Our Patron Saint
St. Vincent Ferrer was a famous Dominican missionary, born in Valencia, Spain, January 23, 1350, and died at Vannes in Brittany (France), April 5th, 1419. Vincent was educated at Valencia, and completed his philosophy at the age of fourteen. In 1367, he entered the Dominican Order, and was sent to Barcelona the following year. Later, he taught philosophy at Lleida before returning to the Dominican house. During his stay there, a great famine was prevalent. While preaching there one day, filled with compassion for the sufferers, Vincent foretold the near approach of ships bearing wheat; his prediction was fulfilled. In 1377, he continued his studies at Toulouse, France. Thoroughly convinced of the legitimacy of the claims of the Avignon popes, he was one of their strongest champions, for a time. At Valladolid, he converted a rabbi, who later became the well known bishop, Paul of Burgos. At Salamanca, Queen Yolanda of Aragon chose him for her confessor. Soon after, Benedict called him to his papal court at Avignon and appointed him confessor. He worked zealously among the people and steadfastly refused the honor of cardinal, which was offered to him. When France withdrew from the obedience to the Avignon pope in September 1398, and the troops of Charles VI laid siege to the city, an attack of fever at this time brought Vincent to death’s door. But during an apparition of Christ with St. Dominic and St. Francis, he was miraculously cured and was sent to preach penance and prepare men for the coming judgment. For twenty years, he traversed western Europe, preaching. He was obliged to preach in squares and open places, such were the numbers that flocked to hear him. In 1401, he went to southeastern France and the Alpine region of France, where he converted many heretics. Then he penetrated into Lombardy. While preaching at Alessandria, he singled out, from among the hearers, a youth who was destined to evangelize Italy: Bernadine of Siena. He was followed by an army of penitents drawn from every rank of society, who desired to remain under his guidance. Vincent was ever watchful of his disciples, and never did the breath of scandal touch this strange assemblage, which, at times, numbered 10,000. Genoa, Flanders, and northern France, all heard Vincent in turn. It would be difficult to understand how he could make himself understood by the many nationalities he evangelized, as he could speak only the language of Valencia. Many of his biographers hold that he was endowed with the gift of tongues.
In 1408, Vincent was at Genoa, consoling the plaque-stricken. A meeting had been arranged there between Gregory XII and Benedict XIII, in the hope of putting an end to the schism of multiple popes. Vincent again urged Benedict to have pity on the afflicted Church, but in vain. He returned to Spain, disappointed. It would be difficult to overestimate the influence which he exercised in the Iberian peninsula. Castile, Aragon, Valencia, Murcia, Granada, Andalusia, and Asturias were visited, and everywhere miracles marked his progress; Christians, Jews, and Muslims were all in great admiration of this preaching. From 1408 until 1416, he worked almost continuously south of the Pyrenees. At different times in Spanish history, strenuous attempts had been made to convert the Jewish people. Multitudes were won over by Vincent’s preaching. Some estimated the number of Jews converted at 25,000. In the Kingdom of Granada, he converted thousands of Moors. Vincent was often called upon to aid his country in temporal affairs, too. Though Vincent was one of the most resolute and faithful adherents of Benedict XIII, it was not until 1416, when pressed by Ferdinand, King of Aragon, that he abandoned the Avignon pope. Preaching at Perpignan, he declared anew to the vast throng gathered around his pulpit that, though he believed Benedict XII was the legitimate pope, since he would not resign to bring peace to the Church, he was placing his allegiance to the Pope in Rome. Ferdinand had already withdrawn his states from the obedience the pope of Avignon. This act must have caused Vincent much sorrow, for he was deeply attached to Benedict. Nevertheless, it was thought that Vincent was the only person sufficiently esteemed to announce such a step to the Spanish peoples. He continued his apostolic journeys through France, and spent the last two years of his life in Brittany, where numerous consciences were reformed and instructed in the Christian way of life. His austere life was but the living expression of his doctrine. The floor was his usual bed; perpetually fasting, he arose at two in the morning to chant the Divine Office, celebrating Mass daily, afterwards preaching (sometimes three hours) and frequently working miracles. Worn out by his labors, he died in 1419, and was canonized by Pope Callistus III in 1455. His feast day is April 5th.