Saint Vincent Ferrer
Thaumaturge, Dominican Missionary
This wonderful apostle, the Angel of the Judgment, was born at Valencia in Spain in 1357. At the age of eighteen, he was professed in the Order of Saint Dominic. After a brilliant course of study he became Master of Sacred Theology, and began to preach. For three years he read only the Sacred Scriptures, and came to know the entire Bible by heart. He brought the light of Christ to the Jews of Valencia, and their synagogue became a church.
Grief at the great schism then afflicting the Church reduced him to the point of death at the age of forty, but Our Lord Himself whom he saw in glory, healed him and bade him go forth to convert sinners, for My judgment is near. In the language of Scripture, a judgment is a time of trial during which the good become better by prayer and abandonment to God’s Providence, and the impious blaspheme. The judgment which was to fall upon Europe, the rending of the robe of Christ through the still greater fragmentation of the Church, would follow soon after Saint Vincent’s time; his passage preserved large numbers of souls from its fatal dangers.
This virtually miraculous apostolate lasted twenty-one years. He preached throughout western Europe, in the towns and villages of Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland. Everywhere tens of thousands of sinners were reformed. Infidels, heretics, Jews were enlightened and warmed by the Sun of Justice. Stupendous miracles enforced his words. Twice each day the miracle bell summoned the sick, the blind, the lame to be cured, and the most obdurate sinners became Saints. Speaking only his native Spanish, he was understood in all tongues. Processions of ten thousand penitents followed him in perfect order. Convents, orphanages, hospitals, arose where he passed.
Amid all the honors which came to him, his humility remained profound, his prayer constant. He always made prayer his principal preparation for preaching. Once, however, when a person of high rank was to be present at his sermon, he neglected prayer for study. The nobleman was not particularly struck by the discourse which had been thus carefully laid out. But he came again to hear the Saint, and the second sermon, for which Saint Vincent’s supplications before the Crucifix were the preparation, made a deep impression on his soul. When Saint Vincent heard of his reaction, he remarked that in the first sermon it was Vincent who had preached, but in the second, Jesus Christ.
Saint Vincent fell ill at Vannes in Brittany, and received the crown of everlasting glory in 1419.
Reflection. Whatever you do, said Saint Vincent, think not of yourself, but of God. In this spirit he preached, and God spoke by him; in this spirit, if we listen, we shall hear the voice of God.
Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).