Posted by: fvbcdm | August 18, 2017

Feast of Saint Helen (18 Aug 2017)

Over the past weekend, I had the pleasure of officiating at two 50th wedding anniversary celebrations, one was here in New Orleans, the other in Houston.  It is a joy to take part in things like that.  I did not know either of those couples back in those days, although I had lived next door to the aunt and uncle of the New Orleans bride when I was a young child.  But, it’s beautiful to see how they have had rich, happy lives, to meet their children and grandchildren, and to see basically what God had in mind when he instituted the Sacrament of Matrimony.  With human faith in the Lord, fidelity to one another, and common sense, marriage can be such a source of happiness for the married couple and their offspring!

And while celebrating those two anniversaries of those two events that took place fifty years ago, my thoughts went back to my own circumstances at that time.  I had enlisted in the Navy the previous year because of the outbreak of the Korean War.  After about six months of training in San Diego, California, I was sent to the naval air station at Alameda, just across the bay from San Francisco.  And by August of the year 1951, I was falling deeply in love with that incomparable city.  When I first got there, my southern blood rebelled against the chill, the dampness, and the frequent fog of the Bay area.  I wondered why anyone would want to live there.  By the time six months had passed, I wondered why anyone would want to live anywhere else.  My opinion hasn’t changed.  If I were footloose and could live anywhere I chose, I would go back to San Francisco immediately.

God has been especially good to me in terms of my dwelling places.  New Orleans—which is where I was born and raised—is a wonderful place with all kinds of advantages.  And then, San Francisco is, in my opinion, the most exciting and fascinating city in the nation.  So this past weekend was one of memories, happy memories, for the couples celebrating their anniversaries and for those of us celebrating with them.  It was a time to be grateful to God, who says, in the words of Jesus in the Gospel, “I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

 

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 17, 2017

Feast of Saint Hyacinth of Poland (17 Aug 2017)

It is interesting to observe how the different teachings of our Lord become more pertinent in a given time period when the foolishness and sinfulness of mankind denies them or violates them.  In the Gospel Jesus makes it clear that marriage is to be a lifelong commitment and that one who divorces one’s spouse and marries another is committing adultery, and, of course, the Sixth Commandment of God’s law says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  We are living in what has been called the sexual revolution.  That means that, thanks to the invention of the contraceptive pill and the legalization of abortion throughout the world, even the so-called Christian nations have become grossly promiscuous sexually and are involved in practices that are totally opposed to the nobility, the beauty, the loftiness which God has in mind when He creates us male and female and gives us the power to inject a new life by our exercise of human sexual love.

When our Blessed Mother appeared at Fatima early in the Twentieth Century, she foretold that many would lose their souls because of sins of the flesh.  Sexual immorality is so attractive to some, so addictive, and so alienating from God that those who are given to any of the practices of adultery, fornication, masturbation, contraception, or homosexual acts, lose interest and concern for the spiritual life, for virtue, for prayer, for union with God.  In our contemporary world, illicit sex is made licit—pornography, the manufacture of the various paraphernalia related to sexual sins, condoms, and even organized travel for the express purpose of seeking out prostitutes of both sexes in different parts of the world for the gratification of the traveler’s lust.  In many of the traditionally Christian countries of the world, the birth rate is falling below the point of zero population growth, and the percentage of those young people who approach the Sacrament of Marriage still adorned with the beautiful gift of virginity is tragically low.

Our Lord tells us that we are the Salt of the Earth, the Light of the World, if we are to live up to these responsibilities and opportunities, we must live lives of chastity, purity, modesty, and we must let it be known that we glory in the gift of sexual nobility and self-control. Thus, we make a positive contribution to the well-being of our world and its people, the spiritual ecology of our own human family.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 16, 2017

Feast of Saint Stephen of Hungary (16 Aug 2017)

In the Gospel we hear our Lord’s parable of the two debtors, each of whom begs for mercy from his creditor.  One of the Gospel accounts specifies the amount of money that each of them owed, and recently, a scripture scholar figured out that one of them owed about $300,000 in today’s American money, while the other owed him about $1.45.  The contrast between these two sums of money is a classic example of our Lord’s use of hyperbole in making His points.  The man who owed the $300,000 had his debt totally forgiven by his creditor, but he in turn would not forgive the debt of the man who owed him $1.45.  When the generous creditor finds out that the one to whom he remitted the huge debt refused to forgive his debtor this paltry sum, he was furious and insisted that he pay him back the full $300,000 or else.

When Jesus was asked by His Apostles to teach them to pray, He gave them and us the most Christian of all Christian prayers, “The Our Father.”  In it, Jesus puts upon our lips the words, “forgive us out trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Many throughout the world say that every day, including us.  But how many of us really mean it?  Are you quick to forgive either real or imagined offenses or injustices perpetrated against you? Are you careful not to hold grudges?  not to seek punishment for those who offend you?   not to treat the with hostility and contempt, in a way designed clearly to show that you are angry, resentful and unforgiving?

The “Our Father” can be a dangerous prayer to say!  When we ask God to forgive us as we forgive, do we realize what we are saying?  Do we really want God to treat us as we treat those that we consider guilty of offending us?  We better listen carefully to what we are saying!  We better examine our consciences in terms of our treatment of others.  Otherwise, we might well be calling down the wrath of God upon ourselves. Many of the saints have welcomed the opportunity to forgive their persecutors.  It gives them a kind of claim on the mercy of God.  We would do well to imitate that quality of theirs.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 15, 2017

The Solemnity of the Assumption (15 Aug 2017)

On the fifteenth of August each year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of our Blessed Mother’s Assumption into Heaven—that event which corresponds to the Ascension of Jesus into the Glory of Eternal Life.  We do not know when or where the Mother of Jesus ended her days on earth.  We do not even know whether she died.  Some theologians think it was fitting that she should die because her Divine Son died.  Others thing not, since she was never under the slightest influence of sin, nor was it her vocation to give her life for the redemption of the world.  The Eastern Church has always spoken, not of the death of our Lady, but rather of her “dormition”—a word which means “falling asleep.”

In any case, whatever actually happened at the end of our Lady’s days on earth, she did not die as we die—so that our bodies are separated from our souls and begin to corrupt.  We get an interesting idea of how the Church meditates upon this Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary by the readings that she chooses for the Feast and its Vigil.  On the Vigil of the Assumption, the first reading is from the First Book of Chronicles and describes how King David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Tent of Meeting, which preceded the Temple, and enthroned it there with much ceremony and solemnity.  Our Lady has often been seen as symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant—that sacred box which contained the scrolls of God’s Law.  Just as God is symbolized by His Law written upon scrolls, which were the most sacred objects of the Old Testament, so the container in which these scrolls were kept is seen as the symbol of the Mother of God, who contained in her own body the Son of God, that is why one of the titles we give to our Lady in her litany is “Ark of the Covenant.”

Just as the Solemnity of our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven is a beautiful occasion of hope and optimism for us, so is that of His Immaculate Mother’s Assumption.  Christ is the Savior of the World.  He goes, as He promised, to prepare a place for us.  Mary, the Mother of God, is Queen of His Heavenly Kingdom.  She is the first purely human being to be taken body and soul into Heaven, and thus, she blazes the trail, as it were, for all those who will follow her by dying in union with her Divine Son.  We address ourselves to Her, “Most Holy Virgin, you who never sinned, and therefore, did not die our ordinary human death, pray for us who are sinners, at the hour of our death.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 14, 2017

Feast of Saint Maximilian Kolbe (14 Aug 2017)

Since my high school days, I’ve carried the same rosary in my pocket at all times, having prayed it countless times and touched it to sacred spots around the globe in my travels.  One of the most sacred spots it has touched is the floor of the cell at Auschwitz in which Saint Maximilian Kolbe and his nine companions died at the hands of the Nazis during their hellish years in Europe.  Maximilian was a Polish, Franciscan priest who had a very special devotion to our Lady the Immaculate.  He had been sent to Japan as a young priest where he began the publication of a magazine to acquaint the Japanese people with the Mother of Jesus and where he formed a sort of village of young Catholics who could live there and gain mutual support in their faith in the heart of that pagan land.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, he was brought back to Poland.  When the Nazis invaded Poland and thus began World War II, he was arrested for his religious publications, but he was eventually freed with the command not to engage in religious journalism any more.  He went right back to it.  This time he was sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, which was later to become the principal death camp for the Nazis’ attempt to destroy every Jew in Europe.  While he was there, one of the prisoners escaped.  In reprisal for this the Nazis took ten of the remaining prisoners to kill them.  One of them begged for mercy.  He said he had a wife and children back home and was hoping eventually to rejoin his family.  His death would have been extremely hard on his wife and his children.  At that point Saint Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and asked if he could substitute himself for the other prisoner.  Delighted to have a reason to kill a priest, the Nazis agreed.

So Saint Maximilian and the other nine were locked in a cell in the basement of one of the prison buildings.  They were left there in the dark with no food, nothing to drink, no toilet facilities, no heat.  About two weeks later the guards returned to see if they were all dead.  Two or three were still barely alive, including Saint Maximilian, so they hastened their death so that they could use the cell for other prisoners.  The Nazis injected carbolic acid into their veins.  They died very quickly in terrible suffering.

I visited Auschwitz some years ago with my travel group, and, as we were showed that cell, I knelt down, and through the prison bars, I was able to lay my rosary on the floor of that hell-hole, which was for Saint Maximilian the antechamber of Heaven.  We celebrate his feast on August 14th—a man who lived and died during the lifetime of many of us.  The man whose life he saved, by the way, was eventually reunited with his wife and children, and lived to be an old man, dying not long ago.  Greater love than this no one has—that one lay down his life for his friends.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 12, 2017

Feast of Saint Clare (11 Aug 2017)

Yesterday, I received an inquiry from a friend of mine concerning the parable of the Good Samaritan.  He had heard two different interpretations of it and was asking my opinion.  His question was this—in the parable, who is Christ? the wounded man in the ditch or the Good Samaritan who cares for him.  The answer is not so simple because our Lord’s stories are rich in meaning and don’t admit of only one, easy answer.

Certainly our Lord means to tell us that we should be willing to help anyone in any need, as the Samaritan helped the wounded man by the roadside.  And elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus says, “whatever you do to these, the least of my brothers, you do to Me.”  So, at this level, Jesus is the wounded man in the ditch and we have many opportunities to help our Lord by helping those we encounter each day.

On the other hand, the human race has been wounded by original sin and our own personal sin, and we individually are wounded by our various difficulties—bad health, difficult financial situations, family problems, worry and anxiety, increased debility as we grow older, etc.  And in all these things, Jesus is there to help us, and help us He does, day after day.  So, at this level, Jesus is the Good Samaritan, and we are, individually and collectively, the wounded man in the ditch.

In a sense, it is good to know that we are wounded. That way, we don’t make unrealistic demands of ourselves or become surprised or discouraged when we foul up, as we all do from time to time.  The proud man gets very mad with himself when he fails at something.  The humble man is saddened but not surprised or embittered by his failure.  He simply relies upon God’s help, does what he can to rectify the situation and goes on.  So, to all of you who are in the ditch with me, I say, “Christ extends His hand to all of us.” Let us grasp it.  Let Him help us.  Accept His help.  Overcome your fall into the ditch and keep going.  Jesus will never leave you.  May you never leave Him either. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 11, 2017

Feast of Saint Lawrence (10 Aug 2017)

Back in the days when Latin was the working language of the Church there were two phrases that were commonly used in opposition to one another.  They were “in via” and “in patria.”  They mean “on the way” and “at home.”  Life was seen as a journey, a pilgrimage.  We are created outside our father’s home.  “Patria,” the word for homeland, derives from “pater,” the word for father, and our entire life is intended to be a pilgrimage to our father’s house, which is our eternal home—the one that we have been created to occupy.

This is a very important principle of our Holy Faith.  You see, we were not made for life in this world.  We’re only passing through here. We are “in via” on the way.  Unfortunately some people—even some Christians who don’t understand the Gospel very well—think of this life as being the be-all-and-end-all of our existence.  They live as if there were no death, no judgment, no heaven or hell.  They settle down here when they should only be passing through.  They try to make this there permanent abode.  As a result, dearth is a terrible threat to them, and when it comes, they see it as a competitor.

In the mind of Christ, however, this life is very short indeed, and it is simply the antechamber to our real life—our eternal home in Heaven with God, Our Father.  Saint Paul says, “we have not here a lasting city but we wait for another,” and our Lord warns us repeatedly in the Gospel, “You don’t know when the Son of Man will come to get you! So be ready at all times.”  Many of the Saints have counseled others to live each day as if it were their last.  It might just be.  And, some day, it will be.  This is not to be morbid or pessimistic.  On the contrary, when Cardinal Manning, an English Bishop of the late nineteenth century, lay dying, his nurse bent over him and said, “Your Eminence, how are you feeling?”  He looked up, smiled weakly, and said, “I feel like a schoolboy going home for the holidays!”  There is certainly nothing pessimistic about that.  And that is exactly the attitude that we should all have in the face of death.  “Come, Lord Jesus.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 10, 2017

Feast of Saint Edith Stein (9 Aug 2017)

Back in the 60s a college professor wrote a book called “The Uncommitted.”  It had to do with the new phenomenon in American life whereby young people couldn’t make up their minds what they wanted to do with their lives, what profession or trade or vocation they wanted to follow.  Before that, it was common for young people graduating from high school to know what they wanted to do, so they went to college to pursue that particular profession or branch of learning.  But then, the errors of existentialism burst upon the American scene, and everything changed, especially in the minds of the young.

What exactly is existentialism?  It is a very hard concept to define because it claims that you can’t really define anything.  We might think in these terms: There are picture people in the world, and there are story people.  The former people think of reality as a picture which hangs on the walls of an art museum or of your living room.  It remains basically the same all the time.  The latter—story people—-think of reality as a story.  You never know what the next chapter is going to bring or how the story will end.

Existentialist are story people run amok.  Nothing remains the same, they say.  Everything changes.  We can’t know what tomorrow brings.  How can a man say to a woman, “I take you as my wife until death do us part”?  How do I know that I will love you tomorrow?  That I will find life with you desirable next month? next year?  Therefore, marriage is, at best, a temporary arrangement until you or I grow tired of each other.  How can young Catholics become priests or nuns, which requires a vow of chastity, when they don’t know whom they might meet tomorrow and how much they might be sexually attracted by that person?  Therefore, religious vows are impossible or meaningless.

As a result of that existentialism, the divorce rate among American marriages is now at 50%, and vocations to religious life and the priesthood have dropped drastically from the year 1956, for example, when I entered the religious life until the present time.  And what do we find among young people instead of a clear idea of what they want to do?  We find drinking, drugs, suicide, sexual sins of all kinds, refusal to practice organized religion, and frequent confusion as to the difference between right and wrong, truth and falsehood.  The last 40 years have been littered with the bodies and the souls of those who have embraced existentialism, even though they didn’t know what they were doing at the time.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 8, 2017

Feast of Saint Dominic (8 Aug 2017)

Today the Church celebrates the feast of our founder and father Saint Dominic, and, of course, it is a very special day for us Dominicans who derive our name and our identity from that remarkable man from north-central Spain who was born about the year 1170.  When he realized his dream and founded an order which would devote itself to the preaching of sacred Truth throughout the world, he chose as the one-word motto of his order, simply “Truth.”  By doing so, he was echoing the words of our Divine Lord who stood before Pontius Pilate, on trial for his life.

Hoping that it would bring about Jesus’s death, the leaders of the people told Pilate, “he says he is a king.”  That was a lie.  Our Lord had never said such a thing.  Pilate, being the politician that he was, was always fearful of a rebellion against the Roman Empire and its Emperor, questioned our Lord, “Are you a king?”  Even here, Jesus will not simply say, “Yes,” since he certainly was not the kind of king that Pilate was talking about.  Jesus, therefore, does not answer directly, but rather says to Pilate, “That is your terminology not mine. The reason I was born and came into the world is to bear witness to the Truth.”

Pilate was no philosopher or theologian.  He was not interested in “Truth,” whatever that might mean.  He was irked by Jesus’s answer since it doesn’t give him any reason to kill our Lord.  Abstract ideas like Truth were not forbidden by Roman law.  Claiming to be a king was forbidden.  Nevertheless, Christ makes this magnificent statement to a corrupt petty politician who is seeking some grounds to kill Him while He, Christ, in turn, is carrying out the Divine Plan for the salvation of the world by His own death.

Saint Dominic took that concept of Truth and made it the motto of his order.  At present the very concept of Truth is being challenged in our world by those who deny the possibility of knowing Truth.  They are called relativists.  They say that what is true for you is not true for me.  Therefore, Truth is whatever you think it is, whatever I think it is, and whatever all the other people on this earth think it is.  Thus, the concept becomes totally meaningless.  So why try to find it, to embrace it, to live by it?  If there is no objective Truth, then the death of Jesus and all the Christian martyrs was a waste, and our sacred doctrines are no more than private, personal opinions.  Not so says Christ.  Not so says the Church.  Not so says Saint Dominic.  Let the relativists live in the confusion that their theories brings them to.  We, in turn, say to our Divine Lord, as did Saint Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the Words of Eternal Life!”  Thank you for allowing God to love you, God bless you.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

 

Posted by: fvbcdm | July 13, 2017

Feast of Saint Henry (13 Jul 2017)

Let’s think about our Lord’s parable of the Good Samaritan for a moment.  To begin with, most of us miss at least part of our Lord’s point because we don’t know what a Samaritan was.  You see, the Holy Land, in those days, was basically divided into three areas.  In the south, there was Judea, with the capital city Jerusalem—the heart of all Judaism.  North of Judea was Samaria, whose inhabitants were called Samaritans.  Several centuries before the time of Jesus, the Samaritans had separated themselves from the Jews politically, socially, and religiously.  They had their own religion, their own temple, their own government, and, because of this, there was much antagonism between Samaritans and Jews.

North of Samaria was Galilee, where Jesus grew up in Nazareth and where He spent most of his public life on the shores of the sea of Galilee.  Jews going back and forth between Galilee and Judea usually went by way of the Jordan river valley to avoid ugly confrontations with the Samaritans, who occupied the spine of the country.  When the scholar of the law asked Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus gave him and the entire world this famous and beautiful story of the Good Samaritan.  In the Jewish mind, a “good Samaritan” was a contradiction in terms.  There were no good Samaritans in their view.  Yet, after a Levite—one of the “good guys”—and a priest—another one of the “good guys”—have passed the wounded man in the ditch without doing a thing to help him, a Samaritan comes along and does exactly what he should have done in terms of humanitarian and merciful behavior.

So you see, Jesus is telling us at least two things here: (1) do what you can for anyone in need; and (2) don’t fall into the error of discrimination and prejudice.  Just because a man is a Samaritan doesn’t make him bad.  Just because a man is a priest or a Levite doesn’t make him good.  Just because a man is a member of a minority in our own society doesn’t make him undesirable.  Elsewhere, our Lord sums up His teaching on benevolence by saying to us, “Whatever you do to these, the least of My brothers, you do to me.”  Thank you for allowing God to love you, God bless you.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

 

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