Posted by: fvbcdm | November 26, 2015

Feast of Saint John Berchmans (26 November 2015)

On Thanksgiving Day this year, I hope that our nation will celebrate it as its name and purpose intend: to thank a generous and gracious God for his endless benefits to us, especially in this country of ours.  Remember: the principal figure of Thanksgiving should be the generous, provident God and not a baked turkey!

As we sit down to our special meals, let us not do so irreverently or without being aware of what Thanksgiving is about.  Let us be sure that while celebrating a holiday and a wonderful tradition, we don’t overlook God’s goodness to us and don’t forget to thank God for his constant blessings which make our life possible and so enjoyable.  Let us be deeply grateful to God for all that we should be thankful for, and bear in mind the words of Our Divine Lord: if you love me, keep my commandments. We can paraphrase this saying: if you are grateful for my gifts, use them according to my will.

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 25, 2015

Feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (25 November 2015)

From time to time, people sit around and try to think of all the expressions taken from one of our literary classics that are still in common use. Shakespeare is good for this, and it is often surprising how many turns of phrase come from those immortal plays of his. Things like “into thin air” or “in broad daylight” are all due to Shakespeare’s novel ways of expressing an idea. This is also true of Sacred Scripture, and on this Wednesday we have a classic example of it. We have all heard the expression “we saw the handwriting on the wall,” meaning that we were able to foretell the future by the present in terms of finances, politics, health, the weather, and so forth.

On this Wednesday, because it is the last Wednesday of our church year, we have that ominous incident from the book of the prophet Daniel in the Old Testament. The pagan king Belshazzar of Babylon had enslaved the Hebrew people and brought many of them into captivity in his country where they could not enjoy political freedom or religious liberty. One night, the irreverent king ordered his servants to bring out the sacred vessels taken from the Temple in Jerusalem to be used at a banquet. This was totally sacrilegious —to put these objects destined for divine worship to completely secular use. While the king and his court were thus engaged, a hand appeared writing on the wall of the dining hall—writing words that the king and his court could not understand.  The young Jewish prophet Daniel was sent for; he had a reputation of being able to interpret this kind of thing. He read the three words on the wall: MENE, TEKEL, PERES. And he went on to interpret them: because of the wickedness of the king and his irreverent behavior, his kingdom would be put to an end, the king himself had been weighed on the scales of justice and found wanting, and his kingdom would be divided between his enemies, the Medes and the Persians. To this day, we speak of “the handwriting on the wall” foretelling fearful consequences because of human sinfulness.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

I am planning to write a letter to the Reader’s Digest.  A subscription to it is given to me every year by a dear friend of mine; he and his wife have been giving it to me for twenty- four years!

One of the regular features is a sort of vocabulary game called “Word Power.” It tests your knowledge of the meanings of words, and can be very useful in broadening one’s vocabulary. It gives a word, and then four possible meanings of that word. The reader is supposed to choose the right meaning. A few pages after that, it gives the correct answer.

In this December’s issue which just came, one of the words in the “Word Power” game is “vespers.” Now, those of us in religious life and many others as well know that vespers is the evening prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, a part of the prayer life of the Catholic Church and a number of other Christian bodies. We Catholics who are deacons, priests, and bishops as well as religious like monks and nuns and active brothers and sisters, pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day for the entire Church and human family. Nowadays, people often use the term “evening prayer” rather than the more traditional “vespers,” but the two mean the same thing.

When I checked to see the answer given by the Reader’s Digest to the question of what “vespers” means, I found this: “Worship service held in late day or evening. The monks held vespers at sunset.” That irritated me. It irritated me because the magazine gives the impression that vespers, or evening prayer, is something from the past: it doesn’t say the monks HOLD vespers, but HELD vespers. And besides that, it speaks of MONKS. What about all the bishops, priests, deacons and religious who are not monks? And then, what about the many lay people who, more and more, are making the Liturgy of the Hours their principal system of prayer in their daily lives. Thus vespers or evening prayer IS (not “was”) recited or sung daily by thousands of people throughout the world — and many of them are not monks.  (A monk, by the way, is a male religious who is a member of a monastery. I am a Dominican friar and priest; I am not a monk. And yet the Liturgy of the Hours, in addition to daily Mass, is my main means of prayer, and has been for all of us Dominicans since our Order was founded by Saint Dominic in the early 1200s.)

So, let me correct the Reader’s Digest by changing their explanation of the word “vespers” a little: many thousands of Christians — clergy, religious, and laity — hold vespers publicly or recite it privately each day at about sunset. It forms one of the two main parts of the Liturgy of the Hours, the other one being its counterpart in the morning, called “lauds” or “morning prayer.”

By the way, I can’t recommend the Liturgy of the Hours to you too highly. If you really want to pray in union with the universal Church, the best thing you can do is attend Mass, daily if possible. And the next best is to recite the Liturgy of the Hours. 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 23, 2015

Comm. of Blessed Miguel Pro (23 November 2015)

The letter of Saint Paul to Titus is a beautiful letter, showing all the fatherly and gentle care and affection that Saint Paul had for this disciple of his whom he ordained a bishop and ultimately made him the bishop of the Catholics on the island of Crete.

We can profitably meditate on the things that Saint Paul says to Titus. The last paragraph begins by saying, “The grace of God has appeared, saving all . . .” Let’s stop there for a moment. The grace of God, is of course Our Lord Jesus Christ who has come into the world to make atonement for human sins and reopen the gates of heaven which had been closed by the original sin of Adam and Eve. This is what salvation means. We are saved from the certainty of being alienated from God forever. We are made eligible once again to be with God eternally.

Then Saint Paul goes on: “Training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age . . .” The young church found itself preaching a beautiful way of virtuous, prayerful, upright life in the midst of the pagan Roman Empire where anything went in terms of spirituality and morality. It was a civilization much like the one into which our own is sliding as we more and more turn our backs upon God and live a secularized, godless existence, more and more rejecting the moral and spiritual principles of Christ.

Saint Paul continues, “. . . as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us . . . to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.” We are awaiting the coming of Christ.  He will come for us individually at the moment of our death; he will come for us collectively at the end of time. And during this life which is that period of waiting, we must remember that by his precious blood, Jesus has cleansed us to be “a people of his own, eager to do what is good.”

When I hear words like this, I often wonder what it’s like to be a parent raising children in our world today, trying to persuade them to live according to the morality of the gospel, trying to teach these children and teenagers to be “eager to do what is good.”  They have their work cut out for them, these parents of today, who must constantly combat peer pressure and television and the atrocious example of the idols whom young people today so often want to imitate, and drugs, and the sex revolution, and all the elements that lead human beings away from God into the ways of “having fun,” which is properly called hedonism and leads to so much grief.  We were not made for fun alone; we were made for joy. There is a great difference. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago

Posted by: fvbcdm | November 20, 2015

Feast of Saint Edmund Rich (20 November 2015)

[Tomorrow] the Church observes the commemoration of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple. Unfortunately, we have no historical indication that such a thing ever occurred. But from way back, around the year 500, a tradition grew up that when Our Lady was about four years old, her parents brought her to the temple in Jerusalem to dedicate her to the Lord. Maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t.

The reason why the Church keeps this commemoration in her calendar, I think, is to emphasis the notion of “temple” which is very rich one in Judaeo-Christian sacred history.

As the Hebrews were in the desert, having escaped Egypt and on their way to the promised land, God gave to Moses very detailed instructions about building a “tent of meeting” where God would dwell in a very special, localized way among his people. Later, when they were settled in the promised land, King Solomon, the son of David, wished to build a great place of worship in his capital, Jerusalem, which would be an expression of the people’s love for God and their desire to worship him in fitting style. So he built a magnificent temple which lasted for about 400 years. It was destroyed by the Babylonians, and then rebuilt more modestly by the Jewish people when the king of Persia allowed them to return to Jerusalem after their exile in Babylon.

Shortly before the birth of Jesus, King Herod the Great, wishing to curry favor with his people who, he knew, hated him, decided to build a temple even greater than the original one constructed by Solomon. They were still working on it during Our Lord’s time.

Thus, the term “temple” means a place where God dwells among his people and where he can most properly be adored and honored. With the coming of the Christian era, the term was changed from a PLACE to a PERSON. When the Archangel Gabriel was sent to Our Lady to ask her to be the Mother of the Redeemer, he began by saying to her: Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Thus we see that God dwells in the little virgin of Nazareth in a very special way.  And the child whom she would conceive and give to the world would be a temple in an even more special way, since he would be both God and man, and would be, quite literally, adorable. During the nine months of her pregnancy, Our Lady contained the body of Jesus within her own body. She was a temple in a much more human, vital, personal way than any mere building could ever be. And all of her life, she contained Christ in a spiritual way. “Full of grace; the Lord is with you.”

As long as you and I are in the state of sanctfying grace, we, too, are temples because God dwells within us. We should think often of the lives and sanctity of Jesus and Mary and do our best to live as they did since they are our models in living lives “full of grace.”  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, 2015

Feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (17 November 2015)

Get out your Wall Street Journal; we’re going to study some catechism today. It’s interesting that these days, we keep coming across money in the gospels of the daily and Sunday Masses.

Yesterday, we found Jesus creating quite a scene by driving the sacrificial animals for sale out of the temple and upsetting the tables of the money-changers. Today we hear his parable of the dishonest steward who makes friends for himself by reducing the indebtedness of his master’s debtors. And surprisingly enough, his master commends him for being crafty! If you can’t be honest, you might as well be sly. Then tomorrow  Our Lord tells us to make friends with money so that when we die and money is of no further use to us, the use we made of it in this world will win us a place in heaven. And then this Sunday, we will be presented with the poor widow whom Jesus praises so highly because she gave to the temple collection box all she had even though it was very little.

We’ve all heard the old proverbs: “You can’t take it with you.” And “There are no pockets in shrouds.” But you see, they are somewhat misleading. It is true that we can’t take money or stocks and bonds, or bank accounts, or investments with us.  But we certainly can — and should — take with us the MERITS of how we used our wealth and other assets on earth.  In fact, Our Lord says to us: lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.  We have many, many assets in this world. And Our Lord expects us to use them well so as to glorify him, serve others, and advance our own spiritual well-being.  We are given a certain amount of time.  Talents of one kind or another.  Opportunities to do good.  Means of bearing witness to God, to Our Divine Lord, to the Church, to virtue, to the moral law, to the value of human life, to justice for all, to compassion, kindness, and love.

Let us use these things wisely and well and thus turn them into our friends who will stand us in good stead when we must be judged as to how we have lived our lives and used our wealth of its various kinds. 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, 2015

Feast of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (13 Nov 2015)     

About 1888, a little Italian nun who had recently founded a new religious congregation which she called the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart knelt before Pope Leo XIII and asked his blessing upon her going with a number of her Sisters to spread the gospel in China. Even as a child, she had wanted to go there to bring the name and the love and the Church of Jesus to the Chinese. She used to make little boats out of paper and set them adrift on a stream near her home in northern Italy, pretending that they were full of missionaries going to China.

The great Leo XIII laid his hands on her head, and said, much to her astonishment and disappointment: No, my dear Cabrini. Not China: America! But the Vicar of Christ had spoken, so to America she came. For the rest of her life (28 more years), she labored in the cities of New York, Chicago, Denver, and New Orleans. We have in New Orleans a building which she bought as a convent for her Sisters, and another which she built as orphanage and school for children of Italian descent there. Years ago, I met an old lady who remembered Mother Cabrini, as she is still fondly called in New Orleans, although her proper title now is Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. This lady was a small girl who lived in that part of the city, and on her way to the church and the retail stores with her mother, she would encounter Mother Cabrini with a basket over her arm, going to beg from the various merchants a little of this and of that for her children whom she had to feed every day.

Bishop Charles Greco of Alexandria, LA, used to love to tell the story of how, when he was ten years old, he had just finished serving Mass in the parish church when Mother Cabrini came back into the sacristy to speak to the priest. She asked the name of the little boy. And when she found that he was Greco, she was delighted to know that he, too, was of Italian descent. She looked intently at him, and said, laying her hands on his head, “You will go far in the Church, my son.” And so he did!

We New Orleanians think of her as “one of us.” There is a statue of her on the median at a major intersection in New Orleans, just a few yards from our Dominican church of Saint Dominic. When it was erected by the city, some enemies of the Church raised a ruckus and even took the case to court. A Jewish judge heard the case, and threw it out of court, pointing out that Mother Cabrini had done as much for the children of New Orleans as others who were commemorated by the city with public monuments. Just because she was a Catholic religious sister did not violate any legal principles.

Mother Cabrini became an American citizen during her 28 years of work in this country, and so when she was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1946, she was the first American citizen to be so honored. Many other immigrants arrived in New York harbor, seeking freedom and prosperity and opportunity in the new world. She came, seeking nothing for herself but only the opportunity to serve her fellow Italian immigrants and carry out the commission given her by the Holy Father. She succeeded remarkably! Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | November 11, 2015

Feast of Saint Martin of Tours (11 November 2015)

This morning I picked up the local newspaper to find, in very large letters, the headline: “ANGELINA GOES WET.” What that means is that up until now, it has been forbidden by our local county (whose name is Angelina) to sell alcoholic beverages in retail stores, and to have an alcoholic beverage in a restaurant.  It was required that the customer go through a totally hypocritical action of becoming a “member” of a “club.” So yesterday, along with our national, state, and local elections, the voters of Angelina county defeated that prohibition and will now be able to buy wine or beer in our local grocery outlets without having to drive all the way to the county line (about eight miles away) to buy those things.

As I was preparing to cast my vote, the thought occurred to me, as we see it formulated on a bracelet that some teenagers wear these days: “what would Jesus do?” There can’t be much doubt about what Jesus would do, when we reflect upon what he actually did at the marriage feast in Cana. On that occasion, his blessed mother pointed out to him that the wedding party had run out of wine, the common beverage of the time. And it was obvious that she was asking him to do something about it, lest the young couple be permanently embarrassed by the lack of refreshments at their wedding reception.  So, Our Lord produced somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of wine by miracle!  The evangelist Saint John points out to us that that was Our Lord’s first “sign,” and that because of it, his disciples believed in him. At the time of the last supper, Our Lord again used wine — this time to give to the world himself in the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist.

This practice of trying to prevent people from using alcoholic beverages by passing laws against them is actually counterproductive. History indicates that never did the American people drink as much as they did during the years of Prohibition. Those were the years of organized crime based upon the illegal importation or domestic production of various kinds of liquor. The years of the so-called “speak-easys,” liquor smuggling, and even liquor production by families in their own homes or property.  There is a favorite story about a member of my own family ruining some of her clothes in an attempt to make something called “cherry bounce.”  It’s a drink produced by the fermentation of the juice of wild cherries along with rock candy and, I suppose, some kind of alcoholic beverage as a “starter.” In any case, on a hot day down by the bayou, the bottle containing the mixture and hidden away in the back of a clothes closet exploded and did irreparable damage to some of the clothes!

So much for trying to legislate for other people in the name of religion. You will certainly not find any prohibitions against liquor in the Bible, nor in the liturgies of the Churches which go back beyond the Protestant Reformation. The solution to the problem of drunkenness and alcoholism lies with moderation or even total abstinence, not legislation.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Today we are celebrating our collective birthday here at the Monastery of the Infant Jesus. In early 1945, a little colony of our cloistered Dominican Nuns came from Detroit down to these parts to begin Dominican contemplative life here. There were a few problems at first — the main one being that the man who was to sell the nuns his property here changed his mind only after they were on their way!

But God takes care of these things in his own way, and by November 9 of that year, the Sisters were firmly ensconced in a large, rambling farmhouse and the Bishop of Galveston, as the diocese was called then, came to impose papal enclosure and begin the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which is one of the principal functions of the monastery. So today is observed as the [70th] birthday of the monastery. It also happens to be, in the Church calendar, the feast of the dedication of Saint John Lateran, the cathedral of the Pope as Bishop of Rome, and therefore the principal church of the Catholic world.

Only in heaven will it ever be known how much good has flowed out from the mother see of Rome into the world. And on a smaller scale, only there will it be known how much good has been accomplished by the prayers, the witness, the sanctity of the Sisters in this little monastery in the woods of Texas during these [seventy] years. Let us be grateful for both of them, and thank God for the endless fertility and fecundity of the Church of our Divine Lord. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | November 6, 2015

Feast of Saint Atticus (6 Nov 2015) 

There are certain passages in the Bible which are to be interpreted in a figurative sense and with much wisdom and prudence. Today, for example, in the gospel for our Mass, Our Lord tells a Pharisee and his guests in whose home Jesus is sharing a meal that when they give a banquet, they should not invite those who will reciprocate the dinner invitation, but rather they should invite the poor, the lame, the blind who cannot repay a dinner invitation. That way, we will not perform works of kindness just in order to receive a repayment, but for the sheer value of our good deed to the recipients.

I remember one time, I quoted that passage to my mother when she was planning to invite some of our friends to dinner.  Boy, you should have heard her reaction!  I still laugh about that when this gospel is read.

Certainly Our Lord was not trying to destroy our social life by telling us not to invite our friends and relations for meals. And he certainly didn’t mean for us to jeopardize the safety of our own homes and persons by opening our doors to anybody on the street. We could easily get killed, injured, or robbed that way. No; what he is concerned about, though, is that the haves be concerned for the have-nots, and that our goodness to others not be based upon a calculation of reward. If that is why we give, then we are simply being selfish and our good deeds lose their reward.

This is true on the large scale of the entire human family as well as in the case of the individual. One of the greatest duties incumbent upon our statesmen and government leaders is that of seeing that the hungry are fed; the homeless are given shelter; those without education are provided with schooling. There is enough food on this planet for every human being. There would be plenty of shelter and education for all, IF the leaders of our societies took their duties to the needy seriously.  But unfortunately, many of them use food, drink, shelter, clothing, and education as political weapons by which they buy power and influence.  The chronic starvation of many of the peoples of Africa is a sin which cries to heaven for vengeance, since those nations could alleviate the hunger if they made that their first priority rather than political power and competition.

When the so-called “Baby Doc” Duvalier was dictator of Haiti, it was discovered that his wife had something like 25 very expensive mink and sable overcoats.  When asked why she needed these extremely expensive coats given the warm weather in Haiti and the fact that her people were starving, as is chronic in Haiti, she replied, “We travel a great deal.” And I wonder how many Filipino children went to bed hungry while Imelda Marcos was the president’s wife and bought something like a thousand pairs of expensive shoes. (By the way, both Madame Duvalier and Imelda Marcos claimed to be Catholics. Something is terribly wrong there.)  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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