Saint Vincent Ferrer is the patron saint of builders because of his fame for “building up” and strengthening the Church: through his preaching, missionary work, in his teachings, as confessor and adviser. At Valencia in Spain, this illustrious son of St. Dominic came into the world on January 23, 1357. In the year 1374, he entered the Order of St. Dominic in a monastery near his native city. Of a very ardent nature, Vincent practiced the austerities of his Order with great energy. He was chosen prior of the Dominican house in Valencia shortly after his ordination.
Soon after his profession he was commissioned to deliver lectures on philosophy. On being sent to Barcelona, he continued his scholastic duties and at the same time devoted himself to preaching. At Lerida, the famous university city of Catalonia, he received his doctorate. After this he labored six years in Valencia, during which time he perfected himself in the Christian life. In 1390, he was obliged to accompany Cardinal Pedro de Luna to France, but he soon returned home.
The Western Schism divided Christianity first between two, then three, popes. Clement VII lived at Avignon in France, Urban VI in Rome. Vincent was convinced the election of Urban was invalid (though Catherine of Siena was just as devoted a supporter of the Roman pope). In the service of Cardinal de Luna, he worked to persuade Spaniards to follow Clement. When Clement died, Cardinal de Luna was elected at Avignon and became Benedict XIII.
When, in 1394, de Luna himself had become Pope at Avignon he summoned St. Vincent and made him Master of the sacred palace. In this capacity St. Vincent made unsuccessful efforts to put an end to the great schism. He refused all ecclesiastical dignities, even the cardinal’s hat, and only craved to be appointed apostolical missionary.
He tried, unsuccessfully, in 1408 and 1415, to persuade his former friend to resign. He finally concluded that Benedict was not the true pope. Though very ill, he mounted the pulpit before an assembly over which Benedict himself was presiding and thundered his denunciation of the man who had ordained him a priest. Benedict fled for his life, abandoned by those who had formerly supported him.
Now began those labors that made him the famous missionary of the fourteenth century. An eloquent and fiery preacher, he spent the last 20 years of his life spreading the Good News in Spain, France, Switzerland, the Low Countries and Lombardy, stressing the need of repentance and the fear of coming judgment. (He became known as the “Angel of the Judgment.”) Numerous conversions followed his preaching, which God Himself assisted by the gift of miracles. He lived to behold the end of the great schism and the election of Pope Martin V. Finally, crowned with labors, he died April 5, 1419. His feast day is April 5.