Sunday, April 6, 2008

St Vincent Ferrer

Being exhausted from a long week at work, I rather unwisely slept in and missed morning Mass on Saturday; I find days without the consolation and comfort of the Sacrifice and Sacrament tend not to be very good ones. Especially I was sad to miss the feast of St Vincent Ferrer; I would have liked to attend Mass and receive Communion not least in order to pray for one of the Australian Dominicans I know, Br Vincent Magat OP, who made his solemn profession usque ad mortem on the 13th of January this year, very appropriately on the liturgical commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord.

St Vincent was the wonder of his age, darkened as it was by the terrible Western Schism; horror of horrors, Christians were anguished, not knowing which of the rival claimants was the true Pope. Vincent was a marvel indeed: he took to his itinerant preaching career relatively late in life (a comparison - it would be like a middle-aged curial official became a travelling revivalist and faith healer); on one famous occasion he turned on the false Pope at Avignon, whom previously he had supported - doing this in the middle of a sermon before the pretend Pontiff and his assembled cardinals! - and exhorted him to lay aside the triple crown; his preaching was understood by hearers in their own tongue (he himself preached in his native Catalan) and at a remove of up to a mile from him; he converted tens of thousands of Jews and Saracens (no mean feat in any age); his miracles were innumerable; and most staggeringly, he preached of the imminent Judgement of God, warning that the world would soon end, and stating openly that he was the angel - the messenger - of the judgement spoken of in the Apocalypse of St John (xiv, 6-7). An absurd claim? When proclaiming this in Seville in the square before the cathedral, he commanded a corpse being carried by for burial to rise and testify to his status as herald of the Judgement - and it rose and did so.

Why then did the world not end in the fourteenth century? Presumably, as in the case of the ancient prophets, he spoke of what God would do contingent upon men not repenting; enough obviously did for the fearsome Day of Wrath to be postponed...

Each day on the road, St Vincent arose at 2am, sang the entire Divine Office with his followers (they were numerous, both clerics and laymen), concluding with Solemn High Mass at dawn (the followers brought along all needful items, including a portative organ). Then he set off, preaching as he went; arriving at a town or gathering of people, he would be carried aloft on his helpers' shoulders, dressed rather melodramatically in not only his Dominican habit, but sporting angel's wings and a trumpet, signifying his office as messenger of the Day of Doom. Before him, hosts of penitents marched, taking the scourge and astonishing the onlookers. After concluding the daylight hours in such a fashion, he consecrated the early evening to study of the Scriptures and the Summa Theologiæ of Aquinas, to prepare his next day's sermon(s); then he read over the rubrics of the Mass lest he commit a fault in its celebration, and so retired to a scanty quota of sleep, no doubt after much wrestling with God in holy meditation.

The traditional Roman Mass provides only a proper Collect:

Deus, qui Ecclesiam tuam, beati Vincentii Confessoris tui meritis et prædicatione illustrare dignatus es: concede nobis famulis tuis; ut et ipsius instruamur exemplis, et ab omnibus ejus patrocinio liberemur adversis. Per...

(O God, Who didst deign to enlighten Thy Church by the merits and preaching of blessed Vincent Thy Confessor: Grant unto us Thy servants, that we be both instructed by his ensample, and delivered from all adversities by his patronage. Thro'...)

The modern Divine Office (and therefore the modern Roman Missal) has this Collect instead, finely alluding to the enduring mission of St Vincent - to prepare all hearts for the impending Judgement - and using a figure of rhetoric far more often found in the old liturgy: 'by reason of such-and-such on earth, may we obtain such-and-such in heaven':

Deus, qui beatum Vincentium presbyterum ministrum prædicationis evangelicæ suscitasti, præsta, quæsumus, ut, quem venturum judicem nuntiavit in terris, beati videamus regnantem in cælis. Qui tecum vivit...

(O God, Who didst raise up the priest blessed Vincent as a minister of evangelical preaching, grant, we beseech Thee, that Whom he announced on earth as the Judge about to come, we, [made] blessed, may see reigning in heaven. Who with Thee liveth...)

This collect derives from the Dominican Rite. As I bought some years back a first edition copy of the 1959 St Dominic's Missal (from St Peter's Bookroom, an Anglican bookshop in Melbourne that often has good secondhand stock), I am able to append the full O.P. Mass of this feast. I rather hope that another good Australian Dominican, Fr Christopher Dowd, O.P., who very often receives stipends to offer up the Dominican Rite Mass, was able to celebrate this feast 'properly', as it were:

Mass of St Vincent Ferrer

Introit (Ecclus xv, 5-6: from the Common of Doctors)

In medio Ecclesiæ...

(NB In the Dominican Rite, the verse of the Introit for this and other feasts is not taken from the Psalms, but from in this case Ecclesiasticus: Jucunditatem et exsultationem thesaurizavit super eum.)


Deus, qui gentium multitudinem, mira beati Vincentii confessoris tui prædicatione, ad agnitionem tui nominis venire tribuisti, præsta, quæsumus, ut, quem venturum judicem nuntiavit in terris, præmiatorem habere mereamur in cælis: Dominum nostrum...

(O God, Who didst grant the multitudes of the nations to come to the knowledge of Thy Name by the preaching of blessed Vincent Thy Confessor, grant, we beseech Thee, that Whom he announced on earth as the Judge about to come, we may merit to have as our Rewarder in heaven: Our Lord...)

Epistle (Apoc. xiv, 6-7: St Vincent's self-identification)

In diebus illis: Vidi alterum angelum volantem per medium cæli, habentem Evangelium æternum, ut evangelizaret sedentibus super terram, et super omnem gentem, et tribum, et linguam, et populum: dicens magna voce: Timete Dominum, et date illi honorem; quia venit hora judicii ejus: et adorate eum, qui fecit cælum, et terram, mare, et fontes aquarum.

Paschal Alleluia

Alleluja, alleluja. V/. Gloriose Pater Vincenti, clara proles Dominici Ordinis, preces funde Summo Judici pro cunctis tibi devotis populis.

(NB In this Rite, the second Alleluia verse refers either to Christ's Resurrection or His Ascension - in this case, quoting either St Luke xxiv, 46, or Ps 46:6.)

(T.P.) Alleluia. V/. Oportebat pati Christum, et resurgere a mortuis, et ita intrare in gloriam Dei. Alleluja.
(T. Ascen.) Alleluja. V/. Ascendit Deus in jubilatione: et Dominus in voce tubæ. Alleluja.

Gospel (St Matthew v, 13-19: from the Common of Doctors)

In illo tempore: Dixit Jesus discipulis suis: Vos estis sal terræ...hic magnus vocabitur in regno cælorum.

Offertory (Ps 20:3-4, from the second Common Mass of Conf's-non-Pont's)

Desiderium animæ... T.P. Alleluja.


Munera, Domine, nostræ devotionis offerimus: quæ ut tibi grata sint, et nobis salutaria redduntur, beatus Vincentius confessor tuus, qui donis tuis hic exstitit gloriosus, apud clementiam tuam pius pro nobis intercessor exsistat. Per...

Communion (Apoc. ii, 7: a pun!)

Vincenti dabo edere de ligno vitæ, quod est in paradiso Dei mei. T.P. Alleluja.


Divinis, Domine, muneribus satiati, quæsumus, ut beati Vincentii confessoris tui meritis gloriosis, salutaris victimæ desideratum sentiamus effectum. Per...

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