Saint Vincent Ferrer
Model for Times of Crisis
After the scandals given by Pope Francis
In 1973, to fortify the faithful against the scandals that Pope Paul VI inflicted on them, Fr. Calmel O.P. invoked “the friar preacher who without a doubt, of all the saints, worked the most directly for the papacy”.
With pope Francis, it is more than ever a topical question.
Angel of Judgement, legate a latere Christi, deposing a Pope 1 after endless patience, saint Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419) is also the intrepid missionary, full of benignity, brimming with wonders and miracles, who proclaimed the Gospel to large crowds of Catholic people. He carried in his apostle’s heart not only the Supreme Pontiff—so enigmatic, so obstinate, so hard—but also the whole flock of Jesus-Christ, the multitude of helpless common people, the « turba magna ex omnibus tribubus et populis et linguis » – the huge crowd of every tribe and people and tongue (Ap. 5:9).
Saint Vincent understood that the primary concern of the vicar of Christ was not, far from it, to loyally serve the holy Church. The Pope valued, above all, his dark will for power. But if, at least among the faithful, a fervent catholic life could be revived in the Church – the concern for living in conformity with the dogmas, and the sacraments received from the apostolic tradition – if a pure and vehement breath of conversion and prayer finally surges upon this languishing and desolate Christianity, then without a doubt a vicar of Christ could finally come who would be truly humble, have a Christian awareness of his preeminent duty, and concern himself with fulfilling it at best in the spirit of the Sovereign Priest. If the catholic people regains a life in accordance with apostolic tradition, then it will become impossible for the vicar of Jesus Christ, when he acts toward maintaining and defending this Tradition, to fall into some too deep errors, to let himself tend toward a certain complicity with lying. It will become necessary that, without delay, a good pope and perhaps a saintly Pope succeeds the bad and lost Pope. […]
The more we need a holy pope, the more we need to begin to put our life, with the grace of God and by adhering to Tradition, in the footsteps of the saints.
Then the Lord Jesus will eventually give the flock the visible shepherd whom He will have endeavored to make worthy. We must not add our particular negligence to the inadequacy or defection of the head. May the apostolic Tradition be at least living in the heart of the faithful even if, for the moment, it is languishing in the heart and the decisions of him who is responsible at the level of the Church. Then certainly the Lord will be merciful.
It is also necessary, for that purpose, that our interior life refers not to the Pope but to Jesus Christ. Our interior life, which obviously includes the truths of revelation regarding the Pope, should refer purely to the Sovereign Priest, to our God and Savior Jesus-Christ, so as to overcome the scandals that come to the Church through the Pope. This is saint Vincent Ferrer’s perennial lesson in apocalyptic times of one of the major deficiencies of the Roman pontiff.
(Fr Roger-Thomas Calmel O.P., « On the Church and the Pope in all times and in our times », in Itinéraires 173 (May 1973), pp. 22-41. Text reproduced in Le Sel de la terre 12b – special issue on Father Calmel – pp. 179-181.)
Translation by A. A.
1 — Benedict XIII, at the time of the Great Schism. Saint Vincent was convinced that Benedict XIII was the legitimate Pope, and he became his confessor. After some years, he realized that he was not. We don’t want to tell here that Pope Francis is not legitimate. It’s not up to us to judge.