Today, out of curiosity, I typed in “patron saint of adoptees.,” and Martyr William of Rochester aka William of Perth popped up on my screen. As befits our patron saint, there is no written documentation of his canonization.
To add insult to injury, our patron saint is not even one of us He is an adopter.
According to Nova legenda. William was born in Perth. Scotland probably in the middle or late middle 1100s, He was neither rich nor powerful. As a youth, he enjoyed a “somewhat wild life,” (Don’t most male saints?) Only by bad luck and at the hand of a bad bastard, did this nobody become our saint.
After quitting his walk on the wild side, William turned his face to God. He took up the occupation of baker. and tithed 10% of his production to the poor. One morning on his way to Mass, William discovered an abandoned child at the church entrance. He adopted the boy and named him ” Cockermay Doucri” or “David the Foundling,” and taught him the baking trade. In 1201 William, deciding to fulfill an earlier vow to visit Holy Places, received a consecrated wallet and staff and hit the road, taking David with him. Ungrateful Cockermay Doucri, however, had different plans.
They stayed three days at Rochester, and purposed to proceed next day to Canterbury, but instead David wilfully misled his benefactor and, with robbery in view, felled him with a blow on the head and cut his throat.
Later a half-naked “madwoman” wandering the countryside, found William’s body. She plaited a wreath of honeysuckle and placed it around his head, Transfering the wreath to her own head then, her madness immediately ceased. A miracle was born. Later intercessory miracles were also reported. An immediate fan favorite, William was for all intents and purposes canonized by the people years before Rome got around to it.
Upon learning of the miracle of the madwoman, church authorities buried William at Rochester Cathedral. The sites of his murder and his burial soon became a lucrative cult–a destination on the pilgrim circuit that created a large stream of income for trades, hostels, and the cathedral–enough to rebuild old parts of the church. Thousands came each year to venerate William Next to Canterbury’s shrine to Thomas a Becket , it was the most-visited holy place in England. William was officially canonized in 1256 under the guidance of the Bishop of Rochester and Pope Alexander V probably more for his fundraising skills that miracles.
William’s Feast Day is April 23. Perhaps we should rename it Ungrateful Bastard Day.
I haven’t done a deep search for reasons William was named Patron Saint of Adoptees.His claim to sainthood is limited to being murdered by one, so the designation is really perverse. Using this rationale the Russian Orthodox canonization of the Bolshevik-murdered Romanovs means that the family is the Patron Saint of Communists..
Cockermay Doucri, has fallen into the memory hole, and his fate is unknown. Clearly he was not interested in religious tourism, baking for the poor, or a no/low pay apprenticeship. Perhaps abuse was involved. Perhaps he was just not a nice person. He does, however, live on as the spirit of the crazy ax-killer adoptee, making him the Parton Saint of Ungrateful Adoptees. Happy NAAM2019 Dave!
You can read the “official” story of William’s shrine at the Catholic Encyclopedia page. Medway Memories, and Catholic Herald. contain an overview of the commercial shenanigans of the William of Rochester Cult.
Of course, the irony of an adopter –not an adoptee–being named the patron saint of adoptees is hardly lost to us– especially during NAAM2019. It’s always about them! Certainly some other saint –an adoptee–is more appropriate, Actually, I have a nominee, but will write about him later.