This weekend brings to us one of the most beautiful feasts in the entire Church calendar, and one which provides us with a tremendous wealth of material for contemplation and prayer. We must never lose our awareness of the sacred liturgy which follows the calendar of the Church and, day by day, presents to us the truths, the events, and the persons, divine and human, upon which and whom we can base our prayer life. This Sunday is the last of the Ordinary Time, and therefore the Solemnity of Christ the King. The following Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent, and thus the beginning of the new church year. Just as all of history moves forward and will culminate in the meeting of the entire human race with Christ, our King, so our annual calendar reflects that movement and that approach of mankind to Christ our King, and his approach to us.

All we have to do to fill our minds and hearts with the spirit of this great solemnity is to pick up a missalette or a copy of the liturgy of the hours for this feast and read—slowly and prayerfully—the various parts of the Mass and the Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours as we now call it. These constitute the official prayer which the universal Church offers daily to her God and Father through and in union with Our Lord Jesus Christ, our mediator in adoration and in petition.

There is no better way in which we can vary our prayer life, pray and live in rhythm with the worshiping Church, and bring spiritual input into our minds, hearts, and souls than by means of using the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.

By way of example, let’s just open the Liturgy of the Hours to Evening Prayer I, or First Vespers, of the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. The antiphon to be used before and after the Canticle of Our Blessed Mother says this: “The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his ancestor; he will rule in the house of Jacob forever and his kingdom will have no end, alleluia!”

God the Father gives to this human being, who is also his divine Son, the throne of David, the greatest king of the Chosen People during the centuries of the Old Testament, and the founder of the “House of David,” or the royal dynasty of the Jews. He will rule in the house of Jacob forever. Jacob was the third of the patriarchs and the man who became the father of the founders of the twelve tribes of Jacob or Israel, the new name he was given by God. Thus Our Divine Lord is adored as a King like David and a founder of a new Chosen People like Jacob or Israel. And his Kingship and Leadership will be eternal.

And on this last Sunday of our church year, we pour out our hearts and our praise and our love to Christ, our King; Christ, our Leader; Christ our High Priest; Christ, our Judge; Christ, our Savior; Christ, our divine Friend. 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 | November 20, 2014

Feast of Saint Edmund Rich (20 November 2014)

Let’s think about the psalms a little bit today. The book of the psalms, called the psalter, is one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament and has been the basic prayerbook of the Jewish people since before the time of Jesus. In fact, every devout Jew knew the entire psalter—all 150 psalms—by heart, and prayed them regularly. They came to the mind, heart, and lips of the religious Jews as the Our Father and the Hail Mary do to us. Then, in the earliest days of the Church, the psalms were built into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and are still very much with us. We recite or sing one of the psalms, or a part of one, after the first reading at every Mass we celebrate. And those of us who pray the Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office, each day, find that the psalms are the basis of this official prayer system of the Church.

The famous Trappist author, Thomas Merton, devoted a book to the psalms; he called it “Bread in the Wilderness,” and explained how the psalms have been given to all God’s people, but especially to those like monks and nuns who pray the Divine Office each day on their own behalf and that of the entire Church and indeed, the entire human race. It is beautiful to realize that these psalms which we say in our daily prayer or at least on Sundays at Mass are the very prayers which Our Lord and His Blessed Mother prayed all their lives. As Jesus was dying in unspeakable agony on the cross, he cried out: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Those who do not understand what was happening believe that Jesus was expressing his despondency and his feeling that his heavenly Father had forsaken him. Not at all! That utterance is the first line of psalm 22. If you will read the whole thing, which was of course implied by Jesus= saying the first line in a loud voice, you will find an almost photographic description of his terrible sufferings on the cross, which then ends in a great cry of triumph and accomplishment and victory. Yes, Our Divine Lord was undergoing terrible physical sufferings, and probably a great deal of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual pain, too, but he certainly did not believe that his Father had, or ever would, abandon or forsake him. When you attend Mass, my dear friends, pay close attention to the responsorial psalm after the first reading, and to the entrance and communion antiphons, which are usually taken from the psalms, and remember that you are praying to God in the very same words and ideas which Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother used in their prayer life. 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 | November 19, 2014

Feast of Saint Crispin (19 November 2014)

When will the kingdom of God come? When will the world end? When will Christ make his second coming? Will more people be saved than lost? All these questions were put to Our Lord, and have been asked by every generation since his life on earth. There is a natural curiosity about the future. But Our Lord does not want us to know the future, except those things that will help us in our own spiritual development. In the gospel of today’s Mass, they ask Jesus when will the kingdom of God come.  He understands that they are thinking in terms of a great army marching into the Holy Land, expelling the Roman occupiers, and setting up a government something like that of the great Jewish kings, David and Solomon, a thousand years previously.  And so he answers, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, for the kingdom of God is among you.” That word “among” can also be translated, “within.” It is not a matter of a particular nation, with definite boundaries, a capital, a ruler of some kind, laws, postage, coinage of its own. It is a matter of faith in God, hope in the coming of Christ, love for God and neighbor. These things can take possession of the heart of anyone, anywhere. That is what the kingdom of God is.

Some years ago, I was in a parish in which there were two houses just across the street from the church. They were side by side. In one house, there was a loving family, peace, harmony, devoutness, love.  Right next door, there was alcoholism, constant fighting, one son on drugs, one daughter so neurotic that she was almost insane, and utter misery for all who lived there. I used to look at those two houses and reflect that in one house the kingdom of God flourished; in the other, there was hell on earth. When Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is among, and within, us, he is primarily referring to himself. Jesus is God; he brings the kingdom of God by giving himself to the world, to us individually. He takes up his residence, his abode, in our hearts and minds, our homes, our activities. Saint Catherine of Siena tells us that we should live in God and permit God to live in us, as the sponge is in the sea and the sea in the sponge. We want God, and specifically Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ, to permeate every fiber of our being. We want to be totally, utterly Christian. And I use that word in its proper sense, which is “Christ-like.”  Some so-called Christians are not Christ-like at all. We must examine ourselves frequently by asking: Am I truly Christ-like? Am I living the life that Jesus wants me to live? Am I an authentic citizen of the kingdom 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 | November 14, 2014

Feast of Saint Lawrence O’Toole (14 November 2014)

Today is a special day of rejoicing in our monastery here because it is the 60th anniversary of the monastery’s formal inauguration.  A group of pioneer Sisters came down from a monastery in Detroit to the piney woods of east Texas in 1945, and have been living the monastic life of our cloistered Dominican Nuns since then.

That was the year I graduated from high school and began college. That was the year that World War II ended in Europe in May and in the Pacific in August, after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan.

My reflection upon the function of a monastery reminds me of a little incident that occurred back in 1952, while I was in the navy. I had met a sailor at the Naval Air Station, Alameda, California, who was preparing to be discharged from the service and to enter the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani in Kentucky. He and I went from the bay area of California up to the Trappist monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity in Utah, to make a retreat there. We hitch-hiked all the way.  In Ogden, an old man in a station wagon picked us up and took us to Huntsville, and then on to the monastery out in the country nearby.  On the way, the highway passes along a ridge of mountains in the Wasatch range to the east of the road. As we were riding along, my friend whose name was Ernest, pointed up into the sky above the mountains and said to me, “Do you see it?” “Do I see what?” “Do you see that column of praise and prayer rising from the monastery behind those hills up to God?” My faith was not quite strong enough to allow me to see anything with my bodily eyes, but I certainly believed in that column of prayer and praise that Ernest referred to.

Well, a similar column of prayer and praise of God has been arising from this convent of contemplative nuns here in Lufkin for 60 years, and, please God, it will continue to glorify God for many years to come. A monastery accomplishes a number of things. First, it gives adoration and praise to God, as is required by the sovereign majesty of God and the obligation of his creatures to acknowledge his greatness and divinity. Then, it bears witness to the world to the importance of religion, that virtue by which man worships God. Then, it sanctifies those who live within its community. And finally, it serves the wider community of the Church and of all mankind by praying for them, and in particular for those persons and intentions which are recommended to the prayers of the monks or nuns within the monastery. Those functions have been going on here in Lufkin for 60 years. God grant many good vocations to this convent so as to continue its vital work within the Mystical Body of Christ for many years to come.  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 | November 13, 2014

Feast of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (13 November 2014)

When I was a teenager, I had the tremendous opportunity to attend a “Sing Week” (actually, ten days) at the Trapp Family Music Camp in the Green Mountains of Vermont. I got to meet most of the members of that famous, singing family upon whose life the movie “The Sound of Music” was based. The youngest child of the Captain’s first wife was a young woman named Martina.  Just a few years after I was there, Martina married and sadly for her equally young husband, she died in the attempt to give birth to their first child.  Some years later, her step-mother, the Baroness Maria von Trapp, recounted in one of her books that of all the messages of condolence which the family received on the occasion of Martina’s death, the one that touched her the most was one from the Abbot of the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani in Kentucky.  The Abbot wired very simply, “We envy you your sorrow, and Martina her heaven.”

That is a profoundly Christian sentiment. We can envy those who have been blessed by God with a beloved child, brother, sister, relative, or friend and must then mourn their passage into eternal life. We do not mourn for the one who died, but rather for those on earth who lose him or her. On the contrary, we envy the one who died the immense joy that he or she now experiences by being with God forever. On November 8, we Dominicans pray for all our deceased brothers and sisters who have gone before us into eternal life. This is the special day on which we pray for them in case they need our prayers because they are being detained in purgatory to atone for any sins. In a reading from the works of Saint Cyprian which is used in the liturgy on that day, that saint and martyr reprimands those Christians who speak and act as if death were a terrible calamity and disaster. “How can we claim to be people of hope, and to look forward to being with Jesus our Lord, and then fear and dread death as if it were the ultimate evil and danger?” he asks. Granted, separation from loved ones is very painful, but on the other hand, they are going to an eternal reward if they have lived according to God’s holy will, and if we live the same way, we will soon be together again. With this in mind, let us think today of the meaning of the Trappist monk’s message: We envy you your sorrow, and Martina her heaven. 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 | November 12, 2014

Feast of Saint Josaphat (12 October 2014)

Saint Paul compares his situation with that of a great courtroom where he, and all Christians, are on trial. In any courtroom, there are the judge, the prosecuting attorney whom we usually call the district attorney, and the defense lawyer, who in many countries is called the advocate.

Now, Saint Paul is aware that he faces three sets of enemies. The Jewish high command at that time was eager to get him out of the way because he was preaching Christ. The Roman Empire was beginning to persecute the young Church because it refused to adore the Roman gods and goddesses and emperors, and then he looked into his own conscience and found his sins to be accusing him as well.

Is he discouraged? On the contrary! He cries out, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Yes, in this cosmic courtroom, God the Father is the ultimate judge. But he loves us so much that he sent his beloved son into the world to be our redeemer. Then Jesus is the prosecuting attorney, but he has given his life for our salvation, and now has gone to heaven to plead our cause before the father, so instead of being the prosecuting attorney, he is our defense attorney, our advocate.

So Saint Paul concludes that whatever the Jews and the Romans can do against him are insignificant. The words of Jesus come to mind: “Don’t fear those who can only kill the body; rather, fear those who can cause the loss of the soul.” So Saint Paul is not afraid of any form of bodily persecution, torture, imprisonment, death. Those are temporary in duration, and lead us to heaven. And our sins? Well, if we repent of them, Jesus is tremendously eager to forgive them. So with the judge on our side and the prosecuting attorney actually being a defense attorney, and with our sins forgiven, we have nothing to fear and everything to look forward to. He ends this passage by saying: nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our 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 | November 11, 2014

Feast of Saint Martin of Tours (11 November 2014)

November 11th offers us many topics to think about and to pray about. In terms of secular history, it is the anniversary of the Mayflower Compact, that document that the pilgrims drew up and adopted before disembarking from their tiny ship in what is now called Cape Cod Bay, off the Massachusetts coast. It was the first instance of self-government in what is now our country, and therefore a significant moment in American democracy.

Then, in 1918, on November 11, the Germans surrendered to the Allies, bringing World War I to an end. When I was a child, this date was called Armistice Day, but then, when World War II occurred, casting the end of World War I into relative insignificance, our government changed it to Veterans’ Day on which we honor all our veterans, living and dead.

In church matters, this is what used to be called Martinmas—the feast of Saint Martin of Tours, one of the founders of the Church in France. He was a Hungarian who joined the Roman army and was sent to northern France, or “Gaul,” as it was called in those days. He began to study Catholicism with a view to entering the Church. One day the famous episode occurred that has so captured the fancy of sacred story-tellers and artists. He was riding along one of the frozen roads near Amiens, snugly wrapped in his ample Roman military cloak. And he came across a half-frozen beggar by the roadside, shivering for lack of warm clothing. Remembering what he was learning in catechism, Martin dismounted, and with his sword, cut his cloak in two, giving half of it to the beggar. That night, Our Lord appeared to him in a dream dressed in that half of the cloak. Martin became a Catholic, a priest, a bishop, and one of the most important apostles of the Church in France, building the first monastery there more than a century before the rise of the Benedictine monasteries around the year 500. A small church was built at Amiens to shelter Saint Martin’s cloak; it was called the church of the cappella, the Latin word for cloak. In time, the French version of “cappella”— chapelle—was applied to any small church; it is the origin of our word “chapel.” The next time you enter a chapel, you might think of Saint Martin and ask him to increase your charity and compassion for those who have less than you do.

Now, what about our veterans? I have often wondered if God accepts what they do and did in terms of merit. Many veterans entered military service because they were forced to it by our government. They did not freely, consciously and intentionally do so. But they did it. Many were killed; others were injured, sometimes permanently. They had to give up the comforts and love of home life during their military service. When I was in the navy, I rubbed elbows each day with men who had no interest in God, religion, or the spiritual life. Some of them lived lives of gross immorality in terms of drunkenness and sexual sins. And yet, they did their work and put up with the sacrifices demanded by their circumstances. Some were wounded; some were killed. I hope that God accepts that suffering as a form of atonement for their sins and mercifully brings them into his heavenly kingdom. We must leave that to the divine mercy, but let us pray for them today since we owe them a debt of gratitude—indeed, our very freedom and our lives.  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 | November 3, 2014

Feast of Saint Martin de Porres (3 Nov 2014)

As we celebrate today the feast of the patron saint of our Southern Dominican Province, Saint Martin de Porres, I find myself thinking about our self-image and self-esteem. Why? Because Martin de Porres was just about at the bottom of the social pile in his time and place. He was an illegitimate mulatto—his father a Spanish military officer in 16th century Peru and his mother a freed black slave who was unmarried at the time of Martin’s conception and birth. And yet, despite those social handicaps, God showered upon this chosen man great gifts of heart and soul. He was hired by the Dominican friars in one of their priories in Lima as a sort of janitor and general factotum. Because of his great concern for, and kindness to, the poor who came to the priory for assistance, his fame spread as a very charitable man and a holy one. The friars wanted him to enter the Order and become a friar himself. Martin thought that that was far above him and refused to consider it. But their persistence finally prevailed and he entered the Order and made religious vows as a brother, not a priest. Today, much of the world knows the name of Saint Martin de Porres; very few people could name any of his superiors or the priests with whom he lived.

Here in the priory where I live, we have in our beautiful patio between the church and our rectory a larger-than-life-sized bronze statue of Saint Martin. I often think with a chuckle how amazed he would have been had it been revealed to him during his lifetime that one day he would be canonized as a saint, and that far to the north, in a region called Texas and a city yet to be founded or named at all, a statue of him would be erected and venerated by his Dominican confreres and many of the laypeople to whom they ministered. Inside the church, there is a stained glass window that was placed there when the church was built in 1933 and Saint Martin was Blessed Martin. The window has never been corrected and still reads “Blessed Martin de Porres.”  He was canonized by Pope [Saint] John XXIII in 1962—quite recently as church history goes.

Back to self-image: how does God regard us? Is he pleased with us? Just because some people flatter us, let’s be careful not to put much stock in that. God does not see as man sees; man considers the external surface; God looks into the heart. So let us study the gospels constantly and do our best to model our lives—thoughts, words, and actions—upon them. God’s opinion of us is the only one that is of any real importance. And Our Lord says to us, “If you love me, keep my commandments. Then my Father will love you and we will come to you and make our abode with you.” THAT is the kind of divine opinion we should strive for and the union with God that we should do our best to achieve. 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 | October 31, 2014

Feast of Saint Quentin (31 October 2014)

We have a number of things to think prayerfully about as we come to this Monday morning. It’s the last day of October, and as always, I invite you to thank God for the blessings of this month and rededicate yourselves to His service in all our tomorrows. Then, it’sHallowe’en, a word meaning the evening before All Saints Day. Let’s try to get beyond the skeletons, witches, jack-o-lanterns and black cats and remember the real meaning of the observance. This is the time of the year when the harvest is usually brought in, and therefore it is a kind of harvest festival. It’s not a long step from the natural harvest of crops to the supernatural harvest of souls. And so the Church proposes for our prayer the reality of all the saints in heaven, even those we know nothing about and who have never been officially recognized by the Church. It may well be that our own parents, ancestors, and many of our friends are among those who are honored on All Saints Day.

On the following day, we pray for those in Purgatory, whom we can help by our prayers here on earth. Their salvation is assured, but they still have what is called “temporal punishment due to sin” to atone for. They cannot help themselves to do that, but we can be of service to them. That is why the Church, at every Mass and very frequently outside of Mass, prays for the dead. We are not praying for those in heaven nor those in hell, but rather those on their way to heaven but detained in order to balance the scales of divine justice.

Then at this time of year, our Protestant brothers and sisters celebrate Reformation Sunday as they did this past Sunday. It commemorates the fact that on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther is said to have nailed on the church door of Wittenburg, in what is now Germany, a list of ninety-five theses disagreeing with the doctrine or the practices of the Catholic Church. Luther was an Augustinian priest, and some of his objections against the Church=s practices were justified. However, he was a stubborn man, lacking in the kind of humility that is needed when one’s views are contrary to those of the Church. The upshot of the conflict was his being excommunicated and his founding not only another church, but leading a religious movement called the Protestant Reformation. In the year 1500, practically all of Europe was at least nominally Catholic. By the year 1600, about half of Europe was not Catholic at all, but Protestant. Five centuries later, we can view these events more calmly than they could at that time, and all those calling themselves Christians should pray that there may be, as Jesus wills, one flock and one shepherd. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

In Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, we find him today outlining the divine plan of our salvation. He divides it into 5 stages. He says that we are foreknown by God; we are predestined to be conformed to Christ by our human nature; we are called, we are justified, and we are glorified.

Now, what does all this mean? It means that God has planned to create you and me for all eternity. We have existed in the divine intellect as an idea, a loving plan. He planned for us to be not angels, not animals, not birds or fish or trees, but human beings. And theologically speaking, a human being is a man or woman who belongs to the same species as Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is “firstborn” not in terms of time, but rather in terms of perfection, of dignity, of value, of leadership. We are perfect human beings to the degree that we resemble Our Divine Lord.

He called us out of nothingness into being. We were conceived; we were born; we began to live our human lives. He called us also into his Church, which is the principal means for the justification, that is, the sanctification of the human person. And then, if we allow ourselves to be sanctified, justified, made holy, made like Jesus, then we will be glorified.

But there is a danger here. God has made us in his image and likeness, which means that he made us with free will. We can choose to obey him, or to disobey him. He invites us to be like Jesus; he enables us to do so. But he does not force us. That is why in the gospel of today’s Mass, Jesus foretells that some humans will knock at the doors of heaven, and will be told from inside, “I don=t know where you come from.” They will answer “Of course you do; we knew you; you lived among us, ate with us, spoke with us. We shared many things with you.” But he will repeat, “I don=t know where you come from.” This means “You have not conformed your life to mine; you are not my kind of people. Therefore you are not welcome here.”

God forbid that those words should ever be addressed to us. Let us, on the contrary, live so as to resemble Our Lord by being obedient to his commandments. He calls us; let us follow. He sanctifies us, let us gladly submit. And one day he will glorify us in heaven. Let us live in anticipation of that reality, which is our destiny. 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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