Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we consider the curious life of St Vincent of Ferrer.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 5th of April 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Today I will tell you the story of St. Vincent Ferrer- a curious Medieval saint whose stories of the miraculous are numerous. And curious. Let’s put him in context- tell his story and ask a question or two about how we deal with accounts that might seem somewhat farfetched.

The story goes that when St. Vincent was born in 1350. It was an event for the entire city of Valencia (in modern Spain). His mother asked a blind woman to pray for her baby, and the blind woman was cured of her blindness.

His father said that before Vincent was born, he had a dream in which St. Dominic (the deceased founder of the Dominicans) told him that his son would be a preacher.

IT was said that when his mother gave birth, it didn’t cause any pain, and instead of crying, the young Vincent made the sound of a dog barking.

[Wait- this would be terrifying- but it was meant as a story to confirm the miraculous visions. The Dominicans were nicknamed the “hounds of God.” “Domini canis” would be Latin for hounds/dogs of God and a play on the word Dominican.]

A few more miracles of note- he was known for his preaching and was made a kind of “Preacher at large” by the Pope, thus giving him jurisdiction to preach anywhere. He traveled all over Europe preaching but only knew the language of his native Valencia. Yet, it was said that everyone could hear him in their language.

His miracles were too distracting- everyone came expecting to see someone raised for the dead or a prophesy. So a local official told him not to perform miracles. While walking in the street, a mason working on a tall building slipped and fell one day. Seeing this, St. Vincent is said to have prayed, and the man was stopped- suspended in the air. Vincent then went to the official, asked for permission to save the man by miraculous means, was granted permission, went back, and the man fell softly to the ground.

So- he’s like a superhero. And the stories multiplied and spread like wildfire.

Many times on this show, I have said that to be a Christian is to be open to supernatural explanations for seemingly impossible natural situations. We are supernaturalists. But that doesn’t mean I believe the story about Vincent visiting a local woman who went mad, chopped her baby into pieces, and then Vincent put the baby back together like a 3d puzzle.

But the story- from a historian's vantage point- is to ask, “why did so many believe these stories”? I believe they were an effective way to validate the ministry of a charismatic preacher whose spiritual gifts seemed to be validated by a few remarkable circumstances.

He was undoubtedly a talented preacher- in a time and place where tension was high with both Jewish and Muslim believers, the work of St. Vincent was to preach the Gospel to them rather than use those infamous Inquisitorial tactics.

Vincent also had the unusual position of being (something like) a chaplain to Pedro De Luna- a popular cardinal. But in the Great Schism (when the college of Cardinals elected two popes and then added one to replace them both, but he became the 3rd Pope), Pedro De Luna became Pope Benedict XIII. While Vincent was a supporter at first, he came to argue against the anti-Pope, and his popular preaching in favor of the resolution helped settle the masses. St. Vincent is often hailed as one of the heroes of the end of the schism.

The diplomacy, however, in ending the Great Schism took a toll on Vincent- he would die within two years of its conclusion on this the 5th of April in 1419. Born in 1350, he was 69 years old.

The Last Word for today comes from the reading from the daily lectionary For the director of music—a psalm of David:

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
 may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

May he send you help from the sanctuary
 and grant you support from Zion.

May he remember all your sacrifices
 and accept your burnt offerings.

May he give you the desire of your heart
 and make all your plans succeed.

May we shout for joy over your victory
 and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 5th of April 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man who never cries but only barks like a dog. It’s obviously some kind of anointing. He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man whose Alma Mater was founded by a Papal Bull from the Antipope Benedict… it’s like we’re practically unaccredited. I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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