Saint Vincent Ferrer

Saint Vincent Ferrer

“If you truly want to help the soul of your neighbor, you should approach God first with all your heart. Ask him simply to fill you with charity, the greatest of all virtues.” - Saint Vincent Ferrer

Saint Vincent Ferrer, the patron saint of builders, known for "building up" and strengthening the Church, was born in Valencia, Spain, during 1357. He brought thousands of Europeans into the Catholic Church during a period of political and spiritual crisis in Western Europe.

Vincent’s parents raised him to care deeply about his religious duties, without neglecting his education or concern for the poor. At the age of 17, he entered the Order of St. Dominic in a monastery near his native city. Soon after his profession he was commissioned to deliver lectures on philosophy. On being sent to Barcelona, he continued his scholastic duties and at the same time devoted himself to preaching.

As a member of the Dominican Order of Preachers, Vincent committed much of the Bible to memory while also studying the Church Fathers and philosophy. By age 28, he was renowned for his preaching, and also known to have a gift of prophecy.

While Vincent sought to live out his order's commitment to the preaching of the Gospel, he could not escape becoming involved in the political intrigues of the day. Two rival claimants to the papacy emerged during the late 1300s, one in Rome and another in the French city of Avignon. Each claimed the allegiance of roughly half of Western Europe.

Caught between the rival claimants, Vincent attempted to persuade the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII to negotiate an end to the schism. Benedict, who was regarded as Pope in both Spain and France, sought to honour Vincent by consecrating him as a bishop. But he refused all ecclesiastical dignities, even the cardinal's hat, and only craved to be appointed apostolical missionary.

Vincent was not distracted from a life of asceticism and poverty even though it was of popular acclaim back then. He abstained completely from meat, slept on a straw mat, consumed only bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays, and accepted no donations for himself beyond what he needed to survive.

Vincent not only prayed, but acted, committing himself to missionary work and resolving to preach in every town between Avignon and his hometown in Spain. In a commanding style, he denounced greed, blasphemy, sexual immorality, and popular disregard for the truths of faith. His sermons often drew crowds of thousands and prompted dramatic conversions.

Although he did not heal the temporary divisions within the Church, Vincent succeeded in strengthening large numbers of Europeans in their Catholic faith. He lived to behold the end of the great schism and the election of Pope Martin V.

St. Vincent Ferrer died on April 5, 1419 at age 62, in the city of Vannes in the French region of Brittany. He was canonized in 1455 by Pope Calixtus III, and has more recently become the name bearer of a traditional Catholic community approved by the Holy See, the “Fraternity of Saint Vincent Ferrer.”

Saint Vincent constantly shared a message of profound hope that conversion and penance can buy reprieve. As we are in the Holy Week, let’s remember this message of profound hope before our minds that it may inspire us to greater generosity in our prayers and fasting, helping us to truly strip free from all the worldly desires and sinful attachments and draw ever close to the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Other Saints of the Day

1. Saint Becan
2. Saint Theodore and Pausilippus
3. Saint Ethelburga
4. Saint Maria Crescentia Höss
5. Saint Zeno

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