TSD 20: Pius <3 Mary

The best romance of the 1950s wasn't in Hollywood

These Seven Days will always be free. There’s never been a question about that, but I want to make sure I make that commitment directly to all of you.

Putting all this together, though, is reasonably time consuming. I enjoy it, and I learn a lot each week. While I’m working on streamlining the process, it’s still a several-hour task, on top of my other duties, to keep the newsletter up to my standards—the standards you’ve come to expect, and should expect.

For this reason, on the occasion of the 20th edition of These Seven Days, I’m adding a little “tip jar” feature. Each week there will be a little button in the newsletter that will take you to a cute website called “Ko-fi” where you can “buy me a coffee” (I don’t drink coffee, but whatever). The payments there are processed through PayPal: It’s all on the up-and-up.

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No pressure. Really. Like I said, this liturgical roundup was always meant to be free, and will always be free. But if you enjoy it enough to chip in a few bucks, I’d be much obliged.


These Seven Days…

…in the Ordinary Form

It is the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings are Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10, Hebrews 12:1-4, and Luke 12:49-53.

The words of the princes condemning Jeremiah sound very familiar:

He is demoralizing the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such things to them; he is not interested in the welfare of our people,
but in their ruin.

How often are we told that speaking the truth is not profitable, that insisting on a comprehensive witness to Christ undermines those “in the arena” who believe their success depends on muting inconvenient truths. And then we’re told that if we speak out on abortion (by some) or racism (by others) or whatever else, we don’t really care about “our people” but only “virtue signalling” or some such nonsense.

We’re called to be prophets, like Jeremiah, not court philosophers.

As for the Gospel, whew, it’s a doozy. On the declaration of Christ that He is to bring division rather than peace, St. Ambrose brings some good sense:

How does he himself say, “My peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you,” if he has come to separate fathers from sons and sons from fathers by the division of households? How is he cursed who dishonors his father and devout who forsakes him? If we observe that the first is because of religion and the second through piety, we shall think this question is simple. It is necessary that we should esteem the human less than the divine. If honor is to be paid to parents, how much more to your parents’ Creator, to whom you owe gratitude for your parents! If they by no means recognize their Father, how do you recognize them? He does not say children should reject a father but that God is to be set before all. Then you have in another book, “He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” You are not forbidden to love your parents, but you are forbidden to prefer them to God. Natural children are true blessings from the Lord, and no one must love the blessing that he has received more than God by whom the blessing, once received, is preserved.


Thursday, August 22, is the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast succeeded the traditional Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in marking the octave day of the Solemnity of the Assumption.

The notion of Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth has ancient roots, as described in Pope Pius XII’s 1954 encyclical, Ad Caeli Reginam, in which he promulgated the feast four years after he confirmed the Assumption dogma. (The feast was originally pegged to the end of the Marian month of May, but was moved to the Assumption octave—fittingly, it seems—by Pope St. Paul VI.) Among many sources from the first centuries of the Church, Pius XII quotes St. Germanus of Constantinople:

Be enthroned, Lady, for it is fitting that you should sit in an exalted place since you are a Queen and glorious above all kings.

Pius ends the encyclical with a stunningly beautiful ode to peace—a peace that can only be secured under the auspices of Mary’s queenship:

We are convinced that this feast will help to preserve, strengthen and prolong that peace among nations which daily is almost destroyed by recurring crises. Is she not a rainbow in the clouds reaching towards God, the pledge of a covenant of peace? … Whoever, therefore, reverences the Queen of heaven and earth—and let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul—let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us.

(These last two weeks have made me into a pretty huge Pius XII fanboy: The man adored his Mother, and wasn’t afraid to tell everyone about it.)

Diego Velázquez - Coronation of the Virgin - Prado.jpg

Depictions of the Coronation tend to be composed in one of two ways: Mary either kneels before Christ in profile to accept the crown, or sits regally facing forward as Christ and God the Father place the crown on her. Here are examples of both: Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, 1504, (completed at the age of 21) and Diego Velázquez, c. 1641.


Friday, August 23, is the Feast of St. Rose of Lima, the first person born in the New World to be canonized. However, her home country of Peru continues to celebrate her pre-1969 feast, August 30, as a public holiday.

Rose was born Isabel Flores de Olivia in 1586, but was confirmed under the name “Rose” due to an incident in her childhood when her face seemed to be transformed into a mystical rose. At a young age she read of the life of St. Catherine of Siena—a frightening proposition—and decided to model herself after the great saint—an even more frightening proposition. Honestly: Can you imagine reading about St. Catherine of Siena as a child and saying, “yes, this is what I want”? As with St. Catherine herself, the line between sanctity and madness is thin and often blurry.

After overcoming the objections and ridicule of her friends and family, Rose took the habit as a Dominican tertiary and settled into the life of a near-recluse in her small room, dedicating herself to prayer and mortification and leaving only to receive the Blessed Sacrament daily—unusual for that era. The description of her daily existence in the Catholic Encyclopedia is, frankly, horrifying:

Days passed without food, save a draught of gall mixed with bitter herbs. When she could no longer stand, she sought repose on a bed constructed by herself, of broken glass, stone, potsherds, and thorns. She admitted that the thought of lying down on it made her tremble with dread.

Despite her hermetical existence, she became friends with two other saints, Martin de Porres and John Macias, and became known throughout the city for her holiness. Rose died at the age of 31, and was canonized less than 50 years later.

Image result for correa rose of lima

The Mystical Betrothal of St. Rose of Lima, mirroring that of St. Catherine of Siena. Nicolás Correa, 1691.


…in the Extraordinary Form

It is the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost. The Epistle is 1 Corinthians 12:2-11 and the Gospel is Luke 18:9-14—the parable of the Pharisee and the publican.

The St. Andrew Missal introduces this week thus:

Our sanctification is an impossible work if we undertake it alone. since our acts are only supernatural if they proceed from the Holy Ghost; that is what the Church impresses on us today in giving us a true notion of Christian humility.

St. John Chrysostom explains the parable with a strikingly simple and imaginative analogy:

This parable represents to us two chariots on the race course, each with two charioteers in it. In one of the chariots it places righteousness with pride, in the other sin and humility. You see the chariot of sin outstrip that of righteousness, not by its own strength but by the excellence of humility combined with it, but the other is defeated not by righteousness, but by the weight and swelling of pride. For as humility by its own elasticity rises above the weight of pride, and leaping up reaches to God, so pride by its great weight easily depresses righteousness.

Image result for pharisee and publican art

The Pharisee and the Publican by Jacques Joseph (James) Tissot, c. 1890.


The gradual this Sunday is the Custodi me, Domine, taken from Psalm 17 (D-R 16):

Custodi me, Domine, ut pupillam oculi: sub umbra alarum tuarum protege me. // De vultu tuo judicium meum prodeat: oculi tui videant aequitatem.

Keep me, O Lord, as the apple of Thy eye: protect me under the shadow of Thy wings. // Let my judgment come forth from Thy countenance: let Thy eyes behold the things that are equitable.

Dom Johner’s commentary (p. 284) brings home the spiritual meaning of this psalm:

How careful we are that not even a speck of dust enters our eye! We may expect the same and even greater anxiety and love on the part of God toward our soul, for its welfare and salvation.


Tuesday, August 20, is the Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (in both the old and new calendars). Bernard is blessed with one of my favorite epithets in Christendom: Doctor Mellifluus, or honey-tongued doctor, which is also the title of an encyclical about the great saint by (you guessed it) Piux XII. The Holy Father focused, unsurprisingly, on Bernard’s Marian devotion, quoting him at length:

If troubled on account of the heinousness of thy sins, distressed at the filthy state of thy conscience, and terrified at the thought of the awful judgment to come, thou art beginning to sink into the bottomless gulf of sadness and to be swallowed in the abyss of despair, then think of Mary. In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name leave thy lips, never suffer it to leave thy heart. And that thou mayest more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, see that thou dost walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, thou shalt never go astray; whilst invoking her, thou shalt never lose heart; so long as she is in thy mind, thou shalt not be deceived; whilst she holds thy hand, thou canst not fall; under her protection, thou hast nothing to fear; if she walks before thee, thou shalt not grow weary; if she shows thee favor, thou shalt reach the goal.

Just as in his encyclical establishing the feast of Mary’s Queenship, Pius concludes by identifying her as the key to peace:

Therefore, as the Doctor of Clairvaux sought and obtained from the Virgin Mother Mary help for the troubles of his times, let us all through the same great devotion and prayer so strive to move our divine Mother, that she will obtain from God timely relief from these grave evils which are either already upon us or may yet befall, and that she who is at once kind and most powerful, will, by the help of God, grant that the true, lasting, and fruitful peace of the Church may at last dawn on all nations and peoples.

As for the life and times of St. Bernard, there is simply too much to say (he founded more than 150 monasteries!). I commend to you Pius’s encyclical, and of course Fr. Butler and the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Francesco Ribalta’s Deposed Christ Embracing St. Bernard (c. 1625) may be one of my favorite works of art featured in the first 20 weeks of this newsletter.


Those Seven Days…

Hat tip to Fr. Alek Schrenk for this newsreel footage of Pope Pius XII’s promulgation of the Assumption dogma. Look at that pageantry!

To complete our homage to Pius this week, here is footage from his death in 1958. “With the death of Pope Pius XII, a great light is extinguished from the Earth.”


The New York Times profile of the late Pittsburgh philanthropist Cordelia Scaife May is fascinating. It pulls back the curtain just a bit—but a bit more than I expected—on the connection between legal abortion and population control and nativism.

She believed that the United States was “being invaded on all fronts” by foreigners, who “breed like hamsters” and exhaust natural resources. She thought that the border with Mexico should be sealed and that abortions on demand would contain the swelling masses in developing countries.


Speaking of which:


Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles (who should have a red hat) has a great column on the El Paso shooting and the rising tide of a new nativism in America:

But the myth that America was founded by and for white people is just that — a myth.

This land was born as an encounter of cultures, first with Native Americans. Hispanics arrived in Texas in 1519. Asians started arriving in California about 50 years before the pilgrims made it to Plymouth Rock.

The first non-native language spoken in this continent was Spanish, not English. And this country has always been renewed, again and again, by successive waves of immigrants from every nation on earth.

This is very reminiscent of the excellent essay on “Catholic America” by Stefan McDaniel in First Things two years ago. There may be more on this topic soon from me…


Speaks for itself:


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Also: Feel free to drop me a line, either in a private message on Ko-fi or just at the TSD email address, with any prayer requests you might have, and we’ll remember you in our family rosary.


Feedback, &c.

Did I miss something important? Get something wrong? Do you have ideas for how to improve These Seven Days? Drop me a line at tsd.brandonmcg@gmail.com. This is a work in progress, and your feedback will help to make it the best it can be.

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