St Vincent Ferrer of Valencia from Fr Edward MacDonaldIn the life of St. Vincent Ferrer we read: “St. Vincent began his apostolate at Avignon on the 25th of November, 1398. The Church of God had at that time a pressing need for an Apostle, the voice of a Saint, to rescue it from the deplorable state in which it existed. At the time the Church was suffering from a schism which had begun in 1378 and divided the Faithful between two contending Pontiffs, and a third rival sprang up in 1409, who asserted an equal claim to the supreme dignity of the papacy. These divisions cooled by degrees the fervour of Catholics and encouraged others in the commission of every type of crime with the hope of impunity. “No, I do not believe,” exclaimed St. Vincent Ferrer in a sermon in the year 1399, “that there ever existed in the world so much pomp and vanity, so much impurity, as at the present day; to find in the world’s history an epoch so criminal, we must go back to the days of Noe and the universal deluge. The inns in the cities and villages are filled with persons of abandoned character; they are so numerous that the entire world is infected by them... Avarice and usury increase under the disguised name of contracts. Simony reigns among the clergy, envy among the religious. Gluttony prevails to such an extent in every rank of social life that the fasts of Lent, the vigils and Ember Days, are no longer observed... In a word, vice is held in such great honour that those who prefer the service of God to that of the world are held up to scorn as useless and unworthy members of society.” The worst feature of all in this unhappy state of affairs was that the pastors of souls, drawn from the path of duty by the schism and its consequences, no longer laboured with the necessary vigilance to reform their people. The Mohammedans and Jєωs, especially in Spain, instigated by the spirit of evil, made frightful havoc among souls by infecting the country parishes as well as the cities with their superstitions, errors and wicked example. The devil let loose upon the earth numerous heretics: For example, Wycliff and his noxious disciples, John Hus and Jerome of Prague, who were justly condemned by the Council of Constance. Idolatry even ventured to raise its head once more on the shores of Europe and threatened to bear off in triumph its numerous followers. There were but few preachers of the Gospel, while men versed in spiritual science were rarely to be met with. St. Vincent regarded this dearth of apostolic labourers as one of the greatest calamities of the age. Naturally drawn into a state of indifference and evil, what was there to prevent men from becoming more and more corrupt, when they more frequently heard the voice which led them into depravity than the voice which ought to have incited them to good? The heretics profited by these evil dispositions to so broadcast their errors among the faithful. The mountainous districts, into which preachers seldom went, became the the principal theatres of their fatal exploits. Sin had acquired so strong a hold upon the world, the fervour of the good had become so relaxed and the crimes of the wicked had risen to such an excess, that God’s forbearance with His creatures was nearly worn out. The only remedy that could stem the torrent of iniquity was a universal repentance, capable of appeasing the Just and Sovereign Judge. Hence as of old the Lord sent the prophet Jonas to Ninive to convert its inhabitants by threatening them with God’s anger, so at this epoch He sent His faithful servant Vincent into the whole world, that he might preach the near approach of the terrible judgment; that filling souls with a wholesome fear, they might open their eyes to see their danger, abandon their evil habits, embrace the yoke of penance and thus avoid the just chastisements of Heaven which their crimes merited. Pope Pius II wrote, in the bull of canonization of St. Vincent, “In the countries of the West the number of Jєωs and infidels increased, who by their wealth and their culture of letters exercised a fatal influence. The Last Day, the terrible Day of Judgment, was almost forgotten, but Divine Providence was pleased to restore and beautify His Church by illustrious men. At a favourable moment He sent into the world, for the salvation of the faithful, Vincent of Valencia, of the Order of Friar Preachers, a skilful professor of sacred theology. He professed all knowledge of the eternal Gospel. Like a vigorous athlete, he rushed to combat the errors of the Jєωs, the Saracens and other infidels; he was the Angel of the Apocalypse, flying through the heavens to announce the day of the Last Judgment, to evangelize the inhabitants of the earth, to sow the seeds of salvation amongst all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, and to point out the way of eternal life.” The state of the world was wicked at the beginning of the 15th century. At the beginning of the 21st century it is also wicked. The evils that St. Vincent deplored are all with us today. The days are even worse today perhaps then in the time of Noe. Errors, wickedness, and superstitions are being promoted not only by the rich and powerful, the Jєωs and Saracens, and numerous heretics but also by those who should be preaching against this wickedness. The Pope and bishops promote idolatry, vice and heresy. Rome has been infected by the spirit of the World. The monasteries have been infected by this evil spirit and are cesspools of vice. Monks and Nuns who are supposed to be spending their days in pray and penance on the path to perfection, instead indulge in worldly amusements. The meekness and humility practised by Our Lord Jesus Christ as an example for us, “learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart”, are despised as ‘passive virtues’. Children instead of learning the catechism are indoctrinated in vice and worldliness from their infancy. Our Lady of La Salette complained especially of blasphemy of the Holy Name of Jesus, and not keeping the Sundays Holy. At Fatima She complained of immodest fashions and impurity. The vices deplored by the Blessed Virgin and by St. Vincent are not as great as those we have today. Idolatry is in Rome itself; the crime of advertising has fueled avarice and covetousness so that those not doing servile work on Sunday spend their time shopping for things they neither need nor want; blasphemy and perjury are considered normal. Few cringe and make reparation when the Holy names are misused. Parents are disrespected; fathers forbidden to govern their families; the elderly and grandparents are condemned to the care of strangers in prison-like homes. There is no respect for life; the crimes of abortion, ѕυιcιdє and euthanasia are accepted as normal. God made men “male and female”. Those determined to corrupt society have deceived men into expecting that they can determine their own gender and are not limited to two choices. Impurity, unimagined in the days of St. Vincent, is considered to be a normal “lifestyle”. Mixed marriages were a vice in the days of Noe. Now the world believes that marriage is not limited to a union of one man and one woman; Churchmen do not teach the youth that they should not make a marital union with someone not having the Faith and they have put in the law that the purpose of marriage is no longer a family and children. Under the euphemism of “family planning” children are prevented from being conceived or executed if they survive contraception. Bishops allow Christian marriage to be dissolved. Women have sinfully worn man’s clothing for one hundred years or more, and when wearing women’s clothing they are immodest. The daughters of Eve are so corrupt that modest women’s cloths are not available. The fashions Christian women follow gravely offend the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Men now wear feminine attire and in a feminine manner follow fashions. The pagan practise of mutilating the body with tattoos and earrings is no longer reserved to sailors but has corrupted all society. No part of the body is except from piercing. Gluttony is no longer merely not keeping the fasts, most of which the corrupt rulers of the Church have eliminated, rather it manifests itself in a constant indulging of the palate. Capitalism has caused us to consider usury so normal that many do not believe that an economic system without usury is possible. The enemies of Our Lord have created an entertainment industry to corrupt faith and morals and nary a voice is raised against them. Corrupt entertainment is welcome in monasteries and religious houses as well as in Christian homes. Christians are encouraged to despise the commandments of God and the Church by the Pope and Bishops, who should be enforcing them. As in the days of Jonah and St. Vincent the world needs universal repentance, a giving up of vicious customs and the practise of real penance. Catholics of our day also think that can sin with impunity. What is missing in the world is a holy Fear of the Lord. There is no respect for the infinite power, holiness, majesty and justice of God. God is infinitely holy, i.e., He loves good and hates all evil.
He is free from the faintest stain and desires that all should be like to Himself. “Be ye holy because I am holy”. To cleanse the just from the impurities that cling to them, He purifies them by suffering. “I am the true vine; and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit, he will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” He also cleanses them by the fire of Purgatory since nothing unclean can enter heaven. God is infinitely Just. He rewards the least good action, and punishes the smallest sin. A cup of water given in His name will have its reward. Because God is so perfectly just we have good reason to fear Him. Our Lord encourages this fear “And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” We must not fear so much the punishment of sin but the offence against God. Filial fear is the result of a great love of God. Fear of God keeps us back from sin, leads us on to perfection, and insures for us peace and happiness in time and eternity. It is a special grace given by God to those who love Him. St. Vincent Ferrer and Jonah both preached the Justice of God and the punishment for sinners. This caused men to have a holy Fear of the Lord. Fear of God is based on an understanding of God’s holiness which causes the Choir of Powers to “tremble” before His majesty. The world today has no preachers to teach men the justice of God and fear of His punishments that they might cease to offend Him and to do penance. Pray that God sends into the world men with the spirit, knowledge and holiness of St. Vincent of Valencia to encourage men to true penance as he did. A letter written by the Council of Orihuela to the Bishop of Carthagena, in Spain, states “The arrival of Vincent Ferrer has produced immense good in this country: it has been an occasion of salvation to all the Faithful. This city in particular, at the close of his preaching and by God’s grace, is delivered from every vice and public sin. There is no one, great or small, who dares to swear by the Holy Name of God, the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, or to utter any other oath. Cards and dice are abolished... No one ventures to conjure, cast lots, explain signs, or consult fortune-tellers and sorcerers... All noisy entertainments have been given up... The people of the city have never confessed so frequently as at the present moment; the priests are insufficient to hear the Confessions and give Communion. On Sundays and Feasts of Obligation all.. go to Mass with devotion such as no one could believe, much less expect to witness. Before the arrival of Master Vincent the churches were large; now they are small... There no longer exists in this city offences or rancour or enmity against anyone, but each one spontaneously and for God’s honour pardons the other. We have counted more than one hundred twenty three reconciliations; sixty six deaths and a host of broken limbs have been pardoned. Now everyone lives in peace and concord. In the great city of Toulouse, all the women of abandoned character have renounced their disorders.” A conversion of the world similar to that caused by the preaching of Jonah and St. Vincent is possible in our day, and indeed will happen. The Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph. Each of us can do his part to bring about this triumph by giving up our vices and practising greater devotion to Holy Mary. Keep the Saturdays in her honour, and invoke her against all evils. Also we must forgive our enemies and be reconciled to them, as St. Vincent preached and caused to happen. We should also try to combat gluttony and avarice by giving up the vice of eating between meals and avoiding advertising and unnecessary shopping. Let us implore the Holy Ghost to activate within us His gift of Fear of the Lord, that we might cease to offend God in small things as well as in greater evils.