Posted by: fvbcdm | July 25, 2014

Feast of Saint James (25 July 2014)

He was a fisherman on the Lake of Galilee. His father’s name was Zebedee; his mother was Salome. He had a brother named John. One day, they met Jesus. And nothing was ever the same after that. He told them that some day they would be catching, not fish, but men. He also told them that they would indeed drink from the cup from which he was to drink. He meant the cup of suffering and martyrdom. This man of whom I speak, James by name, was the first apostle to die for Christ. But before that happened, he accompanied Jesus during Our Lord’s public life, and became one of the trio who seem to have been a sort of inner circle among the twelve apostles. Jesus invited those three—Peter, this James, and his brother John—to be present on at least three occasions that we know of, without the other nine being there. These occasions were the raising of the little daughter of Jairus from the dead, the supreme moment of the transfiguration, and then the terrible moment of Jesus’s agony in the garden of Gethsemani.

The career of this Saint James has been almost as interesting after his death as it was during his life on earth. Ancient traditions tell us that he went to Spain to evangelize that part of the world. And there, according to those ancient traditions, Our Lady appeared to him, giving him a small statue of herself and promising that if he preached devotion to her in that place—the city of Zaragoza—he would succeed in converting the pagan people of Spain to Catholicism. The little statue stands on a small pillar, thus the image is called “Our Lady of the Pillar,” which is Pilar in Spanish. Thus many Spanish women bear the name of Pilar in honor of the Mother of God under that title. Back in the Holy Land, Saint James was killed by King Herod for his faith. Then the traditions resume again, and tell us that his body was somehow transported to a place in northwestern Spain called Compostela (“The Field of the Star”). It became an object of pilgrimages that have continued from those very early days to our own time. You will find in most good bookstores nowadays a very well-edited travel guide tracing the traditional pilgrimage route from Paris down to Compostela. And in most good French restaurants, you will find “coquille saint-Jacques”—Saint James’s shell—a dish of creamed scallops served in a scallop shell. The shell became the symbol of medieval pilgrims on their way to or from Compostela, since they carried with them a shell to act as a drinking cup for water along the way. So today, the Church honors this apostle who was graced to witness Christ in his glory at the transfiguration, and Christ in abject misery during his agony in the garden. Above all, he and the others witnessed the risen Christ, whom they preached to the entire 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 | July 24, 2014

Feast of Saint Sharbel Makhluf (24 July 2014)

When I was eight years old, Hollywood made the movie “Marie Antoinette” about the tragic queen of France.  Impressionable was I was, it awakened in me a great interest in the French Revolution.  Later I learned that it was not only the king and queen and many of the nobles and aristocracy who were sent to the guillotine by the bloodthirsty revolutionaries, but also many bishops, priests, religious, and devout laity who shed their blood rather than renounce their relationship with Our Divine Lord.

I’d like to tell you today something of the sixteen Carmelite nuns who were martyred during the Reign of Terror, the worse part of the revolution. Their monastery was in Compiegne, a small city north of Paris. They were ordered to leave their convent and give up the practice of their religious life. So they were received into the homes of some generous lay people who sheltered them for about a year. However, their whereabouts and their living of their religious life as best they could in private homes became known to the revolutionary authorities, who arrested them all and sent them to Paris, to the infamous prison called the Conciergerie, from which groups of prisoners were taken daily to the guillotine.  A mock trial was held there, at the bloodthirsty judge accused them of being “fanatics.” One of the Sisters asked what he meant by that word. He replied, “I mean your attachment to childish beliefs and your things and your silly religious practices.” The nun who had asked the question turned to her Sisters in great elation.  She exclaimed, “You see! We are condemned for clinging to our holy religion. We have the happiness to die for God!” They were loaded into a tumbril, the open cart by which the condemned were taken to the guillotine. They sang as they passed through the streets, bumping along over the cobblestones. They continued to sing hymns as they mounted the scaffold one by one and died upon it. Their bodies, clad in their Carmelite habits stained with their blood, were dumped into a large pit in a cemetery nearby along with many other victims of the guillotine. They lie there to this day, a plaque on the cemetery wall telling the story of the nuns who had the happiness to die for God.  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 | July 23, 2014

Feast of Saint Bridget of Sweden (23 July 2014)

In the passage of the Old Testament about the burning bush, when God sends Moses to demand that pharoah let his people go, Moses asked God, “Who shall I say is sending me to you? What is your name?” And God gave the immortal reply, “I AM WHO AM.” What does that mean? It doesn’t sound like much of a name to us of this time and culture. However, to those accustomed to think philosophically and theologically, it is full of meaning and very profound.  “I am” is the first person singular of the verb “to be.” Now, being is the first of all realities. Before you or I can be a human being, a man or a woman, an American or a Chinese, a Catholic or a Buddhist, or any other quality we might think about, first of all we have, simply TO BE. And there was a time when we WERE NOT. Just think of your present age, add one year to that for the time that you spent in the womb, and that figure will tell you when you began to be. Before that, you simply were not. And God the Creator, called you out of that nothingness into being. And if he did not keep you in being at every moment, you would fall back into that nothingness.

But God did not have a beginning. He was not given being by someone else, as we are given being by him. He simply IS. He is being itself, or as we sometimes say, the Supreme Being, the Ground of Being.  Being is his very nature.  He cannot NOT BE. So when Moses asks his name, God says “I AM WHO AM.”  I am he whose essence, whose nature, is to be. You might find this a hard concept to grasp since it is so abstract, but it is true. In all of reality there is only one Cause which has no cause, and that is God. Everything else has a cause, a force that brought it into being. The Hebrew word for I AM is “Yahweh.” That is God’s name in the Jewish language. It was considered so sacred that it was never pronounced or written; they would use a synonym for it, like “the Lord” or “the Holy One.” One time, Jesus was having a discussion with the religious leaders of the time. He said that Abraham had rejoiced to see his day. They were astonished, and said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?” Abraham had lived 1800 years previously. And Our Lord’s words echoed those coming from the burning bush to Moses: before Abraham came to be, I AM. Jesus was asserting that he is God. And today we adore him as the God who is eternal, the God who simply IS. 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 | July 22, 2014

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene (22 July 2014)

Seven devils were driven out of her, and today she is one of the official protectresses of our Dominican Order. Her name is Saint Mary Magdalene, and she figures prominently in the gospels. Magdalene means a native of Magdala, a village on the west coast of the sea of Galilee. After being relieved of her diabolical possession, she became a devoted follower of Jesus, and was among those holy women who ministered to the thirteen during Our Lord’s itinerant life in Galilee and Judea. She showed herself to be not only very devoted and loving, but also remarkably courageous. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, allowed Jesus to be crucified, even though he “found no fault in him.”  So if this unprincipled politician would allow one innocent man to die a terrible death, he might well have allowed all those who stood at the foot of his cross to be killed along with him. Thus Our Lady, Saint Mary Magdalene and Saint John took their lives into their hands by accompanying Jesus to his crucifixion, and remaining there during the hours when Jesus hung in agony on the cross, in the presence of the Roman soldiers.

The reward for this fidelity on her part was that Saint Mary Magdalene, who went to the tomb very early on that first Easter morning, had the immense joy of announcing to the apostles that Jesus had risen from the dead. For this reason, Saint Augustine called her “the apostle to the apostles,” and we Dominicans have adopted her as a special patron of ours, since our vocation is specifically preaching, and the heart of all Christian preaching is the fact that Jesus is risen from the dead. Now, what about those seven devils? We aren’t sure about them. Human beings can be obsessed or possessed by demons either because they have engaged in devil worship, or been very sinful, or through no fault of their own. We don’t know which of these was the case in the life of Mary Magdalene, but we can surmise that because Jesus delivered her from that terrible affliction, she was particularly grateful to him and devoted to his well-being during his public life.

One of the world’s most imposing churches is the one that the French call simply “La Madeleine,” a splendid structure in classic Greek style, which stands at the head of an important street in Paris and forms part of a beautiful ensemble of buildings which can be thought of as the very heart of the French capital.  Surely, this simple woman from a fishing village in Galilee would never have dreamed that one of the world’s most impressive buildings in the heart of a great city would bear her name, and that many thousands of Christian women would also bear her name because of her close association with our divine Lord. 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 | July 21, 2014

Feast of Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (21 July 2014)

In the gospel, Our Lord addresses his heavenly Father, saying to him, “You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned and you have revealed them to the childlike.” Most of us, I suspect, have had experience of this. We have known very erudite people— professors, businessmen, professionals in various fields—who knew their own craft or vocation very well but knew little or nothing about the things of God. This passage reminds me of a beautiful little prayer that I learned a long time ago, and I used to teach it to those high school students to whom I taught French. It is called the Breton fisherman’s prayer. The Bretons are the people who inhabit the peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean in northwestern France. For centuries, the people there have been fishermen and have had to brave the fury of the sea to make a living. Traditionally the Bretons have been a devout people, simple God-fearing people who recognized their need for divine help especially when at sea, since the Atlantic Ocean can be ferocious in winter. The prayer, naive and childlike as it is, says this: “Dear God, be good to me. The sea is so wide, and my boat is so small!” We might not go to sea regularly, especially in a small fishing boat, but we can certainly use this lovely little prayer to good advantage. Our life produces difficulties of various kinds; all of us have our crosses to carry. We can think of life as a wide and tempestuous sea, with ourselves in small boats at the mercy of wind and wave. And thus we too can say, “Dear God, be good to me. The sea is so wide, and my boat is so small!”  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 | July 18, 2014

Feast of Saint Camillus de Lellis (18 July 2014)

In the Book of Exodus, we have the story of Moses. Since the Egyptian pharaoh had decreed the deaths of all the Jewish baby boys, his family hid him in the reeds near the Nile. By a divine irony, he is found by the very daughter of the pharaoh who wanted all the Jewish boys killed; she adopts him and raises him as her own son.

Moses grows up to become leader of his people out of the slavery of Egypt, and the great lawgiver who communed with God on the crest of Sinai and received from God the commandments of the law. And by this fact, he also became the living symbol of the law itself, which was so important to Jewish theology. Later, the prophet Elijah became the greatest of the prophets, and the symbol of prophecy in Jewish religion. Thus it was customary for the Jewish people to speak of the Law and the Prophets, meaning the entirety of God=s revelation to his people.

We come down to the life of Our Divine Lord who, shortly before his passion and death, took three of his apostles up to a high mountain. There he was transfigured before them, and appeared in dazzling brilliance, flanked by Moses and Elijah. The significance of this apparition is clear: Jesus is the Christ, the promised one, whom Moses and Elijah foretold and prefigured.

He is the greatest lawgiver and prophet of the new law. One day, when someone asked him which was the greatest of the commandments, he answered, AYou shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and your whole strength.@ And the second is like the first, AYou shall love your neighbor as yourself.@ Then he added, AUpon these depend the whole law and the prophets.@ The two laws of love contain the entire revelation of God in a nutshell.

So let us adore Christ our Redeemer, the lawgiver of the new law, whom Moses prefigured.  And let us try earnestly to grow in the love of God and neighbor so as to achieve ever-greater holiness in this life and forever. 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 | July 17, 2014

Feast of the Scillitan Martyrs (17 July 2014)

It has been said that Saint Francis of Assisi was the most Christ-like of all the saints. Certainly, he was among the front-runners for that distinction. And we are all familiar with one of the prayers that he composed: it begins: “Lord, make me a channel of your peace . . .”

Matthew’s gospel tells us of how Jesus sends his apostles out on one of their early preaching missions. Among the other instructions he gave them was this: “As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you.” It was no doubt from this that Saint Francis got the inspiration to pray that he might be an instrument of Christ’s peace.

Peace was defined by Saint Augustine as “the tranquility of order.” A beautiful definition; a beautiful concept. Would that the tranquility of order existed in our hearts, in our words and actions, in our families, our social circles, our nation, and the world in which we live.  Unfortunately, that is not the case. War, terrorism, the abuse of one human being by another in many ways—these are what keep this life from being heaven on earth.

We cannot stop war, terrorism, crime, abortion, the sexual sins which lead to the death of the soul, the mind, and the body. But we can certainly pray with Saint Francis: Lord, make ME a channel of your peace. We can do our best to bring the tranquility of order into our thoughts, our words, our actions, and the little world over which we have some influence. Let us adopt as a special motto those words—those first words—addressed to the assembled apostles by Our Lord after his resurrection from the dead. He said to them: Peace be with you. Let us try to approach every person with whom we have any contact with those same life-giving words: Peace be with you. If we possess the tranquility of order, it will communicate itself to them and we will be truly channels of the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 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 | July 14, 2014

Feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (14 July 2014)

The book of Genesis which recounts the history of the ancient Patriarchs of the Jewish people: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the sons of Jacob who gave their names to the twelve tribes of Israel. For this reason, the number twelve became very important in Jewish theology, so much so that when Our Lord founded his Church, he did so by choosing twelve men whom he made the first bishops of the Church.

Later on, when the Apostle Judas defected, betrayed Our Lord into the hands of his enemies, and then committed suicide, the other Apostles felt it necessary to choose someone to take Judas= place to maintain the number twelve.  They chose Saint Matthias during that period of time between Jesus’s ascension and that first Pentecost, so that the Spirit could come upon all twelve of the Church=s first bishops.

In the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, Saint John describes his vision of the heavenly Jerusalem where God dwells with his angels and saints. In his vision, he sees a square city surrounded by a beautiful wall. On each of its four sides, there are three gates, over which are written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Then, the city rests upon twelve courses of foundation stones, and on those courses of stone there are written the names of the twelve Apostles. And of course, in the first Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass, we speak of the Catholic faith “which comes to us from the Apostles.”

We must remember that Joseph, the favorite son of the patriarch Jacob or Israel, prefigured Our Lord not only in being betrayed by his brothers and sold into captivity, but also because he was taken to Egypt as a slave and later found himself to be in charge of all the supplies of grain in the kingdom —a very responsible position. When famine gripped that whole part of the world, his brothers came to him in Egypt seeking bread and having no idea who that important man in the government of Egypt was. Thus Joseph gives bread to his brothers and saves them from starvation. Jesus gives to us the Bread of Heaven to save us from spiritual starvation. It is well to reflect upon this with special gratitude and devotion. 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 | July 11, 2014

Feast of Saint Benedict (11 July 2014)

Today is another red-letter day for all Christians, but especially for those of us in religious life. It is the feast of Saint Benedict, one of the patrons of Europe, whose name Cardinal Ratzinger chose upon his election to the supreme pontificate.

The reason for Saint Benedict’s prominence and importance in the history of the Church is that he is the father of all religious life in the west. For the first three centuries of the Church, it was persecuted by the Roman Empire, and had to live in hiding, without revealing openly its existence. The Emperor Constantine in the year 313 allowed the Church to operate openly, and by the end of that century it had become the official religion of the empire. That gave the Church about a century in which to flourish and consolidate and organize itself without the harassment of a hostile government. Then began the invasions of the Barbarians, when more or less savage tribes from the north and east began to pour into Europe and plunder and destroy all that they found.

In the midst of this chaos, a young Catholic man of Rome felt the call to go off into solitude to devote himself to the contemplative religious life. His name was Benedict, which means “blessed.” He went first to a very mountainous, inaccessible area east of Rome called Subiaco. Then, as followers gathered around him, he moved to a more favorable location in the open country on the road south to Naples. There, at the top of a mountain called Monte Cassino, he build a monastery and wrote his famous Rule. I would venture to say that no document in the history of the Church has been more influential, apart from Scripture itself, than the Rule of Saint Benedict. The reason is that for six hundred years after the composition of that Rule, the Benedictine Order was the only religious institute within the Church. So every man or woman who wished to consecrate him- or herself to the service of God in religious life had no choice but to become a Benedictine.  Monasteries of Benedictine monks and nuns proliferated very extensively throughout Europe. Many of the popes and bishops of those centuries were Benedictine monks; most of the religious education that existed was done by Benedictines. The nuns and monks in their scriptoria, or writing-rooms, laboriously copied the works of the past, both religious and secular, thus giving to posterity the great libraries of old. The monasteries were influential in civic life, since around nearly every monastery a town or city sprang up, with the life of the abbey as an example of Christian civilization. The monks brought the great woolen industry to Great Britain; the art of book-binding, agriculture, architecture, the preservation of the Latin language. And of course, most of the beers and brandies and liqueurs and cheeses now famous were first formulated by the monks.

Those of us who belong to religious institutes founded later, like the Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Ursulines, Daughters of Charity, etc., recognize our great debt of gratitude to Saint Benedict and the world of religious life that he brought into being. All other religious rules were modeled upon the Rule of Saint Benedict. So today we celebrate the feast of this great man, this leader in the Christianity of the western Church and 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 | July 10, 2014

Feast of Saint Peter Tu (10 July 2014)

In the gospel for Saint Matthew, we find Our Lord moved with pity upon seeing the spiritual thirst in the eyes of those who came to listen to him. Saint Matthew tells us that “they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus said to his followers, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest.”

We usually think of this passage in terms of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, but I am sure that Our Lord was much broader in his view of laborers for the harvest. Every Christian worthy of the name is expected to do what he or she can to bring others into the Kingdom of Christ and to share the joy of our faith with them. The idea that only priests and religious have that responsibility is not only false, but also dangerous, because it makes many laypeople believe that they need not do anything in terms of sharing their faith with others. Priests and religious constitute less than 1% of the entire Church. Just think: if every Catholic took very seriously his and her vocation as an apostle and an evangelizer, the spiritual energy that they would generate would be immense and would advance the Kingdom of Our Divine Lord by leaps and bounds.

So let us pray that the Lord of the harvest will send laborers. But let us include in that prayer the plea that we ourselves will live in such a way that people will be attracted to our way of life, our Catholic faith, by who we are, how we live, the example we give. When Jesus taught us the Our Father, he included in it the phrase, “Thy kingdom come.” It is up to us to do all we can to make the Kingdom of Christ a reality in our own lives, our families, our circle of friends, our work. Let us frequently pray to the Holy Spirit for the grace to see what we can do to extend the kingdom of Christ within our own circle of relatives, friends, and fellow workers, and then to do it as prudently and lovingly as we can. 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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