Stephen vs. Augustine of Canterbury

And then there were eight. We started with 32 saints and 3/4 of them have been sent packing. Welcome, friends, to the Elate Eight.

Who remains? Well, after Amelia Bloomer made it past Fanny Crosby yesterday 59% to 41%, she will join Stephen, Augustine of Canterbury, Franz Jägerstätter, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Raymond Nonnatus, Martin Luther, and Florence Nightingale. One of these remaining eight will be awarded the coveted 2017 Golden Halo!

Things kick off with two heavyweights of the faith as Stephen takes on Augustine of Canterbury. Yes, it’s the Church’s Protomartyr vs. the Apostle to the English. To make it to this point Stephen defeated Alban and Henry Budd while Augustine took down Augustine of Hippo and Scholastica. Don’t forget to click the Bracket tab and scroll down to be reminded of what was written about these two in the earlier rounds.

The Elate Eight is also known as the round of Saintly Kitsch. After basic biographies, quirks and quotes, what else could there be? Now, there are always some folks who take offense to this approach — we call them Kitsch Kranks. Please remember that this round is not meant to belittle or demean our saintly heroes but to have some fun and gaze in wide wonder at the breadth of devotional practice. So kindly relax and enjoy the spirit of the Madness as we push ever onward toward our goal.

Finally, if you want to know more about, and see some examples of, saintly kitsch, tune in to this week’s episode of Monday Madness in which Tim and Scott reveal the Great Shema of Lent Madness (along with cameos by George T. Dog and 150 seventh grade boys from BC High in Boston).

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Monday Madness: Elate Eight Edition

Tim and Scott preview what’s coming with the Elate Eight, also known as the Round of the Saintly Kitsch. Some people, whom we call Kitsch Kranks, are unable to enjoy the humor of this round. For this reason, the Supreme Executive Committee has given the Lent Madness Shema, the two great rules of the Saintly Smackdown that we especially need to hear at this point in the competition.

Twitter celebrity George T. Dog (@georgetdog) makes a brief cameo, and viewers will be delighted to know he’s named after the first-ever Golden Halo winner, George Herbert, who claimed the crown in 2010. But that’s not the only cameo. Tim went on a field trip to Boston College High School, and the seventh-grade class from BC High take up an important role in this week’s action-packed episode.

If seeing selections from the SEC’s kitsch collection makes you envious, remember you can buy your own kitsch in the Lentorium.

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Amelia Bloomer vs. Fanny Crosby

Much to the relief of the entire Lent Madness global public, the Supreme Executive Committee has reconciled — temporarily — which means the Saintly Smackdown will proceed after Saturday’s all-t00-real April 1st scare. Yes, there WILL BE a 2017 Golden Halo winner.

So let’s get back to the holy business of saintly competition! Today, we continue with the final matchup of the Saintly Sixteen as Amelia Bloomer faces Fanny Crosby. To get to this round, Amelia dispatched Philipp Melanchthon while Fanny got the best of G.F. Handel. The winner will join seven other saintly souls to make up the Elate Eight. Who will Amelia or Fanny be joining? Just to refresh your memory, that would be Stephen, Augustine of Canterbury, Franz Jaggerstatter, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Raymond Nonnatus, Martin Luther, and Florence Nightingale. One of this group will, soon enough, be crowned in (extra special) glory.

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After the Madness: Grow Christians

On Sundays in Lent, we’ve been highlighting opportunities to follow Jesus in new ways. After all, you can’t yuck it up with the Saintly Smackdown forever. Today we’re talking about Grow Christians.

A couple of years ago, Scott (of SEC fame) and Nurya Love Parish rode to the airport together after a conference. They started talking and were lamenting how there weren’t great blogs around for Christian parenting that worked for Episcopalians and other mainline Protestants. Soon Nurya and Scott were plotting and scheming, and the result is Grow Christians.

Grow ChristiansGrow Christians aims to create an online community of discipleship focused on the practical details of life at home. Gathering reflections, stories, images and recipes from diverse folks, this group blog inspires generations to come together as they celebrate the presence of God through the Christian year.

Grow Christians started as a pilot project for Lent 2016, a partnership between Forward Movement and Plainsong Farm. Today Grow Christians is operated by Forward Movement, and Nurya serves as editor and visionary-in-residence.

Several times each week, Grow Christians publishes on topics related to faith at home. Lent Madness fans will be especially interested in articles about how to celebrate the saints’ days at home. But there are also article on raising kids in the Christian faith or talking about difficult subjects. You’ll find great writing, ranging from poignant to prophetic, from humorous to handy.

Visit Grow Christians (www.growchristians.org), where you can sign up to receive emails whenever there’s a new post. You can also find Grow Christians on Facebook. You might like to know that Grow Christians sometimes gives stuff away, and there’s a giveaway running right now. You could get a bunch of great kids’ books for free! Find the details on how to enter over at Grow Christians.

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Lent Madness is Canceled

Lent Madness Canceled

Lent Madness has been canceled, effective immediately. Even though fans will be disappointed, tensions grew too great within the Supreme Executive Committee. Known widely as archnemeses, it turned out that Tim and Scott just couldn’t put aside their bitterness long enough to complete the season.

Expect legal action between them over the name Supreme Executive Committee. For now, Tim has formed a one-man Supreme Executive Council. He is planning to use connections to establish headquarters at 1 First Street NE,
Washington, DC
, a facility that knows how to cater to supremes. Meanwhile, Scott is setting up the Supreme Executive Commission. He’s going to take up residence in Avignon, within a palace that knows a thing or two about hosting supremes (or anti-supremes).

Newly unemployed Celebrity Bloggers will face a cruel return to the world of mere mortals, absent the crush of autograph-seeking bracketologists. Distinguished Celebrity Bloggers Laurie Brock, Megan Castellan, and David Sibley issued a joint statement on hearing the news, saying, “Now we know the true meaning of that ancient proverb, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. We wish Tim and Scott had never named us Distinguished.” It’s expected that a collection will be taken up for a therapy fund for bracket czar Adam Thomas, who won’t know what to do each morning of Lent without the onerous burden of posting each day’s results and updated bracket.

A passer-by in Hingham overheard Tim muttering to himself, “I knew Scott might not ever forgive me for shutting him out of the Toledo Blade in 2012 but I didn’t think it would come to this.” Meanwhile Scott was seen writing and then deleting the same Tweet over and over again without posting it, “Jesus said take up your cross and follow me, not take up your JERK and follow me. So long, @FatherTim.” Go ahead and follow Scott and Tim on Twitter for what promises to be an epic Tweet-storm.

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Sarah vs. Franz Jägerstätter

In yet ANOTHER close battle in this historic week of Lent Madness thrill-a-minute action, Martin Luther finally put away the feisty Joseph Schereschewsky with a late surge 52% to 48%.

Today it’s an intriguing battle between two saints: one ancient, one modern. In fact, Sarah is the most ancient saint ever to make an appearance in Lent Madness while Jägerstätter is about as modern as we get. If nothing else you, valued Lent Madness voter, have a clear choice. The choice itself may not be clear, of course, without some serious discernment, but Sarah and Franz represent quite distinct eras in the realm of faith. To get to this round, Sarah narrowly defeated Elizabeth Ann Seton and Franz upset Joan of Arc.

This is both the penultimate battle of the Saintly Sixteen AND the last matchup of the week. We’ll take a deep cleansing breath over the weekend and be right back to it first thing Monday morning with Amelia Bloomer facing Fanny Crosby. Lent Madness rolls on!

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Joseph Schereschewsky vs. Martin Luther

Whew! So far, this has been a week of close battles unparalleled in Lent Madness history. On Monday Mechtild of Magdeburg defeated Odo of Cluny 52% to 48%. On Tuesday Raymond Nonnatus bested Moses the Black 51% to 49%. And yesterday Augustine of Canterbury snuck past Scholastica 51% to 49%.

This heart-pumping saintly action is enough to make you want to do some yoga. Or deep breathing exercises. Or drink some chamomile tea. Something calming! But instead, the battles just keep coming. Today it’s the scrappy Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky taking on the heavyweight Martin Luther. Is an upset in the making? Another tight race? Or will a blowout break the string of hotly contested, halo-busting battles?

Note that yesterday’s battle was not without controversy. The following was posted by the Supreme Executive Committee:

The SEC noticed an irregular surge of votes for Scholastica around midnight. Well over 6,000 votes were found to be cast irregularly in an attack using bots around the world. We have removed what we believe to be the correct amount of votes, and will continue to monitor this race. One person, one vote. If you break this rule, your votes will be removed and you will be cast off into the outer darkness of Lent Madness.

We are confident in the final result. But remember, Big Lent is watching.

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Augustine of Canterbury vs. Scholastica

Tightly contested race yesterday! But with a late charge, Raymond Nonnatus took down Moses the Black 51% to 49% (the SEC has certified the election). With this victory, exactly half the Elate Eight is set. Joining Raymond will be Stephen, Florence Nightingale, and Mechtild of Magdeburg. But that means there are still four spots up for grabs!

Today, Augustine of Canterbury faces Scholastica for the fifth spot in the subsequent round. To get here, Augustine defeated his namesake from Hippo (you do recall the Battle of the Augustines, right?) and Scholastica bested Macrina the Younger.

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Spread the Madness and Share Some Jesus

Lent Madness regulars will know that the Saintly Smackdown is sponsored by Forward Movement. Since 1935, Forward Movement has been inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists through print publications, conferences, and now digital resources. If you’re an Episcopalian, you’ve probably heard of Forward Day by Day, our flagship daily devotional read in print by over 500,000 people each day around the globe. If you’re not an Episcopalian, you’ll still find lots of what Forward Movement does of great use, including resources to encourage scripture engagement (you know…Bible reading) and daily prayer (talking to Jesus about why your saint isn’t in the next round, etc.).

While Tim and Scott are constantly hawking wares from the Lentorium, we’re glad that Lent Madness is free—just like grace—for anyone who wants to play. It’s part of Forward Movement’s ministry and mission to find new and innovative – and sometimes fun! – ways to draw people into a transformed life as a follower of Jesus. Continuing to offer Lent Madness—and a vast array of formation and meditation resources free of charge is paramount to us. And you can help us do that.

Free Forward Day by Day

The Rev. Kempton Baldridge distributes Forward Day by Day on a river towboat crew. Photo: Gregory Thorp.

Every year, Forward Movement gifts more than 100,000 items of literature to prisoners, hospital patients, nursing home residents, and military personnel—free of charge. Thanks to support from a grant from the Constable Fund of the Episcopal Church, Forward Movement is able to offer excellent Christian formation materials to congregations free of charge, though even this effort involved a considerable investment—stuff’s gotta get written, edited, proofed, printed, shipped, and arrive in your hands to be actual stuff. Resources in Spanish for growing Latino/Hispanic communities take some time to become self-sustaining, so these resources require donor support to help get them off the ground and into hands and hearts. Grow ChristiansOur latest free offering is Grow Christians, a community of disciples practicing faith at home.

If you love Lent Madness—and we’ve heard from so many that you do—we hope you will consider making a generous gift to Forward Movement. Offer it in honor of your favorite saint if you like. If you want our church to be enriched by low-cost or free resources, please consider making a generous gift. Every gift given to the glory of God and for the support of all the saints, known and unknown, helps more than we could ask or imagine.

You can make your gift online or by phone (during business hours, 800-543-1813). Thank you for playing, and thank you for your support.

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Moses the Black vs. Raymond Nonnatus

Today the Saintly Sixteen continues as Moses the Black faces Raymond Nonnatus and legends abound! These two fascinating souls have much to teach us about non-violence, passing judgment, and idle gossip. Yet only one will make it to the next round.

To make it this far, both saints vanquished Johns as Raymond routed John of Nepomuk while Moses took it to John Wycliffe. Is this tidbit a harbinger of saintly things to come? Probably not.

Yesterday, Mechtild of Magdeburg secured her place in the Elate Eight 52% to 48% by holding off a late charge by Odo of Cluny.

In case you missed yesterday’s episode of Monday Madness, in which Tim and Scott offer a rare glimpse behind the SEC’s purple curtain, you can watch it here.

And finally, Episcopal News Service scored a journalistic coup by gaining an exclusive interview with both members of the SEC. Read the Q & A under the title Lent Madness Duo Shines Competitive Spotlight On Saints’ Inspiring Stories. And thanks to you all for being a part of the ever-unfolding Madness this year!

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