Posted by: fvbcdm | February 8, 2016

Feast of Saint Jerome Emiliani (8 February 2016)

Jesus was inside a house in Capharnaum, speaking to a large crowd that had gathered. We can be sure that they were enjoying listening to him, since he was a compelling speaker with a very attractive personality. He attracted hundreds and even thousands of people when he preached in Galilee.

Suddenly there is some activity at the door, and someone, maybe the owner of the house, comes to report that Our Lord’s mother and relatives have arrived, probably from Nazareth, and would like to talk to him. How would you feel at that point if you were one of his hearers? Disappointed, because you suppose that he will stop talking to the group now and go off with his kinfolk. And probably somewhat second-rate, since you suppose he prefers to be with his family and relatives than with you and the others in the crowd who are not related to him by blood. But wait! Jesus’s reaction to this unexpected interruption is not at all what you might expect. What does he say? “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And Saint Mark goes on to tell us, “Looking around at those seated in the circle, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’”

Terrific! By saying that, he puts the whole scene into his own perspective. The holy will of God is Christ’s number one priority. Who fulfills that is close to him; who rejects that is alienated from him. Blood relationship is not important. Our Lady is the greatest of the saints because by God’s grace, she is the most obedient: “Be it done to me according to your word.”

And so with us; each of us has his/her own priorities: to accomplish the goals of our career; to be a good husband or wife; to support our family in decency and comfort; to be elected to some office; to catch the biggest speckled trout in the lake, or whatever it happens to be. But beyond all that, let us always remember that what Our Lord wants of us is to obey the will of his Father and ours: that is the basic point of all human life. We who are men and women of faith must always remember that and do our best to implement it in our lives. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | February 5, 2016

Feast of Saint Agatha (5 February 2016)

I had to laugh on Sunday as I celebrated Mass at the student center of Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, a neighboring town to where I live in Lufkin, Texas.

After Mass, a young man who is a graduate student there and is preparing to be received into the Church came to talk to me.  He was raised in one of the Protestant denominations, but has always had an interest in history, and decided to major in it in college. And he told me, with much enthusiasm, how his study of history opened his eyes to the beauty and truth of the Catholic Church. He said, “It was like I had been fed Spam all my life, and now I was introduced to lobster!” That’s quite a comparison and it tickled me!

Cardinal Newman who had been a very brilliant and prominent Anglican clergyman in England in the early 19th century, began to study history; it led him into the Church. He remarked later, from the Catholic point of view, “History is on our side.”

And speaking of history, today we commemorate Saint Agatha, one of the early Roman martyrs — a young Christian woman who allowed her persecutors to kill her rather than renounce her faith in Christ or her virginity.  She lived in Catania, a city on the east coast of the Italian island of Sicily, near the volcano Mount Etna. Her name has been included in the first Canon or Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass for many centuries. Just around the corner from our Dominican university in Rome there is an interesting church called “Saint Agatha of the Goths.”  The Goths were one of the tribes of barbarians who invaded and sacked Rome in the days of the empire’s dissolution.  Some of them had become Arian Christians — that is, Christians who denied the divinity of Jesus.  Thus, they were heretics rather than authentic Christians.  They built themselves a church in Rome, and when Arianism was suppressed, it became a Catholic church and is still there, still bearing the name “Saint Agatha of the Goths” even though there are no more Goths around and those who now attend Mass there certainly recognize the divinity of Our Lord.

Read some history now and then. You’ll enjoy it and will learn a great deal by it. You can find lots of it on the internet. 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 | February 4, 2016

Feast of Saint Joan of Valois  (4 February 2016)

[Forty-three years ago], the United States Supreme Court ruled that the sin and crime of abortion is legal in our nation. I wonder if, in their naivete, they thought that their decision would lay to rest the ongoing debate about the morality of abortion. If so, they were very much mistaken; here we are, [forty-three]years later, still deeply divided as a nation over the question. Let me read to you a letter to the editor of the Houston Chronicle that appears in today’s newspaper. It has to do with a column that recently appeared in the Chronicle, having to do with a human embryo which survived hurricane Katrina in some hospital or clinic. The writer says this:

Embryos contain DNA, but not small-sized people! There is no human being in an embryo, no little soul striving for life. An embryo is not a fetus. I would go further and point out that a fetus is not a child, either, but I’m sure the logic of that would be lost. This article was absurd at the very least. If this were complex science, I could understand the confusion; but this is at the level of basic animal husbandry, biology 101.

There are many things that might be said about the letter. For one thing, how does the writer know that “there is no human being in an embryo”? I suppose it depends upon how one defines a human being. And then, he says that an embryo is not a fetus and a fetus is not a child. Then, I wonder, how far can we take that line of “reasoning,” if it can be dignified with that name? If an embryo is not a fetus and a fetus is not a child, then presumably a child is not an adult.  So, where does the humanity begin? Only with adulthood? Then is it licit to kill embryos, fetuses, infants, children, and teenagers up to the legal age of eighteen or twenty-one? We are already seeing the atrocity of the so-called “partial-birth abortion,” in which, at the very moment of birth, a large needle is inserted into the back of the skull and the brains are sucked out.

In contrast with a letter like that, let me tell you about Peter. Peter is a child whom I know, the grandchild of dear friends of mine. Several months before Peter’s birth, an accident occurred and his mother lost the amniotic fluid in which an unborn child lives and moves up until the time of birth. If the amniotic fluid is lost, the baby can no longer move freely and is usually fixed in one position, causing some sort of paralysis. Peter’s mother went to see her obstetrician, who recommended to her that she “terminate the pregnancy.” The pro-death proponents don’t like to talk about abortion; they prefer to “terminate pregnancy,” just as they don’t talk about children or babies before birth, but rather “fetuses, embryos, or DNA.”

Peter’s mother did indeed terminate something: she terminated the medical services of that obstetrician and found another doctor who would not recommend that she kill her baby.

Peter is now a very bright, very delightful, and very successful high-school boy — the pride and joy of his parents and family.

Let us pray for the reversal of the Roe vs. Wade decision by which abortion was legalized in this country. And let us remember that although the nine justices who sit in Washington are called the “Supreme Court,” there is another court which is even more supreme than they are: it is the court composed of three justices: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And it has said, and will always continue to say: “Thou shalt not kill.” 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 | February 2, 2016

Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord (2 February 2016)

On this beautiful feast day of our Church calendar, we discover that what we are celebrating has a number of important elements, each of which is the apt object of meditation and prayer. Let’s look at some of them:

  • This the feast of the Presentation of Our Divine Lord as a 40-day old baby in the temple at Jerusalem, in accordance with Jewish worship.

  • It is the time that Jesus is officially and formally presented to God his father in the temple, the dwelling of God among his people.

  • It is the momentous meeting of the Jewish temple — an inanimate building — with the Christian temple: the body of Jesus in which God dwells far more really and intimately and personally than he did in the sacred building in Jerusalem.

  • Two persons who were prophets of the Jewish cult, namely Simeon and Anna, recognize this baby as the promised Messiah, and they thank God for having fulfilled his promises of old.

  • Simeon calls Jesus a LIGHT to enlighten the Gentile nations of the world and the glory of the Jewish people. Thus all of humanity has reason to rejoice over the birth of Jesus in our world. The Jewish temple receives the Christian savior; Jewish prophets hail this Jewish Messiah who is the glory of the Jewish race and the hope of all humankind.

  • This is the fourth joyful mystery of the Rosary. But it is also first of our Lady’s sorrows, since Simeon looks into the future and sees that her soul shall be pierced by the sword of Jesus’s sufferings and death. Thus the shadow of the cross falls across her life even as early as this, and at such a joyous celebration.

  • This is the feast that used to be called Candlemas Day, since in honor of Christ, a light of revelation to the nations, candles were blessed on this day for religious use in churches and homes.

  • And finally, this is the celebration of the event that occurred when Jesus was only forty days old. He is called the light of revelation to the nations; as an adult he would say of himself: I am the light of the world!

Christ, light of the world, illumine our minds and hearts, and shine in all our words and actions. 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 | February 1, 2016

Feast of Saint Brigid (1 February 2016)

We celebrate the new year every January 1st, but we don’t celebrate the new month. We should. Today we begin the month of February — another period of time which is given to us by our God in which we can know him, love him, and serve him. One of these days, the first day of a month will come during which we will end our life on earth and go to spend an eternity of happiness with God. For some of us, today might well be that day.

In any case, let us celebrate the “new month,” and let us rededicate and reconsecrate ourselves to the service of God during this February.

In thinking about time, we might reflect upon the fact that in the Church year, there are a number of different seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter. And in between those seasons, we have the Ordinary Time, in which the ministers of the Church wear green when taking part in sacred worship. Why green? Because green is the color of growth. We have the green grass, green trees, bushes, the leaves of flowers. I did most of my studies for the priesthood in the north, where there are miles upon miles of cornfields which feed much of the nation and even the world. The farmers up there tell us that on quiet nights, you can HEAR the corn grow. And it’s true: if you are near or in a cornfield when all is quiet, you can hear a squeaking sound as the thousands of cornstalks push up out of the ground and out of their previous size and shape to increase and achieve their proper height and size.

In the gospels, Our Lord compares himself with a farmer who sows seed in his fields. It grows and pretty soon a bush, like the mustard plant, which begins with an almost microscopically small seed, is big enough for birds to build their nests in its branches. So with us: our God sows his seed within our minds and hearts when we were babies and very small children, and as we grow, so does the divine seed of faith. And here we are today, knowing, loving, and serving God — as different from our babyhood and small childhood as the mustard seed is from the full-grown bush.

So, my dear friends, let us grow according to God’s holy will. Let us be healthily green, verdant, productive, and a credit to the seed that God has sown within us.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | January 29, 2016

Feast of Saint Valerius (29 January 2016)

Yesterday, the Church celebrated Saint Thomas Aquinas, our great Dominican philosopher and theologian. That led me to some reminiscences of my travels in Paris and his life in that incomparable city.  Thomas Aquinas was born and raised in Italy, between Rome and Naples.  He entered our Dominican Order, and very soon his remarkable brilliance was recognized. He spent his entire life teaching and writing. He was in Paris for the first time from 1245 until 1248. It was during that time that the great cathedral of Notre Dame was being built on the island in the Seine which was within walking distance of the Dominican priory on the Left Bank where Saint Thomas lived and taught.  The cathedral took about 200 years to build. But there is an exquisite little chapel just about 500 yards away from it called “La Sainte Chapelle,” — the Holy Chapel. That was built in great haste, from 1246 to 1248, by order of King Saint Louis IX, the devout king who had obtained some of the relics of Our Lord’s Passion from the Holy Land, including the Crown of Thorns. The king wanted a very special and suitable shrine for the relics of Our Lord’s sufferings and death, so the Sainte Chapelle was erected next door to the royal palace so that the king and the royal family could pray there frequently and easily.

I’m sure that from time to time, the Dominicans on the Left Bank, or in the Latin Quarter as it was called, would take walks over to the river to watch the progress on both the cathedral and the Holy Chapel.  Both those buildings still adorn Paris and the world with their beauty; I always imagine Saint Thomas Aquinas standing in awe, watching the medieval workmen raising those splendid buildings to the glory of God.  We know that at least once, Saint Thomas and his superior were invited to the royal palace to have dinner with Saint Louis and probably his wife, Queen Marguerite. Later on, an addition to the royal palace was built which is known to us as the Conciergerie, which means the office of the royal tax-collector. That beautiful but austere Gothic building was used as a prison during the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.  Queen Marie Antoinette spent some nine months there in a grim cell.  On her walks in the prison courtyard, she could see the Holy Chapel next door, but could not visit it.  After her miserable months imprisoned there, she was taken to be guillotined, as her husband the King had been, nine months before.

So there is sanctity, history, beauty, and horror all contained in that part of Paris and its buildings. And things produced in those days of the 13th century — the two religious buildings and the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, still enrich the Church and 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 28, 2016

Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas (28 January 2016)

A few days ago, I received an email message that made my day! It was from a friend of mine in the Chicago area whose name is John. John and I entered our Dominican novitiate together with the 37 other young men who entered with us.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have 39 novices a year nowadays!

John and I sat side-by-side in the chapel and in the dining room and thus got to know one another quite well. We were very different people: he was of German stock from Iowa; I am mostly of French stock from Louisiana. What we had in common was the desire to become Dominican priests.  However, John began to have physical problems, and the doctors whom he consulted told him that they were caused by stress and anxiety and indicated that he did not have a vocation to our life. He tried for nearly two years to adapt himself to our lifestyle, but was not able to do it.  So he left, to our sorrow; everyone in the class liked him.

Over the years, I have kept in minimal contact with him and last summer was able to speak to him by phone when I was in that part of the world. He is about 70, married, with two daughters and three grandchildren. Retired, and enjoying life in suburban Chicago. He sounded very happy and at peace, and I told him so.

In his email, he assured me that he IS happy, and that part of his happiness is that he was able to spend those two years with us in the seminary where he learned much about God’s love for him and how to live our Christian, Catholic life according to the commandments, virtues, sacraments, and all the life of the Church.  He put that to good use during his life, and now he and his wife can enjoy their declining years and be grateful for who they are and what they have. At Christmas they were surrounded by their children and grandchildren. He cooked the turkey on a grill while his sons-in-law made themselves useful in other ways and the womenfolk prepared the rest of the meal. That night, they all drove into downtown Chicago to let the children see all the Christmas lights and decorations. An idyllic scene. I reflect with a very full heart on his happiness and mine. On that day in August of 1956 as we received the religious habit, we had no idea how our lives would turn out. But here we are, many years later, leading different lifestyles, but both marveling at how good it has been and how God has blessed us. May you, too, be able to look back on a life richly endowed with God’s goodness and to be grateful for it all. 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 27, 2016

Feast of Saint Angela Merici (27 January 2016)

In the news these days is a story which shows the beauty and the ugliness of human life and serves as a striking symptom of the world in which we are living.

About two months ago, a young woman in Houston, I suppose, gave birth to a baby boy. That simple fact causes a number of questions to arise in my mind. Is she married? Does she know who the father of the child is? Did she get any prenatal medical attention for herself and the baby? Did she want the baby? Where and under what conditions was the child born? The news reports don’t mention any of these facts because they don’t know them.

What they know is that the young woman was seen in a service station somewhere between Houston and San Antonio. She had the baby with her, along with some diapers and things that a baby would require.  She was behaving strangely, and those who are familiar with such cases judged her to be heavily under the influence of narcotics.  While she and the baby were in the service station, a couple on their way across the country to California happened into the same service station.  And the young mother offered to GIVE them her baby! Have you ever had an experience like that? Has anyone offered to give you her baby? Fortunately, the couple acted intelligently and responsibly.  They accepted the offer, took the baby and the supplies that the young mother had, and went on their way.  When they got to California, they notified the authorities and now the baby is safely in the hands of child protective agents. No information has been available from the mother because she is “incoherent,” according to the news reports.

I wonder if she has been on drugs during her entire pregnancy. If so, then that baby has a very slight chance of a normal life, normal intelligence, normal health, normal development.  In any case, we have here a drug-ridden woman having a baby, willing to give the baby away to people whom she knew nothing about, and then a couple who, providentially, showed up at the right time and place to take the child and do for it the best they could. The mother, of course, could have aborted the child, or simply left it in a garbage can after its birth, as is done sometimes.  At least she carried the child to term and then gave it to someone.

This is a sample of life in our country right now. This is what the billion-dollar drug industry can do; this is what the sexual revolution can do; this is what the collapse of morality and the collapse of the family can do.

Let us pray for that baby, his mother, his father, and let us thank God for the actions of the couple who took the child to safety. And then, let us pray for our society and culture in which things like this happen. Even wild animals don’t intoxicate themselves with drugs and then give their offspring away! 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 25, 2016

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul (25 January 2016)

The conversion of Saint Paul, which we celebrate today, was undoubtedly the most import event of the first generation of Christians after that first Pentecost itself.

There are actually two “conversions” that I’d like to call to your attention as we think of these occurrences.  The brilliant, arrogant, very hostile Saul of Tarsus (his name would be changed to Paul later) who wants so much to destroy “the Way” founded by Jesus has obtained authorization from the high court of the Jewish people to go to Damascus, round up all the Christians he could find there, bring them back to Jerusalem, and then either force them to repudiate their faith in Jesus or be imprisoned or perhaps even killed. (Remember, it was at the feet of Saul that those who killed Saint Stephen, our first martyr, left their cloaks as they hurled the deadly stones at Stephen.)

As he approached Damascus, Saul was surrounded by a brilliant light that blinded him, and a voice addressed him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” Out of his blindness and confusion — which of the Christians whom he is persecuting is speaking to him? — he says, “Who are you, sir?” Notice the respectful way in which he addresses one whom he is persecuting. The answer comes, “I am Jesus the Nazarene whom you are persecuting.” Saul’s next words are both respectful, humble, and indicate a dramatic change. “What shall I do, sir?” Saul, the much feared persecutor, is now humbly asking direction of Jesus whom up to now he has hated.

Then, he is led in his blindness into Damascus where one of the Christians, Ananias by name, is instructed by Our Lord to go to Saul, lay hands on him so that Saul might regain his sight. Ananias wonders if the Lord knows all the facts of the case. He doesn’t refuse to do as he is told, but he does object: “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.” But Our Lord assures Ananias that he knows what he is doing, and that this Saul is to carry his name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. That is enough for the obedient Ananias. He goes to find Saul, and when he has found him, his words are beautiful: “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me . . .” Just a few minutes before, he had feared Saul and known him to be an enemy and a persecutor. Now, he is “Saul, my brother.”

Conversion from error to truth and from evil to good is always beautiful. We may profitably pray that our whole lives may be on-going conversions from what we are now to men and women of greater truth and goodness, effected as always by the loving grace of 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 | January 21, 2016

Feast of Saint Agnes (21 January 2016)

In the gospel, Our Lord tells us that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. That was because the self-righteous Pharisees were reprimanding him for letting his disciples pick and eat RAW grain while walking through a wheat field on the Sabbath. And according to their nit-picking rules and regulations, even pulling a few handfuls of grain constituted harvesting, which was forbidden on the Sabbath because it was a form of work.

That passage always reminds me of the wonderful adage that our Jewish brothers and sisters have. It says “If you will keep the Sabbath, the Sabbath will keep you.”  What is meant is that those who observe the Sabbath, or Saturday, as a day of rest and prayer, will retain their connection with the religious community of Judaism and will be conscious of their relationship with God. It is a very true and very beautiful idea. Our external lives reveal our internal lives. You can tell a lot about a Jew by the way he or she observes the Sabbath. And you can tell a lot about a Catholic by the way he or she observes Sunday, receives the Sacraments, keeps the Commandments, lives his/her moral life and teaches his/her children to live.

We need to reflect often upon our identity as Christians and Catholics, followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters of the saints, members of the Mystical Body of Christ.  We have such a wonderful variety of religious elements in our lives which give structure and identity to us. I remember clearly how upset some Catholics were back in the 1970s when Pope Paul VI relaxed the church commandment about abstaining from meat on Fridays. These people were resentful of what the Pope had done; they felt that he was taking away from them something that was essentially Catholic. He wasn’t; a disciplinary commandment is not essential to our faith or morals, just as it is no longer required that women cover their heads in church or we fast from midnight before receiving Holy Communion. But these things DO add to the identity that we feel as Catholics, and we can understand how some people resent any change in them.

Let us cling to what is essential: our holy faith, our moral law, the Sacraments, prayer, our devotion to Our Divine Lord and His most holy Mother, and allow these things to shape our spiritual identity and our hope of eternal enjoyment of God, angels, and saints in heaven. 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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