Saturday, April 05, 2008

St. Vincent Ferrer

Today we remember Vincent Ferrer, O.P. (1350-1419), itinerant preacher and author of On the Spiritual Life, a spiritual treatise. Being a traveler and a preacher of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), he writes extensively in letters about the various heretical factions he stumbles across in certain regions on his travels hither and thither as well as his observations, in no uncertain terms, I should add.

From a letter of St. Vincent Ferrer to John of Puinoix, Master of the Order of Preachers (From the Dominican Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours):
After thirteen continuous months in Lombardy, I went to Savoy, where I have been for five months. Prelates and several rulers of the area have asked for me and it is with great emotion that I have already visited four dioceses here, namely, Sion, Aosta, Tarantaise, Maurienne and Grenoble, all of which are important centers in Savoy. I am going around preaching in the towns, villages and castles to the extent that seems best. At the moment I am in the diocese of Geneva.

Among other aberrations, I have found one very widespread error that has infected these parts: every year on the day after Corpus Christi, confraternities gather in solemn assembly under the title of "the holy rising sun." My confreres, the Friars Minor, other religious and even the parish priests have told me that they did not dare to preach or to say anything against this error out of fear, for they would be threatened with death and their offerings and alms would be taken away. I now address this error in particular by preaching daily, the Lord aiding and confirming what I say, and it has been effectively uprooted. These people, who now come to me, are overcome with sorrow when they learn how far they have wandered from the faith. When by the grace of God this error has been completely uprooted, I plan to go to the diocese of Lausanne, where they publicly worship the sun as a god -- especially the country folk -- by offering the sun their morning prayers and by reverencing it. The bishop of Lausanne himself made a journey of two or three days to see me and humbly beg that I would visit his diocese, where there are many valleys of heretics within Allemania and Savoy. This I promised to do. I have heard that the heretics of those valleys are very daring and bold, but I am confident in the accustomed mercy of God and I intend to go there and preach during the coming Lent. However, let it happen according to the heavenly plan.
The charism of St. Dominic is certainly evident in his writing, as earlier he observes:
I discovered that a principle reason for heresies and errors in these places was a lack of preaching. As I correctly perceived from the inhabitants there, thirty years had elapsed during which no one had preached to them but the Waldensian heretics, who would come to them twice a year from Apuleia.
A solid witness is what our world most certainly needs today, to "preach the truth in love" according to our particular state in life, and to constantly remind ourselves of what we preach as well and live it out.

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