The pealing of church bells at 5:00 a.m. on April 5 signals the feast day proper of St. Vincent Ferrer. It also marks the end of a novena participated in earlier from March 27 to April 4 by devotees and church groups in honor of the patron saint.
As soon the sun rises, the faithful — from the altar servers down to Zone VII parishioners — gather in a throng and rise to the occasion, as if to prove that St. Vincent Ferrer continues to be alive in their hearts. Parading around the downtown area in the Grand Procession at 7 a.m., the devotees bear their patron’s likeness with a loving gesture that may strike the uninitiated as a hard puzzle.
To the believers, however, no explanations are necessary because their encounter with the winged saint — actually a Dominican friar from Valencia, Spain — is real. It’s all a matter of faith, which is purely personal. If stories of his miraculous intercession were all written down, the result must amount to volumes.
But the practice of faith has a public dimension, and who is St. Vincent Ferrer but the evangelist of multitudes, the converter of unbelievers? His aim was, of course, not to establish his own following to glorify himself, but to lead people closer to God. And lest we get confused, that is the whole point of saintly veneration – to strengthen our faith and, in the process, imitate earthly models of living a life lived for God.
Later at mass, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Most Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, D.D., gives import to the occasion by being the main presider and, as expected, talks at length on the virtues of the saint and exhorts the faithful to emulation.
This side of the fiesta festivities is the most solemn and understated, but to the followers of St. Vincent Ferrer, it is the focal point, the heart and soul that holds everything together.