Posted by: fvbcdm | September 19, 2022

Feast of Saint Januarius (19 Sept 2022) 

I don’t mind admitting it—I am a monarchist.  I see much value in the monarchies of England and the other countries that have kings and queens and a social order based upon a monarchical structure.  For that reason, I watched with much interest on Tuesday of this week as the funeral services for the Queen Mother Elizabeth of England were performed.  The British know how to carry things like that off with great dignity and good taste, and as always, they set me to thinking of the proper role of monarchy in the lives of the people. 

When we see the pomp and splendor which surrounds the royal family on occasions like that, what we should be seeing is the nobility, dignity, and value of every human being.  The king or queen of a nation is supposed to represent all that is best and finest in the population and to personify the qualities which the nation cherishes as its highest expressions of human achievement and perfection. 

But here, there arises the problem of those who occupy those exalted positions without living lives of nobility, dignity, and goodness.  The old lady who is being buried this week was certainly a beautiful example of what is best and finest in the British monarchy and in the British people.  No scandal ever touched her life, no gross immorality, nothing to contradict the Christian values of home, family, fidelity, duty, decency, and morality.  For more than fifteen years, she ruled as the Queen Consort of the British Empire.  And then for more than fifty years, she presided with grace and charm in the lives of her people, giving them every reason to admire her, to look up to her, to be proud of her. 

Her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II has reigned over the United Kingdom since 1952, more than [70] years. She has conducted her reign with dignity and according to Christian principles—a ruler of whom her people can be proud. 

It is not what these ladies do that makes them great.  It is who they ARE. They are an example, a model. That is the great opportunity of everyone in public life. Whether in monarchy or social life or politics or entertainment or the arts or the sciences or education or religion, many people have a tremendous chance to influence others for the good.  But the opposite is also true—they can be examples of the worst in human life.  Some of our movie actors, for example, and our rock stars who live lives of great ugliness, outrageous behavior, immoral sex lives, unfaithful marriages, abuse of drink, drugs, etc.  Some professors in our colleges try to turn the minds of their students away from God to atheism or agnosticism or relativism.  Those of us who in any way live a public life must be very careful: we have a great burden of responsibility and will have to answer at the judgment for the way we have influenced others.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown. 

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 8, 2022

Feast of Saint Dominic (8 Aug 2022) 

Today is the annual commemoration of Saint Dominic, the founder and father of the Dominican Order throughout the world, and therefore a special day for us Dominicans. 

I remember that when I was a child, I was told that the Dominicans write the letters “O.P.” behind their names, meaning “the Order of Preachers.”  And I wondered why.  Didn’t all priests preach?  They did in my experience.  The answer to that question lies in church history. 

During the so-called “Dark Ages,” after the collapse of the Roman Empire, Europe was overrun by barbarians: Huns, Vandals, Visigoths, the Norsemen, and so on. The church suffered terribly; her churches were sacked and burned; the monasteries were destroyed and their communities of monks and nuns scattered, and the work of the Church badly interrupted and impeded.  The result was that the education of the clergy was seriously hampered, and the quality of preaching declined notably. 

When Saint Dominic came upon the scene about the year 1200, he recognized that good, solid preaching was needed if the Catholic faithful were to learn their faith and practice it properly. He had been living with a group of priests and the bishop of their little city of Osma in north central Spain. There was time for study there and the support of a kind of community.  When Dominic passed through southern France on a mission of the king, he was appalled at the state of Catholicism there, where many of the faithful had fallen into the errors of Albigensianism, one of the heresies of the time.  So he put his experience into action.  He gathered around himself a group of priests of good will.  They lived together, prayed together, celebrated Mass and the sacraments and the liturgy together, and then they went out to preach to the people in small groups of twos and threes.  The idea proved successful, and Dominic wanted to expand his work. But for this, he needed the approval of the Pope.  So we went to Rome to place himself and his ideas before the Supreme Pontiff.  Pope Honorius III was very favorable, and predicted that this new order of preachers would be champions of faith, and true lights of the world.  It was the first time in church history that a religious order had been established with the specific purpose of preaching. 

As time went on, the education of the clergy improved greatly, and soon all priests were competent to preach, and began to do so regularly.  This is why to a child of my time, it seems strange for the Dominicans to call themselves “the Order of Preachers.”  Our Order was approved in 1216.  It is still preaching and doing the work of the Lord in our world.  God grant that it may continue doing so for many centuries to come.  Saint Dominic, pray for your children that they may be truly successful in the many kinds of preaching that they do. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown. 

On Friday of this week, the Universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  In 1956, Pope Pius XXII wrote, in a beautiful encyclical letter, about the devotion of the Church to the Sacred Heart.  It is entitled, “You will draw water,” or in the Latin version “Haurietis Aquas.”  The title is taken from the prophesy of Isaiah, “You will draw water from the springs of salvation.”  I highly recommend that you read the encyclical.  It can usually be obtained from any Catholic bookstore.  It is the kind of document that can provide much fuel for meditation and prayer, and it’s only about thirty pages long in language that anyone can understand and use to advantage.  In the letter, the Holy Father speaks beautifully about the fact that the Catholic devotion to the Heart of Jesus is not just another of the many devotions to this or that saint or to our Lady under this or that title. 

The central event of all history is the Incarnation of the Son of God.  That means that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became a Human Being, a Man, and He lived on this planet of ours for some 33 years.  He was a member of our human family.  He was related to each one of us as successors of our first parents, Adam and Eve.  He had the experience of having been a baby, a child, a human adult.  He has known hunger, thirst, fatigue, and all the human emotions, like delight, pleasure, love, anticipation, fear, anger, frustration, depression, discouragement. 

One of the greatest advantages of the Incarnation is expressed by our Lord Himself at the Last Supper.  Saint Phillip says to Jesus, “Lord shows us the Father, just once, and we will be satisfied.”  And our Lord responds, “Phillip don’t you understand, He who sees me sees the Father, for the Father and I are one.”  By learning what Jesus said and did during His life on earth, by observing His reactions, His attitudes, His outlook, we see the attributes of all Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity.  They are One God, and They share One Divine Intelligence, One Divine Love, even though each of Them is a Separate Person.  Then, when we are devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are adoring a Human Heart belonging to a Divine Person who loves us with a Divine Love and asks that we love Him in return.  How fortunate we are to have a God as near to us as He is, as loving, as eager to receive our love in reciprocity!  Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.              

Note:  This message was composed some years ago 

Today we celebrate one of the most interesting feasts of the Church year, in my opinion.  It is the commemoration of Saints John Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester in England, and Thomas More, the Chancellor of England.  Both of them were contemporaries of King Henry VIII; both of them refused to accept his Act of Supremacy, by which he renounced the authority of the Pope and proclaimed himself as the head of the Church in England and by which he likewise renounced his valid marriage to Queen Catherine of Aragon, his first and only legitimate wife, and declared that his marriage to Catherine was invalid, even though the Holy Father had ruled it valid, and therefore he was free to marry Anne Boleyn, whom he had already made pregnant, and to name her daughter, Elizabeth, the rightful heir to the throne.

When you visit the beautiful cathedrals which adorn the east coast of England, all of them built by Catholics before Henry VIII, you find that each of them has a gift shop in which booklets can be obtained giving the histories of those cathedrals.  One of the booklets is called the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It starts by saying that in the year 1536 there were more than 800—abbeys, priories, nunneries, friaries, and other religious houses in Great Britain.  Four years later, there were none.  When we consider the damage done to the Church by Henry VIII in terms of closing religious houses, turning the priests, monks, nuns, and other religious out of their way of life, and then systematically destroying the Catholic faith of the English, Scots, and Welsh, we realize how truly diabolical that king was. And of course, his daughter Elizabeth I had to pursue his policy because it made her legitimate and thus gave her the right to be queen.

Saints John Fisher and Thomas More were only among the first of many Catholic martyrs in Great Britain. Right in the heart of London, there is a plaque embedded in the street at Marble Arch, one of the busiest intersections of the city.  That plaque commemorates the fact that the so-called “Tyburn Tree” stood there for many years.  Tyburn Tree was a gallows on which convicts were hanged and then killed by terrible means.  Many of them were Catholics, dying because they would not renounce their faith. The persecution of Catholics continued for about three hundred years, and has left its vestiges to the present time in the discrimination against Catholics that is to be found among the English.

If you want to celebrate this commemoration of the English martyrs properly, you must know some of the details of the religious history of England, especially since 1535.  And you should see the movie, “A Man for All Seasons,” a good film on the life of Saint Thomas More.  Let us pray today for the eventual reunion between Rome and Canterbury — the Catholic Church and the Church of England, “that there may be but one flock and one shepherd.”

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 | May 31, 2022

The Feast of the Visitation (31 May 2022) 

Each year on May 31 we observe the feast of the Visitation. Let us give some thought to that today. What we call the Visitation is the second joyful mystery of the Holy Rosary in which we recall that Our Blessed Mother hurried from Nazareth in the north of the Holy Land down to Judea in the south so that she could be of help to her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth who, the Archangel had told Our Lady, was six months pregnant.  Travel was not easy or safe in those days.  So a single young woman like Our Lady would not have traveled alone, but would have joined a caravan of her fellow-Galileans making their way down the Jordan valley to the hill country of Judea where Jerusalem is located.  About a ninety-mile trip which would usually take at least three days of walking or perhaps riding a donkey or camel. From there, she would have gone the remaining five or six miles to the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah.  

There is something very beautiful about our meditation of this young girl who is newly pregnant with the divine and human baby whom she has just virginally conceived. Only she knows of his presence in her body—a presence which is the hope of all humankind. For this tiny child is the Savior of the World, the Redeemer, the Incarnate Word, the Son of God who is now also the Son of Mary. As she and her fellow travelers walked along and fell into conversation, and perhaps sat under a tree on the banks of the Jordan to take their very simple meals which they had to bring with them, did any of them notice anything different—special—about this young girl. She was probably about fifteen years old. I feel sure that she was quiet, conversing in her thoughts with the little Guest in her womb. To converse with Him was prayer, adoration, praise, and love.       

When she enters the home of her relatives, the Holy Spirit moves Elizabeth and the child whom she is carrying. The child leaps within his mother’s body, and Elizabeth cries out with divine knowledge, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Then Our Lady utters the prayer that has been repeated countless times since then. It is part of the official prayer of the Church and is called the Magnificat, from its first word in Latin. Our Lady is marveling at God’s goodness to the world and also at the fact that He is choosing a person as lowly as herself to become the mother of the Redeemer, the Mother of God. She says, “From now on, all generations will call me blessed.” She is not boasting over her future fame, but almost incredulous over the fact that she, humble as she is in her own eyes, can seem of any importance to anyone else. And that importance is not due to anything that SHE has done, but rather to the loving things that GOD is doing in and through and with her. 

Every day we greet and salute her: “Hail, Mary!”; “Ave Maria!” and its equivalent in every language under the sun. And when we do so, we are fulfilling her prophecy: “All generations will call me blessed.” 

A joyful mystery, indeed!  A lovely young Jewish maiden travels with and among her own people.  And because “the Lord is with her,” He, too, travels with and among his own people. And one day He will say, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” 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 | May 13, 2022

Feast of Our Lady of Fatima (13 May 2022) 

May 13 is a double anniversary in recent Catholic history and we should not let it go by without reflection and prayer.  In the year 1917, when much of Europe was embroiled in the First World War and Russia was convulsed in her own revolution which brought Russian Communism into existence, Our Blessed Mother appeared in Portugal to three shepherd children for the first time.  Those three children: Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco, have all died—two in their childhood and the other one, Lucia, as a very old nun in the Carmelite monastery in the Portuguese city of Coimbra. The place where she appeared was Fatima, and so we call her Our Lady of Fatima, although when she identified herself to the children, she said, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.” She asked for prayer and penance for the conversion of Russia. Let us pray today for the conversion of Russia. 

Then, on May 13th, 1981, a Turkish would-be assassin shot and gravely wounded Pope Blessed John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.  After his weeks of recuperation, the Holy Father indicated the connection in his mind between Our Lady and his escape from death on that occasion by going to Fatima to give public thanks to God and Our Lady of Fatima for his recovery.  I can imagine the joy in heaven on this day, the first time this double anniversary has been celebrated since our previous Pope has been beatified.  Today we can very happily say “Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, pray for us”; “[Saint] John Paul II, pray for us.”  Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

Today we Dominicans and many others throughout the world celebrate with special pride and joy the feast of our Sister, Saint Catherine of Siena. Only three women have been declared Doctors of the Church, and she was the earliest one to be so honored. The life of this remarkable woman was very closely associated with the Popes.  When she was a little girl of only six, Our Lord appeared to her.  In her vision, she saw Christ dressed in the vestments of the Pope, and enthroned among saints and angels in heaven.  The beauty of the vision gave her a tremendous awareness of the connection of Our Savior and his vicar on earth, the Pope.  This was the means chosen by Our Lord to correct a major problem in the Church.  About forty years before Catherine’s birth, the Pope, under the influence of French cardinals and politicians, had left Rome and gone to live in Avignon, a French city on the Rhone river in what is now southern France.  He and his successors remained in Avignon for seventy years, much to the scandal and demoralization of the Church and its people of the time.  This Italian girl, in her twenties, moved by the Holy Spirit, exerted such influence upon the Pope that he finally gave in to her begging, pleading, threatening, and scolding, and returned to Rome where he belonged and where the Popes have continued to reside ever since, as they had since the time of Saint Peter.  The Pope is the Bishop of Rome.

If ever there was a saint who was grateful to Our Lord for his establishment of the papacy, and devoted to the current occupant on the seat of Peter, it was Catherine of Siena.  The two principal criteria by which a Catholic can be identified are these: that he or she believe in, and worthily receive, the Holy Eucharist regularly, and that he or she be in communion with and obedient to the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.  We here in America have come to believe that our democratic form of government gives us the right to criticize our political leaders, to lampoon and ridicule them, and to disobey them whenever we can get away with it.  That immature and irresponsible mentality cannot be carried over into the Church.  We do not elect our Popes; the Church is by no means a democracy.  It teaches and governs by divine authority.  And Christ said to Saint Peter, the first Pope, “Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” That total authority has been passed down from Peter to all his successors, of whom [Pope Francis] is the [265th]. I do not necessarily agree with everything that every pope has done; we all know that some of our popes were not good men and were scandalous pontiffs.  But they never erred in matters of faith or morals.  On the other hand, in the last two centuries, the Church and the world have been blessed with some of the finest popes in the history of Christendom.

If we want to be the Catholics we ought to be, let us ask Saint Catherine of Siena to help us in that very noble aspiration.  “He who hears you, hears Me,” Jesus said to the apostles and their successors.  And to Saint Peter, “Feed my lambs . . . feed my sheep.”  Let us accept the “feeding” of our Popes for in doing so, we are nourished by Christ Our Lord himself.  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 | April 22, 2022

Catholic Message for Easter Friday (22 Apr 2022) 

This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday—the Sunday after Easter. The main propagator of this devotion was Saint Faustina Kowalska, a Polish religious Sister to whom Our Divine Lord appeared repeatedly back in the 1930s. He appeared to her in a certain guise which he asked her to have painted and then copies could be made of the painting which she supervised. It shows Our Lord standing as a young, adult man, with his heart visible in front of his chest.  From his sacred heart emanate red and white rays falling upon the earth.  These rays represent the blood and water which flowed from the wounded chest of Jesus on the cross, as Saint John recounts it in his gospel. Some years ago, before she was canonized, my travel group and I had the great privilege of celebrating Mass just beneath the original picture of Our Lord, source of Divine Mercy.  Saint Faustina’s grave was just below the picture in the chapel of the Sisters’ motherhouse in suburban Cracow. 

We might well meditate a bit today on the concept of “mercy.” The Latin word from which it comes is “misericordia,” which means “a heart that grieves.” However, the grief is over the misfortune or suffering of another, not oneself. Our great Dominican theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas says that all that God does to and for us is motivated by God’s mercy, and that divine mercy is omnipotence in the face of human suffering. God looks upon us and sees the trouble that we have gotten into by our sins. His love for us prompts him to “have mercy” on us, and to do what is needed to help us. The greatest of all God’s acts of mercy toward us was the incarnation of his Divine Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, leading to the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection from the grave. By his death, Jesus atoned for our sins. By his resurrection, he gave us hope of eternal life. As a victorious soldier returns from battle bringing with him the plunder and booty of his enemies, so our Divine Champion returns from his battle with the forces of evil with the spoils of his war. They are divine pardon, forgiveness, mercy. That is why on the very night of that first Easter Sunday, our Lord said to his apostles: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven; whose sins you retain are retained.” The sacrament of penance and reconciliation is given to us by the newly risen Savior; by means of it, his redemption of the world will be distributed and dispensed to those who seek it. 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 | April 20, 2022

Catholic Message for Easter Wednesday (20 Apr 2022) 

The readings at Mass for this Wednesday of Easter Week are remarkably similar and different at the same time. The first has to do with Saints Peter and John curing a man who had been crippled from birth. Needless to say, he was enormously happy to be able to walk for the first time in his life, and not only does he walk, but he also goes jumping about in the temple in the sheer thrill of being able to do so. The second reading is from the gospel according to Saint Luke and is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It’s about the two disciples of Jesus on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus on that first Easter afternoon. They are despondent over the death of Jesus, especially since they had thought that he was the promised Messiah. He appears along the road, talks to them, but prevents them from recognizing him. He asks what they are talking about; in their sorrow, they pour out their disillusionment, their sense of failure at the bursting of their bubble. 

Then, when they have finished their description of their sadness, this stranger with them begins to speak. He begins with Moses and explains all of scripture to them and shows them how it was foretold, and necessary, that the Savior would have to suffer and die for the salvation of the world. By now, they have arrived at the town to which they were going. And a terrific transformation is taking place in their minds, hearts, and emotions. This very well-informed stranger knows his scripture backwards and forwards, and he makes sense. They want to hear more; they desperately want to believe, to understand, to recover their lost faith and hope. And they say to him one of the simplest and yet most profound prayers in all of sacred history: “Stay with us, Sir. Night is falling.” He stays; they go in to have their supper, in the context of which he takes bread, says the blessing, breaks it, gives it to them, and then vanishes. It was Jesus! They recognized him in the breaking of the bread. They are as happy in their newfound faith and hope as the formerly crippled man was in his ability to walk and jump. They go hurrying back to Jerusalem to report to the eleven apostles what they had seen and heard. The excitement, the joy, and gladness, the recovered hope—all of this is contained in this wonderful episode which so totally incarnates the spirit of Easter and the gloriously good news: Jesus is risen, Jesus 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 | April 20, 2022

Catholic Message for Easter Tuesday (19 Apr 2022)

During these beautiful days of the Easter octave, we continue to celebrate Our Divine Lord’s resurrection from the tomb. The opening prayer of the Mass yesterday indicated the Church’s interest in those who have come into the Church this Easter either through baptism or through profession of faith in Catholicism.

As I thought about the sacrament of baptism, I marveled at how much is accomplished by the infinite power of God who uses such little, modest instruments to do what He wants done. Take baptism, for example. We become Christians by means of a sacrament which involved about two spoonfuls of water and a baptismal formula that is exactly nineteen words long in English, and only twelve in Latin, the language used to baptize those of my age. On Easter Monday many years ago, I was ordained to the priesthood. What was involved in the conferring of that marvelous power? The bishop laid his hands upon my head and chanted a prayer. That was it. We find the same thing in the life of Our Lord himself. He raised a little girl from the dead by taking her young corpse by the hand and saying, “Little girl, get up.” He restored sight to a blind man by mixing a bit of his saliva with some dirt, spread it on the blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash it off. He fed great crowds with five small loaves of bread and two fish. At the Last Supper, he took a piece of bread, blessed it, broke it, and said to his apostles: take this and eat it; this is my body. And then: do this in memory of me. Can you imagine how many times the Holy Eucharist has been given to the faithful since that simple gesture nearly two thousand years ago? How many have been baptized? How many priests, deacons, and bishops ordained? Very small, simple things and actions and words. But when God is involved, they take on infinite value and power.

And when you think of it, we ourselves are very small things in the great scheme of creation and salvation history. And yet, each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, and Our Lord would gladly have died for the salvation of any ONE of us. Saint Teresa of Avila is quoted as having once said, about money: one peseta (a Spanish unit of money at that time) can provide very little of what we need to live. But with one peseta and Jesus, we are immensely wealthy! 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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