St. Vincent Ferrer

April 5


 Born at Valencia, Spain, on January 23, the son of William Ferrer and Constantia Miguel, both of noble families, he was educated at Valencia and joined the Dominicans in 1367. He was sent to Barcelona for further studies, taught philosophy at Lerida when twenty-one, and then returned to Barcelona in 1373. Three years later he continued his education at Toulouse, and in 1379 he became a member of Pedro Cardinal de Luna's court, the beginning of a long friendship that was to end in grief for both of them [De Luna had voted for Pope Urban VI in 1378, but convinced the election had been invalid, joined a group of cardinals who elected Robert of Geneva Pope as Clement VII later in the same year, thus creating a schism and the line of Avignon Popes]. De Luna was elected to succeed antipope Clement VII in 1394 and became known in history as antipope Benedict XIII. Vincent was convinced of the legitimacy of the Avignon Popes and was their ardent champion. He taught at the cathedral in Valencia, 1385-90, was confessor to Queen Yolanda of Aragon, 1391-95, and was cited for heresy to the Inquisition for teaching that Judas had done penance. The charge was dismissed by the newly elected antipope Benedict XIII, who brought him to his papal court and made him his confessor and apostolic penitentiary. Vincent refused a cardinalate from the antipope and after recovering from a serious illness in 1398, during which he had a vision of Christ accompanied by SS. Dominic and Francis directing him to preach penance, he devoted himself to preaching. Released by Benedict to do so, he began preaching in 1399, and in the next two decades he traveled all over western Europe preaching penance for sin and preparation for the Last Judgment, attracting enormous crowds wherever he went and followed by thousands of disciples; among his converts were Bernadine of Siena and Margaret of Savoy. So successful was he in preaching in different countries, though he only knew his own language, that many believed he had the gift of tongues. In 1408, while ministering to the plague-stricken of Genoa, he tried and failed to persuade Benedict to withdraw his claims to the papacy so Christendom might be united under one Pope. Vincent then went to Spain, where his preaching was as phenomenally successful as it had been in other parts of Europe, making converts by the tens of thousands, including thousands of Jews and Moors. He was one of the judges of the Compromise of Caspe to resolve the royal succession and was instrumental in electing Ferdinand King of Castile. Still a friend of Benedict, he again begged him to resign after the Council of Constance had deposed a third claimant to the throne, antipope John XXIII, and demanded that the other two resign. When Benedict refused, he advised Ferdinand in 1416 to withdraw his allegiance to Avignon; when Ferdinand did so, Benedict was deposed, and the great Western Schism ended. Vincent spent the last three years of his life preaching in France and died at Vannes, Brittany, on April 5. He was canonized in 1455.


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