Posted by: fvbcdm | September 19, 2011

Feast of Saint Januarius (19 Sept 2011)

Today I come to compose the Catholic Daily Message with my memory filled with thoughts of sixty years ago.  Fortunately, my mother was a great saver of letters, and as a result of that, I have a box full of letters that I wrote to her during my Navy years.  Over this past weekend, I began to read some of those letters that I wrote when I was first assigned to the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California, just across the bay from San Francisco.  That was the most exciting part of my life up to that time.  I was 21 years old; totally new to the bay area of California, and in particular to the city of San Francisco, which I found fabulous, and had the good fortune to have cousins living there, who were originally from Louisiana.
It took almost no time for me to fall in love with the city by the Golden Gate.  To this day, when I get “homesick,” it isn’t for New Orleans, my own home town, but rather for San Francisco in whose suburbs I spent more than three years, exploring every section of that whole area. One of my great advantages was that I had what the Navy calls “very good duty.”  That meant that I wasn’t obliged to remain on the base very much, but could leave the station at 5 p.m. and not be obliged to be “on deck” until 8 o’clock the next morning.  And most of the time, the whole weekend was my own.  I found myself a tiny little hotel called “the Barclay” on O’Farrell Street in downtown San Francisco.  I could get a room there for $1.50 per night (can you believe that?) which put me in the very heart of that wonderful city—just two blocks from Union Square, a few more blocks from Chinatown with its wonderful church of Old Saint Mary’s and its Paulist lending library, the Italian section called “North Beach,” and less than a block from the Powell Street cable car line where I could hop onto one of the funny little cars that took me either down to Market Street or up to the top of Nob Hill and then down to Fisherman’s Wharf.
My letters home were filled with the excitement and joy of those years in and around San Francisco.  In one of them that lies before me as I write this, I wrote: “The week goes by quickly and quietly and then the weekend comes—and SAN FRANCISCO! You can’t imagine how happy I am to be here.  I couldn’t have asked for anything better, and I’ll always enjoy remembering my days here.” Yesterday, when I read those words of mine written on April 26, 1951, a little more than 60 years ago, I was struck by my own prophecy.  I was quite right about always remembering my days there.  It is now 2011; I am nearly 82 years old and a Dominican priest—I had wanted to be a priest all my life, but I knew nothing about the Dominicans nor did I ever suspect that I’d ever become one.  That’s another story.  But I still remember with tremendous pleasure those days in and around San Francisco.
God has been very good to me. As I look back, one of His gifts after another come tumbling out of the storeroom of my memory.  I hope that you, too, have had a good life and can look back over so much joy, happiness, excitement, and pleasure.  Troubles? Yes, I’ve had a few, but they’ve been outnumbered by the joys and pleasures of God’s generosity.  At this point, I can no longer hear very well; I can walk only with a cane, and then with difficulty; I cannot drive and must depend on others to take me where I need to go.  But with all of that, it’s been a great life.  Was it all worth while? You bet it was! And, to quote an old adage, “All this and heaven, too!”  Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.



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