SAINT VINCENT FERRER (1350-1419), priest and missionary
Patron saint of all people in building trades
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Vincent Ferrer, a Dominican priest and gifted preacher, who brought thousands of Europeans into the Catholic Church during a period of political and spiritual crisis in Western Europe.
Vincent was born in Valencia, Spain, on January 23, 1350. His parents raised him to care deeply about his religious duties, without neglecting his education or concern for the poor. One of his siblings, Boniface, later joined the Carthusian Order and became its Superior General in his later years. Vincent, however, would become a Dominican and preach the Gospel throughout Europe. He joined the Order of Saint Dominic at the age of seventeen in 1367 and, after continued studying and formation, he was later ordained a priest.
As a member of the Dominican Order of Preachers, Father Vincent committed much of the Bible to memory, while also studying the writings of the Church Fathers and philosophy. By the age of twenty-eight, he was renowned for his preaching, and also known to have the gift of prophecy.
While he sought to live out his Order’s commitment to the preaching of the Gospel, Father Vincent could not escape becoming involved in the political intrigues of the day. Two rival claimants to the papacy emerged during the late 1300’s, one in Rome and another in the French city of Avignon. Each claimed the allegiance of roughly half of Western Europe.
Disillusioned by what he witnessed in the Church, Vincent took up the work of simply “going through the world preaching Christ”, though he felt that any renewal in the Church depended on healing the schism. An eloquent and fiery preacher, he spent the last 20 years of his life spreading the Good News in Spain, France, Switzerland, the Low Countries and Lombardy, stressing the need for repentance and the fear of the coming judgment. (He became known as the “Angel of the Apocalypse”.)
Eventually concluding that his friend in Avignon, Benedict XIII, was not the true pope, Father Vincent tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade him to resign. Though very ill, Vincent mounted the pulpit before an assembly over which Benedict himself was presiding and thundered his denunciation of the man who helped to prolong a period of unrest and confusion within the Church. Benedict fled for his life, abandoned by those who had formerly supported him. The Western Schism was ultimately brought to an end through the Council of Constance (1414-1418).
Father Vincent Ferrer died on April 5, 1419 from natural causes at the age of sixty-nine in the city of Vannes in the French region of Brittany, and is interred in the Cathedral of Vannes. He was canonized a saint in 1455 by Pope Callistus III.
Saint Vincent Ferrer worked faithfully throughout his life as a Dominican preacher helping to build up the Church throughout Europe, so that, after he was elevated to the honor of sainthood, he became known as the patron of all people in building trades.
We commemorate his feastday on April 5.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Collect of the Roman Missal from the Proper for Saint Vincent Ferrer)
“O God, who raised up the priest, Saint Vincent Ferrer, to minister by the preaching of the Gospel, grant, we pray, that when the Just Judge comes, whom Saint Vincent proclaimed on Earth, we may be among those blessed to behold Him reigning in Heaven.
“Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”