The story of St. Vincent Ferrer, the saint that could grow wings like an angel.
St Vincent Ferrer and the stories of those he raised from the dead
One of greatest miracle workers-thaumaturges in the history of the Catholic church was the Dominican priest St. Vincent Ferrer (1350–1419). He moved in the limelight before both ordinary people and the great of the world. He once converted 10,000 Jews at one time by marching right into their synagogue and preaching to them; the Jews turned their synagogue into a Catholic Church.
So great a missionary was St. Vincent Ferrer that he can only be compared to the 12 Apostles. His accomplishments were incredible and rare in the whole history of the Church; his life story contains one amazing story after another, many of these are documented in the book “St Vincent Ferrer –The Angel of the Judgment” by Father Andrew Pradel, O.P.
When St. Vincent Ferrer was 46 years old, suffering from a grievous illness, Our Lord appeared to him, accompanied by St. Francis and St. Dominic; Our Lord said to Vincent, among other things, “Arise, then, and go to preach against vice; for this have I specially chosen thee. Exhort sinners to repentance, for My judgment is at hand.” Our Lord told St. Vincent that his preaching before the coming of Antichrist would be for mankind a merciful occasion of repentance and conversion.
During this vision St. Vincent was immediately cured.
Two years later, in 1398, he was given permission to begin his apostolate of preaching. St. Vincent travelled all over western Europe preaching penance, attracting enormous crowds, and followed by thousands of disciples. He converted St. Bernardine of Siena and Blessed Margaret of Savoy. Vincent had the gift of languages; preaching in his Valencion idiom he was understood wherever he went; and in conversation he spoke French, Italian, German or English as fluently as his native tongue.
St. Vincent Ferrer identified himself as “The Angel of the Judgment” and preached as if the end of the world were near. Some would say that since it did not end, Vincent, at least in that respect, failed as a prophet. It would seem there is a simple answer: All such prophecies or predictions by individuals are contingent upon reform and penance. Through Vincent’s thunderous words and the results of his preaching, the end of the world was simply delayed again. Many who are informed in the ways of God, of prophecy and reparation, believe this has probably happened more than once in the history of the world. To cite two examples from Holy Scripture: Jerusalem was spared again and again before its final destruction by the Romans and also the city of Ninevah was spared through the conversion of the people due to the preaching of Jonah the prophet.
Some would consider it a conservative estimate that St. Vincent Ferrer converted 25,000 Jews and 8,000 Moors; his total number of conversions was around 200,000 souls- among them Moors, Jews, heretics, and apostate Catholics. At Toulouse he spoke on the Passion for six hours without a break before a crowd of 30,000 at the packed Place St. Etienne. When he cried out, “Arise you dead, and come to Judgment!” the whole crowd fell on their faces begging for mercy.
Learning about the many other wonders of St. Vincent makes it easier to accept the accounts of his death-to-life miracles. The Acta Sanctorum records 873 miracles performed by the saint, but there were actually many more. In 1412 Vincent himself told a crowd, “God has wrought in His mercy, through me a miserable sinner, three thousand miracles.” After that Vincent lived seven more years, which was a period of even greater miracles.
The Bollandist hagiographers tell of 70 persons who were delivered from diabolical possession by St. Vincent Ferrer. He had such power over devils that it was often enough for him to touch a possessed person for him to be freed; at other times, a possessed person would be freed from the devil merely upon going to the same place as where Vincent was or even simply when Vincent’s name was pronounced.
St. Antonius (Antoninus), Archbishop of Florence, another learned Dominican about 30 years old when Vincent died, stated that St. Vincent had raised 28 persons from the dead. But others claimed that St. Antonius’ estimate fell far short of the actual number raised. Perhaps there is some confusion in distinguishing those Vincent personally raised during his life and those raised through his intercession after his death. The author Fr. Andrew Pradel states that St. Vincent Ferrer “resuscitated more than 30 persons during his lifetime.”
Near Palma of Majorca St. Vincent Ferrer stilled a storm in order to preach from a wharf. At Beziers he stopped a flood. At the gates of Vannes he cured a great number of the sick. At Guerande he delivered a man possessed by the devil and more dead than alive. In France he had the British victors at Caen praying together with the defeated French for a sick man, who was then cured — and all of them, enemies or not, shouted for joy. At Leride he cured a cripple in the presence of the king.
St. Vincent Ferrer is often pictured with wings. Multitudes of people have witnessed him, in the middle of preaching, suddenly assume wings and fly off to help some suffering person; he would return in the same manner and continue preaching. On some occasions, when St. Vincent was exhausted, he would commission somebody else to go perform miracles instead; the helper would then do so.
Vincent once said to a novice, Alphonso Borgia, “You will become pope and will canonize me.” And years later that novice, then Pope Callixtus III, did exactly that. Vincent also told St. Bernardine of Siena that he (Bernardine) would be canonized before himself — and so it happened. Once a mute woman signed to him, and then she spoke, asking for speech and bread. He promised her bread, but took back her speech, saying that she would make ill use of it. He made beautiful an ugly woman who had been beaten by her husband for her looks.
We learn from St Vincent Ferrer that one must never mock the gifts God has given to His saints. As has happened in similar cases, on one occasion a boy pretended to be dead, while his friends snickered. St. Vincent leaned over and shook-a corpse! Vincent said: “He pretended to be dead to amuse you, but evil has come upon him; he is dead!” A cross was erected to commemorate the event. Happenings like that can save many souls by instilling in them a healthy fear of the Lord.
At Pampeluna an innocent man had just been condemned to death. St. Vincent knew of his innocence and pleaded for him, but in vain. As the grim procession led the poor man to the scaffold, they met another procession, that of a man already dead. The corpse was being borne on a stretcher to the burial place. Vincent seemed to have a sudden inspiration. He stopped suddenly and addressed the corpse:
“You no longer have anything to gain by lying. Is this man guilty? Answer me!”
The dead man sat up, then spoke the words: “He is not!”
As the man began to settle down again on his stretcher, Vincent offered to reward him for his service. He gave him the opportunity of remaining alive on earth. But the man re-sponded, “No, Father, for I am assured of salvation.” With that he died again as if going to sleep, and they carried his body off to the cemetery.
In another miracle credited to Vincent, the Venerable Father Micon is reported as claiming that a number of witnesses, gathered at Lerida before the Church of St. Jean, saw Vincent encounter a corpse there. With the Sign of the Cross Vincent returned the corpse alive to its feet. The Fathers of the convent at Calabria gave guarantees of this miracle.
In another report a priest judged a child to be dead. The child’s whole body was mangled and broken. A vow was made, and the child was restored to life. It is not known for certain whether this is the same child as that in the following miracle.
Fifty years after Vincent’s death, young Jean de Zuniga, son of Don Alvar de Zuniga, Duke of Placensia and Arevola, and of his Duchess, Leonor de Pimentel, died at the age of 12. The Duchess’ confessor, Jean Lopez de Salamanque, O.P., counseled the noble lady to invoke his fellow Dominican, the newly canonized Vincent Ferrer.
The mother made a vow to build a church and convent in St. Vincent’s honor. As soon as she had formulated her vow, the boy came back to life. This boy became the Grand Master of Alcantara, the Archbishop of Seville, and a Cardinal. The Duchess became very devoted to Vincent and fervently desired that his life, virtues, and miracles be written about. When a grand ceremony was held at the newly finished cathedral, the Duke and Duchess presented their son, and the raised boy then understood all about his resuscitation.
On the feast day of St. Vincent Ferrer at that same cathedral, the scheduled preacher became ill and did not appear. But a wonderful, charming, unknown preacher ap¬peared from nowhere-and mysteriously disappeared after giving his sermon. Many believed it was Vincent repaying the honors given him.
There are two different accounts of either the same or very similar miracles. In one account Vincent summoned a dead man on the way to burial to attest that Vincent was the “Angel of the Judgment.” In another account, it was a woman who was summoned. (Since Vincent performed a great number of miracles of many kinds, it is possible, even if unlikely, that he performed this action on more than one occasion.)
On an occasion when St. Vincent was preaching to thousands at Salamanca, he suddenly stopped and said: “I am the Angel of the Apocalypse and am preaching Judgment!” Then he directed: “Some of you go near St. Paul’s Gate, and you will find a dead person borne on men’s shoulders on the way to the grave. Bring the corpse hither, and you shall hear the proof of what I tell you.”
The men went on their errand, the multitude waited, and soon the bier was brought with a dead woman upon it. They raised the litter and set it up so all could see. St. Vincent bade her return to life, and the dead woman sat up.
“Who am I?” Vincent asked her.
She answered: “You, Father Vincent, are the Angel of the Apocalypse, as you have already told this vast assembly.”
In the case of the woman, after her testimony she died again. In another almost identical account, this time it was a man, Vincent asked him which was his preference, to live or to die again. The man asked to live, and St. Vincent responded, “Then be it so!” The man is reported as having lived for many more years.
Another miracle seems to involve either a Jew or Jewess. (Recall that Vincent converted 25–30,000 Jews. It is reported that at a church in Vera Cruz a host of little white crosses once fell upon the Jews in the congregation.)
There was a rich Jew of Andalusia, named Abraham, who began to leave a church in anger while Vincent was preach-ing. The Jew did not like what he was hearing. As some peo¬ple at the door opposed his passing through, St. Vincent cried out: “Let him go! Come away all of you at once, and leave the passage free!” The people did as he ordered, and at the instant the Jew left, part of the porch structure fell on him and crushed him to death. Then the saint rose from his chair and went to the body. He knelt there in prayer. Abraham came to life, and his first words were: “The religion of the Jews is not the true faith. The True Faith is that of the Christians.”
In memory of this event the Jew was baptized Elias (in honor of the prophet who had raised the boy from the dead). The new convert established a pious foundation in the church of the “accident” and the miracle. Bishop Peter Ranzano’s account was used for this version of the miracle.
The father of a certain child had given Vincent lodging while he was on a missionary journey. His wife, a virtuous woman, suffered from bad attacks of nerves, and at times was close to madness. Upon his return from hearing one of Vincent’s sermons, the father came upon a terrible tragedy. His wife had gone mad, cut their small son’s throat, then chopped up the boy’s body and roasted a portion of it, which she then attempted to serve her husband.
When he realized what had happened, the man fled in horror and disgust to St. Vincent Ferrer. Vincent told him that-as in the case of the crushed Jew-the tragedy would be for the glory of God. St. Vincent went with the father back to the home and prayed as he gathered the bloody pieces together. He said to the father: “If you have faith, God, who created this little soul from nothing, can bring him back to life.”
Vincent knelt and prayed. He made the Sign of the Cross over the reassembled body. The pieces became united together, the body came to life again, and Vincent handed over to the father a living child. This event is depicted in a painting by Francesco del Cossa in the New Picture Gallery in the Vatican.Bishop Ranzano claimed this as one of the miracles submitted in the canonization process for S1. Vincent Ferrer.
Some may be surprised to know that he above miracle is not without some real, though lesser, counterparts. St. Francis of Paola restored a lamb from its mere bones and fleece, and in the palace of the King of Naples he revived an already-cooked fish; also, St. Philip Benizi restored a child partially devoured by a wolf. A similar wonder was worked for a young man who was with his parents in a group of pilgrims on their way to the famous shrine of Santiago (St. James) de Compostella in Spain. They stopped at La Calzada, where the young man was falsely accused and hanged. The poor bereaved parents continued their pilgrimage, and on their return journey were astonished to find their son still alive eight days later. Perhaps it was a reward for their tears and for faithfully continuing on to the shrine in hope, rather than succumbing to rebellion and grief.
But the story goes beyond this wonder. When the lad’s mother rushed to tell the magistrate (he was at dinner), the magistrate said, “Woman, you must be mad! I would as soon believe these pullets which I am about to eat are alive as that a man who has been gibbeted for eight days is not dead.” At his words the pullets on the dish rose up alive. There was a great procession with the live birds to the shrine of St. James at Compostella. The Bollandists relate this miracle, as do many other authors. And there have been other miracles similar to it in the lives of the Saints.
One should note that none of these miracles were performed for mere sensationalism, which the saints despise. They were worked for various good purposes, especially the conversion of sinners and the strengthening of faith. As St. Vincent told the bereaved father, miracles are worked for the glory of God. This was also stated by Christ at the grave of Lazarus, and to His Apostles. The saints’ powers are of course limited by God, to whom all power belongs. Otherwise, with unrestricted powers, the saints could be “as gods.”
The hagiographer Henri Gheon relates that Pere Fages, a patient researcher, found and visited the house of the last related miracle of Saint Vincent. He described the room, the placement of the oven, and the lower room, where a part of the child was served at table. The place had not changed since the fifteenth century. A chapel stands there now and two inscriptions, one inside and one out, attest to the truth of the miracle.
St. Vincent Ferrer died at Vannes, Brittany, France in 1419, and the canonical process at Vannes brought to light an incredible number of wonders, including a surprising number of resurrections from the dead. In the French work- “Histoire de St. Vincent Ferrier”by Pere Fages, O.P., there are a number of accounts of the dead raised through St. Vincent. Additionally, St. Antonius, O.P., a contemporary of Vincent, said he raised 28 from the dead, however others claimed this count fell far short of the real number. Irregardless the fact remains that St Vincent Ferrer brought back to life at least two dozen people, all for the greater glory of God and the conversion of sinners.
-St Vincent Ferrer, pray for us!
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