Posted by: fvbcdm | July 31, 2015

Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (31 July 2015)

Today I want to call to your attention the tremendous position that our saint of this day, Ignatius Loyola, occupies in the history of the Church.

Saint Ignatius was born in 1491,2,or 3: there is some uncertainty about that, in the northern part of Spain among the Basque people, of whom he was one. Born and raised Catholic, he became a soldier, living the life that that entailed at the time. But in a skirmish with the French along the Pyrenean border, he was struck by an enemy cannonball which shattered one of his legs. That cannonball changed the course of the world. He had to spend long, boring hours in bed as his leg mended, and when he found out that he would limp and be unable to dance in the future, he made the surgeon rebreak the leg and stretch it so that he could dance again! God had other plans for this young Spanish soldier. Asking for something to read to while away the long hours of recuperation, he was given the life of Christ and of the saints—the only things that the devout family had in their library. That reading was the channel of grace; he realized that there was more to life than fighting in political armies, dancing, and living the life of a mercenary soldier of the time. He began to look into the condition of his soul and his relationship with God. Being a soldier, he thought in military terms. God was his Commander in Chief; the spread of the Kingdom of Christ on earth was something like the spread of the Spanish kingdom throughout the newly discovered Americas and the Far East. He wanted to fight a spiritual battle for the divine Emperor, spreading the Kingdom of Christ from pole to pole. He would form a military company or battalion, which he would call the Company of Jesus like the companies of soldiers in the armies of this world.

When he could walk again, he gave up his position in the army and went to school to learn Latin so that he could then enter a seminary. In Paris, not only did he study the sacred sciences but he met a number of other young Spaniards studying there. He persuaded them to join with him in founding his “Company of Jesus.” The word “company” was rendered into Latin as “societas,” from which we get “society.” So the Jesuits are called the Society of Jesus because of a slight mistranslation of the Latin. The word misses the military overtones of Saint Ignatius’s intention.

The group of men went to Rome where they received the approbation of Pope Paul III in 1540, and the new Society or Company of Jesus came into being. Since then, the followers of Ignatius Loyola have grown to be the largest religious community of men in the Church, and certainly one of the most influential because of their schools all over the world. My father was, and I am, products of Jesuit education. And I am eternally grateful for the education and spiritual formation that they gave me.

Recently, the Jesuits of the world have come upon bad times in that a number of them have embraced the erroneous theology which claims to be “in the spirit of Vatican II.” In this country, some of our Jesuit colleges and universities have abandoned any real Catholicism and have done more damage than benefit to their students. We must hope and pray that these evil days will pass, and the Society of Jesus, which Saint Ignatius intended to be unswervingly loyal to the Pope, will return to that splendid goal and to the excellence that marked it for more than four centuries. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | July 29, 2015

Feast of Saint Martha (29 July 2015)

Today the Church celebrates the commemoration of Saint Martha, one of three siblings who are mentioned relatively often in the gospel.She lived along with her sister, Mary, and their brother, Lazarus, in the village of Bethany, just across the Mount of Olives from the cityof Jerusalem.  They entertained Our Lord more than once in their home, and shortly before his own death, Jesus raised from the tomb Lazarus who had died. 

Today, however, the gospel reminds us of an incident when Jesus had gone to have dinner with the three of them.  I wonder if all twelve of the apostles were also invited; if so, there would have been quite a bit of work to the preparation of the meal. And Mary, instead of helping Martha in the kitchen, sat at Jesus’s feet in the living room and listened to Our Lord speaking.  When Martha protested the fact that Mary was not helping her, and for some reason asked Jesus to make Mary help, Our Lord replied that Mary had chosen the better part and that it would not be taken from her.  Most practical people, especially housewives who do any entertaining, would agree with Martha; however Jesus obviously does not. 

Saint Augustine, the great theologian and scripture commentator of the early Church has this to say about the episode: this life is short and there are many needs to be met in this world: hunger, thirst, need for education, clothing, shelter, defense, spiritual aid, etc.  However in the next life, there will be no needs to be met.  There will be pure joy and the adequate sufficiency of everything anyone could possibly want or need.  Therefore, Mary is doing something heavenly by merely listening to Our Lord and contemplating his words whereas Martha is doing something earthly by getting dinner ready. 

Mary has thus chosen “the better part”; we will be doing that forever in heaven.  Martha feeds Our Lord’s body with her meat and bread and fruit.Jesus feeds her soul and heart with his words of truth and love.  Let’s be sure that we understand the sense in which Jesus calls Mary’s means of receiving him “the better part,” and let us also give preference to that in our own spiritual 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 | July 28, 2015

Feast of Saint Samson (28 July 2015)

Question: where in the bible do we find mention of underwear? And not just underwear, but dirty underwear? And then not just dirty underwear, but dirty, ROTTEN underwear???

The answer is: in the book of the Prophet Jeremiah, chapter 13. We tend to think of scripture as inspiring, uplifting, reverent, and beautiful. But in the first reading of today’s Mass, we come to this funny and very graphic lesson given to us by God. The prophet Jeremiah, who lived in Israel about five hundred years before Our Lord, is told to buy some new underwear (it was called a “loincloth” in those days) and put it on. After wearing it a while, God instructed him not to wash it, but to go bury it in a cleft of a rock in the desert. Later, he was instructed to go get the hidden loincloth which was by that time dirty and rotten because of the passage of time. And God made it clear that he would allow the pride of Judah and Jerusalem to rot because they had not obeyed him.

“I wanted them to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty,” God says. “But they did not listen!”

In matters of religion, obedience is essential. God commands; we obey. God leads; we follow. “If you love me,” says Jesus in the gospel, “keep my commandments.” If you do, you will be spiritually successful and you will become a saint. If you do not, you will be about as useful to me as a dirty rotten old pair of drawers. It’s a pretty graphic and dramatic indication of how God feels about disobedience. 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 | July 27, 2015

Feast of Saint Pantaleon (27 July 2015)

July 26 is the feastday of Saint Ann, the mother of Our Blessed Lady. Since it fell on Sunday this year, it wasn’t celebrated by the universal Church. But because today doesn’t have a feast day of its own, I was able to celebrate what we call a “Votive Mass” in honor of Saints Ann and her husband, Joachim this morning. I have had the privilege of visiting the shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupre in the province of Quebec; it is the world’s principal shrine to Saint Ann. July 26 always brings back good memories of my visits there, especially my first one back in 1947 when I was in college.

I was spending a long weekend in Quebec after a marvelous ten days of music with the Trapp Family at their music camp in Stowe, Vermont. I took a bus from the hotel in Quebec out to Beaupre, down the Saint Lawrence River about 20 miles. As I attended Mass in the huge basilica and visited all the buildings connected with the shrine, I was somewhat surprised to hear the preachers and narrators talk about Saint Ann as “the Grandmother of Jesus.” Although I knew that she was the mother of Our Lady, I had never heard her referred to as “the Grandmother of Jesus.” But it’s perfectly true, and that title situates Our Lord within the context of our human family. Since he had a human mother, he also had human grandparents and relatives of various degrees of kinship. And it was in the womb of Saint Ann that the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady occurred.

So at this time of year, we have the opportunity to adore Our Divine Lord as our Human Lord also, a man who had a mother and grandparents, and who may well have learned much of what he humanly knew at the knee of his grandmother, Saint Ann. If you study the religious art of the Catholic countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the Catholic Netherlands, you will find many statues and paintings of the Madonna and Child, and often with them there is the depiction of Saint Ann, too, just as grandmothers are so often found in the context of a young woman and her newly born child.

I remember so well an incident that occurred when I was about three. The doorbell rang one day, and there at the door was our mailman with a package. And the package was addressed to ME! It was the first time that that ever happened, and I was thrilled out of my mind! My mother pretended to share my terrific excitement, and we opened the package to find that it was from my grandmother who lived in a little town called Jeanerette, Louisiana. In the box were a pair of bed-socks that she had made for me out of warm flannel or some similar material, and a big Hershey chocolate bar. To think: the postman had brought a package to ME. Solid gold couldn’t have pleased me more.

Let us pray for our grandparents as we celebrate those of Our Divine Lord. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Posted by: fvbcdm | July 24, 2015

Feast of Saint Sharbel Makhluf (24 July 2015)

Today, by an interesting but sad coincidence, is the commemoration day of Saint Sharbel Makhluf, a Lebanese priest, monk, and hermit, whom the Church celebrates at the very time when his homeland is being convulsed in bombardment, bloodshed, death, and tremendous suffering for so many. Saint Sharbel is an interesting person because he belonged to the Maronite Rite of the Catholic Church, one of the rites which are in full communion with our Holy Father, the Pope, but which are different from our own Latin Rite. The official language of the Maronite Rite is Aramaic, the language spoken by Our Divine Lord, his Mother, and the apostles during their lives on this earth. It is named for Saint Maron, an early Catholic in Lebanon who composed the prayers for the Mass and Sacraments in the Aramaic language suited to the culture and customs of the people of Lebanon.

Saint Sharbel was a priest, a monk, and a hermit in the hills of Lebanon; he was born in 1828 and died seventy years later. He was canonized in 1978 by Pope Paul VI, especially to emphasize the unity of the various rites within the Catholic Church, and the interest of the western Church in those of our eastern brothers, both those in union with us and the schismatic Orthodox who are separated by the sad divisions that have existed for centuries. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | July 22, 2015

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalen (22 July 2015)

The 22nd of July each year brings us to the feast of Saint Mary Magdalen, the official “protectress” of our Dominican Order. Hers is a remarkable story. Her name probably means that she was a native of the town of Magdala in Galilee, on the western shore of the Lake or Sea of Galilee. We know from the gospels that Our Lord delivered her from seven devils, although we are not told how she came to be possessed by them or whether it was her own sinfulness that caused her diabolical possession. But we do know that, once Our Lord had liberated her from this awful situation, she became an ardent disciple of Our Lord.  Her love for him gave her the courage to stand with His holy Mother and Saint John the Apostle at the foot of the cross, which was a dangerous place to be since it indicated that they were followers of His and might be treated by the Roman authorities the way Jesus himself was being treated.

Magdalen took part in the burial of Our Lord in the tomb of another disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, but because of the imminence of the Sabbath day, they could not complete the rites of burial that they desired. Therefore, early on the morning after the Sabbath—we call it Easter Sunday—she and some other women returned to the tomb with fragrant spices and aromatics to place on and around Jesus’s body. But as they approached the tomb, they were faced with a problem: who was going to open the very heavy stone entrance to the tomb. It would take several men to roll back the wheel-shaped stone which protected the bodies of the dead from grave robbers and animals.

We know the rest of the story: the tomb was open; the body of Jesus was not there, but two angels were there to tell Mary Magdalen and the other women that Jesus was risen from the grave, alive, and victorious over death. And the women were commanded to go and tell his apostles that he was risen. What a joy—to be able to announce to the grieving friends of Jesus that their grief was ended, that Jesus was alive, that the pain of Good Friday and the sadness of that Holy Saturday was now ended and replaced by the triumph of Easter—a triumph that would never end!

Saint Mary Magdalen was the first to spread the gospel—the “good news” that Jesus was risen. And subsequent to that moment, every Christian preacher has that same joy: to announce to the world that the crucified and murdered Jesus was risen, alive, and finished with all his sufferings for the salvation of mankind. That is why we Dominican Preachers have chosen her as our protectress. We want to imitate her in constantly giving to our fellow human beings the greatest of all “good news”: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and will live forever in victory! Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

After a very beautiful vacation trip, I am at home again and happy to be able to greet you with this daily message.

Our trip took us to an area totally new to me: the states of Wyoming and Montana, and the Canadian province of Alberta where some of the most beautiful scenery in the Canadian Rockies is to be found. In this country we visited the national parks of Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Glacier. In Canada, the national park in which the towns of Banff Springs and Lake Louise and their spectacular environs are located. I have never seen more impressive natural beauty.

In the third chapter of the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, we find a beautiful prayer recited by the three men in the fiery furnace. It is often called the “Benedicite” from its opening word in Latin, and is a sort of litany of how all creation praises and gives glory to God. I thought of that so many times as we were able to enjoy the stunning glory of the country through which we were passing.

“Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever . . . mountains and hills, bless the Lord . . . everything growing from the earth bless the Lord . . . you springs, bless the Lord . . . all you birds of the air, bless the Lord . . . all you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord.”

In this regard, we saw tremendously majestic mountains, snowfields on their summits; miles and miles of thick forests, both evergreen and deciduous; in Yellowstone Park we saw many geysters, fumaroles, “mudpots” as they are called.  Old Faithful performed for us on three different occasions, at the remarkably predictable rhythm of once every ninety minutes, when it comes alive and erupts a tremendous amount of steam and boiling water over 100 feet into the air. The Canadian Rockies around Lake Louise are beautiful and impressive beyond the ability of words to describe. All of it speaks of the beauty of God, its creator and offers us the opportunity to ponder His power, glory, and goodness. I am very grateful for the opportunity to experience this beauty and impressiveness, and would certainly encourage you who have not traveled in that part of the world to try to do so one day. That part of the world is as eloquent concerning the beauty of our Creator God as anywhere on earth. 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 | July 16, 2015

Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (16 July 2015)

I like Trivial Pursuit. A good question for the game is: Name the seven hills of ancient Rome. The first of them, both in the alphabet and in terms of its height is the Aventine, on the top of which our Dominican headquarters at Santa Sabina is located. The ancient basilica and its adjoining priory were given to Saint Dominic by Pope Honorius III who granted our Order his approbation in the year 1216.

When visitors are taken through those buildings, teeming with history, they are shown the meeting room in the priory in which there is a plaque pointing out that in that room, in 1221, Saint Dominic gave the habit of his new order to two young Poles, Hyacinth and Ceslaus, who had come to Rome to study for the priesthood. When they met him, they were so impressed with him and his new Order of Preaching Friars that they asked him to send some of his Dominicans to Poland, their homeland. His answer: YOU become Dominicans, and I’ll send YOU! And so it was—he welcomed them into his preaching friars, gave them the habit, they completed their studies, were ordained priests, and then they went back to Poland and other countries of eastern Europe and did a tremendous job of spreading the faith there. Tomorrow, in our Dominican calendar, we celebrate Blessed Ceslaus; Saint Hyacinth’s feastday will come next month.

Despite the frequent invasions of the Mongolians Tatars, the Poles clung to their western civilization and their Catholic faith. Then in our own time, they had to live through the horror of Naziism and then Communism. Just a few years ago, we saw the results of their tenacity again affecting history: inspired by the Polish Pope, John Paul II, the people of Poland formed the labor union and the wider social and popular movement called Solidarity, which without a shot being fired, brought down the evil empire of Marxist-Leninist Communism in Russia and the other captive members of the Soviet empire.

And speaking of current events, we must not fail to notice that today is the annual celebration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. And today terrorist shells from Lebanon rained down upon the Israeli city of Haifa located at the foot of, and on the slopes of, Mount Carmel. Let us pray for peace in that part of the world, so often stained with blood in the ongoing animosity between Jews and Muslims. We call it the Holy Land because it has been blessed by the footsteps of Jesus, Mary, and the early apostles and disciples. However, many unholy things have gone on there due to the hostility and malice of two political entities fighting for the possession of the same real estate. They never seem to learn that more is accomplished by peace than by war—by means proper to rational human beings than by those characteristic of the animals in the jungle. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown.

Note: This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | July 15, 2015

Feast of Saint Bonaventure (15 July 2015)

In mid-May of 1993, I was pastor of Holy Rosary Church in Houston and my mother died in New Orleans at the age of 99 years and two months.  I went home to bury her, and discovered, on my return to Houston, that I was having some abnormal bleeding in my body.  My doctors did a thorough exam, and found cancer.  I remember how unreal it seemed to me: I had cancer!  Cancer was something that happened to other people; I was a healthy 63 year old.  Maybe they had made a mistake.  But there was no mistake.  Even though I felt fine and didn’t have an ache or a pain, I had an aggressive cancer growing in my internal organs and something needed to be done about it.

On the morning of July 15th of that year—seventeen years ago today—I was wheeled into surgery here in Houston and underwent a major operation in which some organs were removed and others were rearranged to make up for the missing ones.  An anesthesiologist came and sat by my bedside in the operating room and introduced himself.  We shook hands and he began the administration of the anesthetic.  The next thing I knew, my own surgeon was waking me up and saying, “How’re you doing, Father?”  I think it was about 4 hours later.  I was amused at his question and said to him: you should know that better than I do!

I remained in the hospital for nine days and then came home to continue my recuperation.  I was so weak after those days in bed that on climbing the stairs to my room, I had to sit and rest about half-way up the staircase.  My travel group and I had already planned our 1993 trip to Europe, and it was only about six weeks away.  I felt that I would NEVER make that trip, as weak as I was.  But the human body is capable of marvels, and six weeks after that, I flew with my friends to Paris and then to Lourdes for the beginning of a wonderful trip.  There was no need for chemotherapy, radiation, or any medication.  I just got well and went on with my life.

I tell you this today because this is July 15th, the anniversary of that BIG operation.  And since then, Saint Bonaventure, the good Franciscan who was a personal friend of our Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas and whom we celebrate on July 15th each year, is my “cancer friend.”  It may be that you are being told that you have cancer and need surgery, or that may happen in the future.  If so, I hope that my story will be of some encouragement to you.  Cancer is not the end of the world.  And of course, neither is death.  We are in the hands of a loving God, who knows the future even though we don’t, and loves us far more than we can imagine.

May Saint Bonaventure and the Lord bless 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 | July 10, 2015

Feast of Saint Peter Tu (10 July 2015)

Last night, Cardinal George, the archbishop of Chicago, appeared with Father Mitch Pacwa on EWTN, Mother Angelica’s network. One of the things he talked about was the antipathy toward the Church that we are witnessing at the present time. That antipathy comes from a number of sources: some are outside the Church in the form of people who see the Church as an enemy of the Bible, or of human freedom, or whatever. There are many who call themselves Christians but who were raised to think of the Catholic Church as the “whore of Babylon,” and of the Pope as the anti-Christ. Then, you have the former Catholics who, for one reason or other, have given up the practice of their faith. Invalid marriages are a principal cause of this; others are embittered by the changes that have occurred since Vatican II—some wanted the changes to go farther; others believe they went too far. But in any case, changes in the liturgy or in theological emphasis have alienated them from the Sacraments.

Some homosexuals are embittered because they want to practice their immoral sexual lives and still be regarded as morally good people by the Church; some who believe in scientific experimentation with incipient human life, as in the case of stem-cell embryonic research, are angry with the Church for forbidding any procedures that destroy what is, in fact, a human life. And so it goes. No doubt the abuse of children by the much-publicized priests who committed that crime have driven some out of the Church.

That leaves us who are determined to be loyal to Our Divine Lord, his Church, and his vicar on earth, the Pope. Let us recognize what tremendous gifts of God these elements are in our religious life. Let us look at the lives of those who have turned away and walk with us no more. They are tragic examples of spiritual suicide. These are the times when we must make decisions. Christ asks us, as he asked his apostles when some turned away from him over his promise to give them his flesh to eat and his blood to drink: “Do you want to go, too?”  Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

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