St. Vincent Ferrer
When they lived: St. Vincent Ferrer lived during the late 14th and early 15th centuries. He was born on January 23, 1350, and passed away on April 5, 1419.
Where they lived: St. Vincent Ferrer was born in Valencia, Spain, and spent much of his life traveling throughout Europe, particularly in Spain, France, and Italy, to spread the word of God.
Notable world events during the time of their life:
- The Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453): This long-standing conflict between England and France overlapped with St. Vincent Ferrer’s lifetime. His ministry took place in regions heavily affected by the war, and he played a role in attempting to bring peace.
- Western Schism (1378-1417): This was a major crisis in the Catholic Church where multiple popes claimed legitimacy. St. Vincent Ferrer was deeply involved in efforts to resolve this schism and played a key role in promoting the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII.
- Renaissance Period (14th-17th centuries): St. Vincent Ferrer lived during the early stages of the Renaissance, a period marked by significant cultural, artistic, and intellectual advancements that would shape the future of Europe.
- Black Death (1347-1351): While St. Vincent Ferrer was born after the peak of the Black Death, the aftermath of this devastating pandemic continued to influence society, and his ministry occurred during the post-plague era.
- The Council of Constance (1414-1418): St. Vincent Ferrer attended this significant council, which aimed to resolve the Western Schism and address various church reform issues. It played a crucial role in stabilizing the Catholic Church during this tumultuous period.
Their patronage: St. Vincent Ferrer is the patron saint of construction workers, builders, and those in similar professions due to his connection with building and repairing the Church (both spiritually and physically). He’s also known as the patron saint of orphanages, as he showed great care for orphans during his lifetime. Additionally, he is considered a patron of reconciliation and peace due to his efforts to heal the schisms within the Catholic Church during the Western Schism. His life story serves as an inspiration for those seeking to bridge divides and promote unity.
A Brilliant Student and Teacher
Vincent Ferrer was born on January 23, 1350, in Valencia, Spain, to William Ferrer and Constantia Miguel. He was educated at Valencia and completed his study of philosophy at the age of fourteen. Not much is known about his early life. However, his later years are worth noting.
Vincent entered the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) in 1367 at the age of nineteen. He was sent to study in Barcelona the following year. Here, he continued his scholastic duties and devoted himself to preaching. He taught philosophy at Lérida, the famous university of Catalonia, in 1370. It was also where he received his doctorate.
Vincent returned to the Dominican Studium Arabicum et Hebraicum in Barcelona in 1373. In 1377, he was sent to Toulouse to continue his studies. In 1379, he was retained by the legate of the Court of Aragon, Cardinal Pedro de Luna, who was working to win King Peter IV’s obedience to Avignon. He was so thoroughly convinced of the legitimacy of the Avignon popes’ claims that he was one of their strongest champions. From 1385 to 1390, Vincent taught theology at the Valencia Cathedral. It was during that time that he perfected himself in the Christian life.
His Missionary Zeal
In 1390, Vincent was obliged to accompany Cardinal de Luna to France. However, he soon returned home. De Luna became Pope at Avignon in 1394. He summoned Vincent and made him Master of the sacred palace. With much effort and zeal, Vincent made unsuccessful attempts to end the Great Schism. He refused all ecclesiastical honors and dignities, even being a cardinal. He only desired to be appointed an apostolic missionary.
Vincent labored much, which made him the most famous missionary of the 14th century. He evangelized nearly every place in Spain. He also preached in France, Italy, Germany, Flanders, England, Scotland, and Ireland. Because of his preaching, countless conversions followed. His preaching was assisted by the gift of miracles. Though the Church was then gravely divided by the Great Schism, Vincent was honorably received in the provinces subjected to the two claimants to the papacy.
A Great Preacher
For twenty years, Vincent traversed Western Europe. He was preaching penance for sin and preparation for judgment. He was obliged to preach in squares and open places, such were the numbers that flocked to hear him. Because of his strong message for the people to repent and prepare for the coming of the Kingdom by following the teachings of Jesus and the Church, some people referred to him as a modern John the Baptist. Vincent’s preaching inspired many Catholics to renew their faith. His words touched the hearts of people who decided to be baptized as a response to his message.
Vincent lived to see the end of the Great Schism and the election of Pope Martin V. Crowned with his tireless labors, Vincent died on April 5, 1419. He was canonized by Pope Calixtus III at the Dominican Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome on June 3, 1455. His feast day is April 5.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Vincent Ferrer
- St. Vincent Ferrer is the patron saint of builders. He is renowned for “building” the Church through missionary efforts, prayer, and time spent preaching, teaching, advising, and taking confessions.
- St. Vincent Ferrer is mostly depicted with wings. The reason was because a number of people have seen him assume wings and fly off to a suffering person while preaching.
- In his portraits or images, St. Vincent Ferrer is sometimes portrayed holding a trumpet. This is because when he preached, as those who had listened to him attested, his voice could reach as far as three miles away, just like how a trumpet can be heard from a distance.
- When St. Vincent Ferrer was gravely ill, he had a vision of Christ, St. Dominic de Guzman, and St. Francis of Assisi. He was miraculously healed after receiving this vision. Afterwards, he started to preach about the last judgment and the need for repentance, which merited him the title “angel of the apocalypse”.
- When he preached, St. Vincent Ferrer spoke only in his native language, which was Spanish. However, people of all languages were able to understand everything he said. His biographers believed that St. Vincent had the ability to speak in tongues.
Prayer to St. 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 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.