Posted by: fvbcdm | December 6, 2016

Feast of Saint Nicholas (6 December 2016)

“With a little old driver so lively and quick I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.”  We all know where those words come from and who they refer to.  And today is the religious commemoration day of that “Saint Nick.”  More properly, Saint Nicholas of Myra or of Bari.  He was probably born and raised in a city called Myra in what is now Turkey.  He was also buried there, but after his death, his remains were transferred to the city of Bari on the Adriatic coast of eastern Italy.  Some years ago, I had the privilege of visiting his tomb there in Bari; there is great devotion to him both in the Catholic Church in that part of the world and among the Orthodox Christians.  And, of course, in our part of the world, religious or not, “Saint Nick” is beloved and popular as a semi-mythical figure who in some countries comes dressed as a bishop to bring gifts, and with us, he retains his name but dresses in a red and white, fur-trimmed suit.  I say that he retains his name because “Saint Nicholas” in the Dutch language is “Sint Nicklaas” which, over the years, was morphed into “Sinterklaas.”  Then, when the Dutch settlers brought their culture to the colony of Nieuw Amsterdam—later, New York—“Sinterklaas” became “Santa Claus” which is the name by which he is principally known today in our country.

The charm of Santa Claus or Saint Nick is that he is the personification of goodness, generosity, and benevolence and these qualities are so much associated with the birth of our Divine Lord in this Advent and Christmas season.  In the sacred liturgy for this feast.  One of the great scriptural themes used in our prayer at Christmastime is this: “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.”  It is a statement attributed to Our Lord as he comes into this world by his incarnation. He is already in the womb of the Virgin Mary; he will soon be born.  And when he IS born, he will be coming to do, not his own will, but that of his heavenly father.  Actually, these two divine Persons, along with the Holy Spirit, want the same thing: the salvation of the human race.  But since a bag of gold or a bunch of toys and candies and Christmas gifts appeal to small children more than a concept like the redemption, “good Saint Nick” brings those simpler things which radiate generosity and goodness and delight.

As we celebrate Saint Nicholas Day, let us remember the basic idea: God is good; those who are good, are generous.  Those who are generous bring joy to their beneficiaries.  Therefore, let us be good, let us be generous, let us be Christian in spreading joy to those around us.  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 | December 5, 2016

Feast of Saint Gerald (5 December 2016)

We are all familiar with the old expression: “to see the handwriting on the wall.” But do we realize just how old it is, and where it comes from?

Well, in chapter 5 of the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament of Sacred Scripture, the pagan king Belshazzar of Babylon is giving a great feast and calls for the sacred vessels which his father, Nebuchadnezzar had pillaged from the Temple in Jerusalem. While he and his guests are sacrilegiously eating and drinking from those vessels, a hand appears writing on the wall near a lampstand where it can be clearly seen. We are told that when the king saw that, “his face blanched, his thoughts terrified him, his hip joints shook, and his knees knocked”! As Elvis Presley might have said, “He was all shook up!” We would be too, to see something like that. And especially to hear the prophet Daniel’s interpretation of the words which the hand wrote on the wall. They were Mene, Tekel, and Peres. Meaning Numbered, Weighed, and Divided. Daniel told the king what they meant: God had numbered his kingdom and determined to end it; God had weighed the king on scales and found him wanting; God had divided the kingdom and it would be given to the Medes and the Persians, enemies of Babylon. A very grim interpretation indeed!

That reminds me of the fact that the German word for the check or the bill which is brought to the table by the waiter at the end of a meal in a German-speaking restaurant is “die Rechnung.” We get the English work “reckoning” from that, and it’s an ominous word, whether we’re talking in terms of a meal in Munich or Vienna, or whether we are talking about the judgment at the end of our lives. Please God, we will be found in the state of grace when our lives end, so that the Lord of the Judgment will weigh us and find us heavy with grace and merit and not with the guilt of sin.

In some of the monasteries of the Middle Ages, the monks used to greet each other when passing in the cloisters or the work areas of the abbeys by saying “memento mori.” Remember: you are going to die. We need not be morbid or pessimistic about it, but it is certainly well to remember that. What would you do today if you knew that tonight at 7 p.m. you were going to die and face the reckoning?

When the apostles returned from their first preaching mission, they were like excited children, and they reported to Our Lord with delight: “Even the demons were subject to us!” Jesus soberly said to them, “Don’t rejoice over that in particular. Rejoice, rather, because your names are written in heaven.” As long as our names are written in heaven, we need not fear a hand writing of our sins and their punishment upon the walls of our lives. 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 | December 1, 2016

Feast of Saint Edmund Campion (1 December 2016)  

 This morning has been a very enjoyable one for me. To begin with, a young friend showed up for Mass here at the monastery with good news about the improvements in his life, which wasn’t going so well there for a while. He seems much happier now, and is experiencing what Our Lord means when he says to us in the Scriptures: “the truth will make you free.” And what a beautiful liberation it is!

Then, when I came to my computer, I found a message on it from friends who are in Rome. They went from Houston to attend the consistory held by Pope Benedict to install the new Cardinals, one of whom is Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston. The delight and the excitement of the trip was very apparent in the email message, and I could share their pleasure, remembering the months of my sabbatical in Rome in 1995. There is a certain special grace in the Eternal City, felt most clearly during and after the great ceremonies in the Vatican. When the Masses and other celebrations are over, the bells peal out over the city, and thousands of people—locals and pilgrims alike—come streaming out of Saint Peter’s basilica and square, radiating the joy of having seen and been with our Supreme Pontiff, and having been present at the canonizations or beatifications of saints, the election of a new pope, the creation of cardinals, the ordinations of bishops and priests, or even the ordinary appearances of the Pope at his window high up in the Vatican Palace or on the steps of the basilica for his Wednesday audiences. Rome is an utterly unique city. It was for centuries the capital of the Roman Empire, and then the mother diocese of all the Catholic dioceses of the world. When the Pope stands on the balcony of Saint Peter’s basilica at his first blessing, and then every Christmas and Easter, he gives his blessing “urbi et orbi”—to the city (of Rome) and to the world.

Now, the Holy Father has created 23 new cardinals whom he sends back to their home dioceses throughout the world to be his special advisers and collaborators throughout the entire Church, and, upon his death, to choose his successor upon the Chair of Peter. 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 | November 30, 2016

Feast of Saint Andrew (30 November 2016)

It would be good if every Christian were able to name the twelve apostles of Our Lord. It might help to remember that in the original group called by Jesus, there were two Simons, two Jameses, and two Judes or Judases. One of the Simons had his name changed by Jesus to Peter and became the first Pope; the two James are sometimes distinguished as James the Greater and James the Less; and then, when Judas Iscariot betrayed Our Lord and then committed suicide, the other eleven chose another to replace him: Matthias. This should help us remember the twelve. The other six are Andrew, Bartholomew (sometimes called Nathaniel), John, Matthew, Philip, and Thomas. Saint Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter, and John was the brother of James the Greater.

Another interesting fact that we might reflect upon today is the quotation from the Old Testament in the first reading of today’s Mass. Because the apostles were essentially preachers of the gospel, we read, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!” The “good news” to which reference is made means the gospel of Christ. And the Old Testament quotation is an earthy one, indicating that even THE FEET of the bringers of that good news are beautiful! In those days, people often went barefooted or wore only sandals. As a result their feet were often dusty, dirty, and the skin of the feet was not particularly attractive. It was a common courtesy for a host to wash his guest’s feet, or have a servant do so, when the guest arrived in his home. But here, because of the immense value and importance of those who brought the Divine Word of revelation, even his FEET were considered beautiful and worthy of honor! So today, as we celebrate Saint Andrew, the fisherman turned preacher, apostle, bishop, martyr, and saint, we smile as we make our own the Biblical idea that because of the importance of his vocation, even his FEET are beautiful! 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 | November 28, 2016

Feast of Saint James of the Marches (28 November 2016)

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, and therefore the first day of our new Church year. The word “advent” means “coming.” It is very important for us, spiritually, that we understand clearly what we are talking about and how Advent works. About 2000 years ago, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity came into our time, our world, our history, and our human race. We speak of that event as “the Incarnation—the Enfleshment of the Word.” He lived on this planet of ours for some 35 years. He preached; he founded his Church; he suffered, died, and rose again. He went to prepare a place for us. Since then, and until the end of time, the Church will celebrate the coming of Jesus at his birth in the past; she will do so by presenting the beautiful feast of Christmas to her children every year until the end of the world. So Jesus comes to us in this annual celebration of his holy birth. But the REAL reason for his incarnation in the past and our celebration of it in the present is that IN THE FUTURE, he will come at the end of our individual lives to take us with him into heaven. THAT is the definitive coming of Christ; that is the coming to which all Christianity looks forward, for which it waits.

During the holy season of Advent, we pray with special intensity: COME, LORD JESUS! Those are the words which should be on the lips and in the hearts of every Christian all our lives. Those are the last words of Sacred Scripture. And those are the words which should keep us always vigilant, always waiting for the return of our Master to ask of us an account of our lives. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

In the 17th chapter of the gospel according to Saint Luke we find the episode of a band of ten lepers who shouted at Our Lord, because they were not allowed to get too close to non-lepers, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” Our Lord did not ask them what they wanted, as he did when a blind man approached him. He simply said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” Now, those who had been considered lepers needed to show themselves to the priests in order to obtain a certificate of no longer being contagious. So their going to the priests was in itself an indication that by the time they got to the priests, their leprosy would have been healed. And so it was. But in their excitement and joy over now being able to rejoin normal human society rather than live apart from healthy people, nine of the ten forgot to go back and thank Our Lord. Only one remembered to do so, and he was not a member of the Jewish community, but a Samaritan—a group with whom the Jews were not on good terms. The one who came back to thank Our Lord fell at Jesus’s feet—a dramatic indication of his gratitude. Our Lord’s reaction shows that he wished an expression of gratitude. “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” And then he said to the man at his feet, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

It’s interesting to note that the lepers asked help of Jesus, the human wonder-worker. Then, when the one came back, Our Lord says that he returned TO GIVE THANKS TO GOD. And he goes on to say, Your FAITH has saved you. Thus Our Lord makes it clear that the cure is the work not of a mere human being but rather of God through human faith in God, and that thanks are owed to God.

On Thanksgiving Day, let us be sure that while celebrating a holiday and a wonderful tradition, we don’t overlook God’s goodness to us and don’t forget to thank God for his constant blessings which make our life possible and so enjoyable. 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 | November 22, 2016

Feast of Saint Cecilia (22 November 2016)

Basically, there are only four kinds of prayer that we can offer to God. They are praise (also called adoration or worship, and based upon love); thanksgiving; contrition or apology for our sins, and petition—asking God for what we want and believe that we need.

Now, this Thursday we will celebrate our national day of thanksgiving. While thinking about that in the context of today’s gospel at Mass, in which Jesus heals ten lepers and only one returns to thank him for his healing, I had a rather facetious inspiration. When I am elected to congress (I bet you didn’t even know I was running for it!) I am going to introduce a bill that would call for FOUR national holidays: 1. a day of adoration, 2. the day of thanksgiving which we already have, I am happy to note, 3. a day of apology for our sins (as our Jewish friends have on their annual Yom Kippur, the day of atonement), and then 4. a day of solemn asking for what we, as a nation, need.

There is VERY little chance of my being elected to congress, and just as little that those three other national holidays are going to be instituted in our country. In fact, I’m surprised that the atheists of our country and the ACLU have not already tried to get rid of Thanksgiving Day. But just because we don’t have national holidays for those purposes, that doesn’t mean that you and I can’t pray fervently and often to praise God, apologize to him, and ask him for what we need as a nation. Let us do so, my dear friends. Let us see ourselves as representatives of all Americans, all Christians, all Catholics and say, with all the devotion of our hearts: we praise you, Dear Lord, we thank you, we ask your forgiveness, and we beg you to give us those things we need.
Lord, teach us to pray!

Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

It’s a mild day here in Lufkin, in the piney woods of east Texas. The leaves of our trees are falling fast now, and the needles of our pines. It is somewhat overcast, but I don’t think it will rain. The temperature is balmy, and there is a feeling of the holidays in the air.

As soon as I finish this message, I will go sit out on the front porch of our monastery to read part of the Liturgy of the Hours. The liturgy today celebrates the presentation of Our Blessed Mother in the temple when she was a little girl. It would probably be more appropriate for me to go into the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is solemnly exposed. But on the front porch, I can see the oaks, the pines, the tallow, and the holly tree in our front yard. And I can see the sparrows, the chickadees, the cardinals, and the juncoes coming to my bird-feeders for their seeds, and watch the squirrels scampering up and down the trees and busily burying acorns on our grounds. Mourning doves, too big to feed at my feeders, daintily find the seeds that have fallen from the feeders to the ground. An occasional hawk will circle overhead. The crows now and then make themselves heard in the woods. The sun moves from my right to my left, from east to west. The creek that runs through our property is pretty quiet now since we haven’t had rain in the last couple of days. The hummingbirds have gone for the winter, and our pine trees continue to blanket the area beneath their branches with needles.

Tomorrow will be Thanksgiving Day with all its associations and memories. My Thanksgiving will be full of contentment, quiet joy, and peace. Above all, it will be a day when I can again be very much aware of all that I have to be thankful for. God has been very good to me. Some of his greatest gifts to me have been you who listen to or read this message. So let me say thanks—to God for you, and to you for all that you do and all that you are. I am very grateful. 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 | November 18, 2016

Feast of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne (18 November 2016)

Tomorrow is the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s now immortal Gettysburg Address. Just four months before that, a terrible carnage had taken place on the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The loss of life on both sides was so terrible that it was decided to dedicate the battlefield as a national monument and a cemetery.

Lincoln’s address was very brief; I had to memorize it as a child in school. But it is as eloquent and elegant as it is short. It ends by saying that it is the hope of our people “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.” “Under God.”

The Madalyn Murray O’Hares and the ACLUs among us would like to remove those words from the address, and remove them also from all public inscriptions and utterances in our land. They claim that any reference to God is a violation of the rights of the atheists among us. But we, who do believe in God and who constitute the vast majority of our people, also have rights. And one of them is to use our intelligence to reason from effect to cause—from this great universe to a maker of the universe. Every ten-year-old child knows that a bicycle doesn’t just happen. Someone is required to make it. If that is true of bicycles, what about those who make the bicycles, and the computers, and the planes that fly from country to country? What about our eyes that see; our ears that hear; our digestive and respiratory and circulatory and reproductive systems?

Some months ago there was a debate in one of our national newsmagazines between a Protestant minister and an atheist. When asked why he didn’t believe in God, the atheist replied that he had no evidence that there is a God. It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry when you hear that. I wonder what evidence he WOULD admit? As the old Chinese proverb goes, “None is so blind as he who will not see.” It is analogous to the whale in the North Atlantic who claims not to believe in the ocean because he has no evidence of it.

In any case, let us remember the words of Lincoln, and let us give thanks that we can still enjoy and profit by “this nation, under God.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

I am often asked the question: what is the difference between the Protestant Bible and the Catholic one? And the answer, basically, is that the Catholic Bible has seven more books in the Old Testament than the Protestant one does, and also that in the Protestant Bible, sections of the books of Esther and Daniel are missing which are found in the Catholic Bible.

Why is this the case? It goes way back to the time before the birth of Our Lord when there were very active Jewish communities in the Holy Land and also in Egypt. In both those places, Jewish rabbis and other scholars were copying and compiling the sacred books of the Jewish religion. Later, in the year 70 A.D., the Roman Empire, having grown tired of the rebelliousness of their Jewish subjects, totally destroyed the city of Jerusalem, its temple, and most of its buildings, and scattered the Jewish people of the Holy Land to the four winds. The Jews realized that they must have something to hold them together as a people and especially as a religious community. All they had left was the sacred writings, or what we today call the Old Testament. But there was some disagreement among them as to which books should be numbered in the Old Testament and which should not. They decided that only those books which were recognized by the Palestinian Jewish community would be considered part of their scriptures, not those accepted also by the Jewish community in Egypt.  So seven books of the Old Testament were dropped. They were Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and first and second Maccabees. And also portions of the books of Esther and Daniel.

In the meantime, the Catholic Church had been founded by Our Lord; it accepted all the Old Testament Jewish sacred writings, and continues to do so to this day. At the time of the Protestant Reformation, the King James version of the Bible published in 1648 followed the Jewish Old Testament and has been doing so ever since. Thus the typical King James version of the Bible has seven books and parts of two other books fewer than our Catholic Bibles.

Actually, there is only one point of doctrine in the material which the King James version lacks. It is found in the second book of Maccabees, chapter 12, verses 43 to 45. There we read that Judas Maccabeus wanted to offer prayers and sacrifices for the souls of his fallen soldiers. So he took up a collection and sent the money to the priests of the temple to pay for the animals offered in sacrifice. The text goes on to say: “In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin.”

Since it is totally unnecessary to pray for those in heaven, and totally futile to pray for those in hell, this passage indicates the existence of purgatory—a condition after death where the dead can be helped by the prayers of those still on earth. This is the principal scriptural passage referring to the reality of purgatory and the value of praying for those who are there, as we do at every Mass, as well as in our private prayers for our loved ones who have died. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

Older Posts »

Categories