St William Arnaud healing oil
The St William Arnaud healing oil is in honour of the French martyr and his companions who were martyred by heretics.
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 William and those who were preaching with him. As they went into Avignonet, 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 ambushed.
William and companions martyred
When they saw the attackers coming, they knelt down and sang the Te Deum, thanking God for the gift of united to His Son in dying for the truth. William and Stephen of Narbonne, a Franciscan, rescued by some Catholics. They brought to the parish church for asylum. Yet, the heretics came in and brutally attacked William and Stephen. They even ripped out the tongue of William. By their deaths, they shed their blood upon the land of Avignonet. Within 40 years, there 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)
Tradition of oils
The tradition of anointing with sacred oil is very old indeed. It used in sacraments and also as a devotional practice. The sick person applies the oil and blesses themselves. As they do so, they asked to pray to whomever the oil dedicated to. The Irish blessings oils do not have miraculous power. It is God who has the power to heal. Applying the oil while praying are important ways for us to express our faith in God’s power. Moreover, by doing so we place our trust in God.