Posted by: fvbcdm | August 25, 2016

Feast of Saint Louis of France (25 August 2016)

In this morning’s newspaper, I read that a bridge over the Mississippi River has collapsed in downtown Minneapolis, causing the deaths of seven people, the injury to several more, and a major problem in the traffic of the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

In Rome, I have many times crossed stone bridges built over the Tiber about the time of Christ. And in southern France, I have walked along the Pont du Gard, a stone aqueduct which towers over the river there and was built, again, about the time of Our Lord to bring water from springs of fresh water to the Roman encampments nearby. Neither the two-thousand year old bridges over the Tiber nor the Pont du Gard have collapsed. And yet this one in Minneapolis, built certainly no more than 50 years ago, has fallen into the river beneath, killing a number of people. Why? The answer, of course, is quality. When construction is of high quality, it stands. When it is of low quality, it falls. And beneath the concept of quality lie the more basic qualities of justice and charity. If the builders want to make the greatest profit on their work and care nothing about the people whom they are supposed to be serving, they will skimp as much as possible on the materials and workmanship and charge as high a price as they can.

What about us? Are we men and women of quality? Do we bring to all that we do an honest concern for those whom we serve? Do we do unto others as we would have them do unto us? If not, then we are contemptible. Every time we say the Lord’s Prayer, we call God “Our Father.” But if he is our father, then we are brothers and sisters. And if we are brothers and sisters, then—to answer the cynical question of Cain way back at the beginning of the human race—YES, we ARE our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.  And one day, we will be judged upon how we treated our brothers and sisters in this vast human race of ours. With quality? Or with shoddiness so as to put more money into our bank accounts—money that might well be stained with blood? 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 | August 24, 2016

Feast of Saint Bartholomew (24 August 2016)

In the Gospel, someone, probably one of his apostles, asking Jesus, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” If we are to analyze this question, first we must wonder what he meant by “being saved.” Apparently by then, and within the circle of Jesus’s friends, apostles, and disciples, there was the certitude that after this life, there would be salvation for the good and perdition for the wicked. That concept is not spelled out explicitly in the Torah, and therefore some Jews either don’t accept it, or are unsure of it.  In Jesus’s time, the Pharisees believed it and the Sadducees usually did not.

In any case, Jesus evaded the question as he nearly always evaded questions about the future. There is a natural human eagerness to know the future, but it is not ours to know, so Our Lord rarely spoke except in general terms about the future. He simply answered it by telling his audience, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” And he goes on to say that some will knock on the door which will have been locked, and the Master will say to them from within, “I don’t know where you are from.” God grant that that will not happen to us.

August 24, is the anniversary of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 A.D. which annihilated the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum near the mountain and in the suburbs of the city of Naples.  Imagine the terror of those thousands of people as blinding, choking clouds of ash descended upon them and then waves of lava invaded their communities to kill anyone who was left alive. Sudden death is a frightening prospect, especially in the case of people who have no religious faith or hope and who do not take morality into consideration in their lives.

Let us live in constant union with Our Lord as well as we can. Let us keep the commandments and frequent the Sacraments and pray daily so that we can, we hope, be among the “good and faithful servants” whom their Master found awaiting his return and ready at their posts. 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 | August 23, 2016

Feast of Saint Rose of Lima (23 August 2016)

Question: who was the first inhabitant of the western hemisphere—the Americas—to be canonized?

Answer: A young woman who lived and died in Lima, Peru, back in the colonial days. Her name is Rose: Saint Rose of Lima. And I speak of her today because she was a member of the Dominican Laity, and therefore a part of our Dominican family. We are understandably proud that the first American saint was “one of us!”

Around the year 1970, there was a revision of our church calendar. Before that, the feast of Saint Rose fell on August 30, and that was the date chosen by our province to give the religious habit to the incoming novices and allow them to begin their career as Dominicans. It happened each year on the feast of Saint Rose, so we had a special fondness for her. Then, after having spent a year of novitiate and three years of philosophy, we went to Saint Rose Priory in Dubuque, Iowa, to begin our studies of theology and to receive the minor and then major orders leading to the priesthood. Again, under the patronage of our friend Saint Rose. So, even though we celebrate her on August 23 now rather than August 30, she is special to us who entered the Order back in those days.

It is not often that you find a church which boasts the bodies of three canonized saints, but our Dominican church in Lima contains the bodies of Saints Rose, Martin de Porres, and Juan Macias, which shows the remarkable flowering of sanctity in the New World even in its earliest history. America had been discovered less than 100 years when Rose was born of Spanish parents in Peru. Some of the Spanish conquistadors gave a bad name to their nation because of their greed for gold and other riches and their cruel treatment of the indigenous peoples of the New World. However, those sins must be counterbalanced by the excellent evangelization and education of those peoples by Spain and Portugal—efforts that are still bearing fruit five centuries later, and which produced sanctity in people like Saints Rose, Juan Macias, and Martin de Porres. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

A week ago today, we celebrated the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother into heaven. Today, on the “octave day” of the Assumption as it is called in church computation, we celebrate the logical sequence of that feast: the Queenship of Mary.

We Dominicans have for centuries had a special relationship with the Rosary; we even wear the Rosary of Our Lady on our belts as part of our religious habit. For most of those centuries there have been three sets of mysteries that we meditated on while reciting the Rosary. They were the joyful, the sorrowful, and the glorious mysteries. Our holy father Pope John Paul II gave us another set of mysteries to contemplate as we pray the Rosary. He called them the luminous mysteries.

In any case, the Rosary celebrates the great drama of the incarnation and the redemption: the fact that God became man, and that as man, he suffered and died in atonement for our sins and thus reopened the gates of heaven to humankind. The Rosary is oriented toward Heaven, as all things in our holy religion are, and so the last two mysteries celebrate the fact that after Our Lord’s sufferings, death, and resurrection, he ascended into heaven “to prepare a place for us” as he told us before his ascension. Then, in God’s good time, Our Lady ended her life on this earth, and was taken into heaven. The devotion of the faithful has always tried to imagine the joy, the festivity, the celebration of Mary’s arrival in heaven, and her reception there by her eternal Father, her divine Son, and the Holy Spirit. Many artists have painted pictures or carved images of the moment when Our Lady was welcomed into heaven as its queen, because she is the Mother of its King. And we are deeply devoted to her as our Queen: “Hail, Holy Queen . . . O Queen of Heaven, rejoice . . . etc.”

So today we come to the last of the mysteries of the Rosary, and it reminds us that as Jesus has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us, so has his immaculate mother gone there where she makes intercession for us: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. Pray for us now. And above all, pray for us at the hour of our death. Open to us the gates of salvation, the gates of eternal joy. We wish to dwell eternally in the kingdom of Jesus your Son, with you presiding graciously over that kingdom as its Queen and the greatest of all its saints. 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 | August 19, 2016

Feast of Saint John Eudes (19 August 2016)

The first reading of today’s Mass has to do with the Hebrews fabricating and worshiping a golden calf in the desert during the years of the exodus. It’s hard for us to relate to something like that; given our society and culture, we probably won’t produce idols or false gods and adore them. But that doesn’t make us superior to those people in the desert. We might not worship money, but we surely go to great pains to get more and more of it, and then we allow it to alienate us from God.

Jesus tells us in the gospel that it is harder for the rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. The truth of that statement of Our Lord was brought home to me some years ago when I was talking to Sister Briege McKenna, an Irish nun who has the gift of healing. There was a time when the Irish people were perhaps the most devout Catholics on earth, and the Catholics of Ireland produced more priests and nuns than many countries much larger than theirs. But that is no longer the case, and I asked her why.  “Oh, that’s easy,” she replied; “the answer is money.” The Irish are getting rich, and when you get rich, you tend to forget God. You’re too busy enjoying all the things that money can buy.” That, in turn, reminded me of the wisdom of a businessman I met years ago. He told me that he prayed that he would always have enough money to support his family in decent comfort, but never enough that he would be tempted to forget his dependence upon God for every mouthful of food that they ate or every dollar they spent on clothing, housing, education, transportation, and the other essentials of our lives.

Remember the parable that Jesus tells of the very wealthy farmer who had bumper crops and nowhere to store all his produce. So he built larger barns, and then said to himself: “Now, take your rest. Eat, drink, and enjoy life since you have all you need for the future.” Then God addresses the rich man and says, “You fool! This very night you must give up your soul!” He says elsewhere, “You cannot serve both God and money.” So, let us adore the true God as he wishes to be adored, and use money wisely lest it alienate us from our Heavenly Father. 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 | August 18, 2016

Feast of Saint Helen (18 August 2016)

In the Book of Genesis, we find Abraham haggling with God, just as a good Jew would be expected to do. God is angry with the sinfulness of Sodom, and he intends to destroy the entire city. Abraham wants to calm God’s anger and to save the city from annihilation. So he appeals to God’s justice and mercy, and asks if the city can be spared if he can find fifty innocent people there. Yes. Well then, even though I am only dust and ashes, I presume to ask again: what about forty five? Yes. Well, then, don’t grow impatient, but what about forty? And then, by continuing to push his luck, as we might say, Abraham gets God down to just TEN.

In the gospel reading, Our Lord encourages us to pray with perseverance. He tells the story of the man who has unexpected guests who arrive at his home at night, when all the stores are closed. He needs bread for them. So he goes to his neighbor’s door and knocks. “Who’s there? What do you want?” The one outside explains his need. The one inside says NO. He and his wife and the children are in bed. In those small Palestinian houses, people slept on mats on the floor, usually in the one single room of the house. In order to get bread for the man at the door, the one inside would have to get up, awaken his wife and children, make them get up, roll up their mats, open the cupboard, get the bread, give it to the man outside, unroll the mats, get his family bedded down again, and then hope to get them all settled before one of the kids wants a drink of water or has to go to the bathroom.

But the man outside won’t stop knocking, and obviously intends to stay there until he gets the bread he needs. So finally the fellow inside goes to all the trouble mentioned above, because the one outside won’t take NO for an answer. Our Lord tells us to pray like that—with perseverance. Think about what Our Lord is recommending to us, and how we can put it into practice in our lives. 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 | August 17, 2016

Feast of Saint Hyacinth of Poland (17 August 2016)

Each year on August 17, we Dominicans celebrate the commemoration of our brother and saint, Hyacinth of Poland. He received the habit of our Order from the hands of Saint Dominic himself, who then sent Hyacinth back to Poland to continue the evangelization of that country and the surrounding region.

We fast-forward this story now about three hundred years to the time when Spanish missionaries were coming to this part of the world and were first preaching the gospel around what is now Galveston Bay, and the cities of Galveston and Houston. They gave Christian names to the places and geographical features that they found; to one little river that flowed into Galveston Bay, they gave the name of “el rio de San Jacinto”: the river of Saint Hyacinth. They probably named it that because they discovered it on August 17, the day we commemorate that saint.

That little river would probably have remained forever obscure and known only to those who live in its immediate vicinity, except for the fact that after the battle of the Alamo, the Mexican forces under their military commander and their president, Santa Anna, marched east and decided to rest along the banks of that little river. And on the afternoon of April 21, 1836, a group of Texans under the leadership of Sam Houston took the Mexican troops by surprise and either killed, wounded, or captured the forces of Santa Anna. As a result of that battle, Texas won its independence from Mexico.  This led to the annexation of Texas by the United States and to the Mexico War, resulting in the acquisition by the United States of an enormous amount of territory, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and California. So the little battle on the banks of the river of Saint Hyacinth became very famous, and the name “San Jacinto,” (pronouncing the “Ja” like the “ju” in “jump”), as we mispronounce the Spanish, is certainly one of the greatest names in Texas history. Interesting how a Polish Dominican saint of the 13th century enters into Texas and therefore American history centuries later. When you are driving along interstate highway 10 east of Houston, you can see the San Jacinto monument towering to the south of the interstate highway, and raising its lone star to proclaim the liberty of Texas from Mexico.  I wonder how many of us Catholics and Dominicans of Texas are aware of the connection of our saint, and our brother, with the history of this state and of our nation. 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 | August 16, 2016

Feast of Saint Stephen of Hungary (16 Aug 2016)

Recently the question was put to me: if a person commits what is objectively a serious sin and then dies in that same frame of mind, can we say that he or she goes to hell?

The answer is NO, we cannot say that anyone goes to hell. You see, we must distinguish between objective sin, and subjective sin. Objective sin means a thought or action or omission which, in itself, is forbidden by the law of God. Killing innocent people is an example; stealing, adultery, fornication, etc. These things are objectively wrong, that is, they are wrong in themselves. However, sins are not committed in the abstract. They are committed by people, many of whom might well believe that what they are doing is good and right. We cannot get inside a man’s head to see how he thinks. Nor can we put ourselves into another person’s circumstances to understand exactly what causes him or her to act in a certain way. Our Lord said of Judas Iscariot, “It would have been better if he had never been born.” Does that mean that Judas has gone to hell? The Church will not say that. She declares that the saints are in heaven; she does not declare that anyone is in hell, since she is not privy to the mercy of God. We certainly believe in the reality of hell and the danger of a sinner going there, but that this or that person is in hell, is not ours to judge. Many people are wrong in their thinking and understanding of the moral law. Those who try to hide their sexual sins, or to escape the burden of pregnancy and child-rearing, by having abortions may honestly think that they are doing the best thing possible under the circumstances. We must leave the judgment of those cases to the mercy of God.  Adolf Hitler was personally responsible for the deaths of some 13 million people, and an enormity of human suffering that is simply incalculable.  Is he in hell? We don’t know.  His thinking was so terribly wrong that he was, in fact, a madman.  And we all recognize that insanity is an extenuating factor in assigning guilt.

Let us leave the judgment of human innocence or guilt to God; rather, let us strive always to know clearly what is right and wrong, to embrace the right with all our efforts and to avoid wrong with the same wholeheartedness. 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 | August 15, 2016

Solemnity of the Assumption (15 August 2016)

Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother into heaven.

Early in the gospel according to Saint Luke, we read of the visit that Our Lady made to her cousin, Saint Elizabeth, who was expecting the birth of her son, Saint John the Baptist. When Mary entered the home of Elizabeth and Zachary, Elizabeth felt the baby in her womb “leap” as she said. No ordinary stirring of a developing child with which Elizabeth would have been very familiar by then but a “leap”! And by divine inspiration, Elizabeth knew that Mary was bearing in her womb the promised Messiah—the savior of the world. Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” We incorporate these words into the Hail, Mary every time we greet Our Blessed Mother with that beautiful prayer.

Mary answered Elizabeth with the words which have come to be called “the Magnificat,” from the first word of her utterance in Latin: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Then she goes on to say, “From this day all generations will call me blessed.” By saying that, Our Lady became a prophet of the future, and by our using those words and all the other words which we address to her in prayer, we fulfill that lovely prophecy. We in this generation are celebrating her assumption into heaven, and thus we are calling her “blessed” here and now just as all authentic Christians have since the first generation of the Church and will continue to do until the end of time.

I remember the first time I visited the Carmelite monastery of nuns just south of the town of Carmel, California, in what is called the area of the Big Sur. It was a quiet afternoon and I knelt to pray in the chapel which smelled of incense. My eyes fell upon an inscription written along the arch over the sanctuary of the beautiful chapel. It was in Latin, and having studied Latin in high school, I have this unshakeable compulsion to try to decipher Latin inscriptions whenever and wherever I encounter them. What the Latin words said was unfamiliar to me, but it is a charming medieval prayer to the Mother of God. It says, in English, “Remember, Virgin Mother of God, when you stand in the presence of the Lord, to say good things about us and to turn his anger away from us.” How beautiful! How child-like! We stand beside her, as small children stand beside their mothers, often holding onto their legs or clutching their skirts, and depending upon their mothers to “put in a good word” for them with their daddies who might be angry when they see the broken vase or the empty cookie jar or the mud tracked into the living room. “Say good things about us, most holy Virgin and Mother,” we ask. Jesus was your little boy; he will listen to you. Turn his anger away from us even though we are sinners, you who are NOT a sinner but “full of grace” and altogether pleasing to your son.

So on this solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady into heaven, we say again to her that same simple, humble, child-like prayer that I first saw in the Carmelite monastery near Carmel: “When you go before the Lord, say good things about us and persuade your merciful Son not to be angry with us.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 12, 2016

Feast of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal (12 August 2016)

Saint Paul says to the Colossians: I rejoice in my sufferings . . . in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church. Now, what is that all about? It means that Saint Paul sees a very great value in his sufferings, which were many, both interior and exterior. He was imprisoned a number of times; he was flogged several times; he was shipwrecked; he underwent all sorts of hardships and deprivations. And in addition to all that he suffered from that mysterious “thorn in the flesh” that he speaks of, and which he besought God to take from him. But it was not God’s will to remove that particular form of suffering, whatever it was, but rather to give him the grace to endure it for God’s own purposes.

So he tells the Colossians that he rejoices in his sufferings. Why? What is there about suffering that should make him — and us — rejoice? “In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” In other words, Paul realizes that divine justice requires atonement to be made for sin. Now, Our Lord came into the world to make that atonement, principally by his sufferings and death on the cross. But just as he suffered by way of atonement, so we are required to imitate him and be conformed to him by our suffering, too. It is not that Jesus didn’t do enough. It is that for the sake of our own spiritual well-being, we — who are members of the mystical Body of Christ — are required likewise to make atonement for our sins and those of our fellow-members in this society which we call the Mystical Body of Christ.

When suffering comes into our lives, that does not mean that God is angry with us or is punishing us. Jesus suffered; his immaculate Mother suffered; the saints have suffered, and welcomed suffering into their lives. These things were not caused by the wrath of God; God was not displeased with His Divine Son nor with his son’s mother. As Jesus our head suffered, so we the members suffer in union with him. Saint John of the Cross, a famous Carmelite mystic of the 16th century, said, “If I were to spend a single day without suffering, I would consider it a day wasted.”

This is the logic of the saints; this is the logic of the cross. When suffering comes our way, let us receive it as gift, not as punishment. We are filling up in our flesh that which must be done by the total body of the cosmic Christ. 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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