Born in 1350, Saint Vincent Ferrer died on April 5, 1419, 600 years ago. Called in Brittany in 1418, he traveled all over the province and filled it with echoes of his preaching and miracles. He died, exhausted, in Vannes, where his relics are kept. He was canonized by Pope Calixtus III in 1455.
Originally from Spain, born in Valencia in the province of Aragon, he joined the Order of the Friars Preachers in 1369, where he was ordained a priest 10 years later. He taught sacred theology for several years and produced original works, notably in logic, to defend the moderate realism of St. Thomas Aquinas against nominalism.
But he is more particularly known for the role he played during the Great Western Schism (1378-1417). This very difficult period in the history of the Church and Western Christendom is characterized by a succession of antipopes opposed to legitimate popes. In his masterful Treatise on Schism, St. Vincent Ferrer firmly maintains the monarchical character of the Church, and thus the need to search for the rightful pope to obey.
However, the confusion reached an extraordinary degree, both for the Catholic states and for the faithful, when Christendom sees three “popes” competing with one another. Only one was legitimate, but which one? In this terrible situation, St. Vincent Ferrer first took the side of the antipope Benedict XIII. However, having understood his error, he moved away from him, after having urged the pope to convert.
Miraculously healed when he was on the verge of death, St. Vincent Ferrer decided to devote himself completely to preaching. In those troubled times, he traveled across Europe to preach the conversion of morals, to correct consciences, to encourage the weak, and seek a resolution to the terrible crisis that was shaking the Church. God gave him a very special gift for doing many miracles that stunned his contemporaries, who nicknamed him the Angel of the Apocalypse. He converted a great number of Jews in Spain.
He left a magnificent Treatise on the Spiritual Life which was a joy for the religious, especially in the Dominican Order. It is a work of great intellectual strength, a veritable spiritual summa that evokes his master, St. Thomas Aquinas, and still remains useful to read.