A Pastoral Letter from the SEC

120910aDear Brothers and Sisters in Lent Madness,

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ,” as Paul of Tarsus said before he was ignominiously defeated by Emma of Hawaii in Lent Madness 2012.

As you know from breathlessly following Lent Madness on Facebook and Twitter (using hashtag #SECconclave), the Supreme Executive Committee has been prayerfully discerning the 2016 bracket throughout the day. Much coffee was consumed. And then more coffee was consumed.

We realize that many of you find it unbearable to endure the wait until All Brackets’ Day (November 3), when the 2016 bracket is released to the entire world. The SEC hears the plaintive cry of the Lent Madness faithful, and we assure you of our constant concern during this wilderness time. Though not so much as to provide even a hint about the content of the aforementioned 2016 bracket.

Of course, to keep things in perspective, it could always be worse. You could contract leprosy — although that wouldn’t be so bad either, since you would be able to meet Damien of Molokai (defeated in the first round of Lent Madness 2013) while experiencing an all-expenses-paid (not by us) trip to Hawaii.

Nonetheless, the SEC, in our beneficent magnanimity and unsurpassed compassion hereby offer the follow coping strategies:
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Throwback Thursday: Seeking Purple at #GC78

Was it last week or last century that a bunch of Episcopalians gathered in Salt Lake City for the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church? Seems like long ago, but it was just days. At Lent Madness HQ, we dug around in the archives and found this gem for Throwback Thursday. Enjoy the thrill of adventure as the entire Supreme Executive Committee (which is unicameral and yet bicameral, a great mystery) searches far and wide for signs of Lent Madness devotion. Additional hilarity ensues.

Stay tuned for news of the SEC Summer Retreat, at which Tim and Scott will gather in a secure, undisclosed location to discern the bracket for Lent Madness 2016. Thirty-one more saints need to be chosen for the bracket to join Clare, who didn’t need any voting irregularities to defeat Chad at a play-in held at General Convention.

Lent Madness 2016 Play-in: Chad vs. Clare

Welcome to this special edition play-in round of Lent Madness 2016 as we mark International Lent Madness Day with purple trumpets blaring. Coincidentally, this monumental occasion coincides with Lent Madness Day at the Episcopal Church’s triennial General Convention in Salt Lake City.

Voting will run for 12 hours, from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm Eastern Time with both an online poll and an in-person voting opportunity at the Forward Movement booth on the Convention floor. The winner in this matchup of the Holy C’s will advance to the to-be-determined 2016 Lent Madness bracket. Stay tuned for the announcement of the full bracket on All Brackets Day, November 3rd. We suggest sitting at your computer and hitting “refresh” for the next four months in anticipation of the blessed event.

In honor of all the voting at General Convention, we thought (Hanging) Chad of Lichfield would be a worthy contender to face Clare of Assisi as the Church seeks Clare-ity in its discernment on the issues of the day.

So, friends, the fate of the initial entrant into Lent Madness 2016 rests in your capable voting (once!) hands. We will share the result sometime soon after the live and in-person polls close. Minions have been acquired to tally the results of the paper ballots in a secure, undisclosed location in the salt flats, which will then be added to the online count.

While you wait for the results, perhaps you’ll want to warm up with a cup of coffee from a Francis of Assisi 2015 Golden Halo Winner Coffee Mug or cool down with a pint of your favorite beverage from a Brigid of Kildare 2015 Silver Halo Winner Winner Pint Glass. You may also want to prepare for Lent Madness 2016 by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.

Now, on to the most important vote of the week and a brief foretaste of the Madness that is to come!

2-march-chad-bishop-of-lichfieldChad of Lichfield

Chad (634-672), a native of Northumbria, was one of four brothers who lived lives in service of the Church. Chad’s eldest brother, Cedd, was Abbot of a large monastery at Lastingham. Upon his brother’s death in 664, the abbacy passed to Chad. The Venerable Bede recounts that Chad was “a holy man, modest in his ways, learned in the Scriptures, and zealous in carrying out their teaching.”

Around the time he became Abbot of Lastingham, the Bishop of Northumbria died, setting in play a strange series of events in which Chad would ultimately become intricately involved. Oswiu, the King of Northumbria, chose Wilfrid, a Northumbrian noble, to become Bishop. However, due to an outbreak of the plague in England, Wilfrid found himself unable to find the three bishops necessary to ordain him; undeterred, he sailed for France to seek ordination.

Bede notes that during Wilfrid’s absence, the King of Northumbria became impatient with the vacancy and decided to take further action. Impressed by Chad’s holiness, the King appointed him to take Wilfrid’s place as Bishop of Northumbria. Chad encountered the same problems in tracking down bishops as Wilfrid did; ultimately, he traveled to Wessex, where he was irregularly ordained bishop by two British and one Welsh bishop – none of whom were recognized by Rome. Bede recounts that Chad diligently set himself to the work of administering his see.

By the time Wilfrid returned from France, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus, denied the legitimacy of Chad’s appointment, and announced his intention to install Wilfrid to Chad’s see. Theodore instructed Chad to step down from his position as Bishop of Northumbria. In an act of profound humility and obedience, Chad did so without hesitation or reserve, and he returned to his abbacy at Lastingham.

Later that same year, the King of Mercia requested a Bishop. Remembering Chad’s example of humility and holiness, Archbishop Theodore recalled Chad from his retirement to Lastingham, and had him re-ordained as a bishop. Chad’s humility was most acutely seen when he refused to use a horse to travel his diocese, preferring to follow the example of the apostles by walking.

Chad ran his new diocese as diligently as he had administered his former one, establishing a Monastery at Barrow. Two and a half years after his re-ordination, Chad succumbed to the plague in 672. Bede recounts that Chad was “mindful to his end of all that the Lord did.”

saint-clare-of-assisi-01Clare of Assisi

Clare (1194-1253) was born to a wealthy family in Assisi and as a teenager heard a moving sermon by Saint Francis (of Lent Madness 2016 Golden Halo fame).

Much to the chagrin of her family, at the age of 18 she decided to take a vow of poverty and follow a Franciscan lifestyle. Her family brought her back by force but she slipped out again and entered a nearby convent of Benedictine sisters. Soon enough Francis gave her and several other nuns both a rule of life and a dwelling built next to the church in San Damiano. They became known as the “Poor Ladies of San Damiano,” living a life of poverty, prayer, and seclusion. In time, two of her sisters, her widowed mother, and several close friends also joined the order.

These female Franciscans came to be known as Poor Clares and Francis himself named Clare the Superior. The Poor Clares devoted themselves to prayer and caring for the sick, needy, and marginalized. They also lived a life of extreme poverty — beyond what other female orders had ever experienced. They lived a life of complete poverty individually and collectively; they had no beds beyond piles of twigs, they engaged in hard labor, and begged for whatever food they ate.

Clare stood up to various ecclesiastical authorities seeking to impose a less severe rule upon her order. Her strength of conviction defied the norms of female religious orders in the same way Francis faced criticism for his strict and passionate observe of his own faith.

Clare and Francis have been linked by their friendship and dedication to the Gospel of Christ. During her lifetime some even referred to her as alter Franciscus, or “another Francis.” Clare tended to Francis during his old age and considered him always her spiritual father.

Clare died in 1253 at the age of 59 and her remains are kept in the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi. Ten years after her death the order she led became known as the Order of Saint Clare.

Vote!

Chad of Lichfield vs. Clare of Assisi

  • Clare of Assisi (63%, 862 Votes)
  • Chad of Lichfield (37%, 510 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,372

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A Solemn Proclamation from the SEC

A Solemn Proclamation from the Supreme Executive Committee of Lent Madness

Lent CrierBe it known to all unto whom these present letters may come, that the Episcopal Church is preparing to gather in its General Convention, said Convention to be held in Salt Lake City and in the Diocese of Utah in the Beehive State; and

Whereas, It would be madness if no one lent the Convention a bit of holy humor and saintly piety; and

Whereas, The Supreme Executive Committee has taken unto itself to improve and saintify the General Convention; now therefore be it

Resolved, That Thursday, June 25, 2015 is hereby declared as Lent Madness Day; and be it further

Resolved, That Francis of Assisi, or a life-size cardboard image thereof, shall be present for those who wish to have their photographs taken or portraits painted with the winner of the Golden Halo in Lent Madness 2015; and be it further

Resolved, That a play-in match for Lent Madness 2016 shall be held on this day, allowing General Convention guests, bishops, and deputies the opportunity to cast the most important vote of the entire Convention; and be it further

Resolved, That the entire Supreme Executive Committee shall be present at the Forward Movement booth of the exhibit hall to offer autographs of the aforementioned Supreme Executive Committee.

Given under our hand, seal, and smirk on this day, the eighteenth day of June in the two thousand and fifteenth year of our Lord’s grace and in the fourth year of our reign over the Saintly Smackdown.

Accepting Nominations!

nominations-openNominations for next year’s field of 32 saints are now being accepted by the Supreme Executive Committee. Yes, for the next week we invite you to revel in the joyful, anticipatory Season of Nominationtide.

But before we get to the main attraction, we encourage you to visit the Lentorium. You can prove your love for Lent Madness by loading up on Lent Madness merchandise, including the ubiquitous Lent Madness mug featuring 2015 Golden Halo winner Francis of Assisi, the novel pint glass featuring Silver Halo winner Brigid of Kildare, or the de rigeur purple Lent Madness t-shirt.

And now, on to the main event: the call for nominations for Lent Madness 2016!

As always, we seek to put together a balanced bracket of saints ancient and modern, Biblical and ecclesiastical representing the breadth and diversity of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Inevitably, some will disagree with certain match-ups or be disappointed that their favorite saint didn’t end up in the official bracket. If you find yourself muttering invective against the SEC, we implore you to take a deep cleansing breath. Remember, there’s always Lent Madness 2034.

While the SEC remains responsible for the formation of the final bracket, we encourage your participation in the nominating process. As in past years, we might even listen to some of your suggestions.

As you discern saints to nominate, please keep in mind that a number of saints are ineligible for next year’s “saintly smack down.” This includes previous Golden Halo winners, the entire field of Lent Madness 2015, those saints who made it to the Round of the Elate Eight in 2014 and 2013, and those from the 2012 Faithful Four. Here is a comprehensive list of ineligible saints. Please keep this in mind as you submit your nominations — which you can do ONLY by leaving a comment on this post. Did we mention that the only way to make a nomination for Lent Madness 2016 is to leave a comment on this post?

Also, please note that the saints you nominate should be in the sanctoral calendar of one or more churches. We’re open minded. To a point.

Remember that when it comes to saints in Lent Madness, many are called yet few are chosen (by the SEC). So leave a comment below with your (eligible) nomination!

Past Golden Halo Winners (ineligible)
George Herbert, C.S. Lewis, Mary Magdalene, Frances Perkins, Charles Wesley, Francis of Assisi

The Field from 2015 (all ineligible)
Gregory the Illuminator 
Brendan the Navigator
John Keble
Thecla
Francis of Assisi
John Wycliffe
Balthazar
Cecilia
Bernard Mizecki
Margaret of Antioch
Margery Kempe
Jackson Kemper
Bede
Cuthbert
Molly Brant
Swithun
Hadewijch
Juan Diego
Dorcas
Frederick Douglass
Egeria
Hildegard
Barbara
Thomas Ken
Dionysius the Great
Irene the Great
Brigid of Kildare
Elizabeth
William Laud
Kamehameha
Teresa of Avila
David Oakerhater

From 2012 — 2014 (ineligible)
Basil the Great
Lydia
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Bedell
Anna Cooper
Phillips Brooks
Julia Chester Emery
Jonathan Daniels
Hilda of Whitby
Luke
Dorothy Day
Li-Tim Oi
Oscar Romero
Emma of Hawaii
Margaret of Scotland
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

After a mysterious process of bracket discernment at the upcoming SEC Retreat, the 2016 Bracket will be released on All Brackets Day, November 3, 2015. You have until Ascension Thursday, May 14, to make your nomination. In other words, your time is up when Jesus goes up.

For now, we wish you a joyous Nominationtide.

 

Update:
Thanks for your nominations! Nominations for Lent Madness 2016 are now closed. But stay tuned – All Brackets Day, and the grand unveiling of next year’s bracket –  is November 3.

Nominationtide draws nigh

Mere days from now, the Supreme Executive Committee will begin accepting saintly nominations for Lent Madness 2016 during the holy season of Nominationtide. This sacred time of the year will commence at 8:00 am this Thursday, May 7, and run for a full week, concluding on the Feast of the Ascension, May 14.

While the process for precisely how the Lent Madness bracket is formulated is one of the great sacred mysteries of the faith, know that the SEC does indeed occasionally heed the cry of the Lent Madness faithful. Thus while maintaining supremacy in all things, there is a tiny window into which Lenten democracy flows. But don’t get used to it.

As you fast in preparation for Nominationtide we offer you a glimpse into the mind of the SEC with this classic Monday Madness video explaining the bracket formation process. Let’s just say that ferrets are involved.

Monday Madness — April 6, 2015

Monday MadnessAs we get started in the Great Fifty Days of the Easter season, most of us are still basking in the glow of Lent Madness 2015, with its epic final battle between two worthies, Francis of Assisi vs. Brigid of Kildare. Francis earned his golden halo, and in today’s episode of Monday Madness, Tim and Scott talk about the first-ever silver halo awarded to Brigid. That’s not all. They talk about some exciting new items for the Lentorium, especially Francis of Assisi mugs and Brigid of Kildare pint glasses. (Order your Brigid pint glass now at the special pre-order price of just eleven bucks and enjoy 16 ounces of beer, root beer, or your beverage of choice.)

Last but not least, tune in for details of how you’ll be able to nominate saints for the 2016 edition of Lent Madness, which starts in only 310 days. Oh, and you’ll notice Scott and Tim tout their favorite baseball teams, both of which won today on Major League Baseball’s opening day.

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Congratulations to 2015 Golden Halo Winner — Francis of Assisi

Francis GH

The Lent Madness Supreme Executive Committee congratulates Francis of Assisi on his victory in Lent Madness 2015. With over 8,200 votes cast, Francis and Brigid of Kildare staged an epic neck-and-neck race throughout the day, fueling saintly passions across the globe. The SEC has certified the election (after having to zap some votes from several over-voters). In the end, rest assured that the result was close but clean.

To honor this achievement we have taken the liberty of rewriting his famous Canticle of the Sun. We suggest this be used in every Easter Day liturgy — either in the context of the sermon or as a communion anthem.

Canticle of the Sun
(Golden Halo Edition)

Most high, all powerful, all good SEC!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
To you, alone, Tim and Scott, do they belong.
With a few Celebrity Bloggers thrown in.
Since we don’t pay them much. Mostly free mugs.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your voters,
especially through my Brother Oliver,
who once was seven but now is eight.
His voting touch has been a thing of beauty!

Be praised, my SEC, through Sister Brigid;
in the heavens you have made her bright, precious, and beautiful.
Though not victorious. I might add.
Oh, she of the “Silver” Halo.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Facebook and Twitter,
through which you give your creatures sustenance
and a venue for holy trash talking.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Bracket;
the large poster-sized one that is useful and understated
and holds the place of honor in every church parish hall.

Be praised, my SEC, through Brother Kitsch,
through whom you brighten the night
with glow in the dark statues of the Virgin Mary,
who, by the way, will never be put in the bracket.

Be praised, my SEC, through Sister Golden Halo,
who shines brightly and emits such a blinding aura
that we are unworthy to look her way
for by you, SEC, with the help of the Lent Madness voting public
does she crown the head of victory.

Praise and bless the SEC, and give thanks,
for they serve with such unsurpassed humility.

But wait, there’s more!

Francis GH mugCommemorate this great moment in church history by purchasing your very own Francis of Assisi mug. It features Francis with the words “2015 Golden Halo Winner” and “Lent Madness.” This is the perfect gift for every Lent Madness voter, every saint lover…or really anyone who drinks liquid in any form. For that matter, you can always use this mug as a birdbath. The Francis of Assisi Golden Halo Winner Lent Madness 2015 mug is white ceramic, ready to hold 11 ounces of your favorite beverage or something for the birds. Pre-order yours now for just $11. Buy five or more for just $9 each. They’ll ship soon! Buy now!

BRIGID FANS: Your pleas have been heard by the SEC. Due to the exceedingly close nature Brigid glass_webof the competition for the Golden Halo, we are awarding the first ever Silver Halo to Brigid of Kildare. Stay tuned for your chance to own a Lent Madness Brigid-inspired pint glass. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter accounts, because we’ll announce when the Brigid pint glass is available in the Lentorium. It should be sometime in the next few days.

For now, have yourself a blessed Holy Week and joyful Easter. You’ve earned it!

 

For the Golden Halo: Francis of Assisi vs. Brigid of Kildare

Charles Wesley

2014 Golden Halo Winner Charles Wesley prepares to welcome this year’s saintly champion.

We embarked upon this Lent Madness journey over five weeks ago on “Ash Thursday.” With your help we have whittled the field of 32 saints down to two: Francis of Assisi and Brigid of Kildare. Who will win the coveted Golden Halo of Lent Madness 2015? Only 24 hours and your voting participation will reveal this holy mystery.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome, we’ve met some truly remarkable saintly folks along the way. Perhaps you learned about some saints you’d never heard of or maybe you renewed acquaintances with saints who have long offered inspiration. Of course the entire notion of placing saints in a bracket is absurd — each “contestant” has already earned a crown of righteousness in addition to a “golden halo.” But at the heart of Lent Madness is the abiding conviction that encountering those who have come before us in the faith enriches and enlivens our own walk with the risen Christ.

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Brigid of Kildare vs. Egeria

Well, one thing is for sure in this round. Celebrity Blogger extraordinaire Megan Castellan will have a saint vying for the Golden Halo tomorrow. Yes, Megan is advocating for both Brigid of Kildare and Egeria, as she has throughout Lent Madness 2015. The real mystery is how she will trash talk herself!

The winner of today’s battle will face Francis of Assisi for the Golden Halo tomorrow on Spy Wednesday. Francis trounced Molly Brant, one of the true cinderallas of this year’s bracket, 71% to 29%.

To get to the Faithful Four, Brigid defeated Elizabeth, Dionysius the Great, and Kamehameha while Egeria beat Hildegard, Thomas Ken, and Frederick Douglass (click on the names of the vanquished foes to refresh your memory about the information shared about Brigid and Egeria in previous rounds).

Don’t forget to catch this week’s episode of the Emmy-winning (fine, we were robbed — again) Monday Madness. Tim and Scott offer Oliver, everybody’s favorite seven-now-eight-year-old Lent Madness oracle, official birthday greetings and share news of great joy — how you can pre-order a mug featuring the to-be-determined 2015 Golden Halo winner.

Oh, and does voting for saints feel somehow at odds with the solemnity of Holy Week? Click to read Scott’s contribution to the blog of St. Luke in the Fields in New York City, in a post titled Lent Madness: Holy Competition in Holy Week? Spoiler Alert: He thinks it makes perfect sense.

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