5 Apr – Memorial for St. Vincent Ferrer, priest
Vincent (1350–1419) was the fourth child of the Anglo-Scottish nobleman William Stewart Ferrer and his Spanish wife, Constantia Miguel. His father is reported to have had a dream in which he was told that Vincent would be a world-famous Dominican friar.
The boy joined the Dominicans in 1367. He received his doctorate of theology from the University of Lleida. He was a priest and a missionary. He taught theology, and was adviser to the King of Aragon. During a severe fever in 1398, Vincent had a vision of Christ, St. Dominic de Guzman, and St. Francis of Assisi. It was a life-changing experience.
Vincent received supernatural gifts and believed that he was a messenger of penance, an ‘angel of the apocalypse’ sent to prepare humankind for the Judgement of Christ.
He was a great preacher who converted thousands in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was invited to preach in Muslim Granada. He was counsellor to Pope Benedict XIII. He travelled through Spain, France, Switzerland, and Italy, working to end the Western Schism.
He slept on the floor, had the gift of tongues (he spoke only Spanish, but all listeners understood him), lived an endless fast, celebrated Mass daily, and was known as a miracle worker. He was reported to have brought a murdered man back to life to prove the power of Christianity to the onlookers, and he would heal people throughout a hospital just by praying in front of it.
He worked so hard to build up the Church that he became the patron of people in building trades.
- Patron Saint Index
King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’ These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’
Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’
To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said:
‘If you make my word your home
you will indeed be my disciples,
you will learn the truth
and the truth will make you free.’
They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
everyone who commits sin is a slave.
Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured,
but the son’s place is assured.
So if the Son makes you free,
you will be free indeed.
I know that you are descended from Abraham;
but in spite of that you want to kill me
because nothing I say has penetrated into you.
What I, for my part, speak of
is what I have seen with my Father;
but you, you put into action
the lessons learnt from your father.’
They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them:
‘If you were Abraham’s children,
you would do as Abraham did.
As it is, you want to kill me
when I tell you the truth
as I have learnt it from God;
that is not what Abraham did.
What you are doing is what your father does.’
‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered:
‘If God were your father, you would love me,
since I have come here from God;
yes, I have come from him;
not that I came because I chose,
no, I was sent, and by him.’
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples”
The thing about being authentic to something is that at some point, your convictions will be tested. It’s only when you are put under duress that you discover the true nature of your hearts and the strength of your faith. In the gospel reading today, Jesus warns the Jews that it is not enough to be something ‘in name’ when they protest that as ‘descendants of Abraham’ they are free. You have to be authentic in spirit as well, to be faithful to the principles you profess.
At Thanksgiving each year, our parish puts on an event called the ‘Family 2 Family’ charity at our church. Parishioners adopt a family over the holiday season and put together gift bags and grocery hampers for them. What started out with good intent though, has over the years, morphed into something resembling a contest. The receiving families have started to compare their gifts and begun to ask for more complicated presents – electronics goods, expensive shoes, fancy bikes. Meanwhile, the giving families try to outdo one another, with more and more lavish presents. Somewhere along the way, the whole thing turned into a competition of ‘conspicuous giving and receiving’ – and that has ruined the spirit of it.
I received a wish-list last year as part of this, which looked like something a spoiled, unsupervised child might have put together. I felt irritation, annoyance and frustration – with myself for being so ungenerous, with the organizing committee for allowing it to get to this, with the church for not policing the organizers better. And then I wondered, what is the correct Christian response to this? Protest? Walk away and find somewhere else to serve? Suck it up and go along with it? What happens when as believers, we become disillusioned with the decisions of our church leaders? I just don’t know. I DO know that I’m helping no one by feeling angry and resentful over this.
Anger and resentment have no place in Christian discipleship. How do I fix this? How do I fix me? Is it even my place to fix things? The gospel of Luke says, that “blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance” (Luke 8:15). I’m sure setting up the early church would have been an incredibly frustrating affair. Along the way, there would have been plenty of those who would have thrown their hands up and walked away. Perhaps running the good race requires the mental grit and toughnesss of a marathon runner, so that we can truly say at the end, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the grace, patience and endurance that we too might run a good race
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to those who persevere in His service, who are able to look beyond the setbacks to a higher cause and a better good.