Posted by: fvbcdm | October 24, 2014

Feast of Saint Anthony Claret (24 October 2014)

In the marvelous letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, there is a high point of all of Sacred Scripture. It is the place where Saint Paul reflects upon the fact that by means of our baptism, we are adopted into God’s family; we become his children by adoption, and therefore heirs of his glory, just as any adopted child receives a legal right to the family possessions of the parents. And if we are heirs of God’s glory, then we are, as St. Paul says, “co-heirs with Christ.” And for that reason, we have a right to call God the Father “Abba.” Now, Saint Paul explains that “Abba” means “father.” That’s true enough, but it does not totally translate the term. “Abba” was not the normal word “father” in Hebrew, but rather was the childlike, intimate, tender way by which small children addressed their fathers. It corresponded to our “papa” or “daddy.”

In the gospel of Saint Mark, we find Jesus addressing his father in that way during his terrible agony in the garden the night before he died. We must understand how very significant it is for us to call God by a term of endearment, of tenderness, of affection. You remember the time when someone asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” In answer, Jesus picked a small child out of his listeners and stood the child in front of his audience. “Anyone who becomes a little child like this is greatest in the kingdom of my Father,” he said. He made it clear that he wants us to relate to God the way a 2- or 3-year old child relates to a kind, wise, and loving father. I remember when I was a child, the pastor of my parish was an elderly priest who had been born in Germany.  When he spoke of God in the pulpit at Mass, he always talked about “Almighty God.” Somehow, even at that young age, the term didn’t sit well with me. I knew that God is almighty, but I didn’t think of him in those terms. It isn’t easy to relate intimately, affectionately, with an ALMIGHTY being. How much easier it is to relate to “Papa” or “Daddy.” So, my dear friends, let us try to be childlike in our relationship with God. Trusting, loving, obedient, affectionate, and aware of our littleness in comparison with our heavenly father, who is also our maker.  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 23, 2014

Feast of Saint John of Capistrano (23 October 2014)

I like the way Saint Paul speaks to the Romans when he says, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Think about that for a moment. “Wages” is another word for “salary.” When you work, you get a salary, agreed upon between employer and employee beforehand. So, when we sin and die spiritually, we are getting what we deserve. There is an element of justice there. But Saint Paul doesn’t use the term “wages” at all when it comes to our living as God asks of us. He doesn’t call that “wages,” but rather “the gift of God.” A gift is not part of justice. It is a result of gratuitousness, kindness, love, esteem. When the schoolboy mows the neighbor’s lawn for the prearranged price of $5, and the neighbor gives him his $5, that is justice. But if the neighbor ALSO gives him a slice of freshly baked apple pie with a big scoop of ice-cream on it, that is a gift. That did not enter into the original agreement.

We “work” for God in the sense that we obey his word, his commandments, his holy will. And do we get a just salary for this “work”? Listen to Paul’s words again: “the eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to imagine what God has prepared for those who love him.” The reward for our virtue is so great that we can’t even envision things like that. That is not strict justice; that is the divine abundance and generosity of a loving father who, because he is God, is totally unlimited in what he can give us. How fortunate we are to be working, not for wages, but for divine generosity and love! 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 22, 2014

Feast of Pope Saint John Paul II (22 October 2014)

In Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans we have the joy of reading his description the warfare that he perceives within his own personality. He describes it as the combat of the spirit against the flesh and the flesh against the spirit. This basic principle is fundamental to Christianity, since Our Divine Lord himself enunciated it and based much of his preaching upon it. You see, when God created our first parents, there was a beautiful harmony between the two elements of their human nature: the body and the soul; the flesh and the spirit. But they sinned, and destroyed that harmony. Concord turned to discord; peace turned to war; unity turned to disunity.  And ever since then, the human race has had to struggle with the conflict between the two parts of its nature: the spiritual and the material—the angel and the animal.

Pope [Saint] John Paul II, devoted many of his allocutions to this topic and they have been gathered into a book called “The Theology of the Body.” It is not easy reading, but for those who want to explore this matter more deeply, it is certainly a milestone in our understanding of the relationship of body and soul in our own personalities.  Life is a war of good against evil; spirit against flesh; the eternal against the temporal; the forces of God against the forces of this world and Satan which try to seduce us away from God. Many of the saints have spoken of this combat that we feel within our persons. Within the war there are major battles, and then there are minor skirmishes. We win some; we lose some.  We ask Our Lady, “pray for us sinners,” even though we certainly hope that basically, we are saints—in union with God by what we call sanctifying grace.

When I was a novice, there was a really funny fellow in our novitiate class. He could turn just about everything into a delightful joke, and he kept us laughing much of the time. One day, one of the novices made some comment that another objected to quite strenuously, and the second one made some really unkind reply. Our funny friend spoke up at that moment, and said to the maker of the unkind reply, “Oh, boy! You really goofed that time. Go back three mansions!” He was referring to the fact that the Spanish mystics, Saints Teresa and John of the Cross, often speak of our making progress from one mansion to another in the kingdom of God.  As we ascend the mountain of the Lord, the mansions become more beautiful and comfortable, the closer they come to the house of God Himself.  So when our jokester said to the one brother, “Go back three mansions,” making it sound like a children’s game, we all laughed and recognized that we all go forward, and backward, in our daily lives by either winning or losing the skirmishes in the war of soul against body, spirit against flesh. This is why we do penance. This is why we accept the cross in our lives, since penance, mortification, and the cross are means by which we strengthen our souls against the demands of the body and we keep in good shape in the ongoing struggle against self-indulgence, sensuality, and sin. 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 21, 2014

Feast of Saint Celine (21 October 2014)

Our Lord uses all sorts of metaphors and similes to get across his ideas about the kingdom of God. In the gospel for tomorrow’s Mass, he compares himself to a burglar. He says to us: “If the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” The Son of Man is the expression that Jesus habitually uses to refer to himself.  Now, if Jesus is coming like a thief in the night, what does he want to steal from us? Our lives. He wants to end our lives in this world and bring us to be with him forever in heaven—if he finds us worthy of heaven.

Then he goes on to compare his coming to the return of a wealthy man to his home after an absence of some time—maybe a business trip or a vacation. He had left the butler (the steward) in charge of the other servants and of the entire household. If he finds everything running smoothly as it should, he will be pleased, and will reward the butler. But if he finds things not going well because the butler is not responsible, intelligent, and a man of good will, then there will be severe punishments meted out.

You and I are rarely wealthy people who manage a whole group of servants as is sometimes the case among the landed gentry of England or other countries. But we do have a little world over which we have authority, and for which we are responsible.  That world consists of our time, our talents, our job, our home, our family, our spiritual lives. The Lord expects us to govern those things well—according to his holy will.  To use them as he intends; to treat them in a way conducive to eternal salvation for them and for ourselves. You remember what it was like in grade school and high school when the teacher had to leave the classroom for a few minutes? If there were boys in the class, you could be sure that they would start cutting up and running around the room, yelling, and generally creating havoc. Then, when the door opened and the teacher reappeared, there was the mad scramble back to the seats, to silence, and to order. That is to be expected among teenage males; it is not appropriate for adults. Our Lord has promised that he will come back for us. What will he find? I hope that he will find you and me doing exactly what he asks of us, and looking forward to his return and to our being with him forever in 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 | October 20, 2014

Feast of Saint Paul of the Cross (20 October 2014)

Not a day goes by without my hearing from some friend and usually a former parishioner of mine at Saint Dominic Parish in New Orleans, in that section of town called Lakeview, which is now totally devastated and at least temporarily abandoned by its former occupants because of the recent hurricane.  Yesterday one of them said to me, “It’s so strange. Before the hurricane, one of my favorite pastimes was buying shoes. I must have fifteen pairs of shoes in my closet that I’ve never worn. And now, they have been soaked for three weeks in dirty water, while here I am, in someone else’s home, with only the shoes on my feet.”

Then, after hearing that, I read the gospel of today’s Mass in which Our Divine Lord tells the parable of the very successful farmer whose bumper crops presented him with the problem of not having enough room to store his produce. He says to himself, “I’ll build bigger barns and granaries, and then I will say to myself, ‘Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years: rest,eat, drink, be merry.’” But then God says to him, “You fool! this night your life will be demanded of you, and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” And Jesus concludes, “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” Those fifteen pairs of my friend’s shoes ought to be kept in a cabinet with glass doors in the parish church. What a marvelous illustration of the words of Jesus they are!

So, my dear friends, whether you and I are hurricane victims with nothing but the clothes with which we escaped our homes, or in normal circumstances, we need to ask of ourselves often: if I were to die today, have I “stored up for myself treasures in heaven,” as Jesus counsels all of us to do, so that when we appear before Our Lord in judgment, our merits which have preceded us will speak well on our behalf? 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 17, 2014

Feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch (17 October 2014)

Tomorrow we have the joy of celebrating the feast of Saint Luke, one of the four evangelists who has so enriched the world by his beautiful gospel. Let us just think for a few minutes of the tremendous treasures for which we are indebted to this man who was the only Gentile among the New Testament writers, who was a physician, who was a disciple and secretary to Saint Paul, and who wrote the third gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. In less than two months, the Christian world will begin to blossom again as it does each year with crib scenes, depicting our dear Lord as a baby lying in a manger. It is to Saint Luke that we owe the knowledge that Our Blessed Mother laid her divine son in a manger because there was no room in the inn at Bethlehem. She and Saint Joseph probably regretted the fact that they could do no better for this divine child than to cradle him where animals ate, but in God’s providence, that manger has become one of the most charming, the most moving, the most inspiring indications of the humility, poverty, simplicity of the Incarnate God. Then, during his public life, Jesus gave to us a number of parables that form the heart of Christian theology and have entered world literature in a way that puts Virgil, Homer, Aristophanes, and Shakespeare to shame. These treasures of divine revelation include the parables of the good Samaritan, the lost sheep, the rich man and poor beggar, the publican and the pharisee, and possibly the most beautiful of them all, the prodigal son.

Where would we be—where would Christian spirituality be, without those incomparable gems of God’s word? Just to take one of these splendid examples of Saint Luke’s contribution to our holy religion, when the prodigal son comes home after squandering half the family fortune and reducing himself to poverty and shame, the older son is angry and unforgiving. He says to his father in sarcasm, “When YOUR SON returns . . . for him you slaughter the fattened calf.”  And the loving father replies, “We must celebrate and rejoice, because YOUR BROTHER was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”  Nothing in all of Scripture tells us more about God and His Divine Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, than those simple but profound words. So we rejoice today in celebrating the man who was inspired by God to write for posterity those words of Jesus. In doing so, he has conferred an incomparable gift to 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 | October 16, 2014

Feast of Saint Hedwig (16 October 2014)

It’s wonderful how coincidences occur; they are God’s little ways of encouraging us in his ways. In the gospel for today’s Mass, Our Divine Lord tells his followers: beware of the leaven of the Pharisee. And Saint Luke, who reports this to us, explains that by leaven, Jesus means hypocrisy. Why should leaven mean hypocrisy? And therefore why should the Jewish people rid their homes and their meals of all leaven and leavened breads during the celebration of the Passover? And, taking the idea one step further, why do we Catholics use only unleavened bread when celebrating Mass? The reason is this:  to the Jewish mentality beginning with the law of Moses, leaven—yeast or baking powder—was hypocritical because it caused bread dough to seem larger than it really was. When the baker mixes leaven with his dough and gives it time to rise, the whole batch of dough swells up and becomes much bigger than it was before the leaven was added. Why? Because the leaven causes carbon dioxide to be released in the dough, and the gas makes the heavy dough swell and become light and fluffy.

The difference between leavened bread and unleavened is the difference between a nice roll or muffin or croissant, and a plain soda cracker, or our communion wafers. If you were to invite your neighbors over for breakfast tomorrow morning, promising them communion wafers, they’d think you were crazy and probably wouldn’t come. And yet, Christians across the world get up early in the morning to attend Mass and receive the communion wafer during the Holy Sacrifice. That’s the difference between nature and grace. What we would spurn naturally, we eagerly receive under the impulse of God’s grace because we know it to be the Body of Christ.  The coincidence that I spoke of earlier is this: while I was thinking of this notion of leaven, I opened the Houston newspaper which I read each morning.  And there, on page A14, is an article which is VERY important to New Orleanians, those still there and those who have been exiled by hurricane Katrina. The article announces that the Café du Monde is about to reopen! That means that once again, the locals and the tourists alike will be able to sit at the outdoor café just across the street from Jackson Square and our Cathedral, in the heart of the French Quarter, and have their beloved beignets, a sort of fritter made of bread dough, fried in deep oil, and served piping hot, usually sprinkled with powdered sugar.  And of course, eaten with a steaming cup of good New Orleans café au lait—coffee and milk. It is very nice of the Lord to have given us beignets to begin with; to make them an integral part of life in New Orleans, my home town, and then to allow the reopening of this beignet shop along with the notice of it in the Houston newspaper which I read! When we want to jokingly make fun of someone’s ideas, we sometimes say, “Oh, you’re full of hot air!”  It is the hot air in the beignet that makes it so delicious; it is the lack of air in a cracker or a communion wafer that makes them much less desirable. The one is very pure but blah; the other is full of hot air, but delicious. When you eat really good bread, you’re eating a lot of air with your baked dough. And this, to the Jewish mind, was hypocritical. It’s all very well for bread to be full of hot air, but we are expected to be pure, genuine, without pretense or seeming to be bigger or better than we really are. 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 15, 2014

Feast of Saint Teresa of Avila (15 October 2014)

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Teresa of Avila, one of the three female Doctors of the Church together with Saints Catherine of Siena and Theresa of the Child Jesus.

When I was in college, I minored in Spanish and because of her numerous writings, I encountered Teresa of Avila, one of the most influential figures in early (16th century) Spanish literature and surely one of the greatest of our saints.  I had to read her, not from a spiritual motive but from a literary one. She is to Spanish literature what Chaucer or Milton is in English literature. Then, in the navy in California, I became acquainted with some Carmelite nuns in Berkeley, San Francisco, Carmel, and San Diego and came to know the tremendous charm of those wonderful women in their fervent communities of prayer. Later still, on my travels in Europe and the Holy Land after ordination, I had the great joy of visiting Mount Carmel in the Holy Land where all Carmelite spirituality began with the prophets Elijah and Elisha, the convents of Carmelite nuns in Avila where the great Teresa lived and initiated her reform of Carmel; the monastery in Lisieux where Saint Therese of the Child Jesus lived and died, and then the monastery in the small town of Echt in the Netherlands from which the Carmelite nun, Edith Stein, or Sister Teresa Benedicta as she was known in religion, was taken by the Gestapo in 1942 and sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz because she was Jewish. These holy women, and many others besides, regard Saint Teresa as their mother, the foundress of their reformed Carmelite life, their ideal, and their guide in the contemplative life.

The Carmelite reform spread throughout the entire Church and has had enormous effect during these four and a half centuries since the life and times of Saint Teresa.  In our own times, the German Jewish philosopher named Edith Stein was converted to Catholicism by reading the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila, and that in turn led to her redemptive death in one of the Nazi death camps.

The people of Spain commonly referred to the King as “His Majesty” back in the 16th century, and Saint Teresa transferred that respect and esteem to God, to whom she often referred as “His Majesty.”  Another of her favorite devotions was to Saint Joseph, the husband of Our Lady and the guardian of the young Christ.  She says in her writings that she never asked Saint Joseph for anything that she did not receive.  We ask Teresa of Avila today to intercede for us with His Majesty, the King of Heaven, and Jesus, His only-begotten Son, the Prince of Peace.  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 14, 2014

Feast of Saint Callistus (14 October 2014)

Listen to what Saint Paul has to say in his letter to the Romans: God will repay everyone according to his works, eternal life those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good words, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness. I call these words to your attention today because they are so timely. Down through the ages, various errors have arisen regarding God’s revelation to us. Being stupid and bad-willed as we humans so often are, we have distorted, twisted, and disobeyed God’s word time and again. But even heresy—which means theological error—has its advantages, because it causes the Church, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to correct those errors and proclaim that which is true and authentic. Perhaps the greatest heresy of our time is the idea that there is no connection between religion and morality. We can call ourselves God-fearing; we can call ourselves Christians; we can even call ourselves Catholics, and yet do exactly as we please, even those things which are totally opposed to the clearly stated will of God.

Take the sacred state of Christian marriage, for instance. Our Lord makes it clear in his gospel that God wills marriage to be monogamous, permanent, faithful, and based upon mutual respect and honor between man and wife. With that in mind, look around you. Pick up the newspapers, or watch TV. Do the various kinds of “relationships,” as they call them, that we find today, follow the will of Our Divine Lord as given to us in the gospel?

Certainly not. We find two unmarried people living together as if they were married. We find divorce and remarriage time and again. We find women bringing children into the world not knowing or caring who the father of each child is, except when she is trying to get child support from the man who fathered each of her children. We find two homosexuals setting up housekeeping and living together, and then, we find even the extreme in unnatural behavior: two homosexuals who are cohabiting demanding the right to marry legally and to adopt children into this situation. Down through the ages, the theological pendulum has swung this way and that. The sexual revolution through which we have been living has produced every imaginable kind of distortion of human and Christian marriage as God and His Divine Son intended them. And of course, the result is a tremendous amount of human unhappiness, since happiness comes with the obedience to God=s will and sin produces unhappiness, both in this life and in the next.

When will the pendulum begin to swing the other way? When will our society wake up to the fact that the commandments of God contain much wisdom and are the only authentic recipe for successful human living? Thank you for allowing God to love you. God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | October 13, 2014

Feast of Edward the Confessor (13 October 2014)

There are two things I=d especially like to call to your attention today. First, it’s the [97]th anniversary of Our Lady’s last appearance at Fatima, when thousands of people watched in awe as the sun seemed to spin like a top, throwing off bright colors in all directions, and then to dislodge itself from its place in the sky and fall toward the people. Then, it seemed to return to its normal place in the sky. For us Dominicans, Our Lady’s appearances at Fatima are particularly significant because there she said of herself, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.” And the Rosary has been identified with our Order for centuries.

Second, today is the day we celebrate the [522nd] anniversary of the “discovery” of America by Christopher Columbus, when he and his party came across one of the Bahamas which he named San Salvador—Holy Savior. Christopher Columbus “discovered” America in the year 1492 in the sense that he awakened among the people of Europe the knowledge a great land-mass across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe even though there had probably been Norsemen on our shores previous to that.

Columbus’s 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 allowing God to love you. God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

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