Posted by: fvbcdm | September 30, 2014

Feast of Saint Jerome (30 September 2014)       

As I come to my computer this morning to send the daily message, I find that I would like to send three or four messages. Today is the feast of Saint Jerome, about whom I’ll speak in a minute. Tomorrow is that of Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus, “the Little Flower” as she is called, the most recently proclaimed Doctor of the Church who died at the ripe old age of 24. Very young to be a Doctor.  And then this weekend’s Sunday Mass has to do with the importance of our producing fruit like a copiously bearing grape vine and not just producing a bunch of leaves which are of no use to anyone.

Let’s talk about Saint Jerome. He was a brilliant young man who lived in the 300s and 400s, and became the secretary of the Pope, Saint Damasus. We might say a bit facetiously that he is an example of the danger of coming to the attention of a person in high authority if you have talents and qualifications. The pope knew that one of the great needs of the Church at that time was a good Latin edition of the Bible, which was written in Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New).  So Pope Saint Damasus asked Jerome to undertake the translation of the entire Bible into Latin. Jerome was none too happy with this herculean task, but he was obedient, and he spent the rest of his life first learning Hebrew and then doing all that translating.

I’ve always loved his complaint about the primitive and defective Hebrew language in contrast with the beauty and elegance of Latin and Greek with which he was familiar. He grumbled that Hebrew was “all hissing and gasping!” And if you listen to any of the Semitic languages being spoken, you’ll know what he meant. One of the greatest gifts that Saint Jerome left to us was his clear understanding of the role of the Bible in the life of Christianity. He knew perfectly well what those outside the Church do not know today: that the Bible is extremely important to us BECAUSE the Church says that it is, and proposes it to us as our spiritual guide. You see, I live here in east Texas in what is called “the Bible belt.” That expression comes from the fact that in most of the south of our country, the Christians are Protestants. And the basic belief of all Protestantism is that the Bible is the fundamental and essential source of our beliefs.  But you see, that is not true.  Saint Jerome said very correctly that he would not believe a word of the Bible if the Church did not compel him to do so by her divine authority.

Christ founded a Church; he did not write a thing, except once when he doodled in the dust on the temple floor, and we don’t know what he wrote on that occasion. Nor did he command anyone to write anything. He founded his church, and told his apostles to go and teach all nations. For the first 25 years or so of the existence and operation of the Church, there was no New Testament at all. Only gradually did it come into being. But there was the Church, the preaching of the Gospel, the administration of Baptism and the other Sacraments, and the growth of the Church—the Catholic Church. It was the Church that gathered together the books of the Old Testament and the New which she considered God’s inspired word, and proposed them to her members for their salvation. It is the Church, not the Bible, which is the basis of Christian faith. This is proven sadly by the fact that those Christians outside the Church cannot agree on what the Bible means, and consequently have divided and divided again until we have hundreds of religious bodies claiming to be Christian, yet disagreeing with one another, since they have no living authority to teach with the voice of Jesus. We have that in the person of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth. Saint Jerome knew that; we know that today, and that will be true until the end of time. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

We come to the time of year when we celebrate the world of the angels in our liturgies and prayers. September 29 is the feast of the archangels, Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. And then October 2 is the feast of our Guardian Angels.  We Catholics must be aware that when we recite the Apostles’ Creed and say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS . . .”  we are speaking of that community of those who love God, both in the realm of human beings and of the angels. What do we know about angels? Well, first that they are real creatures of God and not just mythological figures. Sacred Scripture speaks of them very often. Our Lord says that the angels of children always look upon the face of God, and he also rebuked Saint Peter when Peter tried to defend Jesus by cutting off the ear of one of the High Priest’s employees. Put away that sword, Our Lord told Peter. If I needed defense, I could ask my heavenly Father and he could send twelve legions of angels to guard me. “Twelve legions” was a figurative expression meaning very, very many.

We know, too, that some of the angels rebelled against God and became what we call the devils. Satan and the other evil spirits of hell are fallen angels. They do what they can to seduce human beings to rebel against God, too, so as to turn as many as possible away from God, their divine enemy. When the Catholic English poet, Francis Thompson, was writing back about the end of the 19th century, he composed a poem called “The Kingdom of God.” It speaks of the angelic world that underlies the physical world which we can experience with our senses. One of the stanzas which I especially like goes like this: “The angels keep their ancient places; Turn but a stone, and start a wing. ‘Tis ye, ‘tis your estranged faces That miss the many-splendoured thing!” The many-splendoured thing is, of course, the world of angels which surrounds us but is visible only to the eyes of faith. Nonetheless, we have it on the authority of the Church and our sacred liturgy that angels exist, that they, like us, are meant for an eternity of joy with God in heaven, and that they are our big brothers and sisters in this wonderful family that we call “the communion of saints.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

During the days of Our Lord’s life on earth, there were two categories of people whom the Jews considered the lowest of the low, morally and socially. They were the tax-collectors and the prostitutes. This is not surprising, because in most societies, those two groups have been at least unpopular. No one likes to pay taxes, and prostitution has always been seen as a cancer upon the moral complexion of a people. But in Jesus’s time and place, the tax-collectors were particularly hated because they were Jewish men who worked for the occupying Roman government. It was their duty to get taxes out of their fellow Jews to send to the Roman procurator in Jerusalem, who in turn, sent a portion of it to Rome. Thus the tax-collectors (publicans, they were called) were regarded as traitors to their own people, collaborators with the hated Roman occupiers of the Holy Land, and sometimes extortioners as well since they took as much as they possibly could from the defenseless citizens.

It is interesting that Jesus chose one tax-collector and one woman out of whom seven devils had been driven to be among his intimate friends. We celebrate that former tax-collector on September 21, in the person of Saint Matthew, the apostle and evangelist. We celebrated that formerly devil-possessed woman in July in the person of Saint Mary Magdalen, who after her conversion, stood beside Our Lady at the foot of the cross.

Try to imagine the honor that Jesus conferred upon Matthew, the tax-collector. Our Lord passed by the customs post one day where Matthew was seated, busy at his despised occupation. Saint Matthew himself describes the encounter for us in his gospel. Jesus simply looked at him and said, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him. I’m not sure whether Matthew realized that Christ was calling him to a permanent discipleship, to a total change of lifestyle. But that’s what it turned out to be. Matthew did not return to his customs post. He became one of the twelve apostles, itinerant companions of Jesus, who were with him in close friendship for the rest of Our Lord’s day on earth. Then the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and began their preaching to the world.

Matthew also became one of the four evangelists—the writers of the four gospels. So those simple words of Jesus: “Follow me,” led this much-favored man to become a friend of Jesus, an apostle, an evangelist, one of the first bishops of the Church, a martyr, and one of the greatest of our saints. Others had only contempt for him. Jesus loved him and thirsted for his soul, and recognized the potential for good in him.

Let us pray for our Pope and Bishops, the present-day successors of Saint Peter and the other apostles. And let us pray for all those who teach and study Sacred Scripture. The role of apostles and evangelists is still active in the Church, which has as its destiny to be the light of the world. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 22, 2014

Feast of Saint Thomas of Villanueva (22 September 2014)

It’s fascinating to see how often the things we read in the Liturgy of the Word at Mass that come to us from 25 centuries ago are similar to the things we hear daily on the newscasts on television and read in our newspapers. Today, for example, we read of the joy with which the Jewish people went home to their own country—the promised land—and rebuilt their temple so that they could worship God properly after living for some 50 years amidst the paganism of Babylon where there was no temple, no sacrificial worship, and no exercise of the Jewish priesthood or the observances of the beloved holy days of Judaism.

What do we have today? We have the fact that in parts of New Orleans—in the very parish where I have lived and ministered for over 18 years, the church is closed; the Blessed Sacrament is not present either in the parish church or in the Dominican community chapel or in the chapel of perpetual adoration, or in the chapel of the Sisters of Mount Carmel who live within the parish boundaries and operate a girl’s high school there. There has been no Mass in the parish since August 29. This is the first time in over 75 years that the official prayer of the Church has not risen daily from that part of New Orleans called Lakeview. The other day, I was struck and very moved by what one of the ladies of the parish told me by telephone from her place of refuge in Baton Rouge.  She said, “Lakeview has been more than just a neighborhood, and Saint Dominic more than just another Catholic parish. They were a way of life.”

And so they were. We can appreciate much more the words of the psalmists that we repeat in our liturgies. When they were in exile in Babylon, having been brought there in slavery after the conquest of the Holy City, Jerusalem, and the destruction of King Solomon’s temple, their captors asked them to sing some of the “songs of Zion”—the sacred music which had been sung in the temple during the previous four centuries of divine worship in Jerusalem. They answered, “How can we sing the songs of Zion in the land of Babylon (which, by the way, today we call ‘Iraq’). We have hung up our harps on the trees by the rivers of Babylon. We cannot sing joyfully in this wretched, godless land. We want to go home. We want to worship God as we know we should.”

And now, with those heart-wrenching words in our minds, we read that there is another hurricane in the gulf of Mexico. Will it be another disastrous event like Katrina? God forbid. However, let us remember that temples in which God is worshiped are not primarily composed of brick and mortar and stone, but rather of the flesh and blood of the human heart. We are the temples of divine worship of the New Testament; we follow the example of Our Divine Lord Jesus, who says of his own body: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it up again. Hurricanes can flood buildings and close churches; they cannot destroy faith or flood our love of God. Wherever Jesus is, there is our home. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 19, 2014

Feast of Saint Januarius (19 September 2014)

On September 19, 1846, Our Blessed Lady appeared to two French children in the Alps of southeastern France. She appeared as seated on a rock, her face buried in her hands, and weeping. She called the children to herself and told them that she was the Mother of Our Lord, and was weeping because so many people offended her divine Son. In particular, she pointed out how many nominal Catholics do not observe the Lord’s Day by attending Mass and making Sunday a day of rest and of devotion to God. That apparition took place above a village called LaSalette, hence we speak of Our Lady of LaSalette.

Our Jewish brothers and sisters have a beautiful saying, which may come from Scripture itself; it says, “Keep the Sabbath, and the Sabbath will keep you.” Those who observe the third commandment as they should by setting aside one day in the week for the worship of God and human rest and recreation can expect to feel the results of that offering of their time to God in terms of their spiritual progress and success. Those who do not observe the Sabbath—Saturday in the case of the Jews and Sunday in the case of us Christians—cannot expect to receive the blessing of God upon us. Shortly before he died, Pope John Paul II proclaimed a Year of the Eucharist. Typically and ordinarily, the Catholic’s contact with Our Divine Lord in the Eucharist takes place at Sunday Mass. And we know that right now, statistics show that less than 50% of those who call themselves Catholics attend Mass every Sunday. How sad! They are depriving themselves of this loving union with Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar; they are rendering themselves unworthy to receive the Bread of Heaven, and they are endangering their souls. Our Lady may well continue to weep because her divine Son in the magnificent gift of the Eucharist is being ignored, offended, and neglected by so many who should be deeply devoted to him in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Let us be sure, my dear friends, that we are devoted to our Lord in the Eucharist with fitting gratitude and fervor, and that our whole lives will be a love-affair with the Lord in the gift of the Blessed Sacrament. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.



Posted by: fvbcdm | September 17, 2014

Feast of Saint Robert Bellarmine (17 September 2014)

The daily newspapers have mentioned several times lately the sad lack of civility that is noticeable in our current American way of life. That means that some people are no longer polite and refined in their dealings with others. We need to be aware that this is an offense against the virtues of respect and kindness which we as Christians are obliged to show to one another.

I can remember years ago, one of our Dominican priests who had been studying in England was asked about the spiritual life of the English people in general. He replied, “They are largely a civil, godless people.” His answer has stayed with me. Civil, but godless. That means that they treat one another with politeness and all the social traits of refinement, but are not prayerful, nor devoted to God and Our Lord Jesus Christ, nor truly interested in the spiritual well-being of one another. I’m afraid that it might have to be said about us Americans nowadays that we are both uncivil and godless. We insult one another in public as well as in private; we use vulgar, profane, and obscene language; our motion pictures and popular literature are filled with the sort of language that was once associated with the dregs of society. I remember so well how shocked the world was when in the 1939 movie, Gone with the Wind, Rhett Butler responded to Scarlett O’Hara’s anguished questions: “Where will I go? What will I do?” by saying, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” The world gasped in horror at that use of profanity in our movie theaters. Now, that is considered amusing, and we chuckle at it. And I am told that sometimes people who collect tolls in tollbooths from passing cars are grossly insulted by the drivers in those cars. That certainly is not the way Our Lord wants us to behave. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” he tells us. And that is not just an empty recommendation or suggestion. It is a commandment of God on which we are to be judged one day.

The opposite of a civil person is a surly, hostile, insulting, boorish one who often shows a disposition like a bear with a sore paw. For us to treat one another like that is lacking in justice and charity and unworthy of people who call themselves followers of Our Divine Lord. We make distinctions between a woman and a lady, a man and a gentleman. And yet, many now act like men and women, not ladies and gentlemen.

One day, after I had spoken of refinement in public, a lady came up to me and said, “I didn’t know anyone took refinement seriously any more.” What a pity! What a commentary on our social life, our spiritual life! Let us think of these things and make a real effort to “do unto others as we would want them to do unto us.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 16, 2014

Feast of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian (16 September 2014)

In the first letter to his convert, protégé, and spiritual son, Timothy, who was also a bishop, Saint Paul touches on a subject that is terribly prevalent today as it was in those times, because it unfortunately springs from the worst impulses of the human heart. It is the discontent, the bitterness, the resentment that some people seem to feel about nearly everything, especially about those in authority over them. Saint Paul begins by urging Timothy to teach the truths that Paul taught him, and then adds, “Whoever teaches something different and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes.”

Does that sound familiar? It should; we are surrounded by that kind of thinking in the Church and especially in the media. For example, when Pope Benedict was elected, there were moans and groans: the Pope is a German and therefore a Nazi; the Pope was the head of the Holy Office for years, which makes him an inquisitor, a witch-hunter. His pontificate will be one of terrible severity and a return to the days of burnings at the stake. When theology is discussed, these angry people immediately bring up the Church’s “crimes” of not being willing to accept divorce and remarriage, of not accepting homosexual behavior or same-sex marriage, of not ordaining women to the priesthood, etc., etc.

You find them in the political arena also, always eager to blame the president, or the governor, or the mayor, or the IRS, for all the problems in the world. The worldwide depression of the 30s was all Herbert Hoover’s fault, they claimed. The Iraq war today is genocide on the part of President Bush. And now the tremendous suffering inflicted by Hurricane Katrina is the fault of the Republican administration. This ugly, angry, armchair theology and politics is so tiresome, so uninformed, so destructive of the joy that we should possess. I’m not advocating a Pollyanna approach to life, but I am pointing out that our basic joy as children of God should express itself in a positive, constructive, prayerful approach to life rather than the carping criticism and blame-fixing of some. Saint Paul ends this passage by saying to Saint Timothy: “But you, man of God, avoid all this. Instead pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 15, 2014

Feast of the Our Lady of Sorrows (15 September 2014)

Today the Church celebrates the Sorrows of Our Lady, or as it used to be called in our Dominican calendar, the Compassion of Our Lady. I like the notion of compassion better; it means, from the Latin “patior cum”: I suffer with . . . Our Blessed Mother suffers with her divine son, whose destiny and vocation were to suffer in atonement for the sins of the world, to shed his blood, to become the paschal lamb of the new covenant whose blood would keep the angel of death from striking where the blood was present. To become the mother of the Savior, Our Lady had to take upon herself the role of a compassionate mother—a mother who suffers with her son. Did she understand clearly what was being asked of her at the time of the annunciation? Much ink has been spilled over this question in the history of spirituality. We will not know for sure until we get to heaven. But if she did not know it then, she surely knew it at the moment of our Lord’s presentation in the temple. When he was forty days old, she and Saint Joseph brought him to the temple to fulfill the ritual requirements of Judaism. The old prophet Simeon took the baby into his arms, rejoicing that he had seen the promised Savior, and he said in ominous prediction: this child will be the cause of the rise and fall of many in Israel, and then to Our Lady, he said, And a sword will pierce your soul. The shadow of those terrible words were always before her. It was not until Easter morning that that burden was removed from the heart of Our Blessed Mother. Let us remember that love can be a cause of suffering. Certainly one of the causes of Jesus’s sufferings on the cross was the sight of his mother suffering below him. And of course, she knew that. Each of them becomes for the other a source of pain; it belongs to the nature of love to grieve over the pain of the beloved. Our Lord tells us in the gospel, If you want to be a follower of mine, take up your cross and follow me. We do that the best we can, and we meet Our Lady on the Via Crucis, the way of the cross. He gives her to us as our mother and our model in carrying our crosses as she carried the immense cross of Our Lord’s sufferings and death. But, all that will end with the eternal Easter to which we are destined. So let us take up our crosses, follow Our Lord in company with his mother, and use our sufferings as they used theirs, for the salvation of souls. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 12, 2014

Feast of the Holy Name of Mary (12 September 2014)

Four days after celebrating the Birthday of Our Blessed Mother, we have the option of celebrating her Holy Name on September 12. It’s a beautiful idea, and one that deserves our attention.

A name is more than simply a noise we use to designate someone. Down through human history, much importance has been attached to names. Among the Jews of the Old Testament, the name of God was considered so sacred that it was never either pronounced or written, but a synonym for it was used. We bow our heads at the names of Jesus and Mary, recognizing their importance and worthiness of veneration.

Back in the days of exploration and colonization, it was common for an explorer or conquistador from Spain or France or England to come to some part of the new world, land on a hitherto unclaimed area, and claim it in the name of the king of England or Spain or Portugal or the country which he was representing. By doing so, the explorer was asserting that he was the representative—the agent, the instrument—of that ruler, and that he intended to extend the rule of his monarch over the territory he was claiming.

Every time we make the sign of the cross, we indicate our intention to extend the kingdom of God over ourselves, all that we are, all that we have, all that we do. We want to bring all of that into the kingdom of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Then, today we celebrate the name of the Queen Mother of Heaven and earth—the mother of the King of Kings. There are two kinds of political power: the power of dominion, as possessed by a monarch whereby he can do whatever he deems proper for the government of his country, and then there is the power of intercession, whereby some favorite of his can ask for things which he or she can gain, not by the power of dominion, but by the power of request. Our Lord’s first public miracle, the changing of water to wine at Cana, was worked because his mother asked him to do something to provide wine at a wedding reception where the wine had run out and the families would have been deeply embarrassed had something not been done. The divine power of Jesus was brought to operation by the exercise of his mother’s intercession. The Holy Name of Mary is not one of power in her own right, but rather the profound love that Our Divine Lord has for this woman whom he chose and fashioned to be his mother, and whom he gave to us as our mother. How can he say “no” to anything she asks?

In August of 1492, Columbus set sail from Spain on the voyage of discovery that changed the course of human history.  His three ships—tiny in comparison with our sailing vessels of today—sailed west into the uncharted reaches of the Atlantic. The flagship was called the Santa Maria—the Holy Mary or Saint Mary. Each night, when the sun went down, the three ships gathered together since it was dangerous to risk losing one another in the primitive navigational systems of the time. All the crew members came up on the decks of the three ships, and there they recited their night prayers, ending with the singing of the Salve, Regina: Hail, Holy Queen. How beautiful it is to think of that ancient and beautiful prayer to the Mother of God ringing out for the first time in that endless expanse of water on the way from the Old World to the New, a voyage which brought her Divine Son to the peoples of the Americas.

Since then, never has a day gone by without people in this hemisphere of ours calling upon the Immaculate Mother of Christ and using her holy name as a means of honoring her divine Son. And please God, never will such a day occur. As long as time will last, the Church founded by Our Divine Lord will last, gathering people into its sanctuary. And as long as the Church will last, there will be deep devotion to Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, and to his blessed mother who says so accurately of herself in sacred scripture: All generations will call me blessed. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 11, 2014

Feast of Saint Ambrose Barlow (11 September 2014)

Today is the infamous 9/11 anniversary of the day when terrorists attacked and destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and part of the Pentagon building in suburban Washington. And if those violent memories weren’t enough, we are aware of Hurricane Ike in the Gulf of Mexico just south of us and praying that it will not wreak death, injury, or damage in our midst. Terrorism is man-made violence; hurricanes are a form of meteorological violence. And violence is always the opposite of peace. Saint Augustine many centuries ago defined peace as “the tranquillity of order.” It is one of the most beautiful concepts and valuable realities that we human beings know. Among the Jewish people, it is customary to wish people “Peace” when one meets the other. “Shalom” is the Hebrew word for peace. Our Divine Lord used it many times during his lifetime, but always as a true blessing and not simply as a customary greeting.

People in parts of the Catholic German-speaking world like Bavaria and Austria say “Gruss Gott—Praise God” when they meet. Many Spanish-speaking people take their leave of one another by saying, “Vaya con Dios—Go with God.”  The French say “A Dieu —to God.” And we say “Goodbye,” coming from the old English, “God be with you.”  But these expressions are rarely reflected upon or meant as true blessings. When Our Lord appeared to his assembled apostles on the night of his resurrection, he said, “Shalom!—Peace!” And he really meant it, since he had won the peace of redemption for them by his death on the cross and his triumphant return to new life.

On this anniversary of 9/11 and as we hope and pray for deliverance from bad weather, I offer you the peace of Christ—peace of soul, of mind, of emotions, of politics, from terrorism, from dangerously bad weather, from anything that will rob us of the tranquillity of order which is so important for human life at its best. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

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