Posted by: fvbcdm | October 21, 2016

Feast of Saint Gaspar (21 October 2016)

Over this past weekend, our holy father Pope Benedict went to the city of Naples to make a pastoral visit to it and the celebrate Mass in a large square in the heart of the city. It rained during the Mass, but the Pope and all the officiants were under a shelter erected for that purpose, and the thousands who gathered for that Mass were under umbrellas or various kinds of rain-gear.

My travel group and I were in that area just three weeks ago, and the weather couldn’t have been more beautiful. While I watched the proceedings on television, I thought of the religious situation there. Italy is nominally a very Catholic country; about 90% of its people are baptized Catholic in their infancy. But on any given Sunday, about 5% or 10% of those people attend Mass, and even fewer receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. There is something terribly wrong here. A Catholic who does not attend Mass regularly and does not receive the Eucharist is not worthy of the name “Catholic.” An authentic Catholic is one who has a deep and abiding love-relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ in the holy Sacrament of the altar. We are essentially a eucharistic people. Jesus tells us in the gospel: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you.” That means receiving the Holy Eucharist regularly, worthily, lovingly.

There are a number of reasons why so many people of Italy don’t practice their Catholic religion as it should be practiced. Cultural, educational, social, political, and so on. But Italy has no monopoly on “cultural Catholicism,” as it’s called. Here in our country, less than half of those who call themselves Catholic attend Mass on any given Sunday. Many of them do not receive Holy Communion; many of them practice contraception; many are living in fornication. Many others make use of pornography to stimulate themselves sexually so as to commit solitary sin. And then, in the political sphere, many believe that a candidate for public office need not allow the moral law to influence his political views. Thus we find so-called Catholics in favor of abortion—the murder of the unborn.

When Pope Benedict looks out over the cheering crowds who gather when he makes public appearances, he knows perfectly well that many of them are not living according to the law of God and the Church. I’m sure that when the crowds in Jerusalem welcomed Jesus into the city on that first Palm Sunday, he knew quite well that the following Friday, they would stand outside Pilate’s palace, howling “Crucify him!” But that is human nature, human weakness, human fickleness, human sin. Let us do our best to be steadfast in our service of our God “in spirit and in truth.” 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 | October 19, 2016

Feast of Saint Isaac Jogues (19 October 2016)

There are two sayings that we have in English that are appropriate for our meditation today. One is that someone is “full of hot air.” The other is that someone is “puffed up with pride.” I speak of these today because in the gospel for today’s Mass, Our Lord warns us of “the leaven—that is, the hypocrisy—of the Pharisees.” The Pharisees were a group of the Jewish people of that time, both a religious and a political group who advocated the exact observance of the law of Moses. They knew all 600+ rules and regulations by which the devout and observant Jew was expected to live, and they obeyed them all. But the bad thing was that they prided themselves on their punctiliousness and held in contempt those who were less observant. Now, why does Our Lord call their pride and arrogance “leaven”? Because leaven (yeast or baking powder), even a small amount, can cause a batch of bread dough to rise and when baked, to become light and appetizing. But even then, everyone knew that leavened bread was good because it had become “puffed up” with the air released by the yeast, and that when freshly baked, it was “full of hot air.” That’s the reason why during the Passover, the Jews eat only unleavened bread—the bread of total sincerity which is not “puffed up” or “full of hot air.”

We mustn’t push that figure of speech too far; we all love good, leavened bread. Wouldn’t it be awful if the only baked goods we could eat would be crackers and matzoh and pita bread? No croissants; no rolls or buns, no good poor boy bread that friends of mine send me from New Orleans since I can’t get it here in east Texas? The puffed up condition of our good bread, and the fact that it’s full of hot air certainly makes it more desirable, even if it is the AIR in the bread that makes it good.

God has made us to be who and what we are. He wants us to accept ourselves as we are. We have the right, and even the duty, to perfect ourselves by education, breeding, and virtue, but we are not to put on airs, to try to seem to be what we are not, not impress others with our own excellence and perfection. That’s hypocrisy; that’s the hot air and the puffed-up attitude that Our Lord condemns and warns us against. The other day, I laughed at a comic strip in the newspaper in which a middle-aged man, trying so hard to impress an attractive young woman with his fine physique that, sucking in his abdomen, he caused his pants to fall off! The leaven of the Pharisees! False pride; false pretenses. Hypocrisy.

Our Lord says to us: be yourself. If you wish to impress others, do so with honest virtue, with kindness, modesty, friendliness. Don’t be puffed up with yourself; don’t be full of hot air. 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 | October 18, 2016

Feast of Saint Luke (18 October 2016)

There is an old adage in theology and philosophy that goes like this: it is better to know a little about important things than a lot about unimportant ones. That being the case, we are immensely indebted to the four evangelists—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—who have given us the gospels in which we find nearly all that we know about the life, the thoughts, the words, and the actions of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today the Church celebrates one of those four: Saint Luke. As far as we know, he was the only gentile (that is, non-Jewish) writer of the New Testament. And when we consider those passages in his gospel that are found only in his account of the life of Jesus, we realize how much we owe him. For example, nearly all of the infancy gospel is found only in Saint Luke. The annunciation, visitation, the presentation in the temple, and the finding of the boy Jesus there are found only in Saint Luke. And most of the details of our Lord’s birth are found there, too, to be supplemented by passages from the gospel according to Saint Matthew.

Then, in the public life of Jesus, we learn of the parable of good Samaritan from Saint Luke, the parable of the prodigal son, the parable of the publican and the pharisee in the temple. Where would our understanding of Jesus be without these pillars of the gospel?

The great Italian poet Dante who wrote in the middle ages spoke of Saint Luke as “the writer of the gentleness of Jesus.” After Pentecost, Saint Luke became the disciple of Saint Paul and traveled with him extensively. He then wrote the Acts of the Apostles, to trace the rise of the early Church as he had written of Christ himself in the gospel.

So today, we have the joy of celebrating Saint Luke who has given us so much of that which is SUPREMELY important in our knowledge of God, our Divine Lord, and of our holy faith. 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 | October 17, 2016

Feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch (17 October 2016)

I’d like to ask you today to pray for the unity of Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Our two churches, which are so close in so many ways, have been separated by schism for nearly 1000 years, and it looks as though we might be on the verge of reunion now, which the recent popes and some of the Orthodox patriarchs have worked so hard for.

In the last few days, an ecumenical meeting has been taking place in Ravenna, Italy, a city which was once part of the Byzantine empire and boasts some of the most beautiful mosaics in the world. Pope Benedict constantly speaks of reunion with the Orthodox, and just a few months ago, he took the unprecedented step of giving back to the Orthodox the basilica of Saint Nicholas in the city of Bari, Italy. It was built centuries ago, before the schism, and contains the tomb of Saint Nicholas, originally of Myra in Turkey, but then of Bari where he became bishop. The church had been of the eastern rite, but after the split, the Catholics of Italy drove the Orthodox out and took over the church for themselves. Now, as a gesture of justice, love, and good will, Pope Benedict has given it back to them, with the proviso that Catholics can use it and venerate Saint Nicholas there, too. Just two weeks ago, I was there on our trip and found a young Greek Orthodox priest conducting a service at Saint Nicholas’s tomb. Let us pray that this gracious gesture on the part of the Pope will bring the Orthodox Patriarchs and Bishops into total unity and communion with us so that, at least between us, there will be what Our Lord wants: “one flock and one shepherd.” 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 | October 14, 2016

Feast of Pope Saint Callistus I (14 October 2016)

This morning, at Mass, I sat in my place and listened to one of our Sisters reading the passage from the book of Jonah assigned to be read today. After Jonah had been swallowed by a large fish, spent three days in the fish’s abdomen, and coughed out onto the beach, he went to Nineveh to preach repentence to the pagans who lived there. But he didn’t like the Ninevites, and hoped secretly that they wouldn’t do penance. However, much to his displeasure, they DID! Jonah was so angry that he asked God to take his life. Then he went out into the desert to wait and see what would happen to Nineveh. The Lord sent a nice vine to grow up overnight and shade Jonah. But then, the next morning, the Lord sent a worm that ate the vine and it died. Again, Jonah was furious and said, “I’d rather be dead!”

While this comic tale was being read, the Sisters sat there, just like our secular congregations do, without cracking a smile. They listened solemnly to the story of the vine and the worm and the anger of Jonah, grumbling about the goodness of God to Nineveh and God’s not-so-good treatment of him. But you see, some parts of the Bible are to be taken very seriously and reverently, while other parts are written tongue-in-cheek and may be laughed at as God intended.

This understanding of the various literary genres, as they are called, is very important in our approach to the Bible. And this is where the vital importance of the Church comes in. When every man and woman thinks that he or she has the right to interpret the Bible as he or she sees fit, you have a hopeless hodgepodge of ideas, which inevitably leads to disagreement about religion. Was the original sin a matter of stealing forbidden fruit? Was the Noah’s ark story literally true, with all those different animals and enough food for them during their time in the ark? Did our great variety of languages really originate when God changed the language of those trying to build the Tower of Babel so that they couldn’t understand one another and thus succeed in building a tower to heaven? But if these stories are not to be taken literally, then what about the ten commandments, the parables of Jesus, the institution of the Church and the sacraments? That’s a totally different matter; those things are divinely true and are to be written on stone and on the fleshly tablets of our hearts, as scripture itself says. And who is to decide which is which? The Church founded by Our Divine Lord, and led by the successors of Saint Peter. That is why the presence of the pope, and all his predecessors and all his successors, is such a gift to us from Christ and will always be the defining element of Christ’s church. “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,” Our Lord said to Saint Peter and his successors. It is only they who can authentically distinguish between the Jonah-and-the-fish story and the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel in which Our Lord promises to give us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. How blessed we are to have this leadership, this guidance, this infallible teaching of the truth which Our Lord came to bring to the world! 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 | October 12, 2016

Feast of Saint Felix (12 October 2016)

October 12, is the anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus when he and his party came across one of the Bahamas which he named San Salvador—Holy Savior.  Let us remember too that his flagship bore the name Santa Maria: Holy Mary.

Then tomorrow, October 13, is the anniversary of Our Lady’s last apparition at Fatima on that date in 1917. It was there that she said “I am the Lady of the Rosary,” thus giving to the world a great impetus for praying the Rosary. She asked that it be prayed constantly for the conversion of Russia. Well, Russia has been converted from atheistic communism to at least the toleration of belief in God and also to its tradition Orthodox faith. And, we hope and pray that that will be a stepping stone to reunion with Rome in the near future. Orthodoxy, that is, the form of Christianity practiced principally by the Russians, Greeks, Serbs, and others in that part of the world, is very close to us Catholics. They have valid orders; that means that their bishops and priests are validly ordained and can celebrate Mass, bring into being the Blessed Sacrament, and administer all the sacraments. The only problem now is their recognition of the Bishop of Rome as the supreme head of the Church and the Vicar of Christ on earth. That sounds simple, but behind it are a thousand years of separation, sometimes marked by antagonism and conflict. However, what is impossible for man is entirely possible with God. So we pray, asking Our Lord for the unity that he desires among his children and disciples.

And in particular, we who are devoted to the Mother of God and her Rosary, are delighted to celebrate October 13, the anniversary of Our Lady’s declaration “I am the Lady of the Rosary.” And we are equally delighted to call her “Our Lady of Fatima,” always remembering that Fatima was the name of one of Mohammed’s daughters and the name was given to that part of Portugal by the Muslims when they occupied that land. It is certainly not by accident that Our Lady chose to appear there so that she would be known by a title connected to a daughter of the founder of Islam. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.


I think that most of my readers and hearers remember who Anne Franck was—the teenaged Jewish girl who with her family and another one, lived in hiding from the Nazis for about two years in an Amsterdam attic during World War II.  In the end, though, they were discovered and most of them died in Nazi extermination camps, including Anne herself.  However, she left behind her diary which has become a milestone in the history of oppression and suffering; in it, she records the thoughts and feelings of an adolescent living in terribly difficult circumstances, and always with the possibility of death hanging over her.

One of the few bright elements in her long incarceration was a tree that grew in the backyard of the building in which they were hiding; it, and the birds that flew by, were the only living things that Anne could see from her windows. It spoke to her of life, freedom, growth, joy, and the goodness of the God of creation.

On my recent trip, I found an article in an English-language newspaper in Europe, which I found very moving. That tree that brought some joy to the young Anne is dying, and the people of Amsterdam have formed a committee to try to keep it alive. I hope they succeed. Some trees like olives and redwoods live for centuries, but most die before that. As I read that article, I thought of all the trees that we have here on the grounds of this monastery in east Texas. There are HUNDREDS of them: pines, oaks, elms, sycamores, sweet-gum, crepe myrtle, mimosa. Each of their leaves and needles is a tongue that speaks to us of God; of beauty, life, freedom, growth, joy—just as the tree in Amsterdam spoke to Anne Franck. This morning at Mass, I gave the Sisters the assignment of looking out the windows and really LOOKING at the trees which we all see all the time. We call ourselves contemplatives; it is therefore necessary that we be alert, aware, awake to God’s beauty, goodness, and truth in all his creation.

You, too, my friends. Look very seriously at a tree today and allow the words of Kilmer to speak to you along with the tree itself: “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.” 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 | October 7, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (7 October 2016)

I am happy to be back with you by means of the Catholic Daily Message after a wonderful vacation trip with friends. In the days ahead, I will tell you about our trip, and today I want to begin by pointing out to you that we missed the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary this year because it is celebrated on October 7 ordinarily, and that date, which was yesterday, fell on a Sunday and was therefore superceded by the Sunday celebration.

However, as a Dominican, I can’t let this year go by without a celebration of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary—particularly this year when our cloistered Dominican nuns are celebrating the 800th anniversary of their establishment by Saint Dominic. So I celebrated the votive Mass of Our Lady of the Rosary this morning with my sisters here in this monastery, and want to talk to you about one particular moment of our trip.

On our way from the Italian city of Gaeta, a port on the west side of the boot-shaped peninsula, to the justly famous resort of Sorrento, on the bay of Naples, we stopped in the city of Pompeii to visit the tremendous and very impressive sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary, brought into being primarily through the efforts of Blessed Bartolo Longo. Most of us know little or nothing about him, but he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, when the Holy Father called him “the man of the Rosary.” Bartolo Longo was a successful lawyer chosen by Our Lady to propagate devotion to her and her Rosary. He was raised by devout Catholic parents in the Naples area, but in the years of his young manhood, he fell victim to the rationalism and liberalism of the mid-19th century. He went so far as to become a member of a satanic cult, and even serve as a priest of that occult religion, opposed to Our Lord Jesus Christ. However, divine grace called him back to his Catholic faith, and he began to receive the Sacraments again, became a member of the Dominican Laity, and devoted himself to the propagation of the Rosary in reparation for his sins of apostasy, paganism, and even satanism.

The result of his remarkable conversion stands in the city of the new Pompeii today: a beautiful basilica enshrining his body and the Rosary sanctuary— the greatest in the world. Beside the ruins of the pagan city of old Pompeii, totally destroyed by Vesuvius’s eruption in the year 79 A.D., there has risen the new Pompeii principally because of Blessed Bartolo’s choice of that place as the locale of his shrine.

If you would like more information about this new blessed of ours and the great shrine that he brought into being, I suggest that you look in the internet under “Blessed Bartolo Longo.” You will find much useful information there. 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 | October 4, 2016

Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi (4 Oct 2016)

It has been said many times that Saint Francis of Assisi, whom the Church celebrates today, is the man most like Our Divine Lord in the history of Christendom.  That may or may not be true, and we leave the decision to heaven.  But we can be sure that there are resemblances between Jesus of Nazareth and Francis of Assisi.  Sanctity, of course, would be the most important one; another would be the poverty of Jesus which so appealed to Saint Francis that he lived in total poverty after his initial conversion to fervent love of Our Lord.  And then a third would be the wounds that he bore in his hands, feet, and side, which we call the stigmata. They were impressed into his body during a vision that Francis had of an angel carrying a crucifix.  From the hands, feet, and side of the image of Jesus on the cross there came rays of light to the corresponding parts of the body of Saint Francis, and remained there as wounds for the rest of his life, causing him great pain.

Three places have always been specially dear to me on my trips to Italy.  One is the room in our Dominican motherhouse of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill.  The building was given to Saint Dominic by Pope Honorius III when he granted official approval to the Order which Dominic was founding: the Order of Preachers, or as we usually say, the Dominicans.  That room was used by Saint Dominic when he was in Rome during the remainder of his life. You would think that the historical marker in that room would indicate that it was Saint Dominic’s room.  But no; what the marker says is that in that room on a particular night, “Our Holy Father Saint Dominic and Our Holy Father Saint Francis spent the night in prayer.”  We Dominicans have always regarded Saint Francis as a very special patron saint of ours because of the friendship of these two men, founders of two of the Mendicant Orders.  Another place that I love to visit in Rome is out in the open, on a spot near the facade of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. In the days of Saint Francis and Saint Dominic, the Popes lived at Saint John Lateran, so when Saint Francis went to Rome to apply for the papal approval of his Order, he had to go to the Lateran. Before the basilica, there stands a beautiful statuary group showing Saint Francis catching sight for the first time of the Lateran Basilica.  His face is full of happiness, his hands raised in delight and salute of this cathedral of the city of Rome. The statue captures beautifully the joy of the moment which so floods the heart of Francis.

Finally, there is the whole town of Assisi which is totally permeated with the spirit of Saint Francis. The beauty of the plain in Umbria where it is located, the medieval quaintness of the town which crowns a hill there and finds its architectural climax in the basilica of Saint Francis where his tomb is venerated, and the tiny stone chapel which Francis made his headquarters and which is now totally enclosed in a much larger church called Saint Mary of the Angels. The tiny stone church is called the Portiuncula—“the little portion”— to represent Francis’s love of poverty in imitation of the poor man of Nazareth. It was there that Francis died in the year 1226, five years after the death of our Father Saint Dominic.

Saint Francis used to wish people “pax et bonum”: peace and good.  So on this feast of our holy Father St. Francis, I wish you peace and good in imitation of this man who was so like Jesus. 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 30, 2016

Feast of Saint Jerome (30 Sept 2016)

We have a number of subjects for thought and prayer right now. This Friday, for example, September 30, is the feast of Saint Jerome, one of the most influential doctors of the Church.  It is also the last day of this quarter.  Saturday begins the last quarter of the year and so we have the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the service of God during these next three months which will bring our year to a close.

Then, today, my thoughts go back to New Orleans where Archbishop Philip Hannan died yesterday at the age of ninety-eight.  He has been retired for some years, but was the ruling bishop of New Orleans during the nine years when I was pastor of Saint Dominic parish there in 1971 to 1980.  I came to admire him, as did all who knew him.  He was a quiet man, but a leader of great courage and determination.  And the very model of a bishop who used all the means at his disposal to do the work of Our Lord in the archdiocese of New Orleans and in other areas where he could make his influence felt.

Now, back to Saint Jerome.  He was born in 340 and died in 420. Thus his life span coincided with the rapid spread of the Church in the western empire governed from Rome and the eastern empire governed from Constantinople. The Church needed the sacred scriptures in languages that it could understand. The Old Testament was only available in Hebrew; the New Testament in Greek. But the people of Europe were speaking Latin. Not the splendid language of Cicero and Julius Caesar, but the Latin of the ordinary men and women of the time. The Pope, Saint Damasus, came to know of Jerome’s erudition and language skills and asked him to translate the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament into the common Latin of the time. This bible came to known as the Vulgate and was the version used by the western Church from Jerome’s time to our own. Thus Saint Jerome performed an immense service to the Church and we are all very much in his debt. Even though we now have more accurate translations of the Old Testament made since Jerome’s time, the Church still sees Jerome as the great model of scripture studies and of those who study and teach them.

If you ever go to the Holy Land and visit the basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, you will be shown several caves beneath the basilica. In one of them Our Lord is thought to have been born; in another, Saint Jerome made his home for years while working on his language studies and then his translation of the bible.

As we conclude our thoughts about Saint Jerome, we need to recall a famous saying of his:  “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” 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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