Posted by: fvbcdm | March 2, 2015

Feast of Saint Agnes of Prague (2 Mar 2015)

This past Saturday, we had, for the third time in about six months, a solemn profession here in our monastery. That means that a young woman, after spending about nine months here as a postulant, two years as a novice, and at least three years in temporary vows, now makes her final and definitive commitment of herself to Our Divine Lord in religious life, specifically in our Dominican monastic life.

Almost as if he were commenting on this beautiful event that took place last Saturday, Saint Peter says to us in the first reading of today’s Mass: “Although you have not seen him you love him . . . even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy. . .”

Think of that for a moment. In the natural order, man and woman meet and get to know one another, and fall in love. They decide to espouse themselves to one another all their lives. So they marry, and if they are mature and intelligent and loving and generous, their marriage will be a success. In this case, a young woman has come to know Our Lord Jesus not in the natural way of one person coming to know another, but in terms of hearing the preaching of the gospel, believing it, and falling in love with the Savior who is the central figure of all Christianity. Not only does she fall in love with him, but she seeks to espouse herself to him in a commitment as solemn and sacred as marriage. She will never see his face with her bodily eyes in this life; she will never hear his voice with her bodily ears. She will never be able to embrace him physically. But the love affair between the two of them is one more case of Jesus drawing millions of men and women down through the centuries of the Church into this intimate relationship with him which causes religious to vow themselves to him, priests to serve him in Holy Orders, martyrs to die for him, and the ordinary Christian to live according to his holy will and so to become the salt of the earth, the light of the world.

No wonder we rejoice! Our Dominican life of priesthood and religious profession has been going on uninterruptedly for almost 800 years. Please God, it will continue as long as time continues. Be that as it may, we know by our faith in the Church which Christ founded that the sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony, and Holy Orders and the beautiful sacramental of religious profession will continue because they are of divine institution or invitation and spring from the very heart of the Christian faith.

As Our Lord said so beautifully to Saint Thomas who doubted no more when he saw him after the Resurrection, “You believe in me, Thomas, because you see me. Blessed are those who do NOT see, and yet believe.” 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 | February 27, 2015

Feast of Saint Anne Line  (27 Feb 2015)

At the beginning of his public life, just after his baptism by Saint John the Baptist, Our Divine Lord withdrew into the desert and there remained in prayer and fasting for forty days. That is the origin of the holy season of Lent which Catholics have observed since the earliest days of the Church.  Some people complained that Jesus was not requiring his disciples to fast as rigorously as some of the devout people among the Jews. In his answer, he did not deny or question the value of fasting, but said that he and his disciples will not be obliged to observe the old law—the law of Moses—in terms of fasting, but will have their own regulations about fasting. This makes it clear that Our Lord does not intend to oblige his followers to follow the old law of Moses, but rather that he is the new lawgiver in this new covenant that he was ushering in. Nonetheless, the practice of fasting is a solid one in both the old and new testaments.

One of the sad things that every confessor experiences is that when some people come to confession during Holy Week just before Easter, they must confess that they have done nothing in particular to observe the holy season of Lent. Therefore, for them, Lent was just a waste of time and a sad neglect of a precious opportunity for spiritual growth.

Let me ask you here and now: if you have not done so already, decide what you will do to observe Lent with special devotion. There are the three classic means of sanctification: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These are three broad categories in which there are many activities. Prayer can mean attending Mass, praying the Rosary, making the Way of the Cross, reading Scripture or the life of a saint or the catechism, or simply sitting or kneeling quietly for a few minutes, talking to God in the familiarity and the intimacy of our own hearts.

Fasting encompasses all sorts of physical self-denials. No food or drink, or both, between meals. Giving up some favorite food or drink. No beer, wine, or cocktails; no coffee; no dessert after dinner; no snack food while watching television. Or: no television, except perhaps for the news and the weather. I once heard of someone who deliberately waited for one day before opening the mail and allowing the unopened envelope to sit on his desk unread for twenty-four hours.  He enjoyed receiving mail, at least personal mail, and the wait was a real penance.

Almsgiving includes every form of kindness or helpfulness to others. It can take the form of giving money to worthy causes that help others, but it can also be a phone call to someone who is house-bound and lonely; a letter or a note to someone who would like to hear from you. The offer to take someone for a ride who doesn’t get out very much; the offer to baby-sit for a young mother while she goes shopping or runs other errands. Just a little inventiveness can come up with all sorts of ways of being helpful and kind to others. These are all particularly appropriate during Lent.

Above all, decide what you are going to do and then DO IT during Lent! It doesn’t have to be terribly difficult or heroic. Little things done with love are very precious in the sight of God. But to allow Lent to go by without doing anything special is lazy, irresponsible, and a great waste. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note: This message was composed some years ago.

Catholic Daily Message for the Feast of Saint Luigi Versiglia (25 Feb 2015)

In the last 24 hours, the media have become all excited over the fact that eight meat-packing employees in Nebraska chipped in a bought a ticket on the state lottery—and won! Their good fortune brings them each 15.5 millions dollars, after taxes!

Which leads us to the inevitable game that we play in our own minds: what would I do if someone suddenly handed me 15.5 million dollars? It’s interesting that item of news hits the headlines just when, in our sacred liturgy, we read from the letter of Saint James: “Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries!” Then Saint James goes on to indicate that he is talking about people who are wealthy because they have cheated, defrauded, and taken advantage of the poor. It reminds us of the saying of Our Lord: It is harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. He also tells us the parable of the rich man with the poor beggar, Lazarus, who sits at his doorstep each day in the hope of receiving something to eat. If you remember, the poor man ended in heaven; the rich man in hell.

We need to be careful about our use of wealth. Certainly, we have the right to live in reasonable dignity, comfort, and security. Likewise, we would like to see all the people on earth enjoying those conditions. But there is also the obligation to share what we have with the poor and the needy and good causes. What do you suppose those eight fortunate people in Nebraska will do with their 15.5 million dollars each? I hope that they will use that money in such a way that they will, in the words of Jesus, make friends with the money of evil. We cannot take money into eternal life. But we can take the merit of our generous use of it. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, says Our Lord. My every good action is a coin in the treasure that I can lay up in heaven. God grant that we may engage in wise spiritual bookkeeping. 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 | February 23, 2015

Feast of Saint Polycarp (23 Feb 2015)

An episode in the life of Jesus that Saint Mark recounts for us in his gospel is both comical and tragic. Our Lord and the apostles were returning to Caparnaum, which had become their headquarters during Jesus’s public life, and he was aware that they were discussing something as they walked behind him.

When they got into the house, he asked them what they were talking about on the road. They kept silence. Can you imagine: here are twelve adult men to whom Jesus directs a simple and direct question, and they don’t answer him. They just stand there like children who don’t want admit what they’ve been doing when in fact their hands have been in the cookie jar.

Then Saint Mark tells us that they didn’t want to answer Our Lord because they had been discussing—of all things!—which of them was the greatest!!! We are to understand greatest in terms of their future positions in the Lord’s kingdom. As I say, it would be comical if it weren’t tragic. Here you have four fishermen, a tax collector, and then seven others whose occupations before they became itinerant followers of Jesus we don’t know—but twelve adult men, ashamed to admit what they were talking about when they thought they were out of the earshot of Jesus.

Our Lord would have justified in getting angry with them and reprimanding them very severely for their utter lack of understanding of all that he stood for. But no; patient and loving as he is, he sits them down, brings a small child forward, puts his arms around the child, and says, “Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” We can imagine Our Lord saying, “Don’t you understand? It is not a question of being the greatest, but rather of humbling yourselves to be the smallest so as to be, not masters, but the servants of others in my kingdom.” He would give them a very graphic illustration of this concept on the night of the last supper, when he got down on the floor and washed their feet in preparation for the meal. Here is God, washing the feet of men.

We must always bear this picture in mind, my dear friends. Jesus washed the Apostles’ feet, over their protests because it was such a humbling and demeaning thing to do that they found it totally inappropriate for him to do such a thing. If you and I are to be the kind of people that Our Divine Lord wants us to be, we must be ready at all times to do whatever needs doing by way of service to our neighbor. If we stand on our supposed merits or dignity or elevated positions, we are not resembling Christ. “Those who exalt themselves,” he tells us, “shall be humbled. Those who humble themselves shall be exalted.” This is one of the most basic of all Christian principles. 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 | February 20, 2015

Feast of Saint Leo of Catania (20 Feb 2015)

It is interesting that when Our Divine Lord describes what will take place at the general judgment, he pictures a scenario in which the entire human race will be divided into two groups—those who are eligible for Heaven, and those who are not. And he will say to the former, “Come, blessed of my Father. I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was in prison and you visited me. . . .”

Now that I am going to visit a prison near here, those words of Jesus take on a wonderful new meaning. I will ask the inmates to think, and pray, very seriously over those words. I was in prison . . . I doubt very much that most of them have thought of this identification that Our Lord makes of himself with them. Given the past life of many of them, and the treatment they’ve received by the law-enforcement structure, they probably don’t feel much like Jesus.

Apropos of this, let me suggest that you read very slowly and prayerfully the 88th psalm, which begins: O Lord, my God, by day I cry out. . . On one of our visits to the Holy Land, my travel group were taken down into an underground dungeon under what is thought to have been the palace of the High Priest. It is very likely that Our Lord was kept in confinement down there in that cold, dank, totally dark hole during the night after the Last Supper and his arrest in the garden of Gethsemani. If you read Psalm 88, you get a remarkably clear idea of what might have been going on in Our Lord’s prayer life during those awful hours, when he knew that his crucifixion was just hours away. While we were down there, they turned off the lights and we were in absolute darkness, and then a seminarian slowly recited Psalm 88 to us. I will never forget that moment. We say that psalm in the Night Prayer for Friday in our Liturgy of the Hours; it never fails to bring back to me the memory of that visit to the subterranean dungeon in Jerusalem.

I would ask your prayers now and then for the prisoners whom I visit, and for all prisoners. May they come to know and love Our Divine Lord who was a prisoner himself, a convict, and then one publicly and horribly executed. 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 | February 19, 2015

Commemoration  of Blessed Alavaro of Cordova (19 Feb 2015)

There is a thread that runs through the preaching of Our Divine Lord in the gospels which scripture scholars call “the messianic secret.” That refers to the fact that Jesus did not to proclaim openly that he was the Messiah, or the Savior, or the Christ—even though he was. And he even discouraged his disciples from spreading the word about his miracles. And of course, he might as well have been talking to the wind; how are you going to keep a group of people—especially simple fishermen and farmers and tradespeople and their wives—from talking about it when a blind man is given his sight; a leper his good health; a group of 4000 hungry people plenty to eat, beginning with practically nothing; and a dead man his life back? Of course people are going to talk!

In the gospel, Jesus asks the apostles, “Who do people say that I am?” They gave several answers. Then he said, “And who do YOU say that I am?” Saint Peter answers very quickly and very simply: “You are the Christ.” That means that he knew Jesus to be the promised savior whom the Jews had been awaiting and expecting for 18 centuries. Then Our Lord says to them, “Don’t tell anyone.” We can imagine that the apostles, with their very human, very natural way of looking at things before the coming of the Holy Spirit, are thinking to themselves: WHY NOT? We’ve been waiting for the Christ since he was promised by God to Abraham 1800 years ago. Why shouldn’t we shout it from the housetops that Jesus is the Christ?

The answer to their question comes in the next paragraph. Jesus tells them that he must go to Jerusalem and there be persecuted by the priests, scribes, and the pharisees. That means the Sanhedrin, the high court of the Jewish people. And he would suffer and die, but then would rise again.

The Jewish people had come to expect a military and a political Messiah—one who would liberate them from the domination of the Roman empire and make them truly free again. They expected victory, success, conquest, glory, honor, cheering crowds, people dancing in the streets. And here is Jesus talking about suffering and dying. You see, their problem was a misunderstanding of the Old Testament. The prophet Isaiah speaks very clearly about the Suffering Servant of God—the savior who will save his people by his suffering and death. The redeemer who could be described in his sufferings as “a worm, and no man.” But they tuned that out; it was not attractive. Victory is attractive; not defeat. Happiness is attractive; not suffering. Well, Our Lord Jesus Christ is now totally victorious, totally happy; but the road to those things lay through the way of the cross. So, he says in effect, let me first suffer and die and rise from the tomb. THEN you can proclaim to the world that I am the Christ, and some will believe you.

We, who see more clearly than the Apostles before Pentecost, say in our Lenten liturgy: 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: This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | February 18, 2015

Catholic Daily Message for Ash Wednesday (18 February 2015)

Remember that you are dust and unto dust you will return. With these words, I rubbed ashes on a number of foreheads today at Mass as we celebrated the beginning of the great season of Lent.

It is interesting: the book of Genesis tells us that God made the first man from the dust, or dirt, of the earth. But today we use not ordinary dirt, but rather ashes, when we remind ourselves and others of the fact that this body of ours is mortal and is going to die one of these days.

Why ashes? Because ashes are the result of a fire. When you burn a piece of wood in a fireplace, sooner or later the fire consumes the wood totally and then goes out. And what you find there is a pile of cold, usually gray, ashes. Now, life is something like fire; it is warm, it moves and breathes and grows. But then, when it finally dies, what is left — a dead body — is similar to dead ashes in the fireplace when the fire has gone out. That’s why we so often speak of “human ashes.” We say things like, “the ashes of our first President are buried at Mount Vernon; the ashes of many great people are enshrined in Westminster Abbey.” There is a wonderfully succinct saying of the ancient Latins: “Homo: humus; fama:fumus; finis:cinis.” It means: man is dirt, fame is smoke, and our end is ashes.

But of course, that has to do only with the body. The fire has gone out in the body of the dead, but the fire is very much alive apart from the body, and if the person died in union with God, he will live with God forever. So what the Church really means when she tells us that we are dust and rubs ashes in our faces is that the body is going to decompose one of these days, and it behooves us to USE the body in such a way as to insure the salvation of the soul.

So remember: that body of yours which you feed well and take care of medically, and dress stylishly but comfortably, and try to beautify with cosmetics or diets or even surgery, and which young people these days are trying to make more unique with tattoos or piercings—that body one day will be just a handful of dust or ashes. But the soul that is keeping that body alive today will depart from it, and then will continue to exist, either with God or apart from Him, forever. It’s up to us. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note: This message was composed some years ago.

This day has gone by many names in the history of the Church. It has been called “carnival,” from the Latin “carni vale” meaning “goodbye to meat” since so little meat was eaten during Lent in the early days. It has been called Fat Tuesday, which in French is “Mardi Gras.” It has been called Pancake Tuesday because in the days of more strict fasting and abstaining, meat drippings were not allowed in Lent, so the housewives would use their accumulated drippings and lard to make pancakes on the day before Ash Wednesday. And more seriously, it was called Shrove Tuesday. “To shrive” is an old English term for “to forgive sins,” which is what happens in the Sacrament of Penance. So people would go to confession today to be “shriven” in preparation for Lent.

Being a native of New Orleans, this day is filled with memories and associations for me, and today in particular I think of, and pray for, all those whose lives were  so terribly disrupted and made difficult by the hurricanes and flooding of 2005. I can remember that, during World War II which coincided with my high school years, we had no Mardi Gras in New Orleans because of the war, and the day before Ash Wednesday just didn’t seem right to be an ordinary day when it should have been one of such merry-making and excitement.

Let us thank our Lord, Jesus Christ, for the graces we have received and rededicate ourselves to His service during all our tomorrows, both the sober days of Lent and the glorious days of Easter. 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 | February 16, 2015

Feast of Saint Onesimus (16 Feb 2015)

Today is a red-letter day in our monastery. One of our Sisters will make solemn vows today, uniting herself until the end of her life to Our Lord Jesus Christ in the religious life of our Dominican family, and in particular, in this community of cloistered, contemplative nuns in Lufkin.

When a young woman wants to enter this way of life, she comes to visit for a few weeks. Then she goes home to think about her experience here. And if she then wishes to return here, she comes back for a nine-month period of what is called postulancy.  During that time, she may leave whenever she wants. If she wishes to continue, she then receives the religious habit and becomes a novice.  Again, she may leave at any time during the two years of the novitiate, as it is called. After that, if she still wishes to continue living this life, she makes simple, or temporary, vows for three years. And finally, if she is convinced that this is the life to which God is calling her and she wants to continue for the rest of her life, she makes solemn, or perpetual vows. That is what is happening today to one of our Sisters, and will happen again in about ten days to another.

It is unusual for two Sisters to make solemn vows in so short a time, so there is special joy here at the monastery. The Bishop of the diocese will come for both these occasions to receive the vows of the Sisters and indicate the happiness of the entire diocese to welcome these two young women into a lifelong commitment to Christ in this beautiful life.

Naturally, as I witness these wonderful events, my thoughts go back to that day—August 31, 1960 — God in our Dominican family. The years have gone by very quickly. I am deeply grateful to God for having called me to this life and given me the opportunity to serve Him and His people. How I wish that more young people, who are searching for meaning in their lives, realized the tremendous opportunity that religious life and priesthood offer them, and that they could overcome the secular and irreligious atmosphere that surrounds us in this paganized world so as to offer themselves to God as consecrated members of the Church. The Church needs religious and priests; young people need a reason for living and guidance in life. We must do what we can to bring these two elements together so that many will hear the words of Jesus: “Come, follow me,” and will accept that invitation that brings such joy, such fulfillment. Thank you for

seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note: This message was composed some years ago.

The 8th of the 10 commandments says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” This means that we must not lie to our fellow human beings. Now, one of the most serious and sinful lies that we can tell is to stand before God’s altar, or before some magistrate of the law, together with one’s spouse to be, and to say, “I take you for my husband or wife until death do us part,” when we know that we either don’t mean that, or are not capable of making that kind of commitment.

Commitment is one of the functions of the normal, healthy human being. If we are the men and women that God intends us to be, we can say something and mean it. And then do our best to implement whatever it is we have committed ourselves to. And the commitment to God by our religion, our baptism and confirmation; the commitment of oneself to a spouse in marriage; the commitment of oneself to

Our Lord by the vows of religious life and priesthood—all of these are very serious statements of one’s intention to do something which is essential to fully human life.

If you can’t say something and mean it, and if you won’t do what you have committed yourself to do, then you are lacking in basic humanity and basic civilization.

If you watch television these days or read the newspapers, you get the impression that our contemporaries are lacking in humanity, in civilization, and very lacking in virtue because of their either inability or unwillingness to live up to their commitments.  According to the law of God, marriage is permanent, monogamous, and unbreakable. One man and one woman pledge themselves to each other until death parts them. That has been the intention of God from the time he created men and women. But given the weakness of the human will and the strength of human passion and lust, the nobility of this concept of marriage has often been marred by adultery or other kinds of infidelity. Then, there has always been the sin of fornication, or simple living together without any commitment, any notion of fidelity or creating a stable home for children. Then, the evil of human coupling apart from God’s will went one step further and instituted successive polygamy: you marry; you divorce; you marry again; you divorce again, etc. This reduces commitment to a sick joke, and the human word to total irrelevance.

And now, we find that human evil has gone a step further from God’s will by instituting a so-called marriage between two homosexuals

in which two men or two woman claim to marry one another when all they mean is an arrangement in which they can live together with all the legalities of a real marriage without the physical ability to enter into a real marriage or to have children, without which marriage is impossible.

We must be aware that this is the kind of world we’re living in, and which is infecting us with its pagan philosophies. Our lower nature wants sex. So we have sex, in or out of marriage, with male or female, with someone else’s spouse, with no one’s spouse, with no commitment, no desire for children—and the willingness to kill the children if they should accidently be conceived during our sex-for-fun. That is not natural, not human, not civilized, and certainly not pleasing to God or conducive to our eternal salvation. 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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