Algorfa’s Patron Saint
Saint Vincente Ferrer 1350 – 1419
(Also Patron Saint of: Plumbers, Tile Makers and Construction Workers)
On 23rd January 1350 Vincente was born. His father William Stuart Ferrer was an Anglo/Scottish nobleman, who had descended from both the Anglo de Ferrer family and the Scottish Stuart family.
William took himself a Spanish wife, Constantia Miguel, Vincente’s mother. The couple moved to Valencía where Vincentee was born, in the Kingdom of Valencía, modern day Region of Valencía. Perhaps his birth was difficult and he wasn’t expected to survive because Vincente was baptised the same day he was born. The family didn’t have a name
for him, so the priest who baptised him, named him for St. Vincent Martyr, the patron saint of Valencía.
At a very early age Vincente was drawn to a religious life. He was professed in the Order of Saint Dominic at the age of 18, and after studying, became Master of Sacred Theology. He excelled in academics and began lecturing on philosophy before he reached the age 21.
In 1374 Vincente was ordained and he soon earned his Doctorate in Theology at Lleida, the main university city of Catalonia at the time. He was recognised a writer and theologian and earned reputations as an effective preacher. In 1379 he was appointed Prior of the Dominican house in Valencía.
Vincente was offered the post of Bishop but declined, sensing that he was the messenger of penance sent to prepare men for the judgement. He considered himself a sinner in need of God’s mercy and his sermons stressed forgiveness and repentance in preparation for the final judgement.
Vincente was touched by the Great Western Schism, this was a period when the Pope’s authority was challenged by rivals in France. In 1394 Vincente was drawn into the controversy when he was summoned to serve as adviser to his good friend Cardinal Peter de Luna upon the Cardinal’s appointment as the new Antipope*.
At the age of 40, Vincente became gravely ill; it is believed he was profoundly depressed because of the Great Schism. Appearing through a vision, St. Dominic accompanied by St. Francis of Assisi, comforted him. Then came Jesus himself, in the midst of a great host of angels. Touching Vincente on the cheek, Jesus told him to rise and preach the Last Judgement. Miraculously, Vincente emerged completely cured. The mark of Our Lord’s sacred fingers on his cheek remained with him for the rest of his life.
For twenty-one years, he was said to have travelled, preaching the gospel and converting many sinners. Thousands were moved by his words and the miracles he performed. He was tremendously successful, and many thousands were converted to Christianity by him. He was especially interested in converting the Spanish Jews and Muslims.
Vincente preached in Limousin, the language of his native Valencía, yet miraculously he was understood in all tongues: Germans, Greeks, Sardinians, Italians, and English, they understood him perfectly. For twenty years his efforts brought him to evangelise nearly every province of Spain. Everywhere he went, tens of thousands of sinners were reformed; infidels and heretics were converted, and great miracles supported his words. He also went to France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Flanders, England, Scotland and Ireland. He was even invited to Mohammedan Granada where he converted almost 8,000 Muslims into Christianity. Even the Caliph was interested, but when his nobles threatened him with civil war he reluctantly asked Vincente to leave.
Vincente spent much time preaching to Jews regarding the fulfilment of Hebrew prophecy in Christ. Vincente helped to put down an uprising against the Jews in Valencía in 1391 and he also diffused a later persecution in Toledo. Sephardic Jews erected monuments to him throughout Spain. Ranzano, his first biographer, estimates that he brought 25,000 Jews into the Christianity. At Valladolid he helped a rabbi to become complete in the Catholic faith; the rabbi later became well known as Bishop Paul of Burgos. Once when Vincente entered a synagogue with a cross in his hand, surprising the Jews inside, he made such a moving a sermon that afterwards the Jews desired baptism and changed their synagogue into a church which they called “The Holy Cross.”
One of the Miracles for what St. Vincente is revered happened because of a chance meeting of the corpse of a man who had been murdered, the body was being carried on a bier. In the presence of a multitude, St. Vincente commanded the deceased man to rise, which he instantly did. It is said that a wooden cross was erected on the spot as a monument that can still be seen.
Some of those converted by Vincente joined the Grande Chartreuse, mother house of the Carthusian Order near Grenoble, where his brother was Prior.
Vincente is well known in Spain for his intervention during the political discussion known as the “Caspe Compromise”, a debate by which the succession of the King of Aragon was solved by giving the throne to a Castilian prince: this would later help the union of the crowns of Castile and Aragon, today seen as Spain’s territory.
St. Vincente’s life was severely harsh and austere, and his followers were inspired to imitate his austerities. The floor was his usual bed and he perpetually fasted, he arose at two in the morning to chant the Office, he celebrated Mass daily, afterwards he preached, sometimes for three hours, and he frequently worked miracles. After his midday meal he would tend to sick children; at eight o’clock he prepared his sermon for the following day. Wherever he travelled: it was on foot, poorly clad, carrying a large cross.
Approaching the age 70, and still at the height of his mission, Vincente fell ill with a fever. In Vannes, Brittany, on April 5, 1419, he passed into Heaven. His relics are buried in the Cathedral of Vannes.
On June 3, 1455, St. Vincente was canonised by Pope Calixtus III at the Dominican Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.
Today his feast day is celebrated on the 5th of April.