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.

Posted by: fvbcdm | January 30, 2017

Feast of Saint Hyacinth of Viterbo (30 January 2017)

In the gospel of Matthew Jesus gives us the eight beatitudes. The word beatitude means “happiness” or the state of being blessed or fortunate. It has been said that the beatitudes are the constitution of the Kingdom of Christ. A constitution is the basic set of laws by which a nation is governed. When Jesus gave to the world the beatitudes he was describing the kind of person who would be an authentic Christian.

Given the fact that we are all somewhat worldly, if we had to describe the truly happy, blessed, or fortunate person, I suspect that we’d say things like this: happy are the rich, the good-looking, the well-built, the talented, the one with political or business connections, the one who can claw his way to the top and lord it over others. Happy are the clever, the sharp, the socially popular, the sexy, those with straight teeth and good hair—the beautiful people who are idolized by Hollywood and the entertainment media. Strange, but Christ doesn’t seem at all interested in those qualities.

Let’s often use the eight beatitudes as an examination of conscience. Do we understand what Our Lord is saying? Do we attempt to be a person of those qualities? Are we approaching Our Lord’s description of the true members of his kingdom? 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 27, 2017

Feast of Saint Angela Merici (27 January 2017)

This Friday, January 27th, the Church commemorates Saint Angela Merici, a lady from the north Italian lake country who in the year 1516 founded a group of teaching Sisters whom she called the Ursulines, in honor of a special favorite saint of hers, Saint Ursula. A little more than one hundred years later, the Ursulines of Europe sent a group of their Sisters to begin the religious instruction of the girls in the city of Quebec on the Saint Lawrence River in what is now Canada. They have been there ever since: from the year 1639 to the present: 378 years.  Then, when the French government was asked to send women to educate the girls of the brand new settlement of New Orleans near the mouth of the Mississippi River, Ursuline Sisters were sent there, too. That was in 1727, 290 years ago.  The Ursulines are still in Quebec and still in New Orleans.  Their history in North America is one of the most glorious parts of the long saga of Catholicism and of education in the United States and Canada.

As we read the gospel of today’s Mass in honor of Saint Angela, I was struck by the importance of the words of Our Lord.  On one occasion, the apostles asked Jesus who among them was the most important—a question that indicates their pride and lack of understanding of the mentality of Our Lord.  Saint Mark tells us that Jesus took a small child, placed him in their midst and said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this for my sake welcomes me.  And whoever welcomes me welcomes not me, but him to sent me.”  This is a beautiful statement of Our Lord’s thoughts about those who are good to children.  And certainly true religious education is one of the highest forms of goodness to little ones.  It introduces him to them, and them to him.  So today we celebrate Saint Angela, the foundress of the Ursulines, and we also celebrate the 668 years of their goodness to the women of North America.  And that doesn’t include their teaching in Galveston and in Dallas and maybe other Ursuline schools in Canada or this country of which I’m not even aware.  These years of teaching are treasures in heaven which have been laid up, and for which Saint Angela certainly gets some of the credit and merit.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | January 24, 2017

Feast of Saint Francis de Sales (24 January 2017)

Today we celebrate one of my favorite saints who is Francis de Sales, a delightful character whose writings are so useful, so simple, so prudent, that he has been declared a doctor of the Church. He was born and raised in that part of what is now Italy and France called Savoy—a beautiful Alpine region with mountains and valleys and lakes that are one of the joys of travel in Europe. He lived in the 16th and 17th centuries—the time of the Protestant Reformation when religious wars and conflicts were so bitter and prevalent in various parts of Europe. He was named bishop of Geneva, but the Calvinists had taken over the city completely, and it was impossible for Catholics to live there, so Saint Francis de Sales spent his whole life as a bishop across the border in the French town of Annecy. It’s one of the loveliest towns in France, situated on its lake and surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. I have visited and celebrated Mass in a number of the churches and other places associated with him, including his tomb.

In one of his writings, Saint Francis counsels us not to doubt that we are imperfect, and then goes on to say: “We should not let this upset us as it cannot be helped, but rather let it be a cause for humility, for this is the way to correct our faults and gradually improve. This is indeed the whole point of our being left with imperfections. . .” This doctrine of his is so mild, so encouraging, so beneficial! It is no wonder that the opening prayer for today’s Mass in honor of Francis de Sales says: “Father, you gave Francis de Sales the spirit of compassion to befriend all men on their way to salvation. . .” How true! Not to challenge; nor to accuse; nor to condemn, but to befriend. The old adage tells us that we can attract more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar. Well, in that case, Francis de Sales is a veritable honeycomb and millions have found him very attractive indeed. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | January 23, 2017

Feast of Saint Ildephonsus (23 January 2017)

In the gospel for today’s Mass, we come to one of the saddest little pieces of dirty politics and greed in all of Scripture.  The woman named Salome, the wife of the fisherman Zebedee and mother of the apostles James and John, comes to Our Lord.  She has a favor to ask.  What is it? he inquires. She wants her two sons who are among the closest associates of Jesus, to be given seats at his right and left in his kingdom.

Notice: HIS kingdom. The concept of a KINGDOM is all-important here. If a man has a kingdom and it can be called HIS kingdom, then he must be a king or something like one. That means power and money.  It also means the control of legislation and law-enforcement.  You can’t have many kings in one kingdom; there must be one or very few at the top of the pile.  So Salome is asking these things for her two sons: power, wealth, and legal superiority.  Why should HER two boys get it all?  Aren’t there twelve of these closest associates of Jesus who will one day be called “apostles”? And the other ten lose no time in letting it be known that they resent her trying to acquire these political plums for her sons, to the exclusion of the others.  It doesn’t take long for politics and money to sow the seeds of discord, rivalry, bitterness.

The Christian way is not a way of money, power, superiority, rivalry, discord.  “It shall not be so among you,” he tells them.  “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant . . . The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Let us go through life constantly addressing to others, either openly or in our own minds and hearts these questions: May I help you? How can I be of help, of service to you?  I want to serve Christ in you. If we will live like this, we will put the gospel of Our Divine Lord into practice in our own lives, and will be truly followers of Jesus. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.

The hearing loss that I’m suffering slowly increases, and the lack of equilibrium which accompanies it also gets worse day by day. Because of these things, my outlook on life changes and I find myself interested in different things from those that were important to me ten years ago.

One of my greatest pleasures now is to sit very quietly in my room, praying either the Liturgy of the Hours or simply speaking to Our Lord in my words, listening to good music, and sometimes just thinking about anything that will pop into my mind. The nicest part of it is that I have no OBLIGATIONS. There is nothing that I should be doing at this moment, and therefore I don’t have to feel guilty about sitting quietly. What a blessing this is after years of responsibilities, schedules, obligations, ringing telephones, and stacks of mail to be attended to and answered.

When I speak to Our Lord in my own words, I find myself very often asking for his support. I am acutely conscious of my weaknesses, my needs, my lack of resources, my good fortune to know that there is a God, there is a God who knows me, loves me, and hears me when I call upon Him. I do not live in a cold, impersonal universe. The trees that I can see clearly from my windows; the doves and mockingbirds that populate the telephone lines just outside our priory, the sun which rises where I can see it in the east, and then disappears over the house in the afternoon—all of these things speak to me of the Creator. I look up to the bookshelves just above my computer and there I see the small copy I have of Rembrandt’s beautiful painting of the Return of the Prodigal Son, and a very nice alabaster statuette group showing Our Lord washing Saint Peter’s feet. If our Heavenly Father welcomes us with as much joy as the father welcomed the prodigal son in the parable, and if the Savior of the world would kneel on the floor washing his apostles’ feet, then I am surely in good hands—the sacred hands that made me, that saved me, that reach out to me in love and the desire to uphold, to assist, to bless. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | January 19, 2017

Feast of Saint Henry of Sweden (19 January 2017)

On Sunday of this past weekend, I went to celebrate Mass in the prison to which I go twice a month; it’s 15 miles south of Lufkin. This is the first time in my life I’ve had anything like a regular ministry to prisoners, and I have enjoyed getting to know them and to see how much they appreciate what I can offer them by way of the Mass, the sacraments, and counseling.

Yesterday, one of my “regular customers” as I call them was very happy over the fact that he will be released in just three weeks. On several occasions, I have tried to explain to them the parallel between this life on earth and their time in prison. Both of these are temporary conditions. Both of them are much less happy and desirable than their opposites; and if we are men and women of faith and hope, we should look forward to death and entrance into eternal life just as prisoners look forward to the end of their sentence and their return to their homes and families.

In the prayer “Hail, Holy Queen,” we say to Our Lady, “to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.” Happiness is a relative thing. We who live normal lives in our own homes and families are much happier than prisoners who are locked up in jails and penitentiaries. But we are nowhere near as happy as those who have been admitted into the heavenly home for which God created us and to which he destines us. Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ gladly gave his life on the cross in atonement for our sins so that we could be admitted into that state of total and eternal happiness. And for that reason, we speak of this life as a “valley of tears.”

So, I say to my prisoners and to you: live here (either in prison or in this life) in such a way that you will not incur further guilt. And then, look forward to the moment when you who are prisoners will get out of prison, resolved to lead good, upright lives. And let us all look forward to that moment when the Lord will come to take us out of the prison of this world into the bright joy of eternity. After that, no more dark valleys; no more mourning and weeping; no more tears. Only the eternally youthful LIFE which Jesus says that he came to bring us—and that in abundance. 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 18, 2017

Feast of Saint Margaret of Hungary (18 January 2017)

Today is a beautiful day here in the piney woods of east Texas. On Sunday morning, one of our elderly Sisters died at the age of eighty four. The interment in our monastic cemetery was scheduled for Tuesday morning, but all that morning, it poured in torrents so the burial had to be postponed until the weather was more cooperative. Today was the day.

After Mass, we went in procession out to the little cemetery where seventeen Sisters are already buried. We gathered around the prepared grave, blessed it, said our farewell prayers, and then the funeral directors lowered the casket part way into the grave.

Then something happened that I found very striking. We went back to the chapel and, as I do every morning, I exposed the Blessed Sacrament for the adoration of the Sisters and any laypeople who come to pray.  As I placed the consecrated Host into the monstrance and lifted it to its place of honor above our tabernacle, I noticed the interesting contrast. Just a few minutes before, we had lowered a dead body into a grave. Now, we were lifting a very LIVING body to its throne of adoration and worship.

Sister Mary Pius was human, that is, composed of body and soul. And because she was human, she died. At the moment of her death, the soul left the body and those two elements will be separated until the end of time and the resurrection of the body. That will happen to you and me, too. Then, at the last day, we will be reunited body and soul and go into eternity with those elements of our human make-up again united.

Jesus was human by reason of his holy incarnation; at the moment of his conception in the immaculate womb of his Blessed Mother, he was given a human soul and his body began to exist and grow by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. Because he was human, he belonged to a sinful race, and to redeem that race, he died on the cross. But he remained dead only about 40 hours. On Easter morning, his body and soul were reunited and will remain so forever.

You and I are going to die. But Christ our savior has died to save us from eternal death, and he is our hope. So this morning, we lowered a dead body into a grave, and we raised the living body of the eucharistic Christ to its throne in our chapel of adoration.

We pray, then, “Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.” And we also pray, “O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.

Posted by: fvbcdm | January 17, 2017

Feast of Saint Anthony of Egypt (17 January 2017)

Today the Church celebrates the famous Saint Anthony of the Desert, sometimes called Saint Anthony the Abbot.  He was born into the Christian community of Egypt in about the year 250 and lived about a hundred years—remarkable for that period, the austerity of his life and the severe heat and aridity of Egypt.  As a very young man, he felt the call to go out into the desert to live a contemplative life.  He didn’t realize how many others had that same inclination but lacked the leadership to implement their desires.  Anthony was the leader they needed, and by the time of his death as a very old man, he left colonies of hundreds of monks out in the Egyptian desert as the beginnings of Christian religious life. They are called “The Desert Fathers” by church historians, and have left us a rich heritage of spiritual writings and example.

In today’s Mass, one of the responsorial passages which can be used after the first reading in honor of Saint Anthony is taken from the 16th psalm.  In it, the psalmist reflects upon the fact that he has not inherited wealth or real estate or slaves or any material possessions.  He has inherited nothing less than God himself.  “O Lord,” he exclaims, “you are my allotted portion . . . you it is who hold fast my lot.”  The psalmist is saying that he and his fellow Jewish people are more fortunate than the gentiles, because God gives himself to them as their divine Lord, Guide, and Protector.  He goes on to say, “For me the measuring lines have fallen on pleasant sites; fair to me indeed is my inheritance.”  

This passages always brings to my mind a visit that Archbishop Leo Binz of Dubuque, Iowa, made to our seminary to confer Holy Orders on some of us on our way to the priesthood. He spoke of that passage in a way that struck me more forcefully than I had ever heard it explained before, and even now, when I hear “fair indeed is my inheritance” I think of Archbishop Binz and am grateful to him for his words and ideas.

Think of your own case, my dear friends.  You might have been born in some part of the world where there is poverty, famine, epidemics of deadly diseases, and where the very Name of Jesus has never been preached?  Do we realize how blessed we are, how grateful we should be, for all that we have in terms of material wealth, physical well-being, and above all, our spiritual wealth because of our holy faith which brings to us Our Lord Jesus Christ, his blessed Mother, and the saints?  Indeed, our inheritance is fair; we are God’s highly favored ones.  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 16, 2017

Feast of Saint James of Tarentaise (16 January 2017)

Those of us who pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day find that today, there is assigned for us a passage from the document of the Second Vatican Council called “Lumen Gentium,” or “the Light of the Nations.”  This morning I was struck by these words from that document: By the power of the Gospel, the Spirit enables the Church to grow young, perpetually renews it, and leads it to complete union with its Bridegroom (Our Lord Jesus Christ).

Let’s think for a few moments about this idea of “growing ‘young.”  In our ordinary experience, nothing grows young.  We exist in time, and time goes in only one direction. You are one day OLDER today than you were yesterday. And that is true of all living things, like animals and plants, as well as inanimate objects like the earth and the sun and the moon and the pyramids.  No single thing that we can name “grows younger.”  And yet we read that the Spirit enables the Church to grow young.  That is possible because the Church is composed of many individuals.  The individuals grow older and eventually die.  But a younger generation takes their place, and maybe that younger generation is more numerous than the previous one.  The group has GROWN younger!  It depends upon the proportion of young to old people within a given society.  We can, if we wish, visit a kindergarten and find ourselves surrounded by youth, by little boys and girls, with all the vitality and energy that they possess and manifest.  Then we can also visit an old folks’ home like the ones we spoke of yesterday where grab bars are a common and necessary part of the furnishings.  What a difference between the two groups!

It is sad to see our abilities gradually leaving us.  Sight, hearing, mobility, memory, and the rest. And we can find that process depressing.  But let’s remember: God is not old; there are no OLD PEOPLE in heaven.  There are people with lots of experience and great wisdom, but they are not “old” in the ordinary sense of the world.  So as the years go by, we as individuals get older and lose some of those wonderful abilities which youth confers.  But one of these days, we will no longer be part of the “aging process.”  Please God, we will be admitted to heaven, and there we will be perpetually young, and eternally happy.  That will be the Church in its perfection, the human race as God intended it.   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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