The Catholic Defender: The Father Vincent Ferrer Story
On my way back to the Catholic Faith, my Mother loaned me a book about Father Vincent Ferrer that held my attention reading the whole book "St. Vincent Ferrer: The Angel of the Judgment" TAN Books. I was so impressed with Father Ferrer that many times I would tell a priest that they reminded me of St. Vincent Ferrer if I liked their homily. I would always get a response by the priest as they were familiar with this great Saint.
St. Vincent Ferrer was conceived by parents who understood the importance of raising a child in the Faith. Constance, St. Vincent Ferrer's mother would sing to him while in the womb. She held such great joy and her pregnancy was special. St. Vincent's father told his wife of a dream he received of a Dominican preacher telling him that he would be given a son. This son would become a great preacher. I can identify with this father as I recall some powerful dreams. They can have a powerful impact especially when it takes a few minutes to realize this was a dream.
One day a blind woman who heard Constance voice recognized something special about this expecting mother. The blind woman told Constance that her child will be like an angel for many people and would restore the blind woman's sight. Ultimately, her prophecy would become true as the Lord Jesus would heal the blind woman through the intercession of St. Vincent Ferrer.
The story of St. Vincent Ferrer reminds me of the Old Testament Prophet Samuel because he was brought into the world for a noble purpose. St. Vincent was raised with a strong Catholic Faith, as a child he loved the reading of the saints, he fasted and prayed a great deal. The Passion of Jesus always was centered in his devotion to Our Lord. From an early age he developed a love for the Blessed Virgin Mary as his spiritual Mother.
With this kind of foundation, St. Vincent Ferror, like the Prophet Samuel, the Lord Jesus would be able to do many miracles through His faithful servant. In fact, when St. Vincent became of age, when given the choice of a religious life or a secular life, St. Vincent consecrated himself to the service of Our Lord and His Mother.
It was not long in young Vincent's search that the Dominican Order would be his choice. In 1368, when Vincent was just 18 years old, he joined the Dominicans at Valencia with the joy of his parents.
His Supervisors quickly saw young Vincent's potential as he excelled studying the scriptures and the Early Church Fathers. Philosophy became an important means of his development as he wrote his treatise on Dialectic Suppositions. All this before he was 24 years old.
During a terrible drought, he prophesized in the midst of this famine that two ships loaded with food supplies would come to relieve Barcelona. It came to pass as Vincent had proclaimed showing this was through miraculous means.
The Dominicans then sent Vincent to Lerida to serve at the University of Catalonia receiving his doctorate at the rip old age of 28 (1378). His local bishop seeing Vincent's prospects calls for him to come back to Valencia where his preaching began to have great affect.
Writing on the spiritual life, St. Vincent wrote, "Do you desire to study to your advantage? Let devotion accompany all your studies and study less to make yourself learned than to become a saint." Vincent had to have had 1 Timothy 4:7-9 in mind, "Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance."
Despite at the miracles and learning taking place, St. Vincent had his bouts with the Devil whose temptations of the flesh were particularly difficult. You might say that he went through what the average person is tempted with today. He certainly could identify with what young people are faced with. The weapons employed by St. Vincent Ferrer was prayer, penance, and a determined control of his passions.
People began to recognize a certain radiance about St. Vincent Ferror when he preached from the pulpit. especially when he talked of Our Lord and His Mother. He had such a child like faith which is very important especially with great learning. Vincent would certainly council young people today with what works against temptation.
As a Missionary, he traveled to Avignon speaking in every town. Vincent had particularly great results speaking to Jews, Mohammedans, heretics and schismatics. Boy, we really need more like St. Vincent Ferrer today! There was one point when 20,000 Muslims were converted in one setting. Typical subjects he would talk about were sin, death, God's judgments, hell, and eternity.
Thousands were moved by Vincent's preaching. In 1417, great signs were being seen throughout Spain, Majorca, Italy, France, anywhere that Vincent would be found preaching. The healing of John Soler, a crippled boy thought to be incurable, at least until he met St. Vincent. Prostitutes, homosexuals, many were converted with transforming lives serving Jesus and Mary.
Seeing the plight of so many, St. Vincent had harsh words for those in authority. The cause of so much heresy was due to the lack of leadership among the religious. St. Vincent said, "I blush and tremble when I consider the terrible judgment impending on ecclesiastical superiors who live at their ease in rich palaces, while so many souls redeemed by the Blood of Christ are perishing. I pray without ceasing the Lord of the harvest that He send good workmen into His harvest."
St. Vincent Ferrer was not afraid to debate opponents, heretical bishops were converted, many more conversion taking place at Geneva and Germany. Going into lands, he never needed to have an interpreter as he was given the gift of speaking in tongues, despite speaking in his own language, people were able to understand him in their languages. Also when speaking with large crowds, people were able to hear him no matter how far they were from him. This happened even as far away as three miles.
Miracles would happen just from his use of the Sign of the Cross. A pet-peeve of his was to hap-hazardly do the Stations of the Cross. When a Moorish king wanted to her St. Vincent speak, 8,000 Muslims were converted on the spot. Many of the sick were healed through St. Vincent's ministry. The dumb speaking, the lame walking, the mute speaking, great numbers of Jews were also converting. St. Vincent Ferrer exclaimed, "we have good news. All the Jews and many of the Moors of Valladolid are converted." Of sixteen rabbis, fourteen were converted.
St. Vincent Ferrer had a great devotion to the Rosary, it was his weapon. He said of the Rosary, "Who observes this practice, is beyond the reach of adversity."
The following are just some of the examples given by:
He told the case of a very pious merchant who would say the rosary from morning to night, even to the neglect of his business. One day he was captured by brigands and, knowing that his hour was come, he humbly asked for a little moment to pray. Hardly had he begun when the Blessed Virgin came to him accompanied by St. Catherine carrying a tray of roses and St. Agnes with a needle and a ball of thread. The brigands, needless to say, opened their eyes wide. At each Ave the prisoner recited, the Blessed Virgin took a rose from the plate, pierced it with the needle, slipped it on to the thread. Thus, she made a wreath which she placed on the prisoner's brow. As he happened to have his eyes closed, he did not see the wreath, but he smelt its fragrance. The Virgin and the two saints went off and the merchant offered them his neck, saying, "Now you can strangle me." "Strangle you?" said the brigands. "Who were those beautiful women? You must be a holy man; remember us in your prayers." Then they restored his goods and went away converted. When he spoke of the Mother of Men, Vincent was transfigured. He used to tell the case of a schoolboy who wanted at all costs to see her. An angel warned him that if he did so, he would lose an eye. He accepted and lost an eye. Then he asked to see her again, though it meant the loss of the other eye, which also took place. But when he was thus completely blind, the Blessed Virgin restored both eyes.
The people had recourse to him in every difficulty: The smallest villages fought to have him. In one place they took his hat, which assured pregnant women of a safe and easy delivery; in others, he drove away a cloud of grasshoppers and a whole army of weevils with holy water. Once he came to the point of utter exhaustion. He could go no further. And heaven came to his aid. In the very heart of a wild lonely forest an excellent hotel appeared suddenly from nowhere to shelter him; leaving it the next day, he happened to forget his hat. One of the penitents went back to the inn to get it, but there was no inn – the hat was hanging on the branch of a tree at the very spot where the inn had stood. The following year he came to Murcia. According to the Bishop's report, which has come down to us, almost no one remained untouched by the grace of the Spirit that filled all the air. In that province there was an end for that time of gambling, debauchery, conspiracy, quarreling, and murder. How could anyone fail to follow the example of a Moor who promised to embrace the faith if the pyre he had lighted in the main square was extinguished at Vincent's prayer? Vincent prayed; the flames went out.
He came one time to the bedside of a sinner, to assist him in his last agony. The sinner clung to the saint; he felt that his tardy remorse, his imperfect contrition, his absence of penance, were insufficient to save him unless St. Vincent threw the whole of himself into the scale. He begged Vincent to make over to him a good share of the treasures of grace he had compiled. The saint had pity on his despair. He said: "I give God all my merits to be applied to you." "Is that true?" The dying man was mistrustful: He did not know that what a saint says is definite. "Then write it down for me on a slip of paper. The saint cheerfully did what he was asked and the man died clutching his precious document. Logically, Vincent had nothing left – he must begin to pile up another lot of graces to himself. But a few days later, while he was preaching, a paper whirled in the air above the heads of the crowd, like a dead leaf blown along by the wind. Finally it settled on the preacher's cloak. I need not tell you what it was. God had decided to pay for the sinner's salvation in a different coin. He returned Vincent his merits along with his check. For you never lose by the gift of one's self unless you only half give it.
At Pampeluna, they had just condemned an innocent man to death. Vincent pleaded for him in vain. As he was being led to the scaffold, they passed a corpse being taken to burial on a stretcher. Vincent suddenly addressed the corpse: "You who have no longer anything to gain by lying, is this man guilty? Answer me!" The dead man sat up and affirmed, "He is not." Then Vincent, to reward him for that service, offered the dead man, who was settling down again on the stretcher, to give him back the burden of earthly life. "No, Father," he replied, "for I am assured of salvation." And he went off to sleep again and was carried to the cemetery.
There is another episode stranger still if not more marvelous. It happened at Gerona. In the thick of the crowd stood a man somber, glowering, rage stamped on every feature: Near him was his wife with an infant in her arms, still at the breast. The man was devoured by a frenzy of jealousy. Brother Vincent saw him, saw what fire burned in him, and preached upon Jealousy. Suddenly he turned to the man. "You doubt your wife's faithfulness, do you not? You think this child is not yours? Well, watch!" Then he cried in a great voice to the child: "Embrace your father!" The infant stirred, stood upright, turned towards the man and held out its arms. And thus was the man cured and the family peace restored.
It seems that he touched each heart at the point he chose, the point that charity suggested to him, and invariably at the precise moment. He knew for example that a shepherd in the heart of the mountains had so great confidence in him that he came to hear him, leaving his flock, only staying to draw a circle round them with his staff – counting on the saint to see that the sheep did not go out of the circle or the wolves come into it. Vincent knew it, whether he had guessed it or read it in the man's eyes; or perhaps God revealed to him the poor shepherd's naive arrangement and let him know that He meant to grant his prayer. At any rate, Vincent told him before all the crowd: "Your sheep are safe; God is watching over them."
There are so many miracles that the Lord worked in the life of St. Vincent Ferrer, more people have been converted as a result of the preaching of St. Vincent Ferror, more miracles, yet he never rode in a car nor flew in a plane. Billy Graham would be totally shaken if he could have known St. Vincent Ferrer, certainly a friend. St. Vincent wrote, "Once humility is acquired, charity will come to life – a burning flame devouring the corruption of vice and filling the heart so full that there is no place for vanity."
Fifty years after St. Vincent's death, a boy of twelve, Juan de Zuniga, died at Placenzia. A prayer to St. Vincent brought him back to life. He lived to be Cardinal Archbishop of Seville. A cathedral was built in commemoration of the event. On the day they were celebrating the Saint's feast, the preacher failed to appear – he had suddenly fallen ill. The embarrassment would have been serious only that a Dominican father, absolutely unknown, appeared from nowhere and offered to take his place. He went up into the pulpit, preached and was seen no more. It was St. Vincent Ferrer, naturally, since he is always present upon earth, in action if not in person. There seems to be no other possible explanation of the sudden appearance and disappearance of the preacher.
During his life Saint Vincent freed more than seventy people from the Devil and many more were freed at his tomb. He raised more than twenty-eight people from the dead and four hundred sick people were cured by resting on the couch where he had lain during his illness.
According to Vincent's own prophecy, Alphonsus Borgia who was elected to the Papacy and became Callixtus III, did indeed canonize him. The canonization was held on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, 1455, in the Dominican Church of Rome, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. The body was found to be incorrupt on that day. During the Mass of canonization, two dead persons were covered with the cloak in which Saint Vincent had been buried. They were both restored to life. Also, the Duke of Brittany's relative was cured of leprosy that day and a blind man was restored to sight.
The great humility of this saint appeared amidst the honors and applause which followed him. He lays down this principle as the preliminary to all virtue that a person be deeply grounded in humility "For whosoever will proudly dispute or contradict, will always stand without the door. Christ, the master of humility, manifests His truth only to the humble and hides Himself from the proud."
The death of St. Vincent Ferrer did not check the flowing of the spring which his merits and penances and love had opened in the rock of Mercy inexhaustible. They laid two corpses in his tomb before they sealed it. Just as the touch of his habit wrought miracles during his life, so did the touch of his grave: two dead people were brought to life when placed upon it! Nor is that an isolated incident. The inquiry set on foot at Vannes for the process of his canonization brought to light an incredible mass of miraculous happenings, sudden conversions, cures, apparitions, and a surprising number of resurrections from the dead. Falls, drownings, murderous assaults, illnesses – he intervened in all and was always being invoked.