Posted by: fvbcdm | April 21, 2021

Feast of Saint Anselm (21 April 2021)

I like the way Saint Paul speaks to the Romans when he says, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Think about that for a moment. “Wages” is another word for “salary.” When you work, you get a salary, agreed upon between employer and employee beforehand. So, when we sin and die spiritually, we are getting what we deserve. There is an element of justice there. But Saint Paul doesn’t use the term “wages” at all when it comes to our living as God asks of us. He doesn’t call that “wages,” but rather “the gift of God.” A gift is not part of justice. It is a result of gratuitousness, kindness, love, esteem. When the schoolboy mows the neighbor’s lawn for the prearranged price of $5, and the neighbor gives him his $5, that is justice. But if the neighbor ALSO gives him a slice of freshly baked apple pie with a big scoop of ice-cream on it, that is a gift. That did not enter into the original agreement. 

We “work” for God in the sense that we obey his word, his commandments, his holy will. And do we get a just salary for this “work”? Listen to Paul’s words again: “the eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to imagine what God has prepared for those who love him.” The reward for our virtue is so great that we can’t even envision things like that. That is not strict justice; that is the divine abundance and generosity of a loving father who, because he is God, is totally unlimited in what he can give us. How fortunate we are to be working, not for wages, but for divine generosity and 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. 

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 9, 2021

Easter Friday (9 April 2021)

The Sunday that we’ll be celebrating this weekend has gone by a number of names in the history of the Church. Back in the days when the liturgy was in Latin, the Sundays were usually designated by the first word of their entrance antiphon—the “Introit” as it was called then.  And the Sunday after Easter began, and still begins when the entrance antiphon is not replaced by an opening hymn, by the words “Like newborn children. . .” And the Latin word used to begin that antiphon is “Quasimodo.”  So the Sunday after Easter was “Quasimodo Sunday.”  In the famous novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo, the abandoned baby is found on the steps of Paris’s cathedral on the morning of the Sunday after Easter, so the priests called him “Quasimodo.”  In Advent we have a Gaudete Sunday; in Lent, a Laetare Sunday—again, names taken from the opening word of the entrance antiphon of that day. 

Then, this Sunday came to be called “Low Sunday” to distinguish it from the very HIGH Sunday the week before. And now, it is the Sunday of Divine Mercy, so called by our late Pope, [Saint] John Paul II.  We use as the first reading of this Sunday’s Mass a passage from the first letter of Saint Peter, where the Prince of the Apostles tells us that God “in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And then, in the gospel we read of what happened on the night of that first Easter Sunday. The risen Savior came into the upper room where his apostles were gathered. He greeted them with the Hebrew “Shalom”: Peace be with you. Then he breathed on them (“breath” in Hebrew is the same as “spirit”) and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” Another one of these stupendous gifts of God to humanity for our salvation. He gave us the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper; he gave his life on the cross; now he gives to his newly ordained bishops and priests the power of forgiving sins. 

When a soldier defeated an enemy in those days, he could bring home with him any booty or plunder from the battlefield or the country of the defeated enemy. The newly risen Christ brings with him from his encounter with death and his conquest of it a choice piece of plunder indeed: he had made atonement for our sins by his death on the cross, and now brings back with him divine mercy, forgiveness, pardon.  If I were to say to a penitent who comes to confession all that I might say, I could say, “we have sinned. But Jesus wants to forgive us and bring us back into the circle of his love, so he died in atonement for our sins. And on rising from the dead, the first thing he gave to his first bishops and priests was the power to forgive sin, to dispense mercy, to pardon, to reconcile, to make clean again.” This is Divine Mercy Sunday. He wants to forgive us more than we want to be forgiven. He loves us more than we love him, even though he is infinitely lovable, and we certainly are not. But you see, love is measured not by the lovability of the beloved, but by the love of the lover. And Christ, our lover, is infinitely loving. 

And Jesus wants to forgive us “not seven times, but seventy times seven times.” And so we pray particularly on this beautiful Sunday, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have MERCY on us! 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 8, 2021

Easter Thursday (8 April 2021)

When I was in grade school, one of the Sisters suggested to us that we use the tabernacle light in church as a symbol of ourselves. It burns there all the time to remind us that Jesus is present in the tabernacle. It is quiet; it doesn’t misbehave, doesn’t cause a fuss or create a problem, and as it burns day and night, dependably, reliably, it spends itself in its mission of proclaiming Jesus, and finally, when it is totally consumed, it goes out and is replaced by another one. The Sister went on to say that we should be like that: always proclaiming by our authentically Christian lives that Jesus is here, in our hearts, minds, words, actions, attitudes. And that we should quietly and faithfully consume ourselves by lives of service of God until the day comes when we have finished our duties in this world and can surrender ourselves into the hands of our Creator. It’s a beautiful idea; I have thought of it often when in a church or chapel with the tabernacle light beside or near the tabernacle where Our Divine Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is always present. 

During this Easter time, we might also give our attention to the Easter candle that burns in our churches. Each of them was blessed with great solemnity at the beginning of the Easter vigil, carried into a darkened church, set on a stand in a very conspicuous place so as to be seen by all in the church, and then used as a source of light for all the individual candles held by those in the church, so that soon the entire church is aglow with the light from the Easter candle, which of course symbolizes the risen Savior who first said to us “I am the light of the world.” Then, after preaching to his disciples, he told them, “YOU are the light of the world.” Whether on the lips of Our Lord or those of his disciples who repeat it endlessly throughout the history of the world, divine truth is the light of the world, guiding all men to their eternal destination. 

During the lifetime of Saint Therese of Lisieux, there lived another Carmelite nun in another monastery in France. She was Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, recently beatified and, I hope, soon to be canonized. Her spirituality is centered upon the Holy Trinity dwelling in those in the state of grace. One day, as she was reading Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, she came across the passage (Ephesians 1:14) that says that we are destined to praise the glory of God. She was deeply struck by those words, and from then on, she thought of herself as a living praise of the glory of God. When we see the Easter candle giving its own quiet, steady, lovely praise to the risen Lord, we can apply that to ourselves also. The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our faith. “If Christ is not risen,” as St. Paul says, “our faith is in vain.” But Christ IS risen, and our faith is rock-solid. And we can think of ourselves as candles, burning steadily to give glory and witness to our risen Savior. By our faith, by our joy, by the good example of our lives, each of us becomes an incarnate “Alleluia.” 

So let us see ourselves as witnesses to the risen Christ, men and women who live in praise of his glory and who gladly share our light with our fellow men and women in this world of ours. 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 7, 2021

Easter Wednesday (7 April 2021)

Today we come to my favorite passage in the gospels.  It occurs in the last chapter of the gospel according to Saint Luke.  I have always thought that if I could have been present at any moment in the life of Jesus, either before or after his resurrection, it would be that one.  We all know the story: two of our Lord’s disciples are returning from Jerusalem to their own homes, evidently in the village of Emmaus.  They are deeply disappointed and saddened because they thought that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, and now all their hopes and joy have been destroyed because his enemies were able to capture him and kill him.  So much for their messianic dreams and faith! Then a stranger catches up with them, going the same way.  They begin to talk; he sees that they are dejected, and they admit that they hoped Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, but then, the beautiful bubble burst.  He hears them out, and then begins to speak.  “How foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets said!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and thus enter into his glory?”  They listened in fascination!  He seemed to know what he was talking about.  It made sense. 

Their previous delight over Jesus, his preaching, his miracles, his marvelous personality, came rushing back into their minds and hearts.  They came to the town to which they were going, but he seemed to be going farther on.  And they said to him one of the most touching things addressed to our divine Lord in all of scripture.  They said, “Stay with us. It’s getting dark and the day is nearly over.”  He went with them for supper.  They sat at table, he blessed and broke bread and gave it to them. And in that wonderful moment, they recognized him.  It was Jesus himself!  Alive, as fascinating as ever; full of truth. And before they could even embrace him or ask him what it was like to be dead and now to be alive again, he vanished from their sight.  And now they say something else very touching, very beautiful. “Weren’t our hearts BURNING within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”  This time there would be no disappointments, no sorrow, no dashed hopes or destroyed faith.  They rushed back to Jerusalem where they met with the apostles and each told the other their experiences of that day—that first Easter Sunday. 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 6, 2021

Easter Tuesday (6 April 2021)

As we continue celebrating the resurrection of Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ during this eight-day period, called an octave—the octave of Easter—we have the opportunity to contemplate the events of that first Easter Sunday when Our Lord gladdened the world by emerging glorious and triumphant from the tomb. 

Who were the holy women and the men who were faithful to Our Lord during the terrible hours of his sufferings and death and then the glorious ones of his resurrection? When we read all four gospel accounts of Our Lord’s death and resurrection, we find basic agreement among them but also each of them adds its own elements to the story. 

A group of sympathetic women whom Jesus calls “Daughters of Jerusalem” follow him through the streets of the city from Pilate’s palace where Jesus was condemned out to the hill of Calvary where he was crucified. An ancient tradition, but not found in the gospel accounts, is that a sympathetic woman took pity on Jesus as he made his painful way to Calvary; she wiped his face with a cloth and in gratitude for that act of kindness, Our Lord left the image of his face on that cloth. When Saint Francis of Assisi composed the devotion that we call “the Stations of the Cross,” he incorporated that tradition into the list of those stations. 

At Calvary, near the cross of Jesus, the four gospels place Our Lady, Saint Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, a woman named Salome who was probably the mother of the apostles John and James, another person called Mary who was the wife of someone named Clopas, a woman named Joanna, and then Saint Mark speaks of “many other women.” 

The men at Calvary were less numerous; only one of the twelve apostles seems to have been there, and that was Saint John the apostle and evangelist, into whose care the dying Savior entrusted his blessed Mother. Then there was Joseph of Arimathea who volunteered his unused tomb for the burial of Jesus. And Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin (the high court of the Jewish nation) but a secret disciple of Jesus who had visited Jesus by night so as not to be seen visiting the wonder worker of Galilee in broad daylight. These two, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, took charge of Our Lord’s burial when his body was taken down from the cross. 

On that first Easter Sunday morning, Mary Magdalen, Mary mother of James, Joanna, and Salome brought aromatics to the tomb hoping to place them around the body of Jesus, only to find the tomb open and empty and to see the risen Lord in his glory. 

Saints Peter and John, two of the apostles, also went to the tomb and found the same thing, but they evidently did not see Jesus until that night when they were gathered in the upper room where the Last Supper had been eaten before Our Lord’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemani on the Mount of Olives. 

We have all these friends of Jesus with whom we can identify in our joy over the resurrection of Jesus and whom we can invoke in asking for a greater faith and devotion to the risen Lord, who says to us in the gospel: I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly. 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 5, 2021

Easter Monday (5 April 2021)

In 1963, Easter Sunday fell on April 14. The next day, my classmates and I were ordained to the priesthood. For that reason, I celebrate two anniversaries each springtime: Easter Monday, and April 15, on both of which I received the great gift of the priesthood, to which I had looked forward nearly all my life. I ask you today to join me in thanking God for the gift of his Divine Son Our Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, for the gift of the Church, the Sacraments, and especially the sacrament of Holy Orders, and most particularly for my vocation to this priestly state of life.

Yesterday, on Easter Sunday, I was invited to spend the day with friends. At their home, I met two of their friends: a mother and college-aged son who had been received into the Church at the Easter Vigil, the night before. So it was a celebration marked by special joy and happiness—the Sacred Chrism almost literally still moist upon their heads, and the wonder of their incorporation into the mystical Body of Christ still filling their hearts with happiness.

All this week we will be celebrating the Resurrection of Our Victorious Lord from the tomb into new and eternal life. The words “victorious” and “victor” come from the Latin verb “vincere,” meaning “to win, to conquer.” Our Lord Jesus won over sin, evil, and death, and became the divine Victor, the quintessential Conqueror who by his sufferings and death made it possible for all of us to triumph over all kinds of evil, including death. Since the name “Victor” was given to me at the time of my entrance into our Dominican family, it is very meaningful to me and in a sense makes Easter my special feast day. I always like it when we call the risen Christ our Victor—our winner, our conqueror. As the young David brought down the enemy giant Goliath and shared his victory with his people in the Old Testament, so Jesus, the young Savior, brought down the power of Satan and shares his victory with his people in the New.

So let us rejoice in the victory, the triumph of our Lord as he rose from the tomb, and let us pray our Alleluias with special fervor and happiness. “Alleluia” means “Praise the Lord” in Hebrew, and is the greatest cry of exultation in all of sacred scripture—the shout of a happy people who have been rescued from evil by their Lord and 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 3, 2021

Holy Saturday (3 April 2021)

Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday are, in a sense, one great Christian festival.  On Holy Saturday, those who love Our Lord heave a sigh of relief that his sufferings are over and he is resting in the tomb, on the divinely-instituted day of rest — the Sabbath.  As God the Creator rested on the first Saturday after creating the world, so God the Redeemer rested in the tomb on that Saturday after redeeming the world by his death on the cross.  We say, in the Apostles Creed, “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell — or, as a better translation has it, he descended to the dead — On the third day he rose again.  What does it mean that “he descended into hell”?  That is an English translation of the Latin term “ad inferos,” meaning “to the lower world.”  The soul of Our Lord did not go to the hell of the condemned, but rather to those who died in God’s grace before Jesus did.  They awaited there the moment of his salvation.  All the holy patriarchs, prophets, and virtuous people who lived from the time of the original sin until that day when Jesus died on the cross — all were eagerly awaiting his redemption.  Now, he goes to announce to them that their waiting is over and very soon they will be with him in heaven.  So soon, in fact, that when he spoke to the good thief on the cross beside his own, he said, “THIS DAY, you will be with me in Paradise.”

Then the day of rest ended with the setting of the sun that Saturday night. Not only did the sun set upon one day, but upon the Old Testament; it rose to the New Testament of the resurrected Christ. Imagine the joy that Saint Joseph, who would have been among those who waited, experienced when Our Lord came to bring the good news.  And then let us try to imagine the immense happiness that flooded the immaculate heart of Our Lady when the newly-risen Christ came to her on that first Easter morning.  The first annunciation had caused her to be deeply disturbed, as Saint Luke’s gospel tells us. The archangel has to reassure her: “Mary, do not be afraid.”  But this time, there is no disturbance, no need for reassurance.  This ineffably beautiful son of hers whom she literally adores for he is God, is the most thrilling thing she has ever seen as he stands before her and, no doubt, embraces her in all the glory of his new life.  She is transformed into one exultant cry: “Alleluia”!

Let us unite ourselves with the joy of the Mother of God as she, and we, celebrate the resurrection of Our Savior into the new life which he shares with us. 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 1, 2021

Holy Thursday (1 April 2021)

Today is Holy Thursday, the birthday of two of Our Divine Lord’s greatest gifts to us: Himself in the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist, and then the sacrament of Holy Orders, by which the Eucharist will be perpetuated among his people until the end of time. 

Earlier on during his public life, Jesus promised a large crowd of people whom he had just fed by a miraculous multiplication of bread and fish that he would one day give them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink. The idea of that was so repulsive to them that some of them “walked with him no more,” as the gospel tells us. When he saw their disbelief and their departure, did he call them back to explain what he meant? No, he did not.  He wanted their faith and trust in him. If they did not believe and trust to that degree, then he let them go. But then, at that Passover meal on the night before he died, he fulfilled the promise he had made. He took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his apostles and said, “Take this and eat of it. This is my body.” And after the meal, he took a cup of wine, blessed it, and said again to the apostles, “Take this and drink of it. This is the cup of my blood.” And then he added, “Do this in commemoration of me.” 

We can’t have the Holy Eucharist, that is, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, without the sacrament of Holy Orders, because only bishops and priests have received the spiritual power to consecrate bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Down through the ages, many non-believers in the true Eucharist have come up with their own ideas as to what it is. Many of our separated Christian brothers say it is only a symbol of Christ. Others say Jesus is present in the Eucharist only at the moment of communion, but does not remain in the consecrated bread and wine. Others make it totally subjective and say that it is Christ’s body if the receiver believes that it is Christ’s body—it’s all a matter of personal opinion. 

The apostles who were there at the Last Supper and made their First Communion that night, as well as being ordained bishops and priests by Our Lord, gave to the Church the authentic doctrine of the Eucharist which has come down within the Catholic community for these two thousand years, and will continue to be believed, produced, and received by the faithful until the end of time. 

Jesus gave to his Church the sacrament of the Eucharist to be the very heart and center of our love of him, our Christian life, our spiritual union with him. We are essentially a eucharistic people. Take away the Eucharist, and you destroy the Church. And take away the bishops and priests, and you have no Eucharist. 

So, on this Holy Thursday, let us be very grateful to Our Blessed Lord for these two tremendous gifts: Himself in the Eucharist, and the priesthood by which the Eucharist is daily made present for us. All over the world, our priests are exercising their Eucharistic ministry: celebrating Mass and giving Holy Communion to those who wish to receive it. All over the world, there are Catholic churches, chapels, monasteries, and convents in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved for the adoration of the people of God. All over the world, those who love Jesus in the Eucharist are receiving him with devotion and love so as to nourish their spiritual lives and help them to live as Jesus wills. Be especially grateful today for your faith in the Eucharist and its availability to you. And help me to be grateful today for the priesthood to which I have been called. [Soon] I will celebrate the [52nd] anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, and I am deeply grateful to Our Lord for having shared his priesthood with me and placed into my hands the Eucharist for my own spiritual nourishment and that of all those to whom I have ministered during these years. 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 | March 31, 2021

Wednesday of Holy Week (31 March 2021)

Today is Wednesday of Holy Week, which was called “Spy Wednesday” in old England because we are told in the gospel of today’s Mass that Judas began to look for an opportunity to betray Our Divine Lord to his enemies—to spy on him—in order to earn the thirty pieces of silver they had promised him. And the main theme for this day in the liturgy is the OBEDIENCE of Our Lord. The entrance antiphon of today’s Mass says: “Christ became obedient for us even to death, dying on a cross.” Notice: “obedient for us.” He is always obedient to the Father, since the three divine Persons are totally conformed one to the others in their Divine Will. But Jesus became obedient FOR US even to the terrible extreme of dying on a cross. 

At the very beginning of our human race, our first parents allowed themselves to be seduced by Satan. Satan, a fallen angel, persuaded our mother Eve to disobey God. She in turn led her husband, Adam, to do the same. Thus, disobedience to God is the root of all our ills. What was needed by way of redemption and salvation was obedience. So, in the garden of Eden, we find an angel (fallen, but an angel nonetheless), a disobedient woman and a disobedient man. At the beginning of the New Covenant, we find another angel—the Archangel Gabriel—an obedient woman: the Mother of Jesus, and an obedient man: Our Divine Lord. 

In the opening prayer of today’s Mass, we address these words to our Heavenly Father: “your son Jesus Christ accepted the cross and freed us from the power of the enemy.” I remember one time seeing a picture which impressed me. It was of the second station of the Way of the Cross, where Jesus is given the cross to carry. The look on the face of Jesus in that picture was almost one of joy, and the way he stretched out his hands and arms to accept the cross seemed to embrace, to welcome, to be eager for this moment. After all, he had been awaiting this moment all his life. This cross would be the instrument of universal salvation; this cross would become the greatest of Christian symbols and a sign of faith, hope, and love. 

Let us think of this often when we make the sign of the cross or when we look upon a crucifix. Let us be grateful for the suffering of Jesus on the cross for our redemption. Let us be grateful for our own crosses by which we are conformed to the suffering Christ. And let us pray often, with great fervor: We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

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

Posted by: fvbcdm | March 30, 2021

Tuesday of Holy Week (30 March 2021)

Shortly before Our Lord’s suffering and death, he took Saints Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain in Galilee and there was transfigured before them so that his appearance became dazzlingly beautiful, majestic, glorious.  Moses and Elijah appeared, speaking to him. And the voice of God the Father was heard saying very clearly, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” 

Now, on Good Friday, that same Saint John who saw Jesus in such beauty and attractiveness, stands at the foot of the cross with Our Lady and the other friends of Jesus, and gazes at the horribly disfigured man on the cross. He probably wondered if this pitiable person, covered with his own blood and dust and grime, struggling to breathe, writhing in pain, could be the same as the resplendent, commanding figure on the mount of the transfiguration. 

It was, of course. The night before his crucifixion, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” Is this what he calls glorification—this torture, agony, ugliness, a dreadful death? Yes. Because by means of this, he saves the entire human race from permanent alienation from God.  Physical appearance has nothing to do with it. And besides that, in just about 40 hours from his last gasp on the cross, he would arise in tremendous beauty and newness of life, never again to suffer or die. And so, we place crucifixes in our churches, our homes, our schools, our hospitals, our religious communities. Isn’t that morbid?  Not at all. We have great veneration for the crucifix not primarily because it depicts an ordinary man dying, but because it depicts the God-man redeeming and saving. Redeeming and saving us. Opening for us the gates of eternal happiness. We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you; because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

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

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