TSD 29: Tobit or Not Tobit

I'm so sorry

I have been exceptionally busy over the past few weeks, and will be for the next few weeks (at least). There’s some exciting stuff on the horizon. Sometime next month I’ll be able to say more, but for now, let’s jump right in to…

These Seven Days…

…in the Ordinary Form

In is the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings are Exodus 17:8-13, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2, and Luke 18:1-8.

Trust in the power and goodness Lord and His Word is the theme of this week’s readings, beginning with the defeat of Amalek in Exodus 17: “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” Then, in the Epistle, Paul urges us to be constant in our trust and witness: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power:
proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.”

This theme culminates in the Gospel, the story of the unjust judge and the persistent widow, about which John Chrysostom writes:

He who hath redeemed thee, hath shewn thee what He would have thee do. He would have thee be instant in prayer, He would have thee ponder in thy heart the blessings thou art praying for, He would have thee ask and receive what His goodness is longing to impart. He never refuses His blessings to them that pray, but rather stirs men up by His mercy not to faint in praying. Gladly accept the Lord’s encouragement: be willing to do what He commands, not to do what He forbids. Lastly, consider what a blessed privilege is granted thee, to talk with God in thy prayers, and make known to Him all thy wants, while He though not in words, yet by His mercy, answers thee, for He despiseth not petitions, He tires not but when thou art silent.

The last words of this Gospel selection are haunting: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” About this verse, the Venerable Bede writes, prophetically:

When the Almighty Creator shall appear in the form of the Son of man, so scarce will the elect be, that not so much the cries of the faithful as the torpor of the others will hasten the world’s fall.

The Unjust Judge by the turn-of-the-century Swiss artist Eugène Burnand.

Tuesday, October 22, is the Feast of Pope St. John Paul II. He was simply The Pope for most of my life, and still when I think of what A Pope looks like, I think of Karol Wojtyla. He seemed like a figure outside of time itself, but that, it turned out, was an illusion.

Now, the JPII era feels like a lifetime ago. This isn’t a commentary on recent pontiffs as much as it is on the speed of change of the world around them, and the position of the Church within that world. The Cold War and post-Cold War consensus in the West is collapsing, and John Paul’s role in that consensus feels increasingly distant. It is becoming clearer now that he was a man of, in, and for the late twentieth century—and that’s not a criticism. Indeed, placing him squarely in than context, rather than considering him to be some kind of transcendent cosmic force, will be essential to understanding his legacy, both his Christlike witness to truth and the dignity of suffering, and the all-too-human compromises.

Regardless of the final analysis in the fullness of time, John Paul II is in heaven, observing and interceding for the Church, and for everyone who seeks his aid.

Friday, October 25, is the Feast of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales. This feast refers specifically to the 40 men and women canonized by Pope St. Paul VI on October 25, 1970, so it does not include those canonized earlier (John Fisher and Thomas More, celebrated June 22) or later (Oliver Plunkett, celebrated July 1). In England, however, all English martyrs of the schismatic throne are remembered on May 4.

A full list of the 40 commemorated on this day can be found here. Several of the names are recognizable in their own right—Edmund Campion, known for his eloquence; Robert Southwell, known for his poetry and hymnody; John Houghton, known as the first martyr of Henry VII and the first ever Carthusian martyr. Many of the others are less well known, but let’s pick an interesting one: St. Nicholas Owen.

Owen was considered the most notorious and valuable outlaw in England because of the proficiency with which he built “priest holes” for Catholic priests to hide in when homes were stormed by the secret police. He is said to have been quite short and rather seriously crippled, and yet his skill and strength in clever carpentry were unmatched. He was twice arrested and engineered at least one harrowing escape from the Tower of London before giving himself up in place of one of his priest-masters. He died on the rack in early March of 1606, having revealed nothing of his work.

A reading of The Burning Babe, by St. Robert Southwell. From the CE: “Perhaps no higher testimony can be found of the esteem in which Southwell's verse was held by his contemporaries than the fact that, while it is probable that Southwell had read Shakespeare, it is practically certain that Shakespeare had read Southwell and imitated him.”

…in the Extraordinary Form

It is the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The Epistle is Ephesians 4:23-28 and the Gospel is Matthew 22:1-14, the Parable of the Wedding of the King’s Son.

The traditional reading of the first part of the parable is pretty straightforward: The initial invitees to God’s Kingdom react world-historically poorly, therefore, in a foreshadowing of the Great Commission, the invitation goes out to all. Harder is what to make of the man who is “cast into the darkness” for failing to don a “wedding garment.” Here are three interpretations of the garment:

Gregory the Great

What ought we to understand by the wedding garment, but charity? For this the Lord had upon Him, when He came to espouse the Church to Himself. He then enters in to the wedding feast, but without the wedding garment, who has faith in the Church, but not charity.


The marriage garment is the commandments of the Lord, and the works which are done under the Law and the Gospel, and form the clothing of the new man. Whoso among the Christian body shall be found in the day of judgment not to have these, is straightway condemned. He saith unto him, “Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?” He calls him friend, because he was invited to the wedding as being a friend by faith; but He charges him with want of manners in polluting by his filthy dress the elegance of the wedding entertainment.


The wedding garment is the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the purity of that heavenly temper, which taken up on the confession of a good enquiry is to be preserved pure and unspotted for the company of the kingdom of heaven.

The key is that the wedding garment is, by God’s grace, available to all. It’s not that the man who showed up without one couldn’t afford it, or was ignorant of it: He chose not to clothe himself properly for the Kingdom.

I’m especially taken with the gradual this week (Psalm 140/141):

Dirigatur oratio mea, sicut incensum in conspectu tuo, Domine. // Elevatio manuum mearum sacrificium vespertinum.

Let my prayer be directed as incense in Thy sight, O Lord. // The lifting up of my hands as evening sacrifice.

In these two short sentences, I see a lovely affirmation of the priesthood of all believers. Our prayer rises to God just as surely as the incense in Revelation 8:4, just as surely as the priest’s and, if not as directly, just as surely as the angels’. And our habits of prayer and fasting are genuine sacrifices that we offer to God for His goodness, His love, His forbearance. This is not an optional accessory to the lay vocation; it is essential to the lay vocation.

Thursday, October 24, is the Feast of St. Raphael the Archangel. One of the three named archangels, along with Michael and Gabriel, Raphael appears throughout the Book of Tobit as a disguised guide and healer to the book’s protagonists. In the twelfth chapter, part of which is used as the “epistle” for his Mass, the angel reveals himself (12:11-15):

I will not conceal anything from you. I have said, “It is good to guard the secret of a king, but gloriously to reveal the works of God.” And so, when you and your daughter-in-law Sarah prayed, I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One; and when you buried the dead, I was likewise present with you. When you did not hesitate to rise and leave your dinner in order to go and lay out the dead, your good deed was not hidden from me, but I was with you. So now God sent me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah. I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.

This is as clear a statement as you could hope for of the value and efficacy of intercessory prayer through the Church Triumphant—that is, through the angels and saints who are both with God forever and spiritual observers (and participants) in the drama of earth. Due to his role in Tobit, and later manifestations of his power, St. Raphael is reckoned to be the healing angel.

The Angel Raphael Takes Leave of Old Tobit and his Son Tobias, by Pieter Lastman, teacher of Rembrandt, 1618.

Those Seven Days

I cannot stress enough how much I love this idea. So many of the “solutions” being discussed to the challenges in Amazonia betray the sad and simple fact that we seem to have lost our zeal for genuine missionary work.

This is in St. Paul’s Cathedral here, but there’s a similar window in (probably) my favorite church in Pittsburgh, Sacred Heart:

A wise and charitable thread from CNA’s JD Flynn about right worship, and why it matters (click through for the whole thing):

If you’ve signed up for TSD, you’ve signed up for baby photos from time to time. I don’t make the rules (actually in this case I do, and that’s the rule).

Lots of Catholic NFL moments this year…

Tip Jar

Don’t be Steve Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs.

Image result for restaurant tip gif

Tip Here

As for me…

For the Scottish Catholic Observer, I write about authentic environmental justice:

Creation fulfills its nature best not when it is left untouched (though parks and preserves obviously serve a wonderful purpose) nor when it is recklessly subjugated, but when it is thoughtfully and prayerfully developed to sustain the expansion of human life in all its diversity and magnificence. And—this is important—that requires long-term thinking about how to manage natural resources for as long as we might be permitted to inhabit this world.

I was excited to be included in this week’s edition of CNA Newsroom, talking about my experience in prison ministry. Here’s the SCO article I wrote a couple years ago about seeing grace at work in prison.

Image result for love and fidelity network

I’m excited to say that I’ll be moderating the Love & Fidelity Network’s annual conference, Sexuality, Integrity, and the University, on Friday, November 8, and Saturday, November 9 at Princeton University. If you happen to be in central New Jersey that weekend, drop me a line!

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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