Posted by: fvbcdm | October 2, 2017

Feast of the Guardian Angels (2 Oct 2017)

When God appeared to Moses in the form of a Burning Bush in the Sinai Desert, Moses drew closer to the bush to see what was going on.  The Divine voice came from the bush saying, “Stop! Stay where you are! Don’t come any closer! Take off your shoes, for the ground on which you are standing is holy.  Then later, when Moses had lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt into that same desert on their way to the Promised Land, he was summoned by God up to the top of Mount Sinai.  But, only he could go.  The others were not even to touch the mountain.  And if an animal wandered up too close, the animal was to be killed.

Why all this seeming aloofness on the part of God?  Because it was necessary first to teach the Chosen People the majesty of God, the awesome, splendid, glorious, fear-inspiring nature of the Divinity, the Almighty God.  Then, as the Old Testament gave way to the New, a totally different attitude on the part of God is seen.  God becomes a baby—spending nine months in the womb of a young woman, nursing at her breasts, learning how to eat with a spoon, to tie His sandals, to read and to write.  And when He has grown to manhood, He says to the world, “Come to me, you who labor and are heavily burdened and I will refresh you.”  He touches people and allows them to touch Him.  He embraces children, allows a woman with a bad reputation to caress His feet and Saint Mary of Bethany to anoint His feet with perfume.

It must be the same with us.  If our spirituality is what it should be, there must be always to it a basic layer of awe, adoration, reverence for the majesty of Almighty God, and of what we call the “fear of the Lord.” And then, built upon that, but never without that, there is the love, the intimacy, the familiarity, the sweetness, the consolation of our friendship with God, especially in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who says to us, “Learn of me, for I am gentle and humble of heart,” and Who also says, “he who sees Me, sees the Father.”  We are very fortunate to know that God is Love, that Jesus, the only Son of the Father, loves us tenderly, ardently, infinitely.  We are blessed to know that we live in a friendly Universe, which is in fact our Father’s house, and therefore ours as well, that we can speak with God, Who listens attentively and acts lovingly upon our words.  So let us take off our shoes figuratively, for the ground we stand upon is holy, but let us also place our hands into the pierced, wounded hands of Jesus and confide to Him all our cares, our concerns, our lives.   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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Posted by: fvbcdm | September 29, 2017

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael (29 Sept 2017)

In the English-speaking world, we are accustomed to call boys and men whose real name is Michael by the nickname “Mickey.”  One of the reasons for this is that back in the history of our language, the name of the archangel Michael was pronounced to rhyme with nickel, so it was a short step from that to Mickey, the diminutive.  And today, September 29, was called Mickelmas and was traditionally the beginning of the school year.  In that tradition, we might pray for all teachers and students today through the intercession of the archangels whom we celebrate today:  Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

I think it was Saint Thomas Aquinas who wondered about the sin committed by the great Lucifer, who went from being a very prominent archangel to one of the principal devils in hell. That has not been revealed to us, but Saint Thomas guessed that it might be that Our Lord in his human form was presented to the angels for their adoration, and Lucifer refused to worship a human being.  That idea points out the superiority of the angelic nature over the human, and the superiority of Our Lord Jesus Christ over any of the angels because he is a divine person as well as a human one. This is why we can correctly speak of Our Lord’s “sacred heart,” “holy face,” “sacred hands,” “precious blood,” etc.

Getting back to the middle ages, we might note that in those days, there was a great devotion in the Church to Saint Michael the Archangel.  In Rome there is a huge building on the bank of the Tiber which is called either Hadrian’s tomb or the Castel Sant’Angelo. It is just a few blocks from the Vatican, and was built as the tomb for the Emperor Hadrian.  Later, Saint Michael the Archangel is reported to have appeared there, sheathing his sword to indicate the end of a plague in the city. Thus the pagan building became a shrine to one of the archangels.  And far to the northwest, two monasteries were erected in honor of Saint Michael. The more famous of the two is Mont Saint-Michel on the French coast of the English Channel, and the other, in England, is Saint Michael’s Mount.  The French Mont Saint-Michel is immensely popular as a tourist attraction because of its imposing size and beauty, rising as it does above the tidal flats between Normandy and Brittany.

It is good to know that within the community of believers which we call “the mystical body of Christ,” we have fellow human beings, and also a great many angels, some of whom are our own guardian angels.  On October 2nd we celebrate our guardian angels, and we can honor our guardian angels by our prayers on that day, and thank our God for giving each of us an angelic companion to help us through life and into eternity. 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.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 27, 2017

Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul (27 Sept 2017)

Within the past week, I’ve had two conversations with friends which indicate the quality of human life in some areas these days. In one case, a young man who is a school teacher was telling me how he cannot motivate some of his students to study, do their homework, and learn.  And their parents show no concern about the intellectual or educational progress of their children.  Thus nothing gets done in the minds of those children.

In the second conversation, a former student of mine who is now in his early 60s and is doing volunteer work in his home parish described his Sunday morning activities. After Mass, he goes over to the parish hall where three kinds of services are offered to the poor and homeless of that city: there are coffee and doughnuts for anyone who want them; there is a sort of non-denominational religious service for anyone who wants to take part in it, and several social workers are there with information about jobs available for those looking for work.  My friend, whom I’ll call Bob, told me that the coffee and doughnuts are very popular.  But the religious service has no takers, and NEVER do any of the unemployed people who come show any interest in the available jobs.  To stand on the street and beg is easier than honest work which pays about $7 an hour.

I think of this today because we’re celebrating today Saint Vincent de Paul, one of the patron saints of the poor. In one of his writings which we read today in the Liturgy of the Hours, Saint Vincent says: “Even though the poor are often rough and unrefined, we must not judge them from external appearances nor from the mental gifts they seem to have received . . . the Son of God chose to be poor and was considered a fool by the Gentiles. . .  We ought to have this same spirit and imitate Christ’s actions, that is, we must take care of the poor, console them, help them, support their cause.”

Do you totally agree with Saint Vincent?  I do not.  Certainly we must help the poor and even give them what is called a “preferential option.”  But we must also remember what Saint Paul says in Sacred Scripture:  Those who will not work should not eat. Put those two ideas together, weigh one against the other, and then formulate your opinion about our treatment of the poor.  We are told that most homelessness and street poverty is caused by mental illness, alcoholism, and drug addiction.  Some poverty is culpable; some is inculpable.  That which is inculpable deserves the help of the community.  That which is culpable can be left to itself, to go hungry if it chooses not to work, or not to pursue an education.  As one of our seminary professors used to say, when it comes to dealing with the poor, some people are all bleeding heart, and no bloody head.  We are getting into politics here, and that is not my intention.  But we should be aware that a number of religious leaders, like Our Divine Lord, Saint Paul, and Saint Vincent de Paul have had something to say about poverty and the poor.   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.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 25, 2017

Feast of Saint Finbar (25 Sept 2017)

Recently a lady called me in a state of great agitation.  She had read something of a theological nature, stating that the Mother of Jesus was a Virgin at the time of the Birth of our Lord, but not thereafter, because one translation of Matthew’s Gospel states that Saint Joseph did not know her—that is to say have sexual relations with her—until she had born a Son.  Ordinarily, the English word “until” means “up to that moment but not afterwards.”  So when I say, “I didn’t drive a car until I was 20,” it usually implies that when or after I was 20, I began to drive.  However, the word in the original Greek does not necessarily affirm that after our Blessed Mother had become the Mother of Jesus, she began an ordinary sexual life with her husband, and the constant Christian tradition within Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and even some Protestant groups, believes in Mary being Ever-Virgin.  For us Catholics, the perpetual virginity of the Mother of our Lord is an article of faith that we must believe.

It is always dangerous to read religious writings from those who are not of our faith.  They write whatever they please, with no necessary reference to any authority other than their own opinion about what the Bible means.  You see this is the basic difference between the Catholic Church and most non-Catholic groups that call themselves Christians.  They see the Bible as simply a book given to the human race by God somehow, which each human being has the right to interpret as he or she sees fit.  That is certainly not the teaching of the Catholic Church.  For us, the Bible was brought into being by Divine Inspiration and was entrusted to the Church to be interpreted by the Church for the salvation of the human race.

Private interpretation of the Bible is not a right of anyone, it is the living authority of the Church exercised by her divinely-appointed leaders, who tell us what the Bible means and guide us in our Faith and our moral lives.  If private interpretation is a right, then Christianity is condemned to fragmentation and splintering as has happened within Protestantism countless times since the Reformation.  If you believe that the Bible means one thing and I believe that it means another and we both subscribe to the principle of private interpretation, then nobody can accuse either you or me of being wrong, and we have to simply go our separate ways.  Many Protestants claim that our Lady surrendered her virginity after the Birth of Jesus.  The Catholic Church says, “No.”  For us Catholics, that is the end of the discussion.  For those who subscribe to private interpretation, the problem will go on as long as they hold that position.  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.

Today the autumnal equinox occurs, and with it, the season of autumn or fall begins.  Let us rededicate ourselves and our lives to the service of God in this new season of the year and of our lives.

At Mass this morning, we read from the gospel of Saint Luke in which Our Lord gives instructions to his apostles when about to send them out on their first preaching mission.  He wants them to practice absolute poverty, frugality, and simplicity, and tells them not to carry even a walking stick with them.  I find that a strange command; I have been using a cane for over two years now because of my equilibrium problems caused by a neurological problem.  I certainly would not be burdening myself with a cane if it were not necessary, and find it odd that Our Lord puts the walking-stick or cane into the same category as food, clothing, and shelter.  He wants the apostles to ask for these things of people of good will.  But anyone who really needs a walking stick or cane needs it with every step he or she takes, and can’t depend upon others for support in walking.  A number of explanations suggest themselves to me, but I am not sure of any of them.  “Don’t carry a walking stick just in case you might need it in the future; don’t carry a fancy cane just as an affectation, as some professional dancers or actors like Fred Astaire or Maurice Chevalier used to do.”  Elsewhere in the gospel, Our Lord tells us to take up our cross and follow him.  My cane is a kind of cross which I carry because I must have it, so I trust that Our Lord does not begrudge it to me, nor does he begrudge walkers or wheelchairs to those who cannot function without those things, either. In any case, let us try to live simply and frugally and not impress others with our possessions and our wealth.  And to imitate Our Divine Lord who lived a life of poverty in keeping with our state in life. 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.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 21, 2017

Feast of Saint Matthew (21 Sept 2017)

During his public life, Our Lord chose twelve apostles, two of whom later wrote accounts of his public life which we call the gospels.  The gospel-writers are called evangelists, of whom there are four: the two apostles who wrote gospels, namely Matthew and John, and then two others, Mark and Luke.  Today, September 21, is the feast of Saint Matthew, apostle and evangelist.

It is interesting that this man, elevated to such a marvelous level of cooperation with Christ in the foundation of the Church, was considered by the people of that time as being so unworthy of those honors.  You see, Saint Matthew was a tax-collector.  And we get some idea of how contemptuous the people were of tax-collectors when we read that Jesus told the pharisees that they were so evil that even the prostitutes and tax-collectors would enter heaven before them. Nevertheless, Jesus saw Saint Matthew sitting at the tax-office, and said to him very simply: “Follow me.” And Saint Matthew reports the event very simply: “. . . and he got up and followed him.”  Why were the tax-collectors so despised by the Jewish people of that time?  For three reasons: they were in the employ of the Roman occupiers of the lands of Israel and Judea and collected money from the Jewish people to give to the hated Roman occupiers; because they were thought to be dishonest and extortionistic in their work, and because they dealt in the Roman monetary system, which bore images of the Roman emperors on the coins and was therefore considered idolatrous and in violation of the Mosaic commandment about not making graven images.  To this day, you will find no images of human beings in Jewish places of worship or in the public areas of the Holy Land because of this prohibition. But Jesus was able to see into the hearts of those he dealt with, and knew that Matthew would make a good foundation stone of the Church, a good bishop, a good missionary and evangelist and apostle, and eventually, a good martyr.  This is the man we celebrate today.  We might well ask him for the grace of being essentially good men and women whom Jesus can see as being worthy of a close friendship with him and of a responsible position in the mystical body of Christ, the Church.   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.

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 18, 2017

Feast of Saint Joseph of Cupertino (18 Sept 2017)

I am back in New Orleans after a pleasant three-day visit to Natchitoches, Louisiana and to Lufkin, Texas.  Lufkin is the location of one of our monasteries of cloistered Dominican nuns.  I was chaplain there back in the early 1980s, and I always enjoy going back. A visit to a monastery of contemplative nuns is a little foretaste of heaven on earth. It is a source of great joy to us Dominican friars to know that our cloistered sisters are praying for us and our ministry daily in their various monasteries throughout the country and the world.  There are about fifteen of those monasteries in the United States.

The occasion for my visit this time was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the religious vows of one of the sisters whom I know.  It is wonderful to consider the number of years of prayer, contemplative life, and intense Christian living that are represented by a convent like that.  The sisters came to Texas from Michigan in 1945.  About 12 of them originally came from their parent monastery.  In the meantime, other women have joined them.  When I was there as chaplain, there were about 40 sisters in the community.  Right now there are about 25, with an additional number of young sisters in their formation period.

On our way to and from Lufkin—which is in the piney woods of East Texas—two other friars and I spent a night in Natchitoches, Louisiana, the hometown of one of us.  We stayed with his family and were wined and dined by this very hospitable and gracious group of people.  Natchitoches is a small town south of Shreveport but very significant in Louisiana history.  It was founded before New Orleans as a French settlement.  Some of its buildings are very old, and it’s surrounded by plantations and their antebellum houses up and down the rivers that flow through that part of the country.  The way of life there is slower than here in the city, more leisurely, more aware of the past, closer to the land, and, of course, closer to one another because, in a small town, every one pretty much knows everyone else.  I enjoyed that little sample of life in north-west Louisiana.  Those folks are very much aware of being Louisianians but not belonging to the Cajun or the French culture just a few miles south of them in the Bayou country.  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.

Exactly nine months ago today, on December 8, the universal Church celebrated the Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Mother.  Since there is ordinarily a nine-month period between human conception and birth, we now celebrate the birth of the little girl who had been immaculately conceived nine months previously.

This is a unique day in the calendar and liturgy of the Church; it is one of the three—and only three—times each year when we celebrate births.  We humans are usually born without grace, or as we say, “in the state of original sin.” The saints die in grace. So the death of God’s holy ones is more to be celebrated than their birth.  However, we know of three human beings who were born in the state of grace: Our Blessed Mother who had been filled with grace from the first moment of her conception, then Saint John the Baptist who was sanctified by the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, when he “leaped for joy” at the close proximity of the unborn Christ in the womb of Our Lady, and finally Our Divine Lord himself, who is not only “full of grace” but is the very source of grace for every man, woman, and child ever brought into being.

The most frequently used prayer to Our Lady is the “Hail Mary” which ends by asking the Mother of our Lord, “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”  Our Lady was conceived, was born, and ended her life on earth “full of grace.” We are not conceived nor born in God’s grace, but we certainly do hope to end our life in that happy state, so we ask for the prayers of her who is immaculate.  Look back over your life.  How often do you think you have said to Our Lady: “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”? Fifty, every time we pray the Rosary.  That comes to about a million in the course of 55 years. Can the “clement, and loving, and sweet Virgin Mary” ignore all of that supplication addressed to her?

So today, let us who want to die in grace continue to ask her who was born in grace for that tremendous favor. 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.

 

Posted by: fvbcdm | September 6, 2017

Feast of Saint Faustus (6 September 2017)

It’s fascinating to see how often the things we read in the Liturgy of the Word at Mass that come to us from 25 centuries ago are similar to the things we hear daily on the newscasts on television and read in our newspapers. Today, for example, we read of the joy with which the Jewish people went home to their own country, the promised land, and rebuilt their temple so that they could worship God properly after living for some 50 years amidst the paganism of Babylon where there was no temple, no sacrificial worship, and no exercise of the Jewish priesthood or the observances of the beloved holy days of Judaism.

What do we have today? We have the fact that in parts of New Orleans in the very parish where I have lived and ministered for over 18 years, the church is closed; the Blessed Sacrament is not present either in the parish church or in the Dominican community chapel or in the chapel of perpetual adoration, or in the chapel of the Sisters of Mount Carmel who live within the parish boundaries and operate a girls’ high school there. There has been no Mass in the parish since August 29. This is the first time in over 75 years that the official prayer of the Church has not risen daily from that part of New Orleans called Lakeview. The other day, I was struck and very moved by what one of the ladies of the parish told me by telephone from her place of refuge in Baton Rouge. She said, “Lakeview has been more than just a neighborhood, and Saint Dominic more than just another Catholic parish. They were a way of life.”

And so they were. We can appreciate that much more the words of the psalmists that we repeat in our liturgies. When they were in exile in Babylon, having been brought there in slavery after the conquest of the Holy City, Jerusalem, and the destruction of King Solomon’s temple, their captors asked them to sing some of the “songs of Zion,” — the sacred music which had been sung in the temple during the previous four centuries of divine worship in Jerusalem. They answered, “How can we sing the songs of Zion in the land of Babylon (which, by the way, today we call ‘Iraq’). We have hung up our harps on the trees by the rivers of Babylon. We cannot sing joyfully in this wretched, godless land. We want to go home. We want to worship God as we know we should.”

And now, with those heart-wrenching words in our minds, we read that there is another hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Will it be another disastrous event like Katrina? God forbid. However, let us remember that temples in which God is worshiped are not primarily composed of brick and mortar and stone, but rather of the flesh and blood of the human heart. We are the temples of divine worship of the New Testament; we follow the example of Our Divine Lord Jesus, who says of his own body: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it up again. Hurricanes can flood buildings and close churches; they cannot destroy faith or flood our love of God. Wherever Jesus is, there is our home. 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.

On this Labor Day holiday, I am happy to be back with you with the Catholic Daily Message after three weeks of absence. There are many things to report to you today. My travel group and I had a wonderful river cruise in Russia, from St. Petersburg to Moscow, with many stops along the rivers in between those two principal cities of Russia. It was very possibly the most informative trip I’ve ever taken, and the most unusual. In the days ahead, I will tell you more of what I learned and experienced during those fourteen days in the great nation that is awakening from a seventy-year period of oppression and imprisonment by the forces of atheistic communism. The contrast between what I saw there in 1980 and what I have just seen this year is immense, thank God.

After those two wonderful weeks in Russia, some friends and I were able to spend five days at the home of a friend in Avon, Colorado, a beautifully situated town just next to the famous ski resort of Vail. However, the day after we arrived in all that serene beauty of the Rocky Mountains, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Mississippi gulf coast, and we were in the weird position of sitting in the midst of indescribable beauty and tranquillity while watching the horror in Louisiana and Mississippi unfold before our eyes on the television reports. A first cousin of mine was a resident in a nursing home in New Orleans. When the mandatory evacuation orders were issued, the elderly residents had to be air-lifted to Houma, Louisiana, which was in a better condition than New Orleans. But in the confusion and lack of communication and electrical power, seventeen of them “didn’t make it,” as we have been told. No one is sure what that means. But the National Guard has issued a list of the seventeen missing persons; they are presumed to have died somewhere in the evacuation process. But because everything has been so indefinite, confused, and uncertain, we really don’t know what has actually happened. We can only pray and wait for the actual facts to be discovered and made clear.

So our beautiful and memorable vacation ended with the sorrow of knowing that my native city of New Orleans has suffered the greatest disaster in its nearly three-century history, and wondering about the condition and whereabouts of relatives, confreres, former parishioners, and friends about whom we can find no information, or just conjecture and uncertainty. It’s like war, with death, destruction, and disruption of human life all around. May God have mercy on all the victims, dead and living, and bring good out of this natural and man-made disaster. 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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