Posted by: fvbcdm | September 1, 2015

Feast of Saint Verena (1 September 2015)

In the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, Saint John describes his visions of the end of the world. He speaks of the new and eternal Jerusalem (heaven) as a terrifically beautiful city to which access is gained through twelve gates bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. This is symbolic of all humankind. And those twelve gates rest upon twelve courses of foundation stones, which bear the names of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Thus, we see the immense importance of Christ’s Apostles: they make it possible for us to enter heaven.

Just to make this beautiful principle clearer, think of your own spiritual life. You attend Mass and receive Our Divine Lord in Holy Communion. And the reason why you can do these things is that there are priests who can celebrate the Masses which you attend, and confect the sacrament of the Eucharist which you receive.  And there are priests because sometime in the past, a bishop laid his hands on them and conferred upon them the power of the priesthood. And THEY were bishops because a previous bishop laid hands upon them . . . and so on, and so on, all the way back to the apostles. This precious gift of Christ we call “apostolic succession.” It means the unbroken chain of sacramental power going back from our time to that of Jesus and his apostles.

There are few virtues more important in the Church than the obedience and devotion of true Catholics for our Popes and bishops. This fact is proven by its sad opposite: the disloyalty, disobedience, and contempt that some Catholics show in these difficult times of ours for our popes and bishops and their governance of the Church or their particular dioceses. Listen to the way people speak of the pope or the local bishop. What they say tells you a lot about them and their spiritual orientation.

So today, let us be grateful for the Church and its hierarchy, who in turn produce the clergy, who give us the sacraments and preach the gospel to us. Our Lord died on the cross for our redemption, and rose from the dead for our salvation. He then founded the Church with its popes and bishops to administer that salvation to the world. It is up to us to esteem these gifts highly and use them profitably for our good and that of the entire church. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 28, 2015

Feast of Saint Augustine (28 August 2015)

[Fifty-nine] years ago — in the year 1956 — our church calendar had not been altered for many years, and the feast of Saint Rose of Lima fell on August 30. She was a member of the Dominican laity, and was the first person of the entire New World to be canonized, so we Dominicans are very proud of her. And it was customary for the incoming novices to our Order to receive the Dominican habit on her feastday. So [this Sunday], August 30, my classmates and I will celebrate our [59th anniversary] of the beginning of our Dominican life. We have worn the habit of Saint Dominic and written “O.P.” — of the Order of Preachers — behind our names for [fifty-nine] years. I ask that you join with us in thanking our God for this tremendous grace.

In the gospel used at Mass on the commemoration day of Saint Rose, Jesus tells us that he is the vine, we the branches. The whole reason for cultivating grape vines is to produce grapes, and from them, wine. Now, left to itself, the vine will produce a great many branches and leaves and tendrils, and some clusters of grapes as well. The vine-grower, who is interested in wine and not in beautiful foliage, takes his pruning shears and cuts, and cuts, and cuts. In present-day viniculture, usually only one cluster is allowed to grow on each vine; all the other incipient clusters are cut away; most of the branches and leaves are cut away. One branch, with one cluster, and just enough leaves to protect that one cluster from the heat of the sun, are allowed to grow. All the rest is pruned away. Now, think how you would feel if you were a grape vine. You expend every effort to produce lots of growth. Many branches, many leaves, many clusters of fruit, many tendrils. You hope that your sincere efforts and the growth that you can produce will please your master the vine-grower. But does it? NO! He comes with his shears and reduces almost all your efforts to nothing. Why does he treat you like this? How can he be so cruel? But you see, he has human intelligence, and you don’t. You’re only a vine, doing your thing — doing what comes naturally. But he is a man, doing to a vine what is not natural to the vine, but that which is SUPER-natural to the vine — that which is useful to human intelligence and design.

And so with us. We strive for success and pleasure. Christ tells us to deny ourselves and take up our cross. We strive for wealth and a life of ease; Christ lived poorly and says to us “blessed are the poor in spirit.” We strive to rise to the top, to be in command, to be in authority over others. Christ tells us to become like little children. It’s all part of the pruning, the cutting, the vine-growing which is supernatural to our own inclinations. But if we allow him to do what he wants with us, he will produce something far better than we could. Let us trust him to do that. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 27, 2015

Feast of Saint Monica (27 August 2015)

As we celebrate today the commemoration of Saint Monica, the mother of the great Father and Doctor Saint Augustine, we come to one of the poignant readings to be found in the Liturgy of the Hours. It is taken from the Confessions of Saint Augustine and has special meaning for me.  By the time this passage was written, Saint Monica had spent YEARS praying for the conversion of her brilliant but wayward son, and God had answered her prayers with immense generosity. Augustine had become a Catholic and was living a most virtuous life of prayer and study. Later on, he would become a priest and a bishop, the greatest theologian of the early Church apart from the apostles themselves, and one day a canonized saint.

Monica and Augustine had returned from Milan to Rome, and then gone down to the port of Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber where they planned to take a ship for Tagaste, their native city in the Roman colony of North Africa. Saint Monica said to her son, “I do not know why I am still here . . . I did have one reason for wanting to live a little longer: to see you become a Catholic Christian before I died. God has lavished his gifts on me in that respect . . . So what am I doing here?”

A few days later, she fell ill and died there in Ostia. Her body now rests in the church of Saint Augustine in Rome. And in his Confessions, her famous son gives all loving and devout mothers a beautiul example of a concerned mother who wished to give life to her son’s soul even more than she had to his body.

This day brings a very happy memory to me. During my sabbatical in Rome in 1995, I took the train one day from the mail railroad station of Rome down the Tiber to the ruins of ancient Ostia, now a city of ruins since the Tiber silted up, and the city was transferred a few miles away. Most of the ancient buildings are still there, the walls still standing and the roofs caved in because of their weight. You can walk up and down the streets of this ghost town, and on what was the main street, I came across a large marble tablet on which are inscribed in Latin the passage I quoted above, taken from the writings of Saint Augustine in which he describes his love of and gratitude to his mother.

We all know many mothers who are concerned about the spiritual well-being of their children. It is very difficult to be a parent nowadays, when so many temptations and dangers beset children and adolescents. Let us pray through the intercession of Saint Monica for those parents, that God’s grace will enable them to be the kind of parents they should, and their children to be the kind of children and then adults THEY should. 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 | August 25, 2015

Feast of Saint Louis of France (25 August 2015)

This Friday I go to Houston, spend the night with my Dominican confreres there, and then on Saturday, our travel group — 33 people — fly from Houston to Atlanta and then on to Antwerp in Belgium, where we board a river cruiser for a very nice two-week cruise on the Rhine, the Moselle, and the Neckar rivers.  It’s a great way to travel.

Among the religious places we will visit will be the magnificent cathedral of Cologne and the church there with the tomb of our Dominican Saint Albert the Great; the city of Trier from which Saint Ambrose went to Milan, eventually becoming archbishop and a very great doctor and father of the Church; the Rhine valley with so many associations with the so-called Rhenish mystics of the middle ages, and finally the city of Basel in Switzerland which was the home city of Erasmus, a close friend of Saint Thomas More of England.

I will remember you in my Masses and prayers in those ancient and very venerable places, so rich in history and spirituality. And I ask a place in your prayers for the safety of my travel companions and me.

While we are gone, we will observe the sad anniversary of hurricane Katrina which brought so much death and destruction and suffering to so many. Because of it, there will not be a single person from New Orleans coming with us this year. I commend to your prayers those victims of the hurricane who are still struggling to get their lives back on track. They face daily frustration, anguish, and sorrow as the time goes by and they are still not back in what can be called their own homes, among their relatives and friends, and knowing as they do the suffering of exile, since that is what it is.

I will, God willing, be back on September 12, the feast of the Holy Name of Our Blessed Mother.  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 | August 21, 2015

Feast of Pope Saint Pius X (21 August 2015)

Saint Pius X was elected pope in 1903, and he died in 1914. The motto that he chose for his pontificate was “to incorporate all things into Christ.”

Think about that. The word “incorporate” means “to bring into the body,” from the Latin “in corpore,” — in the body.  Remember that we speak, as Saint Paul does in the New Testament, of “the mystical body of Christ,” which is the Church.  Jesus is the head of this spiritual reality; we are the members; and the Holy Spirit is the soul of it.  Each of us — you and I and every human being past, present, and future, is a cell within this supernatural reality. The question is: what kind of cell are we? Are we a healthy cell, contributing to the good of the whole body, as we hope the cells in our own bodies are? Or are we somewhat diseased, or even cancerous so that we become, as they say in medical science, malignant, spreading malady to the surrounding cells and eventually killing the entire body?

How do we keep ourselves in good shape spiritually so as to contribute positively to the well-being of the mystical body of Christ?  Every person who is living in union with Jesus is contributing to the well-being of his body in this world. Every person who is living in sin is detracting from the well-being of the mystical body of Christ. They are either useless cells, not making a positive contribution, or they are cancerous, malignant, spreading evil around themselves to infect even the good cells. We live in union with Jesus by keeping the commandments, by prayer, by reception of the sacraments, by acts of kindness to our neighbors, by trying to learn more and more about God and his revelation to us.

The mystical body of Jesus is IN this world but not OF it. It belongs to a higher dimension of reality.  I can often look at a person and tell whether he is young or old, in good physical shape or not.  But I cannot look at a person and know whether that person is pleasing to God or not.  Only God can read hearts and know us inside out.  You and I walk upon this planet now.  But are we on our way to heaven or not? Are we friends of God or not? I who am sending this message and you who are reading it, presumably are interested in our relationship with God. We want to be incorporated into the body of Christ. We want to be spiritually healthy, contributing, participating, of some value to the kingdom of Christ our Lord. Let us pray today through the intercession of Saint Pius X that we may be incorporated in Christ and that we may remain in that blessed condition until the moment of our death, and then on into eternity. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 20, 2015

Feast of Saint Bernard (20 August 2015)

I have a very fine young friend who is planning to marry in the near future. He is about thirty years old, and, typical of that generation, he spent some of his earlier life alienated from the Church and in a sinful relationship with a young woman. But now he has come back to the Church and to the sacraments, and has met a young woman who shares his views on God, morality, chastity, family life, commitment, and the dignity of human life, and they are planning to marry. I received an email message from him yesterday. With that message fresh in my mind, I celebrated Mass this morning and read the striking scriptural passages appointed to be read today.

In the first of them, God is speaking to his chosen people, Israel, through the lips of the prophet Ezekiel.  He points out to Israel how he found her as an abandoned baby girl in the desert. He cared for her, adopted her, treated her like a young princess, and eventually fell in love with her and married her. But then, she rejected him, became a prostitute and gave herself to every man who desired her. But God forgives her unfaithfulness and her promiscuity and pardons her for all that she has done.

Then, in the gospel, Our Lord points out to us that from the beginning, God made us male and female and intends that a man cling to his wife and they become ONE FLESH, as Jesus says. In the Genesis account of creation, God the Father says to them that they will become ONE BODY. This oneness of husband and wife, as close as one part of the body is to another, is one of the most beautiful aspects of human relationships. It is the basis of human life; from it life emerges, for by the union of man and wife, children are conceived, born, and reared. Thus human sexuality is the source of life, and if life is to be as God intends it, then sexuality must be used as God intends. I remember being shocked some years ago when our travel group arrived in Jamaica on a cruise. Several of us took a tour of that area, and in the course of the tour, we spoke to our taxi-driver about life there. The subject of marriage came up, and he said, “Oh, we don’t get married here; we just live together.” Amazed by this sweeping statement, we pressed him for an explanation. He admitted that “a few” people, usually the wealthy who wanted a big, splashy wedding, get married, but for the most part, the Jamaicans don’t marry. I’m not sure how true this is; he may have simply been projecting his own lifestyle upon his country in general.  I also wonder how many of those Jamaican couples who live in unmarried cohabitation are faithful to each other until death. I imagine about as many as are faithful to each other, married or not, in our country. How sad! What a distortion of God’s plan for human happiness and holiness and the proper rearing of children!

Commitment, fidelity, honesty, and the keeping of one’s word are all characteristics of high quality and virtue in human life and relationships. Their opposites spell trashiness, low quality, sin, and unhappiness both in this life and, I fear, in many cases, the next life as well. The proper preparation of young people for marriage is one of the most important things that parents, teachers, and the Church can do in terms of assuring that God’s plans will be carried out and his children will be happy both in this life and forever. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 17, 2015

Feast of Saint Hyacinth (17 August 2015)

When I was a teenager, I was impressed by the idea—who knows where it came from—that each one of us is the ruler of a small kingdom composed of ourselves, our possessions, our time, our relationships with others, our use of our talents.

I think of that because [if yesterday had not been a Sunday we would have celebrated] the commemoration of Saint Stephen of Hungary, the king who introduced our holy Catholic faith to that country about the year 1000. In Budapest on one of our trips, I was able to visit two monuments to him and reflected upon the immense good that he accomplished for his people in introducing them to Our Lord Jesus Christ. There are other cases of good and virtuous rulers who did a great deal of spiritual as well as political, military, and economic good for their people. King Saint Edward the Confessor of England comes to mind, along with Saint Louis of France, Saint Margaret of Scotland, and most recently, the last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Karl. He did all he could to prevent World War I, even to making a secret visit to the Kaiser of Germany to beg him not to proceed with his plans for war. The Emperor Karl has now been beatified by the Church and may one day be a canonized saint.

It has also been said that the former King Baudouin of Belgium might one day be honored by the Church in a similar way. He and his wife, Queen Fabiola, who is still alive, led lives of exemplary virtue and devotion to their people. When the Belgian parliament had passed a law legalizing abortion in Belgium, and it was to come before him for his signature, he could not constitutionally prevent its becoming law. But he refused to sign the bill, and left the country for a few days to express his extreme opposition to the legalization of murder. So now, the women of Belgium can kill the babies in their wombs, but the blood will not be on the hands of King Baudouin.

Back to the notion of our own rule over the small kingdom of ourselves: God has given each of us many perfections and powers. And by his revelation, he has shown us how he wants us to live and use what we have for the good of self and of neighbor. You might not be the king or queen of any country, but you ARE the ruler of yourself, and God expects that you will rule that little nation of one, wisely and virtuously. Only God knows how much good will be done for the entire world by YOUR and MY doing what we should. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 14, 2015

Feast of Saint Maximilian Kolbe (14 August 2015)

Tomorrow we have the great joy of celebrating the solemnity of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother into heaven. To atone for the sins of mankind, Christ our Lord chose to die although he was certainly not deserving of death. His sacred body and soul were separated for the forty hours of his death, then reunited at the moment of his resurrection from the tomb. Forty days later, he arose, body and soul, into heaven where he “goes to prepare a place for us,” as he tells us so reassuringly.

Our Lady, never having had the slightest taint of sin about her, did not deserve to die, either. And perhaps she didn’’t; we do not know for sure. What we do know, though, is that “at the end of her earthly life,” as the infallible declaration of Pope Pius XII puts it, she was taken body and soul into heaven. So, in the cases of both Jesus and Mary, we have a preview of what, please God, will happen to us at the end of time when our souls and bodies will be reunited and we will go into eternal life.

Let us try to imagine for a few moments what it was like when the immaculate body of Our Blessed Mother entered heaven. She is the first daughter of God the Father; the mother of God the Son, the spouse of God the Holy Spirit by whose overshadowing she conceived and gave birth to Our Lord Jesus Christ. She stands, as one poet put it, “at the very threshold of divinity.” Although she is a human being and therefore inferior to the angels in nature, nonetheless she is the mother of God and therefore their superior in grace and favor with God, and the angelic choirs gladly welcome their lovely Queen into their realm of endless joy. And by the same token, she is far greater than all the patriarchs, prophets, and holy ones of the Old and New Testaments; in our liturgy we call her “the highest honor of our race.”

On that first Easter morning, when her glorious, beautiful risen son appeared to her to assure her that her and his days of suffering were over, she knew transports of happiness in seeing him in such triumph. But at her Assumption, she is admitted into the “beatific vision,” that knowledge and understanding of God that will be for everyone admitted to it a cause of joy that we cannot even imagine. “The eye has not seen . . . the ear has not heard. . .” Saint Paul tells us, in trying to describe heaven for us.

Our mother has gone before us. And as we await the moment when God will call us out of this world into the next, we ask her, conscious of the joy of her passage from time into eternity, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now . . . and at the hour of our death.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 13, 2015

Feast of Saints Pontian and Hippolytus (13 August 2015)

When you sail or fly west from Hawaii, you soon cross the international date line and must advance your calendar by one day. So, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on that date “that will live in infamy” as President Franklin Roosevelt called it, it was December 8 in Japan, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the patronal feast of the United States of America. And on the next day, President Roosevelt declared war on Japan, on what was in this country December 8. Then, four bloody years later, after the two atomic bombs had been dropped over the Japanese mainland, the dreadfully aggressive Empire of Japan surrendered on what was in their country August 15, the feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother into heaven. These being the facts, we can hardly doubt the concern that Our Lady was showing for this country dedicated by the Catholic Church to her. Let us be aware of these things [tomorrow], on the [70th] anniversary of that surrender and the end of World War II.

During that same terrible war, a Polish priest had been imprisoned in the notorious death camp of Auschwitz maintained by the Nazis in his native Poland. His crime: writing and preaching about the beauty of Mary Immaculate, the Mother of the Lord, and about the evils of Naziism. At Auschwitz, the Nazis had a policy of retaliation: if any prisoner escaped from the prison camp, ten of the other prisoners, chosen at random, would be killed in reprisal. In August, 1941, one of the prisoners escaped, so the prison guards chose ten men to die by starvation in what was called “the bunker of death.” One of them, a husband and father, fell to his knees and begged to be spared for the sake of his wife and children, to whom he hoped to return some day. The merciless Nazis were ignoring him completely when Father Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish priest and prisoner there, stepped forward. He asked the Nazi in command if he could be substituted for the husband and father. The commanding officer shrugged indifferently: one prisoner was worth no more than another, so if this priest wanted to die in place of the other man, so be it. Saint Maximilian Kolbe and his nine fellow-victims were locked in a subterranean cell about fifteen feet square. The lights were turned off, and they were left there to die in the dark, without food or drink or toilet facilities. About two weeks later, when the guards returned, they found that all but two or three of the prisoners had died of thirst or hunger; among the ones still alive was Saint Maximilian. To hasten their deaths, carbolic acid was injected into their veins and they died from the internal acid burns.

A year later, Saint Edith Stein, the German Jewish woman who had become a Catholic and a Carmelite nun, was gassed and cremated at the same prison camp of Auschwitz. So the same hell-hole has given to the world and the Church two canonized saints whose love triumphed over the diabolical evil which prevailed at Auschwitz for years. Greater love than this no one has, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. Jesus died on the cross for us; Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein died in a Nazi concentration camp in imitation of him. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 13, 2015

Feast of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal (12 August 2015)

Today, we celebrate the commemoration of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, the friend and spiritual directee of Saint Francis de Sales and the foundress of the Visitation nuns. Her commemoration day brings back happy memories to me of two visits that I made with travel groups to the beautiful little city of Annecy in the French Alps where she lived, founded the order of the Visitation, and is now buried. I had the privilege of celebrating Mass in the church where her tomb and that of Saint Francis de Sales are located.

In the liturgy of the hours today, we read from the Book of Proverbs concerning holy women. Proverbs says, “Charm is deceptive, beauty fleeting. The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Think of that for a moment, and in this connection think of the amount of time, energy, and money that is spent in the pursuit of good looks—cosmetics, even cosmetic surgery, hairdos, wigs, all sorts of diets and regimens to enhance one’s beauty and good looks, or to try to do so. And that is true not only of women but also of men, who try to look like Mr. America or some Greek God. When you read the newspapers or magazines, notice how many of the ads have to do with beauty and good looks. Think of the billions of dollars that are spent in the pursuit of physical beauty. Do those who spend that money have any interest in the appearance of their souls in the sight of God?

One time, years ago, a lady came into my confessional, and she confessed excessive concern about her appearance. I suggested that the next time that she looked in the mirror while applying makeup, that she think of what that face would look like six months after she died. She practically screamed at me, “Father, you didn’t have to tell me that.” But THAT happened to be true and more useful to her spiritual life than her eyeshadow or her lipstick. I’m not condemning all cosmetics or cosmetic practices completely. I’m just suggesting moderation. “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s,” says our Lord. We can paraphrase that into “Be concerned about the appearance of your face and body as they deserve, and about the state of your soul as it deserves.” 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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