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.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 10 -- Feast of Saint William the Silent

First, let me affirm how pleased I am that the Holy Father is making plans for the full canonization of both Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.  The former was expected, though eight years is a breakneck pace by Vatican standards.  The latter not only jumped the usual track to sainthood, but celebrates modern Catholicism's most notable -- some would say notorious -- liberal reformers.

Second, let me acknowledge my ingratitude by asking for more.  William the Silent, Prince of Orange, is acknowledged as a saint by the Dutch Reformed Church, which he defended, but not by the Roman Catholics, from whom he was defending it.  With the current evolving understanding of pluralism and ecumenicalism, I think it is time to promote the Cause of William, who would have been just as adamant about defending Catholics if the threat had been reversed.  

William was a wealthy Dutch nobleman, through whom the Houses of Orange and Nassau were united.  He had been born to to Lutheran parents, but at age eleven he began a Catholic education to satisfy the conditions under which he became the Prince of Orange.  He was a favorite of Emperor Charles V, but less enthusiastic about the imperial administration of Emperor Philip II, King of Spain.  Even a loyal and pragmatic vassal of the Hapsburgs had to be a little put out by the number of Spaniards sent to administer things in the Netherlands, and the zeal with which they were suppressing the Protestant Reformation.  A Catholic himself, William's increasing opposition to Spanish policies was not motivated by religious doctrine as much as by a sense of justice and a general concern for the welfare of his people.  

William skillfully worked the machine as long as he could.  A spasm of Protestant iconoclasm known as the Beeldenstorm shook things up enough for a Confederacy of Noblemen to extract promises of toleration from Margaret of Parma, the royal governor.   When instead the Iron Duke of Alba was
sent to bring the hammer down, William resigned from the government.  The Iron Duke summoned William to the Council of Troubles, called the Council of Blood by the Dutch; the Prince of Orange was declared an outlaw when he failed to appear.  Instead, he facilitated the formation of a multinational Protestant alliance; eight decades of Christian fratricide followed.  

There is a long, unhappy tale of the Dutch struggle for independence, in which William plays a central role.  He was pivotal in the decision to renounce the Spanish monarchy, but his support for the Duke of Anjou as the replacement sovereign was misguided and unpopular.  Nonetheless, the good people of Zeeland and Holland hung tight, even promoting him as their sovereign.  In spite of William's emphasis on unity, the Netherlands continued to Balkanize.  

A French Catholic named Balthazar Gerard heard tell of the 25,0000-crown bounty that Philip had placed on William.  After ingratiating himself with the Prince of Orange, he bought a brace of pistols
and made William the first head of state anywhere in the world to be assassinated with a handgun.
Phil never had to pay the bounty as Balty never made it out of Delft.  The methods (sic) of his execution were elaborate and extensive, really sort of a landmark in the barbarity of capital punishment.  

In 1573, eleven years before his assassination, William became a Calvinist.  Even though his defense of religious toleration had led him to abandon the Catholic Church, he might have been surprised by the vigor with which his grandson, publicly denounced the religiously tolerant policies of his own uncle, King James II of England.  I would like to think that he would not have approved of the war that Billy3 (he of William and Mary fame) provoked in order to get Uncle Jimmy off the throne and himself on it.  (It's an even safer bet that Mary's dad, the deposed James II, did not approve, but he's not a saint like William of Orange the Elder.). 

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