Posted by: fvbcdm | March 8, 2019

Feast of Saint John of God (8 March 2019)

It is interesting to see how timely the Scriptures always are. While bombs explode in the Holy Land, killing Israeli and Palestinians alike, while a wall goes up there to separate the two factions, and while the United States finds itself basically at odds with the Muslim world because it supports the state of Israel, we read in today’s liturgy of Abraham and his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, who are recognized to be the fathers of the Muslims and the Jews.

Then, in the gospel, we hear Our Lord talking about the sign of Jonah. In this case, he is referring to the fact that when the Jewish prophet Jonah is sent to the people of Nineveh, who are pagans, to advise them to repent since God is displeased with their sinful lifestyle, they obey him, even though he really has no authority over them, and they win God’s favor by their repentance. Elsewhere in the gospels, Our Lord again refers to the sign of Jonah, but this time in connection with his being swallowed by a great fish in whose belly he lives for three days before being regurgitated on a beach. And Jesus points out that Jonah in the belly of the fish and then returning to the light of day is a prediction of Our Lord’s burial in the tomb, only to rise again after a short period of time. So in this liturgy, we hear of Abraham, his legal wife, his slave girl, and his two sons by these women, and we hear of Jonah, the subject of another Old Testament book.

These references to the Old Testament bring to mind what Cardinal Schonborn said in his talk last week concerning the relationship between Christians and Jews. He pointed out that the heretic Marcion back in the second century of the Christian era made the great mistake of thinking that the Old Testament is no longer of any value to us as Christians, and therefore advocating that it be omitted from the Christian bible. The Church rejected this idea completely and insisted that the Old Testament continues to be the word of God and a source of great spiritual value to us. We can never fully understand Our Lord Jesus Christ unless we locate him in his proper place in sacred history as a Jew, and the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecy. In the first Eucharistic prayer used at Mass, we speak of Abraham as “our father in faith.” And our funeral liturgy asks that the dead man or woman be carried by angels into “the bosom of Abraham,” a Jewish expression meaning the eternal happiness of heaven.

Let us not make the same mistake that Marcion did. Let us receive the Old Testament as a gift of God’s revelation to us, and allow it to shape our spiritual lives. God’s greatest commandments to us are given in the Old Testament, as are the psalms, the official prayers of Judaism and Christianity alike. Our Lord, His mother, and the apostles were all products of the Old Testament. The Catholic Mass is the continuation and fulfillment of the Jewish Seder service, and when we profess every Sunday at Mass: “We believe in one God,” we are enunciating the great Jewish doctrine that there is only one God. 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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Posted by: fvbcdm | March 7, 2019

Ash Wednesday (6 March 2019)

“Remember that you are dust and unto dust you will return.”  Those simple and profound words have been spoken over millions of the faithful down through the centuries.  They are as timely today as ever; even more so, since our modern secularistic world is more and more losing its consciousness of the basic realities of human existence.

But, when we are told that we are dust and to dust we will return, that is only part of the story. The Church could just as truly say to us: Remember that you are spirit and you will live forever, either with God or without him. The Holy Season of Lent places before us the fact that we human beings are situated between a number of conflicting realities. We are both body, drawn from the dust of the earth, and spirit, breathed into us by the creative action of our God. We are both temporal and eternal. Our lives on this earth will last, on average, seventy or eighty years. Our lives after death will last forever. We are confronted with moral good and moral evil. That is, we can choose to do what is conducive to our salvation, and therefore what is God’s will, or what is opposed to it, and therefore opposed to God’s will. Those of us who live doing God’s will are virtuous; those who live disobeying God’s will are sinners.

It always strikes me that we here in New Orleans are fortunate to have our carnival season which reaches its climax with all the make-believe and foolishness of Mardi Gras. And then the next day is Ash Wednesday.  The contrast is remarkable.  It is not by accident that many of our carnival organizations, with their parades through the streets and their elegant balls are named for the pagan deities: Proteus, Momus, Comus, Orpheus, Apollo, Zeus, etc. When we want to indicate revelry, make-believe, nonsense just for fun, we reach back into the fictitious world of mythology which was invented by people who felt the need for religion, but had no clear ideas about it. But then, at the stroke of midnight on Mardi Gras night, all of that ends like a pretty bubble that bursts and we get back to reality, which is ultimately far more satisfying, because we know that it’s true. It’s fine to wear a mask for a day and pretend to be someone we are not, but it is far more salutary to allow the Church to smear ashes on our heads and remind us of that which is profoundly real: Your body was drawn from the dust and it will return to dust.

Your soul is immortal. Will you live forever in joy, or in sorrow? In victory or in defeat? The Mardi Gras season might be fun, but I doubt that it does anybody much good spiritually. But the Holy Season of Lent is of enormous value to us spiritually, and if we live it according to the mind of the Church and therefore the will of God, we will one day be very happy to have observed Lent as we should. The greater the present fervor, the greater the future joy.

So, my dear friends: remember that you are dust and your are spirit. And remember which is the more important, and how we can further the well-being of each. 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

This Tuesday is fat Tuesday, or as they say in French, Mardi Gras. So, from New Orleans, the carnival city of our country, I send to all of you greetings on this day of fun before the seriousness of Lent begins tomorrow.

Remember: Ash Wednesday is NOT a holyday of obligation. There is no obligation to attend Mass on that day, although it is, of course, the best possible way to begin the Holy Season of Lent. However, we are obliged to fast and abstain if we fall within the age limits of those upon whom the obligations of fasting and or abstinence rest. We are obliged to fast from our 21st to our 59th birthdays; that means only one full meal, with a small snack at the other two mealtimes, but no meat, and no solid food between meals. We must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent from our 14th birthday until our death, unless there are circumstances which absolve us from that obligation.

Remember, too, that down through her history of salvation, the Church has constantly recommended three means of spiritual progress, especially appropriate during Lent. They are the generic categories of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Prayer means any lifting of the mind and heart to God in prayer, spiritual reading, meditation, and listening to sermons and homilies. Fasting means any form of physical or mental self-denial. Giving up some favorite food or drink, smoking, watching television, using the most comfortable chair in the living room, or some other favorite practice of ours — all of those constitute “fasting.” And almsgiving is again a generic term which embraces any and every means by which we can be of assistance or service to others. Donating money to a worthy cause — charity to the poor, a good school or some other worthy institution; devoting some of our time to someone who could use it; taking a shut-in to a doctor’s appointment, shopping, or just for a pleasant ride to help him or her to enjoy a change of scenery; a letter or phone call to a shut-in or someone who is lonely and without much human attention.

Our Lord promises us in the gospel that not so much as a cup of cold water given to someone in his name will go unrewarded. Let’s bear that in mind as we use the Holy Season of Lent to “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.”

May your Lent be a productive, devout, and truly Christian and Catholic time of spiritual exercise. May you start it well, be faithful to your resolutions in terms of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. And may your Easter Sunday be made more joyful by the knowledge that you really kept Lent according to the will of God and the sacred traditions of the Church. 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 | March 1, 2019

Feast of Saint David (1 March 2019)

One day, a group of us in the novitiate were talking about our novice master and one of our brothers said that Father Walsh had made a great impression on his mother.  And he quoted his mother as saying about Father Walsh: “He is so kind!”  The other day those words came back to me and I realized how true they were of Father Walsh, and how great it would be if they could be said about all of us.  As I look into my own heart and conscience, I find that I am not always kind.  What exactly does “kind” mean?  My dictionary says that it means benevolent, well-disposed, gracious, showing tenderness.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment of the law, he said: Love God with your whole heart.  And he added to it another one: love your neighbor as yourself.  We are all kind to ourselves; we want the best for ourselves; we are concerned about our own benefit and advantage.  Our Lord wants us to treat others in that same way.  Elsewhere in the gospel, he gives us what has come to be called “the golden rule.”  It is this: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We certainly want others to be kind to us.  Well, then, Christ wants us to be kind to them, whether they are in fact kind to us or not.  Jesus does not command us to do unto others as they do to us, but rather as we would HAVE them do unto us.   We all know unpleasant, cantankerous people.  We all know crabby, critical, mean-spirited people.  We know men who are ambitious even at the expense of others whom they treat unjustly.  We know women who are vain about their appearance and look with contempt upon other women, and gossip about them. We know children and teenagers who are cruel to their peers and take advantage of their own brothers and sisters.

Kindness cannot be extended only to those who are kind to us; that is not Christian.  “The pagans do as much,” as Our Lord tells us.  We must be kind to all, just like our heavenly Father, who makes the sun shine upon good and bad alike, the rain to fall upon the people we like and those we don’t like.

Let us ask ourselves often, “Am I kind?  Would those who know me use that adjective to describe me?”  One day we will stand before the judgment seat of Our Lord.  What a joy it will be if he can say to us: you were kind to others.  I count that as your having been kind to me.  Now, let me be kind to you forever.”  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 | February 22, 2019

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter (22 February 2019)

Immediately after recording this message, I will be leaving with a group from this parish on a bus trip to Mobile, Alabama, to visit the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit there. So I must be brief today.

We celebrate on February 22 the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, meaning his authority as the chief shepherd of the flock of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the focal point which the Papacy becomes in the kingdom of Christ on earth.

We must be very grateful for Christ’s foundation of the Church. We must be grateful for the papacy, which is absolutely essential to the unity and function of the Church. And we should also be deeply grateful for the person and the pontificate of Pope John Paul II who has been our chief shepherd for over 26 years. He has been one of our greatest popes, whose influence will be felt in the Church and the world for centuries. Please bear these things in mind in your prayer today.

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 | February 19, 2019

Feast of Saint Leo of Catania (19 February 2019)

The war in Iraq and the attack upon the United States on 9/11/2001 have certainly focused our attention upon the Muslim world. It’s almost impossible to pick up any newspaper or magazine or watch any TV broadcast without those topics coming up. Let us give some thought to Islam from a theological point of view.

Mohammed founded the religion of Islam about the year 650. It spread like wildfire from its native land, Arabia, west to what is now Jordan, Israel, and the whole north coast of Africa, east to what is now Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia, and even into eastern Europe, to what is now Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and the other nations that were until recently called Yugoslavia.

The Muslims, as the adherents of Islam are called, tried to overrun Europe from the southwest by invading Spain and Portugal and they made their way up across the Pyrenees and progressed northward until they were defeated by Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne, at the battle of Tours. The French threw them back across the Pyrenees, where they lived in various kingdoms until they were totally expelled from the Iberian peninsula in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabella. However, they continued to try to overrun Europe, this time from the east, but were repeatedly repulsed both on the sea at the battle of Lepanto and on land at the battle of Vienna. After that millennium of Muslim aggression, they became somewhat dormant as far as Christian Europe was concerned. But now, with the conflict between Islam and Judaism in the Holy Land, they have again begun to be very aggressive. And our American support of the nation of Israel has enraged them against us; hence the 9/11 attacks. The situation is exacerbated by our American presence in Iraq which many Muslims see as American imperialism and aggression.

Meantime, more and more of them are pouring into Europe, whose climate, both natural and political, they find much more hospitable than the burning sands of Arabia, Egypt, Libya, etc.  In most European cities you can find mosques now—Muslim places of worship; the European newsstands sell dozens of publications in Arabic, the principal language of the Muslim world, and their distinctive manner of dress is to be seen everywhere in countries that have been traditionally Christian. What they could not accomplish by the sword before 1650, they seem to be accomplishing by the passport in the 2000s.

What will come of all this? Only God knows that. But we can and should pray for the conversion of Islam to Christ through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima.  As I have said before, Fatima is an Arabic word; it was the name of one of Mohammed’s daughters. Certainly Our Lady intended it to be significant that she associated herself with that Muslim name when she appeared at Fatima in 1917.  She is mentioned with honor in the Koran, the holy book of Islam.  Given the enormous antipathy of many Muslims toward the west, Christianity, and the United States in particular, we cannot hope to effect anything like the conversion of Islam to Christ by military or diplomatic means.  But what is impossible for us is entirely possible for God.  The only real campaign against Islam must be a spiritual one. Our Lady of Fatima, Queen of the Holy Rosary, bring Islam to the feet of your Divine Son. 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 | February 18, 2019

Commemoration of Blessed John of Fiesole (18 February 2019)

We Dominicans can do some justified bragging today, because it is the commemoration day of Blessed John of Fiesole, better known to the world, especially the world of fine art, as Fra Angelico: the Angelic Friar. He was born and raised in the hilltop village of Fiesole, just north of the wonderful city of Florence in Italy. He was baptized Guido, but on becoming a Dominican novice, he was given the religious name of John of the Angels — an appropriate name since he would be known to history as the Angelic painter. One of his confreres there in the Florence and Fiesole region was Saint Antoninus who became archbishop of Florence; another was the famous Savonarola who governed Florence as the power-behind-the-municipal-throne for some years.

Saint Antoninus commissioned the immensely talented young painter to embellish the Dominican priory of Saint Mark with his frescoes. So today, the world can visit that wonderful building which has been turned into a state museum, and there see the small paintings in each of the cells, or bedrooms, of the priests and brothers of those days, and in the public rooms and staircases, the much larger paintings of the annunciation, the crucifixion, etc.  And just a block away from Saint Mark (or San Marco as it is called in Italian) is the museum in which the incomparable white marble statue of David by Michelangelo is on display—certainly one of the most beautiful statues in the world.

When the Pope heard of the beauty of Fra Angelico’s works, he summoned him to Rome to decorate one of the chapels in the Vatican. There he died in our Dominican priory of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, and there he is buried, just a few steps away in the church from the tomb under the main altar of Saint Catherine of Siena, his and our Dominican sister.

It’s interesting to observe how many human beings have artistic talent, and how many have the urge to draw or sculpt or paint images on any surface they can find. Pictorial art can be a blessing or a curse. We have Fra Angelico in Florence and Rome, and we have all the billboards on American highways and the graffiti spray-painted on railroad cars, subway trains, and walls across the world. Some art gives glory to God and does honor to its producers; some is simply the defacement of a nice blank wall, and cannot be called “art” in the real sense of the word.

But, we can be grateful that the world is brightened by good, sometimes great, art, in the form of painting, sculpture, engineering, and music. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | February 15, 2019

Feast of Saint Claude (15 February 2019)

On Tuesday morning, I took one of our priests to the airport. On the way home, I heard an interesting commentary on today’s news on my car radio. The announcer told us that the largest hospital in Atlanta has gone back to the practice of requiring the nurses to wear all-white uniforms so that they will be easily recognizable as nurses. The announcer read a statement by one of the hospital’s officials saying that the wearing of the traditional nurses’ uniform adds respect, dignity, and visibility to the men and women of the nursing profession in the hospital, and the vast majority of the nurses are pleased with the return to tradition.

I totally agree with what they are doing, and hope that one of these days, our Catholic priests and religious will wake up to the same truth and begin again to wear clothing indicating their identity. At the time of the Second Vatican Council, the Church fathers called for an updating of religious garb to conform to modern times and technology. Some of the habits which our Sisters used to wear were extremely uncomfortable, impractical, and even unhealthy. The Daughters of Charity with their wonderfully picturesque cornettes (the big headdresses that came from 17th century France) found it difficult to get into an automobile with the cornettes.

Others couldn’t drive cars at all because their headdresses prevented them from seeing anything except that which was directly in front of them. There was a joke that when some of them changed their headdresses, they could eat fried chicken and corn-on-the-cob for the first time since assuming the religious garb.  In the days before air-conditioning in all homes, schools, and offices, we used to feel sorry for the Sisters in their heavy robes here in the stifling heat and humidity of a New Orleans summer.

However, most of the sisterhoods and the priests and brothers took the Church’s recommendation way too far, and totally abandoned any semblance of religious garb so as to become indistinguishable from the laity. It was a terrible mistake; it deprived the Church of one of its most visible manifestations and it immediately had a negative effect upon priestly and religious vocations and the esteem in which priests and religious were held when religious garb was the norm for them. Now that 30 or 40 years have elapsed since the abandonment of religious garb, most of us are too proud or stubborn to admit that it was a mistake, and too accustomed to the secularization of our way of life to want to return to one of the most powerful sacramentals of the Church, namely, religious attire.

I admire the nurses of Atlanta for what they are doing. I pray that one day, Catholic priests and religious will have that much prudence and courage to admit that something has gone wrong and to correct it. 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 | February 11, 2019

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (11 February 2019)

Today brings us many things to think about in our life of faith and prayer. I will simply touch on a couple of them today.

For one thing, February 11 is the date on which Our Blessed Mother first appeared to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes in southwestern France. That was in 1858. During these subsequent years, the place of the apparitions at Lourdes has become the most frequently visited shrine in the world, Bernadette has been canonized, and the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes has been added to the universal calendar of the Church.  In this connection, let me recommend to you the book and the movie entitled “The Song of Bernadette.” The author of the book was Franz Werfel, already a well-known writer in Europe when he wrote the book in thanksgiving for having escaped the clutches of the Nazis, since he was a Jew.  Both the book and the movie are very good.

February 11 is also the anniversary of the Lateran Treaty signed in 1929 between Pope Pius XI and the Italian government. For some seventy years, a state of alienation had existed between the Holy See and Italy over the invasion by the Italian armies of the Papal States, an independent nation ruled by the Pope.  That nation was annexed to the newly organized nation of Italy, violating all principles of international law.  The situation was very painful, especially for the Catholics of Italy.  So the Holy See took the initiative in coming up with the treaty which recognized the annexation of the former Papal States to the Italian nation, created the tiny new nation of Vatican City State, with the Pope as its ruler, and called upon Italy to pay an indemnity of money to the Vatican City State to begin its independent existence and operation.  In terms of terrain, the Church lost a great deal.  But in terms of prestige and moral leadership, it gained immeasurably.  Now, the Pope is recognized throughout the world as a head of state, just like any monarch or president, and is given all the rights that go with that. The Church is not encumbered with running a country that comprised much of the Italian peninsula, but can devote itself to the spiritual and moral concerns for which Our Divine Lord established it.  And the Pope is not involved in the political difficulties which sooner or later always crop up when there is the need for taxation, defense, political parties, and governing large groups of human beings. 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 | February 6, 2019

Feast Saint Paul Miki and Comp. (6 February 2019)

The letter to the Hebrews compares the way God reveals himself in the Old Testament, and in the New. In the Old Testament, the justice and the wrath of God is frighteningly evident when Moses is summoned to the top of Mt. Sinai to receive the law from the divine Lawgiver. The author of the Hebrews describes the blazing fire, the gloomy darkness, the storm and the trumpet blasts and a voice speaking words such that those who heard them begged that they be not addressed to them. Indeed, so fearful was the spectacle that Moses said, “I am terrified and trembling.”

Now, contrast that with the revelation of himself that God makes to us in the New Testament, when he sends his divine Son into the world to be for us the definitive self-revelation of the Godhead. It is Jesus, a simple, quiet, poor, humble man. He says to the world, “Come to me, you who labor and are heavily burdened and I will give you rest.” He says, “Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” He is born, a poor human baby, and laid in a feeding trough since his blessed mother had nowhere else to put him. When he died after a terrible agony and execution, he had to be laid in someone else’s tomb since there was no other place to lay his body. After his resurrection, he was found early one morning on the shore of the Lake of Galilee, making a fire on the beach and preparing breakfast for his apostles. How different this is from the thunder and storm and darkness of Mt. Sinai!

The writer to the Hebrews goes on to say to us: “You have drawn near to Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to myriads of angels in festal gathering, to the assembly of the first-born enrolled in heaven … to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant.” It is the mercy of God, not his wrath, that has the last word. It is his kindness, his gentleness, his mercy that gives us hope and the joy of anticipation of the festal gathering that will never end.  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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