This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

January 10 -- Feast of Saint William of Maleval

Enforced meditation: William tied himself down to pray
The sources say a couple of things about William that need to be dispensed with immediately.  First, they say that even though his existence is certain, his story lacks credibility overall.  Not necessarily the stuff about him chasing a dragon out of the valley, but he seems to be a couple of different Williams rolled into one.  Second, they say he is an exemplar of repentance.  Again, maybe so, but I find a different lesson in the life of William(s) as it is told. 

To me, his life points out the difference between charismatic leadership and management skills.  They are quite distinct, though the leaders who are blessed with both are the most fortunate.  William was plainly charismatic, but just as plainly he lacked management gifts. 

He started his career as a soldier, and in true Augustinian fashion, the words "licentious," "wild," and "dissolute" have been applied to those years.  At some point, he repented of wickedness and struck out on pilgrimage.  He visited Rome, where he confessed to Pope Eugenius III who sent him on to Jerusalem.  Compostela might have been somewhere in the itinerary too. 

Memento mori
Back in Tuscany, he settled down to live as a hermit, but the good monks on the Isle of Lupocavio (near Pisa) persuaded him to lead them.  He was a little too hardcore for them; his departure must have been a mutual relief.  He set up again as a hermit on Mount Bruno (Pruno?).  He was good at the hermit's life, and like every hermit who was really ascetic, he attracted disciples. 

Here's where charisma and management differ.  If you have enough disciples clustered around you, you are the de facto abbot of a monastery whether you want to be or not.  William had been an abbot.  He knew the job, and without asking for it, he found himself back at it.  He didn't do any better the second time around.  He left the Mount Bruno settlement to them and moved down into Maleval, near Siena. 

The name, which means Valley of Evil, was not used then, but it describes the barrenness and hostility of the place.  He drove away a dragon that lived there and then set up in its cave, living exceptionally ascetically.  After a couple years there, the local lord built him a cell to live in.  A single disciple, Albert, took up residence in his last year or so and wrote his Vita after his death.  One disciple was manageable, but a monastery full of them was not.  He could attract them, but he could not herd them, which is the difference between charismatic leadership and managerial leadership.  Class dismissed.

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