Posted by: fvbcdm | June 12, 2017

Feast of Saint Christian (12 June 2017)

Today I’d like to talk to you about doughnuts.  Rather a stretch from the spiritual life, you say? Maybe so, but we mustn’t be too narrow in our definition of spirituality.  Our Lord said that the great King Solomon in all his glory was not as elegantly arrayed as the wildflowers that grow in Galilee in the springtime.  In my home town of New Orleans, there are two establishments that have endeared themselves to the city over many years of operation.  One of them is called the Cafe du Monde and is, as it has always been, in the French Market within easy sight and walking distance of the Cathedral and Jackson Square, the heart of the French Quarter and the original city of New Orleans, laid out there in the year 1718.  The other one is called Morning Call; for many years it, too, was located in the French Market, but traffic and parking became a major problem, so Morning Call moved out to Metairie in Jefferson Parish, several miles from its previous location.  But its devoted patrons followed it there, and for many of us, no visit to New Orleans and vicinity would be complete without a visit to the Morning Call.  Why?  Because it makes coffee and what we call doughnuts, and they are WONDERFUL!

The day that I received my first Holy Communion—it was Holy Thursday about the year 1937 or so—my uncle offered to take my immediate family and his to have breakfast anywhere I chose. The choice was not a problem for me: it was to be the Morning Call coffee and doughnut stand in the Quarter.  So there we went to celebrate my first reception of the unleavened Eucharistic bread with the very leavened delicious beignets, which is the more proper term for the doughtnuts at Morning Call and Cafe du Monde. Actually, they are fritters, so hot that you can hardly hold them, and indescribably good. The Morning Call stand still has the same furnishings it had back in those days, and whenever I go there, that ancient arch with the electric light bulbs over long white marble tables where people sit on stools facing one another brings back my first Communion day.

I have a young priest friend in New Orleans who, when he was still in college and I was stationed in Nashville, came to visit me.  We went to celebrate Mass at the convent of our Dominican Sisters there as was my duty, and then on the way home, we stopped at a doughnut shop to buy our breakfast.  It was not New Orleans, but it was good.  On the counter near the cash register was a bowl of little round balls of doughnut material which were called “doughnut holes.”  My friend Alan asked the price of those things.  The young woman told him; let’s say 30 cents a dozen (we’re talking about the year 1985). Alan has always been a very devout young man and usually comes up with expressions that have to do with biblical events, quotations, or numbers.  He thought about the clerk’s information for a moment, and then said to her, “Give me seven of them.” Not a dozen; not a half-dozen.  Seven.  She looked at him, trying to decide whether he was serious or not, while I tried not to laugh too loudly.   So she gave him seven and had to figure how much to charge him for the VERY odd number!  Again, a memory that comes back to me often. So, what do these little vignettes have to do with the spiritual life?  They are happy memories; they make one laugh and form a little bit of our history, our life, what the French call our “joie de vivre”—the joy of living. Alan’s seven doughnut holes are much more enjoyable than most people’s three or four ordinary doughnuts at home or in a doughtnut stand somewhere else.  King Solomon’s greater beauty than Palestinian wildflowers; Alan’s seven doughnut holes, and the coffee and doughtnuts in the Morning Call coffee stand give us reason to rejoice over this life that our God gives to us.  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 | June 8, 2017

Feast of Saint Medard (8 June 2017)

In the Old Testament, God’s people were constantly being told, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is One God!” This was in contrast to the surrounding pagan religions, with their many gods and goddesses, the religions of the Egyptians and the Assyrians, the Greeks and the Romans.  Some of their gods were supposed to be good, and some were supposed to be evil.  The Chosen People knew quite well that there was only one God, that He is infinitely good, that He has made all things that exist, that He had no beginning and will have no end.

Then our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, and, throughout His public life, He indicated that He was God but that He was not God the Father.  What were the Jewish people to make of this?  If there was only one God, then how could God the Father be God and Jesus Christ also be God?  This is one of the main reasons why so many of them rejected Him and refused to be persuaded, even by His miracles and His obvious wisdom.  Then, to make matters even more puzzling to the Jewish people, as our Lord’s life on earth drew to its close, He began to speak of yet another Divine Reality—what we call the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Paraclete.  The word “Paraclete” means “one who can be called upon for help, a supporter, an aid, a helper.”  Jesus told his disciples who were feeling sad that He was about to leave them, that it was good for them that He go because, if He left them, He would send the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete upon them, who would be an even greater advantage than He would in staying with them.  The Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost.

So, now we have been through the two testaments of the Scriptures in our year’s celebration of the sacred mysteries.  We know who God the Father is.  We know Jesus, who is God the Son, and we have seen the Holy Spirit descend upon the early Church to become the Soul of the Church.  So during this weekend, we celebrate the three Divine Persons of the One God, and we call them the Blessed Trinity.  Trinity simply means “threeness.”  This is the greatest truth that Jesus revealed to the world which had not previously been known.

God has made us in His image and likeness.  Now that we know that there are three persons in the One God, we can realize that we are made in the image of a Divine community, a Divine family.  Just as in God, we find Father and Son and Holy Spirit, so we are made to form human families of father, mother, and child.  We begin as children and eventually grow to adulthood, in which we become fathers and mothers that form new families, new reflections of the Divine family of the Blessed Trinity, and we joyously pray all of our lives, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit! As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.”  Thank you for allowing God to love you, God bless you.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

 

Posted by: fvbcdm | June 7, 2017

Feast of Saint Anthony Gianelli (7 June 2017)

It happens with some frequency—that someone will come to confession and say something like this—“Father, I can’t remember committing any sins since my last confession, but I know that I am not perfect and that my spiritual life is not what it should be.  What can I do to improve the situation?  We ourselves have probably experienced the same feeling from time to time, and I think that the answer lies in the words of Jesus in the Gospel.

His enemies, always trying to catch Him in His speech, asked Him which is the greatest commandment of them all.  In terms of the Ten Commandments, one could argue for any one of them being the greatest; however, our Divine Lord—who is Truth itself—goes right to the heart of the matter and chooses none of them but rather a commandment given to the Chosen People in the Book of Deuteronomy—“Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One God, you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and your whole strength.”  And then He adds a second commandment like the first, which is also to be found in the Old Testament—“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

When we realize how far-reaching these commandments are, we begin to understand that most of our sins are sins of omission rather than evil deeds that we commit.  It’s not what we do but rather what we don’t do that is the problem with the spiritual lives of many of us.  Well then, what don’t we do?  We don’t speak to God often enough in the sanctuaries of our own mind and heart in prayer.  We don’t thank Him sufficiently for the good and beautiful thinks that we have, that we see, that we hear, that we think of each day.  We don’t take the opportunity to do good to others in the name of Jesus.  We don’t put forth the effort to be kind, attentive, caring, towards parents or spouses, or children, or neighbors or people with whom we work.  We don’t do our best in our duties but are sometimes slovenly, careless, lazy, irresponsible.  We don’t drive carefully and with consideration of other drivers. We don’t control our temper, our impatience, our selfishness in putting ourselves first.

The next time you examine your conscience, especially in preparation for the Sacrament of Penance, ask yourself what you have not done that God asks you to do.  You’ll probably find plenty of matters for confession in answer to that searching question.  Thank you for allowing God to love you, God bless you.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | June 6, 2017

Feast of Saint Norbert (6 June 2017)

We have come to the end of the Easter cycle in our celebration of the Church year, and now the so-called “ordinary time” of the year begins.  It will continue until Advent, when the whole cycle begins again.  I’d like to say something today about the on-going spiritual influence that we should practice in our lives.  Just as we eat several times a day to keep nourishment flowing into our physical organism, so we should be constantly ingesting spiritual food, in the form of learning, thinking about, and praying about the truth of our relationship with God.  I’d like to suggest that we begin by reading three chapters of Saint Matthew’s Gospel—Chapters 5, 6, and 7.  We call these three the Sermon on the Mount.  They contain the entire spiritual and moral teachings of our Divine Lord.  They are capable of producing holiness in anyone who follows them carefully and sincerely.

So let me suggest that you embark upon a private and very informal retreat during this summer and in the month of June in particular—the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Let me suggest that you take up your copy of the New Testament—I certainly hope that you have one in your home—and, before beginning to read, you ask our Lord—as we should always say when approaching Sacred Scripture—“Lord speak to me through this reading.”  Then, begin slowly, prayerfully, attentively, lovingly, to read the Sermon on the Mount—Saint Matthew, Chapters 5, 6, and 7.  Let the words permeate your mind and especially your heart.  And then, let them form in you the desire and the resolve to put them into practice in your daily life.  I guarantee you that you will profit by this and that your spiritual life and your relationship with God will improve.  Thank you for allowing God to love you, God bless you.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | June 5, 2017

Feast of Saint Boniface (5 June 2017)

Recently, a friend of mine gave me the following.  It’s called, “Words to Live By” and was composed by [Saint] Teresa of Calcutta.  I find it worthwhile sharing it with you—

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies.  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.  Be honest and frank anyway.

When you spend years building, someone can destroy overnight.  Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today people will often forget tomorrow.  Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.  Give the world the best you have anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

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 | June 2, 2017

Feast of Saints Marcellinus and Peter (2 June 2017)

This Sunday we celebrate the great Solemnity of Pentecost.  It commemorates the day when, ten days after His Ascension into Heaven, our Divine Lord sent the Holy Spirit upon the infant Church and into the hearts of its individual members, and, as is always the case with our liturgical celebrations, the greatness of that great event is repeated for us in our world today.  Thus, those who celebrate the feast of Pentecost each year with devotion and sincere prayer receive graces similar to what the Apostles and Disciples received in that Upper Room in Jerusalem so long ago.

In that beautiful, old, venerable hymn called a sequence that we use in the Liturgy at Pentecost, we ask the Holy Spirit to “melt the frozen, warm the chill.”  Let us think about those words today.  Love has always been seen as warm.  We use words like ardor and fervor to indicate the warmth of love.  Ardor comes from a Latin word meaning “to burn.”  Fervor also comes from the Latin, it means “to boil,” like hot water.  A living body is warm.  A corpse is cold.  So we speak of the warmth of love, the coldness of indifference or hatred.

You might remember that when Dante wrote his classic, “The Divine Comedy,” he has Virgil leading Dante down the various passageways of Hell until they come to the very bottom, where Satan is eternally imprisoned.  And in what condition does Dante find the Prince of Devils?  He finds Him lying, bound on the surface of a frozen lake, suffering eternally from terrible cold.  This symbolizes His total lack of love of God and of the other angels and mankind.

So we ask the Spirit to “melt the frozen, warm the chill.”  Let’s apply that prayer to ourselves.  Do we treat some people with coldness?  indifference? hatred? lack of forgiveness if they have offended us or if we think they have offended us?  Do we close our hearts to some for one reason or another?  Do we fail to take seriously what we say in the “Our Father”—“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”?  If our hearts are to be temples of the Holy Spirit, they must be warm with love.  If they are cold, hostile, contemptuous of others, vindictive, that is a sure sign that we have made it impossible for the Spirit of the Living God to take up residence within our being.  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 | June 1, 2017

Feast of Saint Justin (1 June 2017)

Today brings us to the beginning of the month of June, traditionally dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and tomorrow is the first Friday of the month—the day which our Lord requested to be observed as a day of special devotion to His Sacred Heart, when he appeared to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in the Seventeenth Century.  So we begin this month very much within the beautiful atmosphere of the Heart of our Divine Lord.

We human beings are made to love and to be loved.  It is the highest source of our joy and will eventually lead us to our eternal happiness with God, His Angels, and His Saints in Heaven.  It is one thing to love God—Whom we cannot see.  It is another to love a human being like ourselves.  That is one of the reasons why the Son of God—the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity—became a human being.  The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, as Saint John tells us in his Gospel.  So, in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Divine Love is being poured out upon mankind through a human Heart, the Heart of a Human Who is also Divine and therefore capable of infinite love.

There is only one place in the Gospel where Jesus calls attention to His own Virtues and asks us to imitate them.  He says to us, “Learn of Me for I am meek and humble of heart.”  Therefore, one of the favorite prayers that has been used in the Church for centuries is a paraphrase of what our Lord said.  It goes like this:  “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.”  It takes just a couple of seconds to say that.  We can make frequent use of it throughout the day, especially during this month of June as we approach the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which falls this year on June [23].  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 the last day of May—the month dedicated to our Blessed Mother—we celebrate the feast of the Visitation.  This was the event that transpired immediately after the Annunciation.  The archangel had told our Lady that her kinswoman was six-months pregnant.  Our Lady lived in Nazareth in Galilee in the north part of the Holy Land. Elizabeth and her husband Zachary lived in Judea, south, near Jerusalem.  It was usually a three-day trip on foot from the one location to the other.  People traveled in caravans, bringing with them all their food and drink needs, and, at night, they wrapped themselves in blankets, slept under the stars or in whatever shelter they could find.  Travel was not easy in those days, especially for the poor.

When our Lady entered the house of Zachary and Elizabeth, the two women embraced one another, and their children, each in the womb of his mother, were pressed close to each other.  The more developed child—in the womb of Elizabeth—leaps for joy, as we are told in Sacred Scripture.  And Elizabeth is inspired to know that her young cousin Mary is carrying in her womb the Savior of the world.  Scripture also tells us that, at that moment, the unborn child of Elizabeth, who was to be the great Saint John the Baptist, is filled with grace.  This is why we will be celebrating his birth towards the end of June; whereas ordinarily we celebrate the death of the saint and not their birth.

The Visitation is the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.  It shows the kindness of our Lady, her eagerness to be of service to others, especially an older relative who is now pregnant for the first time.  It speaks to us of the sublime role of our Lady in clothing with human flesh the Son of God and giving Him to the world.  It also reminds us that an unborn child is nonetheless a human being.  We can venerate the unborn Saint John the Baptist, and we can adore our Divine Lord as a tiny embryo in the hidden recesses of His Mother’s virginal and immaculate body.  Thank you for allowing God to love you, God bless you.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | May 30, 2017

Feast of Saint Joan of Arc (30 May 2017)

On the 30th of May in the year 1431, a nineteen-year-old girl was taken from her prison cell in the French city of Rouen, the capital of the region of Normandy.  She was taken to the city’s marketplace, where she was chained to a stake.  Bundles of wood were then piled around her and ignited.  She died the terrible death of being burned alive.  Her name—Saint Joan of Arc.  Her crime—hearing heavenly voices and acting upon them.

As she was being tied to the stake, she asked that a cross be held where she could she it.  One of our Dominican priests ran to a nearby church and brought a crucifix.  He held it up before her eyes.  She cautioned him not to come too close for fear that he too might be burned.  She died crying out, “Jesus!  Jesus!”

Because she had become not only a religious patroness of France but also one of its most famous historical personages, her feast day on May 30 is celebrated each year with great honor among the Catholics of France.  But, since she has not been placed in the Universal Calendar of the Church, we don’t usually find mention of her in our calendars here in this country.  There is hardly a church in France without a statue of Saint Joan of Arc.  Our cathedral here in New Orleans has a statue of her because of its French heritage.

When she was fourteen-years-old, she began to her voices speaking to her.  They identified themselves as Saints Michael, Margaret, and Catherine.  As time passed they began to urge her to go to the uncrowned King of France and have him crowned and consecrated.  After any number of difficulties, she was brought before him, and, by confiding to him certain messages that her voices had given to her, she convinced him of her authenticity.  He put her in charge of an army which lifted the English siege of the city of Orleans and won several other battles, bringing encouragement and renewed hope to the nation.  She would never allow any soldier to take part in their military operations who had not attended Mass and received Holy Communion that morning.

She lead the King to the city of Reims, where French coronations always took place.  Her mission was then finished.  She was betrayed into the hands of the English, imprisoned, accused of witchcraft, sorcery, and heresy, and condemned to be burned.  A few years later, her condemnation was reversed by a French court.  In 1920, she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV.  Let us pray, through her intercession, that her nation, for which she gave her life, will return to its former glory as one of the most Catholic nations of the world.  Thank you for allowing God to love you, God bless you.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.  Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | May 29, 2017

Feast of Saint William Arnaud (29 May 2017)

It’s Memorial Day, and last night, I watched part of a very moving ceremony held on the Mall in the nation’s capital in which tribute was paid to those who have given their lives for their country, who have sustained injuries, some of them permanent, and who are left to mourn the dead or care for those who need help.

My high school career coincided almost exactly with our participation in World War II.  I was a freshman when Pearl Harbor plunged us into that war on December 7, 1941, and was a graduating senior when Nazi Germany surrendered in May, 1945.  These memorial days never come and go without two very clear memories coming back to me.  One of them is that of my walking with the other Jesuit High School boys to school in the morning, on South Carrollton avenue in New Orleans.  Often, during those four years, we would have to wait to cross the street while seemingly endless convoys of army trucks went by, carrying men just a few years older than ourselves to the port of embarcation, to go overseas.  As we kids watched those trucks go by, the men in them sometimes waved to us.  And we waved back.  And I used to wonder how many of them would come home “when it was over, over there” as the old song had it.  On June 6, 1944, the Normandy invasions began and in our last year of high school, we watched and listened as the news reports told of the Allies making their painful way from the Normandy beaches to the heart of Nazi Germany, and to victory.

Now, we come forward about 40 years.  I am leading one of my travel groups in France, and we go to visit the American cemetery on the cliffs above what was called “Omaha Beach” in the army code of World War II.  Our bus rolled to a stop, we all got out; I had no idea what was in store for me.  There, before us, in very neat and beautifully manicured lawns, are the graves of some 9000 men who died either right there or nearby.  The average age of those men who did not come home was about 20.  As you stand there looking at those graves, there is a great desire to walk among them and read the inscriptions on the grave markers.  And so we all did.  But I noticed that we all separated and walked alone this way and that, not speaking to one another.  Why?  Because we were all crying.  Our eyes were swimming in tears, we could not have spoken had we tried.  It was an enormously powerful moment.

When people ask me to name some of my most impressive experiences in my travels, Omaha Beach always comes to mind first. There have been audiences with two Popes; visits to magnificent museums, marvelous scenery.  But first and foremost, there was Omaha Beach and those 9000 graves.  As I began my walk among those markers, the very first one I came to was that of a young soldier from Lake Charles, Louisiana.  He might well have waved to us high school boys on South Carrollton Avenue, and we to him. And now, he lay on the cliffs above Omaha Beach, and his family is without a son or brother or maybe husband and father. God bless him, and all his fellow men and women whom we commemorate today.  God bless those who mourn their loss.  And may God give to them a rich life with Himself to compensate for the tragically short life that they lived in this world, and then laid down for us, their beneficiaries.  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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