Posted by: fvbcdm | January 8, 2021

Feast of Saint Raymond of Peñafort (7 January 2021)

Just about the time that our founder, Saint Dominic, was born in that part of Spain called Castille, another child was born in what is now northeastern Spain: an area called Catalonia. His name: Raymond; we call him Saint Raymond ofPeñafort. He was a brilliant student. He studied at the cathedral school in Catalonia’s capital city of Barcelona. Then he went to the University of Bologna in Italy to study law, and he majored in the law of the church since there is always the need for people expert in that field. On returning to Barcelona, he met Saint Dominic who had just founded the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans as we are usually called. Raymond was immensely impressed by this priest from Castille, and the year after Dominic died, Raymond joined the new Order. He was forty-seven at the time—old for a novice in a religious order and seminarian in those days. 

One of the spiritual directees of Raymond was a man named Peter Nolasco who wanted to found a religious order for the ransom of captives in the hands of the Muslims. In those days, the Iberian peninsula had been first totally, and then partially under the control of Muslim invaders. The Muslims had first invaded in the year 711. Little by little, they were pushed farther and farther south by the Spanish and Portuguese inhabitants of the peninsula, who were Catholic. Finally, in 1492, nearly 800 years after their invasion, the last of the occupying Muslims surrendered to Ferdinand and Isabella, the king and queen of a united Spain, and crossed the strait of Gibraltar to return to the Muslim world. 

The Muslims, or “Moors” as they were called, were seen by most of Catholic Europe as their arch-enemies. There was conflict in the Iberian peninsula; there was conflict in the Holy Land by the nine crusades; there was a great sea battle at Lepanto; there were land battles in what is now Austria, at the gates of Vienna. Finally, the wars between Christians and Moors ended and things remained relatively quiet until after World War II when the State of Israel was created by the United Nations. Then the sleeping giant of Islam reawakened, passionately angry at the creation of a Jewish state in what had previously been Muslim Palestine. That was in 1947; there has been no peace in that part of the world since then. 

We Americans could observe the Jewish/Muslim conflict with a certain disinterest until September 11, 2001, when Muslim radicals flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and were trying to fly another one into the White House. In this dreadful act of hostility, some three thousand Americans were killed. Since then, there has been Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran. 

We as American Catholics can leave the wars and the diplomacy to the men and women in those fields. We, too, wish to destroy Islam, but not by arms and death. Rather, it is our duty to try to bring those who do not yet know and love Our Lord Jesus Christ to a knowledge and love of him. And this is possible only by prayer, example, and peaceful dialogue. 

Saint Raymond ofPeñafortknew this. He read the Koran, the holy book of Islam. He asked his colleague Saint Thomas Aquinas, to write a catechism for use in evangelizing and catechizing the Muslims. He is now one of our advocates in Heaven; let us ask him to help us in this great crusade of prayer, love, and peace in bringing the crescent to the cross—in introducing the children of Mohammed to Our Divine Lord Jesus. Please pray for that intention regularly, my dear friends. This tremendous goal can be achieved only with God’s help. 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 | January 5, 2021

Feast of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (4 January 2021)

As we all remember from our history lessons, our nation was born on July 4, 1776 when our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. By that time, a little girl, 23 months-old was toddling around in her family home in New York City, her name—Elizabeth Ann Bayley. Her family belonged to the Trinity Episcopal Church at the end of Wall Street. They were people of considerable social standing and wealth.   

Elizabeth grew up and married William Seton, with whom she had five children, but his health was poor and was deteriorating. His doctor recommended some time in a more moderate climate. So the little family moved to Leghorn on the west coast of Italy. There, they came to know a Catholic family—their first close contact with the Church. The devout Elizabeth was much impressed by the Church in Italy and was attracted to it. Elizabeth’s husband, William Seton, died there. Lacking funds, she brought her family back to New York City.  

Times grew difficult financially, and her conversion to Catholicism made life even more difficult for her since she was treated like a traitor by her family and the members of her former church. Learning that she wanted to teach our faith to children, Bishop Carroll of Baltimore invited her to come to his diocese where he could offer her and her children a home, a modest income, and the opportunity to teach. She opened schools in Baltimore. Later, she moved out into the hill country of Maryland to a village called Emmitsburg, where she not only opened a school but organized a group of women into a religious community of sisters whom she called “The Sisters of Charity.” Eventually they merged with the “Daughters of Charity” which had been founded 200 years before in Paris by SaintLouise de Marillacand Saint Vincent De Paul. These were the beginnings of our Catholic educational system in the United States as it was then. By the way, our own Ursuline sisters here in New Orleans had been operating a catholic school for nearly one hundred years before that, but Louisiana was not in the United States at that time.  

The Catholic School system has for many years been the pride and joy of the Church in America. In recent years it has fallen victim to the tragic errors made by so many religious orders which operate in our schools and which opted for a secularistic way of life in the recent past. However, let us pray that authentic religious life will flourish again and will continue to uphold the rich traditions of people like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in proclaiming the Gospel to the children of our nation.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. 

I would like to wish you a blessed new year. May today and every day in your future be lived in union with God, with a clear understanding of why you exist—namely to be with God forever in the happiness that we call Heaven and an equally clear understanding of how we are to achieve that destiny—namely, to follow the path marked out for us by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who says of Himself, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Light.” 

If you were to ask a cocker spaniel, “What is your purpose in life?” it would, of course, be totally incapable of understanding you. The irrational animal cannot grasp abstract terms like “purpose” or “life.” No cow questions her own destiny. She simply lives, feeds, chews her cud, mates, bears young, submits to being milked, either by her own calf or by some human being, and then eventually either dies or is slaughtered to provide beefsteaks, roasts, ribs, and other cuts of meat.  

We human beings, because we are rational, can and do wonder about the purpose of our life. We ask questions that are essentially religious—Where did I come from? What am I? What is the purpose of my existence? How am I supposed to live? Is there anything awaiting me beyond my death? Does it matter how I live? Am I answerable to anyone for the quality of my life?  

When we learn the answers to those questions as revealed to us by God, we understand that our life, unlike that of a cocker spaniel or a cow, has a definite purpose which we can achieve by our own free will, using the gifts that the Creator has endowed us with. For us, life is not simply a day-to-day existence but rather a vocation, a career, an enterprise, a pilgrimage from birth to death and then beyond death. And that vocation, that pilgrimage is worked out in time. Every day is a new opportunity. Every week, month, and year a new chapter in our personal, rational, spiritual history. It is incumbent upon us to use each new day to further our vocation to live in union with God in this world so as to assure union forever with Him in the world to come. And so again, I wish you a blessed new year—a successful continuation of your life with God, your pilgrimage to Heaven.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 | December 27, 2020

The Solemnity of the Holy Family (27 December 2020)

Today is [ordinarily] the feast day of Saint John the Evangelist. He was originally a fisherman on the Lake of Galilee, the son of the fisherman Zebedee and his wife Salome, and the brother of James. We know of at least four fishermen that Our Lord chose to be among his apostles: John and James, Peter and Andrew. Jesus promised that he would make them “fishers of men.” 

When we read the gospels carefully, we realize that there were two men who were particularly close to Our Divine Lord, and therefore are models for us in our own spiritual lives. One of them was Saint Joseph, the man chosen by God’s will to be the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the guardian of Our Lord for at least the first twelve years of Jesus’s life, and Saint John the fisherman, who enjoyed an especially close friendship with Our Lord, and to whom Jesus confided his blessed Mother as he hung dying on the cross. Saint John tells us that from that moment on, he took her into his home. And, presumably, she lived with him until the end of her life on earth and her assumption into heaven. 

So, as we celebrate these feasts that fall in the octave of Christmas, we ordinarily encounter Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, Saint John the Apostle, and the Holy Innocents (those babies slaughtered by King Herod in an attempt to kill the Christ Child). 

Let me suggest to you today that you try to cultivate a deeper and more affectionate devotion to Saint Joseph, the husband of Our Lady and the guardian of Jesus, and to Saint John, the “beloved disciple” who became the guardian of Our Lady after the death and resurrection of Our Lord. The spiritual life is all about friendship with, and love, of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t do better that to take his immaculate mother Mary, his guardian Joseph, and his beloved apostle John as our models in this quest for resemblance to Jesus, the Incarnate Word whose birth into our world we are gladly celebrating at this Christmastime. 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 | December 19, 2020

Feast of Sant Paul My (18 December 2020)

Let’s talk about Saint Joseph today, since Saint Matthew describes to us in today’s Gospel the role of Saint Joseph in the life of Our Lord. Joseph was engaged to Mary. They evidently lived in Nazareth, a small village in Galilee, the northern part of the Holy Land. They were not yet officially married and therefore were not yet living under the same roof. Our Lady had already conceived the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. On her return from her three-months visit to her elderly, but pregnant, cousin, Saint Elizabeth, it began to be apparent that she, too, was expecting a baby. Her fiancee, Joseph—“a just man” as sacred scripture describes him—has a number of options: he can denounce her publicly and make it legally clear that her baby was not his and that he will neither marry her nor support that baby; or he can privately terminate the engagement and just let Mary go her own way; or he could try to find out who the father of the baby was and under what circumstances the baby was conceived, and go from there. It was a very serious problem in his life as well as that of Our Lady. She must have wondered: since this is God’s doing, when is God going to make clear to us what must be done. 

There is an old saying: God may be slow, but he is never late. So, in his own good time, God sent an angel to tell Joseph all that he needed to know about the pregnancy of his little fiancee. Joseph was to marry Mary according to their original plan; he was to be the legal and putative father of her child, and to raise the child as if he were his biological father. One of the prerogatives of the father of the family was to name his children. In this case, neither Joseph nor Mary is given any choice in the matter. God is the true father of Jesus, and God chooses his name. The angel tells both Mary and Joseph: you are to name him Jesus. Jesus means “God is savior.” So Saint Matthew tells us quite clearly: he (Saint Joseph) named him Jesus. He also tells us that Joseph had no relations with Mary “until she bore a son.” The word “until” causes problems to some. The word in the ancient language means “before,” but it does not necessarily mean that the situation changed “after.” It is true that Our Lady and Saint Joseph did not have sexual relations before the birth of Our Lord. But it is also true that they had none after it, either. This is why the Church, in both east and west, has always spoken of the “Blessed Mary, EVER-VIRGIN.” It was not until the 16th century that some of the newly-founded Protestant groups began to deny the perpetual virginity of the Mother of Our Lord, based upon a misreading of that word “until” in Saint Matthew’s gospel. Be that as it may, her perpetual virginity is a dogma of our Catholic faith and not open to question or denial. The immense dignity of Saint Joseph as the father of the Holy Family and the legal father of Jesus is a joy for us who are devoted to him, as we remember that by the command of God, Joseph took Mary as his wife, and named her child “Jesus”: God is savior. 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 | November 25, 2020

Feast of Sant Catherine of Alexandria (25 November 2020)

On Thanksgiving Day this year, I hope that our nation will celebrate it as its name and purpose intend: to thank a generous and gracious God for his endless benefits to us, especially in this country of ours. Remember: the principal figure of Thanksgiving should be the generous, provident God and not a baked turkey! 

As we sit down to our special meals, let us not do so irreverently or without being aware of what Thanksgiving is about. Let us be sure that while celebrating a holiday and a wonderful tradition, we don’t overlook God’s goodness to us and don’t forget to thank God for his constant blessings which make our life possible and so enjoyable. Let us be deeply grateful to God for all that we should be thankful for, and bear in mind the words of Our Divine Lord: if you love me, keep my commandments. We can paraphrase this saying: if you are grateful for my gifts, use them according to my will. 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 | November 11, 2020

Feast of Sant Martin of Tours (11 November 2020)

November 11th offers us many topics to think about and to pray about. In terms of secular history, it is the anniversary of the Mayflower Compact, that document that the pilgrims drew up and adopted before disembarking from their tiny ship in what is now called Cape Cod Bay, off the Massachusetts coast. It was the first instance of self-government in what is now our country, and therefore a significant moment in American democracy.

Then, in 1918, on November 11, the Germans surrendered to the Allies, bringing World War I to an end. When I was a child, this date was called Armistice Day, but then, when World War II occurred, casting the end of World War I into relative insignificance, our government changed it to Veterans’ Day on which we honor all our veterans, living and dead.

In church matters, this is what used to be called Martinmas—the feast of Saint Martin of Tours, one of the founders of the Church in France. He was a Hungarian who joined the Roman army and was sent to northern France, or “Gaul,” as it was called in those days. He began to study Catholicism with a view to entering the Church. One day the famous episode occurred that has so captured the fancy of sacred story-tellers and artists. He was riding along one of the frozen roads near Amiens, snugly wrapped in his ample Roman military cloak. And he came across a half-frozen beggar by the roadside, shivering for lack of warm clothing. Remembering what he was learning in catechism, Martin dismounted, and with his sword, cut his cloak in two, giving half of it to the beggar. That night, Our Lord appeared to him in a dream dressed in that half of the cloak. Martin became a Catholic, a priest, a bishop, and one of the most important apostles of the Church in France, building the first monastery there more than a century before the rise of the Benedictine monasteries around the year 500. A small church was built at Amiens to shelter Saint Martin’s cloak; it was called the church of the cappella, the Latin word for cloak. In time, the French version of “cappella”— chapelle—was applied to any small church; it is the origin of our word “chapel.” The next time you enter a chapel, you might think of Saint Martin and ask him to increase your charity and compassion for those who have less than you do.

Now, what about our veterans? I have often wondered if God accepts what they do and did in terms of merit. Many veterans entered military service because they were forced to it by our government. They did not freely, consciously and intentionally do so. But they did it. Many were killed; others were injured, sometimes permanently. They had to give up the comforts and love of home life during their military service. When I was in the navy, I rubbed elbows each day with men who had no interest in God, religion, or the spiritual life. Some of them lived lives of gross immorality in terms of drunkenness and sexual sins. And yet, they did their work and put up with the sacrifices demanded by their circumstances. Some were wounded; some were killed. I hope that God accepts that suffering as a form of atonement for their sins and mercifully brings them into his heavenly kingdom. We must leave that to the divine mercy, but let us pray for them today since we owe them a debt of gratitude—indeed, our very freedom and 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 | November 2, 2020

Catholic Message for All Souls Day (2 November 2020)

When we were schoolchildren learning our catechism, we were taught that the people of God are divided into three groups: the Church Militant on earth; the Church Suffering in Purgatory, and the Church Triumphant in heaven. “Militant” means “fighting.” We here on earth fight against evil and try to do good in our lives, as the Lord commands of us.

Yesterday, on All Saints Day, we celebrated all those of the Church Triumphant. All those canonized and recognized saints whom we celebrate in our liturgies and lives of the saints, as well as the unknown men, women, and children in heaven, known only to their own families, friends, and maybe a few others.

And today, All Souls Day, we celebrate the other branch of God’s people: the Church Suffering, that is, those who are being detained in Purgatory to make atonement for their sins before entering the fullness of eternal life in Heaven. In the Second Book of Maccabees in the Old Testament, we are taught that “it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they might be freed from their sins.” And we know that it has been part of our Catholic doctrine that we can assist the dead by our prayers and spiritual works if they need it. In the first generation of the Church, some of them erroneously had themselves baptized for the dead. Saint Paul corrected that idea but did not deny or contradict the notion that we can be of help to those who have died. Since we cannot help those in hell, and those in heaven do not need our help, it follows that there is a condition after death in which we can help those there; this we call Purgatory, and we pray for them all through our lives, particularly on this, All Souls Day, which follows immediately after the solemnity of All Saints.

We speak often of the “Requiem”; the Requiem Mass, Mozart’s Requiem, etc. The word “requiem” is the Latin for “rest.” We pray in Latin, “requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine” (eternal rest grant to them, O Lord.) Today, let us all pray fervently for those in Purgatory, perhaps some we have known and loved, and to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude for all they have done for us. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord; Bring them into the fullness of life in Heaven.  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 | October 22, 2020

Feast of Pope Saint John Paul II (22 October 2020)

In Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans we have the joy of reading his description the warfare that he perceives within his own personality. He describes it as the combat of the spirit against the flesh and the flesh against the spirit. This basic principle is fundamental to Christianity, since Our Divine Lord himself enunciated it and based much of his preaching upon it. You see, when God created our first parents, there was a beautiful harmony between the two elements of their human nature: the body and the soul; the flesh and the spirit. But they sinned, and destroyed that harmony. Concord turned to discord; peace turned to war; unity turned to disunity.  And ever since then, the human race has had to struggle with the conflict between the two parts of its nature: the spiritual and the material—the angel and the animal.

Pope [Saint] John Paul II, devoted many of his allocutions to this topic and they have been gathered into a book called “The Theology of the Body.” It is not easy reading, but for those who want to explore this matter more deeply, it is certainly a milestone in our understanding of the relationship of body and soul in our own personalities.  Life is a war of good against evil; spirit against flesh; the eternal against the temporal; the forces of God against the forces of this world and Satan which try to seduce us away from God. Many of the saints have spoken of this combat that we feel within our persons. Within the war there are major battles, and then there are minor skirmishes. We win some; we lose some.  We ask Our Lady, “pray for us sinners,” even though we certainly hope that basically, we are saints—in union with God by what we call sanctifying grace.

When I was a novice, there was a really funny fellow in our novitiate class. He could turn just about everything into a delightful joke, and he kept us laughing much of the time. One day, one of the novices made some comment that another objected to quite strenuously, and the second one made some really unkind reply. Our funny friend spoke up at that moment, and said to the maker of the unkind reply, “Oh, boy! You really goofed that time. Go back three mansions!” He was referring to the fact that the Spanish mystics, Saints Teresa and John of the Cross, often speak of our making progress from one mansion to another in the kingdom of God.  As we ascend the mountain of the Lord, the mansions become more beautiful and comfortable, the closer they come to the house of God Himself.  So when our jokester said to the one brother, “Go back three mansions,” making it sound like a children’s game, we all laughed and recognized that we all go forward, and backward, in our daily lives by either winning or losing the skirmishes in the war of soul against body, spirit against flesh. This is why we do penance. This is why we accept the cross in our lives, since penance, mortification, and the cross are means by which we strengthen our souls against the demands of the body and we keep in good shape in the ongoing struggle against self-indulgence, sensuality, and sin. 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.

Today we have the pleasure of celebrating the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, a feast very dear to all Dominican hearts since that devotion has been associated with our Order since at least the 1500s. It is also particularly appropriate for us at this time, because the very feast itself owes its existence to the conflict between the Church and Islam back in the 16th century.

After having tried several times and failed to invade Europe by land, the Muslims tried to do so by sea. They amassed a huge fleet coming from what is now Turkey and were on their way to the Adriatic Sea to conquer the city-state of Venice and thus enter Europe from that direction. The pope at the time was our Dominican brother, Saint Pius V.  He was well aware of the danger of the Muslim threat, and asked the people of Rome to pray, especially using the Rosary, to Our Lady for deliverance from this threat to the Church and all of Western Europe.  A Christian fleet went out to meet the Muslim ships, and the great sea battle was engaged off the Greek town of Lepanto. The Christian fleet totally defeated that of the Saracens. Even before the news had time to reach Rome, the Holy Father knew by supernatural revelation that the Christians had defeated the Muslims, and he announced it with much gratitude to the people of Rome.

That battle took place on October 7, 1571, and because of that, October 7 each year is celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, subsuming an older feast of Our Lady of Victory.

Today, the Church is again involved in conflict with Islam. Just 25 years ago, a Muslim attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II, and nearly succeeded in doing so. Within the last few weeks, we have seen all sorts of hostility leveled by many Muslims throughout the world at our present Pope, Benedict XVI, because of a speech he gave in Germany. However, now we pray not for any kind of military victory over Islam or defeat of them, but rather that there may be peace between the two religions, and the opening of Islam to the Church of Our Lord with its way, its truth, and its life. Let us pray the Rosary for this intention now and in the future. Let us remember that when Our Blessed Mother appeared early in the 20th century, she said of herself: I am the Lady of the Rosary. And she appeared at a Portuguese town called Fatima, the name of one of Mohammed’s daughters, given to that town by the Muslims during their long occupation of Spain and Portugal. Thus “the Lady of the Rosary” is also “Our Lady of Fatima,” and associates herself with her Son’s great love for all men, including the Muslims, and desire that they, too, become members of his “one flock,” over which he is the one, good Shepherd. 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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