Posted by: fvbcdm | May 10, 2017

Feast of Saint Damien (10 May 2017)

Today we Catholics throughout the world celebrate the feast of Saint Damien, the leper priest of Molokai who labored and died in what is now a part of the United States of America. And we Dominicans celebrate Saint Antoninus of Florence, one of the outstanding examples of a loving, zealous, and kind bishop of the Church who was a Dominican confrere of ours.

When I was about seven years old, my parents gave me a book that opened new worlds for me.  It was called “Children of Foreign Lands,” and I loved it as I had loved no other book.  The foreign lands whose children were described were Norway, Spain, Holland, China, Japan, Hawaii, and Arabia.  I remember poring over it hour after hour until I had learned every detail of the lifestyle of each of those parts of the world.  For some reason, I was particularly interested in Holland, and learned all about windwills, wooden shoes, tulips, cheese, dog-carts, life on a canal boat, and the picturesque costumes of the different parts of the Netherlands.

Then, on May 10, 1940, [seventy-seven] years ago today, the world awoke to find that the Nazi armies had invaded Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.  I was ten years old and very sad to think that my dear Holland was now under the heel of the conqueror.  Little did I know how much the Dutch would suffer for the next five years, many of them dying of malnutrition, many others being sent to the extermination camps.  Later, the stories of Anne Franck and Corrie Ten Boom and their families and of Saint Edith Stein would become known to the world and we would realize just how hellish Naziism really was.  May 10 always brings those memories back to me.  I learned that had I been born in Europe rather than America, I might well have been incinerated in a Nazi oven since my great-grandfather was Jewish.

To change the subject, I recently heard from a friend here who is embroiled with his inlaws in a dispute about religion and how it should be practiced.  That reminds me of my early days here at Holy Rosary parish in Houston.  It was August of 1986.  My predecessor, Father Gerard Joubert, was conservative liturgically and much beloved by the people here.  And my arrival was looked upon with much trepidation.  What was going to happen to Holy Rosary parish with a younger man in charge? One lady said to me, “We’re glad to have you here, Father, but I want you to know that if you make us stand up to receive Holy Communion, I’ll never come here again”!  I had to laugh at her.  I had no intention of enforcing any changes like that, and it mattered very little to me what position the people assumed to receive the Eucharist.  As time went on, I found out that in matters of religion, inconsequential things like that take on enormous importance. Once, in New Orleans, a lady got furiously angry with me because I wouldn’t insist that the little girls receiving their first Holy Communion must wear white veils on their heads. I explained to her that if she wanted to dress her child in a white veil, that was perfectly all right with me.  But NO! All of the little girls must be so attired.  I’m happy to report that as time went on, that lady and I became very good friends despite the white veil problem. We must try always to distinguish the essential from the accidental.  That is one of the elements of wisdom and prudence.  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 | May 8, 2017

Feast of Saint Peter Tarantaise (8 May 2017)

Today in our Dominican calendar we celebrate the patronage of Our Blessed Mother over our Order. There is an old legend that one night, Saint Dominic dreamed that he was being shown around Heaven. He saw many people there, including the members of all the other religious orders, but none of his own. He began to weep, and Our Lady asked him why he was so sad. He explained to her that he didn’t see any of his preaching friars in heaven. Whereupon she opened the voluminous cloak that she was wearing, and there, gathered around her, were the early Dominicans, safely within her maternal protection. Be that as it may, we celebrate today the fact that the Mother of Our Lord is also Our Lady of the Rosary and the Queen of the Order of Preachers.

In two weeks, 103 children of our parish are scheduled to receive their first Holy Communion. Earlier this week, a group of ladies came to wrap the crucifixes which we give to each child for this beautiful occasion. This always reminds me of an incident one time in France.  My travel group and I were in the town of Avranches, near the famous Mont Saint-Michel. First Communion was being administered to the children at one of the parish Masses.  As I stood there, watching the little tykes going into the church dressed, as they do in France, like miniature monks and nuns, I got to talking to one of the local men there.  He said to me sadly, “They call it First Communion.  Actually, for some of them, it will be their last Communion, since their families are not practicing Catholics and the children won’t be brought to Mass again for years.”  That tragic scenario is taking place in our country, too, where Catholicism in some families is purely nominal and hypocritical, and the children are brought to church only for occasions like baptism, first Communion, and maybe Confirmation, and then not again until the wedding or the funeral.

Let us pray that the children who receive their first Holy Communion this year will be blessed with good families—families of faith, of devotion to Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, families who take very seriously their obligation to give their children a very solid religious education and formation, and that these children will begin with their first Holy Communion a love relationship with Jesus in the Mass and Eucharist that will last all their lives.

Apropos of this, Our Lord says in the gospel: I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he shall live forever; the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.  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 | May 6, 2017

Feast of Saint Judith (5 May 2017)

Today I would like to talk to you about two men, one of whom I have known very well, the other not at all.  The one I knew was Father William Brenda, one of our Dominican friars who lived here at Holy Rosary parish in Houston for about eighteen years, five of them with me.  He was seven years older than I; a native of Detroit, of Polish ancestry.  His nickname among his confreres was “Boley” because once, in the seminary, he took the part of a Polish man whose name was Bolinkowitz.

Boley didn’t want to come here; he was very content at our parish in Hammond, Louisiana.  But there was a need for him here, so he came as any obedient friar would.  Shortly after he got here, he came to my room (we were three priests in the house) and said to me, “I think I’m having a panic attack.”  I didn’t know what a panic attack was, so I called one of our priests elsewhere who had some experience in emotional problems, and he told me what to do.  We brought Father Brenda to a therapy center where he remained for about three weeks, and returned feeling fine.  From then on, it was a great joy to live and work with Boley; I learned a great deal from him.  Perhaps the most important thing I learned from him was the beauty and value of perseverance even in adverse conditions.

Boley was not a good preacher; everyone was aware of that.  But the sad thing was that HE was painfully aware of it, too.  He had been a priest for about forty years and had preached and taught very faithfully for all those years, knowing that he was not a good preacher and yet unable to do anything about it.  He heard other priests being congratulated on their preaching, but not himself.  People can be inadvertently cruel by praising others, but not the person they’re talking to.  Boley was sadly accustomed to that.  I remember one day, as he was going into the church to preach, he said under his breath, “Well, here goes nothing” or some self-disparaging comment like that.  My heart went out to him; I have always had the advantage of positive feedback about my preaching.  He evidently seldom did.  But it was his duty, so he did it, year after year after year.  And despite his long and repetitive sermons and homilies, people came to love him and admire him just as I did.  Boley died on May 5, 2008.   Now when you mention his name, those who knew him smile and remember him with affection and delight.  God grant him eternal rest, and thanks be to our God for giving him and his fine example to us for the years that he was with us.

The other man I’d like to mention today is about 30 years old.  I’ve never met him, but have been asked to pray for him, and to ask others to do so too.  So today, I’m asking you to pray for him.  His name is Josh.  He is the product of a broken home, an abusive father and an enabling mother.  His younger brother, whom I do know, has written to me and asked for prayers.  They are not a Catholic family, but the younger brother is a good, God-fearing young man, very concerned about his older brother who is now “on drugs” and making a mess of his life.  That tells you enough to deserve your prayers for Josh.  I leave the rest to 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 | May 3, 2017

Feast of Saints Philip and James (3 May 2017)

In the Vatican Information Service bulletin of today, it is announced that the Holy Father will celebrate Mass in the town of Frascati in honor of its patron saints, Philip and James, two of the Apostles whom the Church honors today.

In 1995, friends and I were traveling in that part of Italy—the Roman campagna, as it’s called—when we wanted to visit the town of Nemmi close by. We became confused in reading our map and couldn’t find Nemmi!  So we stopped a passerby and asked, in our halting Italian, how to get to Nemmi.  He thought about it for a moment, tried to give us directions, and then evidently decided that it would be easier just to lead us there rather than try to explain to some confused Americans how to get to Nemmi.  So he simply said, “Follow me,” which we gladly did.  After a lovely drive of maybe three or four miles, we got to Nemmi.  He blew his horn, smiled broadly, waved us on into the heart of the mountainous town, and then went on his way.  I wonder if he remembers that incident.  I doubt it.  But my friends and I remember it very clearly and often reminisce about the nice fellow who led us a few miles to Nemmi. His kindness was one of those fragrant flowers that grow along the way of our lives and warm our hearts.

Our Lord tells us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  Will you try to do something for someone else today that you would like him or her to do to you?  Or that he or she will remember with delight years after it happens?  May God reward the man who led us to Nemmi; may God reward us, too, if we treat others with kindness. 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 | May 1, 2017

Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker (1 May 2017)

For many centuries, the Church has held up Saint Joseph to us as the patron of the Universal Church and of the grace of a happy death. He is the patron of the Universal Church because he was the head of the Holy Family of Nazareth, and the Church is the much wider family of Christ throughout the world and down through the years of sacred history.    He is the patron of the grace of a happy death because he seems to have died between the time Our Lord was twelve years old and the time that Jesus died on the cross and entrusted his blessed mother into the care of Saint John the Evangelist who stood with her at the foot of the cross. In what better company can one die than that of Jesus and Mary?

Then, when Karl Marx, Nicolai Lenin, and Josef Stalin spawned the horrors of atheistic communism upon the world, it was decided to establish an international communist labor day to glorify the working man to whom communism paid lip service.  May 1st was the date settled upon for that great godless feast.  So to counteract the blasphemy of a godless feast day, Pope Pius XII, in 1955, instituted the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker and decreed that it would be celebrated on May 1st. Today, as we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, we use as the invitatory antiphon the prayer:  “Come, let us worship Christ the Lord who was honored to be known as the son of a carpenter.”  We pray for all working people, we pray in thanks for our ability to support ourselves and our families by honest work, and we pray for those who are having trouble working and supporting those dependent upon them.

The absurdity of atheistic glorification of work is seen clearly in a funny story that has been circulated for years.  It says that one day, an atheist went before God and said to him, “We don’t need you anymore.  We have perfected all science and technology and can make our own heaven on earth.  So why don’t you just sort of fade away?”  God listened patiently and then said, “Before I do that, let me see you produce a single living human being. That will be proof to me of what you say, and then I’ll fade away as you ask.”  “Fine,” replies the atheist.  So he stoops down to pick up a pile of dirt with which to begin his “creation.”  But God stops him.  “Oh, no!,” he says. “I made that dirt; that’s my dirt.  You go get your own dirt for your creation.”  What does an atheist do in a case like that?  The foolishness of atheism is clearly seen in that simple little story.  The many trees that I can see from my window produce millions of leaves each spring and thousands of acorns.  How many leaves are produced by the void of atheism or by atheists themselves?

May Saint Joseph the Worker bless our world and our Church today and grant us the tremendous grace of dying in the company of his wife and his foster son, Jesus our Lord. 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 | April 29, 2017

Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena (29 April 2017)

Today we Dominicans and many others throughout the world celebrate with special pride and joy the feast of our Sister, Saint Catherine of Siena. Only three women have been declared Doctors of the Church, and she was the earliest one to be so honored. The life of this remarkable woman was very closely associated with the Popes.  When she was a little girl of only six, Our Lord appeared to her.  In her vision, she saw Christ dressed in the vestments of the Pope, and enthroned among saints and angels in heaven.  The beauty of the vision gave her a tremendous awareness of the connection of Our Savior and his vicar on earth, the Pope.  This was the means chosen by Our Lord to correct a major problem in the Church.  About forty years before Catherine’s birth, the Pope, under the influence of French cardinals and politicians, had left Rome and gone to live in Avignon, a French city on the Rhone river in what is now southern France.  He and his successors remained in Avignon for seventy years, much to the scandal and demoralization of the Church and its people of the time.  This Italian girl, in her twenties, moved by the Holy Spirit, exerted such influence upon the Pope that he finally gave in to her begging, pleading, threatening, and scolding, and returned to Rome where he belonged and where the Popes have continued to reside ever since, as they had since the time of Saint Peter.  The Pope is the Bishop of Rome.

If ever there was a saint who was grateful to Our Lord for his establishment of the papacy, and devoted to the current occupant on the seat of Peter, it was Catherine of Siena.  The two principal criteria by which a Catholic can be identified are these: that he or she believe in, and worthily receive, the Holy Eucharist regularly, and that he or she be in communion with and obedient to the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.  We here in America have come to believe that our democratic form of government gives us the right to criticize our political leaders, to lampoon and ridicule them, and to disobey them whenever we can get away with it.  That immature and irresponsible mentality cannot be carried over into the Church.  We do not elect our Popes; the Church is by no means a democracy.  It teaches and governs by divine authority.  And Christ said to Saint Peter, the first Pope, “Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”   That total authority has been passed down from Peter to all his successors, of whom [Pope Francis] is the [265th]. I do not necessarily agree with everything that every pope has done; we all know that some of our popes were not good men and were scandalous pontiffs.  But they never erred in matters of faith or morals.  On the other hand, in the last two centuries, the Church and the world have been blessed with some of the finest popes in the history of Christendom.

If we want to be the Catholics we ought to be, let us ask Saint Catherine of Siena to help us in that very noble aspiration.  “He who hears you, hears Me,” Jesus said to the apostles and their successors.  And to Saint Peter, “Feed my lambs . . . feed my sheep.”  Let us accept the “feeding” of our Popes for in doing so, we are nourished by Christ Our Lord himself.  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 | April 21, 2017

Easter Friday (21 April 2017)

During the 1920s and 1930s, Our Lord appeared repeatedly to a Sister in Poland; her name was Faustina Kowalska and she belonged to the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy. During those apparitions to her, Our Lord revealed himself to her as the risen Savior, with white and red rays streaming from his Sacred Heart. He explained that the rays represented the water of baptism and his blood shed on the cross for us and then offered to us in the Holy Eucharist.

Furthermore, he asked that the Sunday after Easter be especially honored as the Sunday of Divine Mercy because the gospel which is read on that Sunday is the one describing Our Risen Savior’s institution of the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation—the Sacrament in which we receive divine forgiveness and mercy. Our Lord also asked Sister Faustina, who is now SAINT Faustina, to have a picture painted of him as he appeared to her, with the white and red rays emanating from His heart and bringing his mercy to the world. Now, we find copies of that painting everywhere we look and we are reminded constantly of God’s desire to forgive our sins and shower his mercy upon us.

In the Compendium, that is, the shortened form, of the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, the question is asked: “What does the acceptance of God’s mercy require of us?” The answer is this: “It requires that we admit our faults and repent of our sins. God himself by his Word and his Spirit lays bare our sins and gives us the truth of conscience and the hope of forgiveness.” Thus we are given the divine grace to recognize that we have done wrong, to be sorry for having offended God and to be firm in our resolve not to repeat these wrongs. And then, to live in the joy of knowing that our savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, is kind, merciful, and eager to forgive us and reunite us with himself if we have alienated ourselves from him by serious sin.

There is a favorite prayer used for centuries by the Christians of the East which we can also make our own. It says, simply and beautifully, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It is very appropriate for this Sunday in particular, that we ask him for his mercy to us, acknowledging that we are sinners in need of divine forgiveness and mercy. 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 | April 20, 2017

Easter Thursday (20 April 2017)

We speak of Our Lord as “Jesus Christ.” I suspect that some people believe that Jesus was his first name and Christ was the last, or family, name.  But it didn’t work like that in those days. There were ordinarily no family names then as we understand them.

Our Lord was given the name of Jesus by his blessed mother and Saint Joseph, his foster-father, because they had been commanded to do so by the Archangel Gabriel before Our Lord was born. The name “Jesus” means “savior” or “God saves.” “Christ” is not a name strictly speaking; it is a title. In history, we speak of Alexander “the Great”, William “the Conqueror”, Ivan “the Terrible”, etc.  Alexander, William, and Ivan were their names; “the Great,” “the Conqueror,” and “the Terrible” were titles by which they came to be designated.  “Christ,” which means “the Anointed One,” “the Promised one” is also a title.  So when we speak of Jesus Christ, we are speaking of the man who was Savior and the Anointed or Promised One.

And what does “anointed” mean? Oddly, it means the one upon whom oil has been poured. Why? Because in the Old Testament, the Jewish people were instructed to use olive oil to indicate a special, and holy, purpose for certain things or persons set aside for a relationship with God. Thus, priests were anointed with oil, kings were anointed with oil, the altar in the temple was anointed with oil. When you live in a very dry, dusty climate, it is very helpful to rub oil on yourself to bring back moisture to the skin to prevent chapping, drying, cracking.  And often perfume was added to the oil to make the individual fragrant. So the oil of anointing became symbolic of the good, pleasing, fragrant, soothing action of God upon human life. We still use olive oil to anoint certain persons and things in our sacred rites of the Catholic Church.  At baptism, confirmation, and in Holy Orders, we are anointed with oil. We become “Christs”—anointed ones—to indicate that God has been given to us in a special, sanctifying way.

I speak of these things today because in the two readings at Mass for this Thursday of Easter week, Saint Peter tells us that God revealed centuries before the birth of Jesus that “his Christ would suffer.” His anointed one, his special gift to the human race, would suffer in atonement for sin.  Saint Peter goes on to say that we want to receive “the Christ already appointed for you: Jesus.” And then, in the gospel, Our Divine Lord speaks of himself by saying, “It is written that THE CHRIST would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”

Let us pray in keeping with the spirit of this Easter day. Let us salute and adore and honor our Lord, Jesus who is OUR CHRIST — our anointed savior, who gladly shares with us that which is symbolized by the oil of anointing: the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. 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 | April 19, 2017

Easter Wednesday (19 April 2017)

Today we come to my favorite passage in the gospels.  It occurs in the last chapter of the gospel according to Saint Luke.  I have always thought that if I could have been present at any moment in the life of Jesus, either before or after his resurrection, it would be that one.  We all know the story: two of our Lord’s disciples are returning from Jerusalem to their own homes, evidently in the village of Emmaus.  They are deeply disappointed and saddened because they thought that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, and now all their hopes and joy have been destroyed because his enemies were able to capture him and kill him.  So much for their messianic dreams and faith! Then a stranger catches up with them, going the same way.  They begin to talk; he sees that they are dejected, and they admit that they hoped Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, but then, the beautiful bubble burst.  He hears them out, and then begins to speak.  “How foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets said!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and thus enter into his glory?”  They listened in fascination!  He seemed to know what he was talking about.  It made sense.

Their previous delight over Jesus, his preaching, his miracles, his marvelous personality, came rushing back into their minds and hearts.  They came to the town to which they were going, but he seemed to be going farther on.  And they said to him one of the most touching things addressed to our divine Lord in all of scripture.  They said, “Stay with us. It’s getting dark and the day is nearly over.”  He went with them for supper.  They sat at table, he blessed and broke bread and gave it to them. And in that wonderful moment, they recognized him.  It was Jesus himself!  Alive, as fascinating as ever; full of truth. And before they could even embrace him or ask him what it was like to be dead and now to be alive again, he vanished from their sight.  And now they say something else very touching, very beautiful. “Weren’t our hearts BURNING within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”  This time there would be no disappointments, no sorrow, no dashed hopes or destroyed faith.  They rushed back to Jerusalem where they met with the apostles and each told the other their experiences of that day—that first Easter Sunday.  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 | April 18, 2017

Easter Tuesday (18 April 2017)

During these beautiful days of the Easter octave, we continue to celebrate Our Divine Lord’s resurrection from the tomb. The opening prayer of the Mass yesterday indicated the Church’s interest in those who have come into the Church this Easter either through baptism or through profession of faith in Catholicism.

As I thought about the sacrament of baptism, I marveled at how much is accomplished by the infinite power of God who uses such little, modest instruments to do what He wants done. Take baptism, for example. We become Christians by means of a sacrament which involved about two spoonfuls of water and a baptismal formula that is exactly nineteen words long in English, and only twelve in Latin, the language used to baptize those of my age. On Easter Monday many years ago, I was ordained to the priesthood. What was involved in the conferring of that marvelous power? The bishop laid his hands upon my head and chanted a prayer. That was it. We find the same thing in the life of Our Lord himself. He raised a little girl from the dead by taking her young corpse by the hand and saying, “Little girl, get up.” He restored sight to a blind man by mixing a bit of his saliva with some dirt, spread it on the blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash it off. He fed great crowds with five small loaves of bread and two fish. At the Last Supper, he took a piece of bread, blessed it, broke it, and said to his apostles: take this and eat it; this is my body. And then: do this in memory of me. Can you imagine how many times the Holy Eucharist has been given to the faithful since that simple gesture nearly two thousand years ago? How many have been baptized? How many priests, deacons, and bishops ordained? Very small, simple things and actions and words. But when God is involved, they take on infinite value and power.

And when you think of it, we ourselves are very small things in the great scheme of creation and salvation history. And yet, each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, and Our Lord would gladly have died for the salvation of any ONE of us. Saint Teresa of Avila is quoted as having once said, about money: one peseta (a Spanish unit of money at that time) can provide very little of what we need to live. But with one peseta and Jesus, we are immensely wealthy! 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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