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.

 

Posted by: fvbcdm | July 11, 2017

Feast of Saint Benedict (11 Jul 2017)

On July 11th, the Church celebrates a giant among her children.  I speak of Saint Benedict, the founder of Benedictine life in the Church.  Not only was he a giant in terms of spirituality but also in terms of the history of Western Civilization.  He was from central Italy, near Rome, and was born just about the time that the great Roman Empire was crumbling under the weight of its own age, its preponderance of slaves, and the incursions of the Huns, the Vandals, and other predators from the north and east, who came to loot and plunder what had been the glory of Rome.  Government collapsed.  The army disintegrated, and law and order disappeared. Total confusion took over the political and economic landscape.  Life in the cities became nearly impossible.

For a serious young Catholic like Benedict, this was no way to exist.  So he went off into the mountains east of Rome to live as a hermit and devote himself to prayer, study, and the things of God.  Others followed him, and soon he found himself the leader of a band of men who wished to live by the Gospel, apart from the ordinary occupations of humankind.  More and More came to follow him.  He wrote a rule by which they could live in community.  This document—the Rule of Saint Benedict—became one of the most influential documents of the Western Church after the scriptures themselves.  When his group of followers grew too large for one religious community, he sent some of them hither and yon, thus spreading his concept of religious life throughout Italy, and then the rest of Europe, and in due time, to the newly discovered lands in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

From these Benedictine monks, many popes were chosen, archbishops, bishops, writers, scientists, spiritual directors.  The Benedictines were the only religious order for men and women for about 500 years, from their foundation, just about 500 A.D. until the end of that millennium when other orders began to be founded.  Benedictine life was already 700 years old when Saints Dominic and Francis began their religious orders, and it was 1000 years old when Saint Ignatius Loyola founded the Jesuits.  It’s a glorious history of service to the Church, an extension of the Kingdom of our Lord.  Here in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, we are fortunate to have the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Joseph near Covington, Louisiana and to have Benedictine sisters teaching at a number of our schools.  If you want to learn a fascinating aspect of Catholic history, do some reading in Benedictine history, which is now a millennium and a half old!  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.

Just a few days ago, we celebrated the Fourth of July—our national independence day.  Just a few days hence, the people of France and of French heritage throughout the world will celebrate their national independence day on July 14th, which is Bastille Day.  It was on that date in 1789 that the French, inspired by the American Revolution, in which they had helped the Americans considerably, rose up against the autocratic regime of the Bourbon kings of France, stormed the royal prison of the Bastille in Paris, and set into motion a tragic series of events.

First, there was the chaos of the Reign of Terror, which sent the king and queen and many nobles, aristocrats, clergy, religious, and Catholic laity to the guillotines all over France.  Then when France was in a state of total anarchy, a young military officer by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte seized the reins of government and eventually made himself an emperor far more autocratic than even the famous Louis XIV had ever been.  Napoleon embroiled France in wars all over Europe.

We don’t have time to review all the subsequent history of the nation, but there was no real democracy until 1870, when the last emperor was chased off the throne and representative government was established.  Even after that, socialist forces took over the government and persecuted the Church, hoping to destroy it completely.  This situation reminds one of the saying, “the first daughter of the Church has become a prostitute.” For centuries, French Catholicism was the pride of Western Europe. Now, only about ten percent of the French practice their Catholic faith.

But, even in the aftermath of the antireligious, anti-Catholic French Revolution, wonderful things have come out of French Catholicism.  We’ve had saints like Catherine Laboure, Bernadette Soubirous, Therese of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Frederic Ozanam, Father Charles de Foucauld, the foundations of many religious communities and movements, devout Catholic laymen like Louis Pasteur, statesman like Charles de Gaulle, artists like Couturier, philosophers like Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson.

Our American Revolution was a great success in that it accomplished what it set out to accomplish with a minimum of bloodshed and violence.  The French Revolution was totally different.  So when you hear of Bastille Day on July 14th, remember that we Catholics take a dim view of what it ushered in.  Even the French admit that the century between 1789 and 1870 was a political disaster and a source of endless evil and injustice.  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 7, 2017

Feast of Saint Felix of Nantes (7 July 2017)

July 9 is the feast of fourteen martyred priests—one of whom was a Dominican priest.  His name was John.  He was born and raised in the beautiful German city of Cologne on the banks of the Rhine.  As a young man, he joined our order and was sent to do pastoral work in Holland after his ordination, across the nearby border.  This was in the 1500s when Europe was being torn apart by war both political and religious.  The Netherlands were ruled by Spain, but the Northern provinces—which we now call Holland—were in rebellion against the

Spanish government as well as the Church of Rome; whereas, the Southern provinces—which are now called Belgium—remained faithful to both.

The Dutch Protestants arrested these fourteen priests and brought them to trial for remaining loyal to the Church, despite the rebel government’s decree that all Catholics renounce their faith and become Protestant.  They were brought before the local magistrate who tried to win them over by a show of gentleness and kindness.  He told them that they could go free if only they would make two small concessions in their religious beliefs.  Those two small concessions were—(1) that they renounce their communion with the Pope and (2) that they renounce their belief in the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  I don’t know whether the magistrate was actually so ignorant of Catholic doctrine that he thought of those two basic doctrines as a “small matter.”  But, in any case, the priests, thank God, flatly refused to make the two concessions required of them, and so they were all hanged by their captors.

It’s a beautiful and powerful message that these martyrs give to us.  In these days of very weak faith on the part of many, some Catholics are excommunicating themselves by simply giving up the practice of their faith and their loving reception of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist and are finding fault with—if not contradicting and disobeying—the teachings of our Supreme Pontiff.  They seem not to know or care that the sacred doctrines which they abandon have been given to us by Christ himself and have been sealed time and again by the blood of martyrs.  Let us thank God for the truths of Divine Revelation and for our faith by which we adhere loyally to those truths.  Let us pray for those who endanger their salvation by abandoning them.  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 7, 2017

Feast of Saint Maria Goretti (6 July 2017)

Some saints are more relevant to their age than others.  Each year on July 6th the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Maria Goretti, who died in 1902—at the very beginning of the twentieth century.  She was killed by an infuriated farmhand from the neighboring farm who wished to seduce her.  When she resisted his advances, he tried to rape her.  And when she resisted that also, he plunged a kitchen knife into her heart.  She was 11 years old at the time.  Before she died, she was able to say to him, “Alessandro, I forgive you.”  She is relevant to this age precisely because of her love relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, her esteem for her own virginity and purity, her courage to face death rather than dishonor, and her love, even for her murderer, so that she could forgive him as she lay dying.  These are remarkable virtues in the life of an eleven-year-old peasant child, with very little formal education.

Contrast these beautiful character traits of hers with the tragic character flaws of so many young people in our society today.  They have all kinds of advantages that Maria Goretti lacked—education, affluence, an active social life—and yet some of them adopt entertainment figures as their models rather than saints.  They care not a whit for God, for the moral law, for the integrity of their own bodies and souls, for honor, for their eternal salvation.  On the contrary, they see virginity as something to be joked about and to be got rid of as soon as possible.  Much of their clothing, their hairstyle, their makeup, and the way they carry themselves is meant to be sexy, as if green nail polish is going to attract men or a three-day growth of beard is going to attract women.

The great tragedy of all this is the opposition of the spirit and the flesh.  Those who are primarily interested in sexual pleasure and the attractiveness of the body alone are not interested in God, and thus they commit spiritual suicide.  Their main concerns are diametrically opposed to the purpose for which they were created—an eternity of joy with God based upon a life of sanctity.  Our society and especially our youth need lots of help in this regard.  They need good role models.  They need, above all, to know and understand the answer to the all-important question which occurs in the first lesson of the Catechism—Why did God make 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.

Posted by: fvbcdm | July 5, 2017

Feast of Saint Anthony Zaccaria (5 July 2017)

In the Book of Genesis we have the striking story of God’s requiring of Abraham that he take his son Isaac and offer him in sacrifice–that is to say kill him—to show his obedience to God.  It is a terrible request that God makes of Abraham, who has only this one beloved son.  Furthermore, Isaac is still an unmarried boy, and yet God has promised that Abraham will become the father of extremely numerous progeny.  How can this be?  But Abraham does not hesitate.  He takes his son, along with the wood for a fire and some living coals and heads to the place which God indicates.

Why would a loving God make such a terrible request of this man Abraham, whom He has chosen to be the father of the Chosen People?  It is because Abraham is to be the progenitor of the Savior of the World.  And that Savior will save the world through a supreme act of obedience to repair the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve.  God wishes to test and to show to the world the obedient spirit of Abraham, who rises immediately after hearing the Divine Will and takes his son to sacrifice him.  Thus, he shows himself to be a profoundly obedient man, not questioning God’s Holy Will.  At the last moment, an angel is sent to prevent Abraham from harming his son.  God is satisfied and pleased with Abraham’s obedience.  The world is given a tremendous example of both obedience and trust in God.

Some years ago, a Carmelite nun, who was a fine poetess—her name was Jessica Powers—wrote a poem comparing the sacrifice of Abraham with that of our Blessed Mother.  I find it a very moving poem for meditation.  The last stanza says, as if Our Lady were speaking:

Not beside Abram does my story set me,

I built the altar, laid the wood for flame;

I staid my sword and sorrow as long as duty let me,

And then, alas, alas, no angel came.

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 4, 2017

Feast of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal (4 July 2017)

When I think of the Fourth of July, a whole pastiche of impressions and memories come crowding back into my mind.  One of them is of a beautiful, sunny afternoon in early fall, as my travel group and I sailed out of New York Harbor on our way to Nova Scotia and Eastern Canada on a cruise.  Most of the passengers on deck lined the rails on deck to watch as we sailed by the Statue of Liberty.  That beloved symbol of our nation is tremendously impressive as you sail by it.  The lady who lifts her lamp beside the golden door.

Now, do you know the official title of the statue?  It’s properly called “Liberty Enlightening the World.”  Later that afternoon, one of the ladies in my group said to me, almost as if she were going to confession, “You know, when we passed the Statue of Liberty, I cried.”  I assured her that it is not a sin to cry when one passes the Statue of Liberty.  I got pretty choked up over it myself.

There is a close parallelism between the natural enlightenment of the world by liberty and the supernatural enlightenment of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. In the early Church the Sacrament of Baptism was often called “the Enlightenment.”  To this day, in the Baptismal Rite, a small candle is lighted from the Pascal Candle standing beside the font and given to a parent or Godparent representing the newly-baptized child.  The Church says, “Receive the Light of Christ.”

How does liberty enlighten the world?  How does Christ do the same thing at the supernatural level?  They do this by showing mankind how to live so as to achieve our proper goals.  At the natural level, we must live according to law, justice, and order, if we are to achieve the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that our Declaration of Independence speaks of.  At the supernatural level, we must keep God’s commandments of love of God and of neighbor if we are to achieve the eternal union with God, which is the ultimate goal of all human existence.  Both natural and supernatural liberty demand duty, responsibility, work, vigilance.  As has often been said, liberty does not mean that one can do anything one wants, it means that one can do what one should to achieve one’s proper goals.  It is this wonderful opportunity which America offers to us to such a great degree and which we celebrate each year on the Fourth of July.  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 | June 30, 2017

Feast of the First Roman Martyrs (30 June 2017)

[Yesterday,] on the 30th of June, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.  In some countries, it is a Holy Day of Obligation because of its great importance.  In all countries, it enjoys the highest rank of liturgical feasts.  Let’s reflect a minute upon the importance of this day in our religious calendar.

In the Old Testament, the Jewish people often spoke of the twelve tribes of Israel.  It was a standard phrase, meaning the totality of God’s chosen people, since they had been organized according to the twelve sons of Jacob, whose name had been changed by God to Israel.  So, when our Lord Jesus Christ began his public life, one of his first tasks was to select twelve Apostles who would correspond with the twelve tribes of Israel.  When Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and killed himself, the other eleven were careful to choose someone–who turned out to be Saint Matthias—to take the place of Judas so that the number twelve would be maintained.

However, the Jewish people have never constituted more than a small fraction of the entire human community, and, since Jesus came to redeem the entire world, there must be evangelization of the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  So, shortly after that first Pentecost, the dramatic conversion of Saint Paul took place.  It was he whom Christ chose to be his principal Apostle to the Gentile world.  It is not hard to see why.  Although Paul was a very devout and observant Jew, he had been born and raised outside the Holy Land in the region of the Gentiles.  His home city was Tarsus, in what is now Southern Turkey.  Living as he did among Greek-speaking pagans, who were steeped in the culture of the Greek Empire and later the Roman Empire, he grew up imbibing Jewish religious culture in his home and synagogue and pagan Greek and Roman culture in the country of his birth and from his fellow citizens in that part of the empire.  He was just the man to bring the Gospel of Christ to the non-Jewish world.

So these two men became the two feet upon which the infant Church stood and walked.  Peter was the first Pope.  Paul was the great missionary to the Gentile world.  Both of them eventually went to Rome where they were martyred by command of the Emperor Nero around the year 67.  Saint Peter was crucified in the Circus of Nero on the Vatican Hill, where he is buried.  Saint Paul was beheaded by the River Tiber a few miles from Rome on the way to the sea.  Now, when a pilgrim goes to Rome, he visits the basilicas of Saint Peter in the Vatican and Saint Paul Outside the Walls, as it’s called.  The influence of these two men has been incalculable.  Let us pray for our present Pope and Bishop, the successors of Saints Peter and Paul.  Thank you for allowing God to love you, God bless you. 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 | June 27, 2017

Feast of Saint Cyril of Alexandria (27 June 2017)

Our Lord tells us in the Gospel that you can tell the nature of a tree by the kind of fruit it bears.  A good tree bears good fruit. A bad tree bears bad fruit.  This brings to my mind the fact that often a middle-aged person will come to confession and confess with very obvious sorrow and shame that he or she has been unkind and disrespectful to an elderly parent.

The scenario goes something like this: The old mother or father lives with the middle-aged couple and their children.  The elderly person is ill and in need of constant attention.  Moreover, he or she is possibly senile, unreasonable, demanding, and manipulative.  The younger members of the family do all they can for the good of the elderly, infirm person.  That means around-the-clock care, effort, attention.  Then, one day, the middle-aged lady—typically it’s a women—comes to the end of her patience and yells at her elderly mother or father.  Immediately, she regrets it and feels terrible about it.  She acts as if it were the unforgivable sin, a colossal violation of the fourth commandment.  Then, it is the duty of her confessor to remind the guilt-stricken lady that God looks at both sides of the picture. How often has she treated her old mother with patience, kindness, devotion, appreciation, sacrifice and love?  It goes on night and day, month after month, and then, because she yells at her parent one time, she is about to fall apart and quit?

No, a fig tree that consistently bears fat, juicy, sweet, succulent figs in mid-summer, and then, one day produces one runt of a shriveled fig is still a very good tree, as evidenced by its very good yield of fruit.  The one shriveled fig does not make it a bad tree, and so with us.  God sees us probably much more leniently, much more compassionately than we see ourselves.  Let us try to keep things in perspective.  One shriveled fig does not negate 10,000 delicious figs.  One act of impatience does not erase months of patience and long suffering.  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 | June 26, 2017

Feast of Saint Josemaria Escriva (26 June 2017)

These days, we’re getting lots of news about our Holy Father’s trip to the Ukraine and all the religious and political flack that he is taking for it.  Here we find this wonderfully courageous and devoted man, so sick that he can hardly walk or even speak distinctly, going to an area where his enemies are very numerous because he believes that, by doing so, he can further the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and further the unity that Jesus prayed for during His life on earth.  I stand in immense admiration of this man, who God has given to us as our Supreme Shepherd on earth. I have no doubt that history will regard him as one of our greatest Popes.

Most people find it difficult to understand the various divisions of Christianity that are being talked about during Pope John Paul’s visit to the Ukraine.  Let’s see if we can clarify the situation a little bit. First of all, every person who belongs to a church in communion with Rome is a Catholic.  They accept the Pope as their spiritual leader, who takes the place of Christ.  Now the Catholic Church is divided into approximately 10-24 rites (depending on how you count them), of which the largest, by far, is what we call the Latin Rite.  We belong to the Latin Rite, as do nearly all the Catholics of Europe, North and South America, Australia, and most of the islands of the Mediterranean Sea and the two great oceans.  However, there are various other rites within the Catholic Church, most of them dating back to the ancient church and places like Syria, Lebanon, the Holy Land, Egypt, and even India.  They bear names like the Armenian, the Ruthenian, the Byzantine, the Maronite, the Melkite, the Assyrian, the Chaldean, the Coptic, the Ethiopic, and the Syro-Malabar Rite.  These people are just as much Catholic as we are.  We may attend their masses and receive their sacraments whenever we wish.

But, in the 11th Century, when the split between Rome and Constantinople took place, most of the Catholics of Greece and many of those in the Near and Middle East withdrew their loyalty to the Pope and began to claim that the Patriarch, that is, the Archbishop of Constantinople—which is now the city of Istanbul—was the true head of the Christian Church.  These people came to be known as the Orthodox, and their church split into a number of national churches.  Thus, we hear of the Greek Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox, the Syrian Orthodox, etc.  The Orthodox are not Catholics.  They are not in communion with Rome; hence, we may not receive their Sacraments, except in danger of death, for they are true sacraments, even though the Orthodox Churches are in schism—that is to say split away from the Catholic Church.  It is this split that our Holy Father ardently wishes to heal.  This is principally why he is traveling in those parts of the world now.  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.

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