On this ninth anniversary of hurricane Katrina, we celebrate the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist, who fearlessly stood before King Herod Antipas of Galilee and told him that he was committing sin by living with his brother’s wife. The adulterous woman bitterly resented this condemnation of herself and her royal lover, and waited for an opportunity to take vengeance. It came when her daughter, Salome, danced at a party given by the king for his courtiers. Probably drunk, he took the very rash oath that he would give the dancing girl anything she asked for, even to half his kingdom. She ran off to her mother and asked for advice in her choice of a prize. The vicious woman told her to ask for the head of Saint John the Baptist. And so it was: the man whom Christ called the greatest Old Testament prophet died because of his championing of moral virtue, because of an evil woman’s grudge, because of the king’s foolish and probably drunken oath, and then his own destructive pride in not wanting to renege upon his oath made in public.

We often lament the loss of good men, women, and children because of the absurdity of human evil.  The drug wars; the slow suicides caused by drink, smoking, overeating, and sexually transmitted diseases, the sudden deaths because of reckless driving.  All unnecessary deaths. Years ago, I came to know a family in New Orleans one of whose sons was on drugs. One night, he was “high on drugs” as they say, and trying to get more. He went to a drugstore about 3 o’clock in the morning and tried to pry the front door open with a knife which his older brother had brought back from World War II in the south Pacific. An off-duty policeman passing by saw what was happening, stopped, and pulled his gun out. He shouted at the boy to stop what he was doing, and to drop the knife. Instead of dropping the knife, he lunged with it at the policeman, who shot and killed him on the spot. Imagine how his parents felt. What do you say to them in a case like that? The older brother said to me, “I knew that this would happen. It was just a question of time.” Let us think how the dead boy’s parents felt. Let us think how Saint Elizabeth felt if she was still alive when her son, Saint John the Baptist, was beheaded. Let us think how the dancing girl and her vindictive mother felt.  In two cases, grief and immense sorrow.  In one case, gloating satisfaction. “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned,” as the saying goes.

In any case, we celebrate today the death of a man whose conception was miraculous, whose birth is one of the only three births celebrated in our liturgies, and whose death, although brought about by absurdity, is heroic in that he died upholding the law of 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 | August 28, 2014

Feast of Saint Augustine (28 August 2014)

Today, August 28, is the feast of Saint Augustine, and I would like to reflect on a beautiful and very famous passage from the Confessions of Saint Augustine, in which he is reminiscing over his own life and his relationship with God. Let’s listen to this classical passage:

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new; late have I loved you. You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you, they would not have been at all. You called; you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance upon me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you; now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

A beautiful expression of the love of the human soul for God, of the interior life of a saint. 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 | August 27, 2014

Feast of Saint Monica (27 August 2014)   

In the gospel of Matthew, Our Lord tells us the parable of one man who owed a great deal of money, and was forgiven the debt totally when he asked for more time to pay it. Then he, in turn, refused to forgive the debt of someone who owed him MUCH less.

Some years ago, before the publication of the Jerusalem Bible in English, a scripture scholar figured out the equivalent amounts that Jesus used in his parable. We are told that the one man owed nine million dollars, and was forgiven. He, in turn, would not forgive the debt of a man who owed him fifteen dollars. What Our Lord is saying, of course, is that God forgives us an enormous debt and we sometimes refuse to forgive others something very trivial.

It is a sad fact of human psychology that we sometimes hang onto grudges, resentments, an unforgiving attitude toward someone who has offended or injured us. We might not be so crude as to seek revenge or even say anything about the offense, but in our own hearts we continue to “punish” our offender by thinking negatively toward him or her.  And then, we listen to the words which we say so often in the “Our Father,” taught us by Our Lord: forgive us our trespasses AS WE FORGIVE those who trespass against us. We better listen carefully to what we’re asking for. In other words, read the fine print. God will treat us as we treat others in terms of forgiveness, pardon, mercy.

Many of the saints have had the spiritual maturity to welcome offenses and injustices or injuries, because these things give us the opportunity to be merciful and forgiving, and this in turns gives us the right to expect the mercy and forgiveness of our Heavenly Father when the time comes for our judgment. Remember, God forgives us nine million dollars; we are asked to forgive about fifteen dollars. Are we willing to do that? Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

In the gospel of Matthew, we have that wonderful little episode in the life of Jesus that is so full of meaning and message for us. He and the apostles are on a little vacation, as it were, along the Mediterranean Sea, to the northwest of the Holy Land. Today it would be called Lebanon. A woman of that region comes to him; her daughter is possessed by a demon, and she has evidently heard that Jesus is a wonderworker who can cast out demons. The lady desperately wants help for her child who is in such distress. She addresses Our Lord by calling him “Lord,” and “Son of David,” which was a title for the Messiah who was expected. It is obvious that the woman knew something of Jewish theology even though she was herself not Jewish. She explains her situation very briefly to Our Lord, beginning with the words, “have pity on me.” Jesus, uncharacteristically, says not a word to her, but simply keep on walking along the road. The apostles say to him, in the woman’s hearing, “Give her what she wants; she keeps calling after us.” And Our Lord says, also in the hearing of the pagan woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Which was true: in God’s plan, Jesus would exercise his ministry to the Jewish people, even though he accomplished the redemption of all of humanity.

After His resurrection and the first Pentecost, the apostles, especially Saint Paul, would begin to preach to the Gentile world as well. Now, at least Jesus has spoken; she is encouraged by this recognition of her presence, and she is bold enough to come, kneel before him and say, simply, urgently, desperately: “Lord, help me!” It was common in those days for the Jews to refer to the rest of the world as “dogs.” The idea was that they were members of God’s household, too, but analogous to the pet dogs that many families kept. So Our Lord says to her, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She might have been insulted and offended by this. But she couldn’t afford to be; she believed that Jesus could, if he wished, help her, and she had no choice but to deal with him. Her love for her daughter and the problem that they were facing causes the woman to be clever and bold in dealing with this man whom she has called “Lord” and “Son of David.” Seizing upon His words, she turns them to her advantage. “Call me a dog if you will,” she retorts, “but treat me like a pet dog. Even they eat the scraps that fall from the family table!” Our Lord’s sacred heart is helpless against this kind of faith, trust, humility, and persistence. Her daughter is delivered of the demon. Let us also pray with faith, trust, humility, and persistence. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

One time, when I was in Rome with my travel group, we were staying at a hotel just about two blocks from Saint Peter’s Square. One night, a group of us walked over there—it is beautiful, especially on a moonlit night.  There, on the top floor of the papal palace, the light was burning in the Pope’s study.  At the time I was pastor of a parish, and was very much aware of the fact that “the buck stops here” whenever you’re in charge of an undertaking. All the problems wind up on the desk of the boss. And as I looked up at that lighted window above the darkened square, I felt sorry for the Holy Father, and could imagine how many problems and difficulties he is made aware of, and expected to deal with.

In the Book of Exodus, Moses finds out this same truth, and he is so exasperated with the people whom he is leading in the exodus that he says to God, “If this is how you are going to burden me, then please do me the favor of killing me!” Death, he implies, would be preferable to dealing with thousands of whining, grumbling, criticizing people, all of whom come to him with their grievances.  Some years ago, I read a treatise on this same thing by a delightful author who said that people are like shoes. Either we are new shoes that are not broken in, and not comfortable, or we are like an old pair of shoes that we gladly put on when we remove the fancy but uncomfortable ones.  Let’s try always to be “comfortable” to be around, like a pair of old, well-broken-in shoes. The kind that you put on with delight after taking off the ones you wear to the party or some social outing. To be “comfortable” to be around; to avoid being grouchy, complaining, hard-to-please and otherwise difficult, is a form of kindness to others and certainly disposes them well toward 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 | August 21, 2014

Feast of Pope Saint Pius X (21 August 2014)

At the end of May, 1954, I was leaving Moffatt Field Naval Air Station south of San Francisco to go to the Naval Station on Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay to be discharged from the navy. It was a bittersweet time for me, because I was happy to be getting out of the military so that I could enter religious life, but it also meant leaving San Francisco, a city that I had totally fallen in love with and deeply hated to leave. And during that time—on May 29, to be exact—Pope Pius XII canonized St. Pius X, the Pope who had died in 1914, just at the outbreak of World War I.

Pius X was one of the gentlest, humblest, most lovable of all our Popes. The son of a mailman, he was a simple man but a man of great courage who had to deal with many problems facing the Church during his pontificate. To those who agreed with him, he was the champion who pitted himself against what is called modernism; to those who disagreed with him, he was the witch-hunter who moved the Church backward into the Middle Ages. But he proved to be right. The whole gamut of mistakes that goes by the name of “modernism” includes the idea that the Bible is not to be taken either literally or seriously; that the Church can and does make many mistakes that have to be corrected in time; that morality changes with the cultural life of the world, etc. He denounced and condemned many of these propositions, and pointed out their dangers. Unfortunately, they surfaced again at the time of Vatican II, and we must deal with them all over.

The liberal mentality will always push for change, for novelty, for a criticism of the past and tradition in favor of a free-wheeling sort of mentality that permits just about anything. The old Cole Porter song “Anything Goes” is a fair statement of modernism. One day, shortly after Vatican II, a lady approached me and asked if divorce and remarriage is now permitted in the Church. I told her “No! Of course not.” And she said, “Well, everything else has changed; I thought that would have changed, too.” Of course, everything had NOT changed, nor will it. We still have the “modernists” with us who are in favor of doing away with the entire moral law so that they can divorce and remarry, or simply live together without marrying at all; they want unrestricted intercommunion with other churches, regardless of their faith; they want contraception and abortion and homosexual behavior; they want a married clergy and female priests and bishops. In religious life, we find many who want to be called religious (priests, sisters, and brothers) but who also want to live like laypeople.  And they deny that their secularistic lifestyles have anything to do with why very few, if any, young people want to join their communities.

Saint Pius X was battling these notions in 1907, and we are still battling them today. At the other end of the spectrum, we find a schismatic group of Catholic bishops and priests who call themselves “the priestly society of Saint Pius X” and who use his desire for a dignified and worthy liturgy as a pretext for refusing to celebrate Mass and the sacraments according to the prescriptions of later popes.

But moving ahead between the extreme right and the extreme left, the example of Saint Pius X leads us into this 21st century of ours, devoted to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to his vicars on earth, the Popes he gives us as our shepherds and leaders. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Catholic Daily Message for the Feast of Saint John Eudes (19 August 2014)

In Mark’s gospel, a great crowd assembles around Jesus on the shore of the Lake of Galilee. He wanted to be alone there to pray and rest, but they hungered for his presence, his personality, his words. And we are told that “his heart was moved with pity for them.”  So he cured the sick among them. Then, as the day was ending and the time was coming for the shops and stores that sold food to close, the apostles tell Our Lord that he better let the people go so that they can buy something for supper. But no, he tells them that THEY are to feed the people. The apostles are astonished: there are thousands of people, and the apostles had nothing to eat themselves. Jesus tells them to bring what they have; it turns out to be five loaves of bread and two fish. “Bring them to me,” Our Lord commands. He blessed the food, divided it among the apostles who gave, and gave, and gave. And when everyone had eaten all they wanted, Our Lord tells the apostles to gather up the leftovers. These filled twelve baskets—a great deal more than they began with.

I think of this often in terms of my own priesthood. Before my ordination, I had nothing to give the people of God by way of giving the Eucharist. But since I was ordained a priest, I have celebrated Mass over 16,000 times. And the number of times I have fed God=s people with the Holy Eucharist probably runs into the millions. So I can to some degree identify with the bewildered apostles as they continued to reach into their baskets and came up with more bread, more fish—seemingly without end. Let us continue to adore and thank the Lord of the Eucharist for this divine food given to us daily by Our Blessed 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 | August 14, 2014

Feast of Saint Maximilian Kolbe (14 August 2014)

In the Book of Exodus, we hear about the construction of the first “Tent of Meeting,” as it was called, some thirty-three centuries ago. After God had led his people out of bondage in Egypt, he wished to form them into a coherent nation—a special people with a strong sense of identity, political oneness, and above all, a religion which he himself would reveal to them, to be expressed by a beautifully formulated system of worship which we call “liturgy.”  They were to build a tent which could be pitched wherever they stopped, and then carried with them went they traveled. In that tent, there would be one compartment called the Holy of Holies, in which a box would be placed containing the tablets of the law, some of the manna which fell on the desert floor each day for them to eat, and the staff by which Moses parted the waters of the Red Sea. That box was called “the Ark of the Covenant.”

Later, when they had been solidly established in the Promised Land, the tent would be replaced by a temple, built by King Solomon, which in turn was to be followed by another temple built after the destruction of the first temple by the enemies of Israel. One day, after Jesus had driven the money-changers and merchants out of the temple since their presence in God=s house was not appropriate to a place of worship, the Jewish leaders objected to his acting as if he had some authority over the temple. He said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will rebuild it.” That really upset them; King Herod had been working on the gradual enlargement and beautification of the temple for forty-six years, and he was going to rebuild it in three days? The gospel writer tells us that he was referring to his own body.

Now, why the change of subjects so abruptly? How does Jesus go from a discussion of the temple in Jerusalem to his own resurrection in the same conversation. He really wasn’t changing the subject. The temple was the place of meeting—where man met God.  In the new covenant, man would no longer meet God in this or that place of worship or town or city. Rather, the human race would meet God in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the temple of the new covenant. Jesus is THE temple of the New Testament, and then he allows us to become living temples by the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in our persons. A wonderfully rich heritage and concept stretching back from you and me to Moses and the Hebrew people thirteen centuries before the time of Jesus. 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 | August 12, 2014

Feast of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal (12 August 2014)

One of the essential qualities of authentic religion is a sense of our sinfulness and our need for God’s forgiveness and mercy. If you read or listen to the writings or sayings of those who are opposed to the Church, you will hear them accuse us Catholics of fostering guilt among our members. That indicates their inability to understand true religion. The notion that our relationship with God is to be all rainbows and butterflies is very superficial and childish. All of the great saints and mystics, headed of course by Our Divine Lord himself, have been people aware of the seriousness of sin and the need to atone for it. This does not mean that we should be glum or sour-faced or unpleasant to be around. Quite the contrary, the consciousness of our need for God’s mercy, and the abundance of that mercy should make us the most joyful of all men and women; the most optimistic of humans. Jesus says to us in the gospel: Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart. And when we pray daily to his blessed Mother, we ask her all our lives: pray for us SINNERS.

It is far better to be aware of our sins and ourselves as sinners than to delude ourselves into thinking that we are very pleasing to God and that all is okay between him and us and needs no improvement. What I am talking about here is what we call “the fear of the Lord.” It is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Down through the centuries of English speech, we have come up with the expression “God-fearing” when we want to describe persons who are conscious of the need to love God, to show that love by serving him loyally, and to avoid offending him. To fear God doesn’t mean to be afraid of him; it means to fear offending him. Let us do our best to be God-fearing, to be meek and humble of heart, and to remember that, to a greater or lesser degree, we are sinners and need God’s inexhaustible mercy. 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 | August 8, 2014

Feast of Saint Dominic (8 August 2014)

Today is the annual commemoration of Saint Dominic, the founder and father of the Dominican Order throughout the world, and therefore a special day for us Dominicans.

I remember that when I was a child, I was told that the Dominicans write the letters “O.P.” behind their names, meaning “the Order of Preachers.”  And I wondered why.  Didn’t all priests preach?  They did in my experience.  The answer to that question lies in church history.

During the so-called “Dark Ages,” after the collapse of the Roman Empire, Europe was overrun by barbarians: Huns, Vandals, Visigoths, the Norsemen, and so on. The church suffered terribly; her churches were sacked and burned; the monasteries were destroyed and their communities of monks and nuns scattered, and the work of the Church badly interrupted and impeded.  The result was that the education of the clergy was seriously hampered, and the quality of preaching declined notably.

When Saint Dominic came upon the scene about the year 1200, he recognized that good, solid preaching was needed if the Catholic faithful were to learn their faith and practice it properly. He had been living with a group of priests and the bishop of their little city of Osma in north central Spain.  There was time for study there and the support of a kind of community.  When Dominic passed through southern France on a mission of the king, he was appalled at the state of Catholicism there, where many of the faithful had fallen into the errors of Albigensianism, one of the heresies of the time. So he put his experience into action.  He gathered around himself a group of priests of good will.  They lived together, prayed together, celebrated Mass and the sacraments and the liturgy together, and then they went out to preach to the people in small groups of twos and threes. The idea proved successful, and Dominic wanted to expand his work. But for this, he needed the approval of the Pope.  So we went to Rome to place himself and his ideas before the Supreme Pontiff. Pope Honorius III was very favorable, and predicted that this new order of preachers would be champions of faith, and true lights of the world.  It was the first time in church history that a religious order had been established with the specific purpose of preaching.

As time went on, the education of the clergy improved greatly, and soon all priests were competent to preach, and began to do so regularly.  This is why to a child of my time, it seems strange for the Dominicans to call themselves “the Order of Preachers.”  Our Order was approved in 1216, almost 800 years ago.  It is still preaching and doing the work of the Lord in our world.  God grant that it may continue doing so for many centuries to come.  Saint Dominic, pray for your children that they may be truly successful in the  many kinds of preaching that they do. 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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