Posted by: fvbcdm | September 18, 2017

Feast of Saint Joseph of Cupertino (18 Sept 2017)

I am back in New Orleans after a pleasant three-day visit to Natchitoches, Louisiana and to Lufkin, Texas.  Lufkin is the location of one of our monasteries of cloistered Dominican nuns.  I was chaplain there back in the early 1980s, and I always enjoy going back. A visit to a monastery of contemplative nuns is a little foretaste of heaven on earth. It is a source of great joy to us Dominican friars to know that our cloistered sisters are praying for us and our ministry daily in their various monasteries throughout the country and the world.  There are about fifteen of those monasteries in the United States.

The occasion for my visit this time was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the religious vows of one of the sisters whom I know.  It is wonderful to consider the number of years of prayer, contemplative life, and intense Christian living that are represented by a convent like that.  The sisters came to Texas from Michigan in 1945.  About 12 of them originally came from their parent monastery.  In the meantime, other women have joined them.  When I was there as chaplain, there were about 40 sisters in the community.  Right now there are about 25, with an additional number of young sisters in their formation period.

On our way to and from Lufkin—which is in the piney woods of East Texas—two other friars and I spent a night in Natchitoches, Louisiana, the hometown of one of us.  We stayed with his family and were wined and dined by this very hospitable and gracious group of people.  Natchitoches is a small town south of Shreveport but very significant in Louisiana history.  It was founded before New Orleans as a French settlement.  Some of its buildings are very old, and it’s surrounded by plantations and their antebellum houses up and down the rivers that flow through that part of the country.  The way of life there is slower than here in the city, more leisurely, more aware of the past, closer to the land, and, of course, closer to one another because, in a small town, every one pretty much knows everyone else.  I enjoyed that little sample of life in north-west Louisiana.  Those folks are very much aware of being Louisianians but not belonging to the Cajun or the French culture just a few miles south of them in the Bayou country.  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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Exactly nine months ago today, on December 8, the universal Church celebrated the Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Mother.  Since there is ordinarily a nine-month period between human conception and birth, we now celebrate the birth of the little girl who had been immaculately conceived nine months previously.

This is a unique day in the calendar and liturgy of the Church; it is one of the three—and only three—times each year when we celebrate births.  We humans are usually born without grace, or as we say, “in the state of original sin.” The saints die in grace. So the death of God’s holy ones is more to be celebrated than their birth.  However, we know of three human beings who were born in the state of grace: Our Blessed Mother who had been filled with grace from the first moment of her conception, then Saint John the Baptist who was sanctified by the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, when he “leaped for joy” at the close proximity of the unborn Christ in the womb of Our Lady, and finally Our Divine Lord himself, who is not only “full of grace” but is the very source of grace for every man, woman, and child ever brought into being.

The most frequently used prayer to Our Lady is the “Hail Mary” which ends by asking the Mother of our Lord, “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”  Our Lady was conceived, was born, and ended her life on earth “full of grace.” We are not conceived nor born in God’s grace, but we certainly do hope to end our life in that happy state, so we ask for the prayers of her who is immaculate.  Look back over your life.  How often do you think you have said to Our Lady: “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”? Fifty, every time we pray the Rosary.  That comes to about a million in the course of 55 years. Can the “clement, and loving, and sweet Virgin Mary” ignore all of that supplication addressed to her?

So today, let us who want to die in grace continue to ask her who was born in grace for that tremendous favor. 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 | September 6, 2017

Feast of Saint Faustus (6 September 2017)

It’s fascinating to see how often the things we read in the Liturgy of the Word at Mass that come to us from 25 centuries ago are similar to the things we hear daily on the newscasts on television and read in our newspapers. Today, for example, we read of the joy with which the Jewish people went home to their own country, the promised land, and rebuilt their temple so that they could worship God properly after living for some 50 years amidst the paganism of Babylon where there was no temple, no sacrificial worship, and no exercise of the Jewish priesthood or the observances of the beloved holy days of Judaism.

What do we have today? We have the fact that in parts of New Orleans in the very parish where I have lived and ministered for over 18 years, the church is closed; the Blessed Sacrament is not present either in the parish church or in the Dominican community chapel or in the chapel of perpetual adoration, or in the chapel of the Sisters of Mount Carmel who live within the parish boundaries and operate a girls’ high school there. There has been no Mass in the parish since August 29. This is the first time in over 75 years that the official prayer of the Church has not risen daily from that part of New Orleans called Lakeview. The other day, I was struck and very moved by what one of the ladies of the parish told me by telephone from her place of refuge in Baton Rouge. She said, “Lakeview has been more than just a neighborhood, and Saint Dominic more than just another Catholic parish. They were a way of life.”

And so they were. We can appreciate that much more the words of the psalmists that we repeat in our liturgies. When they were in exile in Babylon, having been brought there in slavery after the conquest of the Holy City, Jerusalem, and the destruction of King Solomon’s temple, their captors asked them to sing some of the “songs of Zion,” — the sacred music which had been sung in the temple during the previous four centuries of divine worship in Jerusalem. They answered, “How can we sing the songs of Zion in the land of Babylon (which, by the way, today we call ‘Iraq’). We have hung up our harps on the trees by the rivers of Babylon. We cannot sing joyfully in this wretched, godless land. We want to go home. We want to worship God as we know we should.”

And now, with those heart-wrenching words in our minds, we read that there is another hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Will it be another disastrous event like Katrina? God forbid. However, let us remember that temples in which God is worshiped are not primarily composed of brick and mortar and stone, but rather of the flesh and blood of the human heart. We are the temples of divine worship of the New Testament; we follow the example of Our Divine Lord Jesus, who says of his own body: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it up again. Hurricanes can flood buildings and close churches; they cannot destroy faith or flood our love of God. Wherever Jesus is, there is our home. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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

On this Labor Day holiday, I am happy to be back with you with the Catholic Daily Message after three weeks of absence. There are many things to report to you today. My travel group and I had a wonderful river cruise in Russia, from St. Petersburg to Moscow, with many stops along the rivers in between those two principal cities of Russia. It was very possibly the most informative trip I’ve ever taken, and the most unusual. In the days ahead, I will tell you more of what I learned and experienced during those fourteen days in the great nation that is awakening from a seventy-year period of oppression and imprisonment by the forces of atheistic communism. The contrast between what I saw there in 1980 and what I have just seen this year is immense, thank God.

After those two wonderful weeks in Russia, some friends and I were able to spend five days at the home of a friend in Avon, Colorado, a beautifully situated town just next to the famous ski resort of Vail. However, the day after we arrived in all that serene beauty of the Rocky Mountains, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Mississippi gulf coast, and we were in the weird position of sitting in the midst of indescribable beauty and tranquillity while watching the horror in Louisiana and Mississippi unfold before our eyes on the television reports. A first cousin of mine was a resident in a nursing home in New Orleans. When the mandatory evacuation orders were issued, the elderly residents had to be air-lifted to Houma, Louisiana, which was in a better condition than New Orleans. But in the confusion and lack of communication and electrical power, seventeen of them “didn’t make it,” as we have been told. No one is sure what that means. But the National Guard has issued a list of the seventeen missing persons; they are presumed to have died somewhere in the evacuation process. But because everything has been so indefinite, confused, and uncertain, we really don’t know what has actually happened. We can only pray and wait for the actual facts to be discovered and made clear.

So our beautiful and memorable vacation ended with the sorrow of knowing that my native city of New Orleans has suffered the greatest disaster in its nearly three-century history, and wondering about the condition and whereabouts of relatives, confreres, former parishioners, and friends about whom we can find no information, or just conjecture and uncertainty. It’s like war, with death, destruction, and disruption of human life all around. May God have mercy on all the victims, dead and living, and bring good out of this natural and man-made disaster. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 25, 2017

Feast of Saint Louis of France (25 Aug 2017)

[Ninety-one] years ago today, my parents were married in the Jesuit church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus on the Loyola University campus in New Orleans.  Some three years and four months later, I was baptized in that same beautiful church.  Then [sixteen] years ago today, I had the pleasure of officiating at the wedding of dear friends of mine for both of whom it was a second marriage.  So today is their [sixteenth] wedding anniversary and I am invited to a little dinner party to celebrate the happy occasion. The lady has a remarkably good memory, and each year as she speaks of her own wedding anniversary, she reminds me that it is also that of my own parents, even though they have long since been called into their eternal life.

And today is the commemoration day of Saint Louis, the King of France, who is one of the patron saints of New Orleans since its cathedral is dedicated to him.  We are all familiar with the harmonious ensemble of the Saint Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, and the Pontalba apartment buildings which make up the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans.  During my childhood, I loved paying the seven cents to ride the streetcar from my own home down to “the Quarter” and there to wander through the old streets and into the public buildings. In the cathedral, I would study the mural above the main altar with its inscription, in French, which says “Saint Louis, King of France, announces the seventh crusade.” Then I would look at all the stained glass windows depicting the life of Saint Louis, and the stations of the cross which are also captioned in French. That’s how I learned my first French. When it was time for my choice of a confirmation name, as we called it in those days, I chose Louis for the saint whose life I knew from examining the windows in the cathedral. Later I sang in the cathedral choir for a few years before entering the seminary. And in more recent times, when I became interested in genealogy, I discovered that many of my forebears in early Louisiana were baptized, married, and buried in or from Saint Louis Cathedral. So that beautiful old building has many associations with my life, even long before I was born. This is one of the great advantages of church life: the way in which it intertwines with one’s own life and brings our God into our life and our history.  Do I sound like an old man, lost in memory?  Of course I am! It’s wonderful!!!  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 23, 2017

Feast of Saint Rose of Lima (23 Aug 2017)

Today is a special day for us Americans and especially for us Dominicans. That’s because in our religious calendar we celebrate Saint Rose of Lima, the first person of the New World to be canonized a saint. She died in 1617 and was canonized in 1671, thus becoming the first-fruits, as Scripture might say, of the great harvest of holiness which God’s grace has raised up and will continue to raise up in this western hemisphere of ours.

It is special for us Dominicans because this young woman belonged to our religious family. She was a member of what used to be called the Dominican Tertiaries and are now called the Dominican Laity. These are men and women who associate themselves with the family of Saint Dominic and do their best to live the spirit of the Order of Preachers as our family is properly known. A number of other religious orders—the Carmelites, the Franciscans, the Benedictines, and others—have similar associations which offer the lay people of the Church the opportunity to take upon their Christian and baptismal lives a flavor of that particular religious institute.

Saint Rose lived with her parents and did what she could to supplement their income, which was not very abundant. She persuaded them to let her live in what amounted to a tool shed in the back garden of their property. There she could give herself up to prayer, silence, and the contemplation of divine truth while she did various kinds of needlework. Although she lived a very secluded life, her reputation began to spread among her fellow citizens of Lima so that by the time of her death, the city fathers and prominent citizens of Lima vied for the honor of carrying her body to its place of burial.

In today’s liturgy of the hours, we read passages from her descriptions of visions of Our Divine Lord that she was granted. He said to her: Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven. Now, let us contrast that idea with the mentality of so many of our fellow men and women of today who seem to be forever looking for pleasure, joy, wealth, and the things which this world deems desirable while doing their best to avoid anything that isn’t “fun” or “cool” or “sexy” or “groovy” or “neat.”  When we go into our churches, we always see a crucifix near the altar. We do not see an image of Our Lord laughing heartily, and in the gospels we don’t hear him telling us, “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die.”  Rather, “take up your cross and follow me, so that in the tomorrow of eternity you will live in immense joy.”  Our little sister, Rose of Lima, learned that lesson well and leads the world of North, Central, and South America by being its first canonized citizen and saint. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 18, 2017

Feast of Saint Helen (18 Aug 2017)

Over the past weekend, I had the pleasure of officiating at two 50th wedding anniversary celebrations, one was here in New Orleans, the other in Houston.  It is a joy to take part in things like that.  I did not know either of those couples back in those days, although I had lived next door to the aunt and uncle of the New Orleans bride when I was a young child.  But, it’s beautiful to see how they have had rich, happy lives, to meet their children and grandchildren, and to see basically what God had in mind when he instituted the Sacrament of Matrimony.  With human faith in the Lord, fidelity to one another, and common sense, marriage can be such a source of happiness for the married couple and their offspring!

And while celebrating those two anniversaries of those two events that took place fifty years ago, my thoughts went back to my own circumstances at that time.  I had enlisted in the Navy the previous year because of the outbreak of the Korean War.  After about six months of training in San Diego, California, I was sent to the naval air station at Alameda, just across the bay from San Francisco.  And by August of the year 1951, I was falling deeply in love with that incomparable city.  When I first got there, my southern blood rebelled against the chill, the dampness, and the frequent fog of the Bay area.  I wondered why anyone would want to live there.  By the time six months had passed, I wondered why anyone would want to live anywhere else.  My opinion hasn’t changed.  If I were footloose and could live anywhere I chose, I would go back to San Francisco immediately.

God has been especially good to me in terms of my dwelling places.  New Orleans—which is where I was born and raised—is a wonderful place with all kinds of advantages.  And then, San Francisco is, in my opinion, the most exciting and fascinating city in the nation.  So this past weekend was one of memories, happy memories, for the couples celebrating their anniversaries and for those of us celebrating with them.  It was a time to be grateful to God, who says, in the words of Jesus in the Gospel, “I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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

 

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 17, 2017

Feast of Saint Hyacinth of Poland (17 Aug 2017)

It is interesting to observe how the different teachings of our Lord become more pertinent in a given time period when the foolishness and sinfulness of mankind denies them or violates them.  In the Gospel Jesus makes it clear that marriage is to be a lifelong commitment and that one who divorces one’s spouse and marries another is committing adultery, and, of course, the Sixth Commandment of God’s law says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  We are living in what has been called the sexual revolution.  That means that, thanks to the invention of the contraceptive pill and the legalization of abortion throughout the world, even the so-called Christian nations have become grossly promiscuous sexually and are involved in practices that are totally opposed to the nobility, the beauty, the loftiness which God has in mind when He creates us male and female and gives us the power to inject a new life by our exercise of human sexual love.

When our Blessed Mother appeared at Fatima early in the Twentieth Century, she foretold that many would lose their souls because of sins of the flesh.  Sexual immorality is so attractive to some, so addictive, and so alienating from God that those who are given to any of the practices of adultery, fornication, masturbation, contraception, or homosexual acts, lose interest and concern for the spiritual life, for virtue, for prayer, for union with God.  In our contemporary world, illicit sex is made licit—pornography, the manufacture of the various paraphernalia related to sexual sins, condoms, and even organized travel for the express purpose of seeking out prostitutes of both sexes in different parts of the world for the gratification of the traveler’s lust.  In many of the traditionally Christian countries of the world, the birth rate is falling below the point of zero population growth, and the percentage of those young people who approach the Sacrament of Marriage still adorned with the beautiful gift of virginity is tragically low.

Our Lord tells us that we are the Salt of the Earth, the Light of the World, if we are to live up to these responsibilities and opportunities, we must live lives of chastity, purity, modesty, and we must let it be known that we glory in the gift of sexual nobility and self-control. Thus, we make a positive contribution to the well-being of our world and its people, the spiritual ecology of our own 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 | August 16, 2017

Feast of Saint Stephen of Hungary (16 Aug 2017)

In the Gospel we hear our Lord’s parable of the two debtors, each of whom begs for mercy from his creditor.  One of the Gospel accounts specifies the amount of money that each of them owed, and recently, a scripture scholar figured out that one of them owed about $300,000 in today’s American money, while the other owed him about $1.45.  The contrast between these two sums of money is a classic example of our Lord’s use of hyperbole in making His points.  The man who owed the $300,000 had his debt totally forgiven by his creditor, but he in turn would not forgive the debt of the man who owed him $1.45.  When the generous creditor finds out that the one to whom he remitted the huge debt refused to forgive his debtor this paltry sum, he was furious and insisted that he pay him back the full $300,000 or else.

When Jesus was asked by His Apostles to teach them to pray, He gave them and us the most Christian of all Christian prayers, “The Our Father.”  In it, Jesus puts upon our lips the words, “forgive us out trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Many throughout the world say that every day, including us.  But how many of us really mean it?  Are you quick to forgive either real or imagined offenses or injustices perpetrated against you? Are you careful not to hold grudges?  not to seek punishment for those who offend you?   not to treat the with hostility and contempt, in a way designed clearly to show that you are angry, resentful and unforgiving?

The “Our Father” can be a dangerous prayer to say!  When we ask God to forgive us as we forgive, do we realize what we are saying?  Do we really want God to treat us as we treat those that we consider guilty of offending us?  We better listen carefully to what we are saying!  We better examine our consciences in terms of our treatment of others.  Otherwise, we might well be calling down the wrath of God upon ourselves. Many of the saints have welcomed the opportunity to forgive their persecutors.  It gives them a kind of claim on the mercy of God.  We would do well to imitate that quality of theirs.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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

Posted by: fvbcdm | August 15, 2017

The Solemnity of the Assumption (15 Aug 2017)

On the fifteenth of August each year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of our Blessed Mother’s Assumption into Heaven—that event which corresponds to the Ascension of Jesus into the Glory of Eternal Life.  We do not know when or where the Mother of Jesus ended her days on earth.  We do not even know whether she died.  Some theologians think it was fitting that she should die because her Divine Son died.  Others thing not, since she was never under the slightest influence of sin, nor was it her vocation to give her life for the redemption of the world.  The Eastern Church has always spoken, not of the death of our Lady, but rather of her “dormition”—a word which means “falling asleep.”

In any case, whatever actually happened at the end of our Lady’s days on earth, she did not die as we die—so that our bodies are separated from our souls and begin to corrupt.  We get an interesting idea of how the Church meditates upon this Assumption of the Holy Virgin Mary by the readings that she chooses for the Feast and its Vigil.  On the Vigil of the Assumption, the first reading is from the First Book of Chronicles and describes how King David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Tent of Meeting, which preceded the Temple, and enthroned it there with much ceremony and solemnity.  Our Lady has often been seen as symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant—that sacred box which contained the scrolls of God’s Law.  Just as God is symbolized by His Law written upon scrolls, which were the most sacred objects of the Old Testament, so the container in which these scrolls were kept is seen as the symbol of the Mother of God, who contained in her own body the Son of God, that is why one of the titles we give to our Lady in her litany is “Ark of the Covenant.”

Just as the Solemnity of our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven is a beautiful occasion of hope and optimism for us, so is that of His Immaculate Mother’s Assumption.  Christ is the Savior of the World.  He goes, as He promised, to prepare a place for us.  Mary, the Mother of God, is Queen of His Heavenly Kingdom.  She is the first purely human being to be taken body and soul into Heaven, and thus, she blazes the trail, as it were, for all those who will follow her by dying in union with her Divine Son.  We address ourselves to Her, “Most Holy Virgin, you who never sinned, and therefore, did not die our ordinary human death, pray for us who are sinners, at the hour of our death.” 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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