St. Vincent Ferrer (1350–1419), during the last 20 years of his life, preached all over Western and Southern Europe that the Last Judgment was imminent if people did not repent and change their lives. He even maintained that he was bearing the "The Angel of the Judgment" mentioned in the Apocalypse (Apoc. 14:6–7), and he worked an extraordinary miracle to prove it, which the Church accepted as verification of the truth of his claim. And like Ninevah at the warning of the Prophet Jonah, the people did change, and the world was spared, and it has subsisted to the present hour—in large part because of this one man!
Vincent was born in 1350 to noble Spanish parents in Valencia. He had completed his education by 14, after which he entered the Dominican Order and was sent to Barcelona. He began his religious life as a professor, teaching in Lerida and Barcelona. While in the latter, famine struck, and Vincent on one occasion predicted the approach of shipments of wheat, which soon came true; this was the first of many miracles. He studied in Toulouse for a time, and then taught theology for five years in Valencia once more, preaching also in Valladolid, Salamanca, and Avignon.
In 1398, he went through a deep sickness and experienced a vision of the Lord with Sts. Dominic and Francis, compelling him to preach penance and the coming of the Last Judgment. He set out on this mission in 1400, at age 50, crawling all over Western Europe for 20 years, preaching repentance and reparation to prepare for the apocalypse. So great were the throngs that gathered to hear him that he had to conduct his sermons in the open air, for there was not enough room in any of the churches. He preached first in Southern France, then Northern Italy. Once, he prophesied about the future of Bernadine of Siena, whom he had isolated from one of the crowds. He then went on to Eastern France and Switzerland, with 10,000 disciples in tow, including at least 50 priests; he later made it to Belgium and Northern France. Since all he knew was the Valencian dialect, most have speculated that he received a gift of preaching in various tongues to be heard by all the different peoples to whom his mission took him.
Aside from preaching, he helped victims of the Plague, as at Genoa. Early in his career, St. Vincent had become a strong advocate, regrettably, of the Avignon papacy, at a time (the Great Western Schism) when the claimants of that city had rather become illegitimate schismatics (since Gregory IX had returned the papacy to Rome). After a failed attempt to heal the schism between the antipope and the pope, St. Vincent took to preaching all over his native Spain, and there he stayed for some time. Not only Catholics, but Muslims and Jews also were converted by his influence, amazed at his wonder-working; some estimates of Jews converted by his preaching number 25,000. He was also selected to administer the selection of a new king of Aragon after the death of the crown prince. He was instrumental in selecting the new king, Ferdinand of Aragon.
St. Vincent Ferrer was a preacher of penance, a precursor of the Last Judgment, filled with zeal. His 20-year commission was spent practicing what he preached on a daily basis: he slept mostly on the floor, fasted daily, chanted the Office at two in the morning, celebrated daily Mass, preached for hours, tended sick children after lunch, and prepared for the next day. He undertook his travels in light clothing on foot. Miracles occurred at every step.
Let this book take you on the same journey as St. Vincent Ferrer, and come to know the way to salvation before Final Judgment.
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