Posted by: fvbcdm | February 21, 2017

Feast of Saint Peter Damian (21 February 2017)

Our Lord tells us in the gospel that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Let’s stop and consider this saying of Christ’s a bit more.  He is God, and thus the one to whom all prayer is ultimately directed.  And here he is, telling us to pray for those who persecute us.  So basically he is saying to us: ask me for the well-being of those who persecute you.  Doesn’t that seem a bit strange?  If he is concerned about the well-being of our persecutors, why doesn’t he simply load them with graces and bring about the change for the better in their lives which he wants?  Why tell US to pray to HIM for THEM?

Much thought has been given to this problem down through the ages since the life of Jesus upon earth.  And a number of explanations have been offered for the words of Jesus.  They boil down to several; one is that by praying, we become more aware of God’s supremacy over all things and our need to have recourse to him for all good gifts. Another is that by asking him for what we need and want, we humble ourselves and remind ourselves that of ourselves, we can do nothing, and therefore we must turn to him for our wants and needs.  And yet another is the fact that we are given the great privilege of cooperating with God in the salvation of souls and the benefitting of our world, ourselves, and our neighbors.  Our Lady told Saint Bernadette at Lourdes, “Pray for sinners.”  Again, why?  Are not the prayers of the Immaculate Mother of God far more powerful and efficacious than the prayers of the teenage girl gathering firewood by a small mountain stream in southwestern France?  Couldn’t Our Lady of Lourdes do far more for sinners than thousands of us ordinary people?  Yes, but by encouraging us to pray for sinners, Our Lady emphasizes the evil of sin and sinning, the dangers to which sinners expose themselves, and the importance of our concern for their well-being and our desire to help them. That is essentially the message of Jesus hanging on the cross, and crying out, “Father, forgive them . . .”

So, my dear friends, let us take the words of Our Divine Lord and his most holy Mother very seriously.  Let us pray for those who persecute us and not treat them as they treat us.  And let us pray for the sinners of the world, including ourselves in that category, of course.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

Today we celebrate the commemoration of the Seven Founders of the Servite Order, a community of priests founded in Florence, Italy, just a few years after Saint Dominic founded our Dominican Order.  And today, at Mass we read the passage from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans which the Church chose for this celebration.  I found it especially appropriate and helpful.  During this illness of mine, I have found it difficult to pray; I find myself fearful when Our Lord enjoins trust; sad when the Word of God tells us to rejoice in our difficulties; somewhat rebellious when it asks us to accept the holy Will of God with total patience and toleration.  Listen to what Saint Paul says: “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.  And the one who searches hearts (God our Father) knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because He intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.”

I tell you these things not to ask for sympathy from you, although a number of my readers and hearers have sent very supportive and encouraging messages.  I mention them because I hope to help you in your ups and downs, and let you know that you are by no means alone on your journey.  The same Lord who says to us very often in the Scriptures “Don’t be afraid,” prayed in the Garden of Gethsemani, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.  However not as I will, but as you will it.”  There is a time for great joy and exultation; there is a time for shrinking before suffering and confusion.  Our Lord has known them both, and will be with us in our experiences of both.  Later on in the eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul says to us: “All things work for good for those who love God.”  Let us do our best to love our God and then to accept what comes from his hands into our lives.  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 | February 16, 2017

Feast of Saint Jeremy (16 February 2017)

Today, at the monastery of cloistered Dominican Nuns in Lufkin, Texas, our Sister Mary Catherine Laiche is being laid to rest in the little monastery cemetery.  My health doesn’t allow me to go, but I can certainly be there in spirit and in my Mass and prayers.

I find myself wondering, as I reflect upon her long and fruitful life, upon the qualities of human virtue, personality, intelligence, and goodness that sets some people so beautifully apart from the ordinary folks we meet in our daily lives.  When I say, “long and fruitful,” what does that mean?  I suppose she was in her 70s, although the ages of contemplative nuns are not usually a topic of conversation.  And fruitful?  That is very hard to define, since in that kind of community, everyone has her duties to perform and usually performs them fairly well.  We can’t all stand out like Mother Teresa and achieve greatness by heroic acts of charity, and yet most of us know instinctively when we are dealing with someone who is well above average in the science of the saints.  I think of Sr. M. Catherine in this latter category.  Everything she did, or at least that I observed during my five years as chaplain in that monastery, struck me as being exemplary and just what Our Lord would want in a contemplative nun.  I know, of course, that some of the Sisters who lived with her would disagree with my assessment of her life, but that is to be expected.  As Saint Therese of Lisieux was dying, one of the sisters in her monastery said to some of the others: “What are we going to say about her in our report of her life? She has never done anything worth mentioning.”  That young nun who “had never done anything worth mentioning” is now a canonized saint and a Doctor of the Church!  Often, our assessment of others tells much more about us than about them.

Because of her hidden vocation, most of you did not know Sr. M. Catherine, but I would I would ask you to pray for her today as her body is laid to its rest under the trees and among the other graves in that lovely, peaceful little plot of land.  I think of her burial in terms of the gospel, where human burial is compared to the planting of a good seed, full of life,  which will germinate and grow and produce a great deal of fruit.  Only in heaven will we know how Our Lord saw—and sees—his children, and this or that one in particular.  I am very grateful for having known Sr. M. Catherine, although I doubt that I spent more than thirty minutes in conversation with her during her and my whole life. The obviousness of real human quality doesn’t take long to impress. What would I say if I were to write a report of her life?  All I could say is that to me, her genuineness was as obvious as her white Dominican habit even though I couldn’t give you concrete examples of it.  I am very glad that she was a member of our Dominican family, and I will ask her prayers for me in the days ahead.  What if her opinion of me was not very high?  All the more reason to expect her to pray for me! 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 | February 14, 2017

Feast of Saints Cyril & Methodius (14 February 2017)

When we go into a drugstore, a greeting cards store, a department store, a candy store, or a florist’s shop at this time of year, we are bombarded with the idea that February 14th is “Saint Valentine’s Day.”  Or sometimes, just “Valentine’s Day.”  This does not indicate a great deal of devotion in our nation to the saint by that name, or even any belief in the existence of such a person at all.  It’s all about money, since there are still millions of people who send greeting cards, exchange gifts, especially of candy and flowers, on or near February 14th.  And those who can make a profit by selling these things are only too happy to keep the “Saint Valentine’s” tradition going  as long as possible.

However, some years ago, during a revision of the religious calendar, the Church simply dropped an obligatory celebration of Saint Valentine from February 14th, and replaced it with two missionaries who brought our holy faith to the peoples of the Slavic regions. And who are the Slavic peoples?  Most dictionaries define them simply as those who speak Slavic languages.  Thus, the term would comprise Russians, Poles, Czechs, Serbs, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Croats, and Slovenes. Those two missionaries to the Slavic peoples were Saints Cyril and Methodius, who are numbered among the patron saints of the continent of Europe along with Saints Benedict, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Edith Stein, and Jadwiga of Poland.

Perhaps you are aware that the Russians and some other Slavic people write in an alphabet different from ours.  It is called the Cyrillic alphabet because it was largely formulated and spread by this Saint Cyril whom we celebrate today.  Some of our more liturgically-aware Catholics have pointed out that we might send “Cyril and Methodius” cards or gifts instead of Valentines, but admit that it would lose something in the transition.  It would take a long time for us to come up with a tradition by which the boy would ask the girl, or vice-versa, to be his or her “Cyril and/or Methodius.”  And then we might facetiously wonder if we’d have to give TWO gifts in honor of the two saints rather than just one.  That would REALLY make the merchants happy, but it is very unlikely to happen. These customs take centuries to become truly traditional.

Years ago, one of our trips to Europe took my travel group and me to the city of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.  I remember going into its cathedral, where there are two large stone slabs mounted on the back wall of the church, representing Saints Cyril and Methodius.  However, Saint Cyril is buried in the basilica of San Clemente in Rome (a church staffed by Irish Dominicans, by the way), and Saint Methodius in the cathedral of the city of Velehrad in what is now the Czech Republic. Thus it happens that travel, especially in Europe, takes on the character of a pilgrimage which teaches us much about history and hagiography—the lives of the saints.   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 | February 13, 2017

Feast of Saint Catherine de Ricci (13 February 2017)

In the account of creation from the beginning of the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, one of the principal elements is the fact that the one and only God created all things that exist. And another is the order and care with which he did that.

After creating the mineral, vegetable, and brute animal worlds, he said, on the sixth day, “Now, let us make man in our image according to our likeness.” He hadn’t said that about any other material creations. Nor did he give them any free will by which they could choose to do as they wished. The mineral, vegetable, and animal worlds obey the laws written into their natures by the Creator. Water must run downhill, not up. A fig tree cannot choose to bear oranges; a kangaroo can’t decide to have puppies or kittens instead of baby kangaroos.  A metal paper clip must adhere to a magnet.  If a heavy object is pushed off the end of a table, it is going to fall. It MUST obey the law of gravity.

We, however, can make many choices and to live as we choose to a great extent. If we live according to God’s directions, which we call the commandments and the virtues, we become saints. If we violate those commandments, which are given to us for our own good, we become sinners. If someone offends us and we become angry, we can choose either to attack that man in anger and vengeance and hatred, or we can forgive him and treat him as we would want him to treat us.  If we see some object in a department store that we would like to have, but can’t afford, we can choose to steal it.  Or we can remember that we have no right to it, and therefore simply live without it, unless at some time in the future we might be able to afford it. These things belong to the order by which God created the world and ourselves. The order governing water and trees and lions is obligatory. The order governing our moral actions is freely embraced.

Let us praise and thank our God for creating us, for creating us as human beings, for creating us with the dignity of his image and likeness, and for creating us with the grace to follow his commandments and become saints. That is our destiny; that is our nobility. 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 | February 10, 2017

Feast of Saint Scholastica (10 February 2017)

Today we celebrate the memory of Saint Scholastica, the sister—some say the twin sister —of the great Saint Benedict. They were born about the year 470 and died about 520. They were both drawn to the monastic life, even though it was not as well organized in the west (they were both in Italy) as in the east. However, that would soon be remedied. Benedict left Rome and went along the main road from Rome down to Naples, turning up into the hills at what is now called Casino. There he established a monastery for himself and a group of monks, and his sister, Scholastica, had a convent for herself and her nuns nearby. Here Benedict wrote his famous Rule which has served as the basis for Benedictine life ever since, as well as a model for other religious rules outside the Benedictine family of nuns and monks. The influence of that Rule has been incalculable; it is probably the most important document in all of Christianity apart from the Scriptures themselves.

It is coincidental that today, as we celebrate Saint Scholastica and, by extension, her brother Saint Benedict, we also read in our liturgy of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon in the Old Testament. Both men were very wise; both women sought their wisdom and holiness and profited by them. Solomon and the Queen of Sheba lived about 1000 years before Our Lord. Benedict and Scholastica lived about 500 years after his life on earth. We are dealing with great expanses of time in which sacred history was made and in which God dealt with his people by means of his saints—the holy men and women of the old testament as well as the new.

Let us be grateful to God for these many centuries of his loving dealings with the human race; let us be especially grateful to Our Lord Jesus Christ for his incarnation, his Church, his sacraments, the glorious history of religious life, and the vocations to it of those who have received that calling and the grace by which they responded to it. 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 | February 7, 2017

Feast of Saint Richard of Lucca (7 February 2017)

In the Dominican religious calendar, we may if we wish celebrate Mass for our deceased parents today. So this morning, I did some reminiscing in my homily at Mass about my early life. My father was deeply devoted to the Mass, and he very often attended daily Mass. When I was a very young child, I would want to go with him since, like many young children, I woke up very early. We lived in Hammond, La., in those days, and he and I would drive from our home to the one and only Catholic church in the little town. I would watch what went on in church, and ask many questions. Especially, I wanted to know what was the man up in the front of the church giving to all the people who went to receive Holy Communion? Could I have some, too? Why not? And then, when I could understand that the man up front—he was called a priest—was giving the Body of Our Lord Jesus to those who approached him, I decided that when I grew up, I wanted to be a priest too so that I could give the Body of Jesus to those who came to me. Some time ago, in a discussion of different careers, a doctor said to me, “I figure that I have given more than one million injections during my lifetime.” And then he said to me, “How many times have you celebrated Mass in your lifetime?” It would be hard to say, but because I have been a priest for forty-six years and about ten months, that adds up to about 17,090 days, on each of which with very few exceptions, I have offered the Holy Sacrifice. But we must add to that the many times when, in parish life, I celebrated more than one Mass on a given day. So the little boy in Hammond, La., in the early ’30s is now an old man and a priest who still has the wonderful privilege of celebrating Mass every day, and he has celebrated Mass somewhere in the neighborhood of 17,500 times. I can thank my father’s beautiful example for that, and my mother’s, too, since she often told me, especially after my father’s death when I was eight years old, how much he would love to see me become a priest.

So I happily say to the Lord about my parents today, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon 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 | February 3, 2017

Feast of Saint Blaise (3 February 2017)

This Friday, the first Friday of the month, is also the commemoration day of Saint Blaise when it is traditional for us to receive the blessing of throats.  Then less than [four] weeks from now, we receive ashes on Ash Wednesday as we begin the holy season of Lent.

And today, I’d like to reminisce with you a bit; reminiscing is one of the characteristics of those who have gotten old!  In the gospel of this Sunday’s Mass, we find Our Divine Lord in the town of Capharnaum, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.  On the day after the Sabbath, Our Lord got up in the dark to go off to a quiet place to pray.  But he had been healing many sick people, and more were seeking cures and looking for him. This passage speaking of Our Lord’s rising before dawn and seeking solitude and privacy reminds me very well of my first visit to Galilee many years ago.  My travel group had spent several days in Jerusalem and its environs, and then we drove up along the spine of the Holy Land to Galilee, which I liked better because it is more natural.  What you see around the Sea of Galilee, also called the Lake of Tiberias, is basically what Our Lord and the apostles saw during their life.  A lovely lake, nestled among hills, fed by streams coming down from the region of Mount Hermon in Lebanon, and then draining out of its basin into the Jordan River valley and eventually coming to the Dead Sea where it evaporates because of the heat and aridity, leaving behind it an extremely salty deposit at the lowest spot on the surface of the earth.

On the night of our arrival, as we were shown our rooms on the top floor of a hotel in Tiberias, I noticed a staircase going up to what looked like the ceiling of that hallway.  I hoped that that staircase would give me access to the roof the next morning when the sun had risen.   Sure enough!  I went up the steps and pushed on a trapdoor over my head.  It yielded, and there was a device to prop it open as I went out onto the roof.  I remember to this day the thrill that I had as I stood there, looking eastward to the rising sun whose reflection created a bright orange path of light across the water to where Tiberias and our hotel were located.

This was the lake where the apostles spent much of their lives fishing.  This was the lake where Jesus walked upon the water.  This was the lake where Our Lord miraculously multiplied a catch of fish that caused Saint Peter to fall to his knees in the boat and say, feeling very unworthy, Depart from me, Lord; I am a sinful man! This was the lake where the apostles, after Our Lord’s resurrection, found Jesus bending over an open fire while cooking breakfast for them.  Had I been able to remain there on that hotel roof in Tiberias all my life, I wouldn’t have had sufficient time to meditate on all that happened in those places that I could see from my vantage point.  The lake is only ten miles long and three miles wide, and from the roof of a hotel halfway up a hillside on its western side, one can see the entire lake and identify a number of the places mentioned in the gospels.

Travel is great, and our faith makes much of it a pilgrimage.  I heartily recommend the Holy Land to those of you who can go there. 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 | February 1, 2017

Feast of Saint Brigid of Ireland (1 February 2017)

This morning as I come to my computer to compose this message, I find that all sorts of ideas come to mind.

First, today is the [fourteenth] anniversary of the tragic explosion of the space shuttle Columbia as it was preparing to land in Florida. It blew up over northeast Texas, and pieces of the space vehicle, and, sadly, of its seven crewmembers, came raining down upon this part of the country. A number of the towns in our vicinity have erected monuments to those who died on that unfortunate occasion.

Then, tomorrow, February 2, is the feast of the Presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple when he was forty days old. When the devout old man, Simeon, saw the child in his mother’s arms, he knew by divine inspiration that this was the savior of the world, the promised Messiah. He asked Our Lady and Saint Joseph to let him have the baby for a few moments. And he burst into the beautiful prayer called the “Nunc Dimittis” from its first words in Latin: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in the sight of all the people: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people, Israel.” That beautiful prayer is used every night in the night prayer of the official prayer system of the Church, called the Liturgy of the Hours. And because Simeon said that Jesus would be a light of revelation to the Gentiles, that is, all the nations of the world, the Church blesses candles on that day and holds processions with lighted candles in honor of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a light to the Gentiles and the glory of his own people, the Jews. This event is the subject matter of the fourth joyful mystery of the Rosary.

I have also been reflecting on the beatitudes. These are eight statements that describe the person that Jesus wants all of us to be. As we read them, let’s use them as an examination of conscience: am I like that? do I do that? is that the sort of person I am? am I pure of heart, meek, long-suffering, hungry for holiness? They are totally opposed to the pride, greed, and hostility of this world, but totally in conformity with the virtues and personality 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 | January 31, 2017

Feast of Saint John Bosco (31 January 2017) 

Today, January 31, is the last day of the month.  Let us thank God for the blessings and graces he has showered upon us during this month that ends today, and reconsecrate ourselves to his glory and honor for all the days of our future.

Today is also the feast day of Saint John Bosco, a priest from the northern Italian city of Turin who spent his adult life teaching and forming the young and founding two religious congregations: the Salesian Fathers and the Sisters of Mary, Help of Christians.  He had difficulties in his ministry with the poor children and teenagers of the city of Turin, but he also had a great grace of God: a remarkable success in turning seemingly incorrigible young people into gentle ones who recognized his love and respect for them and reciprocated that love and respect.

I have always been impressed with that quality of gentleness of his; the first four years of my priestly ministry were spent as a high school teacher in Dallas.  It was my job to teach junior and senior boys, aged 17 and 18 years old, French and Spanish regularly, and occasionally religion and English.  And, as I look back on that period, I don’t think I did a very good job. Many times I lost my temper at the students, yelled at them, punished them, and probably gave them a lot of bad example that Our Lord and Saint John Bosco would not have approved of.  Shortly after that, I was talking to my cousin who was a teaching sister, also dealing with teenagers.  She said to me with frustration and sorrow, “I began to teach high school five years ago, and I feel like I have been angry for the whole of those five years.”  I could certainly understand what she meant and sympathize with her.

You who are parents of young people, or their teachers, I would like to encourage you not to become totally frustrated and discouraged.  It is not easy, but you are probably doing a better job than you think.  Keep on keeping on, asking God’s help in your ministry, for it should be a TRUE ministry, and then continuing to do the best you can and leaving the rest up to Our Lord.  Remember, he became angry and disappointed several times in the gospel.  If it happened to him, it will certainly happen to ordinary people like you and me.

I remember one day in class, a bunch of my students had gathered around my desk to talk as they always did in the 5-minute break between classes.  One of them said to me, “You know, Father, I think you have a split personality.”  He went on to explain that during the break between classes, I could be reasonably normal.  But then, when the bell rang for the next class, I turned into what he called “a monster”!  The fun and games were over, and it was back to the mines of education!  I wasn’t sure whether that impression that I gave was good or bad, but there it was.  May God forgive me if I need forgiveness for that.  And may he bless all of us who are parents and/or teachers. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

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