When the archangel appeared to Zachary who was to become the father of Saint John the Baptist, he began his message by saying, “Don’t be afraid.” Then, about six months later, when he appeared to Our Blessed Mother, he said to her, “Don’t be afraid.” And then when Saint Joseph became aware that his little fiancee was pregnant, and Joseph was unsure what to do about it, the archangel said to him also: “Don’t be afraid.”

This refrain “Don’t be afraid” is to be found on a number of occasions in sacred history.  When God enters into human life, the human is sometimes intimidated or overwhelmed by the event. But God’s intention is always beneficial, he always comes to help, to comfort, to guide, to save.

Take the problem of scrupulosity, for example.  It is an emotional state which finds it impossible or very difficult to convince oneself that God really loves the scrupulous person.  He might know that intellectually, but he can’t get it down to the level of feelings and emotions.  And so he suffers.  Can God possibly love ME? Does he forgive my sins? If I pray, will he hear me, be attentive to me, answer my cries for help? When I pray, do I do it right? When I confess my sins in the sacrament of penance, am I thorough enough? Does the priest understand what I mean? Am I trying to gloss over my sins? Am I really sorry for my sins? And on, and on, and on.

Yes, God does love you. Don’t be afraid. Yes, he forgives you. Don’t be afraid. Yes, you are doing your best; nothing more is required of you. Don’t be afraid. Yes, Jesus wants to be your savior, your brother, your friend. Don’t be afraid. All of this is summed up very beautifully in this entrance antiphon: “He who is to come will not delay. And then there will be no fear in our lands, because he is our Savior.” 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 | December 29, 2021

Feast of Saint Thomas of Canterbury (29 Dec 2021)

I think that most of us remember our high school courses in English literature. One of the earliest works that most of us studied was “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer. In the work, which is a collection of stories told by a group of pilgrims to one another as they were making their way from London to the famous shrine town of Canterbury in Kent, southeast of London. The reason they were going to Canterbury is that in the year 1170 King Henry II of England let it be known among his knights that he wanted to get rid of Thomas a Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury and therefore the highest-ranking prelate in all of England.  Thomas had been a close friend of the king when they were younger, but when the king began to encroach more and more upon the authority of the archbishop and the Church in general, the archbishop began to resist and the king saw him as an enemy to be gotten rid of.

On December 29, the king’s henchmen, wishing to curry favor with the king, entered the cathedral at Canterbury and stabbed the archbishop to death with swords and daggers. The sacrilegious crime horrified the nation and all of Christian Europe, and very shortly thereafter, Archbishop Thomas a Becket was canonized; we usually speak of him as Saint Thomas of Canterbury. From then until the destruction of his tomb in the church in which he was slain by King Henry VIII more than three centuries later, millions of devout pilgrims went on pilgrimage to Canterbury from all parts of Christendom. Today is the fifth day of the octave of Christmas when the Church continues to rejoice over the birth into our world of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But if we wish, we can also celebrate Mass in honor of Saint Thomas of Canterbury on this anniversary of his martyrdom.

This is a very appropriate day on which we might pray for the reunion of Anglicanism with Catholicism, and also pray for our Episcopalian brothers and sisters who are so grieved over the tumult within their own church which is causing individuals, parishes, and even entire dioceses to separate themselves from the Episcopal Church in this country. 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 | December 28, 2021

Feast of the Holy Innocents (28 Dec 2021) 

On this day, three days after we celebrate the birth of Our Divine Lord, we celebrate the death of about twenty baby boys in the village of Bethlehem shortly after the birth of Christ.  We call them “the Holy Innocents” and we reflect upon the sad history of infanticide—the killing of small children—throughout history. 

About fourteen centuries before Our Lord, the Pharaoh of Egypt became frightened by the very great growth of the Jewish population in Egypt and gave orders that when a Jewish woman gave birth, if the baby was a girl, she could live, but if a boy, he was to be killed.  Boys grow up to be warriors and can cause trouble.  Girls grow up to be wives and concubines and do not present a threat to the local population.  One baby boy was hidden by his family; he became Moses, and eventually led his people out of Egypt into the land promised to the Jews, the land of Israel. 

We come forward in our history fourteen centuries and find Our Lord being born in Bethlehem, and the Magi arriving in Jerusalem and inquiring about the birth of the new “King of the Jews” whose star they had followed from their home “in the east.”  The current king, Herod, was much disturbed by this news.  He perceived in this newborn “King of the Jews” a threat to his own position, so solved his problem the way many murderers have done: he ordered the killing of all the baby boys in Bethlehem under the age of two years. Historians figure that about twenty babies were snatched from their mothers’ arms or their cribs and run through with swords, or perhaps beheaded. Those were the “Holy Innocents” of today’s feast.  As our liturgy tells us today, they gave witness to Jesus “not by speaking, but by dying.”  A newborn baby cannot speak, but can certainly die.   

So again this year, we pray on the feast of the Holy Innocents for a respect for human life in our country and the world, a respect for human family life, for human sexuality, and for what we call “the fear of the Lord” in not destroying the human lives which he has made.  A respect for the embryo, the fetus, the newborn baby, the growing child, the adolescent, the young adult, the older adult, and then those in the last years of their lives.  As Scripture tells us, we are all “fearfully, wonderfully made.” 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 | December 7, 2021

Feast of Saint Ambrose (7 Dec 2021) 

It was a balmy, pleasant Sunday afternoon in New Orleans, that December 7, 1941.  I was in my first semester of high school, and that afternoon, I was at the home of my cousins, playing badminton in their side yard with them and some of the neighborhood kids.  At about 2 p.m., my aunt came running out onto the front porch and called to us: come in, quickly!  Listen to the radio!  The Japanese are bombing Hawaii!  We all went inside to listen to reports as they came in, minute by minute.  The main attack had been on a place near Honolulu called Pearl Harbor.  Most of us had never heard of Pearl Harbor, but the girl from across the street had: her brother was in service, and was stationed there.  She began to cry, fearful for his well-being. 

The next day was the feast of the Immaculate Conception; after Mass we listened again to the radio as President Franklin Roosevelt called the previous day one that would “live in infamy,” and declared war upon “the empire of Japan,” as he called it.  Those of us who were alive and conscious of world events then can never forget where we were and what we were doing on that Sunday afternoon which brought about our participation in World War II. 

Just eleven-and-a-half years later, in 1953, I was in the Navy, aboard the USS Boxer, an aircraft carrier, and on Easter Sunday morning, we glided quietly into Pearl Harbor and were able to see the wreckage of a number of the ships destroyed by the Japanese bombs during that attack.  It was hard to imagine that that peaceful, serene location could have been the scene of such horror on an Advent Sunday not so long before.  Just a couple of years ago, I was there again, this time as a civilian tourist, and was able to tour the area of the attack, looking down into the water of the harbor at the remains of the USS Arizona which blew up, taking with her to the bottom hundreds of her crewmen whose bodies have never been retrieved from the ship that entombs them.  It is a sobering and very moving experience. 

On the afternoon of that Easter Sunday, 1953, I went into the city of Honolulu, adjacent to Pearl Harbor, and made a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the cathedral of Our Lady of Peace—the church where Father Damien, the leper priest of Molokai, was ordained before being sent, at his own request, to give his life by working with the lepers.  What a contrast!  Pearl Harbor, where an act of war killed over 2000 military and civilian victims.  And the cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, where for many years, the Prince of Peace has dwelt in the Holy Eucharist among the people and from which the sacramental life of the Church flows out bringing life and hope and joy.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

Note:  This message was composed some years ago 

Our national celebration of Thanksgiving is unique in all the world, as far as I know.  I’m not aware of any other country that has a Thanksgiving Day.  It is to the credit of the American people that we have celebrated it and preserved it during the entire history of our nation.  I’m surprised that the ACLU or some similar organization has not tried to get rid of it, since it is essentially religious.  If you are going to give thanks, then to whom are you going to give thanks?  By its very nature, Thanksgiving requires someone to thank, and, of course, that someone is God.

So even though the non-religious people in our country make a baked turkey, rather than the Almighty God, the center of their Thanksgiving observance, Thanksgiving is a religious celebration, and we, who do believe in God and do wish to express our gratitude to Him for all that He does for us, can make of this national holiday a uniquely reverent and devout celebration.

Let us remember our miliary personnel as we celebrate Thanksgiving this year.  I have some idea how they feel.  I have celebrated the Fourth of July a number of times outside the United States, and once, I celebrated Thanksgiving in Rome.  It wasn’t the same as being at home with family and friends in the heart of our own nation which is observing the day together as a people.  This year our military forces are deployed in many countries throughout the world.  Thanksgiving will remind them of home, families, and their past lives as few other things can do.  Let us pray for them that this will be the last time they must be away from their homes and families because of world hostilities and let us pray for the Peace of Christ throughout this world, where so many misguided people find war so easy and peace so difficult. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago

Today is the last Sunday of our church year and is celebrated as the Solemnity of Christ the King. It is an interesting feast and a very recent one, for it was established by Pope Pius XI who was the supreme pontiff when I was born. He decreed that the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar, that is, the Sunday just before Advent would henceforth be celebrated as the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ as universal King.

We read in an excellent work called The Church’s Year of Grace these words concerning this feast: “The purpose of the feast is to renew in the minds and hearts of the faithful the ancient concept of Christ as Divine King who, enthroned at the right hand of the Father, will return at the end of time in might and majesty.” This concept of Our Divine Lord and King as the “Omega point” toward whom all history is flowing as a river flows into the sea is a powerful and beautiful one. It reflects the biblical words in the Book of Revelation: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God; the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and so the term “Omega point” means the culmination of that great development of salvation history. Our God in all three of the divine persons has existed forever, exists and reigns now, and will continue on forever. Now, a well-regulated kingdom is one in which the will of the king is carried out fully; there is none of the disorder of crime or neglect of the law that we always find in human kingdoms because of sin. As long as time goes on, some human beings will offend God. But then the moment will come when time will end, and after that, there will be no more disobedience to God on earth and in heaven. Only in hell will there be hatred of God, and God will allow those who are there, if any, to do as they wish. Those in heaven will do as God wishes, which means human peace and total happiness.

Let us listen to the preface for the Mass of Christ the King. It is a marvel of liturgy: Father, all powerful and ever living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks. You anointed Jesus Christ, your only Son, with the oil of gladness as the eternal priest and universal king. As priest he offered his life on the altar of the cross and redeemed the human race by this one perfect sacrifice of peace. As king he claims dominion over all creation that he presents to you, his almighty Father, an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.

Christ is our King; his rule is one of love; we are his subjects if we will obey his rule as we should, we will learn to love, and love of our God and our neighbor will make us eternally happy. 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 17, 2021

Feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (17 Nov 2021) 

Next Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King.  It is the last Sunday in our church calendar year.  It represents the culmination of the movement of the church life from the beginning of Advent until Christ the King.  Then, the following Sunday, the whole beautiful cycle of the liturgy begins over again.   

As we spend these last days of the church year, more and more we are reminded of the importance of love in the Christian gospel.  Today, for example, we are told at Mass for the commemoration of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary that those who do not love their brothers remain dead, and to hate our brother is to be a murderer.  That is strong language!  And in the gospel passage from Saint Luke, Our Lord tells us, “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you . . .  Give, and there will be gifts for you, because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.”  

Think of these words of our Savior often, my dear friends.  I can imagine that many people when standing before the judgment seat of God, ask themselves too late, “Why didn’t I take the words of Christ more seriously?  Why was I so concerned with my appearance, my clothes, my social position, the amount of fun I could have during my life on earth, rather than the things that the Church and the lives of the saints constantly reminded me of?”  Let us wake up; let us be wise and mature and careful to make of our life on earth the kind of preparation for the judgment that it should be.  Christ the King is also Christ the Judge and Christ the Redeemer.  Let us keep these facts straight and allow them to be the guides of our moral life while we can still choose wisely. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

Note:  This message was composed some years ago 

On November 16 in the year 1093, the beloved Queen Margaret of Scotland died. She was an English princess whose father had fled to Scotland to escape the Norman conquest of his own country. There Margaret met and married the king, Malcolm. Their daughter Matilda married King Henry I of England, and that couple became the forebears of the present British royal family. The city of Edinburgh in Scotland is filled with historical memories of Queen Margaret who is also Saint Margaret of Scotland. She was a deeply devout lady whose special interest was the helping of the poor in her adopted country, and because of her constant concern for them, she was beloved by her people. 

On my one and only visit to the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, I was able to visit the little chapel constructed by order of Saint Margaret within the walls of Edinburgh Castle where she lived as queen. When she arrived there as the bride of the king, she was saddened to find no chapel within the castle walls, and so asked the king to build a chapel on the grounds of the castle. It stands there today, nearly a thousand years later, as a testimonial to the faith of “Good Queen Margaret” and to her love of the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament which she wanted to be part of the daily life of herself, her husband, and her children. When we attend Mass and receive Holy Communion, we are following the example of Saint Margaret and countless other saints and holy men and women down through the ages whose faith led them to believe and rejoice in the presence of our Divine Lord with us in the Sacrament. 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 16, 2021

Feast of Saint Albert the Great (15 Nov 2021) 

This date, November 15, is very meaningful to us Dominicans, especially those in Houston.  First, because it is the feast of Saint Albert the Great, our Dominican confrere who was a brilliant student of philosophy, theology, and the natural sciences, a bishop of the German city of Regensberg (called Ratisbon back in those days of the 13th century), and now a canonized saint and Doctor of the Church.  He was the most prominent teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas in our Order, which alone gives him a reason to be highly respected.  

Then, our church of the Holy Rosary here in Houston was dedicated on November 15, 1933—[eighty-eight] years ago today.  In the early 1990s, the church was struck by lightning and part of the roof burned. The building was restored exactly as it had been before the fire, and was reopened for divine worship on November 15 of that year.  I remember so well one of our most active parishioners named Lane Conway who was heart-broken when the fire took place and the church had to be closed for about six months. She refused to go into the building until it was ready for use again, and on that wonderful November 15, when the doors were opened for the first Mass in the repaired church, she was a VERY happy parishioner! 

Saint Albert was a German who spent much of his life teaching in the city of Cologne.  Because of his brilliance, the Pope insisted on his becoming a bishop, but after just two years, Albert persuaded the next Pope to allow him to go back to his classroom where his heart lay.  Because of his interest in the natural sciences as well as the more abstract philosophy and theology, he has been made the patron saint of those who work in the sciences, study them, and teach them. 

It struck me as very appropriate that in today’s newspaper, an American educator is lamenting the fact that our educational system is poor in this country. Despite the greatness and wealth of the nation, many of our children are not learning as they should and our educational achievements are less than they should be. And in the gospel reading of today’s Mass of Saint Albert, we find the passage in which Our Lord praises the two servants who doubled their master’s money during his absence.  He commended them and welcomed them into a higher level in his service.  Our intelligence, educational abilities, knowledge, and wisdom have been given us by God, and He expects us to use them to our advantage and that of our fellow men.  We might ask through the intercession of Saint Albert the Great that these things be accomplished in our nation and indeed the whole 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 | November 13, 2021

Feast of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (13 Nov 2021) 

In my hometown of New Orleans, there is a part of the city very dear to me. It is in what we call “downtown,” that is, east of Canal Street which divides the city into “uptown” and “downtown.” The “up and down” refer to the flow of the Mississippi River, not to north and south as on a map. 

In the part of the city I speak of, we find City Park, the city’s largest green area with an art museum, beautiful old trees, a lagoon, tennis and golf courses, and even a middle school for boys run by the Christian Brothers.  At the main entrance to City Park there is an equestrian statue of Beauregard, a Confederate general during the Civil War who was a native of New Orleans.  That statue faces a natural body of water called Bayou Saint John which played an important part in the history of early New Orleans.  A few yards away, there are two buildings associated with Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini—more affectionately called “Mother Cabrini” as she was called during her lifetime, some of which was spent in those buildings. She had founded a congregation of Sisters to help her with her work among the Italian immigrants in this country.  To house them and their work, she bought an old plantation house on Bayou Saint John and then had another building built on the same property which would serve as school and orphanage and motherhouse.  In the building she had built one can still visit the little room she used as a bedroom when she visited her Sisters and their charges there. Years ago, I met an old lady who remembered Mother Cabrini whom we celebrate today.  When that old lady was a child, she and her mother would often encounter Mother Cabrini on the sidewalks of that part of the city, with her basket on her arm, going from store to store asking for groceries, cloth, needles and thread, or money to help her and her Sisters with their work among the poor and homeless.  That whole part of the city is still redolent with the spirit of Mother Cabrini, whose statue in the front yard of the convent she built looks out over Esplanade Avenue and blesses those coming and going, many of them totally oblivious of the fact that a canonized saint once walked those sidewalks and rode on that avenue. 

Mother Cabrini came to America from her native Italy in 1889. For the next 28 years, she worked indefatigably in the United States and in Central America for the good of the Italian immigrants. She died in the Columbus Hospital which she had founded in Chicago. The armchair in which she died can still be seen and venerated there. Her body is encased in glass in a high school chapel which her Sisters conduct in New York City. She was the first United States citizen to be canonized, since she had obtained her citizenship during her work in our country. 

The immigrants who still come to our country—some legally, some otherwise—are a political problem for us, but hold great promise of productive citizenship in the future.  Many of them from Latin America are our brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church.  Let us pray for them and do what we can by our civic duties to welcome them into our nation and make it possible for them to lead useful, productive lives in our midst, following the example of this wonderful little Italian woman whom we celebrate today. 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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