, as she never sought before;
For she would lead him to her fire, and then
Would give her master back his cloak again.

The church was closed, she had not seen him pass,
She searched the street in trouble and dismay:
'No doubt while I was waiting at the Mass,
Some one who saw me' (thus did Zita say)
'Went home and told my master, and, alas!
He sent in haste and took the cloak away.
The beggar must have suffered much, and now
Has gone home cold and frightened, who knows how.

Then said she (while new terror filled her breast),
'O Lord, I pray Thee do not me forsake!
Perhaps 'tis lost, and all must be confessed,
And I shall have but poor excuse to make.
Oh, help me! I can have nor peace nor rest
Until I find, and to my master take,
The cloak which, wrongly, I the beggar lent!'
Thus saying, heavy-hearted, home she went.

But just as Zita, trembling, passed the door,
Her master met her, and with searching eye
He looked to see if still the cloak she wore:
'Twas gone! at which his anger rose so high,
With bitter words he did his rage outpour,
And sharp reproof, while she made no reply.
But while in loud and angry voice he spoke,
Behold appear the beggar with the cloak!

Who thanking Zita kindly, as he might,
Gave back the cloak like one in haste to go-
His face all changed, and shone with heavenly light,
And lighted hers, with its reflected glow.
They tried to speak, but he had passed from sight.
No beggar he, of those that walk below!
Great comfort he left their hearts within,
An angel of the Lord had with them been.

(The ballad continues with a further episode where Zita draws water from the well for a pilgrim - and it is wine. Finally, after a long life in service, for which she came to be greatly honored, she lies dying, first receiving the Last Sacraments.)

That very hour in which her spirit fled,
Young children through the town began to say
(Before they heard), 'The blessed Zita's dead!'
And crowd about the house wherein she lay.
A star appeared, and did much radiance shed,
O'er Casa Fantinelli at mid-day;
Which was to all a clear and certain sign
Her soul had joined the company divine.

But hardly could they bear her to her grave,
The crowd of mourning people was so great;
Some thronged her chamber, one more look to crave,
While others did in San Frediano wait,
To kiss her hand, or some memorial save,
Their sorrow to console or consecrate.
Her very garments in the press were torn
That each might have some fragment she had worn.


And now to end my tale, I must relate,
'Twas April on the twenty-seventh day,
And in the year twelve hundred eighty-eight,
That she from earth to heaven was borne away.
Which day returning, still we celebrate;
And let each faithful soul due honor pay
To her whose life has made the way so plain,
The blessed country of our hope to gain.

Indeed, come to Lucca on April 27. For on that day the humble servant girl, grown old, is laid in state in her church of San Frediano (and he was an Irish pilgrim who converted Lucca to Christianity), in a crystal coffin. One brings bunches of sweet-smelling, blessed narcissi, laying them against the glass, then walks about the ancient Romanesque town filled with glorious churches, flower stalls everywhere and the perfume of the narcissi about one. Everywhere are paintings, medieval ones, Renaissance ones, eighteenth-century ones, with scenes of other miracles of St Zita's life, such as the one where she beats the devil with her broom to rescue from his clutches some terrified child.   Lucca has three patron saints, St Martin, the soldier, who is shown on the Cathedral cutting his cloak in half for the beggar with his sword, San Frediano, the priest, from Ireland, and this local servant girl, - and she is the greatest of the three.   Lucca is always fascinating, but on that day it is glorious and one walks in a dream, time being no more.


The Fourteen Holy Helpers

Feast Day: August 8th


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Profile Litany in honor of the Fourteen Holy Helpers Invocation of the Holy Helpers



A group of saints invoked with special confidence because they have proven themselves efficacious helpers in adversity and difficulties, are known and venerated under the name Fourteen Holy Helpers. Devotion to these fourteen as a group spread in response to the Black Plague which devastated Europe from 1346 to 1349. Among its symptoms were the tongue turning black, a parched throat, violent headache, fever, and boils on the abdomen. It attacked without warning, robbed its victims of reason, and killed within a few hours; many died without the last Sacraments. Brigands roamed the roads, people suspected of contagion were attacked, animals died, people starved, whole villages vanished into the grave, social order and family ties broke down, and the disease appeared incurable. The pious turned to Heaven, begging the intervention of the saints, praying to be spared or cured. This group devotion began in Germany--the Diocese of Wurzburg having been renowned for its observance. Pope Nicholas V attached indulgences to devotion of the Fourteen Holy Helpers in the 16th century.

Saint Christopher and Saint Giles were invoked against the plague itself. Saint Denis was prayed to for relief from headache, Saint Blaise for ills of the throat, Saint Elmo, for abdominal maladies, Saint Barbara for fever, and Saint Vitus against epilepsy. Saint Pantaleon was the patron of physicians, Saint Cyriacus invoked against temptation on the deathbed, and Saints Christopher, Barbara, and Catherine for protection against a sudden and unprovided-for death. Saint Giles was prayed to for a good confession, and Saint Eustace as healer of family troubles. Domestic animals were also attacked by the plague, and so Saints George, Elmo, Pantaleon, and Vitus were invoked for their protection. Saint Margaret of Antioch is the patron of safe childbirth.

The legends of the Fourteen Holy Helpers are replete with the most glorious examples of heroic firmness and invincible courage in the profession of the Faith, which ought to incite us to imitate their fidelity in the performance of the Christian and social duties. If they, with the aid of God's grace, achieved such victories, why should not we, by the same aid, be able to accomplish the little desired of us? God rewarded His victorious champions with eternal bliss; the same crown is prepared for us, if we but render ourselves worthy of it. God placed the seal of miracles on the intrepid confession of His servants; and a mind imbued with the spirit of faith sees nothing extraordinary therein, because our divine Saviour Himself said, "Amen, amen I say to you, he that believeth in Me, the works that I do, he also shall do, and greater than these shall he do" (John xiv. 12). In all the miraculous events wrought in and by the saints, there appears only the victorious omnipotent power of Jesus Christ, and the living faith in which His servants operated in virtue of this power.

The histories of the saints are called Legends. This word is derived from the Latin, and signifies something that is to be read, a passage the reading of which is prescribed. The legends of the saints are the lives of the holy martyrs and confessors of the Faith. Some of them occur in the Roman Breviary which the Catholic clergy is obliged to read every day.

Litany of the Fourteen Holy Helpers

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, queen of martyrs, pray for us*
St. Joseph, helper in all needs,*
Fourteen Holy Helpers,*
St. George, valiant martyr of Christ,*
St. Blase, zealous bishop and benefactor of the poor,*
St. Erasmus, mighty protector of the oppressed,*
St. Pantaleon, miraculous exemplar of charity,*
St. Vitus, special protector of chastity,*
St. Christophorus, mighty intercessor in dangers,*
St. Dionysius, shining mirror of faith and confidence,*
St. Cyriacus, terror of hell,*
St. Achatius, helpful advocate in death,*
St. Eustachius, exemplar of patience in adversity,*
St. Giles, despiser of the world,*
St. Margaret, valiant champion of the Faith,*
St. Catherine, victorious defender of the Faith and of purity,*
St. Barbara, mighty patroness of the dying,*
All ye Holy Helpers,*
All ye saints of God,*
In temptations against faith,*
In adversity and trials,*
In anxiety and want,*
In every combat,*
In every temptation,*
In sickness,*
In all needs,*
In fear and terror,*
In dangers of salvation,*
In dangers of honor,*
In dangers of reputation,*
In dangers of property,*
In dangers by fire and water,*

Be merciful, spare us, O Lord!
Be merciful, graciously hear us, O Lord!

From all sin, Deliver us, O Lord.**
From Thy wrath,**
From the scourge of earthquake,**
From plague, famine, and war,**
From lightning and storms,**
From a sudden and unprovided death,**
From eternal damnation,**
Through the mystery of Thy holy incarnation,**
Through Thy birth and Thy life,**
Through Thy cross and passion,**
Through Thy death and burial,**
Through the merits of Thy blessed Mother Mary,**
Through the merits of the Fourteen Holy Helpers,**
On the Day of Judgment, deliver us, O Lord!**
We sinners, beseech Thee, hear us.**

That Thou spare us, We beseech Thee, hear us.***
That Thou pardon us,***
That Thou convert us to true penance,***
That Thou give and preserve the fruits of the earth,***
That Thou protect and propagate Thy holy Church,***
That Thou preserve peace and concord among the nations, ***
That Thou give eternal rest to the souls of the departed,***
That Thou come to our aid through the intercession of the Holy Helpers, ***
That through the intercession of St. George Thou preserve us in the Faith, ***
That through the intercession of St. Blase Thou confirm us in hope, ***
That through the intercession of St. Erasmus Thou enkindle in us Thy holy love,***
That through the intercession of St. Pantaleon Thou give us charity for our neighbor,***
That through the intercession of St. Vitus Thou teach us the value of our soul, ***
That through the intercession of St. Christophorus Thou preserve us from sin, ***
That through the intercession of St. Dionysius Thou give us tranquillity of conscience, ***
That through the intercession of St. Cyriacus Thou grant us resignation to Thy holy will,***
That through the intercession of St. Eustachius Thou give us patience in adversity, ***
That through the intercession of St. Achatius Thou grant us a happy death, ***
That through the intercession of St. Giles Thou grant us a merciful judgment, ***
That through the intercession of St. Margaret Thou preserve us from hell, ***
That through the intercession of St. Catherine Thou shorten our purgatory, ***
That through the intercession of St. Barbara Thou receive us in heaven, ***
That through the intercession of all the Holy Helpers Thou wilt grant our prayers, ***

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us, O Lord.

V. Pray for us, ye Fourteen Holy Helpers.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promise of Christ.

Let us Pray
Almighty and eternal God, who hast bestowed extraordinary graces and gifts on Thy saints George, Blase, Erasmus, Pantaleon, Vitus, Christophorus, Dionysius, Cyriacus, Eustachius, Achatius, Giles, Margaret, Catherine, and Barbara, and hast illustrated them by miracles; we beseech Thee to graciously hear the petitions of all who invoke their intercession. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, who didst miraculously fortify the Fourteen Holy Helpers in the confession of the Faith; grant us, we beseech Thee, to imitate their fortitude in overcoming all temptations against it, and protect us through their intercession in all dangers of soul and body, so that we may serve Thee in purity of heart and chastity of body. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fourteen Holy Helpers, who served God in humility and confidence on earth and are now in the enjoyment of His beatific vision in heaven; because you persevered till death you gained the crown of eternal life. Remember the dangers that surround us in this vale of tears, and intercede for us in all our needs and adversities. Amen.

Fourteen Holy Helpers, select friends of God, I honor you as mighty intercessors, and come with filial confidence to you in my needs, for the relief of which I have undertaken to make this novena. Help me by your intercession to placate God's wrath, which I have provoked by my sins, and aid me in amending my life and doing penance. Obtain for me the grace to serve God with a willing heart, to be resigned to His holy will, to be patient in adversity and to persevere unto the end, so that, having finished my earthly course, I may join you in heaven, there to praise for ever God, who is wonderful in His saints. Amen.