A friends post reminded me that Cinco de Abril was the feast of San Vicente Ferrer. We honor his memory with naming many towns after him, the exuberant fête during his feast day, but who is this so called “ángel del Apocalipsis” . I started reading about him when I read an article about a strange relic that is deposited in St Vincent Ferrer Church, in Manhattan Nueva York. Believe it or not, the relic was a finger belonging to the Spanish Saint. How it was acquired, the people of that Church won’t tell. You see icons and pictures of this man with a bible on his left hand and other hand, raised to the sky, his index finger pointing to the Heavens – well, one of those finger is there in New York, placed inside a reliquary.
In Cabuyao, San Vicente is a popular devotion, partly because parts of Laguna was Dominicano country before it was ceded to the other Friar orders. They were the ones who spread the devotion to the Dominican preacher, considered by many as one the most influential evangelist of all time. The Saint Vincent Ferrer Church in Mamatid was recently declared a Diocesan Shrine because of its popularity among the faithful, in and outside the Cabuyao town. When I was there last year, I met some people, dressed in maroon tees; they help keep the place spotless and safe. They call themselves the Caballeros of San Vicente, men who dedicated their lives for their Saint and Parish. I was assisted by one of them to go at the back of the retablo, where there is a small opening, just enough space so you can put your hands in and touch the clothe of the image of San Vicente, which is almost the same size as that of Sto. Niño de Cebu. The Caballero said that during special holidays people would line up by the hundreds to lay a hand on the old icon. The entry then gets bolted when there’s no one to look after the antique icon.
In Cebu, I came across this charming century old chapel of Pitalo in San Fernando Cebu, dedicated to San Vicente. A local in his blog writes:
It houses a late 19th century wooden image, about 2ft tall, that many people claim to be miraculous, this writer including.
St. Vincent Ferrer is feted thrice annualy in this chapel: In February, to commemorate the Miracle of the Blood, when the villagers were spared from sure death brought about by an endemic cholera plague; on his official feast day on April 5 (usually moved to the Second Monday after Easter Sunday, just like in the saint’s hometown of Valencia, Spain); and in July for the Miracle of the Light, when, even without being connected to the generator, and even when the generator was not running, the chapel lights were mysteriously lit for about five hours. This event was witnessed by so many people.
The ceiling paintings on tin sheets were executed by the famed Cebuano duo church painters, the self-taught religious painters Raymundo Francia and Canuto Avila.
They claim that theirs is a miraculous image that it watches over them at all time.Ironically, a security guard watches over the adored image of San Vicente because of thievery. Cebu has one of the highest number of religious art being stolen. This has prompted the Cardinal to offer all parishes, those who fear that their relics are in danger of being stolen, the safety of the Diocese museum in Cebu City for safe keeping.
While the Saint was still alive, there were countless of miracles attributed to him. Does this also explain why images and icons of this Dominican Saint are often reported to possess miraculous healing powers?
* Pitalo article by Louie Nacorda