Posted by: fvbcdm | September 17, 2014

Feast of Saint Robert Bellarmine (17 September 2014)

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

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

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

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

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 16, 2014

Feast of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian (16 September 2014)

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

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

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

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 15, 2014

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

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

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 11, 2014

Feast of Saint Ambrose Barlow (11 September 2014)

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

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

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

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 10, 2014

Feast of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino (10 September 2014)

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. In a few days, on September 14, the Church will celebrate what is called the Triumph or the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It is a powerful concept, this role of the Cross in Christianity and in our own personal spiritual lives. Let’s list very briefly some of the aspects of this liturgical celebration of Our Divine Lord=s work on the cross:

  1. In the garden of Eden, there was the tree of the knowledge of good AND EVIL whose fruit Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat. But, heeding the tempter rather than God, they ate of it. They became sinners; they lost eternal life, and introduced a whole array of problems into the human race. The early fathers and doctors of the Church used to contrast that tree with the tree of the Cross, whose fruit is Our Lord crucified. Partaking of the tree in Eden meant death; partaking of the Cross and its divine fruit means life.

  2. During the exodus, the people complained about the food that God was miraculously providing for them. He sent venomous snakes into their camp to bite and kill them. They acknowledged their wrong-doing and asked Moses to intercede for them. God told him to make an image of the poisonous snakes which brought death and mount it on a pole. This is to foretell the Cross, on which hangs an image of death in the person of Jesus, suffering and dying. We who are stung by the poison of our own mortality, look upon Him dying, and we are saved from eternal death.

  3. Then we come to the new testament, and hear Our Lord say to us, even before his sufferings and death, “If you wish to be a follower of mine, take up your cross daily and follow me.” Thus Our Lord indicates to us how useful, how effective are our sufferings, our crosses as we call them, and our own death in terms of our making atonement for our sins and those of the world. The most important thing that Christ accomplished during his life was to give that life on the Cross for our redemption. We are asked to give our lives, too—moment by moment, and then totally at their end, in union with the redemptive death of Our Lord. So the Cross, an instrument of torture and death, becomes for the Christian a beautiful symbol of triumph; suffering and death become a participation in the redemption which Jesus accomplishes for us; we speak of “mortifying” (that is, putting to death) our natural inclinations to allow the supernatural grace of God have its way in our lives.

All these ideas are contained in this feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross; in our every making of the Sign of the Cross over ourselves and over things we wish to bless; and in that powerful little prayer: We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 9, 2014

Feast of Saint Peter Claver (9 September 2014)

As you probably know, I am now chaplain to our Dominican monastery of the Infant Jesus in Lufkin, Texas, where a wonderful community of our cloistered, contemplative Sisters lead their beautiful religious life, tucked away in the piney woods of this part of the world. And for the second time, I have the great privilege and joy of serving as their chaplain here and soaking up the silence, serenity, and peace that come from the enclosed way of religious life. Today, Tuesday of the 23rd week of the ordinary time, we have a reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians that could hardly be more appropriate for the Sisters here and in all the contemplative convents and monasteries of the world. Saint Paul says, at the opening of the reading in today’s Mass: Brothers and sisters, if you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Our Heavenly Father has given to his children all sorts of vocations by which his kingdom will be promoted on earth. Most of us marry and have children and raise them to be good citizens of both this world and then heaven. Some of us are called to the single life where we can spend more time and attention on our spirituality. Some others are called to priesthood and religious life where we can shepherd our brothers and sisters of God’s flock, where we can teach or preach or bring the gospel to the far corners of the world, or nurse, or assist the dying. And then some of us—the contemplatives—are called to sit in spirit with Saint Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus and listen to his words and simply love him and be grateful to him for all he does for us.

There are some who do not understand the contemplative life within the Church. I’ve heard the question asked: why don’t they go out of their cloisters and do something worthwhile, something useful for others? The question betrays a misunderstanding of what is worthwhile, of what is useful. We have been made not for this world, but for heaven. And what are we going to do in heaven for all eternity? There won’t be any sick or dying to nurse; any ignorant to teach, any unevangelized corners of the kingdom into which the gospel needs to be brought, any children to raise and educate. In other words, nothing which they might consider “worthwhile” and “useful.” We will spend our eternity adoring, loving, thanking, praising God. We will all be contemplatives. Is it not appropriate that some of us anticipate that way of life here on earth? Is it not appropriate that some of us imitate Our Divine Lord who, we are told, withdrew from others into the hills and there spent the night in prayer? Let us remember that Jesus spent about 33 years on this earth. Over 90% of that time, he spend in the hidden life of Nazareth with his blessed Mother and Saint Joseph. If that doesn’t give us a clear idea of how Jesus wants us to live, I don’t know what could. So we read with joy again the words of Saint Paul: Your life is hidden with Christ in God. Let us do our best to incorporate into our lives here on earth something of the contemplative life of heaven. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

I recently spent two wonderful weeks with my travel group of 43 people in Russia, and then five days in the Rockies of Colorado with two of them. During our time in Colorado, hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast and my home town of New Orleans. The news has been terrible; one of my cousins is even now unaccounted for. And there are, or were, ten feet of water in Saint Dominic Church in New Orleans, where I was stationed until recently.

However, let us speak of happier things. Our visit in Russia was a wonderfully hopeful experience. After seventy years of communism with its evil empire of atheism and human misery, Russia is again enjoying a springtime of faith. Her Orthodox faith has come up from underground; churches are being refurbished everywhere, and eighty percent of the babies now born in Russia are being baptized in the Orthodox Christian faith. At the end of the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII directed that all Catholics pray at Mass for the conversion of Russia. That went on for many years. Then in 1917, the same year that communism took over as the means of government in Russia, Our Lady appeared at Fatima, promising that “in the end Russia will be converted and there will be peace.” Russia has been converted from communism back to religious faith and to a market economy. Now, it remains that that great nation be reunited with Catholicism under the leadership of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth. Only then will the conversion which Our Lady promised will be complete. Let us pray for this, that the unity and peace which are the will of Our Divine Lord, may be achieved. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 4, 2014

Feast of Saint Rosalia (4 September 2014)

I am happy to be back with you with the Catholic Daily Message after three weeks of absence. There are many things to report to you today. My travel group and I had a wonderful river cruise in Russia, from Saint Petersburg to Moscow, with many stops along the rivers in between those two principal cities of Russia. It was very possibly the most informative trip I’ve ever taken, and the most unusual. In the days ahead, I will tell you more of what I learned and experienced during those fourteen days in the great nation that is awakening from a seventy-year period of oppression and imprisonment by the forces of atheistic communism. The contrast between what I saw there in 1980 and what I have just seen this year is immense, thank God.

After those two wonderful weeks in Russia, some friends and I were able to spend five days at the home of a friend in Avon, Colorado, a beautifully situated town just next to the famous ski resort of Vail. However, the day after we arrived in all that serene beauty of the Rocky Mountains, the hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Mississippi gulf coast, and we were in the weird position of sitting in the midst of indescribable beauty and tranquility while watching the horror in Louisiana and Mississippi unfold before our eyes on the television reports. A first cousin of mine was a resident in a nursing home in New Orleans. When the mandatory evacuation orders were issued, the elderly residents had to be air-lifted to Houma, Louisiana, which was in a better condition than New Orleans. But in the confusion and lack of communication and electrical power, seventeen of them “didn’t make it,” as we have been told. No one is sure what that means. But the National Guard has issued a list of the seventeen missing persons; they are presumed to have died somewhere in the evacuation process. But because everything has been so indefinite, confused, and uncertain, we really don’t know what has actually happened. We can only pray and wait for the actual facts to be discovered and made clear. So our beautiful and memorable vacation ended with the sorrow of knowing that my native city of New Orleans has suffered the greatest disaster in its nearly three-century history, and wondering about the condition and whereabouts of relatives, confreres, former parishioners, and friends about whom we can find no information, or just conjecture and uncertainty. It’s like war, with death, destruction, and disruption of human life all around. May God have mercy on all the victims, dead and living, and bring good out of this natural and man-made disaster.Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 4, 2014

Feast of Pope Saint Gregory the Great (3 September 2014)

Today my travel group and I leave on our trip to Russia.  We will fly to Saint Petersburg where we go aboard a river cruiser for a 2-week cruise along Russia’s rivers, canals, and lakes, while visiting the major cities of Saint Petersburg and Moscow and a number of other towns and villages in between.  It promises to be a really memorable experience. I ask your prayers for the safety of my travel companions and myself on our journey.

While we are in Russia, we will find very few Roman Catholics; after seventy years of Marxist Leninism, many of the people are simply atheistic or agnostic. Religion is just not important in their lives. Those who are Christian usually belong to the Russian Orthodox church, since, other than the 70 years of Communism, that has been the state Church for centuries. The Orthodox Church is very close to Catholicism, and we pray that it will before long be reunited with us. But the Orthodox went into what is called schism way back in the year 1054, and since then, there has been antipathy between the two groups.  They have the true doctrines and the valid sacraments of the Church which Our Divine Lord founded. But they will not recognize or accept the Pope as the successor of Saint Peter and therefore the head of the entire Christian community. Recently, since the collapse of Communism and the reemergence of Christianity in Russia, there has been a problem because the Catholic Church has established four dioceses in what used to be the Soviet Union—an enormous land mass with hundreds of millions of inhabitants.  The Church did so to care for the Catholics now living there. However, the Orthodox church resents what it calls our intrusion into their territory, and accuses the Catholic Church of trying to lure souls away from Orthodoxy into Catholicism. Therefore, the relations are strained right now between Rome and Orthodoxy. We on the trip will be praying fervently for the reunion of the two bodies, as the recent Popes have so much wanted and worked for. 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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