Champions of Catholic Orthodoxy

Saint Vincent Ferrer († 1419, Feast—April 5)

Saint Vincent Ferrer Catholic Spain today offers one of her sons to the Church, that She may present him to the Christian world as a model and a patron. St. Vincent Ferrer, or, as he was called, the Angel of the Judgment, comes to us proclaiming the near approach of the Judge of the living and the dead. During his lifetime, he traversed almost every country of Europe, preaching this tremendous truth; and the people of those times went from his sermons striking their breasts, crying out to God to have mercy upon them—in a word, converted. He now sees, from his throne in Heaven, the faithful regenerated by penance, fortified by the Bread of Life, and risen again with Jesus Christ. True, all have not obeyed the call of grace; but if we recommend them that have so far remained obstinate in their sins to the great Apostle of today, he may perhaps speak to their hearts, in the name of the Master of the vineyard, and prepare laborers of the eleventh hour to receive their hire.

St. Vincent has treated of the mystery of Easter in sixteen of his sermons still extant. He there develops, with the learning and simplicity of his time, the glories and wonders of Christ’s Resurrection. We offer our readers a passage from the second of these sermons; it was preached on the very day of Easter. The Saint speaks of Our Lord’s first apparition, which, in common with the Saints and the most esteemed theologians, he unhesitatingly asserts to have been made to our Blessed Lady:

"That Jesus' first visit was to the Virgin Mary, His Mother, is expressly taught by St. Ambrose, in his book De Virginibus, where he says: 'Mary saw the Resurrection of Christ, and She was the first to see it.' If the Evangelists have not mentioned the fact, it was because they would only adduce disinterested witnesses, and a Mother is surely not to be counted as such. As to the reasons in support of such teaching, they are three. The first is the divine commandment given to children with regard to their parents. Mary had suffered more than anyone else in the Passion of Her Son; He, therefore, was sure to give Her consolation in preference to all others, Who out of filial regard for Her had spared Her the pains of child-birth, and at a future period would not allow Her to suffer those of death. The second reason is the merit of Mary’s faith. During the Passion, the Apostles and disciples lost their faith; they doubted their Master’s being the true God and Messias; they looked upon Him as nothing more than a great prophet. Mary was the only one who firmly believed in Him during the whole of the Saturday, which has led the faithful to consecrate that day of the week to Her honor. Jesus therefore would fulfill in Her favor that which is written: The Lord showeth Himself to them that have faith in Him (Wisd. 1: 2). The third reason is the greatness of the love that burned in Her Heart, for most certainly never did mother love her child as Mary did Hers. Now Jesus has said: He that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father: and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him (John 14: 21). Jesus must, therefore, have appeared to Mary first of all.

"And now let us speak of the manner in which this apparition was effected. Mary had no doubt as to Her Son’s rising again on the third day, for He had said that it should be so; but perhaps She did not know the hour when His Resurrection would take place. The night seemed long to Her. She began to recite the psalter; and having reached the 56th Psalm, She came upon the words, spoken by the Father: Arise, O My glory! Arise, psaltery and harp! The Son answers: I will arise early. Further on, in the same Book of Psalms, She found the same words (Ps. 107: 3). She then interrupted Her prayer, to see if daybreak was approaching; but finding that there was as yet no appearance of it, She returned to Her psalter, and finished it. Anxious to find some prophecy clearer than David’s, She opened Osee, and read these words: He will revive us after three days: on the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His presence. We shall know Him; and we shall follow on, that we may know the Lord. His going forth is prepared as the morning light (Osee 6: 3). Then Mary stood up and said: 'Three testimonies are enough!'— and She prepared a seat for Jesus. 'Here,' said She, 'shall My Son sit! Here will I speak to Him!' She turned towards the window, and saw that daybreak had begun, and exclaimed with joy: 'My Son will soon arise!' Then falling on her knees, She thus prayed: Rise up Thou to meet Me, O Lord! Open Thine eyes, even Thou, O God of Hosts! O God of Israel! (Ps. 58: 6) Straightway, Jesus sent the Angel Gabriel to Her, saying: 'Go and announce to Her My Resurrection!' The glad Angel appeared to the Virgin, and said to Her: 'Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia! For He Whom Thou didst merit to bear, alleluia! Hath risen as He said, alleluia!' At that instant, Her blessed Son entered, and thousands of the elect with Him. Jesus greeted His Mother with these words: 'Peace be with Thee!' The Virgin threw Herself on Her knees; She wept for joy; She adored Him, and kissing His feet and hands, said: 'O dear Wounds, which made Me suffer so much on Friday!' Jesus threw His arms around Her, and said: 'My Mother, rejoice! Joy and gladness must alone now fill Thy Heart!' He wiped away Her tears, sat on the seat She had prepared for Him, and conversed with Her most affectionately. In the course of their conversation, Mary said to Jesus: 'Hitherto, My Son, I have kept holy the Saturday, in remembrance of God’s rest after the creation; henceforth, I will celebrate the Sunday, in remembrance of Thy Resurrection, rest and glory.' Jesus approved of the change. He related to His Mother what He had done in Limbo, and how He had chained Satan down. He then presented to Her the holy Fathers, whom He had set free; they saluted Mary with great respect. We may imagine Adam and Eve addressing Her in some such words as these: 'Blessed art Thou, our Daughter and Our Lady, for it was of Thee God spoke when He said to the serpent: I will set enmities between the Woman and thee.' Eve added: 'By my sin I caused Heaven’s gate to be shut; Thou, by grace, hast opened it.' Each of the prophets said to Her: 'It is of Thee I spoke in such and such a passage of my Book.' Finally, turning towards Her, and wishing Her farewell, they said: Thou art the glory of Jerusalem! Thour art the joy of Israel! Thou art the honor of our people! (Judith 15: 10) The Blessed Mother answered them in these words: Ye are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people; that ye may declare the virtues of Him that hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light! (I Peter 2: 10) After Jesus had consoled His Mother, Our Lady of Consolation then besought Her Son to go and console Mary Magdalen, who loved Him so devotedly, and who was heart-broken at His death. 'The Apostles,' She said, 'were much grieved by Thy Passion; but Magdalen’s grief surpassed theirs. Deign to console her, as also My sisters, who set out this morning for the sepulcher in order to embalm Thy Body'."

The Roman Liturgy gives us, in the Matins of today, the following abridged account of the life of this holy Servant of God:

St. Vincent was born at Valencia, in Spain, of respectable parents. He showed the gravity of old age, even when quite a child. Considering within himself the dangers of this dark world, as far as his youthful mind knew it, he received the habit of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) when he was eighteen years of age. After his solemn profession, he diligently applied himself to sacred studies, and gained, with much applause, the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Shortly after this, he obtained leave from his superiors to preach the Word of God. He exposed the perfidy of the Jews, and refuted the false doctrines of the Saracens, but with so much earnestness and success, that he brought a great number of infidels to the Faith of Christ, and converted many thousand Christians from sin to repentance and from vice to virtue. God had chosen him to teach the way of salvation to all nations and tribes and tongues; as also to warn men of the coming of the last and dread Day of Judgment. He so preached that he struck terror into the minds of his hearers, and turned them from earthly affections to the love of God.

His mode of life, whilst exercising this office of apostolic preaching, was as follows: he sang Mass every day early in the morning, delivered a sermon to the people, and unless absolutely obliged to do otherwise, observed a strict fast. He gave holy and prudent advice to all who consulted him. He never ate flesh meat or wore linen garments. He reconciled contending parties, and restored peace among nations that were at variance. He zealously labored to restore and maintain the union of the seamless garment of the Church, which at that time was rent by direful schism. He shone in every virtue. He was simple and humble, and treated his revilers and persecutors with meekness and affection.

Many were the signs and miracles which God wrought through him, in confirmation of the holiness of his life and preaching. He very frequently restored the sick to health, by placing his hands upon them. He drove out the unclean spirits from the bodies of such as were possessed. He gave hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, sight to the blind. He cured lepers, and raised the dead to life. At length, worn out by old age and bodily infirmities, after travelling through many countries of Europe, and reaping an abundant harvest of souls, this untiring herald of the Gospel terminated his preaching and life at Vannes, in Brittany, in the year of Our Lord 1419. He was canonized by Pope Callistus III.

How grand must have been thine eloquence, O Holy Vincent, that could rouse men from their lethargy and make them feel all the terrors of the awful Judgment. O zealous lover of souls! We put into thy hands the great work of our perseverance. Pray for Spain, the country that gave thee life and faith, thy religious profession and thy priesthood. Pray, too, for France where thou didst preach the Gospel with so much success. Aid her by thy powerful protection, for the trials of these days are greater than those she had when thou wast her Apostle.

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