Posted by: fvbcdm | September 30, 2016

Feast of Saint Jerome (30 Sept 2016)

We have a number of subjects for thought and prayer right now. This Friday, for example, September 30, is the feast of Saint Jerome, one of the most influential doctors of the Church.  It is also the last day of this quarter.  Saturday begins the last quarter of the year and so we have the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the service of God during these next three months which will bring our year to a close.

Then, today, my thoughts go back to New Orleans where Archbishop Philip Hannan died yesterday at the age of ninety-eight.  He has been retired for some years, but was the ruling bishop of New Orleans during the nine years when I was pastor of Saint Dominic parish there in 1971 to 1980.  I came to admire him, as did all who knew him.  He was a quiet man, but a leader of great courage and determination.  And the very model of a bishop who used all the means at his disposal to do the work of Our Lord in the archdiocese of New Orleans and in other areas where he could make his influence felt.

Now, back to Saint Jerome.  He was born in 340 and died in 420. Thus his life span coincided with the rapid spread of the Church in the western empire governed from Rome and the eastern empire governed from Constantinople. The Church needed the sacred scriptures in languages that it could understand. The Old Testament was only available in Hebrew; the New Testament in Greek. But the people of Europe were speaking Latin. Not the splendid language of Cicero and Julius Caesar, but the Latin of the ordinary men and women of the time. The Pope, Saint Damasus, came to know of Jerome’s erudition and language skills and asked him to translate the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament into the common Latin of the time. This bible came to known as the Vulgate and was the version used by the western Church from Jerome’s time to our own. Thus Saint Jerome performed an immense service to the Church and we are all very much in his debt. Even though we now have more accurate translations of the Old Testament made since Jerome’s time, the Church still sees Jerome as the great model of scripture studies and of those who study and teach them.

If you ever go to the Holy Land and visit the basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, you will be shown several caves beneath the basilica. In one of them Our Lord is thought to have been born; in another, Saint Jerome made his home for years while working on his language studies and then his translation of the bible.

As we conclude our thoughts about Saint Jerome, we need to recall a famous saying of his:  “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Every once in a while, the fact that I am living in the so-called “Bible belt” is brought home to me. This past weekend our Catholic parish in a little town called Diboll south of Lufkin where I live celebrated the 16th of September—the Mexican Independence Day since most of the parishioners there are from Mexico or are children of Mexican natives. Last night I got a phone call from a young man who is interested in becoming a Catholic. He was born and raised in this area in a Baptist family, and attended Mass at the Diboll parish even though he doesn’t speak or understand Spanish.

He called to ask me for an explanation of why there was BEER at the party on the church grounds in Diboll. He was somewhat scandalized to find beer on Catholic Church property. Being from New Orleans, I found it interesting that he should react so strongly to that fact. I pointed out to him that Our Lord’s first recorded miracle was to change somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of water into very good wine. We find the story in the gospel according to Saint John, chapter 2. So I assured him that had Our Lord been physically at the Mexican party in Diboll, he would have had a beer or two. His answer was that yes, but Jesus produced non-alcoholic wine!

I found it interesting that this young fellow—he’s only about 23—would have been so indoctrinated with Bible belt theology that he finds some moral evil in the use of alcohol, even in perfectly acceptable moderation. He has enrolled in an RCIA program to prepare for entrance into the Catholic Church, but is having trouble with the idea of the Church allowing beer at a church gathering. I went on to tell him that I enjoy a cold beer with one of our good New Orleans shrimp or oyster poor boys, and wine with a good meal. Then he said to me, “Do the Sisters at your monastery drink wine and beer?” I said no, but the Sisters in Europe do, since it is so common throughout society there.

He told me that his family thinks of us Catholic priests as being evil because we drink alcoholic beverages on occasion, and they think us unnatural because we don’t marry. Of course, Our Lord didn’t marry either, but that was different. People here don’t say things like that to me out of courtesy, but evidently it is common talk among themselves. So you see, the mentality that enforced prohibition upon our nation back in the ‘20s and caused so much lawlessness and organized crime is still with us—at least in this part of the Bible belt. 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 | September 27, 2016

Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul (27 Sept 2016)

We have all heard of the Sermon on the Mount, but I fear that some would not know exactly what it is or where to find it. Saint Luke, in his chapter 6, gives a brief synopsis of Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.  The Sermon on the Mount in its more complete form is found in Saint Matthew’s gospel, chapters 5, 6, and 7.  It contains Our Lord’s basic teaching on the Christian life, and is one of the most sublime and beautiful sections of Sacred Scripture. Saint Matthew presents it as having been delivered on one occasion as Our Lord was speaking to a crowd of listeners on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Because of the orderly way in which he grouped his material, it may be that Saint Matthew put all the moral maxims of Jesus together even though they were said at various times during his public life.

In any case, try to remember that chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Saint Matthew’s gospel are what are collectively called The Sermon on the Mount. It provides endless food for thought and prayer for every person who is interested in knowing more about the Christian moral life and improving his and her own relationship with God and fellow men. Just as in the field of physical medicine, our health care-givers take our blood pressure, our temperature, our rate of heartbeat, etc., so in the spiritual life, if we want to know how we are doing, we have only to read the Sermon on the Mount and then ask ourselves: “How am I doing in practicing these beautiful injunctions of our Blessed Lord?”   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 | September 26, 2016

Feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian (26 Sept 2016)

There are some passages from Scripture that are so familiar, so useful, so important both in themselves and to us personally that when we come across them, we feel like we’re meeting an old friend. One of those occurs in letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians, chapter 1, verse 24. Here is what Saint Paul says to the Colossians and to us: “It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church.”

Let’s look at that surprising statement on the part of the great Apostle to the Gentiles. First, he says he is happy to suffer. Does that make him a masochist or some kind of a nut? Not at all. Our Divine Lord himself told us that he had a baptism (in his own blood) with which to be baptized, and he was eager for it to be accomplished. It means that Saint Paul grasped the redemptive value of suffering—in atonement for sin and to restore the balance of justice which is disturbed by human offenses against the will of God. And just as his beloved Master had suffered, so does Paul see the value of his own sufferings to conform him to the image of Christ.

Is he saying that Jesus didn’t suffer enough? Not at all. He is saying that as the head of the human race suffered, so the members of the race must suffer in conformity with him. Not all men and women realize the value of their sufferings or the reason for them. Some of them become angry and embittered by them and ask “Why ME?” I hope that God can take even these sufferings that are not understood nor welcomed nor even accepted with patience and resignation, and bring some good of them. I suspect that he can and will. Look at the child born into this world with little or no mentality. He might live for many years as a profoundly retarded person. Can God bring good out of that life, not only from the deprivations of the individual himself but also from the care given to him by his parents, relatives, and other care-givers? I think so.

In any case, Saint Paul saw the value of suffering and was happy to bear it in union with the sufferings of his and our Lord. Some fourteen centuries later, the great Spanish Carmelite mystic, Saint John of the Cross, said in one of his books, “If I were to spend a single day without suffering, I would consider it a day wasted.” Strong language! But very much in keeping with the life of Jesus and his salvation of 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 | September 23, 2016

Feast of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (23 Sept 2016)

When you visit the Holy Land, one of the most moving and beautiful things that you can do is to take a ride in a boat on the body of water which is called either the Sea of Galilee or the Lake of Tiberias or the Lake of Gennesaret. That lake measures about ten miles north and south and three miles east and west, and played a very large role in the life of Our Lord and the disciples.

In the gospel, we have a little episode that is both somewhat comical but also very moving. It was morning, and a crowd had gathered around Jesus on the northern shore of the lake to hear his words. When he had finished speaking, he got into Saint Peter’s boat and told him to go out for a catch of fish. Peter was tired after a night of futile labor and didn’t take Our Lord’s suggestion very enthusiastically. But, in obedience to his Lord, he added, “But at your command I will lower the nets.” They caught so many fish that their nets were at the breaking point and they had to call to their partners, James and John in another boat to come and help them. The catch was so large that Peter took it as a sign of the power of Jesus at work in their business of fishing. He fell at the feet of Jesus and said to him, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Wrong thing to say! We should never ask Our Lord to depart from us. But we can understand what Saint Peter meant: he was unworthy to be in the presence of the power and holiness of Christ. His thought reminds us of the divine instruction to Moses as he approached the Burning Bush: come no closer; take off your shoes for the ground you are standing on is holy ground. And the centurion who said to Jesus: “I am not worthy that you should come under my roof.”

So here we find Saint Peter, on his knees in a boat full of wriggling, flopping, jumping fish tumbling out of a large net, while marveling at the power of Our Divine Lord, and saying exactly the wrong thing. But Jesus in his gentle patience and understanding and kindness says to Peter, “Don’t be afraid; from now on, you will be catching men.” Now, let’s move our gaze from this fishing scene on the Lake of Galilee to some Sunday or Wednesday in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome when the Holy Father appears and speaks to those gathered there. They number in the thousands, sometimes the tens and hundreds of thousands. How striking is this fulfillment of Jesus’s words: from now on, you will be catching men. The successors of Peter the Fisherman will catch men until the end of time.  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 | September 22, 2016

Feast of Saint Thomas of Villanova (22 September 2016)

Recently in a little study group that I conduct, the question came up: What is meant by the Divine Office? The Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours, as it’s more officially called, is the system of prayers which all priests and deacons and many religious in perpetual vows are obliged to say each day for the benefit of the Church and the entire world. It is composed basically of the psalms in the book of the psalter, as it’s called, and then a number of other canticles and hymns found in the Bible, and then readings from the works of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.

In monasteries, convents, and other institutions where priests and religious live together, the Liturgy of the Hours is usually said, or chanted, or sung in common. It has been composed by the Church over the centuries and provides the backbone for the official prayer by which the Church praises and honors God. It also provides a prayer system by which the clergy and religious of the Catholic world sanctify themselves and pray for the needs of the entire human community and especially of the Church—the Mystical Body of Christ.

It is divided into seven “hours” as they are called, but they certainly don’t take an hour to recite or even to sing. Those “hours” are Morning Prayer (formerly called Lauds), Midmorning Prayer (formerly called Terce), Midday Prayer (formerly called Sext), Midafternoon Prayer (formerly called None), Evening Prayer (formerly called Vespers), and Night Prayer (formerly called Compline.)

The whole thing can be done in about an hour, but should be spread out over the various times of the day as the Church intends. The Liturgy of the Hours is closely calibrated with the celebration of Mass each day, so that together they make up the celebration either of a solemnity, or a feast, or a memorial, or simply a weekday within our religious calendar. It is a tremendous advantage to have this prayer system by which we are to praise God each day, to fulfill the obligation of the Church to worship the Lord our God every day, and to pray for people and needs. Now that the Liturgy of the Hours is in the vernacular, many laypeople all over the world are joining with the clergy and religious in praying this way.

We are expected to be men and women of prayer, and the Liturgy of the Hours is one of the best ways to accomplish this, second only to the attendance and active participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 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 | September 21, 2016

Feast of Saint Matthew (21 August 2016)

Our Lord tells us the story in the gospel of two men. The first owes the second an amount of money which in today’s currency would be equivalent to $9,000,000. He can’t repay it, and begs for mercy, and the creditor forgives the entire debt. Then that very fortunate man to whom so much was forgiven goes out and meets another man who owes him $15. He demands payment, and when the debtor asks for mercy, refuses to grant it. He has the man thrown into jail until the $15 is repaid. The original creditor who had forgiven the $9,000,000 debt hears of it, calls the merciless fellow back in, and has him thrown into prison until he pays the enormous amount. And then, when Our Lord taught the world the Our Father, he composed it to include the words: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Forgiveness is not always easy. We cling to our resentments and our grudges because in some perverted way, they make us feel superior to those who have offended us. We can sit in judgment upon them; we can indulge in the proud feeling that we are better than they are because we did them no wrong, and yet they wronged us. If we forgive them, then in a sense that wipes the slate clean and we are back on an even footing again. Have you ever known someone who claims to be a Christian and yet nurses grudges and resentments? I’m sure all of us have. And what is worse: we may be, or have been, that kind of Christian ourselves. That’s not only an un-Christian stance to take, but a dangerous one, since we ask God to forgive us AS WE FORGIVE. We better listen carefully to what we are saying. Merciful Savior, make us merciful. Heart of Jesus, full of forgiveness, teach us to forgive others so that we may expect forgiveness of you. 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 | September 19, 2016

Feast of Saint Januarius (19 Sept 2016)

Back in the days of the Roman persecutions of the early Church, the bishop of Naples was a man named Januarius, or, as they say in modern Italian, Gennaro.  After his death by martyrdom, a vial of his blood was saved by the devout Catholics of that area, along with his head. Now, each year on this date—September 19, the anniversary of his death—the reliquaries containing his head and his blood are brought close together in a special ceremony in the cathedral of Naples. The blood, which is ordinarily a solid mass of very dark red coagulated blood, turns a bright red, liquefies, and becomes frothy like fresh blood. The Neapolitans take this as a sign that the nearby volcano, Vesuvius, will not inflict any harm upon them either by eruption or earthquake in the near future.

My vacation begins tomorrow, and will bring me, according to our travel plans, to the area around Naples. I hope that San Gennaro’s blood liquefied today and that Vesuvius will behave itself while we are there.  I look forward to visiting the basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in the modern town of Pompeii. The ancient Pompeii was totally engulfed by lava and ash during the eruption of the year 79 A.D. But a modern town has grown up next to the excavated ruins, with a special shrine to Our Lady of the Rosary. It has an interesting history which I’ll recount to you on my return. I ask your prayers for the safety of my travel companions and myself, and I promise to pray for you along the way. 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 | September 16, 2016

Feast of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian (16 Sept 2016)

I suppose we’ve all heard those jokes about Our Lord and Saint Peter playing golf. In one of them, the Lord hits a bad shot, and the ball is heading for a sand trip, when suddenly an eagle swoops down, catches the ball in its beak, drops it on the green, where it rolls several yards UPHILL and falls into the cup. Saint Peter is very annoyed and says to Our Lord, “Look, are you just going to fool around, or are you going to play golf?”

In today’s gospel reading from Saint Matthew, the temple tax collectors come to gather the annual half-shekel temple tax from Our Lord and Saint Peter. So Jesus tells Peter to go down to the lakeshore at Capharnaum, let down a line with a hook, and then look in the mouth of the first fish he catches. There, he’ll find a shekel with which Peter can pay the tax for both of them.

At first hearing, it sounds like a joke or a fish-story. But when you think about it, there is more to it than just a joke. Saint Matthew would never have included it in his gospel if it were merely a bit of witticism. Stop and think for a moment: Our Lord tells Saint Peter to perform an action which involved the “profession” we might say of each of them. Peter is a fisherman, so Jesus tells him to go throw a hook and line into the water. Our Lord is God, so he can easily arrange for there to be a fish there which has a shekel in its mouth and then bites on Peter’s hook.

So, to accomplish his purpose, namely, the paying of the temple tax, Jesus says to Peter, in effect: you do what you do best, and I will do what only I can do, and together we’ll get the tax paid. So one produces a little miracle and the other fishes.

Think of that the next time you have something to do that seems beyond your means. You become discouraged and say to yourself, “I can’t do that!” That may be true; maybe you can’t. But you and Jesus can. Remember that always.  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 | September 15, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (15 Sept 2016)

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. Today, we have its companion celebration in the prayer life of the Church—the commemoration of Our Lady of Sorrows. There is a very close connection, since all of the joys of her divine Son were Mary’s joys, too, and all his sufferings were hers as well.

It might strike us as somewhat contradictory that Our Lady says in her Magnificat, “From now on, all generations will call me blessed (a word which means ‘happy’)” but yet we have a great devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady as we often refer to them. How can these both be true? They can both be true when we look at her entire life taken together. She suffered greatly, yes, but she also played a very important role in the salvation of millions of human beings by suffering with her Divine Son in his redemptive sufferings.

Our friend Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, as always, has beautiful things to say about Our Lady in referring to her as Our Sorrowful Mother. He says, meditating upon her sufferings on Calvary at the foot of the cross, “Were those words, ‘Woman, behold your son’ not more than a sword to you, truly piercing your heart . . . ? What an exchange! John is given to you in place of Jesus, the servant in place of the Lord, the disciple in place of the Master, the son of Zebedee replaces the Son of God, a mere man replaces God himself!” Later in that same passage which the Church offers us in the Liturgy of the Hours for today, Saint Bernard asks rhetorically “Had she not known before that he would die? Undoubtedly. Did she not expect him to rise again at once? Surely. And still she grieved over her crucified Son? Intensely!” And finally Saint Bernard concludes by saying: He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.

She stood at the foot of his cross for what must have seemed an eternity of immense pain. But then, after his terribly tortured body had lain in the tomb for about forty hours, he rose from that tomb, and now her joy will truly NEVER end, and we will call her blessed in all our generations and ages to come. Thus she is our Sorrowful Mother for a time, but our Joyful Mother forever. 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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