Posted by: fvbcdm | April 25, 2018

Feast of Saint Mark (25 April 2018)

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Mark, the author of the second Gospel and a disciple of Saint Peter.  Scripture scholars tell us that when we read the gospel according to Saint Mark, we are really reading the preaching of Saint Peter, which Mark heard time and again and eventually wrote down to preserve for posterity.

Saint Mark is thought to be buried under the main altar of the basilica of Saint Mark in Venice.  He probably died in the city of Alexandria in the Nile delta of Egypt.  When Islam was founded and spread across all of North Africa, many of the most sacred objects and relics in that part of the world were brought to the Catholic cities north of the Mediterranean to preserve them from desecration at the hands of the Muslims.  Thus Saint Mark’s body was brought to Venice and became the most precious treasure of that city. Even before that, the four animals which are mentioned in the Book of Revelation were held to be symbolic of the writers of the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  The four animals were the man, the lion, the ox, and the eagle. These were seen as the four living things which were the wisest, the noblest, the strongest, and the swiftest. Thus the lion has been associated with Saint Mark and Saint Mark’s city, Venice, for centuries.

I hope that you have visited the charming city of Venice or will do so some day.  Built on a series of islands in a lagoon at the northeastern end of the Adriatic Sea, it has canals where other cities have streets.  The islands are joined by bridges which gracefully arch over the canals high enough to permit gondolas and other kinds of boats to pass underneath them.  Everywhere you see the sign of the lion, and the very heart of the city is the large Piazza San Marco—Saint Mark Square—providing a beautiful setting for the basilica of Saint Mark and its very tall bell tower from the top of which can be seen wonderful views of the city, its waterways, piazzas, and bridges.  In very recent church history, three of the archbishops of Venice (they are traditionally called “patriarchs”) have been elected to the papacy.  They have been Saint Pius X, Blessed John XXIII, and Pope John Paul I.

A few years ago, when I was pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Houston, a family of my parishioners brought to me a white marble plaque depicting the Lion of Saint Mark.  I am very fond of it and hung it over the door of the church leading to the priory.  Whenever I see that plaque which probably came from Venice, I am grateful to those who brought it to our parish.  Today, on the feast of Saint Mark, I will go there to look at it again and pray to Saint Mark for those who brought me that very nice souvenir. 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 | April 24, 2018

Feast of Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen (24 April 2018)

I don’t mind admitting it—I am a monarchist.  I see much value in the monarchies of England and the other countries that have kings and queens and a social order based upon a monarchical structure.  For that reason, I watched with much interest on Tuesday of this week as the funeral services for the Queen Mother Elizabeth of England were performed.  The British know how to carry things like that off with great dignity and good taste, and as always, they set me to thinking of the proper role of monarchy in the lives of the people.

When we see the pomp and splendor which surrounds the royal family on occasions like that, what we should be seeing is the nobility, dignity, and value of every human being.  The king or queen of a nation is supposed to represent all that is best and finest in the population and to personify the qualities which the nation cherishes as its highest expressions of human achievement and perfection.

But here, there arises the problem of those who occupy those exalted positions without living lives of nobility, dignity, and goodness.  The old lady who is being buried this week was certainly a beautiful example of what is best and finest in the British monarchy and in the British people.  No scandal ever touched her life, no gross immorality, nothing to contradict the Christian values of home, family, fidelity, duty, decency, and morality.  For more than fifteen years, she ruled as the Queen Consort of the British Empire.  And then for more than fifty years, she presided with grace and charm in the lives of her people, giving them every reason to admire her, to look up to her, to be proud of her.

It is not what she DID that made her great.  It is what she WAS. She was an example, a model. That is the great opportunity of everyone in public life. Whether in monarchy or social life or politics or entertainment or the arts or the sciences or education or religion, many people have a tremendous chance to influence others for the good.  But the opposite is also true—they can be examples of the worst in human life.  Some of our movie actors, for example, and our rock stars who live lives of great ugliness, outrageous behavior, immoral sex lives, unfaithful marriages, abuse of drink, drugs, etc.  Some professors in our colleges try to turn the minds of their students away from God to atheism or agnosticism or relativism.  Those of us who in any way live a public life must be very careful: we have a great burden of responsibility and will have to answer at the judgment for the way we have influenced others.  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 | April 23, 2018

Feast of Saint George (23 Apr 2018)  

In the readings at Mass this Friday, we hear the prophet Jeremiah praying: O Lord of hosts, let me witness the vengeance you take on my enemies, for to you have I entrusted my cause.

We contrast these Old Testament passages with those of the New Testament describing Our Lord’s last days before His crucifixion.  The sufferings and death of Our Divine Lord were the most unjust crimes ever committed in the history of our world, for they were perpetrated upon God Himself.  It is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity who is being mocked, whipped, crowned with thorns, forced to stumble under a cross, and then nailed to it to die in unspeakable pain. And why?  Because He was fulfilling God’s plan for the salvation of the race, including those very ones who are causing Him such grief.

So when the word “vengeance” occurs, we need to ask ourselves: what kind of vengeance does Our Lord seek?  What does He want done to those who torture and kill Him?  And the answer is loud and clear in sacred scripture: He offers them grace and mercy, which, if they will make use of these divine gifts, will lead them to repentance and conversion, and thus to union with Him here and hereafter.  Jesus looks down from the cross into the hate-twisted faces of his enemies who are mocking Him and saying: if you are the Son of God, come down from that cross.  But He can’t come down from the cross, for it is on the cross that He will redeem them.  “Father, forgive them,” He prays. He pours His grace into their hearts.  They are free to accept or reject it, but if they accept it, it will lead them to turn from their hatred to love and to beg His forgiveness, and He says: there is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine who don’t need repentance. Let us look often at the figure of Our Divine Lord on the cross, loving us, suffering for us, saving us. And let us offer Him the great gift which brings Him joy: our continual repentance and conversion to Him. 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 | April 20, 2018

Feast of Saint Agnes of Montepulciano (20 Apr 2018)

In the Gospel Our Divine Lord says: “If you live according to my teaching, you are truly my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  When Pilate asks Jesus if he is a king, as he has been charged with claiming, Our Lord says, “That is your terminology, not mine.  I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.” Again, this crucial element of divine truth which motivates all that Jesus says and does.

Right now, we have a very tragic situation here in New Orleans involving my alma mater, Loyola University of the South which claims to be a Catholic school.  It has invited the president of the National Organization of Women, a pro-abortion group, to speak on its campus.  Recently, it invited Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the justices of the Supreme Court and an advocate of the so-called abortion rights, to speak there.

In defense of the choice of these pro-abortion women to speak on this professedly Catholic campus, a spokeswoman there had this to say in the morning paper: “I can think of no speaker who should be barred from speaking on a college campus.”  By saying this, she betrays a profound misunderstanding of the whole nature and purpose of Catholic education.  The church has, as the reason for its existence, to continue doing in the world the same thing that Jesus came to do, namely, to teach, sanctify, and save humankind. It does this by bearing witness to doctrinal and moral truth, just as Jesus did.

From its earliest years, the Church has conducted schools to teach the gospel of Christ.  If those schools teach secular subjects for the convenience of the students, that’s fine.  But their primary purpose is always evangelization.  Thus a Catholic school has the same obligation to teach doctrine and morals as does the Church itself.  How foolish and wrong it would be to say that we can’t think of a single speaker who should be barred from the pulpits of our churches.  It is equally wrong and foolish for that statement to be made by a spokesperson of a Catholic university.  And it is deplorable that the Jesuit Fathers who own and operate Loyola University here in New Orleans lack the courage and integrity to prevent these serious errors and to remain totally loyal to the Church and to our Holy Father the Pope.  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 | April 19, 2018

Feast of Pope Saint Leo IX (19 April 2018)

The Communion antiphon for the Mass of Thursday of the third week of Easter says this: “Christ died for all, so that living men should not live for themselves, but for Christ who died and was raised to life for them.  Alleluia.”

As we continue to celebrate Our Divine Lord’s return to new and eternal life from his death and hours in the tomb, we might well think of this. God of Himself and in Himself cannot die.  So the Word of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, took upon Himself our human nature, with a body, so that He could suffer and die in atonement for our sins.  Thus, as a man, Jesus lived, suffered, and died for us.  For you and for me.  We must not think of this merely in statistical or historical fashion, as if Our Lord gave his life for a huge, amorphous, impersonal mass of people.  He suffered and died with YOU in mind, and ME.  It was a personal gift of the highest order to us; no one has done, or will do, for us what Jesus our Redeemer has done.

The antiphon goes on: so that living men should not live for themselves, but for Christ who died and was raised to life for them.  It is great that we can know the joy of the Resurrection, of the great festival of Easter.  But do we clothe it with reality by living the life that Jesus has won for us?  There are many people who are willing to take the joy of some celebration, but not allow the reality that underlies it to influence their lives.  People have a great time on the 4th of July with barbecues and fireworks, but do they truly appreciate the freedom of this great nation of ours?  People get together and eat turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day, but are they genuinely thankful to God for all our blessings?  There are many to whom Christmas means nothing more than Santa Claus or office parties or gift-giving; for many others, Easter is just a time to dye eggs and buy new spring clothes.

It must not be like that with us.  If we celebrate Easter, the Resurrection of Our Divine Savior, we must live according to His holy will.  Otherwise, our celebration is empty and not truly Christian.  Therefore, let us live for the Risen Christ. 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 | April 18, 2018

Feast of Saint Galdinus (18 April 2018)

Don’t be afraid.  These words ring out in the scriptures time and again, both in the Old Testament and in the New.  Jesus used them a number of times in His life, and the present Pope, John Paul II, began his pontificate 24 years ago with them.

I was reminded of them recently when a man in our parish was talking to me about the scandals involving some of our American priests and bishops.  He said, “I feel uneasy about all this talk of scandals.”  I think we all do; it is the most tragic thing to occur to the Church in America within our lifetime.  However, we must always bear in mind those words of Jesus and of our Holy Father: Don’t be afraid.  We must bear in mind that history has its ups and downs.  In terms of the Church, we have been fortunate to live in good times.  For the last 150 or more years, our Popes have been exemplary men and for the most part, our Bishops have been exemplary shepherds and leaders.  We have had the tremendous gift of the Second Vatican Council which will benefit the Church for centuries, even though some of its decrees have been misunderstood and distorted.  And of course, we have had the splendid pontificate of Pope John Paul II, one of the greatest of all the popes.

When we are tempted to “feel uneasy” about what is going on among the members of the Church, let’s just remember that during the tumultuous days of the 14th century, there were three men all claiming to be the real Pope, and the Catholic world was divided in its allegiance to one or other of them.  There have been days in nearly every country in the world when to be a Catholic or to attend Mass was a capital offense which could cost one his head.  As recently as 1927 and as near to us as Mexico, Catholics died for their faith, including the famous Blessed Miguel Pro, a young Jesuit priest who was shot by the viciously anti-Catholic government of that time.  Our fellow Catholics are suffering death and persecution in China right now for their allegiance to the Holy Father rather than to the government-organized religion which poses as Catholic but in fact is not. And we know what has gone on in the Communist world from 1917 until the collapse of the Soviet empire, and what is still going on in Cuba.

“Upon this rock I will build My church,” said Jesus, referring to Saint Peter, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  If not the gates of hell, then neither a relatively small number of priests who have used the Church as a shelter for their evil desires and deeds. 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 | April 16, 2018

Feast of Saint Bernadette Soubirous (16 April 2018)

In the sacred liturgy for Thursday of this week, we find Moses mentioned in both of the readings at Mass.  In the first one, he is pleading with God not to punish the people as they deserve for fashioning a golden calf—a pagan idol—and worshiping it even as Moses is on the mountaintop in the Sinai peninsula, receiving from the hands of God the life-giving law.  Earlier Moses had complained bitterly to God for the stubbornness of the people and their endless griping about the way God dealt with them.  But now, when God seems ready to strike them down, Moses’s softer nature comes to the fore.  Don’t do that, he pleads to God in effect.  What would the Egyptians say if they find out that you have brought all the Hebrews out of Egypt into this desert, and then killed them all?  Remember the promises that you made, O Lord, to our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Be merciful; spare your people.  Thus Moses shows himself to be not only the great law-giver of the Old Testament, but also the mediator between an angry God and a sinful people.  This is by way of prophecy, for 12 centuries later, Our Lord Jesus Christ will appear on the scene as the divine law-giver and mediator.

Then, in the Gospel, Jesus argues with the stubborn, hard-hearted people who surround Him.  He says: if you don’t believe my words, then believe my deeds, the miracles which I perform.  They prove my divinity, or at least the fact that God is with me. And since they have been nit-picking with Him because they claim that he doesn’t observe the Sabbath properly, he says to them: Moses will be your judge in this case.  Read Moses.  If you understood Moses properly, you would believe in me because I am the fulfillment of all that Moses was and said and did.  This is why at the moment of the Transfiguration, the chosen apostles see Christ flanked by Moses and Elijah in glory. Jesus is greater than either of them, and fulfills both.  As we approach the climax of our Lent, we approach Our Divine Lord with the wounds of His crucifixion in hands, feet, and side.  With these terrible wounds, which are also glorious trophies, Jesus appears before his heavenly father and says to Him about us:  Be merciful.  Spare your people, who are now my human brothers and sisters. 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 | April 13, 2018

Feast of Pope Saint Martin I (13 April 2018)

This weekend we come to that passage in the Gospel which describes the scene that I would most like to have been present at.  It occurred on the afternoon of that first Easter Sunday, when the two disillusioned disciples were returning to their homes after the death of Jesus.  They felt that their dreams had collapsed.  Their bubble had burst, and the beautiful life to which Jesus had introduced them was all just a fabulous but untrue myth.  Then Jesus came along and began talking to them, without their knowing it was He.  When they expressed to Him their sadness at the end of so beautiful an experience, He said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets spoke!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?”

Then, Saint Luke tells us, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to him in ALL the scriptures.  Later, when He had disappeared from them, they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”

For years in the seminary, I sat in class listening to what seemed like the endless lectures on philosophy, theology, scripture, canon law, church history, and the rest of our curriculum.  Every once in a while, the professor would come up with an insight or an explanation that struck me as so beautiful, so cogent that it was for me really a peak experience.  I was able to drift around on cloud 9 for hours or sometimes even days after that, just luxuriating in that new grasp of a truth that God has revealed to us.  So this moment on Easter afternoon was terrifically meaningful to me.  Imagine having the opportunity to learn theology and the Old Testament from the lips of the Savior Himself and hearing Him explain His own coming into this world and His redemption of humankind!  I would love to have been a fly on the wall during that conversation!  Surely one of the greatest happinesses of heaven will be a clear understanding of all these realities about Our Lord Jesus Christ.  So we take them on faith now, and look forward to the moment when we will see clearly as much as our finite minds can grasp of the infinite truth and goodness of God.  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 | April 11, 2018

Feast of Saint Stanislaus of Krakow (11 April 2018) 

We here in the New World have a different concept of time from that in Europe.  Our city of New Orleans was founded in the year 1718, and we think of that as being a very long time ago.  When we visit our French Quarter with its old buildings, we marvel at their great age and think of them as being venerable because of their longevity.  But once, I was in a shop in Saint Francis’s town of Assisi, which seemed very old.  I asked the shopkeeper about its history.  She pointed out to me that there was an obvious demarcation between the upper and lower parts of the walls.  The upper part had been added to the building about the time of Saint Francis in the 13th century, while the lower, and original, part of the building had been put up about the time of Christ!   Amazing! 

 

On April 11, the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Stanislaus of Poland, a holy bishop of the city of Krakow.  Our Holy Father Pope John Paul II was also the bishop of Krakow at the time he was elected Pope; thus, he is the direct successor of Saint Stanislaus in that archdiocese.  And Saint Stanislaus became bishop of Krakow in the year 1072, four hundred years before the discovery of America and almost a thousand years ago from our present time.

 

At the time that Cardinal Newman came into the Church, he remarked that history is on our side.  Those who study history with an open mind cannot but be struck by the presence and the influence of Catholicism in western civilization for the past two millennia.  The Church was already 1000 years old when Saint Stanislaus became the bishop of Krakow, when the Norman conquest of England took place, and William the Conqueror began the construction of the Tower of London and Windsor Castle, that figure so prominently in British history and modern tourism, when the Crusaders built the basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.   Against the time frame of the Church, we are indeed a NEW world; our great nation is less than 250 years old.  We are the heirs of our holy religion, which was brought to us by European missionaries, who in turn received it from the earlier missionaries from the Near East where Our Lord founded His Church.  And they had received the teachings of Our Lord from His Apostles themselves.

 

Let us try to be worthy of so venerable, so noble a heritage and put it into effective practice in our own 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 | April 10, 2018

Feast of Saint Fulbert (10 April 2018)

Our parish of Saint Dominic is fortunate to have a bell tower with three fine bells that are programmed to ring the Angelus at morning, noon, and evening.  I love this devotion; it is ancient, venerable, and very much in keeping with our holy faith.  You are probably familiar with the painting by the 19th century French artist Millet called “The Angelus”.  It shows a group of peasants standing in a wheatfield, praying the Angelus.  A church steeple in the distance suggests that they have heard the ringing of the Angelus bells and know that it is time to pray.

Let us reflect for a few moments on what the Angelus actually says.  With the first ringing of the single bell three times, we say: the Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.  And then, a Hail Mary, the prayer that begins with the words by which the angel greeted the young virgin of Nazareth.  At the second ringing, we say Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word —  the words of Our Lady in response to the angelic message. And another Hail Mary.  And at the third ringing, And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us—Saint John’s simple and beautiful description of the Incarnation of our Divine Lord. And a third Hail Mary.  Then the final prayer: Pour forth, we beseech you O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross, be brought to the glory of his resurrection.  We ask this through Christ Our Lord.

You notice: through His passion and cross, may we be brought to the glory of His resurrection. Just as Our Lord had to undergo his sufferings and death, so do we undergo ours.  And beyond the moment of death there awaits us the brightness of eternity with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and with the most holy Mother of God to whom the angel first brought this message of joy and hope.  During Lent, we do our penances so as to have a share in the sufferings of Jesus, and then at its end we rejoice with him in His rising to new life.  Three times each day, the Angelus serves to remind us of this and thus to help us reflect upon these basic facts of our faith, our hope, our love. 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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