Posted by: fvbcdm | November 15, 2018

Feast of Saint Albert the Great (15 November 2018)    

November 15 is a red-letter day for us Dominicans, since it’s the feastday of our very illustrious brother, Saint Albert the Great. He was born in Germany, entered the newly founded Dominican Order, and spent most of his tremendously fruitful life teaching and writing. By the providence of God, he became the principal teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas; the two men were the most brilliant of the medieval philosophers, theologians, and teachers. But Saint Albert was even more extensive in his interests since he investigated and wrote about many of the natural sciences as well as philosophy and theology.

He is certainly a saint for our times. Just stop and think, for a moment, of the progress that science has made even in our own lifetime. We now have the whole world of exploration into space. Men have walked upon the moon. Various kinds of spacecraft have landed on Mars and other planets and stars and have analyzed samples of their soil. We now have the whole world of electronics in terms of computers and cybernetics. We have the new world of medical progress, genetics and DNA, including such things as cloning, stem-cell research, organ transplants, new vaccines, and so forth.

However, there is always a danger in these remarkable new discoveries. They can be used for the betterment of the human person and family, or to the detriment of people and the entire race. Because there has been so much progress in matters of sexual medicine, we now have wholesale contraception and abortion as well as legitimate means to help childless couples have children and to help those who do not wish to have a child right now to avoid pregnancy without violating the laws of nature and nature’s God. Because of computers everywhere, there is an explosion of knowledge and research, but there is also an explosion of pornography available in every place where a computer exists. Because of our genetic and medical progress, we can do marvels of healing and prevention of disease, but we can also produce human beings at the embryonic stage and then destroy them to make use of their component parts.

All of which means that we must submit all of science to God’s laws and that we must put our leaps of knowledge at the service of human life and dignity, and never to promote degradation and death.  Let us pray through the intercession of Saint Albert the Great who is the patron of those studying and applying the natural sciences that the human family will use the wonderful gifts that God has given us for our good, both material and spiritual, and his glory both in this life and the next.  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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Posted by: fvbcdm | November 14, 2018

Feast of Saint Lawrence O’Toole (14 November 2018)

After a delightful vacation trip, I’m happy to be with you again on the Catholic Daily Message. I returned to New Orleans just one day after hurricane Ivan was expected to devastate the city, when as a matter of fact, nothing injurious or damaging happened at all. All during the hurricane season, we pray at each Sunday Mass for protection from bad weather through the intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the patroness of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. The Mother of our Lord, under this title, certainly showed her protection of our city this year as the hurricane, headed straight for us, turned unexpectedly and went elsewhere. A statue of Our Lady under the title of Prompt Succor was brought here from France by the Ursuline Nuns back in the 18th century; many times the nuns had recourse to Our Lady when various kinds of disasters were threatening. And they invited the people of the city to spend a night in prayer before the statue before the battle of New Orleans in 1815. The results of the battle were so lopsidedly in favor of the Americans that General Andrew Jackson, upon hearing of the nuns’ campaign of prayer came personally to the convent to thank the Sisters for their prayers, to which he attributed his striking victory over the British troops who had so recently defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Our whole metropolitan area is heaving a sigh of relief and many are very grateful to Our Lady for her protection again.

One of the high points of my trip this year was my visit to the houses of parliament in London. They are located in what is officially called Westminster Palace, a very imposing building on the river Thames just behind Westminster Abbey where the British monarchs are crowned. The building is gorgeously decorated and is full of history, having been originally erected shortly after the Norman conquest of England. The oldest part of the present building, which has been reconstructed after several fires, is Westminster Hall, a very simple but large room in which many historical events have occurred, including the trial of Saint Thomas More for treason because he refused to recognize King Henry VIII as the head of the Church in England. For this refusal on his part, he was condemned to death, then returned to his prison cell in the Tower of London, and there beheaded. As I stood there in that ancient room, I could imagine Saint Thomas More bearing witness there to Our Divine Lord, his one and only church, and the primacy of the Pope who is supreme bishop of every Roman Catholic in the entire world. And he sealed that witness with his own blood. How splendid are these examples of true heroism, true faith, true fidelity to the Church and to the papal primacy, the rock upon which Christ built his Church and against which the gates of hell will never prevail. 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 love the annual commemoration of the Dedication of the cathedral/basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome, which falls on November 9.  It is the intention of the Church that while celebrating it, each parish church throughout the world also celebrate its own dedication and the spiritual work that has been accomplished there since the inception of the parish.

The life of the Church has been going on at the site of Saint John Lateran in Rome at least since the 4th century — some 1700 years. Can you imagine the numbers of people who have prayed there, the numbers of Masses offered there, the numbers of baptisms, confirmations, first Communions, weddings, and funerals there?  It is beautiful to think of the amount of divine activity that takes place even in the smallest mission chapel in the world, to say nothing of the great basilicas and cathedrals and shrines that are nearly as old as the Church herself.  In preparation for this message, I looked  in our sacramental records here at Saint Dominic Parish and found that since 1924, the year this parish was established, there have been 10,887 baptisms here, some of which I have performed myself.

It is on a feast like this that we can rejoice over the establishment of the Church by our Divine Lord, the further establishment of the parish and diocesan system for shepherding God’s people, and the sacred work which is accomplished in every parish and diocese.

One of the most striking sights in Rome is a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi which has been erected in front of Saint John Lateran Basilica by the Franciscans of the world. It commemorates the moment when Saint Francis, arrived in Rome to request from the Pope his approval of the Franciscan Order.  In those days the Popes lived in the Lateran Palace, adjacent to the basilica.  It was only in the latter part of the 14th century, over 100 years later, that the Popes moved from Saint John Lateran to Saint Peter’s in the Vatican.  The statue depicts a young Francis, his face suffused with a beautiful smile of happiness, his arms stretched out and his hands raised in prayer and greeting as he contemplates for the first time this cathedral of the supreme pontiffs, the bishops of Rome. He had come from his home to the north to meet the Vicar of Christ in this eternal city, the center and heart of Catholicism, and to ask of him his approval of this new concept of Francis: a band of poor men who would simply preach the love of God, love of neighbor, love of the Church, and a love of poverty in imitation of the poor Christ who had “nowhere to lay his head.”

There is an inscription over the main entrance of Saint John Lateran Basilica which says, in Latin: The Mother and Head of all the Churches in the city (Rome) and the world.  An inexhaustible fountain of God’s goodness to the world, of the sacramental ministry of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the infallible shepherding of the flock of Christ the Good Shepherd by the successors of Saint Peter, the rock on which Jesus built his church.  So today, let us be grateful for our local parish churches, our local diocese (Mass has been offered here in New Orleans for nearly 300 years), and then the universal Church, the Mystical Body of Christ throughout the world. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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

 

Posted by: fvbcdm | November 6, 2018

Feast of Saint Atticus (6 Nov 2018)

Saint Paul tells us, along with the Corinthians, that when he preached to them, he did not rely on any natural eloquence, or theological education, or magnetic personality, since he had none of those things. He relied upon the power of God to make use of him, unworthy instrument though he was, to accomplish God’s own purposes.

We have many instances of that kind of thing: God using very ordinary things to accomplish extraordinary purposes. Remember when Elisha cured Naaman by having him go bathe in the Jordan River seven times. So ordinary and so unpromising was this treatment that Naaman almost refused to submit to it. But at the bidding of his wise servant, he went, and was totally cured.

Jesus once restored the sight of a blind man by smearing mud on his eyes. Not recommended by the medical profession, but the man recovered his sight. Our Lady instructed Saint Bernadette to drink from a spring in the grotto at Lourdes. Seeing no spring, the child dug a hole in the ground with her hands. Water began to flow — the exact same kind of water that flows from a thousand springs in the surrounding mountains.  But that water from that spring has been effecting cures for 146 years. The same thing happens in the sacramental system. A little water poured over a child’s head brings the Most Blessed Trinity to dwell in the heart of that child. A little oil and the words of a bishop bring the Holy Spirit to dwell with us in a special way; a tiny wafer of bread, at the words of the celebrating priest, becomes the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and his greatest gift to us.

The patron of all parish priests is Saint John Vianney, a very simple French country priest who had a very hard time making it through the seminary because he couldn’t learn his Latin. He was almost expelled from the seminary. Yet his obvious sanctity attracted thousands of people to the tiny village of Ars where he spent his priestly life. His sermons are almost unbelievably trite when we read them, but when he preached them, the hardest hearts were moved to penance, conversion, and the love of God. It is not the instrument that produces miracles of grace; it is the divine Artist who uses simple things to do his holy will. When we attend Mass, we should always be open to what God has to say to us in the readings and the homily, however boring they may seem, and to what God wants to do in our souls, even though the Communion wafer can’t compare in taste with a glazed doughnut or a New Orleans beignet. 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 5, 2018

Feast of Saint Sylvia (5 November 2018)

When we attend Mass on this day or read the passage chosen by the Church for its first reading, we get a beautiful message of love and encouragement from God our Father. The passage is the beginning of Saint Paul’s first letter to the Christian community in Corinth, of whom he was especially fond. But because that letter is divinely inspired, it applies to all of us, and what Saint Paul is saying to the Corinthians, God is saying to you and to me.

Saint Paul begins by saying that his fellow-apostle Sosthenes and he send greetings to the Corinthians, “to you who have been consecrated in Christ Jesus and called to be a holy people.” He goes on, “and to all those who, wherever they may be, call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” He continues, “I continually thank my God for you because of the favor he has bestowed on you in Christ Jesus … You have been richly endowed with every gift of speech and knowledge …You lack no spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful and it was he who called you to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

You have been richly endowed. You lack no spiritual gift. How true these statements are about all those who have faith in our Divine Lord and attempt to live in union with him! What a joy to be members of his people, recipients of his grace, his love, his peace, and his promise that we will be with him forever. One of the nicest things that Jesus says in the gospel occurs just before his sufferings and death. He told his disciples, and us, “I go to prepare a place for you so that where I am, you also may be.”

So, let us be grateful and happy that we have been so richly endowed; that we lack no spiritual gift. And that Our Divine Lord is in heaven, preparing a place for us. Let us try not to fear death. There is a natural fear of disintegration, but let us try to rise above that fear into the realm of supernatural confidence, trust, and the “joyful hope” that we speak of at Mass. Jesus, who is with us every day, but concealed in his word and his Eucharist, awaits us at the end of our brief journey through this world, and he awaits us in all his glory and divine beauty. 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 3, 2018

Feast of Saint Martin de Porres (3 Nov 2018)

In 1979 it was decided that the Dominican Order needed a new province in this country, to minister to the southeastern part of the country. So, with the authorization of the Master General of our Order in Rome, the new southern province was formed, comprising eleven states from the Atlantic seaboard through Texas, and from the northern border of North Carolina west and south. The need arose to choose a name and patron saint for our new province.  And since we have a large number of Hispanics in this part of the world in Florida and Texas in particular, and a large number of blacks throughout the south, the choice logically fell upon the famous Dominican brother, Martin de Porres, whose mother was a black woman and whose father was a Spanish soldier.

Martin was a product of fornication between those two back in the rip-roaring colonial days in Peru. His father, typical of so many irresponsible men, left the city of Lima shortly after the conception of the child and had nothing to do with him or his mother for some years. However, later he became aware of his obligations toward the boy and his mother, and contributed something to their support. The mother, in the meantime, did her best to educate her son; she apprenticed him to a surgeon, as they were called in those days. A surgeon gave shaves and haircuts, operated on the sick (who rarely survived the surgery), dispensed the primitive medications of the period, and in general, tried to help their patients in a physical way. The boy Martin learned all that he could at the time. Eventually, he came to the attention of the Dominican priests in one of the city’s priories. They invited him to live with them and act as door-keeper and dispenser of charity to those who sought it at the priory. As time went on, they noticed the remarkable holiness of the young man, and persuaded him to join their religious community; he protested his unworthiness, but at their repeated invitations, he took vows and became what we call today a cooperator brother. Saint Martin became a fixture in the religious life of Lima, and continued to help the poor until he died at the age of sixty. He was beatified shortly thereafter, but not canonized until the pontificate of [Saint] John XXIII in 1962.

From the lowest echelon of human society — an illegitimate half-breed in colonial Peru — Martin has been elevated by God to the highest honor of which a human being is capable: canonization by the Catholic Church. We pray today that through his intercession, our southern province of Saint Martin de Porres will be blessed both with vocations to the priesthood and religious life and with much success in preaching the gospel and spreading the kingdom of God in this part of the world. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Posted by: fvbcdm | October 26, 2018

Feast of Saint Cuthbert of Canterbury (26 Oct 2018)

Yesterday our parish and our Dominican community here were especially gladdened by the Mass of Thanksgiving of our new priest, Fr. John Dominic Sims, who was ordained just a few days ago. He has been here with us as a deacon for the past year, and now he begins his priestly ministry here.

Those of us priests who were present for the beautiful Mass couldn’t help but reflect back upon our own ordination and our own “First Mass” as it was called in those days.  In my case, the First Mass was on April 21, 1963, in my home parish church of Our Lady of Good Counsel here in New Orleans.  That was forty-one years ago in terms of the calendar, but in terms of the Church and the moral climate of our nation, it was in another era totally.

I stand in awe of these young men being ordained nowadays, and marvel at the courage which brings them to the priesthood even now when our daily newspapers and television news reports speak of Catholic priests as sex perverts, child molesters and hypocrites. When our dioceses are declaring bankruptcy because of the enormous payments they have had to make to the victims and the victims’ families of these crimes. When legislators who call themselves Catholics are pro-abortion, even as they admit that human life begins at conception; when same-sex marriage, so-called, is being legalized in some of our states, and when in many of our so-called Catholic colleges and universities, the professors of religion flatly refuse to sign an agreement to teach our faith according to the official Catechism of the Catholic Church. Back in 1963, each of these aberrations would have been unthinkable. I became a priest when the priesthood enjoyed a very good reputation, when you could expect that a “Catholic” school taught authentically Catholic theology, when religious life was a joyous and very productive element in our Catholic life. In other words, it was much easier to go with the current in those days than it is swim upstream as is necessary now.

And yet, yesterday, there was a great deal of happiness, joy, applause, and a sense of celebration as this young man began his priestly career. It is indeed good to know that many of our Catholic people still regard the priesthood as a great gift from God to us, whether we be the men receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders or the people to whom they will minister the Sacraments, the Word of God, and the shepherding and leadership of God’s people. God grant that because of the courage of these young men, these dark days of church life will be shortened and there will be a new springtime of ecclesiastical life, in which Vatican II and the pontificate of John Paul II will flower and bring forth the fruit of which they are capable in God’s good time. 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.

In the gospel we hear someone ask Our Lord, “Will only a few be saved?” It happens relatively often that people ask Jesus about the future. There is a natural curiosity about what is to come. If we had a good friend who had the power to predict the future, I suppose we would be asking similar questions. Some years ago, a popular song was entitled “Que Sera, Sera.” What will be, will be. It goes on to say, “The future’s not ours to see.” That’s true in theology as well as in popular music. When people asked Our Lord about the future, he gave very general answers which evaded the specific information the questioners had in mind.

One characteristic of fundamentalistic religions these days is the attempt to use the Bible as a fortune-telling device. We hear a lot about “the rapture,” whatever that means, and a book that is now on sale in some bookstores asks the question, “Will We Be Taken or Left?” or something like that. The title is based upon the author’s interpretation of a passage in the book of Revelation, which for some people is a wonderful playground in which they can claim to find information either about the present state of things or the future. They use the Bible as others use ouija boards or tarot cards, and it’s all equally fraudulent.

I was amused by a conversation I had recently with a friend who is suffering from a recurrence of cancer. We talked about it; his attitude is very healthy. He said, I put myself into the hands of God. Maybe He wills to take me to Himself fairly soon. Maybe I will again go into remission from this cancer, and then I can die of something else later on. It’s a sensible, matter-of-fact way of looking at things. Each of us is going to die. There’s no doubt about that. But when? We don’t know, and that’s why Our Lord emphasizes our living always in the state of union with Him. How will we die? We don’t know that, either. Maybe due to sickness; maybe due to an accident. My father died in an automobile accident at the age of fifty-five; my mother slipped into eternity very quietly at the age of ninety-nine while taking an afternoon nap.

Occasionally, someone will be given some knowledge about the future. Saint John Vianney, while hearing confessions one day, said to one of his penitents whom he did not know at all, “You will be a Trappist monk.” The penitent laughed and said, “No, father. Not me. You’ve got me mixed up with someone else.” Shortly thereafter, the man had a conversion experience and became a Trappist monk. Years ago, here in New Orleans, Mother Cabrini was attending Mass.  A ten-year-old boy was one of the altar boys. After Mass, she looked at him intently and said, “You will go far in the Church, my son.” That child was Charles Greco who grew up, became a priest and then a bishop. Had anyone told her that she would one day be canonized, she might have laughed, too.

The moral of all this is found in the words of Jesus in answer to the question about how many will be saved. He said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” 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, 2018

Feast of Saint John Paul II (22 October 2018) 

 When is the world as we know it going to end? That question fascinated the people to whom Jesus speaks in the gospel, and it fascinates people today as well. There are always notions and books floating around, usually authored by Christian fundamentalists which use the Bible as if it were a fortune-telling device, and assuring us that this war or that earthquake or the global warming phenomenon indicate that the world is about to end. And our reaction to all of that should be exactly what Our Lord says in this gospel: “Many will come in my name saying . . . the time is come. Do not follow them!”

He tells us elsewhere that no one knows when the world will end, and by his evasive answers to questions about it, he makes it clear that it is not God’s will that we know the future.  However, for what it’s worth, let me share with you some of my own ideas about our location in salvation history.

First, I don’t think that the end of the world is at all imminent. Just before ascending into heaven, Jesus commissioned his disciples to “go out and make disciples of all nations.” Now, if you look at a world map showing the presence of the Church across the globe, you will note that most of Asia is neither Catholic nor even Christian. Millions of people in China, Mongolia, Nepal, Tibet, Thailand, Laos, and so on have never heard the name of Jesus. That is true also in the Islamic countries like Arabia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and so forth. And in Africa, there are some countries where the Church hardly exists at all. So I believe that we have a lot of missionizing to do before the end comes.

Another element in my opinion is this: within my own lifetime, God has given to the Church and the world two tremendous gifts of an extraordinary nature. One of them is the Second Vatican Council; the other is the pontificate of our Pope John Paul II.

Now, in matters like these, the benefits of these gifts make themselves felt slowly and begin to bear fruit slowly. We are only 39 years away from the end of Vatican II — a period which is just one tick of the clock in terms of salvation history. The council of Trent which was so immensely important and influential in the history of the Church certainly was not appreciated so soon after the council ended. You and I are still living in the light of that council, some 450 years after its close. The Church is still profiting by the teachings and the actions of Pope Blessed Pius IX who died in 1878, Pope Leo XIII who died in 1903, Saint Pius X who died in 1914, Pius XII who died in 1958. And I can assure you that the actions and writings of our present Holy Father will continue to be heard and studied for years if not centuries after his death. John Paul II has been a giant among spiritual and moral leaders. He was certainly one of the main factors in the downfall of world communism and the liberation of all those people enslaved by the evil empire of Marxism-Leninism.  His visits to nearly every nation on earth, his constant championing of human life, human sexuality, his fearlessness in reminding the world of the natural law, and the Church of the law of Christ, has made him the most powerful moral force in the world today.

The real value of the council and of this pope are not to be totally realized or utilized for a long time to come. The immediate reaction to the Council by many Catholics was ridiculous and gave rise to all sorts of bizarre liberal ideas and practices. The declining numbers of practicing Catholics in the western world, the destruction of religious life, and the tragic sexual scandals involving bishops as well as priests in our country are the results of the misinterpretation of Vatican II. But in God’s good time, the real treasure of Vatican II and of the pontificate of John Paul II will begin to be appreciated and exploited, and then we will have a new flowering of Catholic life throughout the world. For these reasons, I don’t think that the world is about to end. But bear in mind: Jesus tells us that no one knows. I could be totally wrong: the Second Coming of our Savior could occur this afternoon at 3 p.m.! 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 18, 2018

Feast of Saint Luke (18 Oct 2018)

There are three categories of people upon whom the preaching of Our Lord’s gospel depends most closely: the evangelists, the apostles, and the disciples. We hear those words often in our liturgies and our studies of our holy faith, but we must try to understand them as clearly as possible.

Of those three categories, the evangelists constitute the most elite group. There are only four of them: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are the four to whom the composition of the four gospels is ascribed. That doesn’t necessarily mean that these four men actually sat down with pen and paper and wrote the gospels as we have them today. It means that they preached the gospel, each from his own point of view and for his own purposes, and eventually that version of the life and teaching of Our Divine Lord was put into writing and called “the gospel according to Matthew, or Mark, or Luke, or John.”

Saints Matthew and John were among the 12 apostles and therefore eyewitnesses of what they report in their gospels. Mark was a disciple of Saint Peter; Luke a disciple of Saint Paul. So basically, we get the preaching of Saint Peter in Saint Mark’s gospel; the preaching of Saint Paul in Saint Luke’s.

There are a number of qualities peculiar to Saint Luke’s gospel. For one thing, the infancy gospels are reported principally by him. So most of the beautiful annunciation, visitation, and Christmas stories are given to us by Saint Luke, who either knew Our Lady personally, or had access to her reminiscences of those sacred moments. Saint Luke was a gentile and a physician; he often explains Jewish practices and beliefs for the sake of his gentile readers and hearers. He speaks most often of the prayer of Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit. Saint Luke wrote one document which reported the events of the life of Our Lord and of the early Christians after Pentecost. Later that one document was divided into two which we now call the gospel according to Saint Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.

Back to our three categories: we have the four evangelists; we have the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus himself to be the foundation stones of his church, and then we have the many disciples, who were men and women who came to believe in Jesus as the savior of the world, and to propagate his gospel by their virtuous style of living, which is such a powerful form of preaching.  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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