Saint of the Day – 5 April – St Vincent Ferrer O.P. (1530-1419 aged 69) Religious Priest, Miracle-worker, Logician, Preacher, Missionary, Confessor, Teacher, Philosopher, Theologian known as the “Angel of the Apocalypse” and the “Mouthpiece of God” – Patron of brick makers, builders, Calamonaci, Italy, Casteltermini, Agrigento, Italy, construction workers, Leganes, Philippines, Orihuela-Alicante, Spain, diocese of, pavement workers, plumbers, . tile makers. Representation: Bible, cardinal’s hat, Dominican preacher with a flame on his hand, Dominican preacher with a flame on his head, Dominican holding an open book while preaching, Dominican with a cardinal’s hat, Dominican with a crucifix, Dominican with a trumpet nearby, often coming down from heaven, referring to his vision, Dominican with wings, referring to his vision as being an ‘angel of the apocalypse’, pulpit, representing his life as a preacher, flame, referring to his gifts from the Holy Spirit.
Vincent was the fourth child of the nobleman Guillem Ferrer, a notary who came from Palamós and wife, Constança Miquel, apparently from Valencia itself or Girona. Legends surround his birth. It was said that his father was told in a dream by a Dominican friar that his son would be famous throughout the world. His mother is said never to have experienced pain when she gave birth to him. He was named after St. Vincent Martyr, the patron saint of Valencia. He would fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and he loved the Passion of Christ very much. He would help the poor and distribute alms to them. He began his classical studies at the age of eight, his study of theology and philosophy at fourteen.
Four years later, at the age of nineteen, Ferrer entered the Order of Preachers, commonly called the Dominican Order, in England also known as Blackfriars. As soon as he had entered the novitiate of the Order, though, he experienced temptations urging him to leave. Even his parents pleaded with him to do so and become a secular priest. He prayed and practiced penance to overcome these trials. Thus he succeeded in completing the year of probation and advancing to his profession.
For a period of three years, he read solely Sacred Scripture and eventually committed it to memory. He published a treatise on Dialectic Suppositions after his solemn profession, and in 1379 was ordained a Catholic priest at Barcelona. He eventually became a Master of Sacred Theology and was commissioned by the Order to deliver lectures on philosophy. He was then sent to Barcelona and eventually to the University of Lleida, where he earned his doctorate in theology.
Vincent Ferrer is described as a man of medium height, with a lofty forehead and very distinct features. His hair was fair in colour and tonsured. His eyes were very dark and expressive; his manner gentle. Pale was his ordinary colour. His voice was strong and powerful, at times gentle, resonant and vibrant.
Three men claimed to be pope in the 1300s and 1400s. Kings, princes, priests, and laypeople fought one another to support the different claimants for the Chair of Peter. This chaos led to the Western Schism, and God raised up Vincent Ferrer.
When Vincent joined the Dominicans, he zealously practiced penance, study and prayer. He was a teacher of philosophy and a naturally gifted preacher called the “mouthpiece of God.” His saintly life was what made his preaching so effective. Vincent’s subjects were judgment, heaven, hell and the need for repentance.
Even the holiest people can be misled. Pope Urban VI was the real pope and lived in Rome but Vincent and many others thought that Clement VII and his successor Benedict XIII, who lived in Avignon, France, were the true popes. Vincent convinced kings, princes, clergy and almost all of Spain to give loyalty to them. After Clement VII died, Vincent tried to get both Benedict and the pope in Rome to abdicate so that a new election could be held. It hurt Vincent when Benedict refused.
Vincent came to see the error in Benedict’s claim to the papacy. Discouraged and ill, Vincent begged Christ to show him the truth. In a vision, he saw Jesus with Saint Dominic and Saint Francis, commanding him to “go through the world preaching Christ.” For the next 20 years, Vincent spread the Good News throughout Europe. He fasted, preached, worked miracles and drew many people to become faithful Christians. Vincent returned to Benedict in Avignon and asked him to resign. Benedict refused. One day while Benedict was presiding over an enormous assembly, Vincent, though close to death, mounted the pulpit and denounced him as the false pope. He encouraged everyone to be faithful to the one, true Catholic Church in Rome. Benedict fled, knowing his supporters had deserted him. Later, the Council of Constance met to end the Western Schism.
St Vincent always slept on the floor, he had the gift of tongues (he spoke only Spanish but all listeners understood him, he lived in an endless fast, celebrated Mass daily and known as a miracle worker; he is reported to have brought a murdered man back to life to prove the power of Christianity to the onlookers and he would heal people throughout a hospital just by praying in front of it. He worked so hard to build up the Church that he became the patron of people in building trades.
Because of the Spanish’s harsh methods of converting Jews at the time, the means which Vincent had at his disposal were either baptism or spoliation. He won them over by his preaching, estimated at 25,000. Vincent also attended the Disputation of Tortosa (1413–14), called by Avignon Pope Benedict XIII in an effort to convert Jews to Catholicism after a debate among scholars of both faiths.
Vincent died on 5 April 1419 at Vannes in Brittany, at the age of sixty-nine and was buried in Vannes Cathedral. He was canonised by Pope Calixtus III on 3 June 1455. His feast day is celebrated on 5 April. The Fraternity of Saint Vincent Ferrer, a pontifical religious institute founded in 1979, is named for him.