Posted by: fvbcdm | November 22, 2017

Feast of Saint Cecilia (22 Nov 2017)

This morning, in our community morning prayer, one of our priests prayed for the safety of those who will be traveling during this holiday time, especially the college students going home for the Thanksgiving weekend.  Going home is a familiar and rich concept, especially if you can remember your own childhood or if you have raised children yourself.  When little ones are out somewhere with their parents, they eventually get tired, sleepy, and uncomfortable.  Then comes the inevitable, “I wanna go home!” And when in the family car after a long ride, one of the kids usually asks, “Are we there yet?” The English Cardinal Manning was asked by his servants on his deathbed how he felt.  He smiled weakly and said, “I feel like a schoolboy going home for the holidays.”

We are all on our way home.  Our Lord tells us in the Gospel that, in His Heavenly Father’s house, there are many rooms and that in the dining room of that Heavenly Palace a great banquet awaits us.  So, this Thanksgiving, when you are a part of a special gathering of family, relatives, and friends, when you are enjoying a special meal—turkey and the trimmings or whatever you will have—remember that that event foreshadows our return to our Father’s house in Heaven.  I say “return” not because we have already been there but because we live in this world in the company of Jesus—the son of our Heavenly Father, the one who makes it possible for us to aspire to an eternity of joy in that great home to which we have all been destined.  He came to our home on earth.  He took upon himself our human condition, so that he could bring us to His Home in Heaven.

We have been made in the image and likeness of God, and we hope to live with God forever.  This Christian virtue of hope is itself a great gift for which we should be constantly thankful.  The first observance of Thanksgiving in our country was by a group of English settlers that we call Pilgrims, coming to our shores, as they did, to worship God as they saw fit.  We are pilgrims too, on our way to Heaven to worship God always.  Let our Thanksgiving be no less sincere than theirs.  Let us remember too that the center of the whole Thanksgiving observance is our generous God and not a baked turkey. 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.

Advertisements

Our national celebration of Thanksgiving is unique in all the world, as far as I know.  I’m not aware of any other country that has a Thanksgiving Day.  It is to the credit of the American people that we have celebrated it and preserved it during the entire history of our nation.  I’m surprised that the ACLU or some similar organization has not tried to get rid of it, since it is essentially religious.  If you are going to give thanks, then to whom are you going to give thanks?  By its very nature, Thanksgiving requires someone to thank, and, of course, that someone is God.

So even though the non-religious people in our country make a baked turkey, rather than the Almighty God, the center of their Thanksgiving observance, Thanksgiving is a religious celebration, and we, who do believe in God and do wish to express our gratitude to Him for all that He does for us, can make of this national holiday a uniquely reverent and devout celebration.

Let us remember our miliary personnel as we celebrate Thanksgiving this year.  I have some idea how they feel.  I have celebrated the Fourth of July a number of times outside the United States, and once, I celebrated Thanksgiving in Rome.  It wasn’t the same as being at home with family and friends in the heart of our own nation which is observing the day together as a people.  This year our military forces are deployed in Afghanistan and in many other countries of the world.  Thanksgiving will remind them of home, families, and their past lives as few other things can do.  Let us pray for them that this will be the last time they must be away from their homes and families because of world hostilities and let us pray for the Peace of Christ throughout this world, where so many misguided people find war so easy and peace so difficult.  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 | November 17, 2017

Feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (17 Nov 2017)

We are fortunate to have in our Dominican community here a recently ordained priest who is musically gifted.  That being the case, we have begun to sing parts of the Divine Office—or the Liturgy of the Hours as it’s also called.  It is the official prayer system of the Church, which all those under Holy Orders recite daily as well as many other religious brothers and sisters.  It is based upon the Psalms—those ancient prayers which come to us from the Old Testament, long before the time of Jesus.  Some of them are thought to have been composed by David, the King of Israel.  Years ago the Trappist monk and author, Thomas Merton, wrote a study of the Psalms, which he called Bread in the Wilderness, since the Psalms provide a means of praying for the monastic life—which has often been compared to the desert, away from the haunts of ordinary men and women, a wilderness.

One of the Psalms says beautifully, “I will solve my problems with a harp.”  One doesn’t ordinarily think of a musical instrument as a means of problem solving, but, at a deeper level, it makes perfectly good sense.  When the Psalms speak of a harp, they are implying the use of the harp to sing the praises of Israel and to address the One True God of the Chosen People, and the solution to all problems are to be found in God.  If the human race were convinced of that, this would be a far happier life we live, a far happier planet on which to coexist.  Those of us who know this are fortunate indeed!

Here in our Parish, we have a Chapel of Perpetual Adoration.  The other night, I was sitting there reflecting on the great gift that that Chapel is for us and not only the Chapel itself but our conviction that what we do in that Chapel is profoundly useful and effective for our well-being.  How many of us immediately go to God when a problem arises in our lives?  How many of us take our difficulties, our dilemmas, our questions to our Lord.  Come to Me, He tells us, you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will refresh you.  To come to Jesus means to approach Him in prayer, to trust in Him with humility and supplication, like a child approaching loving and trusted parents.  You might not have a harp or any musical gifts but you can certainly pray, and that is the ultimate means of solving your problems and gaining peace.  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 | November 15, 2017

Feast of Saint Albert the Great (15 Nov 2017)

November 15th is a red-letter day each year for us Dominicans because it is the Feast of Saint Albert the Great, one of our most famous and prominent members.  Albert was born in Southern Germany early in the 1200s just about the time that the Spaniard, Saint Dominic, was founding our order in Southern France.  Albert joined that new order of preaching friars, and, because of his extremely keen mind, he was sent to teach at the University of Paris.  There, he met the young Italian, Thomas Aquinas, another man who had entered the newly-founded order, another man who would become world famous for his erudition as well as his sanctity.

Albert and Thomas were drawn to one another immediately because of the many qualities they shared in common.  When Saint Albert was transferred to the Dominican seminary in Cologne, Thomas went with him to continue to profit by his goodness, his philosophy, and his theology.  Both of these men spent the greater part of their lives in the classrooms and libraries of seminaries—not the kind of lives that make terribly interesting stories.  But their contribution to the wisdom of the Church has been enormous.  Even in his own lifetime, Saint Albert was called Albert the Great because his tremendously-gifted intellect seemed to embrace and grasp all things.  Both were priests deeply devoted to our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Eucharist.

Saint Albert was made a bishop and served in that capacity for two years in the city of Regensburg in Southern Germany before begging the Pope to allow him to return to his classroom where his real talents lay.  Both Albert and Thomas Aquinas—his greatest student—were true disciples of Jesus, who said, “I have come to bear witness to the Truth,” and of Saint Dominic who chose the single word, “Veritas” (“Truth”) as the motto of his order, of which these two men are such shining members.  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 | November 13, 2017

Feast of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (13 Nov 2017)

Just a few yards from where I am sitting in my office, there is a unique monument on what we here in New Orleans call “the neutral ground.” If you’re from some place else, you probably call it the median or the boulevard.  It is a white marble statue, roughly life size, on a pedestal at the intersection of Canal Boulevard and Harrison Avenue, here in the section of the city that we call Lakeview, and the statue is that of Mother Cabrini, more properly called Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini since she has been canonized by the Church.   We celebrate her feast day on November 13.  She was the first United States citizen to be so honored.

Mother Cabrini was born in North Italy.  Even as a child, she was interested in traveling abroad to bring the Kingdom of her beloved Jesus to other nations.  She got her education and then founded a congregation of sisters who would devote themselves to Christian education.  In an audience with pope Leo XIII, she asked his blessing upon her plan to go to the far east as a missionary.  “No my dear Cabrini, the old man said affectionately, to America! Our Italian immigrants there need you.”  So the little nun and some of sisters joined the great numbers of Europeans who boarded ships and headed for New York City.  Most of them were looking for prosperity, freedom, opportunity.  She was looking for opportunity of a different kind.  She wanted to strengthen the Catholic faith in her fellow Italian immigrants in the New World.

For the rest of her remarkably productive and active life, she traveled from coast to coast, even down into Central America, founding all sorts of schools, orphanages, social centers, convents, and hospitals.  She walked the streets of New Orleans, working among the Italian immigrants here.  She went from door to door with a basket, asking the grocers for groceries, the pharmacists for medicine, the bakers for bread, the residents of private houses for donations to help her poor.  I once knew an old lady in this parish who remembered encountering Mother Cabrini with her basket on Esplanade Avenue, where she had built a convent and an orphanage.  Today, it houses her sisters who teach in the high school just behind it.

Some years ago, our grateful city erected a statue to her here on our corner.  There was a protest on the part of Anti-Catholics claiming that a religious shrine had been built on public property.  A Jewish judge heard the legal protest and wrote a beautiful opinion saying that Mother Cabrini had done as much for this city and its people as anyone else in its history, and, just because she was a Catholic nun and Saint, that did not disqualify her from public recognition.  And so, the statue stands there, near where she lived and worked while here in New Orleans, and we are reminded of Pope Leo XIII, “to America, my dear Cabrini.”  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.

Each year on November 9th the Universal Church celebrates the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome.  Why is that a cause for universal celebration?  It is because Saint John Lateran is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome—the Pope’s own Cathedral—and therefore, as the inscription over its main door says, “It is the head and the mother of all the churches in the world.”  From the time of Constantine until about 1300 A.D., the Popes lived next door to it in the Lateran Palace.  It was only with the return of the Popes from Avignon in about 1360 A.D. that they transferred their headquarters to the Vatican Hill, across the Tiber, and the neighboring Basilica of Saint Peter took on greater luster, since the Popes usually officiate there, rather than across the city in the Lateran.

The Liturgy for the Dedication of Saint John Lateran emphasizes three concepts: (1) the fact that the Lateran is the mother of all churches; (2) that we who make up the church are the real church of our Lord Jesus Christ; and (3) that the good that flows out from the Universal Church and the individual churches is incalculable.  In this last context, the passage is read at Mass, from the prophecy of Ezekiel in the Old Testament, in which the Prophet sees, in vision, a stream flowing out from the Temple in Jerusalem.  The farther it flows, the more copious it becomes, from a trickle to a great river, and its banks are so fertile because of that, that a new harvest of fruit is available every month of the year, while the river itself teams with fish, a rich image of the fertility and fecundity of God’s Church, which contributes so much to the good of humankind.

This lead me to thinking of our Parish of Saint Dominic alone.  The Parish was established in 1924, but, even before that, there was a small chapel here in Lakeview at the northern end of the City.  When I think of the amount of ministry that has gone on here in this Parish in these 77 years, it is mind-boggling.   The numbers of baptisms, the communions—which number in the millions—the confirmations, the weddings, the funerals, the Masses–which presently number about 2,050 each year, the Confessions, which also number in the millions during our history, the counseling, the lectures, the talks, the missions, the retreats, and the religious education of our children during these 76  years of our school history, the vocations to the priesthood, the deaconate, and religious life that have been fostered here. And this is just one Parish among thousands throughout the world like it.  It is a rich and beautiful history indeed, and one that will continue until the End of Time.  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.

One of the titles bestowed upon the Mother of Jesus by the liturgy is “an enclosed garden.”  The concept comes from the Song of Songs in the Old Testament, and it’s a beautiful one if you understand what it means.  In the Middle East—where the Old Testament originated—the climate is generally dry, and the ground is arid.  There isn’t enough water to keep everything irrigated as we have here in South Louisiana, and, back in the old days, there was no central police force to protect the citizens.  Everyone had to protect himself as best he could.  So the wealthier people usually built homes that were like fortresses—strong, solid, and burglar proof.  Inside the homes, there was a space open to the sky, in which plants, flowers, and even small trees were planted, either in the ground itself or in pots or planters of various kinds.  The surrounding walls always provided shade in one part of the garden or another.

This Middle Eastern concept of the enclosed garden came to Spain and Portugal with the Moorish invasions and gave rise to the concept of a patio, either surrounded by the home or adjacent to it.  Our French Quarter in New Orleans has many such enclosed gardens which can be so loved, so important a part of the home, so practical—to serve as a safe playground for children or as a living room when the weather is such that it is nice to go outside to enjoy the breeze, the open air, the sights and sound of birds, a butterfly tumbling through the air from flower to flower.

We have such a patio in our priory here.  It’s such a blessing, such a wonderful part of our community home.  In the middle is a fountain, whose leaping and splashing is soothing, like watching a fire in a fireplace or the waves on a beach or a coast land.  We have a big potted bamboo plant, an even larger plant called something like “shetlerra” (phonetic), but I’m not sure how to spell it or pronounce it [Schefflera].  A big fern hangs from the center of a tent in the corner, and evidently gets just the right amount of sun and moisture because it’s flourishing beautifully.  Around the fountain we have Indian hawthorns and geraniums.  In the corners of the patio are big hibiscus bushes with bright red blossoms that open each morning and close at the end of the day.  A friend gave me a brobidiere, which is doing nicely.  Another potted plant, which is about ten feet high, has delicate bluish/lavender flowers—I have no idea what it’s called.

Our patio is a joy.  It is our enclosed garden, as the Virgin of Nazareth is the enclosed garden of God.  It makes the words of Scripture come alive with wonderful vividness. 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 | November 7, 2017

Feast of Saint Carina and Her Companions (7 Nov 2017)

Each year on November 7th, the Dominican family throughout the world celebrates all the Saints of our own order. This reminds me that, in the headquarters of the order, in our Priory of Santa Sabina in Rome, given to Saint Dominic by Pope Honorius III, in the year 1216, the year of the foundation of the order, there is a very ancient painting which is near to all Dominican hearts.  It represents a story told of Saint Dominic—whether true or not, it is part of our family tradition and certainly expresses truth in a figurative sense.

The story goes that, one time, toward the end of his life, Saint Dominic was allowed a vision of Heaven. There, among the Angels and the Saints, he saw many Saints that he could identify as well as many many others not known to him, but he saw none of his own religious family that he had founded.  This caused him great sorrow and distress, and he began to weep.  The Mother of Jesus saw his distress and said to him, “Dominic, my son, why are you weeping?  Tell me the cause of your sorrow.”  He replied that, among all the blessed of Heaven, he saw no Dominicans, and it grieved him that, even though a number of his friars and nuns had already died, none of them were to be seen in Heaven.  Our Lady smiled and said to him, “Do not be sad my son, here are your followers, safe and secure in the realm of my Divine Son.”  With that, our Lady opened the voluminous cloak that she was wearing, and there, gathered around her, under the protection of her mantle, were the Dominicans who had died, enjoying their special place in Heaven under the mantle of the Mother of God.

One of the most consoling aspects of our Holy Catholic Faith is our devotion to the Mother of Christ.  Our Dominican family is noted for its devotion to and the propagation of her Rosary.  Therefore, I hope to be numbered one day among the Dominicans in Heaven, gathered safely and happily beneath the mantle of the most Holy Virgin, the Queen Mother of Heaven.  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 | November 3, 2017

Feast of Saint Martin de Porres (3 Nov 2017)

This is a very special day for us Dominicans of the southern province of this country, for when the province was established in December of 1979, it received the name and patronage of Saint Martin de Porres.  He was an unusual man indeed.  He was born in Lima, Peru, in 1579, during the colonial days of South and Central America.  He was the illegitimate son of a Spanish soldier and a black woman who had been a slave.  Thus Martin was a mulatto, and was thought of as being very low in the social register of the country.  He himself subscribed to this very low opinion of himself, which contributed much to his virtue of humility.  On one occasion, when the Dominican priory to which he belonged by vow was being dunned for a debt, he offered himself to his superiors, saying:  “I am only a poor mulatto; I’m the property of the Order. Sell me.”  Fortunately, his humble and generous offer was not accepted.

As a young boy, he was apprenticed to a barber/surgeon and there learned skills that would be of use to him all his life.  He went to live as a servant with the Dominican friars in Lima, and eventually was admitted to religious vows which made him an official member of the Order.  He became what is now called a cooperator brother; he did not receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders so as to become a deacon or priest, but rather used his skills and very great devotion to advance the work of the Order.  Thus we find that very early in the history of our religious family in the New World, a man who was considered among the lowest in the hierarchy of religious life has been elevated to the level of canonized saint—than which we have nothing higher.

This concept of humility is very important in the spiritual life, since it is the antidote to pride, the root of all sin.  A person who is made to feel humble by his or her social position is ahead of the game when it comes to being pleasing to God.  This was true of Saint Martin.  It is also to be seen in the life of our cloistered nun, Saint Margaret of Hungary.  She was a princess, the daughter of the King and Queen of Hungary.  When she entered the convent, she was very much aware of the danger of arrogance because of her royal background.  For that reason, she would never accept any positions of authority or preeminence in the community, and always asked for, and performed, the most menial and undesirable tasks in the monastery.

In the many artistic depictions of him in statuary, painting, and stained glass, we usually find him shown with a broom in one hand and a cross in the other, indicating the two principal elements of his life: his great love of Christ, and his devotion to the menial service of his community. 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 | November 2, 2017

Feast of All Souls (2 Nov 2017)

On All Souls’ Day, I celebrated Mass for our schoolchildren here at Saint Dominic’s.  One of our deacons gave the homily.  He talked about the transformation of the caterpillar into the butterfly and used that as a figure of the transformation of a human being in this world into a citizen of Heaven, leaving the cocoon behind as dead and flying off into the brightness of eternal day.  As I sat there listening to him, I succumbed to the temptation that always occurs to me when listening to another preacher explaining a point of theology.

The figure of the butterfly is a good one.  We find it being used down through the centuries.  Before he began to speak, I was thinking, if I were talking to these children about All Souls’ Day, I would use the figure of having to clean something that was dirty. I remember when I was five years old, my mother would frequently inflict upon me that fate worse than death—she would give me a bath.  How I hated that!  She would scrub my ears while I protested loudly that she was hurting me.  She would look with horror at my finger nails and tell me that she could plant potatoes in all that dirt under them.  I knew that this was gross exaggeration, maybe just a little black here and there, but nothing to get upset over.

Purgatory is a cleansing, and cleansings can be painful for people and animals, and for inanimate objects, they can require a lot of effort on the part of the person doing the cleaning.  Have you ever cleaned silver that was badly tarnished?  Or the walls of a shower stall that were blackened by mildew?  Or a brick that has become encrusted with dirt and mortar that you want to use for some new purpose?  You have to scrub and scour and get into the cracks and crevices and get out all the stains and spots and keep at it until the whole thing is shiny and clean.

So with purgatory.  The more tarnished and spotted we are, the more cleansing we need and the more painful it is because of all the effort necessary to get out the dirt.  By trying to live as virtuously as possible in this life and by offering our sufferings as reparations for our sins, we can lessen the amount of cleansing that will be needed in Purgatory.  So, let us try to live in this world so as not to acquire grime and grit which must be painfully removed before we can enter the eternal mansions of our Heavenly Father.  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.

Older Posts »

Categories