Dominican Saints 101: Bl. William Arnaud and Companions

May 28, 2012

Painting of Bl. William and Companions in the chapel at the Dominican House of Studies, Washington
There are two ways that someone can be considered a “protomartyr.”  He can be the prime example of the martyrs to follow, such as St. Peter Martyr.  Or he can be the first to be martyred in a certain respect, such as St. Francis de Capillas in China.  Bl. William Arnaud and his companions (1242, feast May 29) were of this latter type. While St. Peter Martyr holds a certain preeminence in the history of Dominican martyrs, he was not the first Dominican to die for the faith.  Rather, it was a group of Dominicans, Franciscans, and others who were slain by Albigensians in southern France.  Having angered the Albigensians, a plot was made against the lives of Bl. William and those who were preaching with him.  As they went into Avingnonet, they began preaching fearlessly.  They were invited to the castle of the Count of Toulouse under the false notion of friendship and reconciliation.  Yet, they were ambushed.  When they saw the attackers coming, they knelt down and sang the Te Deum, thanking God for the gift of being united to His Son in dying for the truth.  Bl. William and Bl. Stephen of Narbonne, a Franciscan, were rescued by some Catholics and brought to the parish church for asylum.  Yet, the heretics came in and brutally attacked Bl. William and Bl. Stephen, even ripping out the tongue of Bl. William. By their deaths, they shed their blood upon the land of Avignonet, and within 40 years, there were practically no heretics left there.  Their lives and deaths show the reality of Christ’s own words:

For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  (Matt. 16:25)

O God, for whose love and for the zeal of defending the faith Blessed William and his companions fell beneath the swords of the wicked, grant, we beseech Thee, that through their intercession we may be firm in the faith and may always love Thee with our whole heart.  Through Christ our Lord.

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