Posted by: fvbcdm | June 23, 2017

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (23 June 2017)

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

Today we commemorate two of the English martyrs of the 16th century who gave their lives rather than capitulate to the demands of King Henry VIII who set himself up as the head of the Church in his realm rather than recognize the divinely given authority of the Pope in spiritual matters throughout the universal church.

Today we celebrate Saint John Fisher, a bishop whom the Pope made a Cardinal while in prison awaiting his own martyrdom, and Saint Thomas More who is well known to many as “A Man for All Seasons,” the title of a play and a movie made about his life within our own times. He was once a close friend of the king who made him the Lord Chancellor of England—the highest legal position in the kingdom at that time. But Saint Thomas More was always, as he himself said, “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” And that fidelity to God cost him his life, and gave to us one of our most prominent and well-known martyrs. And as the Church father Tertullian many centuries before that remarked, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”

Those of us who are familiar with the story of Saint Thomas More find in him a very appropriate patron saint for the efforts of the Anglican and Catholic Churches to achieve reunion after the nearly five centuries of separation set into motion by the selfish king. And now, in addition to the tragic split between the Church of Rome and the Anglican Church, we find within the Anglican church further fragmentation because of that church’s ordination of women to its priesthood and episcopacy (the state of being a bishop) and of at least one openly homosexual man.

Let us pray today for our Christian brothers and sisters of the Anglican communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in this country, that they and we will achieve reunion through the fertile seed of the blood of these two English martyrs and the many others who also gave their lives back in the days of the Tudor and Stuart rulers. 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 | June 21, 2017

Feast of  Saint Aloysius Gonzaga (21 June 2017)

[Today] is what we call the summer solstice.  It is the longest day of the year in our Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer.  Thus, [tomorrow], the days begin to grow shorter, until we come to the winter solstice on December 21.  Therefore, this is a good time of the year to recommit ourselves to the glory and service of God, as we begin a new season in our lives, a new period of time.  As we all know, we live in time in this world, but we are moving through time to the moment when our on personal time will end with our death, and we will enter an eternity, a totally different way of existing.  So let us begin this three-month period of summer by thanking our God for the gift of human life and all the greatness He gives us to live in this world in time so as to achieve an eternity of happiness with Him in Heaven.

And, on this June 21st, we celebrate in our Church calendar the feast of a young man in sixteenth-century Italy who wanted to be a priest.  He entered the newly founded Jesuit order but died of the plague contracted by taking care of the sick in the City of Rome before his ordination.

During my sabbatical in Rome, some years ago, I often visited the Jesuit Church of Saint Ignatius where the tombs of three Jesuit Saints are to be found—Saints Robert Bellarmine, John Berchmans, and Aloysius Gonzaga, whom we celebrate on June 21st.  The building that was a hospital back in the days of Saint Aloysius is now a police station.  It was there that he cared for the sick. It was there that he contracted the plague, which ultimately took his life, in a sort of martyrdom of charity.  One day, I went there and just asked if I could go in and just look around to be in the building with such venerable associations; however, the police who were on guard duty at the door would not let me go inside.

Not far away, there is another, more elegant building, which bears a historical marker, indicating that it was the home of the Gonzaga family, of which Saint Aloysius was a member.  Saint Aloysius is one of the patron saints of young people.  Yesterday, we spoke of the spiritual dangers for young people in today’s world.  Now, we might as well pray for them, through the intercession of all their patron saints—Aloysius Gonzaga, John Berchmans, Maria Goretti, Dominic Savio, John Bosco, and all of the other saints who distinguished themselves by their concern for the spiritual well-being of the young. Thank you for allowing God to love you, God bless you.

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

 

Posted by: fvbcdm | June 20, 2017

Feast of Pope Saint Silverius (20 June 2017)

Let’s give some thought today to the moral theology of the daily newspapers.  This morning, with my coffee, I perused the society page of our Times-Picayune and noted, to my sorrow, that a number of weddings either have taken place, or are scheduled to take place, involving people whose family names are Hebert or Landry or Robisheau or Martinez or O’Flaherty, names usually associated with Catholic families, the bride graduated from one of our Catholic high schools, so did the groom, and they are being married at this or that restaurant or hotel lobby witnessed by some justice of the peace or judge or one of our renegade Catholic priests who now supplements his income by performing weddings which are, according to the Sacramental disciplines of the Church, invalid and immoral.

And then, we priests hear so often the lament of the parents of these young people.  They sacrificed and scrimped and saved to be able to send their children to Catholic school, and here are the children embarking upon illicit unions, sometimes in civil union, sometimes simply living together without even a civil union.  The parents are confused, heart-broken, disappointed.  They felt cheated.  They believe that for all that religious education did their children, they might just as well have sent them to public schools.  Whose fault is all this?  I suspect that it is shared in by the parents, the schools, the Church, our society, our culture, our entertainment media, but, of course, the greater guilt and sin lies with the sinners themselves, regardless of the many elements that led them to do what they did.  Those decisions we leave to the merciful judgment of God.

Down the centuries of Christian history, the Church has always had its enemies to deal with.  First, the persecutions in the Holy Land itself just after the first Pentecost.  Then, the widespread persecution of the Church by the entire Roman Empire.  Then, after the conversion of the Roman Imperial government, the incursions of the Huns and the Vandals and the Norseman and the Goths and other non-Christians who inflicted so much grief upon the medieval Church.  Then, the sinfulness and corruption within the Church itself, leading to the Protestant revolt and to the so-called Enlightenment. And now, the triumph of the Sex Revolution, in which the sacredness of human sexuality and marriage means nothing but fun and pleasure and, of course, alienation from God.  Thank you for allowing God to love you, God bless you.

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

Posted by: fvbcdm | June 19, 2017

Feast of Saint Romuald (19 June 2017)

One of the most enduring art media is the mosaic.  Basically, it’s a kind of small jigsaw puzzle of small pieces of colored glass which have been glued to a background to form an image.  There are very ancient mosaics still in existence produced before the time of Christ.  And, for those who are professionally or artistically interested in mosaics, there is no place like Ravenna in Northeast Italy.  After the conversion of the Emperor Constantine and the legitimization of the Church, the Emperors moved the court to Ravenna, where beautiful churches and public buildings came to be built.  Some of those interiors were covered with exquisite mosaics, which are still to be seen there.  One of the monasteries with a mosaic-covered church is Sant’Apollinare in Classe.

Classe is a suburb of Ravenna, and it was this monastery of which Saint Romuald became the abbot around the year 1000.  He was an interesting man.  His father had killed someone in a duel, and the devout, young Romuald wished to do penance for his father’s crime and to pray for his conversion.  So he embraced the life of a hermit and eventually became the founder of a religious order of hermit monks at a place near Ravenna called Camaldoli.  His prayers were very effective indeed because his father was converted and became a hermit monk himself.  The order of hermit monks which Romuald founded still exists in the Church after more than 1000 years.  There are not many of these silent monks, who live a very austere life of solitude, silence, and prayer, but their function within the Church is very important.

Just as our Divine Lord spent more than 90% of his life on earth in the quiet life of the Holy Family of Nazareth and during His public life often went to lonely places to pray in solitude and silence, so there is need within the Mystical Body of Christ for the dimension of silence and solitude, the contemplative life, the direct seeking of God away from the ordinary occupations of the human family.  On June 19 each year, the Church celebrates Saint Romuald.  There are two Camaldolese monasteries in our country which continue the unique vocation of Saint Romuald their founder.  It is the mind of the Church, that, as we celebrate these Saints of silence and solitude, we try to bring into our own hyperactive lives a measure of the same, sitting at the feet of Christ in silence and attentive solitude, to prepare ourselves for the contemplative life of Heaven.  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 | June 16, 2017

Feast of Saint John Regis (16 June 2017)

This Sunday we Catholics throughout the world have the great privilege and pleasure of celebrating the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  The feast used to be called Corpus Christi, which simply means, “The Body of Christ.”  After our annual celebration of the whole gamut of Salvation History, beginning with the First Sunday of Advent and reaching its completion with Pentecost, we celebrate two more very important truths of our holy faith.  One—the Blessed Trinity—we celebrated last week, and now, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

While we celebrate this beautiful feast though, our prayers are mingled with a certain sorrow.  Some time ago, a poll was taken in this country of people who call themselves Catholic.  Only 30% stated that they believed in the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  The others apparently believed that the Eucharist is only symbolic or just a memento of the Last Supper or something like that.  Believe me, I would never have spent eight years in the seminary for the sake of a symbol or a figure of speech.  Nor would the martyrs have died for a symbol.  Nor would the thousands of missionaries down through the history of the Church have given their entire lives, under terrible conditions, to preach a doctrine which is not true.  Either our Lord Jesus Christ in truly present in the sacrament of the altar or we are the most pathetic of people, and the Church has been teaching error for 2000 years.

At the moment of consecration at Mass, the wafer ceases to be bread and becomes the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.  That is equally true of the wine, which ceases to be wine.  Can this be proven in a chemistry lab?  No.  The appearances remain the same.  But it can certainly be proven by faith and by the constant and solemn teaching of the Church from the Last Supper on until the End of Time.  So as we celebrate this beautiful feast, let us pray in thanksgiving for the great gift of the Sacrament of the Eucharist which Jesus has given to us.  Let us be grateful also for the Faith which allows us to see in the Holy Eucharist, the Body of Christ. And let us pray for a deepening of the Faith of the entire Catholic Community—in our country and in the world—in this central doctrine of our holy religion.  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 | June 14, 2017

Feast of Saint Anastasius of Cordoba (14 June 2017)

Today Our Lord tells us in the gospel of the Mass: I have come not to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. Jesus himself is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, just as he is the Word—we often speak of him as the Incarnate Word of God.

This concept reminds me of the one and only time I’ve attended a Jewish worship service. I was teaching at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas in the late 60s. In connection with a course in comparative religion, two of our Dominican Sisters, two of us priests, and about 30 students went to Temple Emmanuel one Friday night for the service. I was struck by the reverence with which, at the beginning of the service, one of the several rabbis who were there in liturgical robes went up to what is called the Holy of Holies—a sort of cabinet at the front of the synagogue, took out one of the scrolls of the law, covered by rich tapestry and adorned with a silver crown, and laid it on the table where our altar would be. There, he uncovered the scroll and unrolled it to the place he wanted. I realized how a number of the elements of their regard for the Law or the Word of God correspond to ours. Their synagogue and our church; their Holy of Holies and our tabernacle; their “everlasting light” which burns before the Holy of Holies, and our tabernacle lamp, and above all, their reverence and love for God’s Law and God’s Word and our adoration and devotion to Christ, the fulfillment of the Law and the Incarnate word of God. Our Jewish brothers and sisters are indeed close to us in our common regard for the Old Testament and the understanding that we live by “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 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 | June 13, 2017

Feast of Saint Anthony of Padua (13 June 2017)

Today the Church celebrates a favorite saint whom we call Saint Anthony of Padua.  And for us Dominicans, there are several unusual aspects to our celebration.  For one thing, Saint Anthony of Padua was born not in Padua, as we might expect, but rather in the city of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.  Padua is in Italy, quite close to Venice.  This Anthony joined the Franciscan friars the same year that our Father Saint Dominic died—1221. He traveled extensively in Europe preaching the gospel with great enthusiasm.  He died very near Padua and his body is still venerated there.  Thus he has come to be called Anthony of Padua rather than of Lisbon.  He is often invoked to find things that have been lost or misplaced.  This custom comes from a tradition that a thief stole an expensive book which he was using in his studies.  Anthony prayed for its return, and the thief soon returned to give back the stolen book after seeing a powerful vision that moved him to restore what he had taken.

In our parish church in New Orleans when I was a child, there was a statue of Saint Anthony next to an almsbox.  Every Saturday morning, my aunt stopped there on her way out of church after Mass to give Saint Anthony “his allowance,” as she called it. There is, also in New Orleans, a parish called Saint Anthony which has for over a century been staffed by our Dominican priests and brothers.  It started as a mortuary chapel, situated within the parish of Saint Louis Cathedral and near the cemeteries just behind the parish which embraced the old French Quarter.  When Archbishop Chapelle brought Dominicans to New Orleans from abroad, he asked them to staff that small chapel which bore the name of Saint Anthony of Padua.  The ministry there increased greatly and soon the chapel of Saint Anthony was converted into the parish of Saint Anthony and located in another part of town, where it is today.  So now we have the unusual case of a Dominican parish with a Franciscan name, several miles away from where it got its start. May Saint Anthony bless you and me. 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 | June 12, 2017

Feast of Saint Christian (12 June 2017)

Today I’d like to talk to you about doughnuts.  Rather a stretch from the spiritual life, you say? Maybe so, but we mustn’t be too narrow in our definition of spirituality.  Our Lord said that the great King Solomon in all his glory was not as elegantly arrayed as the wildflowers that grow in Galilee in the springtime.  In my home town of New Orleans, there are two establishments that have endeared themselves to the city over many years of operation.  One of them is called the Cafe du Monde and is, as it has always been, in the French Market within easy sight and walking distance of the Cathedral and Jackson Square, the heart of the French Quarter and the original city of New Orleans, laid out there in the year 1718.  The other one is called Morning Call; for many years it, too, was located in the French Market, but traffic and parking became a major problem, so Morning Call moved out to Metairie in Jefferson Parish, several miles from its previous location.  But its devoted patrons followed it there, and for many of us, no visit to New Orleans and vicinity would be complete without a visit to the Morning Call.  Why?  Because it makes coffee and what we call doughnuts, and they are WONDERFUL!

The day that I received my first Holy Communion—it was Holy Thursday about the year 1937 or so—my uncle offered to take my immediate family and his to have breakfast anywhere I chose. The choice was not a problem for me: it was to be the Morning Call coffee and doughnut stand in the Quarter.  So there we went to celebrate my first reception of the unleavened Eucharistic bread with the very leavened delicious beignets, which is the more proper term for the doughtnuts at Morning Call and Cafe du Monde. Actually, they are fritters, so hot that you can hardly hold them, and indescribably good. The Morning Call stand still has the same furnishings it had back in those days, and whenever I go there, that ancient arch with the electric light bulbs over long white marble tables where people sit on stools facing one another brings back my first Communion day.

I have a young priest friend in New Orleans who, when he was still in college and I was stationed in Nashville, came to visit me.  We went to celebrate Mass at the convent of our Dominican Sisters there as was my duty, and then on the way home, we stopped at a doughnut shop to buy our breakfast.  It was not New Orleans, but it was good.  On the counter near the cash register was a bowl of little round balls of doughnut material which were called “doughnut holes.”  My friend Alan asked the price of those things.  The young woman told him; let’s say 30 cents a dozen (we’re talking about the year 1985). Alan has always been a very devout young man and usually comes up with expressions that have to do with biblical events, quotations, or numbers.  He thought about the clerk’s information for a moment, and then said to her, “Give me seven of them.” Not a dozen; not a half-dozen.  Seven.  She looked at him, trying to decide whether he was serious or not, while I tried not to laugh too loudly.   So she gave him seven and had to figure how much to charge him for the VERY odd number!  Again, a memory that comes back to me often. So, what do these little vignettes have to do with the spiritual life?  They are happy memories; they make one laugh and form a little bit of our history, our life, what the French call our “joie de vivre”—the joy of living. Alan’s seven doughnut holes are much more enjoyable than most people’s three or four ordinary doughnuts at home or in a doughtnut stand somewhere else.  King Solomon’s greater beauty than Palestinian wildflowers; Alan’s seven doughnut holes, and the coffee and doughtnuts in the Morning Call coffee stand give us reason to rejoice over this life that our God gives to us.  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 | June 8, 2017

Feast of Saint Medard (8 June 2017)

In the Old Testament, God’s people were constantly being told, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is One God!” This was in contrast to the surrounding pagan religions, with their many gods and goddesses, the religions of the Egyptians and the Assyrians, the Greeks and the Romans.  Some of their gods were supposed to be good, and some were supposed to be evil.  The Chosen People knew quite well that there was only one God, that He is infinitely good, that He has made all things that exist, that He had no beginning and will have no end.

Then our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, and, throughout His public life, He indicated that He was God but that He was not God the Father.  What were the Jewish people to make of this?  If there was only one God, then how could God the Father be God and Jesus Christ also be God?  This is one of the main reasons why so many of them rejected Him and refused to be persuaded, even by His miracles and His obvious wisdom.  Then, to make matters even more puzzling to the Jewish people, as our Lord’s life on earth drew to its close, He began to speak of yet another Divine Reality—what we call the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Paraclete.  The word “Paraclete” means “one who can be called upon for help, a supporter, an aid, a helper.”  Jesus told his disciples who were feeling sad that He was about to leave them, that it was good for them that He go because, if He left them, He would send the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete upon them, who would be an even greater advantage than He would in staying with them.  The Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost.

So, now we have been through the two testaments of the Scriptures in our year’s celebration of the sacred mysteries.  We know who God the Father is.  We know Jesus, who is God the Son, and we have seen the Holy Spirit descend upon the early Church to become the Soul of the Church.  So during this weekend, we celebrate the three Divine Persons of the One God, and we call them the Blessed Trinity.  Trinity simply means “threeness.”  This is the greatest truth that Jesus revealed to the world which had not previously been known.

God has made us in His image and likeness.  Now that we know that there are three persons in the One God, we can realize that we are made in the image of a Divine community, a Divine family.  Just as in God, we find Father and Son and Holy Spirit, so we are made to form human families of father, mother, and child.  We begin as children and eventually grow to adulthood, in which we become fathers and mothers that form new families, new reflections of the Divine family of the Blessed Trinity, and we joyously pray all of our lives, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit! As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.”  Thank you for allowing God to love you, God bless you.

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

 

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