Posted by: fvbcdm | May 4, 2016

Feast of Saint Florian (4 May 2016)

A lamb is a young sheep. And it was the preferred victim to be used in the sacrifices in the temple of Jerusalem during the centuries of liturgical Jewish worship there, which lasted during Our Lord’s life and didn’t end until the Roman destruction of the temple in the year 70 A.D. So when Saint John the Baptist calls Jesus, “the Lamb of God,” a title which we repeat every time we attend Mass, he is referring to the sacrificial aspect of the life of Christ, going back to the sacrifice of the lambs at the time of the first Passover in Egypt.

But then, Our Lord changes the figure of speech. Yes, he is the Lamb of God. Yes, his blood will save the world as the blood of the Passover lambs saved the Jews from the avenging angel who passed over their homes in Egypt. But Jesus says of himself, “I am the good Shepherd.” So in addition to be prefigured by a dying lamb, he is also compared to the shepherd who must care for his flock, guide it to green pastures and to water, and protect it against all predators.

On Good Shepherd Sunday, the opening prayer at Mass says, “Give us new strength from the courage of Christ our shepherd . . .” And the alternative prayer says, “Your people . . . follow in faith the call of the shepherd. . .”

Sheep are defenseless animals and almost totally without resources in escaping wolves, bears, and even large birds of prey. One wonders how the species of sheep survived at all before the days of human shepherds and sheep-dogs.  They need protection, guidance, leadership. We, like sheep, would be at the mercy of our enemies, too, without the protection, guidance, and leadership of God.  And so he sent his divine Son into the world to be our shepherd.  We are not alone; we are not without help, resources, protection, hope. Time and again, God says to us in scripture: Don’t be afraid! And then, “I am with you always, until the end of the world.” We know his voice. We hear his call. We follow him as sheep do their shepherd. And he refreshes our souls. 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 | May 2, 2016

Feast of Saint Athanasius (2 May 2016)

Today the Church celebrates the commemoration of Saint Athanasius, one of the great fathers and doctors of the ancient Church.  He was bishop of the important city of Alexandria in the delta of the Nile in northern Egypt.  He spent much of his life combatting Arianism, the most widespread heresy during the years of the early Church. It taught that Our Lord was truly man, but not God.  Many Catholics either died or suffered a great deal in defense of the dogma that Jesus is indeed “TRUE GOD AND TRUE MAN” as we say in the Divine Praises.

I’d like to call to your attention the name of this saint whom we celebrate today.  The name “Athanasius” comes from two Greek words which mean “Not dying.”  Or, if you prefer, “Immortal,” which is the same thing in the Latin rather than the Greek derivation. If you look in the index of a complete book of the lives of the saints, you will find that there are a number of male and female saints named either Athanasius or Athanasia—Undying or Immortal.

And then you will also find a number of male saints named Anastasius, and female saints called Anastasia.  This name in the two forms again comes from the Greek and means “Standing up again.”  It means that after Our Divine Lord gave up his life on the cross and was placed lifeless in the tomb, he rose again and stood up in the newness of his risen life and will remain alive forever.  It is interesting to see what names the early Catholics gave to their children, most of those names referring to theological or spiritual concepts taken from Sacred Scripture or from the names of earlier saints who had lived exemplary lives.

The names are sometimes taken from the world of animals. The coming Christ was to be the Lion of Juda, and “lion” in Latin is Leo, so we have a number of Saints Leo.  Saint John the Baptist called Jesus “the lamb of God.”  Lamb in Latin is “Agnus,” so there have been a number of women named Agnes, several of them canonized.  The Holy Spirit descended upon Our Lord in the form of a dove at Jesus’s baptism, so there have been many Christians named “Columba” or “Colum” or “Columban,” all meaning a dove.  The world of flowers has given us the names “Flora,” Rose,” “Iris,” “Lily” and “Lillian”, even “Susan,” from the Hebrew “Susanna” meaning lily.  The flower called hyacinth has given us our Dominican saint Hyacinth, and, because of him, the Texas name “San Jacinto,” very well known in Texas history as the place of a battle where Texas independence was won. In the New Testament, we find the mother of Saints James and John called Salome, meaning Peace.  We call girls Irene, the Anglicized form of the Greek “eirene,” meaning Peace.

I hope that you bear a Christian name, that you know its meaning and derivation, and reflect from time to time upon your being given that name. It is a sacramental, a holy thing, and another link between you and Our Lord Jesus Christ. 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 | April 29, 2016

Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena (29 April 2016)

One of the distinctive characteristics of the gospel according to Saint John is that in it, Our Lord makes a number of statements about himself beginning with “I am . . .” “I am the light of the world; I am the way, the truth, and the life; I am the good shepherd, etc.” In the gospel of today’s Mass we find two of these “I am” statements and you might even say three of them. Jesus says to us: “I am the bread of life,” and, “I am the living bread.” And then he goes on to say “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” That’s tantamount to another “I am” statement.

What a privilege to be able to attend Mass, to hear Christ promising to give his flesh to eat and his blood to drink, to know that he first fulfilled that promise at the Last Supper, and then actually to receive that divine food which he promises in this gospel passage!

From a hillside in Galilee where he first made the nearly incredible promise, to the upper room in Jerusalem where he first fulfilled it, to our churches and chapels throughout the world today where many, many devout Christians hungrily, devoutly, lovingly approach Our Divine Lord in the most holy Sacrament of the altar—what a marvelous progression that is! How fortunate we are. “Whoever eats this bread will live forever,” Jesus tells us. So we can add another stage to the Galilee/Jerusalem/our home church progression, and that is Heaven, to which the Lord, in the Living Bread, is shepherding 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 | April 28, 2016

Feast of Saint Louis de Montfort (28 April 2016)

The sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel is a very crucial passage from the gospel, in which Our Lord promises to give us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. It was a shocking statement, and some found the whole idea so repulsive and incredible that they “walked with him no more,” as Saint John tells us. It is not until the Last Supper that we find out what Our Lord means by that promise.

Down through the centuries of Christianity, different groups have tried to interpret Christ’s words in different ways. Some take them in a purely figurative sense: Jesus is the sustenance of our spiritual life as bread is the principal staple of our physical nutrition.  Some take them in a symbolic way, and so once a month or so, they have in their churches a service in which bread and wine (or grape juice in lieu of wine) are distributed to symbolize Jesus, our food and drink.  We Catholics, however, take Our Lord’s words very literally as has been the constant teaching of the Church from the Last Supper. The most blessed sacrament of the altar will continue to be the very heart and center of our spiritual life and our life of worship until the end of time.

Jesus tells us, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” The way, or road, guides one to his destination. The truth satisfies one’s desire to know, to be wise.

The life animates one and makes him fulfill his role as a rational animal, a creature which has a body but also an intellectual, immortal soul. And we receive Jesus, our way, truth, and life, most fully and most effectively in our reception of the Eucharist. We call that reception “Holy Communion”: the union with the individual human being with Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. And we always remember His words: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you will not have life in you.” A true Christian is defined by his relationship with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Let us therefore satisfy frequently—even daily, if possible—our hunger and thirst for the way, the truth, and the life that guide, teach, and animate us throughout this life and on into eternal union with our Blessed Savior.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

 

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 26, 2016

Feast of Pope Saint Cletus (26 April 2016)

On Sunday of this past weekend, I went to celebrate Mass in the prison to which I go twice a month; it’s 15 miles south of Lufkin. This is the first time in my life I’ve had anything like a regular ministry to prisoners, and I have enjoyed getting to know them and to see how much they appreciate what I can offer them by way of the Mass, the sacraments, and counseling.

Yesterday, one of my “regular customers” as I call them was very happy over the fact that he will be released in just three weeks. On several occasions, I have tried to explain to them the parallel between this life on earth and their time in prison. Both of these are temporary conditions. Both of them are much less happy and desirable than their opposites; and if we are men and women of faith and hope, we should look forward to death and entrance into eternal life just as prisoners look forward to the end of their sentence and their return to their homes and families.

In the prayer “Hail, Holy Queen,” we say to Our Lady, “to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.” Happiness is a relative thing. We who live normal lives in our own homes and families are much happier than prisoners who are locked up in jails and penitentiaries. But we are nowhere near as happy as those who have been admitted into the heavenly home for which God created us and to which he destines us. Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ gladly gave his life on the cross in atonement for our sins so that we could be admitted into that state of total and eternal happiness. And for that reason, we speak of this life as a “valley of tears.”

So, I say to my prisoners and to you: live here (either in prison or in this life) in such a way that you will not incur further guilt. And then, look forward to the moment when you who are prisoners will get out of prison, resolved to lead good, upright lives. And let us all look forward to that moment when the Lord will come to take us out of the prison of this world into the bright joy of eternity. After that, no more dark valleys; no more mourning and weeping; no more tears. Only the eternally youthful LIFE which Jesus says that he came to bring us—and that in abundance. 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 | April 25, 2016

Feast of Saint Mark (25 April 2016)

In the Apostle’s Creed we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins. . .” That article of faith, the communion of saints, becomes especially significant to us on a day like today when we celebrate the feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist. We know that God’s revelation of Himself to the world finds its perfection in the person, the life, the words, and the actions of Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ. And as a result, the Christian community down through the ages and from pole to pole reads, and meditates upon, and bases its prayer on those pieces of literature that tell us about Christ, Our Lord. And they are to be found in Sacred Scripture, especially in the New Testament.

Each civilization and culture and language group studies the great landmarks of its own literature. We of the English-speaking world read Shakespeare and Milton and Wordsworth and Tennyson; the French read Moliere and Corneille; the Spanish-speaking world studies the Cid and Don Quixote; the Italians are immensely devoted to Dante and Petrarch. And in the supernatural world, the Hindus have their Upanishads; the Muslims have their Koran; the Jews have the Old Testament, and we Christians have our entire Bible, Old Testament and New as well. And today, April 25, we celebrate one of the writers of the New Testament: Saint Mark the Evangelist, the author of one of the four gospels.

The word “evangelist” means “one who brings good news.” It is used in a loose sense very commonly, but in the stricter sense, we have four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—the authors to whom are ascribed the four gospels. All that we know of the life of Jesus is contained in the four gospels and the other writings of the New Testament. It is also contained by way of prophecy in the Old Testament.

Now, back to the communion of saints: we Catholics all have our favorite saints: those whose names we bear, for example; the patrons of our various nationalities, like Saint Patrick of the Irish, Saint Joan of Arc of the French, Our Lady of Guadalupe of the Mexicans, etc. But all of us should have a special place in our hearts for the apostles and the evangelists, because it is to them that we are enormously indebted for our knowledge of Jesus.  In the first eucharistic prayer at Mass, we speak of “the catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles.” Two of the evangelists, namely Matthew and John, were also among the twelve apostles. The other two, Mark and Luke, were not, but were closely associated with the apostles and probably knew Our Divine Lord and his mother personally. So throughout the year, the Church celebrates all twelve of the apostles and the other two evangelists. Today, Saint Mark.

As Saint Peter says so beautifully in the sixth chapter of Saint John’s gospel: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!” How true! And how valid for us today as it was for them two thousand years ago. So let us rejoice in celebrating Saint Mark today. He is distant from us in time and place and culture, but in the communion of saints, he is VERY close, for from him and the other three evangelists we learn all that we need to know about Jesus—the words of eternal life.  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 | April 21, 2016

Feast of Saint Anselm (21 April 2016)

These are days of life and death. In our spiritual lives, we are celebrating the new life of Our Lord Jesus Christ upon his resurrection from the tomb. And we are invited to celebrate the fact that we, too, have been born again of water and the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. And then we pick up our newspapers or switch on our television sets, and we see the awful thing that happened at Virginia Tech university, where a madman shot and killed some 33 people and wounded another 20 or so before taking his own disturbed life.  And some of us are aware that these two dates, April 16 and 17, are the 60th anniversaries of the two great explosions of two ships in the harbor of Texas City, Texas, which caused the deaths of over 500 people in 1947.

You and I were born physically alive, but spiritually dead. We died in Adam, because by his sin, he shut off for all his descendants the wellsprings of divine grace, which is eternal life.  By means of a special gift of God, three persons that we know of were born in the state of grace and thus spiritually alive and well. They are Our Lord, His Blessed Mother, and Saint John the Baptist. They are the only ones whose birthdays we celebrate in the liturgical calendar. December 25, September 8, and June 24.

By being born into this world, we are destined to die physically. But by the sacrament of baptism, we receive spiritual, that is, eternal life. And provided we don’t throw that life away by mortal sin, we shall live that life throughout this earthly existence of ours and then on into eternity. That is what Jesus meant when he told the member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, Nicodemus, that one must be born again by water and the Holy Spirit.

Death sometimes comes very suddenly. Those people who died in the Texas City explosions probably never knew what was going on in the split second when the enormous release of destructive energy from the exploding ships struck them and snuffed out their lives. And the teachers and students in Blacksburg, Virginia, had very little time to think between the moment when the gunman entered their dorm room or their classrooms and the moment he began shooting them. Let us pray for them and their families who are left to mourn their loss. Let us hope that God finds them worthy of heaven after their brief lives on earth. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

 

When God appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush and told him that he must go to the Egyptian pharaoh and tell him to let the Hebrews go, Moses asked him his name. “Who shall I tell him is sending me?” God replied. “I am who am. Tell him that ‘I am’ sent you.” This “I am who am” is God’s way of indicating to Moses that he is the Supreme Being— the one who exists of himself and from whom all other existence flows. You and I exist because we have received existence from someone else. God is the ultimate being from whom all other existence comes. That’s what “Supreme Being” means.

In the gospel according to Saint John, Jesus makes the surprising statement that Abraham, who lived 1800 years before him, saw his day and was glad. So his hearers exclaim: “What? You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham, and Abraham has seen you?” To which Jesus replies, “Before Abraham came to be, I AM.” This is the most powerful of all the “I am” statements of Jesus as given to us in the gospel according to Saint John. Jesus is claiming here quite clearly that he is God. Not the Father, but God nonetheless.

To help us understand this concept of the eternity of God so that Jesus can say “Before Abraham came to be, I am” let’s remember that one of the symbols of God is the circle. A circle is a line that has no beginning and no end. Let’s think of this earth on which we live. We here in the United States look up and see the sky—sun, moon, stars. The people who live directly opposite us—I think in India or some part of Asia—also look up from their homes and see the sky, the sun, the moon, and the stars. The sky surrounds this earth of ours and every person on earth can look up and see it. God surrounds history, so that every person who ever lived or will ever live can look up and see God. He was present to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Saint Dominic, and now to us.

As God, Jesus is eternal with no beginning and no end. That’s what he means when he says “Before Abraham came to be (1800 years before that), I am.” As man, Jesus is IN time and space. He was born as a man about 2000 years ago; he was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth, spent his public life on the shore of the lake of Galilee, died and rose in Jerusalem. Therefore, as God, Jesus is eternal and outside of time and space. But as man, Jesus is subject to time and space. If he wanted a drink of water, he had to lower a bucket into a well and get it. If he wanted to cook fish for his apostles as he did, he had to make a fire, and then wait until the fish was cooked on it either by frying in a pan or roasting over an open flame.

You and I live in time. And Jesus comes to meet us in this time of ours. He meets us in the scriptures, in the Church, especially in the Holy Eucharist, in other people. When we deal with him, we can be as close and as intimate as any two friends ever were, and yet we are relating to the eternal, all-powerful God. This is what the apostles had to learn. And when they learned who Jesus is, then they gladly spoke of him in their preaching, and as gladly laid down their lives in martyrdom rather than retract what they said or stop preaching about this Jesus who IS before the past existed and before the future comes into being. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

 

Today is the second anniversary of the election of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to the supreme pontificate. Let us keep him in our prayers, that God will bless him with sanctity, wisdom, courage, and stamina to continue this greatest of all ministries in the Church and the world.

And today, we have the joy of learning that yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down the decision upholding the federal statute that bans the so-called “partial-birth abortion,” in which a child is killed in the very act of being born. Those pro-abortion advocates are wailing over the fact that this decision is a threat to women’s health. I would like to remind them that a female child is a woman, and to kill her is indeed a VERY GREAT THREAT to her health. In fact, it is the total destruction of it. But of course, our adversaries will not admit that a child in the womb is a human being. By some nonsensical magic in their minds, the child only becomes a human being upon emergence from the womb into the light of day. As long as the baby is still in the womb, they contend that he or she is only “embryonic or fetal tissue,” and may therefore be cut to pieces or vacuumed out or expelled from the life-nurturing womb by any chemical or mechanical means at hand.

In the article which I read today, I was told that “only a few thousand of the roughly 1.3 million procedures performed each year in the United States” fall into the category forbidden by the statute affirmed by the new Supreme Court decision. But wait: let’s analyze this statement carefully. First, it doesn’t speak of “abortions”; it speaks of “procedures.” And the pro-abortion crowd NEVER speak of a child in the womb as a human being, a child, or a baby. They are very careful in the selection of their terms.  Then the article speaks of “only a few thousand.”  Only a few thousand people were killed in the 9/11 attacks. But we don’t use the word “only” in that connection. Only 32 were killed on Monday of this week at Virginia Tech. But we don’t use the word “only” there either. You are only one person; I am only one person. And there is only one God; he tells us “You shall not kill.” And he is a majority of one. 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 | April 18, 2016

Feast of Saint Apollonius (18 April 2016)

One hundred and [ten] years ago today, the city of San Francisco was struck by a terrible earthquake which caused an immense amount of death and destruction, and then caused fires that burned for days afterward and did even more damage than the quake itself.

When I was a child, Hollywood made the movie “San Francisco” with Jeannette MacDonald, Spencer Tracy, and Clark Gable which was a great box-office hit. Being a young and very impressionable child, I found the movie totally fascinating and have seen it many times. When I first went to San Francisco in the Navy, I made it my business to seek out people and things having to do with the events of April, 1906.

I met one elderly lady who had been a young nurse on duty when the quake struck at about 5:30 a.m. She and a doctor manned a horse-drawn ambulance, and for three days made their way through the rubble, seeking out wounded people and bringing them to hospitals and makeshift clinics. On another occasion, the sacristan at Old Saint Mary’s Church where I often served Mass, took me down into the foundations of the church and there showed me the original pilings which had been broken by the earthquake, to be replaced by new ones which are supporting the church today. The great Italian opera singer, Enrico Caruso, was singing there at the time and staying at the luxurious Palace Hotel on Market Street. After making sure that he wasn’t dead or injured, his sister back east sent a telegram to the mayor of the city, congratulating him. “You’re the only one I know who can get my brother out of bed before noon!” she said.

Back to the present, I again ask your prayers for those who died in the shootings at Virginia Tech this past Monday, for their grieving families and friends, and for the wounded, at least one of whom, I think, is still in very serious condition at a nearby hospital. Whether death comes through earthquakes or the sinking of ships like the Titanic, six years almost to the day after the San Francisco earthquake, or the madness of a young man who kills college faculty and students at random, it is tragic and deserves our prayers. However, Christ our Savior has robbed death of its eternal tragedy and made it the entrance into eternal life for those who live in union with Him, either consciously or not. So the joy of Easter overcomes even earthquakes, hurricanes, the foundering of ships, and murder perpetrated by deeply disturbed human beings. Eternal rest grant to all those victims, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. 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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