St Vincent Ferrer was born in January 1350, the fourth child of the nobleman Guillem Ferrer. Legend has it that his father was told in a dream by a Dominican friar that his son would be famous throughout the world and that his mother experienced no pain when she gave birth to him.
From an early age Vincent was renowned for his service to the poor and for his scholastic appetite. At the age of 18 he entered the Order of Preachers, commonly known as the Dominican order or the Blackfriars. At first he experienced temptations urging him to leave the order. But he prayed through these trials and was ordained in 1379 in Barcelona. During his three years of training he had studied Sacred Scripture and committed it to memory. He became a Master in Sacred Theology and was later sent to the University of Lleida where he secured a doctorate.
During the Western Schism which split the Church between 1378 and 1418, with Clement VII living in Avignon and Urban VI in Rome, Vincent believed that the election of Urban was invalid and worked hard to persuade Spaniards to follow Clement. Following Clement’s death, Cardinal Pedro de Luna was elected to the Avignon papacy, taking the name of Benedict XIII.
Vincent worked as apostolic penitentiary and Master of the Sacred Palace for Benedict XIII but tried to persuade him to end the schism. Eventually he encouraged King Ferdinand of Castile to withdraw his support from Benedict XIII.
Vincent travelled extensively to England, Scotland, Ireland, Aragon, Castile, France, Switzerland and Italy, preaching the Gospel and converting people. When he preached to St Colette of Corbie and her nuns, she told him that he would die in France. Vincent was too ill to go back to Spain and died in Vannes, Brittany, at the age of 69.
Vincent was canonised by Pope Calixtus III on June 3 1455. He is the patron saint of builders because he is celebrated for “building up” the Church. He is also the patron of orphanages and is still invoked by fishermen during storms.