The 5th day of April is the Feast of probably the greatest miracle worker the world has ever seen save Christ himself. He came to the world in a time when heresy and bad Catholics had crushed down Holy Mother Church, and he would live through probably the most terrible and destructive period the Church has ever suffered (and is still feeling the effects of), which began with the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy in Avignon and following as a direct result was the Great Western Schism, where there were three men claiming to be Pope and even this great Saint was deceived by one of the anti-Popes who was his own countryman.
He joined the Dominican Order and quickly became one of the most glorious lights the order has ever seen. He is easily ranked among Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Albert the Great, Saint Catherine of Siena (his contemporary), and even the great patriarch of the order Saint Dominic himself. Like Saint Dominic he hailed from Catholic Spain, which at that time was in the final centuries of the Reconquista which had been ongoing since the 8th century. He worked as a faithful and zealous Dominican priest for many years offering his services to Popes and Royalty as it was requested of him. Even in these early days and even from his childhood he was filled with many miracles, but all pales in comparison with what would follow. At the height of the Great Western Schism when the Catholic Church was being ripped apart into factions supporting one or another of the antipopes and with very little support of the legitimate Pope in Rome the world seemed at its darkest hour. Few times in the history of the Church were as terrible as those years. The only comparison one can draw is the Arian heresy where 97% of the Bishops of the Church were heretics, or even Good Friday when all abandoned our Lord and His Church save His Mother, Saint John, Saint Mary Magdalene, and just a handful others.
It was then that, while working for the antipope Benedict XIII (aka Cardinal Pedro de Luna) that Vincent became very ill and lying on his deathbed he received a visit from our Lord, Saint Dominic, and Saint Francis of Assisi. He was told that the time had come for the end of the world as the measure of sin and wickedness had been filled up. It was Vincent’s task to proclaim the coming destruction and end of the world as the Angel of the Apocalypse. Accepting this task he was immediately miraculously cured and then spent the next twenty years traveling all around Europe preaching the end of the world.
Never in the history of the Church has his like been seen since the time of the Apostles. The Spanish called him a second Saint Paul (later they would call another of their countrymen in the 19th Century a second Saint Vincent Ferrer, and this was Saint Anthony Mary Claret). Every place he went he went and preached, offered Holy Mass, and several times a day they would ring the “miracle bell” and people would flood into the town square and he would perform countless miracles, and this was on a daily basis for twenty years! He preached in many different areas and it is clear he very likely must have been given the gift of tongues.
He was so successful in his efforts that vast numbers of heretics were converted, many Catholics were properly catechized in their faith for the first time in their lives, many clergy reformed their lives, and ultimately he was able to sway the tide of the western world so thoroughly back to God that he actually averted the end of the world. He was the Jonah sent by God to convert and save not just one city, but in fact the whole world. We all ought to have a very deep and grateful devotion to this incredible Saint for doing God’s will in his own life so that we might even have come into existence at all.
We know from secondary sources that Saint Vincent wrote some amazing works on the Catholic faith, but sadly these have been lost in the jumble of history. We do have a few extant sermons and treatises that can be found floating around, and they would be worth a read.
Here is a great sermon on the life of Saint Vincent:
Here are two free biographies on this awesome Saint that you can read for your edification:
Saint Vincent Ferrer, O.P – by Father Stanislaus M. Hogan, O.P. (1911)
St.Vincent Ferrer, O.P.: His Life, Spiritual Teaching, and Practical Devotion – by Father Andrew Pradel, O.P.
The Liturgical Year
Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.
Saint Vincent Ferrer
Today, again, it is Catholic Spain that offers one of her Sons to the Church, that she may present him to the Christian world as a model and a patron. Vincent Ferrer, or, as he was called, the Angel of the Judgment, comes to us proclaiming the near approach of the Judge of the living and the dead. During his life time, he traversed almost every country of Europe, preaching this terrible truth; and the people of those times went from his sermons striking their breasts, crying out to God to have mercy upon them,—in a word, converted. He now sees, from his throne in heaven, the Faithful regenerated by Penance, fortified by the Bread of Life, and risen again with Christ Jesus. True, all have not obeyed the call of grace; but, if we recommend them that have, so far, remained obstinate in their sins to the great Apostle of to-day, he may perhaps speak to their hearts, in the name of the Master of the Vineyard, and prepare the labourers of the eleventh hour to receive their hire.
St. Vincent has treated of the mystery of Easter in sixteen of his Sermons still extant. He there develops, with the learning and simplicity of his time, the glories and wonders of Christ’s Resurrection. We offer our readers a passage from the second of these Sermons; it was preached on the very day of Easter. The Saint speaks of our Lord’s first apparition, which, in common with the Saints and the most esteemed Theologians, he unhesitatingly asserts to have been made to our Blessed Lady.
That Jesus’ first visit was to the Virgin Mary, his Mother, is expressly taught by St. Ambrose, in his Book De Virginibus, where he says: Mary saw the Resurrection of Christ, and she was the first to see it. If the Evangelists have not mentioned the fact, it was because they would only adduce disinterested witnesses, and a Mother is surely not to be counted as such. As to the reasons in support of such teaching, they are three. The first is the divine commandment given to children with regard to their parents. Mary had suffered more than anyone else in the Passion of her Son; he, therefore, was sure to give her consolation in preference to all others, he, who, out of filial regard for her, had spared her the pains of child-birth, and, at a future period, would not allow her to suffer those of death. The second reason is the merit of Mary’s faith. During the Passion, the Apostles and Disciples lost their faith; they doubted their Master’s being the true God and Messias; they looked upon him as nothing more than a great Prophet. Mary was the only one, who firmly believed in him during the whole of the Saturday, which has led the Faithful to consecrate that day of the week to her honour. Jesus, therefore, would fulfill, in her favour, that which is written: The Lord showeth himself to them that have faith in him. (John 14:21) The third reason is the greatness of the love that burned in her heart, for most certainly, never did mother love her child, as Mary did hers. Now, Jesus has said: He that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father: and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Jesus must, therefore, have appeared to Mary first of all.
And now let us speak of the manner in which this apparition was effected. Mary had no doubt as to her Son’s rising again on the third day, for he had said that it would be so; but, perhaps, she did not know the hour when his Resurrection would take place. The night seemed long to her. She began to recite the Psaltery; and having reached the 56th Psalm, she came upon the words spoken by the Father: Arise, O my glory! Arise, psaltery and harp! The Son answers: I will arise early. Further on, in the same book of Psalms, she found the same words. (Psalm 107:3) She then interrupted her prayer, to see if day-break was approaching; but finding that there was as yet no appearance of it, she returned to her Psaltery, and finished it. Anxious to find some prophecy clearer than David’s, she opened Osee, and read these words: He will revive us, after three days: on the third day, he will raise us up, and we shall live in his presence. We shall know; and we shall follow on, that we may know the Lord. His going forth is prepared as the morning light. (Osee 6:3) Then Mary stood up, and said: ‘ Three testimonies are enough!’—and she prepared a seat for Jesus. ‘Here,’ said she, ‘shall my Son sit! here will I speak to him!’ She turned towards the window, and saw that day-break had begun, and exclaimed with joy: ‘My Son will soon arise!’ Then falling on her knees, she thus prayed: Rise up thou to meet me, O Lord! open thine eyes, even thou, O God of hosts ! O God of Israel! (Psalm 58:6) Straight way, Jesus sent the Angel Gabriel to her, saying; ‘Go! and, as thou didst announce to her mine Incarnation, announce to her my Resurrection!’
The glad Angel appeared to the Virgin, and said to her: ‘Rejoice, O Queen of heaven, alleluia! for he whom thou deservedst to bear, alleluia! hath risen, as he said, alleluia!’ At that instant, her Blessed Son entered, and thousands of the elect with him. Jesus greeted his Mother with these words: ‘Peace be with thee!’ The Virgin threw herself on her knees; she wept for joy; she adored him, and, kissing his feet and hands, said: ‘O dear Wounds, which made me suffer so much on Friday!’ Jesus threw his arms round her, and said: ‘My Mother! rejoice! joy and gladness must alone now till thy heart!’ He wiped away her tears, sat on the seat she had prepared for him, and conversed with her most affectionately. In the course of their conversation, Mary said to Jesus: ‘Hitherto, my Son, I have kept holy the Saturday, in remembrance of God’s rest after the creation; henceforth, I will celebrate the Sunday, in remembrance of thy Resurrection, rest and glory.’ Jesus approved of the change. He related to his Mother what he had done in Limbo, and how he had chained Satan down. He then presented to her the holy Fathers, whom he had set free; they saluted Mary with great respect. We may imagine Adam and Eve addressing her in some such words as these: ‘Blessed art thou, our Daughter and our Lady! for it was of thee God spoke when he said to the serpent: I will set enmities between the woman and thee.’ Eve added: ‘By my sin, I caused heaven’s gate to be shut; thou, by grace, hast opened it.’ Each of the Prophets said to her : ‘It is of thee I spoke in such and such a passage of my book.’ Finally, turning towards her, and wishing her farewell, they said: ‘ Thou art the glory of Jerusalem! Thou art the joy of Israel! Thou art the honour of our people!’ (Judith 15:10)
The Blessed Mother answered them in these words: ‘Ye are a chosen generation, a kingly Priesthood, a holy Nation, a purchased People; that ye may declare the virtues of Him that hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light!’ (1 Peter 2:10) After Jesus had consoled his Mother, our Lady of Consolation then besought her Son to go and console Mary Magdalene, who loved him so devotedly, and who was heart-broken at his death. ‘ The Apostles,’ she said, ‘were much grieved by thy Passion; but Magdalene’s grief surpassed theirs. Deign to console her, as also my sisters, who set out, this morning, for the Sepulchre, in order to embalm thy Body.’ (Sermones S. Vincentii. Serai. II.)
The Roman Liturgy gives us, in the Matins of today, the following abridged account of the Life of this holy Servant of God.
Vincent was born at Valencia, in Spain, of respectable parents. He showed the gravity of old age, even when quite a child. Considering within himself, as far as bis youthful mind knew it, the dangers of this dark world, he received the Habit in the Order of Preachers when he was eighteen years of age. After his solemn profession, he diligently applied himself to sacred studies, and gained, with much applause, the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Shortly after this, he obtained leave from his superiors to preach the word of God. He exposed the perfidy of the Jews, and refuted the false doctrines of the Saracens, but with so much earnestness and success, that he brought a great number of infidels to the faith of Christ, and converted many thousand Christians from sin to repentance, and from vice to virtue. God had chosen him to teach the way of salvation to all nations, and tribes, and tongues; as also to warn men of the coming of the last and dread Day of Judgment. He so preached, that he struck terror into the minds of all his hearers, and turned them from earthly affections to the love of God.
His mode of life, whilst exercising this office of apostolic preaching, was as follows: he every day sang mass early in the morning, delivered a sermon to the people, and, unless absolutely obliged to do otherwise, observed a strict fast. He gave holy and prudent advice to all who consulted him. He never ate flesh meat, or wore linen garments. He reconciled contending parties, and restored peace among nations that were at variance. He zealously laboured to restore to, and maintain in, union the seamless garment of the Church, which, at that time, was rent by direful schism. He shone in every virtue. He was simple and humble, and treated his revilers and persecutors with meekness and affection.
Many were the signs and miracles which God wrought through him, in confirmation of the holiness of his life and preaching. He very frequently restored the sick to health, by placing his hands upon them. He drove out the unclean spirits from the bodies of such as were possessed. He gave hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, sight to the blind. He cured lepers, and raised the dead to life. At length, worn out by old age and bodily infirmities, after travelling through many countries of Europe, and reaping an abundant harvest of souls, this untiring herald of the Gospel terminated his preaching and life at Vannes, in Brittany, in the year of our Lord 1419. He was canonized by Pope Calixtus the Third.
How grand must have been thine eloquence, O Vincent, that could rouse men from their lethargy, and give them to feel all the terrors of the awful Judgment. Our forefathers heard thy preaching, and returned to God, and were pardoned. We, too, were drowsy of spirit when, at the commencement of the holy season of Lent, the Church awakened us to the work of our salvation, by sprinkling our heads with ashes, and pronouncing over us the sentence of our God, whereby we are condemned to die.
During Lent, we meditated upon our last end; and the thought of God’s judgments has enlightened us. We next saw our Redeemer carrying his Cross; our hearts were excited to compassion, and we were converted. His Death was our Life, and we have been made partakers of his Resurrection. Pray for us, O Vincent, that we may die no more; so that when we hear the trumpet of the Angel of Judgment, we may be well prepared for the second coming of our Emmanuel. We began with fear; obtain for us, that the hope, which is now in our hearts, may be kept up within us, and be ever justified by our lives.
O zealous lover of souls! we put into thy hands the great work of our perseverance. Pray for Spain, the country that gave thee life and faith, thy Religious Profession and thy Priesthood. Pray, too, for France, where thou didst preach the Gospel with so much success. Aid her by thy powerful protection, for the trial, through which she is now going, is greater than those she had when thou wast her Apostle.
Dominican Rite Mass being offered in the Priory Church of Saint Vincent Ferrer in New York City on the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, 2012