Augustinian hermit and mystic; b. Fleet, Lincoln-shire, England, c. 1325; d. probably at Lecetto, Italy, c. 1390. He entered the Augustinian Order c. 1339 and achieved the title baccalarius formatus at Cambridge by the year 1353. Renouncing the opportunity to continue his studies for the magisterium, he left England July 17, 1359, for Italy and the celebrated Augustinian monastery at Lecceto (San Salvadore di Selva di Lago), near Siena, where he became a member of the community in September. He lived an almost exclusively eremitical life from then on.
Flete was a friend, confidant, and quasi disciple of St. catherine of siena. They met on numerous occasions (first in 1367), and Catherine addressed several letters to him, four of which have survived. One may discern his influence on her Augustinian theological formation from 1368 to 1374. When Catherine returned from Avignon in 1377, having persuaded Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome, she visited Lecceto and revealed the basic tenets of her spirituality to Flete, who arranged them and wrote them down. The document is known as her Spiritual Document. Later St. Catherine tried in vain to persuade him to leave his hermitage in order to take a more active part in the apostolate. Despite her disappointment, she remained on friendly terms with the reluctant friar, and before she died appointed him spiritual head of her famiglia or group of disciples.
Flete is the author of a spiritual treatise De remediis contra temptationes, written probably in Cambridge during the years 1352–58. In 1380, perhaps on the occasion of St. Catherine's death, he broke his long silence and sent three letters to his brethren in England. All three letters are strong appeals for a return to pristine fervor through both interior and exterior reform. The first letter, addressed to all the members of the English province, is a kind of commentary on the Rule of St. Augustine.
Bibliography: b. hackett, William Flete, O.S.A., and Catherine of Siena: Masters of Fourteenth-Century Spirituality, ed. j. rotelle (Villanova 1992).
[r. j. welsh/