Yesterday, April 5, Mother Church celebrated the feast day of St. Vincent Ferrer, a Dominican friar from the 14th and 15th centuries.
The Dominicans are also referred to as the Order of Preachers (hence OP), and Vincent surely was true to this charism of his order.
Vincent preached the Word. St. John, in his Gospel account, quotes Jesus as saying: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word.” (14:23). Vincent shared the Word he had received from those before him and, in so doing, passed on the tradition that lives on today. An important tradition indeed!
In preaching the Word, Vincent preached to crowds that were so large that no church building in the area could contain the entire congregation. He preached outside.
He is what some might call a “fire and brimstone” type. He focused largely on sin, damnation, and the reality of Hell. Yet in doing this, he preached also on virtue, salvation, and the reality of Heaven for those who cooperate with Christ’s gift to us: eternal life.
So often clergy, religious, and lay teachers give in to the temptation to become “people-pleasers” and thus refuse to say anything about Hell and the reality that yes, indeed, we will come to judgment day and some of us might not make it to the heaven. God forbid anybody might get offended by the Truth!
Vincent was not impeded by the people-pleasing mentality and ministry style. He knew it was more important to save a soul and be scorned than to let that soul perish but maintain popularity on earth. For this, he became known as the “angel of judgment”.
Vincent teaches us that it is more important to go about faithfully the work of saving souls than it is to go about increasing one’s own popularity.
That he preached on Truth and all it entails–not just the things we like to hear–and remained so popular at the same time reflects a trend present in the Church today: people want to Truth! There is a hunger, a desire, to know more about what God is REALLY all about and what Christ REALLY means for us.
This hunger is cause for much rejoicing!
Vincent recognized this lesson–that saving souls is more important than being popular–well even in his own life. Vincent was a good friend of Peter de Luna, who became antipope Benedict XIII. Benedict appointed Vincent, his good friend, to become his confessor and adviser knowing that in him was a friend and supporter.
Vincent, however, over time came to see Benedict XIII as a proud man who stood at odds with the unity Christ commanded and prayed for his Church. (Let this be a lesson: whenever unity in Christ’s Church is compromised, we can be sure that pride is there.) Vincent encouraged Benedict to resign but of course he refused, leading Vincent to seek other means. He persuaded the king of Aragon to no longer support Benedict–which sure enough was enough to end this fiasco.
Vincent was and is an instrument of unity and Truth–the same unity and Truth Christ has always wished for his Church. Let us be instruments likewise, guided by his example and strengthened by his prayers.
St. Vincent Ferrer: pray for us!
You called Saint Vincent Ferrer
to preach the Gospel of the last judgment.
Through his prayers may we come with joy
to meet Your Son in the kingdom of heaven,
where He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.