Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy All Saints Day! (Nope, I'm not early…ask Father Dennis Brown, OMV)

Quick! Who wrote  Salve Regina? (No googling!)

I didn't know either.

The answer is Blessed Herman the Cripple. He also wrote Alma Redemptoris Mater. He was born with a cleft palate, cerebral palsy, and spina bifida and his folks shipped him off to an abbey when he was 7 years old. Becoming a Benedictine monk at 20, he studied and wrote on astronomy, theology, mathematics, history, poetry, Arabic, Greek, and Latin; built musical instruments and astronomical equipment…the guy was a genius.

I learned about him from Father Dennis Brown, OMV.

Blessed Herman is one of Father Dennis' best friends. All the saints—from the most illustrious to the, let's say, patron of ant farmers in Outer Mongolia, if there is one (and if there is one, Father Dennis would know)—are his best friends. And he's taught me that they're mine and yours, too.

When he served in Boston at Saint Francis Chapel, the "optional memorial" of any given saint—any of them—was not an option at all. I believe that Father Dennis would take it as a personal affront if Saint-Whoever-Heard-of-This-Person wasn't honored at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Just a theory of mine, but I think this has to do, somehow, with his own background.

While he's a priest now, and an excellent one, he wasn't always—shall we say, the epitome of holiness? In fact (and I wish I could find a 1960s era photo I once saw of him that would easily make him the poster child for the Flower-Power-Hippie-Era) — he was once an atheist.

Brought into the Church by such humble luminaries as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Venerable Fulton Sheen, Father John Hardon, Father Walter Ciszek, Father Benedict Groeschel, and a host of others, Father Dennis became first, a believer, second, a Catholic, and, praise God, third, a Roman Catholic priest.

He loves all the saints. And considers them his personal friends.

And so they are. And of yours and mine as well.

Father Dennis' resume includes, I believe, a stint as a participant in the Congregation for the Cause of Saints. What does this mean to me, personally?

It makes him a great confessor. Stern? No question. He never hesitates in calling a sin…well, a sin.

But he always was and no doubt still is, God's instrument of hope. "Saints are sinners who kept on trying," is one of his favorite sayings. As is, "Nunc Coepi" ("Now I begin!")…a motto of his order's founder, Venerable Bruno Lanteri.

And so, as we celebrate all the saints, it's my great privilege to ask Our Lord to bless this good priest…a friend who not only introduced me to saints I'd never heard of, but more important? To rely on our "great cloud of witnesses" to pray for me…not just when I'm in a jam, but always.

Happy All Saints Day, Father Dennis! May you one day be a part of these great folks. (And, don't worry. If you screw up? Just do what you must and say: Nunc Coepi! :-) )

Ordained by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1989, Father Dennis Brown, O.M.V. gives directed Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius and leaves seminars in the Discernment of Spirits in the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado.