Posted by: fvbcdm | December 30, 2017

Feast of Saint Anysius (30 Dec 2017)

The month of January derives its name from the Roman God Janus, who was the God of doors and gates, and, in order to exercise his divine duties as he should, Janus had two faces—one on the front of his head and one on the back.  That allowed him to look forward and backward at the same time.  Well, we don’t believe in Janus any more, but we certainly do adore the true God, who sees all things—past, present, and future–and who deserves our thanks and our praise for all that he does for us.  So, as we come to the last day of one year and the beginning of the next, let us make both of these years the subject of our prayer.  We want to thank God for all his benefits to us in the past, especially in the year that is just ending.  We want to apologize for our sins and shortcomings during this time, and we want to rededicate and reconsecrate ourselves to the adoration and service of our loving God in the year ahead, in fact, in all of our tomorrows, however numerous they may be.

At the end of 1950, I was in boot camp in the navy in San Diego, California.  And on New Year’s Day, those of us among my friends organized a day at LaHoya, a well-known seaside resort in suburban San Diego.  We walked along the rocky coast, enjoying the very attractive scenery, and we had a very nice New Year’s Day dinner in a restaurant there overlooking the sea.  In connection with New Year’s Day, we traditionally sing the old Scottish song Auld Lang Syne, which means the times long past.   And in the song we say, “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind, should old acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne.”  Well, in my case, I’m afraid that the old acquaintances have indeed been forgotten since I am no longer in contact with the men I celebrated with on that day—January 1, 1951—in fact, I don’t even remember who they were, but the days of auld lang syne are still with me and very happy memories.  For our memories too, let us be grateful to God. They enrich our lives long after the events themselves are gone.  They make us who and what we are and make us recognize how blessed we have been in many ways.  Happy New Year! 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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When I make my Morning Offering each day, offering to our Lord all the day will hold, I unite myself with a few of my special friends among the saints with whom I especially want to spend the day.  One of them is Saint John, whom we celebrate each year on December 27th.  He began his life as a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, son of the fisherman Zebedee and his wife Salome.  Both John and his brother James, likewise a fisherman, were called by our Lord to be His followers.  “Come follow me,” He told them, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

They did just that and became two of the twelve Apostles, perhaps the most elite group of men in the entire annals of human history.  John became the author of one of the four Gospels, three of the letters of the New Testament, and the Book of the Apocalypse or Revelation.  Several times he was singled out to witness some special moment in the life of Jesus—the Transfiguration, for example, the raising of the little daughter of Jairus to life, the Agony in the Garden.  John was the only one of the Apostles who apparently had the courage to stand at the foot of Jesus’s Cross, and his reward for this loyalty and bravery was a great one.  Our Lord, in His dying moments, entrusted to the care of John His own Blessed Mother.

Try to imagine the sort of man that John is.  One who was an intimate companion of Jesus during our Lord’s whole public life.  One who is able to penetrate with his love and understanding many of the things that Jesus said and did and which John alone records in his unique Gospel, and one who lived for some years in the company of the Virgin Mother of Christ.  A priest, a Bishop, an Apostle, an Evangelist, a close friend of Jesus, the Divinely Chosen Guardian of the Immaculate Mother of God.  I look forward to meeting Him in Heaven.  I ask his help in my life here on earth, and I commend him to you too as one of the very greatest of the saints because of his incomparable relationship with Jesus and Mary, from Whom all sanctity, all love, all wisdom flow.  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 | December 26, 2017

Feast of Saint Stephen (26 Dec 2017)

The name “Stephen” comes from the Greek “Stephanos.”  It means “the one who has been crowned.”  And, for centuries, the day after Christmas has been celebrated by the Church as the Feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  Shortly after Pentecost, the Apostles realized that they did not have the time or resources to pursue their principal duty—namely preaching—and also to take care of the poor—another sacred responsibility of the Church. So, they chose seven men in Jerusalem to serve in this capacity. They called them “deacons,” which means “servants,” servants of the church, servants of the poor, and therefore, servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. Soon, the first persecution of the Church broke out in the Holy Land, one of those first seven deacons, Saint Stephen, was apprehended and taken before the religious authorities.  On trial for his life, he spoke fervently and beautifully of his faith in our divine Lord, which infuriated his hearers. We find this speech of his in the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. He was condemned to be stoned to death. Tradition says that his death took place on the spot where our Dominican biblical school now stands in Jerusalem, north of the old city. In any case, he became the first Christian to shed his blood for the new faith in Jesus. The first in a series of martyrs that will end only with the end of time, since the forces of evil will always try to destroy the Kingdom of Christ in our world.

It is interesting to reflect that Saint Stephen was killed by religious men for supposedly religious purposes. Religion has always claimed to champion peace and to speak in the Name of God. And yet, it has always been a source of division, antagonism, and war. Obviously, the human race does not yet understand the fundamental nature of religion. When a glimpse of Hell was given to the world on September 11th, it was done in the Name of God. The on-going struggle between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land is done in the Name of God. Will this human family of ours ever learn? When the impetuous Saint Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of those arresting Jesus, our Lord rebuked him and said, “Put away your sword. Those who take up the sword, die by the sword.”

Let us pray, through the intercession of Saint Stephen, who was killed by religious men, that someday, all the religious men of the world will act justly. Then and only then, there will be peace, and God’s Kingdom will prevail. 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 | December 26, 2017

Christmas (25 Dec 2017)

As we celebrate the Birth of our Divine Lord, I invite you to make a little Christmas meditation with me.  This is the twentieth or thirtieth or fortieth or fiftieth or sixtieth time in our own personal life history that we celebrate Him.  Each one of us has been created in the image and likeness of our God.  We have an intellect, by which we can know truth.  We have a free will by which we can choose good, love that which is lovable, reject that which is opposed to our good.  We are persons—just as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are Persons—capable of knowing and loving and serving one another, capable of knowing and loving and serving God, which is the purpose for which we were created.

In the fullness of time, according to His Loving Plan, God the Son, the Eternal Word and Image of the Father was born into our human family, our world, our time, our history.  He was born of a Virgin, Mary of the town of Nazareth in Galilee.  He came as a new-born child, totally dependent on His human creatures. He grew to childhood, to youth, to adulthood.  He spoke to the world of God, His Father and ours.  He spoke in words, but even more in actions and in attitudes. He founded His Church, that would perpetuate until the End of Time what He did during His Life on this Earth.  He founded that Church to teach, to sanctify, and to make it possible for the human family to join Him in eternal Happiness. He suffered and died in atonement for human sin.  He rose from the tomb and said to us all, “I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, you also may be.”  He then sent His Holy Spirit to give life to His Church and to enable it to operate as long as the world shall last.

In His own good time, He created you and me to be with Him forever in Heaven. He has given us the gift of Faith, whereby we recognize in the Baby of Bethlehem our God in human flesh.  Our lives are given meaning by our relationship with Jesus, our Lord, and His Blessed Mother, whom He shares so generously with us. Our lives are given beauty, joy, and hope because we are His people and He is our Lord.  Now we gather at this Christmas time, to begin again the celebration of Jesus’s Holy Birth, to rejoice again in our Holy Faith.  Christmas holds many associations for each of us, many emotions, many memories.  It is more than a religious feast.  It is a defining day that gives structure to our entire year, to our entire lives.  It causes people to travel miles and miles to be with their loved ones on Christmas Day.  It moves us to give gifts, to send greetings, to celebrate with parties and special meals and observances, to decorate our homes, our Churches, our cities.  It has inspired a whole world of splendid religious art and sacred music.

Let us end our little meditation on Christmas with this last element in our Christian joy.  One of our classic Christmas carols is called, “O Little Town of Bethlehem!”  We are here just at the time when our Lady and Saint Joseph would have arrived in Bethlehem at the end of a day of travel, only to find no room for themselves at the Inn, and they sought refuge in a stable, where animals were sheltered and fed.  Our carol says this: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the Blessings of His Heaven.  No ear can hear His coming, but, in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him, still a Dear Christ enters in.  O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray!  Cast out our sins and enter in! Be born in us today!  We hear the Christmas angels, the great, glad tidings tell. O come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel!” 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 | December 23, 2017

Feast of Saint John Cantius (23 Dec 2017)

As we go deeper and deeper into the Holy Season of Advent, we are offered by the Church the opportunity to intensify our spiritual preparation for Christmas.  When I look out my window here and see all the decorations on Harrison Avenue, I thank God for the annual gift of Christmas with the joy that it brings.  Even those who are not believers in our Lord Jesus Christ render him their own kind of homage by putting out decorations and having extra observances and events at Christmas.  The year that is about to end is [2017].  The entire world numbers its years from the birth of Jesus—even those countries where Christians are few and far between.  So, basically, every time anyone speaks of the year, he is speaking in theological terms, whether he know it or likes it or not.

But for us who do know and do love our Lord, the Christmas season is so much more beautiful.  Let us remember just some of the countless ways in which the world has surrounded the festival of the birth of Jesus with religious and cultural trappings.  Saint Francis of Assisi gave to the world the Christmas creche way back in the 1200s.  It is now found wherever Christians make their home.  Houses are decked with greenery or with poinsettias or other Christmas flowers.  Wreaths appear, bright bows of red velvet.  Christmas carols are sung by groups, on radio, on television, in churches.  Special foods are prepared which are associated with Christmas.  The French have their réveillon, a big Christmas Eve dinner and the yule log—a cake made to resemble a log to be burned in a Christmas fireplace. We have our fruitcakes and our egg nog.  The Italians have their panettone, which is like a Christmas fruitcake.  Other lands have Christmas cookies and candies.  Our children learn the now-famous poem, which begins, “‘Twas the night before Christmas . . . “  Handel’s oratorio “The Messiah” is performed throughout the Western world with its magnificent passages concerning the coming of the Savior.

How blessed we are to be believers in Jesus!  How fortunate to be able to celebrate Christmas in the only authentic way—by adoring the Son of God who made Himself a human being for our benefit and appeared in the world as a newborn baby lying on the straw of a manger! How great it is to know that, as the years go by and we celebrate Christmas after Christmas, our lives are given meaning and hope and joy by the simple notion of a young women who holds a baby in her arms!  This baby is God!  He comes to bring us to Himself for eternity! We have every reason to wish one another a Merry Christmas. Thank you for allowing God to love you, 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 | December 16, 2017

Feast of Saint Mary di Rosa (15 Dec 2017)

We come now to the third week of Advent in our preparation to celebrate the birth of our divine Lord.  Let me ask you, “What are you doing to observe this Holy Season as well as you can?”  I’m afraid that too many of us live through each Advent and Lent just as we live the rest of the year, and, if that’s true, then we’re neglecting the opportunities offered us and we’re not living, thinking, and praying in union with the Church.  Let me suggest some ways in which you can celebrate Advent according to the mind of the Church:

(1) First and foremost, there is the possibility of attending Mass as often as you can, preferably every day;

(2) if that is not possible or if you already do that, you might obtain a missalette and read the prayers and readings for the Advent Masses when you have more time than at Mass, to reflect upon them at leisure and to make them a subject of your prayer life;

(3) a daily rosary is a fine way to celebrate Advent;

(4) just as we make the Way of the Cross to meditate upon the sufferings and death of Jesus, so we can make for ourselves a Way to Bethlehem, meditating upon the events that lead up to our Lord’s birth—the coming of the Angel to announce to our Blessed Mother that she was to be the Mother of God, her visit to Elizabeth, the preparations that our Lady and Saint Joseph made for the trip to Bethlehem, the disappointment at not finding lodging there, the humiliation that they must have felt in taking shelter in a stable where the only baby bed they could offer the newborn Christ was a pile of straw, the fear and confusion—but also the joy—of the shepherds when their quiet night on the hillsides throughout Bethlehem was interrupted by music from Heaven and the tremendously impressive message of angels, the wonder of the Magi lead by a star only to find a simple little family in a situation of poverty—they were probably expecting to be lead to a luxurious palace to find the newborn king of the Jews.  The baby in the manger probably didn’t look that much like a king to them;  nor was His family much like a royal family, but that’s where the star took them and that’s where they gave princely gifts to a carpenter and his wife;

(5) other means of celebrating Advent—the offer to help someone in some way, maybe taking a shut-in for a ride or to the grocery store or to the hair dresser or out for a meal or to see the Christmas lights at night;

(6) we have less than two weeks left in the Holy Season of Advent, don’t let it go by without you doing something appropriate by way of preparing for the great Christian festival of Christmas.

Let others spend their time in their own way.   Let us who glory in the name of “Christian” live this Holy Season in a Holy Way. Thank you for allowing God to love you, 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.

 

This is the time of the Holy Season of Advent when we Catholics of the United States celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whom the Holy See has formally named to be the patron saint of the entire Western Hemisphere—North, Central, and South America and all of the islands around them.  In 1531, just a few years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico and at the beginning of the spread of our Holy Faith in that country as well as in all of the Spanish and Portugese possessions in the New World, our Lady showed herself to be a conquistadora of a different kind.  She came not for glory or gold but to give to the people of our hemisphere a knowledge of Her Divine Son, whose kingdom she is always working to spread among humankind.  As always, she did it by beauty, grace, gentleness, and love, all of which can win battles of the heart that guns, bombs, and military actions cannot.

The story of our Lady’s apparitions to the Indian, [Saint] Juan Diego, is full of delightful little episodes.  She instructed him to go the Bishop of Mexico City, a few miles distant, and ask that a chapel be built on that spot.  The bishop was not too inclined to listen to an Indian catechumen who told a tale of a beautiful lady out of the dry hills of the region, asking for a chapel, which, of course, he had no money to build.  The bishop put him off, “Ask the Lady for a sign” the bishop told Juan Diego and dismissed him.

The disappointed man returned sheepishly to his beautiful Lady in the Hills and asked for a sign.  “Go to the top of that hill” she told him “and gather the white roses that you find there.” Poor little lady.  She was not from this area.  No roses grow there in wintertime, and he told her so.  She smiled and said, “My son, go get the roses.”  To humor this charming young women who knew nothing of Mexican horticulture, he climbed the hill.  He found a gorgeous bush full of roses.  As if in a dream, he cut them, arranged them in his apron, and returned to the Lady awaiting him where she had appeared earlier.  She arranged them with her own hands and instructed him to show them only to the bishop.  The bishop fell to his knees upon seeing them, moved, not by the roses, but by the picture of herself that our Lady had imprinted on Juan Diego’s apron.  That apron can still be seen to this day in the Great Basilica that stands on the site of the apparitions in Mexico City.  The devotion to our Lady of Guadalupe has been one of the most powerful spiritual forces in the Church in America and remains so today.  We are grateful to her for conquering our New World for her Son to so great a degree.  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 | December 8, 2017

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (8 Dec 2017)

This morning, as we gathered in our house chapel to celebrate Mass on this beautiful Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, we were very much aware that Our Lady under that title is the patroness of our country.  One of our Vietnamese brothers spoke of the new chapel of Our Lady of Lavang which has just recently been installed in the national shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.  Another reminisced over a beautiful retreat that he once made at this time of year at the Trappist monastery in South Carolina and some of the insights that he gained about the conception of Our Lady in preparation for the conception of her Divine Son.  And I had nothing quite so striking to add to our meditations, but I did remember and share with my brothers a memory that comes back from my childhood.  

At Our Lady of Good Counsel School in New Orleans where I was educated in grade school by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, we sang hymns and parts of the Mass every morning.  In those days, everything at Mass was in Latin, and Sister Matthias would explain to us what the Latin words meant so that we would comprehend what we were singing. I remember to this day a Latin antiphon which says: “Tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te”.  I was only seven when I learned those Latin words and their meaning, but somehow they made an impression.  You never know what is going to impress children.  They mean “You are all beautiful, O Mary, and the original stain is not in you.”  Today, Catholics throughout the world are singing those same words or ideas in many languages, and those in our country are celebrating our patronal feast day.  

And I am very aware that the same Virgin Mother of Jesus whom we honor in her Immaculate Conception, we also honor as Our Lady of Fatima: she who bears a Muslim name and is mentioned in the Koran, the holy book of Islam.  So I prayed to her at Mass this morning that she will use her powerful intercession with God to bring peace into our world, especially by the conversion of Islam to an adoration and love of her divine Son, and to a deep veneration of her, who is all beautiful, without any stain, either of original or actual sin.  Thank you for allowing God to love you, 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.

Catholic Message for the Feast of Saint Nicholas (6 Dec 2017)

December 6 is the Commemoration of Saint Nicholas, who is the origin of our Santa Claus.  It always reminds me of one of my favorite stories.  At the risk of being repetitive, I’d like to tell it again this year.  Just after the end of World War II, I began my college career at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama.  Thousands of our military personnel were being released from service and were taking advantage of the GI Bill to complete their education.

One of them who came to Spring Hill was a young man who is now a Benedictine Monk at Saint Bernard’s Monastery in Cullman, Alabama.  In December of 1944, his unit had been temporarily stationed in a small village in Holland.  Knowing of the Dutch tradition of having the children put their shoes outside the door on the night before Saint Nicholas Day, he asked one of the local citizens if they would be doing that again.  The Dutchman sadly told him no because, after four and a half years of terrible Nazi occupation, they had absolutely nothing to give the children, and so the adults had said nothing about it to the children.

My friend was grieved by this.  He went back to his military unit and told the American GIs the problem.  They decided that, with the help of the mess cook who could make cookies and provide some fresh fruit and with the added help of some of the more gifted members of the group who could fashion play things out of the odds and ends found in military camps, they could provide the villagers with some simple things to fill shoes with and delight the children, whose lives had been so deprived and so grim over the past years.

So it was.  The cook made fudge and doughnuts and cookies.  The soldiers brought crude toys fashioned from packing cases and bits of metal.  A tee shirt stuffed with cotton was able to make several dolls.  The soldiers enjoyed the whole thing more than the children did.  But, on the night of December 5, the little shoes appeared at the doors of the villagers houses, and the next day, the children awoke to the wonder of goodies brought during the night by the mysterious and wonderful Saint Nicholas.  Another example of love flowering in the midst of war, goodness in the midst of evil.  Thank you for allowing God to love you, 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 | December 4, 2017

Feast of Saint John of Damascus (4 Dec 2017)

In the 12th Chapter of Saint Luke’s Gospel, we find the delightful figure of speech used by our Lord to describe the kind of welcome to be received by those who are ready for Him when He comes and who enter Heaven.  Jesus says of Himself, “He will put on an apron, sit them down at table, and wait on them.”  (Luke 12:37).  Is that far-fetched?  Is that an exaggeration?  Not at all?

Do you remember what happened in the upper room just before the Last Supper?  Just imagine a stranger coming into that upper room just at that moment.  There are the twelve Apostles gathered around the table, prepared for the Passover meal.  The stranger says to the one who answers the door, which of these men is your leader?  And the Apostle who answers the door points to the least likely of them all. He says, “The one over there, down on the floor, washing the feet of Simon, He is our leader.”  And the stranger thinks to himself, “What kind of a leader is that, who acts like a menial servant and washes the feet of His followers?  Who ever heard of such a thing?”

On that same occasion, one of the Apostles said to Jesus, who had been talking about the Father, “Lord, show us the Father just once, and we will be satisfied.”  And Jesus answered, “He who sees me sees the Father.”  That being the case, we can say to the unbeliever, “We have an unusual God.  Our God washes our feet. Our God died on the Cross for us.  He is certainly different from all of the other ideas of God down through the history of religious thinking.  After His Resurrection, He was found one morning on the beach of the Sea of Galilee crouched down over a fire that He had built, roasting fish for His followers.  This God cooks breakfast for those He loves and has chosen, washes their feet, and died on the Cross for them.  It is not at all improbable that He would put on an apron and wait on them when they enter His Heavenly Home.  That’s very much the sort of God He is.  Thank you for allowing God to love you, 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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