Posted by: fvbcdm | May 10, 2017

Feast of Saint Damien (10 May 2017)

Today we Catholics throughout the world celebrate the feast of Saint Damien, the leper priest of Molokai who labored and died in what is now a part of the United States of America. And we Dominicans celebrate Saint Antoninus of Florence, one of the outstanding examples of a loving, zealous, and kind bishop of the Church who was a Dominican confrere of ours.

When I was about seven years old, my parents gave me a book that opened new worlds for me.  It was called “Children of Foreign Lands,” and I loved it as I had loved no other book.  The foreign lands whose children were described were Norway, Spain, Holland, China, Japan, Hawaii, and Arabia.  I remember poring over it hour after hour until I had learned every detail of the lifestyle of each of those parts of the world.  For some reason, I was particularly interested in Holland, and learned all about windwills, wooden shoes, tulips, cheese, dog-carts, life on a canal boat, and the picturesque costumes of the different parts of the Netherlands.

Then, on May 10, 1940, [seventy-seven] years ago today, the world awoke to find that the Nazi armies had invaded Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.  I was ten years old and very sad to think that my dear Holland was now under the heel of the conqueror.  Little did I know how much the Dutch would suffer for the next five years, many of them dying of malnutrition, many others being sent to the extermination camps.  Later, the stories of Anne Franck and Corrie Ten Boom and their families and of Saint Edith Stein would become known to the world and we would realize just how hellish Naziism really was.  May 10 always brings those memories back to me.  I learned that had I been born in Europe rather than America, I might well have been incinerated in a Nazi oven since my great-grandfather was Jewish.

To change the subject, I recently heard from a friend here who is embroiled with his inlaws in a dispute about religion and how it should be practiced.  That reminds me of my early days here at Holy Rosary parish in Houston.  It was August of 1986.  My predecessor, Father Gerard Joubert, was conservative liturgically and much beloved by the people here.  And my arrival was looked upon with much trepidation.  What was going to happen to Holy Rosary parish with a younger man in charge? One lady said to me, “We’re glad to have you here, Father, but I want you to know that if you make us stand up to receive Holy Communion, I’ll never come here again”!  I had to laugh at her.  I had no intention of enforcing any changes like that, and it mattered very little to me what position the people assumed to receive the Eucharist.  As time went on, I found out that in matters of religion, inconsequential things like that take on enormous importance. Once, in New Orleans, a lady got furiously angry with me because I wouldn’t insist that the little girls receiving their first Holy Communion must wear white veils on their heads. I explained to her that if she wanted to dress her child in a white veil, that was perfectly all right with me.  But NO! All of the little girls must be so attired.  I’m happy to report that as time went on, that lady and I became very good friends despite the white veil problem. We must try always to distinguish the essential from the accidental.  That is one of the elements of wisdom and prudence.  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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