April 4, 2017
Saint Vincent Ferrer, the "Angel of the Judgment"
April 5th, is the optional memorial of Saint Vincent Ferrer, the 14th century Dominican priest who was instrumental in helping end the Western Schism or Papal Schism. Throughout her history, the Church has weathered many crises, and 600 years ago, St. Vincent Ferrer found himself in the midst of a major divide. The Church, and the papacy in particular, was going through a time of unprecedented upheaval, governed for 36 years by two and sometimes three "popes," with immense confusion as to who the true successor of Peter was.
St. Vincent was born in Valencia, Spain in 1350. Against his parent’s wishes, he entered the Dominican Order at the age of 19, and was later ordained. A great scholar and master theologian, he knew the entire Bible by heart. He was also a renowned homilist, preaching throughout Europe. Jews, infidels and heretics were converted by his sermons on the true faith. The most obdurate sinners embraced a life of holiness. The favorite topic of his sermons was the Final Judgment.
He became known throughout Spain as one gifted with the ability to reconcile people to each other and to God, but his biggest challenge came in Rome itself. His one-time friend, the priest who had ordained him, Cardinal Peter de Luna, now occupied the papacy. Vincent grew convinced that he was not the true pope. After trying unsuccessfully to get the man now known as Benedict XIII to resign, Ferrer publicly denounced him in 1415. Undermined, Benedict soon fled Rome.
The Western Schism, which figured so prominently in Vincent’s life, finally ended in 1417 at the Council of Constance. St. Vincent himself died on April 5, 1419, in Vannes, Britany. The last 20 years of his life were spent spreading the Good News in Spain, France, Switzerland, the Low Countries and Lombardy, stressing the need for repentance and the fear of coming judgment. He became known as the "Angel of the Judgment." Almighty God, who raised up the Priest Saint Vincent Ferrer to minister by the preaching of the Gospel, grant, we pray, that, when the Judge comes, whom Saint Vincent proclaimed on earth, we may be among those blessed to behold him reigning in heaven. To him who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Saint Vincent Ferrer, pray for us.