Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Friday, May 05, 2006

St Vincent, Angel of the Apocalypse

"O Vincent, light upon earth of the faithful people
And now become a citizen of high heaven,
Do thou guide our voices as we sing thy deeds..."

So begins the Office hymn Lumen in terris populi fidelis, assigned for Matins on the Memorial of St Vincent Ferrer, which the Order of Preachers marks today. A popular Dominican saint and possibly one of the most challenging, he was called the 'angel of the apocalypse' and was a great itinerant preacher of the 14th century. St Vincent was born to a family of English ancestry in Valencia, Spain in 1350. At the age of 18 he was clothed in the white habit of St Dominic at the priory in Valencia and lived a life of austerity and penance. As such, the Office hymn above continues:

"In the early flower of a glorious youth,
Thou didst choose the examples of a pure life,
And didst imitate the great father of the Order of Preachers."

He became famed for his teaching in Valencia and assisted Cardinal Peter de Luna and King John I of Aragon in reconciling both civil and ecclesiastical disputes. All the while he also preached widely, first at Avignon and then in France and Italy. In 1399 he gave himself over entirely to itinerant preaching and during the Great Western Schism worked tirelessly for the peace and unity of the Church. Hence again, the hymn sings:

"Thou didst shine with the light of clear doctrine,
Enlightening the orbit of land and sea,
Always announcing the Sacred Word with ardent heart."

As a result of his charismatic preaching, St Vincent converted many to Christianity particularly from among the Jews and Moors who lived in Spain. It is noteworthy that he achieved this by the sanctity of his life and the sheer persuasiveness of his preaching, which was surely a divine gift. As such, another Office hymn for St Vincent Ferrer, Magne Vincenti nova lux, sings:

"Instructed by thy teachings,
The Hebrews, together with the Moors,
After giving up their old law,
Are reborn in the divine waters by a believing mind."

St Vincent was convinced that he was the angel of the apocalypse spoken of by St John and with terrifying zeal he called many to compunction for their sins and to a renewal of the Christian life. Numerous accounts of miracles - the most noteworthy of which took place in Salamanca - performed in the sight of inquisitors, testify to the fact that God had called him to announce the severity of divine judgment upon a sinful and complacent populace. As another verse from the Matins hymn puts it:

"While thou didst reveal to all the way of salvation
And didst foretell the imminent fall of the world,
Rightly did every kind of miracle render thee glorious.

Faithful to God's call and for the salvation of souls, St Vincent preached the imminent judgment of God and the second coming of Christ in order to stir the people to an examination of their lives and greater fidelity to the demands of the Gospel. He was also noted for the many miracles he performed; moved by compassion and love he healed the sick, exorcised demons and even raised people from the dead.

Finally in 1419 St Vincent died at Vannes in Brittany, France where he was buried. In 1455 he was canonized by Pope Callixtus II. As such, the Matins hymn sings:

"Hence, like the light of the setting sun,
Though buried in the remote land of the Bretons,

Thou didst ascend the heavens,

Rising more beautiful than the heavenly realms."

We should give a final word to this great Dominican saint whose famed treatise 'On the Spiritual Life' remains as striking as ever. The following extract on study is an important reminder to all religious and clergy who engage in theological and scientific study and has a particular resonance for an Order so closely linked to study and the pursuit of knowledge in the service of Truth:

"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."

May we put St Vincent Ferrer's wisdom into practice in our lives, may we heed his call to daily conversion of heart and mind and may he ever intercede for us!

The images above are of St Vincent Ferrer as portrayed in the reredos of Hawkesyard Priory church and the church of St John the Baptist in Salamanca where St Vincent once preached. While in Salamanca, he lived at San Esteban.


Anonymous TheresaMF said...

Very nice! I searched all over the other day trying to discover why he is pictured with wings. He really thought he was the angel of the apocalypse?

Also, is he on the calendar twice? His feast was on my calendar last month as well.

8:09 pm  
Blogger Br Lawrence, O.P. said...

My understanding is that the general Roman Calendar retains 5 April but the Order of Preachers petitioned to transfer it for the Order only to 5 May in order that it may be celebrated outside of Lent.

8:52 pm  
Anonymous TheresaMF said...

Thanks! That makes sense.

7:01 pm  

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