Posted by: fvbcdm | October 2, 2015

Feast of the Guardian Angels (2 Oct 2015)

Today, as the Church celebrates the commemoration of our Guardian Angels, let us review briefly the place of the angels in our faith-life.

The Old Testament is full of allusions to the angels, for example, in the first reading of today’s Mass, God says to the Hebrews in the Book of Exodus: “See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way . . . My authority resides in him.”

The New Testament begins with angelic apparitions to the principal figures surrounding the incarnation. First, to Zachary, the father of Saint John the Baptist; then, to Our Lady at the beautiful moment of the annunciation, then to Saint Joseph, to assure him that his fiancee’s pregnancy is the work of God and he is to take her as his wife and be the guardian of her child. And then, finally, a whole host of angels singing and glorifying God in the night skies over Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’s birth.

During Our Lord’s public life, he warned his listeners not to despise children, for “their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” “THEIR ANGELS.” What Our Lord is saying is that each person has an angel in heaven assigned to him by God’s love and providence. In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, when Saint Peter was miraculously freed from his dungeon by an angel and appeared at the home of Mary, the mother of Saint Mark, those inside found it incredible and said, “It must be his angel.” Even then, it was recognized that each of us has an angel representative in heaven.

Not only can we, and should we, pray to our own Guardian Angels for their help and protection in this life, but we can also pray to the angels of those we love for THEIR well-being. It is an ancient Irish custom for parents to ask the angels of their children to watch over and guide their children in the ways of godliness. When we get to heaven, we will learn how much our Guardian Angels have done for us in this world. We might be very much surprised what might have happened, or not happened, but for the protection of our angels. From my earliest childhood, I have daily recited the little prayer in verse: Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom his love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light and guard, to rule and guide. 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 | September 29, 2015

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael (29 Sept 2015)

For many centuries, this date—September 29—has been associated with Saint Michael the Archangel. And in the new calendar, the Church has grouped with him the Archangels Gabriel and Raphael so that we celebrate today all the archangels whose names we know from Scripture. This is one of the only two feasts in the Church calendar celebrated in honor of angels. The other one will occur next [Friday] when we celebrate our own Guardian Angels.

Let us review what we know about the various “choirs” of angels, as they are called. All of this comes from the Bible, since we don’t have any direct and personal experience of the angels. We know that they exist; Sacred Scripture is full of allusions to angels and what they do.

We know that they are persons, that is, individuals with intelligence and free will but who, nonetheless, do not have material bodies as we do. We know that God makes use of them in his government of the universe. We know that at the time of their creation, before the creation of man, some of the angels obeyed and were faithful to God; others, out of pride, disobeyed him and became what we call devils or demons. So the angelic world is divided into the good and the bad angels; the former help us in our quest for sanctity and salvation; the latter do what they can to alienate us from God and lead us to sin and our own destruction, as they have destroyed their own happiness by sin.

Scripture mentions nine “choirs” or groups of angels. They are called Angels, Archangels, Seraphim, Cherubim, Dominations, Thrones, Principalities, Powers, and Virtues. They are superior to human beings in that they are not joined to matter as we are. They are not born, nor do they get sick, nor die. God creates them by a simple act of his creative will, and they will live forever either in heaven or in hell. They understand more clearly, know more profoundly, and those who love, love more ardently than we do. Despite that, when the Word of God — the second Person of the Blessed Trinity — wished to become a part of his own creation, he did not become an angel, but a man, thus conferring upon our human race the enormous honor of having him as our human and divine brother.

On [Friday] we will focus our attention through the sacred liturgy upon our own guardian angels — those heavenly persons who are assigned to us to protect and assist us in our journey through this life into eternal life, our destiny.

Down through the centuries of Jewish and Christian history, Saint Michael the archangel has been popular. Think of all the Michaels and Michels and Miguels, the many churches and chapels and monasteries and shrines dedicated to Saint Michael. The name Michael, by the way, is a Hebrew one meaning “Who is like God?” The implication is that NO ONE is like God; God is totally unique.

Back in the early days of the Church in England, this feast was called Michaelmas and was the beginning of the school year among the medieval universities and seminaries. One of the most famous and striking of all medieval monasteries is Mont Saint-Michel (Mount Saint Michael), the beautiful grouping of buildings crowning a hill which rises out of the sea on the French coast between Normandy and Brittany. So Saint Michael and his fellow archangels occupy a very important place in the spiritual life of the Church. They are powerful friends of ours in the great body of holy ones we call “the Communion of 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 | September 28, 2015

Feast of Saint Lawrence Ruiz and Comp. (28 September 2015)

The author of the Book of Wisdom prays: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need, lest, being full, I deny you . . .”

This is a wise prayer; its author recognizes the connection between an abundance of this world’s goods and the vice of pride and arrogance and the delusion that if we have enough wealth, we can declare our independence from God. This is part of what Our Lord means when he says that a camel can squeeze through the eye of a needle more easily than a rich man can get into heaven. And not only is Our Lord talking about material things, but even more, about the things of the mind. We can become vain, proud, and contemptuous of others because of our talents or good looks or education, or intellectual gifts, or things of that kind. And when vanity or pride take root in our minds, hearts, and souls, our spiritual life suffers and sometimes dies altogether. Pride is the great enemy of love of God and neighbor; humility is its greatest ally.

[September 27th] is the feastday of Saint Vincent de Paul, the French priest who had such a tremendous impact upon Church history. He was very concerned about the poor in France during his time — the 1600s. He was also concerned about the educational level of the clergy.  So he founded the Vincentian Fathers and Brothers to improve clerical education, and he collaborated with Saint Louise de Marillac in founding the Daughters of Charity. For centuries, their big, white bonnets were a symbol of the Church’s concern for the poor throughout the world. Then, in the 19th century, a French layman by the name of Frederic Ozanam founded an organization of laymen called the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. It exists in most parishes throughout the world and has done an enormous amount of good for the poor wherever it functions. The desire of Christians to be of service to anyone who needs it, and the actual performance of service of this kind is one of the most authentic signs of true Christianity in the world. How are you doing in terms of being of help to others in one form or other?  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 | September 25, 2015

Feast of Saint Finbar (25 September 2015)

Back in the 50s when I was in the Navy during the Korean conflict, I came to know an interesting psychiatrist who ran a therapeutic clinic in California for the treatment of men who returned from Korea with what was then called “battle fatigue.” It was often a combination of anxiety, depression, emotional upset, and even psychosis brought on by their experiences in combat.

The doctor was a Catholic, and he noticed that among his patients there was a much smaller percentage of Catholics than among the general population and the armed forces.  He wondered why, so began to investigate the phenomenon.  He came to the conclusion that the reason why Catholics were less affected by combat than others was that we are made more aware of death than others.  Whether we are conscious of it or not, our religion keeps before us quite constantly the inevitability of death and the need always to be ready for it whenever it comes.  Outside the Church, that is not as true.  In fact, some people avoid talking about death at all and try to avoid all of its accompanying elements, like funerals, terminal illness, the aging process, etc.

Every time we say the “Hail, Mary,” for example, we ask Our Lady to “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”  We might not advert to those words very deeply, but they work their way into our subconscious.  We pray for the dead at every Mass; we hear the words of Jesus read to us with regularity in the scripture readings in which he warns us to be ready, since we don’t know the day or the hour when death may come for us.  After the “Our Father” at every Mass, we speak of waiting “with joyful hope” for the coming of our Divine Lord.  Death is not fearful for us, especially for those who live with a good conscience, who have devotion to some of the saints in heaven, and who love God and await the happiness of heaven.  Each year we celebrate All Souls Day, we gain indulgences for the dead, we have Masses celebrated for them, we are familiar with the practice of administering the Last Sacraments to the dying.  We call Holy Communion given in that state “Viaticum,” which means in Latin “with you on the journey.” Jesus comes in the Eucharist to be with the dying person on his or her journey into eternal life—a beautiful preparation for the transition from this life to the next.

Let us think of the doctor’s insight and realize how fortunate we are to have the consolations of our holy faith as we find death approaching. We might remember the wonderful words of Cardinal Manning, an elderly English bishop who was asked on his deathbed, “How do you feel?” He smiled and said, “I feel like a schoolboy going home for the holidays.” 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 | September 24, 2015

Feast of the Martyrs of Chalcedon (24 September 2015)

Jesus remarks in the gospels that people don’t light lamps and then put them under baskets or under the bed, but rather put them on lampstands to illuminate everything in the room.

That reminds me of the tabernacle light that burns near the tabernacle in every Catholic Church and chapel throughout the world. We might well give some thought to that lamp and allow it to instruct us. First of all, why is it there? It is there to bear witness to the presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. “Jesus is here,” it says to us. “Jesus, true to his Old Testament title, is ‘Emmanuel’: God with us.” So the principal reason for the use of the tabernacle lamp is to indicate the presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle.

But the way the candle operates is also instructive to us. It is faithful and constant. It burns steadily for about a week and then is replaced with another one. Whenever we go into the church or chapel, there it is: burning and announcing by its perpetual flame the presence of the Lord. In the Old Testament, God frequently refers to himself as “a faithful God.” We are asked to bear witness to the presence of Christ in our lives; we are asked to be faithful, to be constant in our faith and our witness to Jesus.

Then, it is silent. It makes no noise; it is humble and unobtrusive. It doesn’t set anything on fire. It burns very quietly and says in its own silent way, “Jesus is here. Jesus loves you; that is why he is here.” So with us: we don’t have to be shrill or aggressive in our faith. We simply have to live it authentically, and it will be noticed by others and we will be effective witnesses to Christ.

And finally, it is self-immolating. With every minute that the candle burns, it consumes some of itself and approaches the end of its life. But I think that if candles could speak, the tabernacle candles would tell us that they considered themselves the most blessed and fortunate of candles because of the sacred reason they have for existing and burning. And so with us: God has created us in his image and likeness and wants us to live in that way. Our lives spend themselves minute by minute, hour by hour. If we love God and do his will, we glorify him with each passing moment, hour, day, month, year. And then, when we come to the end of our allotted time, we go into eternal union with our Creator in his heavenly light and radiance and beauty. 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 | September 23, 2015

Feast of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina  (23 September 2015)

In 1995, I traveled with friends of mine from Rome where I was temporarily stationed to the town of San Giovanni Rotondo, due east of Rome, to visit the tomb of Padre Pio, the famous Franciscan priest who had the stigmata most of his life.  He has now been canonized and so we celebrate his feastday in the calendar of the Church today, on September 23rd.

The room in which he lived during his last years there has been turned into a sort of shrine/museum, where one can see the blood-stained gloves which covered his hands, the crucifix before which he often prayed, and other items associated with him.  I had the privilege of celebrating Mass twice at an altar very close to his tomb in the crpyt of the church where he celebrated Mass daily.  I have often thought of him and his ministry, so closely associated with the holy sacrifice of the Mass and the hearing of confessions.  He was in constant pain, like Our Divine Lord on the cross.  He had not asked for the wounds of Jesus in his own body; they simply appeared early in his religious life and were with him until he died.  Did he ever tire of that seemingly endless suffering?  Did he sometimes pray for the end of it?  Was it clear to him why it was visited upon him and what was its value?  We know that one of his crosses was the excitement and the curiosity produced by his wounds upon people who flocked to see him, speak to him, touch him.  Just as Elvis Presley attracted teeny-boppers and adolescent girls, so did Padre Pio exercise a sort of magnetism upon older and more devout followers.

 A man I once knew in New Orleans told us very frankly that on one occasion he went to San Giovanni Rotondo and made an appointment to go to confession to Padre Pio. Whether it was deliberate or not, I don’t remember, but he omitted in his confession something which Padre Pio considered essential for the integrity of the sacrament.  Padre Pio became annoyed and told the man to leave his confessional and not to come back until he was prepared to confess ALL his sins! He went back a day or so later and was given absolution.  I often think of the contrast between a simple, devout, utterly dedicated man like Padre Pio and so many of us today who are interested in pleasures of all kinds, and for whom God is certainly not the most important element in life.  Let us pray often for the absolute supremacy of God in our thoughts, words, and actions. 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 | September 23, 2015

Feast of Saint Thomas of Villanova (22 September 2015)

According to my information on “Google,” September 23, will be the exact day on which the autumn equinox occurs, at precisely [3:22 a.m.], Central Daylight Time. I thought that the equinox always occurred on September 22, but evidently I was wrong.  There is so much confusion in this world of ours that maybe even the sun is a little unsure of when it’s supposed to cross the equator on its way south this fall!  In any case, let’s not fail to dedicate this new season of fall, or autumn, to the glory of God in our lives.

The three readings at Mass this past Sunday are remarkably appropriate for the world’s present situation. There is fighting in Iraq; there is fighting in Afghanistan; there is a tremendous uproar throughout the Muslim world over a remark made by Pope Benedict in a university speech a week or so ago. There is starvation and drought and epidemics of AIDS in Africa; there is a coup d’etat in Thailand; there is vicious anti-American rhetoric by the president of Venezuela; there is a conflict in Mexico about who won the recent presidential election. And here, in the usually peaceful and quiet woodlands of east Texas, someone produced a home-made bomb with which he or she destroyed the face of an outdoor statue of Our Blessed Mother in the garden of the Catholic Center of a state university.

With all of this as background, we hear the Book of Wisdom saying: “With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may . . . try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”

Then Saint James says to us in the second reading: “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war.” Above that, he says, “The wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits . . . And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace, for those who cultivate peace.”

And finally, Our Divine Lord says to us in the gospel: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” And then he gave us the supreme example of being our servant by dying on the cross in atonement for our sins.

If there must be violence and bloodshed, let it be the violence and bloodshed of martyrdom, not that of murder and terrorism. Far better that we should suffer injustice rather than inflict it. If the Christian crusaders in the middle ages had asked Our Lord, “How many lives shall we give to reclaim your tomb? And how many lives of the enemy shall we take to reclaim it?,” I think he would have answered: “Not a single one.” To kill and be killed over the possession of a tomb in which the Lord of Life lay dead for some forty hours is a misunderstanding of what Our Lord Jesus Christ meant when he said, “I came that they may have LIFE and have it more abundantly.” 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 | September 18, 2015

Feast of Joseph of Cupertino (18 September 2015)

I would like to return today to the second reading in last Sunday’s Mass, taken from the letter of Saint James the Apostle. Listen again to that reading: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? . . . If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

What Saint James is saying here is only good, common sense; we must practice what we preach. However, if you know a little Church history, you will know that Martin Luther found this passage so offensive to his theories that he seriously considered dropping this epistle from his German version of the New Testament. What did he find offensive about it? Martin Luther was a complicated, tortured man who had been an Augustinian priest but came to the conclusion that because he found abuses in the Catholic Church, he was justified in leaving the Catholic Church and setting up his own church by which he would “reform” Catholicism. Thus we have what history calls the Protestant Reformation.  He was never too comfortable with his own spirituality, and worried a lot about his salvation.  But then, he came across the passage in one of Saint Paul’s letters where the Apostle of the Gentiles says, “The just man lives by faith.” In that statement, Luther thought that he had found the answer to his scruples and worries. It doesn’t matter what one does, or does not do, he concluded; it only matters that one BELIEVE.  He is often quoted as having said, “Sin bravely, but believe more strongly.” I’m not sure he actually said that, but he certainly took “faith” to mean an intellectual assent to the Kingship of Christ, without requiring good works as well. And since the epistle of Saint James contradicts that idea, Luther wanted to remove it from the New Testament.

This basic idea of Luther has come into Protestantism with their idea of salvation. If you talk to some of them, they will ask you, “Are you saved?” My answer to that question is always, “Yes and no.” Our Divine Lord has certainly saved me by his death on the cross and his resurrection, but now I must live a life of faith AND WORKS and thus apply his divine merits to my own soul. To “accept Jesus as our personal Savior,” but then not to live according to the moral law given in the Old Testament and refined and elevated by Christ, is not going to save us, that is, to bring us into eternal union with God in heaven. When Saint Paul speaks of faith, he means a faith that includes the commandments, virtues, and the beauty of the moral law. Our Lord makes that quite clear when he tells us that at the last judgment, those who have fed the hungry, visited the sick, etc., will be welcomed into heaven. Those who did not feed the hungry, clothe those without clothing, etc., would be relegated to an eternal existence without God.

So let us not be simplistic and assume that just because we give lip service to Jesus as our Savior, we are pleasing to him. “It is not he who says to me: ‘Lord, Lord’ who will be saved, but he who does the will of my father in heaven.” Our Divine Lord has done his part in our salvation. Now it is up to us to use his grace and do our part in that greatest of all our opportunities. 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 | September 17, 2015

Feast of Saint Robert Bellarmine (17 September 2015)

Just before composing this daily message, I have read the statement of the Holy See given to the world in the Vatican News Agency’s report concerning the now-famous speech given by Pope Benedict XVI last week in Germany.

The Holy See does its homework well: it is able to quote the Holy Father’s recent remarks about the importance of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation and the respect that we human beings owe one another and our various creeds. It points out that the Holy Father was quoting from an ancient statement by a Byzantine Emperor, indicating that for centuries, Islam has been perceived as trying to spread its faith by the sword rather than by peaceful and persuasive preaching.

However, all that being said, I have no doubt that the Holy Father knew perfectly well that his words would be taken out of context and would be used as an excuse on the part of some Muslims to excoriate the Catholic Church, and perhaps do more damage than that. If we read carefully his words following that statement, we will find him saying that he is sorry that his words were misinterpreted as being an expression of his own feelings. I don’t think that we will hear the Pope say that he is sorry for saying them. He is not a stupid man who knows nothing of history or the current inflammatory situation in the world, as some of his enemies have asserted. He is the Vicar of Christ who knows that his duty is to preach constantly the gospel of his divine Master.  And because he is the head of an international religious community — the Catholic Church — and an international political community — the State of Vatican City which maintains diplomatic relations with most of the nations on earth — he is probably the best-informed person on earth in terms of what is happening on this planet of ours.

On the night before Jesus’s death, when Saint Peter tried to defend his Master by drawing a sword and cutting off the ear of one of the High Priest’s soldiers, Our Lord said to Peter, “Put away your sword; those who take up the sword, die by the sword.” That must be the teaching of the Pope, too. And if the world is to know peace, it must be the policy of every human being. The events of 9/11, which were the work of Muslim extremists, are not going to bring peace into the world. The assassination attempt upon Pope John Paul II, which was the work of a Muslim extremist, will not bring peace into the world.  On the other hand, the work of men and women of good will — be they Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or whatever — can bring justice, peace, and harmony to this sorry world of ours. To quote Our Divine Lord again, “Blessed are the peace-makers; they shall be called the children of God.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world! This ancient prayer is particularly appropriate today when we celebrate a feast which has been variously called the Triumph of the Holy Cross, the Finding of the Holy Cross, and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  They amount to the same thing: Our Divine Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, having become a human being to atone for human sin, showed his immense love for us by accepting death — even death ON A CROSS, as Saint Paul points out — in reparation for our sins.  Saint Paul was familiar with the horrible death suffered by those who were crucified, since it was a common occurrence throughout the merciless Roman system of punishments. And for God to take that upon himself was well-night incredible for Saint Paul and for us. Especially since he was not guilty of any sin or wrong-doing at all.

During his public life, Jesus said as recorded in the gospel: If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross DAILY, and follow me. Jesus knows that every human being has his and her share of suffering in this world; no one can totally escape it. But in a sense, he does give us a way to escape the pain of the cross by making it clear that suffering is an opportunity to conform ourselves to the suffering, crucified Christ. When you really want something, then it is no longer terrible or an unmitigated evil. Jesus wanted to undergo his passion and death: “I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and how eager I am that it be accomplished!” he says in the gospel. And when Saint Peter tried to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem where he had foretold that death awaited him, Jesus told Saint Peter to get out of his way, since he was thinking as man thinks, and not as God does. Saint John of the Cross once said that if he were to spend a single day without suffering, he would consider it a day wasted.  Thus do Christian mystics thirst to be conformed with the suffering Christ.

We do not have to go looking for suffering. It will find us without any effort on our part.  But we must try to accept it without complaining against God who could, if he wished, save us from it.  It is a means that we have to make reparation for our sins, and also for those of others. We are all members of that body which we call the Mystical Body of Christ — the community of all those united with Christ by faith, love, and baptism.  Just as in the human body, the mouth eats but the feet benefit from the food, and the lungs breathe but the blood benefits from the fresh air taken in, so in the Mystical Body of Christ, some suffer uncomplainingly and even happily, and others benefit by that redemptive suffering.  So when suffering comes our way, as it has, it does, and it will continue to do, we must not complain: “Why me?” Rather, let us remember that a wise and loving God is allowing us to suffer, and he is doing so for our own good and that of others. Saint Paul says, “We preach Christ, and him crucified.” We can paraphrase that statement: “We wish to be conformed to Christ, and him crucified.” 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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