As we begin this new month of July, we American Catholics celebrate the feastday of one of our fellow-American Catholics who has been beatified by the Church and singled out by our national and state governments. Blessed Junipero Serra was a Spanish Franciscan priest, born in Spain in 1713, who came to Mexico in 1750. In those days, Mexico and just about all of the western hemisphere from the Oregon border down to the south pole were part of what was generally called “New Spain.” After working in Mexico for some time, Blessed Junipero was sent with a Franciscan mission to begin the evangelization of what was called “Upper California,” now our American state of California. He began his missionary activities in San Diego, at the southern end of that “Upper California,” and built missions at the rhythm of one at a distance of a two-days’ journey on foot from the previous one—all the way up the coast to Sonoma, north of San Francisco. While that group were doing their work on the west coast, other Franciscans were attempting to do the same here in Texas, both in east Texas and in San Antonio. The most famous building in Texas is what we now called the Alamo, which was formerly a Franciscan mission built for the bringing of the gospel to that part of “New Spain.”

Blessed Junipero died at Carmel on Monterey Bay in California—one of the most charming of the old missions. His death occurred just eight years after the signing of the American Declaration of Independence which we will be celebrating this week. His body lies before the main altar in the mission church.  In our national capitol building in Washington, the people of California have erected a statue of him in its hall of statuary, where our states are invited to place monuments to their most prominent sons or daughters.

When we think of the old missions of California, we think of the romance and interest and beauty of the history of that area, but we must remember that those missionaries worked very hard, suffered a great deal, and made tremendous sacrifices to bring our holy faith to that part of the world. Let us be proud and grateful for what they did, and devoted to those saints and blesseds whose work sanctified our country and whose bodies now lie among us.  I can think of at least nine of them; there may be one or two more. No doubt in years to come, there WILL be more. For today, let us salute Blessed Junipero Serra and try to love the gospel as he did, and make efforts to share it with those who come into our lives. 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 | June 30, 2015

Feast of the First Roman Martyrs (30 June 2015)

We Dominicans have been getting some good publicity in the press hereabouts lately. Last Saturday, the Lufkin paper printed a long article with a large picture concerning one of our Sisters who was the first to join this community after its arrival in East Texas from Detroit. That was in 1945; she has been here for 61 years, and was born and raised just about 25 miles from here.

Then, in today’s Houston paper, there is an article and picture about our Hawthorne Dominican Sisters up in the New England area. The famous American novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of Seven Gables,” had six daughters. After his death in Boston in the mid-19th century, his widow took her daughters to live in England, where she and at least one of the daughters died. They were buried in London. Meantime, one of the daughters named Rose came back to this country, became a Catholic, and after the death of her husband, decided to form a group of charitable ladies to take care of the poor cancer victims of New York City who were in such dire straits. That group evolved into the Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor, or the Hawthorne Dominicans, as they are commonly called. They operate homes where terminally ill cancer patients can spend their last days in security, dignity, and with the best care that is available to anyone, anywhere.

I have visited two of their cancer homes; one in Fall River, Massachusetts; the other in Atlanta. I wish that each of you could visit one of them. The kind of care that those patients get is simply unavailable anywhere else, and does not cost the patient a nickel. I remember visiting the Atlanta home when I was chaplain at Emory University. Each patient had a large, bright, beautifully furnished room. Flowery curtains on the large windows, attractive wallpaper and furnishings, and a live bird (a canary or finch) singing and chirping merrily in a cage located where the patient could see and hear his or her little feathered friend. In the Atlanta home, most of the patients are non-Catholic; many are black. Race, creed, or color makes no difference to the Sisters. They serve Our Lord in serving the poor, regardless. I remember envying the Sisters their reception into heaven when their time on earth is finished. “Whatever you did to these . . . you did to me,” Our Lord will tell them. And they spend their LIVES doing that! What a joy for us to know that our Dominican Sisters are engaged in that kind of work! Nathaniel Hawthorne is famous for his writings; the work of his daughter Rose and the community she founded is less famous, but I suspect, much more pleasing in the eyes 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 | June 29, 2015

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (29 June 2015)

Today we celebrate one of the SOLEMNITIES of our Church calendar, that is, one of the feast of the highest order in our liturgical celebrations. The reason is that it is the commemoration of Saints Peter and Paul, the first pope and the great apostle to the Gentiles.

Every organization must have authority. Without it, no human group can function. There must be someone at the helm, in control, “calling the shots,” as we say in slang.  Our Divine Lord knows this perfectly well, so when founding his church, he took care of that need by giving us what is called the hierarchy, that is, the pope and bishops. He chose twelve apostles during his public life on earth, and then after his ascension into heaven and Pentecost, he chose one more: Paul of Tarsus who, although a devout and well-educated Jew, had been born and raised outside the Holy Land, in what is today southern Turkey. He was thus very familiar with Greek culture, history, language, and society. He was the ideal person to form a bridge between Jewish theology and history and that of the Greek-speaking, Gentile world. This was very important, because Christ founded his Church for all humankind, Jew and Gentile alike.

Saint Peter was the head of the apostles, made so by Jesus. After some time in and around Jerusalem, he went to Rome and there established his headquarters since it was the capital and heart of the Roman Empire. His successors have been the bishops of Rome and therefore, the supreme bishop of the entire Church. Just as the other apostles maintained their unity with Saint Peter during that first generation of the Church, so do all Catholic bishops maintain their unity with the pope today. If someone is not in communion with the bishop of Rome—the pope, he or she cannot be said to be a Catholic. Thus today, we have one pope and many bishops, corresponding to the number of dioceses throughout the world. As the Catholic population grows, so does the number of dioceses and their bishops.

We Catholics of this particular time in history are especially fortunate to have been blessed with a series of exceptional men to be our popes. Beginning in 1846 with the election of Pius IX, who has already been beatified, we have had Leo XIII, Saint Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII, [Saint] John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, [Saint] John Paul II, and now Benedict XVI. God has blessed the church during this period with as fine a series of popes as the Church has ever known. History may one day speak of the golden age of the papacy as being the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

When authority is properly exercised, it results in unity, peace, clarity, and security. The very word “authority” comes from a Latin verb meaning “to promote progress.” The apostles promoted the progress of the Church in their time. Their successors have done the same, some more effectively, some less. On this solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, let us be grateful to Our Divine Lord for these gifts; let us appreciate our popes and bishops and love them, pray for them, and be totally loyal to them.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | June 26, 2015

Feast of Saint Josemaria Escriva (26 June 2015)

The other day, a man who reads this Catholic Daily Message wrote, asking me why so many young people leave the Church. Along the same lines, we might ask ourselves why so many young people DO NOT embrace religious life or the priesthood.

The answer is simple, even though the causes are complex, and the remedies still elude us. Young people either don’t enter religious life or priestly studies, or leave the Church entirely because they don’t see God, religion, Church, religious life, and priesthood as being relevant, important, and worthy of giving their lives to these things. When I entered the seminary at the age of 26 (which was considered old in those days), I was absolutely convinced, as I still am, that I was doing the most important thing that I could do with my life. That opinion is certainly not shared by many 26-year-olds of today. Let’s face it: they were born after the religious craziness of the sixties and seventies. And they have many elements in their lives that are enemies, which used to be friends.

My parents and my home spoke to me of God. My elementary education was entirely in the hands of Sisters, who proclaimed God very loudly and clearly just by walking down the street in their religious habits, to say nothing of the marvelous education they gave us in both sacred and secular subjects. My high school and college education was at the hands of the Jesuits, who in those days took their special vow of loyalty to the Pope very seriously. Nowadays, for many of them it is a joke, and their colleges in this country can hardly be called Catholic schools at all.

In addition to parents and home life and Catholic education at all levels, there were other friends of our souls when we were young which are now enemies. Take the media, for example. When I was a kid, I loved to go to the movies. Some of them were really good, instructive, entertaining, and uplifting. None were openly harmful to the minds and souls of children and young people. I can remember how shocked the nation was by the 1939 movie “Gone with the Wind.” Rhett Butlet said to Scarlett, his wife, who was bemoaning his leaving her, and was asking “Where will I go? What will I do?,” “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” You could hear gasps of shock and horror all over the theater. And now —?

Our Divine Lord has given us his assurance that the Church will continue to exist and to sanctify and save those who make use of its ministry until the end of time, and “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” What are the gates of hell? In the modern world, many parents, many homes, many schools, even those who call themselves Catholic, many movies, TV programs, much of the music that our children and teenagers listen to—these are the gates of hell, doing their best to destroy the souls of the young. And that is to say nothing of the abusing priests and the bishops who, up until recently, allowed them to abuse. We have much to pray for, my dear friends. So let’s get on our knees and do what we can to combat the gates of hell, doing their best to destroy the souls of the young. And that is to say nothing of the abusing priests and the bishops who, up until recently, allowed them to abuse.  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 | June 25, 2015

Feast of Saint Dominic Henares (25 June 2015)

When our Holy Father spoke to the crowds in Saint Peter’s Square after the Mass of Corpus Christi, he said that our Divine Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is the treasure of the Church—the most precious of all the elements of her sacred legacy.

We can be sure that when the Pope speaks of “treasure,” he has in mind the parable of Jesus which tells of a farmer who, while plowing one day, discovers a treasure hidden in the field where he is working. So he hurries home, gets all his savings, and buys that field from its owner, so that now, the buried treasure is his. And so it is with Jesus, especially Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. In the field of the Church, Our Divine Lord in the Eucharist is a tremendous treasure, and we should be ready to sacrifice whatever else we might have in order to possess this spiritual wealth. Anything that hinders our union with Christ in the Eucharist is to be eradicated from our lives; anything that strengthens our bond with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is to be fostered.

Those who have fallen away from the practice of their religion deprive themselves of a deep friendship with Jesus in the Eucharist; those who prefer something else to Jesus—for example, an invalid and illicit marriage—deprive themselves of this treasure.  Those who, for the slightest reason, miss Sunday Mass, deprive themselves of Jesus in the Eucharist. Those who could attend Mass during the week and receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, but do not do so simply out of lack of devotion to him, show how anemic their eucharistic devotion is and thus they, too, deprive themselves of a much warmer and more loving friendship with Our Lord in the Sacrament of the Altar.

The Church is the field; Jesus is the treasure in the field; we know that. But do we act upon it as the farmer did who hurried home to get all the money he could lay his hands on, and buy that field so as to possess that treasure?

When I was in high school, the Jesuit priests and scholastics who taught me encouraged all of us to attend not only Sunday Mass, but also daily Mass whenever possible. I got into the practice of attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion every day when I was in my second year of high school. I have been doing that, either as layman or priest ever since. What about you? Do you esteem Our Lord sufficiently to motivate yourself to attend weekday Mass from time to time, if not every day, and thus make use of the tremendous treasure that is yours for the taking? 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 | June 23, 2015

Feast of Saint Joseph Cafasso (23 June 2015)

There is a passage from the gospel that always makes me cringe, because in it, Jesus speaks about insulting others and speaking ill to or of them, and that is one of my own greatest failures.

Gossip and unfavorable judgments about others are so terribly easy! No two people see reality from exactly the same point of view. There is tremendous variety among us human beings, in terms of our background, our parentage, our education, our personalities, our likes and dislikes, our ways of expressing ourselves, our social standing, our virtues, our vices, and on and on. And we tend to think that our way is the better way, if not the best, and those who don’t see things our way are wrong or foolish or sinful or malicious. And we are quick to share our unfavorable opinions about others with still other people, because it seems to make us feel that we are better if we can make others look worse. Hence, gossip and unkind speech and judgments about others.

We will never overcome all our negative or censorious opinions about others, but we can try hard to avoid expressing those opinions to those who don’t have any need to hear them. If you are among the majority of people who gossip and then confess it the sacrament of penance, let me suggest this: make a mental list of those people about whom you habitually speak unkindly. And then make another mental list of those people with whom you habitually engage in gossip because you know that they enjoy it as much as you do. Then, when you are WITH your fellow-gossipers, BE CAREFUL! And when a conversation turns to those whom you most often gossip about, BE CAREFUL! You’re in danger of offending God and neighbor in both those cases.

In this regard, there is the wonderful old story of the Irish lady who NEVER offended by what she said concerning others.  So one day, someone decided to put her to the ultimate test.  “Mrs. O’Brien,” he said to her, “what do you think about the devil?” The old lady thought for a moment and then she said, “Well, he certainly manages to keep busy!” Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Today we come to the commemoration of the two most prominent figures of the English persecutions of Catholics under Henry VIII and his successors as monarchs of England.  They were Cardinal Saint John Fisher, and Saint Thomas More, who was the Lord Chancellor of England up to the time that he opposed King Henry VIII’s claim to be the head of the Church in England.

It is interestng that to this day, one of the titles used by the monarchs of England is “Defender of the Faith.”  That title was conferred upon the young Henry VIII by the Pope in gratitude for the king’s having written an explanation of the Sacraments.  But within a few years of that event, the religious history of England underwent a tragic revolution set into motion by the selfish and lecherous king who separated the Church in England from the Holy See and launched an attempt to eradicate every element of Catholicism, and of course all those who clung to the Catholic Church, from the kingdom of England.  He almost succeeded, but these two men whom we honor today were stirring examples of those who did not succumb to the threats of the king or to the confusion as to what was true and what false, what right and what wrong in the spiritual life of Great Britain in those tumultuous days.

Now, we have the duty to do what we can to bring about the reconciliation of the two bodies: the Church of Rome and that of England, and whose intercession can we better seek for that purpose than Saints John Fisher and Thomas More?  They loved God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Church which he founded as well as his vicar on earth the Pope enough to give their lives rather than deny any of these.  Now we ask them to do what they can to cement by their prayers this holy union of Canterbury and Rome, meaning the two religious bodies which were never meant to be separated, but to be one flock headed by one shepherd.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | June 17, 2015

Feast of Saint Teresa of Portugal (17 June 2015)

Pope [Saint] John Paul II instituted a new set of mysteries of the Rosary which he called the Luminous Mysteries. They cover the public life of Our Divine Lord, from his baptism by St. John the Baptist until his institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper.

One of those luminous mysteries is the Transfiguration, which was certainly a key moment in the public life of our Savior. You recall that he took with him three of his apostles: Peter, James, and John, and went up a high mountain in Galilee—probably Mount Tabor. There something spectacular happened. Our Lord took on some of the beauty, the majesty, the glory, the magnificence which is due to him by virtue of his divinity. And there appeared with him the principal lawgiver and prophet of the Old Testament, namely Moses and Elijah. The Jewish people always spoke of “the law and the prophets” to mean the entire revelation of divine truth to them by God, and these two elements of divine truth were personified by Moses and Elijah. So here, on the crest of the mountain, Christ appears in majesty, flanked by the two greatest men of the Old Testament, and then, to cap the climax, the voice of God the Father is heard saying about Jesus: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to him!”

In today’s Mass, we have in the first reading the high point in the career of the prophet Elijah and in the gospel Christ’s explanation of his view of the law. In the first reading, the Jewish prophet Elijah challenges the priests of the false god Baal to a sort of sacred duel to see whether Baal or the Lord God of Israel is the true God. The false god was able to accomplish nothing; the God of Israel sent down fire from heaven which consumed the animal of sacrifice, the wood on which it had been laid, the stones of the altar, the dirt which surrounded the altar, and even the water in the trench around the altar which Elijah had built. There could be no doubt as to which god was the true God.

Then, when Jesus speaks of the law, he says that he did not come to abolish it, but to fulfill it. You see, the Jewish people had come up with about 630 rules and regulations to “protect the law” as they said. Jesus makes it clear that all those man-made laws were not necessary and would not bind his disciples. But that didn’t mean at all that he was anti-law. Does the oak tree which grows from an acorn abolish the acorn? No; on the contrary, it is the fulfillment of the potential of the acorn, and will produce more thousands of acorns. The 630 rules of the Mosaic law are fulfilled by Christ’s law of justice, mercy and love. Let us then be sure we understand the great law of the New Testament: Love God, and love your neighbor. Upon these two, as Jesus tells us, hang all the Old Testament law and the prophets. 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 | June 16, 2015

Feast of Saint John Regis (16 June 2015)

In the Book of Kings, we have that nice little story of the prophet Elijah being taken care of by God when there was a drought in the area of what is now Palestine and Lebanon. He was directed by God to go up the coast to a town near Sidon in Lebanon, and there a widow would take care of him. He found her outside the town, gathering firewood. He asked her for water, and for food. She told him she had only enough flour and oil to make a little bread for herself and her son, and then they would die because there would be nothing more to eat. He told her to use what she had to make him a little loaf of bread, and that the Lord would provide for them in the future. The widow believed the prophet; she used the last of her supplies to feed him, and then there was more flour and oil in her crockery containers. And more, and more, and more. For an entire year, until the end of the drought, the widow and her son and the prophet Elijah ate bread made from the seemingly inexhaustible ingredients in the widow’s jar of flour and jug of oil.

We can be sure that the child Jesus was taught this story of the great prophet of long ago, and that as he, as a small boy, watched his mother using flour and oil to make bread, they talked about the widow of Zarephath and her miraculous supply of flour and oil. When he grew to manhood, he would several times feed tremendous crowds with a very small amount of food, and then, on the night before he died, he would give to his Church the ongoing miracle and gift of the Holy Eucharist whereby the entire Christian world is nourished from the ciboria and cups which will never go empty or run dry, and which contain not merely natural food and drink, but Jesus himself under the appearance of bread and wine. 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 | June 15, 2015

Feast of Saint Alice (15 June 2015)

At the beginning of the public life of Jesus, according to the gospel of Saint Matthew, he sat on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee and delivered the famous “Sermon on the Mount,” the most profound collection of moral principles the world has ever known. You can find that sermon in chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Saint Matthew’s gospel. It begins with the beatitudes “Blessed (or happy) are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and the rest of them.

[Pope Saint] John Paul II, in commenting on the beatitudes one time said that they are a self-portrait of Jesus. He describes what he is like, and then says to the world: be like me. He is the perfect human being, the examplar and ideal of all human life. The more we resemble him, the more truly “Christian” we become, the holier, the more pleasing to God the Father, the more successful at full human living. This is a beautiful and very encouraging concept: Jesus asks us to be like himself. The beatitudes are the exact opposite of the principles of the secular, selfish, wealth-seeking, power-seeking, pleasure-seeking, and hostile world in which we live.

We should meditate on the beatitudes often and often remind ourselves: this is the kind of person Jesus is, and his blessed mother, and all the saints. This is the kind of person I am called to be. Lord, grant that I may always use these beatitudes as an examination of conscience to see how I am doing in my Christian life. 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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