A MEDIEVAL MASTER PEACEMAKER
St. Vincent Ferrer, O.P. By Henri Gheon. Translated by F. J. Sheed, (Sheed and Ward, 6s.)
Reviewed by VINCENT McNABB, O.P.
IHESITATED whether I should entitle this review " Gheon at his best." If in the end I set aside this title it was through no hesitation about its fitness. Perhaps without knowing it I was ending my hesitation as Gheon himself would have ended it.
Gheon has the dramatist's eye and hand; and for the dramatist the seeing eye is a thousand times more necessary than the deft hand. In Vincent Ferrer, the man who was born at Valencia within a stone's throw of the Mediterranean in 1350 and died at. Vannes, Brittany, within a stone's throw of the Atlantic, in 1419, Gheou saw what was unseen
and almost unsuspected by the historians whose greatness is In quantity rather than quality. Let Gheon himself say what he saw in the Spanish FriarPreacher :
a THEY pray mightily to hint in Catalonia and Brittany, places of the flower and the fount of his life.
" But that Christendom which it was his lifework to rebuild stone by stone upon solid human fatherlands has not been properly grateful. It has in part forgotten him; does not give hint his due share. Yet no saint perhaps was more mindful than he of the salvation of tall men; none worked more efficariouey for the unity of the Church of Peter.
"Complete man, complete saint, he realised in himself the ideal proposed by St. Dominic: learning united with prayer, teaching with example, doctrine propagated and imposed bp action.
" He had genius: he put it totally at the service of his love: he spared neither head nor heart nor body. As ',tuck as was in him to think, he thought. As much as was in hint to love, he loved. A' much as was in him to preach, he preached.
" And he journeyed till his body could gl no further. He stopped at the end of his course, and there learned the final lesson—that for him who takes the road bearing God's message there is no turning back. He must press on towards his goal, which is the infinite."
G,HEON writes these unexpected superlatives at the end of his book; but he proves them on every page. When he speaks of the saint " rebuilding Christendom upon solid human fatherlands" he is recalling the fact that when the Kingdom of Aragon had no indis putable claimant to the throne the matter of the succession was left to the
decision of nine judges. Of those nine St. Vincent was easily the foremost. It was due to him that the crown of Aragon was given to King Ferdinand of Castile. By that act a Spanish unity was brought about, strong enough to deliver Spain—and Europe—from the Mohammedan domination of the Moors.
Again when Gheon says that " none worked more efficaciously for the unity of the Church of Peter," he is but resaying what Gerson wrote to St. Vincent on hearing that, by the influence of the saint, the Kings of Aragon and Castile withdrew their obedience from Benedict XIII. As St. Vincent Ferrer looked upon this Benedict XIII as the true Pope, the withdrawal of his obedience was a momentous step which meant the withdrawal of Spanish support for Benedict. But it meant quite as decisively the end of the devastating schism.
The average reader must not suppose that Gheon has written a life only for experts in high ecclesiastical and civil diplomacy. St. Vincent was so much a flcwering of the average man that this life happily contains a chapter on "The Fioretti of Brother Vincent." But my readers must thank Gheon (and his translator) for his masterpiece by giving the few coins which the publishers are asking you to give.