[Fifty-nine] years ago — in the year 1956 — our church calendar had not been altered for many years, and the feast of Saint Rose of Lima fell on August 30. She was a member of the Dominican laity, and was the first person of the entire New World to be canonized, so we Dominicans are very proud of her. And it was customary for the incoming novices to our Order to receive the Dominican habit on her feastday. So [this Sunday], August 30, my classmates and I will celebrate our [59th anniversary] of the beginning of our Dominican life. We have worn the habit of Saint Dominic and written “O.P.” — of the Order of Preachers — behind our names for [fifty-nine] years. I ask that you join with us in thanking our God for this tremendous grace.
In the gospel used at Mass on the commemoration day of Saint Rose, Jesus tells us that he is the vine, we the branches. The whole reason for cultivating grape vines is to produce grapes, and from them, wine. Now, left to itself, the vine will produce a great many branches and leaves and tendrils, and some clusters of grapes as well. The vine-grower, who is interested in wine and not in beautiful foliage, takes his pruning shears and cuts, and cuts, and cuts. In present-day viniculture, usually only one cluster is allowed to grow on each vine; all the other incipient clusters are cut away; most of the branches and leaves are cut away. One branch, with one cluster, and just enough leaves to protect that one cluster from the heat of the sun, are allowed to grow. All the rest is pruned away. Now, think how you would feel if you were a grape vine. You expend every effort to produce lots of growth. Many branches, many leaves, many clusters of fruit, many tendrils. You hope that your sincere efforts and the growth that you can produce will please your master the vine-grower. But does it? NO! He comes with his shears and reduces almost all your efforts to nothing. Why does he treat you like this? How can he be so cruel? But you see, he has human intelligence, and you don’t. You’re only a vine, doing your thing — doing what comes naturally. But he is a man, doing to a vine what is not natural to the vine, but that which is SUPER-natural to the vine — that which is useful to human intelligence and design.
And so with us. We strive for success and pleasure. Christ tells us to deny ourselves and take up our cross. We strive for wealth and a life of ease; Christ lived poorly and says to us “blessed are the poor in spirit.” We strive to rise to the top, to be in command, to be in authority over others. Christ tells us to become like little children. It’s all part of the pruning, the cutting, the vine-growing which is supernatural to our own inclinations. But if we allow him to do what he wants with us, he will produce something far better than we could. Let us trust him to do that. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.