Posted by: fvbcdm | May 23, 2016

Feast of Saint John Rossi (23 May 2016)

On the night of the Last Supper, one of Our Lord’s concerns was to prepare his apostles for the apparently terrible things that were going to happen to him in the next twenty-four hours. And so he said to them, as we read in the gospel of today’s Mass, that they should rejoice that he is about to leave them, because his leaving will be the occasion of the coming of the Holy Spirit who will help them to understand the value and indeed the necessity of those terrible things that were to happen on the morrow.

What was going to happen? Jesus would be brought before the high priest. He would be accused of blasphemy—of insulting God—because he called himself God’s Son. Thus he would be branded as a sinner by the highest authority of the Jewish nation, the Sanhedrin led by the High Priest. And they would then wish to kill him, but would be unable to do so because the Roman forces of occupation reserved to themselves the right to take life. So they must get the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, to authorize Jesus’s death. They would go and accuse Jesus before Pilate of claiming to be a king. It was a lie, but they did not scruple to lie if by doing so, they could accomplish their purpose.

Pilate found no reason to kill Jesus, and his instinctive sense of justice made him reluctant to do so. But the local people, egged on by their leaders, were becoming more insistent, more restive, so Pilate wasn’t going to let a little thing like the innocence of one man stop him from doing whatever was necessary to prevent a riot. “Take him and kill him,” he told them.

So the night before, Jesus tells his apostles that when the Spirit came upon them after his departure from them into heaven, he would help them to understand three elements of his sufferings and death in particular: the accusation of sin, the presumption of virtue or righteousness, and the condemnation to death because of blasphemy and the false charge of claiming to be a king. What he is saying is this: “My enemies will accuse me of sin. But it is not I who am a sinner, but they. My enemies will claim to be righteous in putting me to death, but they will be killing an innocent man, and indeed, the savior of the world. And my enemies will condemn me to death, but in fact Satan, who is the ruler of this world, is showing himself to have already been condemned to eternal death by inspiring my enemies to kill the promised Savior of the world. You won’t understand all of this now, but when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, then you will understand and you will see how important it was that I die on the cross and by doing so, save the world.”

If we Christians believed the death of Jesus to be a calamity, a defeat, a colossal embarrassment, we would certainly not place crucifixes in our churches, homes, and some public places. But we realize that the death of Jesus on the cross was a victory, a part of God’s merciful plan for the redemption of the world, a triumph of divine pardon over human sin. We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you because by your holy cross you have redeemed 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 | May 20, 2016

Feast of Saint Bernadine of Siena (20 May 2016)

This Sunday is the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, which follows logically upon our celebration of Pentecost last Sunday. The Old Testament was all about God the Father, the ONE GOD of Judaism. Nothing was revealed to the world in those days about a plurality of persons within the one God. Then Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, claiming to be God, but making it clear that he was distinct from the Father. And then, toward the end of his life, he began to speak of a third element in God: a Holy Spirit, or Paraclete, or Advocate, as our Lord called him—distinct from the Father and from Jesus Himself. That Holy Spirit descended upon the young Church on that first Pentecost and will be with the Church always. So now, we celebrate these three Persons in the one God, and we call our newly revealed God in three Persons “the Holy Trinity,” a word which comes from the Latin and simply means “three-ness.”

Why do you suppose Our Lord revealed the doctrine that there are three persons in the one God to the world, since he knew that it would win him enemies among his own people, who accused him of preaching three Gods? It is because he wants us to understand that God is a community of persons, each loving the other two, and all of them pouring their love into the hearts of their children on earth. God intends that we human beings be brought into being by the love of father and mother for one another, and then their love for us. Thus we become members of a community of love, of commitment, of human and supernatural stability. This is why the family is such a beautiful concept, and the tragic distortions of it that we see all around nowadays are so sad and so opposed to God’s holy will and the well-being of the persons involved.

By contemplating our trinitarian God, we understand the value of community, of human love, and we recognize that it is impossible for a human being to reach his or her full potential without loving and being loved. The divine Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is mirrored in this world by the human trinity of father, mother, and child. However, I am not saying that only by being married and having children can one achieve this potential. Our Lord himself, the perfect man, did not marry nor have children, but he certainly loved even to the point of laying down his life for us, whom he loves. 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 | May 19, 2016

Feast of Pope Saint Celestine (19 May 2016)

As I read what Pope Benedict said at his meetings with various groups in Brazil during the past few days, I was struck by one of his talks to a group of Poor Clare Nuns who came to be with him at a rehabilitation center for young people who have been addicted to drugs. The place is called “The Farm of Hope.”

Putting the two elements together—cloistered contemplative nuns and young people who have been addicted to narcotics—the Holy Father pointed out that people take drugs to find happiness, delight, to escape problems and sorrows, and to experience beauty. And the result of narcotics is always false, always temporary, always a threat to the body, the emotions, the minds, and the souls of those who take them. On the other hand, Sacred Scripture is full of references to the beauty of creation, to the joy of living with and for God, to the happiness brought to us by our faith, our hope, our love of God and neighbor. And as he left the Farm of Hope, he wished both the nuns and the young people being rehabilitated “Peace and Good”—the greeting so often used by Saint Francis, since the Poor Clares are a Franciscan group.

We are Dominicans here in this monastery, but we enjoy the same peace and good, the same joy, delight, and happiness which are both natural and supernatural and are so marvelously REAL and in accordance with the aspirations of the human heart. When I sit on my front porch and watch the various species of bird that come to my two feeders and try to identify each, I don’t have to worry about whether I will become “hooked” on birds, or be arrested for seeking pleasure in them. When our dogwood trees and azaleas explode in fresh vegetation and color and sheer beauty, I can say with deep joy those psalms which speak of the glory of creation. One of our scripture professors in the seminary pointed out to us that when we praise the work of God’s hands and fingertips, the psalmist had in mind the kinds of work proper to men and to women. Men work with their hands, using plows and shovels and hammers and stone. Women work with their fingertips, using needles and looms and spinning wheels. Thus scripture suggests that the “big things” of this world are the products of God’s manly work, the small, beautiful delicate things of this world are the products of God’s feminine creativity. The hands of God produce the oak tree; the fingertips of God give us daffodils and our Texas bluebonnets.

As we think of these things, let us be mindful of those who are unhappy and are tempted to seek happiness where it can’t be found—as in marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and alcohol—or who actually use those things and become terribly addicted to them, selling their souls to acquire their daily “fixes” of narcotics or other mind-altering drugs.

I once knew a woman who was involved in a very unhappy marriage. Seeking pleasure instead of the joy denied her by a faithless husband, she smoked THREE packs of cigarettes a day. When the doctor told her that she would die if she kept that up, she replied that without cigarettes, life wouldn’t be worth living. How sad! Let us be grateful for our joy, our peace and our good. 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 | May 17, 2016

Feast of Saint Paschal Baylon (17 May 2016)

My mother died on May 17, 1993.  She was ninety-nine years and two months old when she very gently and quietly breathed her last.  I’d like to share with you a story that I find interesting.

On Mother’s Day, eight days before her death, a friend of ours had gone to visit her in the nursing home where she lived. As was our custom on Sunday afternoons when Katharine was there, she would dial my number and then give the telephone to my mother for a little conversation with me. That Sunday afternoon, the phone rang and when I answered it, Katharine said to me, in a low voice, “We don’t seem to want to talk on the telephone today.” Then I heard her coaxing my mother to take the phone and talk to me, reminding her that it was Mother’s Day, and I wanted to greet her specially on that day. My mother took the phone, and then said to me, very uncharacteristically, “Don’t talk to me; talk to God.”  She had never said anything like that before; ordinarily she was happy to make small talk and chat on the telephone.  So I said in reply, “Mama, I do talk to God and will continue to do it, but what do you mean by that?” She simply repeated what she had said exactly: “Don’t talk to me; talk to God.”  And with that, she gave the telephone back to Katharine. Those were her last words to me.

I’m not sure what was going through her mind, but it was quite obvious that she thought any further conversation unnecessary. I suspect that she felt her life in this world coming to an end, and she felt more a part of the next world than this one.  Ever since my ordination to the priesthood, I had had the joy of praying for the repose of my father during my celebration of Mass. He had died in an automobile accident when I was eight years old.  Now, as long as I am able to celebrate Mass, I have the joy of praying for both my parents in the commemoration of the dead at every Mass.  I certainly hope that neither of them needs prayer any longer, but just as certainly will I continue to pray for them, in case they do.

Let us be grateful for our parents. Let us pray for them, whether living or dead. We owe them our physical lives, and in most cases, our spiritual lives as well. 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 | May 16, 2016

Feast of Saint Simon Stock (16 May 2016)

In Saint John’s Gospel we have another of the beautiful self-identifying utterances of Jesus—the so-called “I am. . .” revelations of himself. If we are to know and understand and love Our Lord, we must pay attention to these words of his and allow them to become the subject of our meditation and prayer.

Today, he tells us, “I am the vine; you are the branches.”  He elaborates on this figure of speech: his Father in heaven is the vine-grower. God the Father plants the vine in this world just as a human vine-grower plants cuttings of vines in his vineyard.  The human vintner waters his young plants, fertilizers them, cares for them. He prunes the vines carefully lest all the energy of the plant go into superfluous branches and leaves, when what he really wants is large clusters of grapes that are full of juice. God our Father plants this very special vine in this world of ours; it is his own Divine Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Then, by grace, Christ produces branches which become part of himself, the vine, by means of baptism, whereby we are ingrafted into him. When that has taken place, he sends his vitality, his fruit-producing energy into us so that we will bear fruit. He prunes us, cutting off the growth that he does not want so as to insure an abundant harvest of good fruit.

He tells us, “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. Without me, you can do nothing.” Saint Cyril of Alexandria, in commenting on this passage, tells us that the divine vitality and energy which Jesus sends into us is nothing other than the Holy Spirit who enables us to produce fruit. And then, coming to the point of this whole metaphor, Jesus concludes, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

So, my dear friends, we have been engrafted into Christ by our baptism. He sends his Holy Spirit into us by divine grace; the Spirit energizes us to produce works of holiness: prayer, love of God, love of neighbor, and the eagerness to be of service to both God and neighbor. Let us see ourselves as productive, industrious, eager to be of value to the kingdom 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.

Posted by: fvbcdm | May 13, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of Fatima (13 May 2016)

May 13 is a double anniversary in recent Catholic history and we should not let it go by without reflection and prayer.  In the year 1917, when much of Europe was embroiled in the First World War and Russia was convulsed in her own revolution which brought Russian Communism into existence, Our Blessed Mother appeared in Portugal to three shepherd children for the first time.  Those three children: Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco, have all died—two in their childhood and the other one, Lucia, as a very old nun in the Carmelite monastery in the Portuguese city of Coimbra. The place where she appeared was Fatima, and so we call her Our Lady of Fatima, although when she identified herself to the children, she said, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.” She asked for prayer and penance for the conversion of Russia, and here we are, ninety-[nine] years later, watching the resurgence of Christianity in Russia and the blossoming of beautiful cathedrals and churches, most of which had been dynamited or closed by the cancer of Communism during the heyday of Marxism/Leninism in that great part of the world.

Then, on May 13th, 1981, a Turkish would-be assassin shot and gravely wounded Pope Blessed John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.  After his weeks of recuperation, the Holy Father indicated the connection in his mind between Our Lady and his escape from death on that occasion by going to Fatima to give public thanks to God and Our Lady of Fatima for his recovery.  Today we can very happily say “Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, pray for us”; “[Saint] John Paul II, pray for us.”  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 | May 12, 2016

Feast of Saint Francis Jerome (11 May 2016)

One of the most beautiful, consoling, encouraging, and profound concepts in all of our holy Catholic faith is what we call the Indwelling of the Holy Trinity in our souls, minds, hearts, and bodies.

In today’s gospel, Saint Jude asks Jesus at the Last Supper if he plans to reveal himself to the apostles but not to the world. Our Lord answers with this marvelous truth: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” Then he adds: “The Advocate—the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

Remember in the Old Testament, when the prophet Isaiah was predicting the coming of a Savior, he said, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and he will be called ‘Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God is with us.’” So in some sense God would be with his people when the Savior came. But how? The people of old could not possibly have known how deeply, beautifully, truly, that prophecy would be fulfilled. First, one of the Three Divine Persons would become a man, a human being. This had never even been dreamed of, let alone accomplished. Then, the three divine Persons (of whom the people of old knew nothing) would come and dwell within the souls, bodies, minds, and hearts of people of good will as in a tabernacle or the great temple in Jerusalem. And then, even more, the Savior would come to his people in the form of bread and wine so that they would truly eat his flesh and drink his blood. God is with us to a degree that we cannot really fathom at all.

Even though we can’t fully understand these things, at least we can know them, love them, appreciate them, and enter into a deeply loving and intimate relationship with our Indwelling God. We don’t have to look for God up in the heavens or only in our churches; he is within us. We can turn within and find him in the depths of our hearts and minds and persons. We are ourselves living, loving tabernacles, where God is happier to dwell than in any inanimate tabernacle or church or temple. Buildings cannot “love back.” We can. We can reciprocate his love for us. We can make of ourselves men and women of prayer, adoration, thanksgiving, love, petition for others. As the incense placed in the thurible sends up fragrant smoke before the altar, so all that enters into our lives can be turned by our love of God into praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. 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 | May 10, 2016

Feast of Saint Damien de Veuster (10 May 2016)

When I was a child in grade school, one of the lives of the saints that especially impressed me was that of Fr. Damien of Molokai, the Belgian priest who went to the Hawaiian islands and then to the leper colony on the island of Molokai where he gave his life for the betterment of the wretched conditions of the lepers, both spiritually and materially. It’s a marvelous story; a number of good books have been written about him, and now he is [Saint] Damien, having been [canonized] by Pope [Benedict].

On Easter Sunday in 1953, the aircraft carrier in which I was serving in the Navy glided into the quiet waters of Pearl Harbor and that afternoon, I was able to begin my exploration of those beautiful islands. I went downtown and there found the cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, the church in which Damien had been ordained to the priesthood after finishing his priestly studies in the islands. It meant a great deal to me to be there where his priesthood began; it ended just a few miles across the waters of the Pacific as he died of leprosy contracted while caring for his beloved flock—a martyr of generosity and love. Many years later I was able to visit his tomb in Louvain, Belgium, and celebrate Mass there. I have also very proudly visited his statue in the Hall of Statuary in our national capitol building in Washington, where each state is invited to place two statues of those considered its outstanding citizens. When Hawaii became a state, it placed there a statue of Fr. Damien.

[Saint] Damien died on April 15, the date of my ordination to the priesthood, but the Church observes his feastday on May 10. So today I am happy to celebrate that life: so terrible in its material aspects and so beautiful in its spiritual value.

In Paris, there is a street called Picpus where the seminary and motherhouse of [Saint] Damien’s congregation are located. That’s where Damien studied and from where he left for Hawaii. During the French Revolution, a guillotine stood in a public square nearby. When the Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne were killed there because they clung tenaciously to their Catholic faith and their Carmelite religious life, their bodies were dumped into a common grave in the graveyard of that seminary. Possibly the beautiful example of their courage moved Damien to volunteer first for the Hawaiian mission, and then for the extraordinary work among the lepers. They became martyrs to faith and religious life; he did so to generosity and love. Jesus promised eternal life to those who visited him when he was sick in the persons of all the sick of this world. No one has visited the sick in so profound a way as [Saint] Damien. In a number of the books about him, you can find two photographs of him whose juxtaposition is striking: Damien as a fine-looking young Belgian seminarian and then Damien as a dying leper, his face and hands terribly disfigured by the disease. On my visit to the Picpus cemetery, I felt tremendous pride and joy at the courage of the Carmelite Nuns whose bodies are still in that common grave, and of [Saint] Damien who studied there on his way to Hawaii, priesthood, generosity, death by leprosy, and the admiration of the Church and 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 | May 6, 2016

Feast of Saint Benedicta (6 May 2016)

This Sunday we celebrate the solemnity of Our Divine Lord’s Ascension into heaven. It is the second of the glorious mysteries of the Rosary, and is indeed glorious because it fills us Christians with hope, optimism, and joy. Our Lord told his disciples shortly before that, “I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, you also may be.” We can almost envision Him in those many mansions in his Father’s kingdom, readying one of them for each of us and looking forward to the moment when, in his wisdom, he sees it’s time to bring us with him into eternal life.

But you know, even though the Ascension is a glorious mystery, I suspect that it was not altogether a joyful event for Our Lady and the apostles. Farewells are always bittersweet at best; one of our poets has said it well: “Parting is such sweet sorrow!” That sounds like an oxymoron—a contradiction in terms. What can “sweet sorrow” possibly mean? The young mother who sends her firstborn off to first grade knows what it means. The mother of the bride watching her daughter leave with her new husband for their honeymoon knows what it means.  Jesus told his followers that they should rejoice because he was going to the Father and would send them the Holy Spirit. Yes, but . . .they wouldn’t be seeing Him any more. They wouldn’t have Him to lean on, to depend upon, to turn to for advice and support and counsel.

I can imagine the Lord embracing his mother one last time there on the crest of the Mount of Olives, not to see her again until her Assumption into heaven. I can imagine him going to each of the eleven apostles in turn, embracing each one and saying something of encouragement, of blessing, and of farewell as he was about to leave them to the tremendous task of beginning the Church on earth and exercising their role as its foundation stones, its first bishops—with Simon Peter as its first pope. His Sacred Heart must have gone out to them in their fear, their wondering what the future would bring, their sense of their own lack of qualification to bring the gospel to all nations, even to the ends of the earth. They seemed so weak, so human, so lacking in courage! But he would send the Spirit of God upon them in just a matter of days. And they wouldn’t be weak or lacking in courage or wisdom any more. They would be—and possess—all that was necessary for the foundation of the Church and its successful operation until the end of time. They would go back to the upper room in Jerusalem; they would gather around his mother, whose smile was so reassuring, whose confidence was so unshakeable, whose words were so dear to them. They would wait and pray for the coming of the Spirit, and then, when he had come, they would throw open the doors and begin their magnificent apostolate—the application to all mankind of the salvation which Jesus had won for all of us on the cross. 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 | May 4, 2016

Feast of Saint Florian (4 May 2016)

A lamb is a young sheep. And it was the preferred victim to be used in the sacrifices in the temple of Jerusalem during the centuries of liturgical Jewish worship there, which lasted during Our Lord’s life and didn’t end until the Roman destruction of the temple in the year 70 A.D. So when Saint John the Baptist calls Jesus, “the Lamb of God,” a title which we repeat every time we attend Mass, he is referring to the sacrificial aspect of the life of Christ, going back to the sacrifice of the lambs at the time of the first Passover in Egypt.

But then, Our Lord changes the figure of speech. Yes, he is the Lamb of God. Yes, his blood will save the world as the blood of the Passover lambs saved the Jews from the avenging angel who passed over their homes in Egypt. But Jesus says of himself, “I am the good Shepherd.” So in addition to be prefigured by a dying lamb, he is also compared to the shepherd who must care for his flock, guide it to green pastures and to water, and protect it against all predators.

On Good Shepherd Sunday, the opening prayer at Mass says, “Give us new strength from the courage of Christ our shepherd . . .” And the alternative prayer says, “Your people . . . follow in faith the call of the shepherd. . .”

Sheep are defenseless animals and almost totally without resources in escaping wolves, bears, and even large birds of prey. One wonders how the species of sheep survived at all before the days of human shepherds and sheep-dogs.  They need protection, guidance, leadership. We, like sheep, would be at the mercy of our enemies, too, without the protection, guidance, and leadership of God.  And so he sent his divine Son into the world to be our shepherd.  We are not alone; we are not without help, resources, protection, hope. Time and again, God says to us in scripture: Don’t be afraid! And then, “I am with you always, until the end of the world.” We know his voice. We hear his call. We follow him as sheep do their shepherd. And he refreshes our souls. 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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