Posted by: fvbcdm | January 17, 2017

Feast of Saint Anthony of Egypt (17 January 2017)

Today the Church celebrates the famous Saint Anthony of the Desert, sometimes called Saint Anthony the Abbot.  He was born into the Christian community of Egypt in about the year 250 and lived about a hundred years—remarkable for that period, the austerity of his life and the severe heat and aridity of Egypt.  As a very young man, he felt the call to go out into the desert to live a contemplative life.  He didn’t realize how many others had that same inclination but lacked the leadership to implement their desires.  Anthony was the leader they needed, and by the time of his death as a very old man, he left colonies of hundreds of monks out in the Egyptian desert as the beginnings of Christian religious life. They are called “The Desert Fathers” by church historians, and have left us a rich heritage of spiritual writings and example.

In today’s Mass, one of the responsorial passages which can be used after the first reading in honor of Saint Anthony is taken from the 16th psalm.  In it, the psalmist reflects upon the fact that he has not inherited wealth or real estate or slaves or any material possessions.  He has inherited nothing less than God himself.  “O Lord,” he exclaims, “you are my allotted portion . . . you it is who hold fast my lot.”  The psalmist is saying that he and his fellow Jewish people are more fortunate than the gentiles, because God gives himself to them as their divine Lord, Guide, and Protector.  He goes on to say, “For me the measuring lines have fallen on pleasant sites; fair to me indeed is my inheritance.”  

This passages always brings to my mind a visit that Archbishop Leo Binz of Dubuque, Iowa, made to our seminary to confer Holy Orders on some of us on our way to the priesthood. He spoke of that passage in a way that struck me more forcefully than I had ever heard it explained before, and even now, when I hear “fair indeed is my inheritance” I think of Archbishop Binz and am grateful to him for his words and ideas.

Think of your own case, my dear friends.  You might have been born in some part of the world where there is poverty, famine, epidemics of deadly diseases, and where the very Name of Jesus has never been preached?  Do we realize how blessed we are, how grateful we should be, for all that we have in terms of material wealth, physical well-being, and above all, our spiritual wealth because of our holy faith which brings to us Our Lord Jesus Christ, his blessed Mother, and the saints?  Indeed, our inheritance is fair; we are God’s highly favored ones.  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 | January 16, 2017

Feast of Saint James of Tarentaise (16 January 2017)

Those of us who pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day find that today, there is assigned for us a passage from the document of the Second Vatican Council called “Lumen Gentium,” or “the Light of the Nations.”  This morning I was struck by these words from that document: By the power of the Gospel, the Spirit enables the Church to grow young, perpetually renews it, and leads it to complete union with its Bridegroom (Our Lord Jesus Christ).

Let’s think for a few moments about this idea of “growing ‘young.”  In our ordinary experience, nothing grows young.  We exist in time, and time goes in only one direction. You are one day OLDER today than you were yesterday. And that is true of all living things, like animals and plants, as well as inanimate objects like the earth and the sun and the moon and the pyramids.  No single thing that we can name “grows younger.”  And yet we read that the Spirit enables the Church to grow young.  That is possible because the Church is composed of many individuals.  The individuals grow older and eventually die.  But a younger generation takes their place, and maybe that younger generation is more numerous than the previous one.  The group has GROWN younger!  It depends upon the proportion of young to old people within a given society.  We can, if we wish, visit a kindergarten and find ourselves surrounded by youth, by little boys and girls, with all the vitality and energy that they possess and manifest.  Then we can also visit an old folks’ home like the ones we spoke of yesterday where grab bars are a common and necessary part of the furnishings.  What a difference between the two groups!

It is sad to see our abilities gradually leaving us.  Sight, hearing, mobility, memory, and the rest. And we can find that process depressing.  But let’s remember: God is not old; there are no OLD PEOPLE in heaven.  There are people with lots of experience and great wisdom, but they are not “old” in the ordinary sense of the world.  So as the years go by, we as individuals get older and lose some of those wonderful abilities which youth confers.  But one of these days, we will no longer be part of the “aging process.”  Please God, we will be admitted to heaven, and there we will be perpetually young, and eternally happy.  That will be the Church in its perfection, the human race as God intended 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 | January 9, 2017

Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord (9 January 2017) [

{Today] we come to the Feast of the Baptism of Our Divine Lord by Saint John the Baptist, and that brings the Christmas season to an end. Some years ago, when Pope John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries to the world-wide Catholic devotion to the Holy Rosary, he chose as the first of the Luminous Mysteries the baptism of Our Lord. It was the beginning of Jesus’s public life. And it was immensely significant because it was the first time that the three Divine Persons of the Trinity were manifested at the same time and place.

Our Lord stands in the water of the River Jordan, the Holy Spirit hovers over his head in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father rings out, saying: “This is my Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Thus we find God the Father and God the Holy Spirit giving their divine and official approbation to this man who looks like an ordinary human being, but who is, in fact, the second Person of the Holy Trinity: God the Son.

Furthermore, the fact that Jesus requested John’s baptism shows his deep humility and his desire to identify himself with us, sinners. You see, John was performing a rite of repentance. Those who received John’s baptism, which was a private ritual and not one of the Christian sacraments, were acknowledging themselves as sinners seeking washing—cleansing—purification. Our Lord certainly needed none of that since he was not a sinner, but rather the infinitely holy God. But he came into this sinful human race of ours to save us. Thus he becomes a member of a sinful people, and a sinner by extension. And on the cross, he would pay the penalty for sin, thus saving the entire human race. Our Lord’s baptism by water in the Jordan leads directly to his baptism by his own blood on the cross. And because he opened for us the gates of heaven by his death and resurrection, his baptism in the Jordan leads also to ours in the Church which he founded and which is the source of all Christian grace for the world. 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 | January 6, 2017

Feast of Saint Andre Bessette (6 January 2017)

When Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Sundays, unusual things happen to the religious calendar.  And therefore, this year Sunday, January 8th, is the solemnity of the Epiphany; Monday, January 9th, the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, and then on Tuesday we go back to the ordinary time of the Church year which we haven’t experienced since November 26th.

The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek meaning “manifestation,” and refers to the multiple manifestations of Our Divine Lord in his human nature to the world.  If you will study the history of this Solemnity of Epiphany, you’ll find that it is older than Christmas itself since it was universally celebrated before the celebration of Our Lord’s birth became widespread.  You will also find that the Epiphany has three elements: the coming of the Magi to the infant Christ in Bethlehem; the Baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan River by Saint John the Baptist, and the beginning of Our Lord’s miracles when he changed water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana, a town in Galilee near Nazareth.   We know that our Lord’s baptism and the beginning of his public life took place when he was about thirty years old, whereas the coming of the magi occurred when he was just a baby.  How did these three events get grouped together in one celebration of “manifestation,” spanning such a long period?  It is because God our Father wanted to show to the entire world this divine son of his who was and is called “Jesus of Nazareth.”  When the pagan, non-Jewish magi were led by a miraculous star to Bethlehem, they represented their own pagan, Gentile world being brought to acknowledge Christ.  When the voice of God the Father and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove bore witness to Our Lord in the Jordan River, Jesus was manifested to his own Jewish people who were disciples of Saint John the Baptist.  And then, shortly after that, when Our Lord turned water into wine, we are told that his own twelve apostles saw what was happening and they came to believe in him.  They were Jews, but they were destined to preach to the entire world, Jew and Gentile alike.  Therefore their faith in Jesus was essential.

Another very important element of the Epiphany is this: of the three events which we celebrate, two of them have very close connections with Our Blessed Mother.  The magi find the infant Christ WITH MARY HIS MOTHER.  Saint Matthew didn’t have to include those words in his gospel, but he did.  The miraculous star led them to where they would find the newborn King of the Jews WITH MARY HIS MOTHER.  Thus Our Lady is seen to be the patroness of the manifestation of her divine Son to the world.  And then, when she and Our Lord and his apostles had been invited to the wedding feast at Cana, it is she, with a woman’s and mother’s concern, notices a problem, and says quietly to Our Lord, “They have no wine.”  What she really means is “Do something to save this bride and groom and their families the embarrassment of running out of refreshment at their reception.” And as we know, our Lord does something stupendous: he produces between 120 and 180 gallons of wine—far more than a small-town wedding feast could need, especially after the guests had already drunk what had been provided. In scripture, wine is often used as a symbol for joy and gladness.  Thus in addition to the simply historical fact of the water-to-wine story, we have Our Lady using her influence over Our Lord to provide a GREAT DEAL of joy and happiness in the context of human love and marriage.

 At the beginning of his public life, Our Lord turns water into wine.  At its end, he changes wine into his own blood, as he continues to do every day at Mass, giving us endless cause for happiness and joy.     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 | January 5, 2017

Feast of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (4 January 2017)

When I was in grade school, one of the Sisters suggested to us that we use the tabernacle light in church as a symbol of ourselves.  It burns there all the time to remind us that Jesus is present in the tabernacle. It is quiet; it doesn’t misbehave, doesn’t cause a fuss or create a problem, and as it burns day and night, dependably, reliably, it spends itself in its mission of proclaiming Jesus, and finally, when it is totally consumed, it goes out and is replaced by another one.  The Sister went on to say that we should be like that: always proclaiming by our authentically Christian lives that Jesus is here, in our hearts, minds, words, actions, attitudes.  And that we should quietly and faithfully consume ourselves by lives of service of God until the day comes when we have finished our duties in this world and can surrender ourselves into the hands of our Creator.  It’s a beautiful idea; I have thought of it often when in a church or chapel with the tabernacle light beside or near the tabernacle where Our Divine Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is always present.

We might also give our attention to the Easter candles that burn in our churches. Each of them was blessed with great solemnity at the beginning of the Easter vigil, carried into a darkened church, set on a stand in a very conspicuous place so as to be seen by all in the church, and then used as a source of light for all the individual candles held by those in the church, so that soon the entire church is aglow with the light from the Easter candle, which of course symbolizes the risen Savior who first said to us “I am the light of the world.” Then, after preaching to his disciples, he told them, “YOU are the light of the world.” Whether on the lips of Our Lord or those of his disciples who repeat it endlessly throughout the history of the world, divine truth is the light of the world, guiding all men to their eternal destination.

During the lifetime of Saint Therese of Lisieux, there lived another Carmelite nun in another monastery in France. She was Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, recently beatified and, I hope, soon to be canonized. Her spirituality is centered upon the Holy Trinity dwelling in those in the state of grace. One day, as she was reading Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, she came across the passage (Ephesians 1:14) that says that we are destined to praise the glory of God.  She was deeply struck by those words, and from then on, she thought of herself as a living praise of the glory of God. When we see the Easter candle giving its own quiet, steady, lovely praise to the risen Lord, we can apply that to ourselves also. The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our faith. “If Christ is not risen,” as Saint Paul says, “our faith is in vain.” But Christ IS risen, and our faith is rock-solid.  And we can think of ourselves as candles, burning steadily to give glory and witness to our risen Savior. By our faith, by our joy, by the good example of our lives, each of us becomes an incarnate “Alleluia.”

So let us see ourselves as witnesses to the risen Christ, men and women who live in praise of his glory and who gladly share our light with our fellow men and women in this world of ours. 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 | January 3, 2017

Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (3 January 2017)

Today, we have the option of celebrating the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. It flows logically from our celebration of January 1, when the name of Jesus was given to the eight-day-old savior at the time of his circumcision.

This celebration always brings me back to my early days in San Francisco when I was in the navy.  When I first went to the Bay Area in early 1951, I fell totally in love with that beautiful city, and began to attend Mass frequently at Old Saint Mary’s Church in Chinatown, on the corner of California Street and Grant Avenue.  And there I found out that the parish is staffed by the Paulist Fathers, one of whose practices is always to operate a lending library of spiritual books in connection with their parishes.  Some of my happiest memories of the bay area are associated with that library: what I read there, and Miss Minna Berger, the elderly librarian who took a special interest in me and my reading and who became a dear friend of mine.

One day, she had put out on her desk a little basket containing holy cards on which were printed the words to a wonderful saying of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.  I had never heard that saying before, and was delighted by it.  Saint Bernard said, “The Holy Name of Jesus is honey in the mouth, music in the ear, and a shout of gladness in the heart.”  I have kept the holy card in one of my books and have repeated its message to myself and in homilies, sermons, and various talks, countless times during the years since then.  Today, as we celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus, I happily offer it to you.

My father and mother were married in the Jesuit church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in New Orleans in 1926.  I was baptized in that same church in 1930, and then in 1950, I attended the graduation Mass of our class from Loyola University which stands next to that beautiful church.  I later found out that there is a special devotion in our Dominican  tradition to the Holy Name of Jesus, so much so that for many years, it was required that in every Dominican church there be an altar dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus if the church itself did not bear that name.  So today I am very happy to be able to celebrate the name of Our Divine Lord which began to exercise an important influence in my life from its very beginning.  I encourage you, also, to cultivate within your own heart a deep love of the holy name of Our Lord so that it can become for you “honey in the mouth, music in the ear, and a shout of gladness in the heart.”  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 | January 1, 2017

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (1 January 2017)

I come this morning to wish you a blessed new year as the world begins this year of [2017]. It is somewhat odd to reflect that during the space of just about 50 years, the Church has celebrated the first of January under three different aspects.  For centuries, it was called the feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord.  Then it began to be called the Octave Day of Christmas.  And now, it is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

The celebration of the Circumcision of Jesus carries with it a great deal of meaning.  First of all, it means that Our Lord is a Jew, since the Jewish law requires that baby boys be circumcised on the eighth day of their lives to begin their observance of the law of Moses.  It was in most cases the first time that their blood was shed since circumcision is a surgical procedure.  And in the case of Our Lord, it is very meaningful since he came into the world to save humankind with his own precious Blood.  Then, that day was the time when the boy was officially given his name, as we do at Baptism.  Both Our Lady and Saint Joseph were told by God in no uncertain terms that this baby miraculously conceived by Our Lady and adopted by her husband, Saint Joseph, was to be called “Jesus.”  The name means in Hebrew “God is savior.”  Thus when the infant Christ is eight days old, he becomes a member of God’s chosen people, his blood is shed for the first time and foreshadows his sufferings and death on the cross, and his divinely chosen name is given to him whereby he becomes Jesus, God-is-savior.

Today we begin the new year in the most holy name of Jesus, our Jewish Messiah and Savior. And because he is both man and God, we celebrate his holy mother as the Mother of God.  It is a title which for the first years of the Church was the source of controversy. How could any human being be the mother of God?  But eventually the dispute was laid to rest by the infallible declaration of the Church: she IS the Mother of God, and that profound title was incorporated into the Hail Mary:  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.

So again, I wish you a blessed new year; I invoke the holy name of Jesus upon you and those you love, and ask that you venerate the Mother of God, and that she in turn pray for you to her divine Son who is God.  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 29, 2016

Feast of Saint Thomas of Canterbury (29 December 2016)

A dear friend of mine, Helen Rhodes, has died in Lufkin, TX, and today I will go there to officiate at her funeral tomorrow. She was eighty-two and lived a beautiful life with a devoted husband who is a retired dentist and four adult children of whom she was very proud and who have been a joy to her all their lives. I commend her to your prayers, and in particular I ask that you remember her husband, Bob, in your prayers. It is one thing to die and go into eternal rest. It is quite another to be left by the one who has been your constant companion for sixty years or so. Although I have never been married, I got a small taste of this sense of loss when my mother died at the age of 99 sixteen years ago. For months after her death, I would see some friend of ours, or hear something of interest, or recall some incident of the past. And my first reaction was always, “Oh, I must remember to tell Mama that when I talk to her next.” And then I would remember that she was gone, and it may be quite a while before I can communicate with her again. I can multiply that by many, many times, and imagine what it is like to lose a husband or wife after a lifetime of happiness when two persons grow ever closer together.

Today is also the commemoration day of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, or Thomas a Becket as he is also known. He was the archbishop of the leading archdiocese of England in those days before the Reformation tore England away from the Church. He was murdered by the selfish king Henry II in the year 1170 in his own cathedral. The tomb of the martyred archbishop immediately became an extremely popular place of pilgrimage for Christians from all the world. It remained so until another even more selfish king, Henry VIII, destroyed the saint’s body and the shrine and turned the great Canterbury Cathedral from a Catholic shrine to a Protestant church, which it is to this day. However, the Anglican/Episcopalian Church of which the Canterbury Cathedral, made holy by the blood of Saint Thomas over 800 years ago is the symbol, is suffering greatly right now because of disunity among its members, its doctrines, and its moral code. Let us pray for these separated brethren of ours: separated from us and from one another, that one day, with the help of God, these separations will be healed and there will again be, as Jesus prayed, “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 | December 27, 2016

Feast of Saint John the Apostle (27 December 2016)

Who were the closest persons to Our Lord during his life on earth?  Undoubtedly his Mother was the very closest both because of her relationship to him and because she remained alive all during his earthly life and even after it.  Then, Saint Joseph his guardian with whom he lived in the intimacy of the Holy Family for at least twelve years. Then, I believe the next one would be Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist.  John was the son of Zebedee and his wife Salome; they were Galileans, members of the fishermen’s community.  Zebedee and at least two of his sons, John and James were also fishermen.  That was true also of Saints Peter and his brother, Andrew.  It is interesting that at least four of the twelve apostles were fishermen, by the very deliberate choice of Our Lord.

Why do I believe that John was so close to Our Lord?  For one thing, he was one of the three picked by Our Lord to witness at least two events to which the other ten were not invited: the Transfiguration on the high mountain in Galilee, and then the agony in the garden.  More than that, only John had the courage and the devotion to Our Lord to brave the crowd of Jesus’s enemies and to stand at the foot of the cross and keep watch while Jesus died.  And then, perhaps the most persuasive proof of Our Lord’s special love for John and John’s for him: as Our Lord was dying on the cross, he entrusted his holy mother into the care of John.  What greater show of esteem could Our Lord have given to John than to entrust his immaculate mother to John’s care, and allow John to take his place and become Mary’s son for the rest of her life on earth?

Within our own time, a new shrine has emerged as very popular and very fervent.  It is, of all places, in the Muslim nation of Turkey.  Just recently, the eyes of millions of pilgrims and travelers have begun to look to the ruins of the ancient Christian city of Ephesus, to the Christians of which Saint Paul wrote his beautiful “Letter to the Ephesians.”  The ruins of that city are interesting enough in their own right, but more than that, just outside the ancient city there is a tall hill crowned with a very nice grove of trees that provides beauty and cooling shade in that hot area.  And among the trees, there is a small stone house, the reconstruction of a much older building on those same foundations.  When the Ottoman Turks began to allow westerners to go there, the Christian visitors discovered that that little shrine had been there for centuries, frequented and maintained by the handful of Christians who managed to eke out a life in that part of the world so opposed to the Church.  And now that Turkey is officially non-religious, I have observed dozens of tourist busses lined up near the little house of Our Lady to visit this place to which Saint John very possibly brought the Mother of Jesus after Our Lord’s ascension into heaven.  It is likely that from there, her immaculate body was assumed into heaven.  Be that as it may, we have the Scriptural assurance that beginning at the moment of Our Lord’s death, “the disciple took her into his home.” What sort of person is this Saint John whom we celebrate on December 27, whom Our Lord considered worthy to become the caregiver of his own most holy mother?  Let us think of this today on the feast of the son of Salome, and the adoptive son of Mary.  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 23, 2016

Feast of Saint John of Cantius (23 December 2016)

Since long before the time of Christ, the Jewish people have reckoned a day as beginning with sunset and ending with the following sunset. The early Church followed that system to a degree by beginning her more important feasts in the evening before the day itself. In her official prayer arrangement, we have what has been called “first vespers” or first evening prayer. Then, on the day of the feast itself, we have at the end of the day the second vespers by which we continue to celebrate that particular event or saint. So December 24 takes its character from the fact that as the sun goes down on this day, the great festival of the birth of Christ our Savior begins. Many Christians down through the ages have attended Mass at midnight, imitating the monks and nuns in the abbeys and monasteries of the world by rising during the night to give praise to God.  We call that practice “keeping vigil.” A vigil is a period of time ordinarily given to sleep, but during which some remain awake to pray. “Watch and pray!”

Lots of folks will be rushing around today doing last-minute Christmas shopping, or decorating, or cooking, or traveling to get to where they want to spend Christmas. But if we want to observe this beautiful event based upon the prayer-life of the Church, we should set aside some time in which we can sit, or kneel, or stand, or walk peacefully and thoughtfully, and remember what we are celebrating. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. It is appropriate that we begin this meditation today and not let the busy-ness of our holiday activities totally erase from our minds the essence of Christmas. How foolish and sad it would be if we were so busy with Christmas shopping, decorating, cooking and traveling that we didn’t have time to celebrate in thankful prayer the birth of the Lord into the world and into our human race!

To all those who hear or read these words, I offer my very best and sincerest wishes that God will bless you at this Christmastide. That you will rejoice over the incarnation—the “enfleshment” of the Son of God. And that you will renew your efforts to live as you know the newborn Savior wants you to live, as outlined for us in his incomparable gospels. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you, my friends. Merry Christmas!

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

 

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