Saint Vincent Ferrer
Albert of Montecorvino B (AC)
Born in Normandy; died 1127. Albert and his parents moved from Normandy to Montecorvino, where he became bishop. In his old age, Albert was blind and was given a coadjutor who treated him with amazing indignity and cruelty. The saint bore this, as all his trials, with heroic patience (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Blessed Antony Fuster, OP (PC)
14th century. A disciple of Saint Vincent Ferrer, Blessed Antony was called 'the Angel of Peace.' He is highly honored at Vich in Catalonia (Benedictines).
Becan of Kill-Beggan, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Began, Beggan)
6th century. Saint Becan, named as one of the 12 Apostles of Ireland in the life of Saint Molossus, is said to be the son of Murchade and Cula, of the royal house of Munster and a blood relative of Saint Columba. Becan has been declared one of the three greatest champions of virtue, together with Saint Endeus and Saint Mochua, all of whom were leaders of saints in that fruitful age of holy men. He founded a monastery at Kill-Beggan, Westmeath, which centuries later became a Cistercian abbey. While building his church, he worked frequently on his knees, and while his hands were thus employed, he prayed with his lips and his eyes streamed with tears of devotion. He also gave his name to the church and parish of Imleach-Becain, Meath (Benedictines, Husenbeth, Montague).
Blessed Blaise of Auvergne, OP (AC)
14th century. Blaise was another disciple of Saint Vincent Ferrer and, like Vincent, an impassioned Dominican preacher (Benedictines).
Blessed Crescentia Höss, OFM Tert. V (AC)
Born in Kaufbeuren, Bavaria, Germany; died there in 1744; beatified in 1900. The German virgin Crescentia, daughter of a poor weaver, was admitted to the convent of the Franciscan regular tertiaries in 1703 at the behest of the Protestant mayor of Kaufbeuren. The other nuns neglected and even persecuted her because she had entered without a dowry. Her holiness, however, overcame their hostility, when they realized that it was her dowry. Eventually Crescentia became novice-mistress, then superioress of the convent. Crescentia was blessed by celestial visions. (Attwater2, Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Derfel Gadarn (RM)
(also known as Derfel Cadarn or Derfel Gdarn)
5th or 6th century. According to legend, Saint Derfel was a great Welsh soldier who fought at the Battle of Camlan (537), where King Arthur was killed. He may have been a monk and abbot at Bardsey and later a solitary at Llanderfel, Merionethshire, Wales, thus becoming its founder and patron. A wooden statue of him mounted on a horse and holding a staff was greatly venerated in the church at Llanderfel until it was used for firewood in the burning of Blessed John Forest, Queen Catherine of Aragon's confessor, at Smithfield, England.
In 1538, Dr. Ellis Price, Cromwell's agent for the diocese of Saint Asaph, wrote to Cromwell about Derfel's statue. He wanted to know how he should dispose of it, because "the people have so much trust in him that they come daily on pilgrimage to him with cows or horses or money, to the number of five or six hundred on April 5. The common saying was that whoever offered anything to this saint would be delivered out of hell by him." (We know that only Jesus Christ can save us from hell, but this testimony is an indication of the power of Derfel's prayers.)
Cromwell ordered him to send it to London. The local people of Llanderfel paid Price a 40 pound bribe, but the statue was still removed. On May 22, 1438, John Forest of Greenwich was to be burnt for refusing the Oath of Supremacy. Just before his execution, Derfel's "huge and great image" was brought to the gallows. A centuries-old Welsh prophecy had predicted that "this image should set a whole forest afire; which prophecy now took effect, for he set this friar Forest on fire and consumed him to nothing." The remains of Derfel's staff and horse can be seen in Llanderfel (Attwater2, Benedictines, Delaney, Farmer).
Ethelburga of Lyminge, OSB Matron Abbess (AC)
Died c. 647. Saint Ethelburga was the daughter of King Saint Ethelbert of Kent, who had been converted to Christianity by his wife Bertha (Tata) and Saint Augustine of Canterbury. Ethelburga married the pagan King Edwin of Northumbria. She and her chaplain Saint Paulinus helped persuade Edwin to become a Christian in 627 and a saint. He encouraged the advancement of Christianity in his kingdom, but on his death, paganism returned, and Ethelburga and Paulinus were forced to return to her native Kent. There she founded an abbey at Lyminge and was its abbess until her death (Attwater2, Benedictines, Delaney).
Saint Ethelburga is portrayed in art as a crowned abbess with the Abbey of Lyminge, where she is venerated (Roeder).
Gerald of Sauve-Majeure, OSB Abbot (AC)
(also known as Geraud, Gerard)
Born in Corbie, Picardy; died 1095; canonized in 1197 by Pope Celestine II. Saint Gerald was educated and became a monk and cellarer of the famous abbey of Corbie. He suffered from acute headaches until he was healed by Saint Adalhard on his return from a pilgrimage with his abbot to Monte Cassino and Rome, where he was ordained to the priesthood by Pope Leo IX. After some time in Corbie, he made a pilgrimage to Palestine.
Next, he was chosen abbot of Saint Vincent's at Laon, where the monks were unwilling to submit to proper discipline. Gerald resigned to become abbot of Saint Medard's at Soissons; but, being expelled by an usurper.
Then with three companions he founded and directed the Benedictine Abbey of Grande-Sauve (Gironde) near Bordeaux, which became the center of a powerful congregation. He instituted the practice of celebrating Mass and Office for the Dead for 30 days after the death of a community member. Gerald was also the author of a hagiology and up to his death he recommended that his monks flee all discussion (Attwater2, Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth).
Irene VM (RM)
Died at Thessalonica, Macedonia, April 5, 304. The martyrdom of Irene's sisters Agape and Chionia is described on April 3. The story is based on an amplified version of genuine records.
In 303, Emperor Diocletian issued a decree making it an offense punishable by death to possess any portion of sacred Christian writings. Irene and her siblings, daughters of pagan parents living in Salonika, owned and hid several of the forbidden volumes of Holy Scriptures.
The sisters were arrested and Chionia and Agape were sentenced by Governor Dulcitius to be burned alive because they refused to consume foods offered to pagan gods. Meanwhile, their house had been searched and the forbidden volumes discovered.
Irene was examined again, and said that when the emperor's decree against Christians was published, she and others fled to the mountains. She avoided implicating those who had helped them, and declared that nobody but themselves know they had the books: "We feared our own people as much as anybody."
Irene was sent to a soldiers' brothel, where she was stripped and chained but was miraculously protected from molestation. So, after again refusing a last chance to conform, she was sentenced to death. She died two days after her sisters either by being forced to throw herself into flames or, more likely, by being shot in the throat with an arrow. The books, including the Sacred Scripture, were publicly burned.
Three other women and a man were tried with these martyrs, of whom one woman was remanded because she was pregnant. It is not recorded what happened to the others (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia, White).
In art, this trio is represented generally as three maidens carrying pitchers, though they may be shown being burned at the stake (Roeder). They are venerated in Salonika (Roeder).
Blessed Juliana of Mount Cornillon, OSA V (AC)
Born in Retinnes, near Liège, Flanders, in 1192; died at Fosses on April 5, 1258; cultus confirmed in 1869; feast day was April 6.
Orphaned when she was 5, Juliana and sister Agnes were placed in the care of the nuns of Mount Cornillon, where Juliana eventually became an Augustinian nun and, in 1225, prioress. While still young, Juliana experienced visions in which Jesus pointed out that there was no feast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament.
As prioress she began to agitate for the institution of the feast called for in her vision. Some supported her but enough opposed her that she was removed from office and persecuted; she was driven from Cornillon by the lay directors, who accused her of mismanaging the funds of a hospital under her control. An inquiry by the bishop of Liège exonerated her and resulted in her recall in 1246, when he introduced the feast of Corpus Christi in Liège.
When the bishop died in 1248, Juliana was again driven from the convent and found refuge in the Cistercian convent of Salzinnes in Namur. Soon she found herself homeless again when the monastery was destroyed by fire during the siege of Namur by the troops of Henry II of Luxembourg. She then migrated to Fosses, where she spent the rest of her life as a recluse. At her request she was buried at the Cistercian abbey of Villiers as one of their own.
After Juliana's death, the movement for the establishment of Corpus Christi as a universal feast was carried on by her friend Blessed Eva of Liège. The feast was sanctioned by Pope Urban IV in 1264 and the office for the feast was composed by Saint Thomas Aquinas. By 1312, the feast was obligatory throughout the Western Church (Attwater2, Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
As is to be expected, Blessed Juliana is represented in art as an Augustinian nun holding a monstrance. She is venerated at Cornillon, Fosse, Retines (Liège), and Salzinnes (Roeder).
Martyrs of Lesbos (RM)
Date unknown. Five virgins were martyred on the island of Lesbos. They are venerated by the Greeks (Benedictines).
Martyrs of Africa (RM)
Died 459. A large group of Christians were martyred on Easter Sunday while hearing Mass, under the Arian King Genseric of the Vandals. The lector, who was at that moment intoning the Alleluia, had his throat pierced with an arrow (Benedictines).
Blessed Peter Cerdan, OP (AC)
Died at Grans near Barbastro, Aragon, Spain, in 1422. Blessed Peter was still another of the Dominican friars who accompanied Saint Vincent Ferrer in his travels (Benedictines). Blessed Peter is venerated at Barbastro. In art he is usually shown in the company of Saint Vincent Ferrer (Roeder).
Probus and Grace (AC)
Date unknown. Probus and Grace are traditionally considered to be a Welsh husband and wife duo. The church of Tressilian, or Probus, in Cornwall is dedicated in their honor (Attwater2, Benedictines).
Blessed Sighardus of Bonlieu, OSB Cist. Abbot (AC)
Died 1162. Sighardus, Cistercian monk of Jouy, founded the abbey of Carbon-Blanc (Bonlieu) near Bordeaux in 1141 and became its first abbot (Benedictines).
Vincent Ferrer, OP Priest (RM)
Born in Valencia, Spain, January 23, c. 1350; died in Vannes, Brittany, France, April 5, 1418; canonized in 1455 by Pope Callistus III; formal bull issued in 1458 by Pius II authorizing his feast on April 6, but it has always been celebrated on April 5.
"Whatever you do, think not of yourselves but of God."
--Saint Vincent Ferrer.
Born into a noble, pious family headed by the Englishman William Ferrer and the Spanish woman Constantia Miguel, Saint Vincent's career of miracle-working began early. Prodigies attended his birth and baptism on the same day at Valencia, and, at age 5, he cured a neighbor child of a serious illness. These gifts and his natural beauty of person and character made him the center of attention very early in life.
His parents instilled into Vincent an intense devotion to our Lord and His Mother and a great love of the poor. He fasted regularly each Wednesday and Friday on bread and water from early childhood, abstained from meat, and learned to deny himself extravagances in order to provide alms for necessities. When his parents saw that Vincent looked upon the poor as the members of Christ and that he treated them with the greatest affection and charity, they made him the dispenser of their bountiful alms. They gave him for his portion a third part of their possessions, all of which he distributed among the poor in four days.
Vincent began his classical studies at the age of 8, philosophy at 12, and his theological studies at age 14. As everyone expected, he entered the Dominican priory of Valencia and received the habit on February 5, 1367. So angelic was his appearance and so holy his actions, that no other course seemed possible to him than to dedicate his life to God.
No sooner had he made his choice of vocation than the devil attacked him with the most dreadful temptations. Even his parents, who had encouraged his vocation, pleaded with him to leave the monastery and become a secular priest. By prayer and faith, especially prayer to Our Lady and his guardian angel, Vincent triumphed over his difficulties and finished his novitiate.
He was sent to Barcelona to study and was appointed reader in philosophy at Lerida, the most famous university in Catalonia, before he was 21. While there he published two treatises (Dialectic suppositions was one) that were well received.
In 1373, he was sent to Barcelona to preach, despite the fact that he held only deacon's orders. The city, laid low by a famine, was desperately awaiting overdue shipments of corn. Vincent foretold in a sermon that the ships would come before night, and although he was rebuked by his superior for making such a prediction, the ships arrived that day. The joyful people rushed to the priory to acclaim Vincent a prophet. The prior, however, thought it would be wise to transfer him away from such adulation.
Another story tells us that some street urchins drew his attention to one of their gang who was stretched out in the dust, pretending to be dead, near the port of Grao: "He's dead, bring him back to life!" they cried.
"Ah," replied Vincent, "he was playing dead but the, look, he did die." This is how one definitely nails a lie: by regarding it as a truth. And it turned out to be true, the boy was quite dead. Everyone was gripped with fear. They implored Vincent to do something. God did. He raised him up.
In 1376, Vincent was transferred to Toulouse for a year, and continued his education. Having made a particular study of Scripture and Hebrew, Vincent was well-equipped to preach to the Jews. He was ordained a priest at Barcelona in 1379, and became a member of Pedro (Peter) Cardinal de Luna's court--the beginning of a long friendship that was to end in grief for both of them. (Cardinal de Luna had voted for Pope Urban VI in 1378, but convinced that the election had been invalid, joined a group of cardinals who elected Robert of Geneva as Pope Clement VII later in the same year; thus, creating a schism and the line of Avignon popes.)
After being recalled to his own country, Vincent preached very successfully at the cathedral in Valencia from 1385-1390, and became famed for his eloquence and effectiveness at converting Jews--Rabbi Paul of Burgos, the future bishop of Cartagena was one of Vincent's 30,000 Jewish and Moorish converts--and reviving the faith of those who had lapsed. His numerous miracles, the strength and beauty of his voice, the purity and clarity of his doctrine, combined to make his preaching effective, based as it was on a firm foundation of prayer.
Of course, Vincent's success as a preacher drew the envy of others and earned him slander and calumny. His colleagues believed that they could make amends for the calumny by making him prior of their monastery in Valencia. He did withdraw for a time into obscurity. But he was recalled to preach the Lenten sermons of 1381 in Valencia, and he could not refuse to employ the gift of speech which drew to him the good and simple people as well as the captious pastors, the canons, and the skeptical savants of the Church.
Peter de Luna, a stubborn and ambitious cardinal, made Vincent part of his baggage, so to speak; because from 1390 on, Vincent preached wherever Peter de Luna happened to be, including the court of Avignon, where Vincent enjoyed the advantage of being confessor to the pope, when Peter de Luna became the antipope Benedict XIII in 1394.
Two evils cried out for remedy in Saint Vincent's day: the moral laxity left by the great plague, and the scandal of the papal schism. In regard to the first, he preached tirelessly against the evils of the time. That he espoused the cause of the wrong man in the papal disagreement is no argument against Vincent's sanctity; at the time, and in the midst of such confusion, it was almost impossible to tell who was right and who was wrong. The memorable thing is that he labored, with all the strength he could muster, to bring order out of chaos. Eventually, Vincent came to believe that his friend's claims were false and urged de Luna to reconcile himself to Urban VI.
He acted as confessor to Queen Yolanda of Aragon from 1391 to 1395. He was accused to the Inquisition of heresy because he taught that Judas had performed penance, but the charge was dismissed by the antipope Benedict XIII, who burned the Inquisition's dossier on Vincent and made him his confessor.
Benedict offered Vincent a bishopric, but refused it. Distressed by the great schism and by Benedict's unyielding position, he advised him to confer with his Roman rival. Benedict refused. Reluctantly, Vincent was obliged to abandon de Luna in 1398. The strain of this conflict between friendship and truth caused Vincent to become dangerously ill in 1398. During his illness, he experienced a vision in which Christ and Saints Dominic and Francis instructed him to preach penance whenever and wherever he was needed, and he was miraculously cured.
After recovering, he pleaded to be allowed to devote himself to missionary work. He preached in Carpetras, Arles, Aix, and Marseilles, with huge crowds in attendance. Between 1401 and 1403, the saint was preaching in the Dauphiné, in Savoy, and in the Alpine valleys: he continued on to Lucerne, Lausanne, Tarentaise, Grenoble, and Turin. He was such an effective speaker that, although he spoke only Spanish, he was thought by many to be multilingual (the gift of tongues?). His brother Boniface was the prior of the Grande Chartreuse, and as a result of Vincent's preaching, several notable subjects entered the monastery.
Miracles were attributed to him. In 1405, Vincent was in Genoa and preached against the fantastic head-dresses worn by the Ligurian ladies, and they were modified--"the greatest of all his marvelous deeds, reports one of his biographers. From Genoa, he caught a ship to Flanders. Later, in the Netherlands, an hour each day was scheduled for his cures. In Catalonia, his prayer restored the withered limbs of a crippled boy, deemed incurable by his physicians, named John Soler, who later became the bishop of Barcelona. In Salamanca in 1412, he raised a dead man to life. Perhaps the greatest miracle occurred in the Dauphiné, in an area called Vaupute, or Valley of Corruption. The natives there were so savage that no minister would visit them. Vincent, ever ready to suffer all things to gain souls, joyfully risked his life among these abandoned wretches, converted them all from their errors and vices. Thereafter, the name of the valley was changed to Valpure, or Valley of Purity, a name that it has retained.
He preached indefatigably, supplementing his natural gifts with the supernatural power of God, obtained through his fasting, prayers, and penance. Such was the fame of Vincent's missions, that King Henry IV of England sent a courtier to him with a letter entreating him to preach in his dominions. The king sent one of his own ships to fetch him from the coast of France, and received him with the greatest honors. The saint having employed some time in giving the king wholesome advice both for himself and his subjects, preached in the chief towns of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Returning to France, he did the same, from Gascony to Picardy.
The preaching of Saint Vincent became a strange but marvelously effective process. He attracted to himself hundreds of people--at one time, more than 10,000--who followed him from place to place in the garb of pilgrims. The priests of the company sang Mass daily, chanted the Divine Office, and dispensed the sacraments to those converted by Vincent's preaching. Men and women travelled in separate companies, chanting litanies and prayers as they went barefoot along the road from city to city. They taught catechism where needed, founded hospitals, and revived a faith that had all but perished in the time of the plague.
The message of his preaching was penance, the Last Judgment, and eternity. Like another John the Baptist--who was also likened to an angel, as Saint Vincent is in popular art--he went through the wilderness crying out to the people to make straight the paths of the Lord. Fearing the judgment, if for no other reason, sinners listened to his startling sermons, and the most obstinate were led by him to cast off sin and love God. He worked countless miracles, some of which are remembered today in the proverbs of Spain. Among his converts were Saint Bernardine of Siena and Margaret of Savoy.
He returned to Spain in 1407. Despite the fact that Granada was under Moorish rule, he preached successfully, and thousands of Jews and Moors were said to have been converted and requested baptism. His sermons were often held in the open air because the churches were too small for all those who wished to hear him.
In 1414 the Council of Constance attempted the end the Great Schism, which had grown since 1409 with three claimants to the papal throne. The council deposed John XXIII, and demanded the resignation of Benedict XIII and Gregory XII so that a new election could be held. Gregory was willing, but Benedict was stubborn. Again, Vincent tried to persuade Benedict to abdicate. Again, he failed. But Vincent, who acted as a judge in the Compromise of Caspe to resolve the royal succession, influenced the election of Ferdinand as king of Castile. Still a friend of Benedict (Peter de Luna), King Ferdinand, basing his actions on Vincent's opinion on the issue, engineered Benedict's deposition in 1416, which ended the Western Schism.
(It is interesting to note that the edicts of the Council of Constance were thrown out by the succeeding pope. The council had mandated councils every ten years and claimed that such convocations had precedence over the pope.)
His book, Treatise on the Spiritual Life is still of value to earnest souls. In it he writes: "Do you desire to study to your advantage? Let devotion accompany all your studies, and study less to make yourself learned than to become a saint. Consult God more than your books, and ask him, with humility, to make you understand what you read. Study fatigues and drains the mind and heart. Go from time to time to refresh them at the feet of Jesus Christ under his cross. Some moments of repose in his sacred wounds give fresh vigor and new lights. Interrupt your application by short, but fervent and ejaculatory prayers: never begin or end your study but by prayer. Science is a gift of the Father of lights; do not therefore consider it as barely the work of your own mind or industry."
It seems that Vincent practiced what he preached. He always composed his sermons at the foot of a crucifix, both to beg light from Christ crucified, and to draw from that object sentiments with which to animate his listeners to penance and the love of God.
Saint Vincent also preached to Saint Colette and her nuns, and it was she who told him that he would die in France. Indeed, Vincent spent his last three years in France, mainly in Normandy and Brittany, and he died on the Wednesday of Holy Week in Vannes, Brittany, after returning from a preaching trip to Nantes. The day of his burial was a great popular feast with a procession, music, sermons, songs, miracles, and even minor brawls (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Dorcy, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Gheon, Husenbeth, Walsh, White).
Note: I highly recommend reading the entry for Vincent Ferrer in Butler's Lives of the Saints. It's more accurate than many of his biographies and much more detailed about the saints travels and miracles than presented here.
Saint Vincent is the patron of orphanages in Spain. And Breton fishermen still invoke his aid in storms (Dorcy). He is also the patron of lead founders and invoked against epilepsy, fever, and headache (Roeder).
In art, Saint Vincent is a Dominican with a book, Christ is above with the Instruments of His Passion. Sometimes Vincent is shown (1) pointing to Christ, with a lily and crucifix; (2) ditto, Christ above, shrouded corpses under his feet; (3) surrounded by cherubim, flame in one hand, book in the other; (4) with symbolic wings on his shoulder, trumpet in his hand; (5) with flame, IHS and a radiant face; (6) with Blessed Peter Cerdan (Roeder, Tabor); (7) with a cardinal's hat; or with Jewish and Saracen converts around him (White). Click here to view a picture of Saint Vincent created by Francesco del Cossa.
Zeno M (RM)
Date unknown. According to the Roman Martyrology, Saint Zeno was burned alive, though the date and place are unknown (Benedictines).
About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.