Posted by: fvbcdm | February 19, 2018

Feast of Saint Conrad of Piacenza (19 Feb 2018)  

 On the first Monday of Lent, the Church loses no time in presenting to her children the basic principles of our Christian life since Lent is intended to be a microcosm of our entire lives on earth.  And the theme for this day is the connection between the moral law and our eternal reward or punishment.  In the first reading, from the Old Testament, we hear God giving the law to Moses.   He lists the various precepts of the basic moral law, and after every three or four of them, he says: I am the Lord.  This is His way of indicating that He is the author of the moral law, and is very concerned about its proper observance.  When a human being is moral or immoral, God is involved in the choice and in the acting out of the choice.  We cannot live as if we were all alone in our decisions and nobody cared.  We are never alone, and God always cares.

Then, in the Gospel of Monday’s Mass, Our Divine Lord brings this concept of God’s concern in what we do to an even higher level.  He tells us that at the final judgment, we will be judged on how we fed the hungry, clothed those who needed clothing, and alleviated all human ills to the degree that we could.  God is the Father of the entire human race, and it is His will that we humans help one another in our various needs.  If we did, most human needs would disappear.  Unfortunately, we treat one another with hatred and hostility and thus multiply suffering upon earth.

Jesus not only says that He is concerned about our moral observance, but that He identifies with every person with whom we deal, for good or for ill.   Whenever you did it to the LEAST of my brothers, you did it to Me.  This marvelous principle does two things for us: it gives us the tremendous incentive to treat others with benevolence, for by doing so, we treat Christ that way.  And it provides us with a salutary warning against any form of hostility, because Christ regards our unkindness, injustice, lack of mercy, and lack of love toward others as if they were shown to Him Himself.  Would we really want to treat Jesus as we treat people whom we don’t like or whom we resent?    This is Lent; this is the time to correct these moral failures on our part in preparation for the judgment. 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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As we begin the holy season of Lent, we are presented with a tremendously rich selection of spiritual ideas with which we nourish our spiritual lives and use them for our meditation.  On the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, for example, we hear Moses telling his followers and us: today I put before you life and death: choose life.  He says this in the context of the Exodus from Egypt and the pilgrimage of God’s people into the Holy Land, and of the covenant that God makes with His people—a covenant which will depend upon their keeping the commandments of the Law which God reveals to Moses and Moses in turn gives to the people.

The season of Lent is intended to be a microcosm of our whole life here on earth, in preparation for our death and resurrection.  And so it is most fitting for God to say to us: choose life! Choose the supernatural life that I give you which will last beyond temporal death and on into eternal life with God. The life that we are asked to choose is life with God, spiritual life, the life of God’s grace within us.  This is the life that we are not only to choose, but to strengthen and promote all the days of our earthly lives.  It is the life which is nourished by prayer, by the practice of the virtues, by a conscious attempt to imitate Our Divine Lord in His life on earth.  It is the life that should dominate our thoughts, especially in this holy season of Lent.  It is the life that Jesus refers to when He says of Himself, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  It is the life that Saint Paul refers to when he says, “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me.”

Let us invite Jesus very warmly, very insistently, to take up His dwelling within us in a more intense way during this holy season of Lent to make us more Christian — Christlike — in every sense of the world, and thus to make ready for our passage through the portals of death into eternal life. 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 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday (14 Feb 2018)

Remember that you are dust and unto dust you will return.  Ash Wednesday is the day when the Church uses the graphic little rite of rubbing ashes on our faces and tells us that, very baldly, almost rudely.  I remember one day, a lady confessed that she was guilty of vanity about her appearance.  I suggested that she think often of how she was going to look 6 months after her death.  She gave a little cry of horror there in the confessional.  Basically I was telling her the same thing the Church tells all of us on Ash Wednesday: remember, your body is composed of the elements of this planet of ours.  And when the soul departs from the body, the body is going to return to its component parts.  The soul, on the other hand, does not die, does not decompose.  It lives forever either with God or separated from Him, depending on its condition at the moment of death.

Did you receive ashes this Ash Wednesday?  Do you think that you’ll be around to receive them again next year?  Maybe you will; maybe you won’t. Back in the middle ages and later, the consciousness of death was clearer and stronger than it is now.  Many tombs of the rich or famous of Europe feature a beautiful recumbent figure of the deceased up above, and then down below, a bare skeleton to remind the viewer that regardless of how impressive the individual was in fashionable robes or maybe a suit of mail, what is in the coffin now is not very impressive at all.

Just imagine what it would be like if some member of your family were entombed in a glass casket which was then left on display after the services. You could, if you wished, go every day to check on the condition of the body, and watch the process of decomposition.  It wouldn’t be very pretty, I assure you.  The next time you stand before a mirror to shave or apply your make-up, or just to check on wrinkles and double chins, think of what that face of yours will look like six months after your death.  When you’re buying cosmetics, when you’re spending money on facials or fancy haircuts or new ways to wear your hair, think of the money that those things are going to cost you.  And then think that during this holy season of Lent, you might give an equal amount of money to the poor or take out to dinner some person who is lonely, shut-in, or unable to get around easily.  We cannot take with us our bodies or the money we spend on them.  But what we do by way of kindness to others, we CAN take with us in the form of merit.  That’s what Lent is all about.  That’s what the ashes are all about.  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 13, 2018

Feast of Saint Catherine de Ricci (13 Feb 2018)

Today, New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras, which in French is Fat Tuesday. This celebration brings back the memories of my two years at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. It was the first time that I had actually lived away from home and looked forward to coming home for holidays. Children take their own surroundings for granted; when I was a child, I didn’t think anything special about New Orleans. It was just the city in which I happened to have been born and where I lived.

But when I was away at school and brought some of my friends home with me for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mardi Gras, and Easter, I was able to see New Orleans and our way of life through their eyes, and I suddenly awoke to the rare treasure that we have here. New Orleans is not like other cities. These boys would get terribly excited about our French Quarter, the Mississippi river, lake Pontchartrain, the sailing, the boating, our good food, our cemeteries in which we bury the dead above the ground, the beignets and café au lait, the stately homes along St. Charles Avenue, and of course, our carnival which is unique in all the world.

I can remember taking the coal-burning L&N train (Louisville & Nashville) to come from Mobile to New Orleans for the various holidays. It took about 5 hours to make the trip along the gulf coast from one city to the other. Not a particularly interesting ride, but suddenly it became very exciting as we began to pass through the eastern suburbs of New Orleans, then the warehouses along the River downtown, then the tremendous pleasure of seeing Jackson Square with the Cathedral, the Cabildo, the Pontalba apartments, all of which were very familiar to me. And then, the filthy dirty L&N depot at the foot of Canal St.—possibly the dirtiest, ugliest building in the whole world, but a sight for sore eyes as I got off the train and headed for home.

Some years later, I read an account of the life and death of Cardinal Manning, an English churchman of the 19th century. As he lay dying, an attentive nurse leaned over his bed and asked, “Your Eminence, how do you feel?” He looked up, smiled weakly, and said, “I feel like a schoolboy going home for the holidays.” I can relate to that. It still strikes me as one of the nicest ways that life can describe death. I suppose that lots of college kids came home for Mardi Gras this past weekend. I hope that when their life ends, they will be just as eager to go and meet the Lord as He welcomes them into His home for the eternal holidays. 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 12, 2018

Feast of Blessed Reginald of Orleans (12 Feb 2018)

In addition to being the feast of our Dominican Blessed Reginald of Orleans, today is also the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

The whole point in canonizing saints and beatifying the blesseds is to highlight their holiness of life, their closeness to Our Lord, and to give us models and patrons in heaven for us to imitate and relate to in the communion of saints.  A man like Lincoln was not Catholic; his religion was largely of his own making after reading the Bible and receiving a solid frontiersman’s education in moral principles.  But just as the Jewish people have a special category called the “righteous Gentiles” into which they place non-Jews who have been good to the Jews, I think it might be fitting for us to create a special category of people whom we can honor as virtuous men and women even though they were not led by God’s grace into the fullness of Our Lord’s kingdom in the church.  Lincoln would certainly be one of them.  His life was exemplary in his devotion to justice and simple goodness, and in tolerating with patience and resignation the heavy crosses which he had to bear all his life.  His entire presidency was concerned with the conduct of a terrible war not of his own making.  His marriage to a deeply neurotic woman was a source of endless problems for him, and two of his three children died in their childhood, causing much grief to their bereaved parents.  Then, just five days after the end of the Civil War, when he should have been able to enjoy the victory of his cause, he was gunned down by a fanatic who hated him and all that he stood for.

All of us are indebted to Lincoln.  He is a figure of whom we can be proud, for whom we can be grateful.  Would that all of us, regardless of our creed, were as devoted to principle as he was, as universally benevolent, as Patient and persevering in the face of trials.  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 10, 2018

Feast of Saint Adrian (9 Feb 2018)

Today I would like to talk to you about two roses.  Golden roses, to be exact.  They are a very small, but very revealing detail in the story of the apparitions of Our Blessed Mother at Lourdes in 1858.  The little peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous, received 18 apparitions of the Mother of God in a rocky niche near the river Gave just outside the town of Lourdes.  The town authorities did all they could to suppress the excitement and interest created by the apparitions, and especially by the cures that began to occur when Saint Bernadette dug into the earth and with her bare hands, made a small hole from which water began to flow.  That water is still flowing, and has been the occasion of a number of healings during the years which have transpired since the little girl knelt entranced before the beautiful young woman in the cave. However, the presence of Our Lady at Lourdes was not to be suppressed by the politicians nor by the scoffing and ridicule of the anti-Catholic press which tried to make Bernadette appear to be insane.

Those were the days of the industrial revolution and of the recovery of France from the chaos of the French Revolution and then of Napoleon’s war with just about every country in Europe.  There was a great deal of pride in the technological progress being made: steam engines, electricity, mass production, railroads, machines for spinning thread, weaving cloth, and doing many of the things that had been done by hand just a few years before.  One of the results of that arrogance was a contempt for the spiritual life and a glorification of the human mind and its abilities to make progress without any reference to God.  This is called rationalism.

And suddenly, here in the midst of all the vaunted intellectual, scientific, technological, industrial progress that the rationalists were so proud of, is a child claiming to see a beautiful young woman standing upon a rock—barefooted, with a golden rose on each foot!  The young woman prays the Rosary with Bernadette, and in answer to the child’s request that she identify herself, the beautiful young lady says, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  There is something delightfully funny about those golden roses on the bare feet of the young lady.  Who ever heard of walking barefoot in the advanced world of 1858?  Who ever heard of women walking around with roses on their feet and asking for the construction of a chapel, for processions to come to the place, and for a young girl to wash her face in dirty water and drink some of it?  And yet, the gracious Mother of the Lord, with her bare feet and golden roses on them, has done infinitely more for the well-being of humanity than all the machines and technology in the world.  The Lourdes politicians of 1858 are gone and mostly forgotten, but the lady with the golden roses on her feet has made of Lourdes the foremost shrine in the Christian world, to which millions go every year.  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 8, 2018

Feast of Saint Jerome Emiliani (8 Feb 2018)

A few days ago, we had in the Gospel reading at Mass the eight beatitudes—the beginning of Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.  Let’s go back to them today and give some thought to the one of them that says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall have their fill.”  Righteousness is a synonym for virtue. The righteous are those who practice virtue, toward God and their fellow human beings.  You can trust the righteous to be humble and devout in their relationship with God, truthful in what they say, honest in what they do, kind and helpful toward others, responsible and prudent in all of their dealings, and yet willing to admit their mistakes and shortcomings, which we all have.  Furthermore, they are concerned to grow in virtue, to resemble God even more in their sincerity and trustworthiness as time goes by.

We are on the threshold of the Holy Season of Lent now.  This hunger and thirst for righteousness of which Jesus speaks at the beginning of His public life and preaching would be a wonderful theme for us to adopt for our Lenten observance this year.  We might well decide to work on this particular beatitude so that by the time Lent ends and the glorious time of Our Lord’s Resurrection comes, we will have made some progress in virtue; we will have used the season of Lent as the Church intends, by drawing closer to Christ, who is the ideal of all human living, by having made a sincere effort to seek first the kingdom of God in all our activities, as Our Lord also advises us.

The result of fasting is hunger.  But the hunger that we should seek by means of our physical deprivation of ourselves in terms of food and drink is the much deeper hunger for righteousness as the beatitude says.  In this regard, the people of Mexico have a beautiful little grace before meals that sums up this idea very well.  It says, Dear God, give food to those who have hunger.  And to us who have food, give hunger for 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 | February 7, 2018

Feast of Saint Richard of Lucca (7 Feb 2018)

This past Sunday in the Gospel at Mass we heard the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.  This passage takes up chapters 5-7 in the Gospel according to St. Matthew and is a tremendously important gathering of the moral teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  We should all read that Sermon on the Mount often and let it be the subject of our prayer and meditation throughout our entire lives.

It begins with what we call the 8 beatitudes.  The Latin word “beatus” means “blessed,” “happy,” or “fortunate.”  So “beatitude” means happiness; and the 8 beatitudes are the descriptions given us by Jesus of the truly happy man or woman.  They are diametrically opposed to the worldly, pagan concept of human happiness, based as it is upon selfishness, pleasure-seeking, and the notion that this life is the be-all and end-all of our human existence.  Just to read or think about the qualities that Our Lord lists as being constitutive of real happiness is a grace and a joy and can give us the means for a beautiful examination of conscience.  Jesus tells us that those are blessed, happy, and fortunate who are poor in spirit, meek, hungry and thirsty for what is right and good, merciful, pure of heart, peacemakers, and who endure persecutions because they are like Christ.

Take, for example, the quality of being a peacemaker.  And then examine yourself on that attribute of mind and heart and action.  Are you a peacemaker on the streets and roads when you drive?  The opposite of being a peacemaker is being aggressive, hostile, selfish, impatient, angry.  Are you a peacemaker in your own home, with your parents, your spouse, your children, other family members?  Are you a peacemaker at work, among your circle of friends and social contacts?  Are you a peacemaker with those who dislike you and treat you badly?  Remember: Jesus who is Divine Wisdom itself tells us that the peacemaker is happy, blessed, and fortunate.  Let us heed His Word and do our best to put it into practice in our lives.  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, 2018

Feast of Saint Paul Miki and Companions (6 Feb 2018)

In the early 1500’s, the great Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier brought our holy faith to the empire of Japan.  The officials of that country however were very much opposed to all influences from outside, especially what they considered to be a foreign religion which refused to worship the emperor as if he were a god.  So persecution quickly broke out and the blood of the newly-baptized Catholics began to flow and irrigate that country in preparation for the future spread of the faith there.

In 1597, on Feb. 5, twenty-six were crucified in the city of Nagasaki because they had embraced the Catholic faith.  Some were Jesuit and Franciscan priests; others were lay people.  The Church celebrates them this week.  As we look at Japan today, we find the Church well established there, with archdioceses, dioceses, universities, other schools, monasteries, and parishes from one end of the nation to the other.  One of the happiest memories of my navy experiences in Japan was my visit to the monastery of the Poor Clares in suburban Tokyo where a group of French-speaking nuns from Montreal, Canada had founded a convent after World War II, and by the time I got there just 7 years later, a number of the Japanese Catholic women had joined them in their Franciscan contemplative vocation.

Unfortunately, the city of Nagasaki gained notoriety during World War II by being the second city to be destroyed by an atom bomb.  In August of 1945, to hasten the end of the war our American military leaders atom-bombed the city of Hiroshima, hoping that the Japanese government would surrender as soon as it saw the terrible power of our atomic bombs.  They did not immediately do so, so Nagasaki was chosen as the second city to be totally incinerated by this terrible force.

Now, we remember the blood shed by the twenty-six Catholics martyrs of the late 16th century in Nagasaki, and the horrendous power for destruction unleashed upon that city in 1945.  And we pray for peace for Japan and for the continued spread there of the Church, the Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | February 5, 2018

Feast of Saint Agatha (5 Feb 2018)

In matters of faith and morals, we are living in an age of uncertainty.  And this has caused millions to lose their sense of belonging to a religion, a church, a philosophy of life.  When things are certain; when we are sure about what we believe, what we hold to be rock-solid, then life is easier and faith and moral uprightness are easier, too.  But when what used to be black-and-white turns gray, we have difficulty hanging onto principles, and there is always the temptation to chuck it all and do whatever we please.

As Catholics, we find this in almost every aspect of our religious and spiritual lives, especially those of us who can remember what life was like before 1960.  In matters of faith, for example, we were told when we were children that Jesus is both God and man and that he knew at every moment of his life that he was both divine and human.  Now, we hear that some theologians think that he really didn’t know that he was God when he was a child or young man, and that it dawned upon him gradually during his life or perhaps even after His Resurrection.  We don’t stop to ask who is saying that, or what his credentials are—somebody is saying it, and therefore there is doubt about it.  And this makes us uneasy.

In matters of morals, once it was accepted universally among Catholics and other Christians that fornication was gravely sinful.  Now, we get the impression that all couples fornicate before marriage, many of them live together outside of wedlock, and nobody seems particularly concerned about this.  So maybe fornication is not sinful.  And if we belong to the category of young people who are sorely tempted to fornicate, then why not do it—since we are not sure whether it’s right or wrong.

The list goes on and on: why should a young man become a priest when our newspapers daily carry stories of priests molesting children?  Why should a young woman think of becoming a sister when the sisters have given up most of the elements of religious life and live just like a group of unmarried women who happen to share an apartment?  Why should a teenager try to remain sexually pure when Fr. So-and-So says in high school religion class that masturbation is perfectly normal?  Why go to Mass on Sunday when Sister So-and-So says that we don’t have to attend Mass if we don’t get anything out of it?

This uncertainty in matters of our faith and morals has done irreparable damage and has no doubt resulted in the loss of souls. It’s very important that we know what the authentic teaching of the Church is on these matters and follow it, for by doing so, we are following Our Lord Jesus Christ 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.

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