Today we celebrate with GREAT JOY the birthday of Our Blessed Mother. It is in a very special category of religious feasts, because it is one of the only three birthdays that the Church celebrates during the year: those of Our Divine Lord, His most holy Mother, and Saint John the Baptist. The reason why we celebrate these birthdays, rather than the anniversary of death as in the case of most of the saints, is that these three persons were born in the state of grace—the state of God’s favor and not under the sad shadow of original sin. 

Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were created in the state of God’s grace or favor. However, they rejected God’s grace by sinning, and thus lost that divine favor for themselves and their progeny. From that time until the redemptive death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, no one entered the state of total happiness which we call heaven. After death, the souls of those who died in the state of God’s favor went to a place of waiting until the redemption of the world would be accomplished by Christ. 

When we say the Apostles’ Creed, we say: “He was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead . . .” That “hell” into which he descended was not the hell of the lost souls, but rather this place of waiting for the redemption. The soul of the crucified and dead Christ went there to announce to those held there that their entrance into heaven was just about to occur, since he had died on the cross for the remission of sins and was about to rise to bring all the souls of the just into heaven with him. 

The first actual event of the New Testament was the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. During the preceding centuries, there had been many promises and predictions of the redemption, but the first actual occurrence leading to it was Our Lady’s conception which we celebrate each year on December 8th. That led necessarily to her birth, which we celebrate now, and in turn, her birth led to her conception of Our Lord Jesus Christ when she was about sixteen years old. 

I can imagine that at the time of Our Lady’s birth, the angels in heaven and the just souls in the place of waiting which we call “the limbo of the Fathers” may well have been gladdened by the divine revelation that the mother of the Savior had been conceived and born, and now it would not be long before redemption was accomplished. Thus the Church addresses Our Lady as “Cause of our Joy” and speaks of her as the dawn which ushers in the new day of salvation. At Mass this morning, our Sisters sang as an opening hymn a beautiful one whose words begin: “Hail thee, festival day! Blest day that art hallowed forever!” The birth of the Mother of the Redeemer is blessed indeed, and will be a source of happiness to all those who love her divine son into eternity. Thank you for seeking God’s Truth.  God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

Note:  This message was composed some years ago 

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

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

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

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

Note:  This message was composed some years ago 

Posted by: fvbcdm | July 3, 2021

Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle (3 July 2021) 

On July 4, 1776, our founding fathers in Philadelphia signed the  Declaration of Independence and brought into being this marvelous reality that we call the United States of America. The final words of that document declare that for the support of their declaration and their bringing into being a new nation, they mutually pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. 

I wonder if they would have used those words had they been writing that document today. I refer to the words “sacred honor.” “Sacred” has to do with God and that which is holy. And honor has to do with what is most noble, most valuable, most elevated in the human condition. There are many reasons for us to doubt that many Americans today think much about the sacred, or about their own honor, or lack thereof. I don’t want to focus upon these negatives today, but rather to remind you that, apart from life itself, this nation of ours is probably the most precious gift that God gives us in the natural order. 

In the summer of 1965, I spent about six weeks with our Dominican priests and brothers at their priory in Quebec City, Canada. I went there to study French at Laval University since I had been assigned to teach French at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, and I needed more accreditation in that language. One of our teachers of French composition gave us an assignment: we were to write in French an essay on “what my country means to me.” Most of us in the class were Americans, and the Fourth of July was approaching. I discovered by writing that composition that when thinking about some topic and using pen and paper to record my thoughts, I do better than if I just think about it without jotting down my ideas. So I suggest to you today to think seriously about what your country, and your citizenship and residence in it, mean to you. We must be grateful to God for his gifts to us. And the greater the gift, the more grateful we should be. We could have been born into a family in Mongolia, or Uganda, or Afghanistan, or Iraq. But we were born here. And we were born into a Christian and Catholic family. Gifts heaped upon gifts. The inexhaustible generosity of God to us. 

One stanza of the patriotic hymn, “America the Beautiful” says this: “America, America, God mend thine every flaw. Confirm thy soul in self-control; thy liberty in law.” Sacred and honorable sentiments. Let us live according to them. 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 | June 29, 2021

The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (29 June 2021)

Today we celebrate two men, both of whose careers were changed after they reached adulthood, and both of whose names were changed to indicate the change in career.

Saint Peter was a Galilean, Jewish fisherman to whom Jesus said, “I will make you a fisher of men.”  So, from ordinary Jewish fisherman, he became a Christian, a bishop, a missionary, the first pope, and the leader of his fellow apostles.  And from his own given name, Simon, Our Lord changed his name to Rock, saying, “On this rock I will build my church.”

Saint Paul was a Cilician (southern Turkish) Jew, bearing the very Jewish name Saul, in memory of the first king of Israel back in the days of the great King David.  He was a bitter persecutor of the early Christians and was engaged in that persecution when his conversion took place.  From persecutor, he changed to enthusiastic preacher of Christianity; and to make his name more acceptable to the non-Jewish world, he changed his name from Saul to Paul, which had none of the connotations of Jewish history since he was to bring the doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the non-Jewish world while the twelve apostles were preaching to the Jews.  Because they were, and are, God’s chosen people, the Jews had the right to receive the invitation to Christianity first.  Only after that was the young Church opened to the entire human race so that we are all actually or potentially God’s chosen people.

Both Saints Peter and Paul died for their faith in Christ at the hands of the Roman empire, probably during the persecution of the Emperor Nero.  Saint Peter was crucified on the Vatican hill and his body buried there, as it still is.  Saint Paul, a Roman citizen and therefore not eligible for the terrible death of crucifixion, was beheaded probably along the Ostian way, along the River Tiber.  The great basilica of Saint Paul enshrining his remains, is there to this day.  Thus, when Christian pilgrims go to Rome as they do and have done for centuries, two of the principal destinations of their devotions are the basilicas of Saint Peter in the Vatican and Saint Paul on the Ostian Way.

On this day, our thoughts turn to Rome and its environs as our holy father, the successor of Saint Peter as Pope, and many cardinals, bishops, and other churchmen celebrate this solemnity of the two great apostles, Peter and Paul.  And we give heartfelt thanks for our own vocation to the Church, to our holy faith, to the sacraments of Baptism and the other Sacraments to which Baptism entitles us, and we ask Our Lord to enable us to be exemplary members of his Church and credits to the great Apostles who gladly gave their lives to sow the seed of Christian doctrine. 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 11, 2021

The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart (11 June 2021)

When I began high school, I came under the tutelage of the Jesuit Fathers and Scholastics who have traditionally had a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And then cousins of mine, with whom I grew up like siblings, lived in Sacred Heart Parish here in New Orleans, and the girl attended the Academy of the Sacred Heart. So my young life was very much lived in the warmth and beauty of the Heart of Christ.

This Friday, the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so for me this is a very special day. Our devotion to the heart of Our Divine Lord has spiritual, metaphorical, and physical elements.  Spiritual, because we are celebrating the love of God for us as expressed in the humanity of Jesus. Metaphorical, because we speak of the heart as the capacity of the human being to love.  We say things like “I give you my heart . . . she has won his heart . . .” Our love songs and poetry are filled with allusions to the heart as the center of human love. We speak of “sweethearts” meaning those who love one another. And since Jesus is our Divine Lover, we tend to focus our attention upon his heart as that part of his human personality by which he loves us.

And finally, our devotion is even physical, since when the dead Christ hung upon the cross, one of the Roman soldiers, to make sure that he was dead, thrust a lance into his chest, and there poured out of his heart what Saint John calls, “blood and water.”  Medical science explains the “water” as that clear serum that forms in the body in a traumatic situation.  Our mystical theologians have seen that “blood and water” as symbolic of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism, those constituent elements of Christianity. Within our own time, Our Lord appeared to Saint Faustina in Poland, assuming the form of a man with white and red rays emanating from his breast, symbolizing the blood and water from his dead body on the cross, and indicating to the world the Divine Mercy which led him to the institution of the Sacraments and then his life-giving death by crucifixion.

When Jesus appeared to Saint Margaret Mary, a French nun of the 17th century, he took the form of a man whose heart appeared flaming with love and crowned with thorns. And he said to her, “Behold this heart which has loved humanity so much, and has been so little loved in return.”

On this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, we are asked to contemplate the love by which God loves us—and to focus our loving contemplation of his love upon the human Heart of the Son of God who became a man. The heart of Jesus was formed, as was his entire body, by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Our Blessed Mother.  Jesus had all the affective, sensitive, and emotional capabilities of any human being, and thus we speak of his loving us with “his heart.”  He tells us in the gospel, “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” These are the only ones of his virtues that he calls our attention to and asks us to imitate.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, make us, too, meek, humble, and loving. With these qualities, sanctity is within our reach in this world, and heaven is within our reach in the next. 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 | May 24, 2021

The Solemnity of Pentecost (23 May 2021)

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit whom Our Divine Lord was so eager to send upon the young Church. As God the Father fashioned a human body out of the dirt of the earth and then breathed his own divine life into its mouth and nostrils to begin the human race, so did Jesus our Lord fashion a Church from his disciples, his sacraments, and his doctrine and moral code, and then he was eager to breathe divine animation into that incipient Church. This happened on the morning of that first Pentecost Sunday when the Spirit of the Living God — the third Person of the Trinity — came upon the young Church in a rush of wind which shook the house and of fire that hovered over the head of each of them.

A great many books and articles have been written down through the ages of Christianity trying to define and explain the Holy Spirit and help us grasp this divine reality. I am not qualified to add anything to all that erudition. But I will tell you that the Holy Spirit is presented to us by the Church as the indwelling and loving presence of God in our hearts, both individually and collectively. He makes us his temple, his tabernacle, his sanctuary, and enables us to live the Christian life as Christ our Lord wants us to.

The ancient and beautiful hymn called a “sequence” which is used on Pentecost prays thus: O most blessed light divine; shine within these hearts of thine; and our inmost being fill. And it goes on to pray: Bend the stubborn heart and will; melt the frozen, warm the chill; guide the steps that go astray.

Let us open our hearts to the brightness of this “blessed light divine.” Let us surrender ourselves totally to the bending of our stubborn wills, the melting and the warming of our love of God and neighbor, and the guidance of our wayward steps into the path of holiness. Let us give ourselves as profoundly willing victims of this Divine Wind and Heavenly Fire which will accomplish in us what God wants. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, and we are meant to be the living stones of that Church, adoring, loving, and serving God and contributing to the sanctification of the world and our human family. 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 | May 10, 2021

Feast of Saint Damien de Veuster (10 May 2021)

When I was a child in grade school, one of the lives of the saints that especially impressed me was that of Fr. Damien of Molokai, the Belgian priest who went to the Hawaiian islands and then to the leper colony on the island of Molokai where he gave his life for the betterment of the wretched conditions of the lepers, both spiritually and materially. It’s a marvelous story; a number of good books have been written about him, and now he is [Saint] Damien, having been [canonized] by Pope [Benedict]. 

On Easter Sunday in 1953, the aircraft carrier in which I was serving in the Navy glided into the quiet waters of Pearl Harbor and that afternoon, I was able to begin my exploration of those beautiful islands. I went downtown and there found the cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, the church in which Damien had been ordained to the priesthood after finishing his priestly studies in the islands. It meant a great deal to me to be there where his priesthood began; it ended just a few miles across the waters of the Pacific as he died of leprosy contracted while caring for his beloved flock—a martyr of generosity and love. Many years later I was able to visit his tomb in Louvain, Belgium, and celebrate Mass there. I have also very proudly visited his statue in the Hall of Statuary in our national capitol building in Washington, where each state is invited to place two statues of those considered its outstanding citizens. When Hawaii became a state, it placed there a statue of Fr. Damien. 

[Saint] Damien died on April 15, the date of my ordination to the priesthood, but the Church observes his feastday on May 10. So today I am happy to celebrate that life: so terrible in its material aspects and so beautiful in its spiritual value. 

In Paris, there is a street called Picpus where the seminary and motherhouse of [Saint] Damien’s congregation are located. That’s where Damien studied and from where he left for Hawaii. During the French Revolution, a guillotine stood in a public square nearby. When the Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne were killed there because they clung tenaciously to their Catholic faith and their Carmelite religious life, their bodies were dumped into a common grave in the graveyard of that seminary. Possibly the beautiful example of their courage moved Damien to volunteer first for the Hawaiian mission, and then for the extraordinary work among the lepers. They became martyrs to faith and religious life; he did so to generosity and love. Jesus promised eternal life to those who visited him when he was sick in the persons of all the sick of this world. No one has visited the sick in so profound a way as [Saint] Damien. In a number of the books about him, you can find two photographs of him whose juxtaposition is striking: Damien as a fine-looking young Belgian seminarian and then Damien as a dying leper, his face and hands terribly disfigured by the disease. On my visit to the Picpus cemetery, I felt tremendous pride and joy at the courage of the Carmelite Nuns whose bodies are still in that common grave, and of [Saint] Damien who studied there on his way to Hawaii, priesthood, generosity, death by leprosy, and the admiration of the Church and the world. 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 | April 21, 2021

Feast of Saint Anselm (21 April 2021)

I like the way Saint Paul speaks to the Romans when he says, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Think about that for a moment. “Wages” is another word for “salary.” When you work, you get a salary, agreed upon between employer and employee beforehand. So, when we sin and die spiritually, we are getting what we deserve. There is an element of justice there. But Saint Paul doesn’t use the term “wages” at all when it comes to our living as God asks of us. He doesn’t call that “wages,” but rather “the gift of God.” A gift is not part of justice. It is a result of gratuitousness, kindness, love, esteem. When the schoolboy mows the neighbor’s lawn for the prearranged price of $5, and the neighbor gives him his $5, that is justice. But if the neighbor ALSO gives him a slice of freshly baked apple pie with a big scoop of ice-cream on it, that is a gift. That did not enter into the original agreement. 

We “work” for God in the sense that we obey his word, his commandments, his holy will. And do we get a just salary for this “work”? Listen to Paul’s words again: “the eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to imagine what God has prepared for those who love him.” The reward for our virtue is so great that we can’t even envision things like that. That is not strict justice; that is the divine abundance and generosity of a loving father who, because he is God, is totally unlimited in what he can give us. How fortunate we are to be working, not for wages, but for divine generosity and love! 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 | April 9, 2021

Easter Friday (9 April 2021)

The Sunday that we’ll be celebrating this weekend has gone by a number of names in the history of the Church. Back in the days when the liturgy was in Latin, the Sundays were usually designated by the first word of their entrance antiphon—the “Introit” as it was called then.  And the Sunday after Easter began, and still begins when the entrance antiphon is not replaced by an opening hymn, by the words “Like newborn children. . .” And the Latin word used to begin that antiphon is “Quasimodo.”  So the Sunday after Easter was “Quasimodo Sunday.”  In the famous novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo, the abandoned baby is found on the steps of Paris’s cathedral on the morning of the Sunday after Easter, so the priests called him “Quasimodo.”  In Advent we have a Gaudete Sunday; in Lent, a Laetare Sunday—again, names taken from the opening word of the entrance antiphon of that day. 

Then, this Sunday came to be called “Low Sunday” to distinguish it from the very HIGH Sunday the week before. And now, it is the Sunday of Divine Mercy, so called by our late Pope, [Saint] John Paul II.  We use as the first reading of this Sunday’s Mass a passage from the first letter of Saint Peter, where the Prince of the Apostles tells us that God “in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And then, in the gospel we read of what happened on the night of that first Easter Sunday. The risen Savior came into the upper room where his apostles were gathered. He greeted them with the Hebrew “Shalom”: Peace be with you. Then he breathed on them (“breath” in Hebrew is the same as “spirit”) and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” Another one of these stupendous gifts of God to humanity for our salvation. He gave us the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper; he gave his life on the cross; now he gives to his newly ordained bishops and priests the power of forgiving sins. 

When a soldier defeated an enemy in those days, he could bring home with him any booty or plunder from the battlefield or the country of the defeated enemy. The newly risen Christ brings with him from his encounter with death and his conquest of it a choice piece of plunder indeed: he had made atonement for our sins by his death on the cross, and now brings back with him divine mercy, forgiveness, pardon.  If I were to say to a penitent who comes to confession all that I might say, I could say, “we have sinned. But Jesus wants to forgive us and bring us back into the circle of his love, so he died in atonement for our sins. And on rising from the dead, the first thing he gave to his first bishops and priests was the power to forgive sin, to dispense mercy, to pardon, to reconcile, to make clean again.” This is Divine Mercy Sunday. He wants to forgive us more than we want to be forgiven. He loves us more than we love him, even though he is infinitely lovable, and we certainly are not. But you see, love is measured not by the lovability of the beloved, but by the love of the lover. And Christ, our lover, is infinitely loving. 

And Jesus wants to forgive us “not seven times, but seventy times seven times.” And so we pray particularly on this beautiful Sunday, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have MERCY on 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 | April 8, 2021

Easter Thursday (8 April 2021)

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. 

During this Easter time, we might also give our attention to the Easter candle that burns 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 St. 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:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown. 

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