Legends surround Vincent’s birth. It was said that his father was told in a dream by a Dominican friar that his son would be famous throughout the world. His mother is said never to have experienced pain when she gave birth to him. He was named after Vincent Martyr, the patron saint of Valencia. He would fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and distribute alms to the poor. He began his classical studies at the age of eight, and his study of theology and philosophy at fourteen. Four years later, at the age of eighteen, Ferrer entered the Order of Preachers, commonly called the Dominican Order (in England also known as “Black Friars” because of the black cloak they wear over their white habits). As soon as he had entered the novitiate of the Order, though, he experienced temptations urging him to leave. He succeeded in completing the year of probation and advancing to his profession.
For a period of three years, he read solely Sacred Scripture and eventually committed it to memory. He published a treatise on Dialectic Suppositions after his solemn profession, and in 1379 was ordained a Catholic priest in Barcelona. He eventually became a Master of Sacred Theology and was commissioned by the Order to deliver lectures on philosophy. He was then sent to Barcelona and eventually to the University of Lleida, where he earned his doctorate in theology.
Vincent Ferrer is described as a man of medium height, with a lofty forehead and very distinct features. His hair was fair in colour and tonsured. His eyes were very dark and expressive; his manner gentle. His voice was strong and powerful, at times gentle, resonant, and vibrant.
Vincent and his brother Boniface, General of the Carthusians, were loyal to Benedict XIII, commonly known as “Papa Luna” in Castile and Aragon . He worked for Benedict XIII as apostolic penitentiary and Master of the Sacred Palace. Nonetheless Vincent laboured to have Benedict XIII end the schism. When Benedict XIII did not resign as intended at either the Council of Pisa (1409) or the Council of Constance (1414–1418), he lost the support of the French king and of most of his cardinals, and was excommunicated as a schismatic in 1417.
Vincent later claimed that the Western Schism had had such a depressing effect on his mind that it caused him to be seriously ill.
Feast day 5 April and he is the Patron Saint of Builders, Plumbers, Prisoners and Fishermen.