Phillips Brooks vs. Julia Chester Emery

The second match-up of the Elate Eight pits a renowned preacher and bishop against a tireless lay woman. Both were spiritual giants, although at six foot six and nearly 300 pounds, Brooks was also a physical giant.

To get to this point, Phillips Brooks defeated Simeon and Catherine of Siena while Julia Chester Emery was victorious over Charles Henry Brent and F.D. Maurice. Don’t forget you can see all the previous match-ups to refresh your memory about the contestants by going to the bracket page and scrolling down.

Yesterday saw Lydia sneak past Basil the Great in another squeaker 51% to 49%. Yowza! Fortunately there was no great scandal with this battle as there was in the Charles Wesley/Thomas Merton match-up. To put everyone at ease, please know the Supreme Executive Committee keeps Jimmy Carter on retainer as an impartial election observer. Also, one member of the SEC used to work for IBM so BIG FATHER is always watching.

Maple Anglican has released his daily Archbishops’ Update featuring everyone’s favorite Lent Madness colour commentators. which you can watch here. And we’re getting closer to our goal of 10,000 likes on Facebook before the Golden Halo as we’re now pushing 9,740. Spread the word!

unnamedPhillips Brooks

Phillips Brooks’ Trinity Church was the first Episcopal Church I ever entered. It was 1980, and The Empire Strikes Back had been released that summer (retain this important detail). I was on a college orientation trip to Boston with 400 other freshman, and one stop was Copley Square. Trinity Church beckoned and, as I stepped inside, the spectacular sacred space of Brooks’ imagination stunned me. Christian and Missionary Alliance churches didn’t look anything like this.

But enough of this reverie! Let’s get to the saintly kitsch!

unnamed

A cursory search for Phillips Brooks treasures on Zazzle turns up the usual pithy quote-bedecked beer stein and travel mug, both a whopping $29.95, and sporting a particularly Victorian-sounding epigram: “Jesus Christ, the condescension of divinity, and the exaltation of humanity.”

The young children in your life might like this O Little Town of Bethlehem stocking stuffer pop-up book on Amazon.A visit to the web store of the Phillips Brooks Elementary School in Menlo Park, California, turns up the requisite long-sleeved t-shirt for only$29.99.

unnamedBut where are the items of devotion for a man whom Peter Gomes described as the most famous American preacher since Cotton Mather? Where are the commemorative goods for the first American minister to be invited to preach at Westminster Abbey? The man who had 15,000 Bostonians turn up for his funeral.

Where, where you ask? The answer, in a word, is Ebay.

My first find is this rather spectacular lithograph with a quote from one of Brooks’ sermons can now be  yours for $89.99 OBO. “O, do not pray for easy lives! Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks!” it begins.

That first search led to dozens, nay, tens of dozens of vintage Brooks books and memorabilia. For just $3.00 youunnamed can own a lovely volume from 1908 titled, Jewels of Phillips Brooks. It contains color plates and pithy quotes from his sermons and is way better (and cheaper) than a coffee mug.

unnamedThere is even a Phillips Brooks precursor to Forward Day by Day published shortly before his death, a “yearbook” that offers “day by day guidance to live a meaningful life, for yourself and for others.”

One of the most remarkable finds is this 1953 wall calendar that commemorates Phillips Brooks. 1953! Such was the appeal of his preaching and wisdom and the longevity of his reputation that 60 years after his death people were still buying calendars upon which to note their dentist appointments. You can own this “used not abused” calendar for a mere $12.99 plus $3.00 for shipping.unnamed

unnamedBut now we must return to Copley Square in 1980. Somehow upon entering the church I missed the famous statue of Brooks by the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens that was installed in 1910. Saint-Gaudiens had intended to place a stylized angelic figure behind Brooks. But, alas, he died in 1907 before it was completed. However, a group of artists decided a depiction of Jesus would be better. Unfortunately they designed the creepiest Jesus ever cast in bronze, whom I would have immediately identified, having seen The Empire Strikes Back three times that summer, as Emperor Palpatine.

Here’s what I believe: The real and loving Jesus steered me clear of the creepy statue-Jesus and led me into unnamedTrinity Church, because having seen it first, I would have turned around and gone to get a coffee at the old Harvard Book Store Cafe on Newbury Street. Instead I entered and the beauty and peace of that sacred space lodged itself in my heart and opened a door for a new way of thinking about the mystery of God.

Thank you, Phillips Brooks. Without your life and witness and your perseverance in building that stunning church, I might have turned out to be a CMA missionary in some remote, buggy place with spotty Internet and poisonous snakes.

 Heidi Shott

 

Julia Chester Emery

unnamedAlthough her influence in the Episcopal church was far-reaching (remember how as national secretary of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Board of Missions for the Episcopal Church from 1876 to 1916 she visited EVERY DIOCESE and set up more than 5,600 chapters of what is now the Episcopal Church Women (ECW)? How she visited missions all over the Far East as well? And how she championed the canonical office of deaconess? And how she created the United Thank Offering (UTO)?), Julia Chester Emery’s actual likeness appears on … basically nothing. As Forward Movement notes: “She was a modest and self-effacing Victorian lady who was so careful to stay out of the limelight …”

unnamedStill, as such a major figure in the church and in the world through her encouragement and support of missionaries (we know that she was a major inspiration for all sorts of wonderful things. For instance, look at all these Julia dolls! Clearly she is the model for the cute baby, the adorable toddler wearing Crocs, AND the demure teen. Clearly she is the model for the “My Friend Julia” machine washable doll!

 

unnamedunnamed(OK, and this last doll is actually inspired by Christina the Astonishing, who, sadly, did not survive the first round even though lots of people wanted to see what sort of kitsch she inspired, so here you go.)unnamed

She also clearly inspired the trucking industry! How many people can say that?

unnamedAlso, check out this toast rack in the “Julia” pattern from Royal Winton china. Perfect for holding your Virgin Mary and/or Jesus toast. (There are salt and pepper shakers, teapots, and other lovelies in the Julia pattern, too.)

Naturally, Julia also inspired such important and useful items as key chains. See?unnamed

_DSC8634Now, all of these other Julia-inspired items are available for purchase, somewhere. (Well, maybe not the truck.) However, there’s another Julia item that is unique and priceless, and I own it. It’s almost like a relic. This is a raku pottery UTO box (circa 2000) made by my son when he was in elementary school.

So vote for Julia and send her to the round of the Faithful Four!

Penny Nash

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Phillips Brooks vs Julia Chester Emery

  • Phillips Brooks (51%, 2,281 Votes)
  • Julia Chester Emery (49%, 2,203 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,483

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Of Winners and Losers

Winners and LosersAfter a very close vote on Thomas Merton vs. Charles Wesley, the Supreme Executive Committee carefully reviewed all the votes. We are sorry to say that we found two instances of voter cheating, both attempting to support Merton. A voter in Springfield, Missouri, voted 21 times for Merton, while a voter in Colorado Springs, Colorado, voted 34 times for Merton. Those two users have been banned, and we have removed 55 votes from Merton. This means Charles Wesley received more legitimate votes than Thomas Merton, so Wesley is hereby declared the winner. People who cheat are hereby declared losers.

Please note, in Lent Madness, we encourage you to do whatever you can to get out the vote. Send mass emails to everyone in your diocese, rent a blimp, buy television ads, canvass your neighbors, or do something more conventional like tell your Facebook friends to vote for your candidate. But we frown on persons who vote more than once. Don’t do it.

Also, please note, we are carefully watching some voters from Seattle, WA; Stow, OH; and Oregon, OH. You’ve been warned. Don’t risk being cast into the outer darkness of Lent Madness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So, rest assured that Big Fathers are watching. Lent Madness will be decided in free and fair elections.

For now, we encourage you to vote (once only) in today’s match-up between Lydia and Basil the Great.

Basil the Great vs. Lydia

It’s a big day in Lent Madness 2014 as, after a long and winding road, we have made it to the Round of the Elate Eight. The original field of 32 saints has been narrowed to eight. The light at the end of the Golden Halo is slowly emerging and by the end of the week we’ll be down to the Faithful Four.

Yesterday we wrapped up the Saintly Sixteen in a tight race that Lent Madness bracketologists say will go down in history as the closest battle ever.

NOTE: We closed the poll at 8:00 am. Once the Supreme Executive Committee has certified the results, we will announce the winner later this morning — either Charles Wesley or Thomas Merton. In the interest of fairness and the love of Jesus, we will make sure this is a clean election before proceeding.

We begin this round with Basil the Great vs. Lydia. Basil made it this far by defeating Christina the Astonishing and Antony of Egypt. Lydia advanced by besting Moses the Black ad John of the Cross. The other match-ups of this round are Phillips Brooks vs. Julia Chester Emery, Harriet Bedell vs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Anna Cooper vs. Thomas Merton or Charles Wesley.

The Elate Eight is also known as the Saintly Kitsch round. After basic biographies, quotes and quirks, what else could there be? There are always some folks who take offense to this approach — we call them Kitsch Kranks and have written about this phenomenon in years past. This is not 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 to our goal.

After a one week hiatus due to Lent Madness missionary journeys, Tim and Scott returned with their latest Monday Madness video. And Archbishops John and Tom, fresh off their national television debut, offer their Daily Update as they preview today’s contest and answer viewer mail. There are just so many ways to immerse yourself in the Madness!

BasilshirtBasil the Great

Basil the Great: Cappadocian Father; opposer of not one but two heresies; advocate for the Nicene Creed (or what would eventually become the Creed); sibling to saints; founder of communal monasticism, composer of prayers, Doctor of the Church; revealer of Heavenly Mysteries; advocate of the poor and needy; and generally all-around nice guy.

Basilmedal

Yes, that Basil.

Because of his work to reform (or change…but isn’t “reform” a much snazzier word?) the Church, heis the patron saint of reformers, monastics, and Russia (where the venerated St. Basil’s Cathedral resides, but more on that later).

So, if you’re thinking about suggesting that the way we’ve always done things may not be the best way or if you want to nail a few theses on a church door, you may want to wear this lovely medal as a reminder that the spirit of Basil is with you. This and body armor may protect you. May…

Arianism, the heresy that Jesus was begotten of God, not eternal with God, was a big controversy in Basil’s day. Legend says that Arian and his supporters had this cheer used at the Council of Nicaea: “If you want the logos doctrine I can serve it cold or hot: God begot him, but before he was begotten he was not!”

Should you find yourself in a dispute with heretical Christians about the true nature of Christ, you can simply wear this shirt as you recite the Nicene Creed, even if they do have a better cheer.

StBasilsMoscow’s Red Square, one of the most stunning buildings is the Cathedral of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, aka the Cathedral of St. Vasily the Blessed aka St. Basil’s Cathedral. Over 450 years old ago, Ivan the Terrible ordered the Cathedral constructed. The design was so original, legend has it that Ivan blinded the architect so he couldn’t re-create another like it (apparently that Terrible moniker wasn’t for show).

The Russian Basil is not Basil the Great, but rather Basil, the Fool for unnamedChrist who shoplifted and gave to the poor. But since it’s a rather uncommon name for a saint and a stunning Cathedral (now officially a museum), take a look.

And, since you can’t take the Cathedral home with you, there’s a nifty wall decal you can put in your foyer to impress family and visitors.

MousedetectiveShould you be victim of a dastardly deed in Victorian England…and be a mouse, you can always call on Basil the Great Mouse Detective. He catches criminal, solves hijinks, and plays the violin and chess. No information could be found on his particular viewpoint on Arianism, but given his moniker, we will believe he could recite the Nicene Creed with gusto in a crisp British accent. His story is available in the Basil of Baker Street books by Eve Titus or in film in The Great Mouse Detective by Disney.  He is not, alas, included in the Lent Madness Book of Saints.

Basil is from the Greek βασιλεύς basileus, meaning “king.” Basil’s parents had high expectations whenBasilplant they named their son, expectations he lived up to. Basil is well-known outside Lent Madness circles as a popular herb, legal in all 50 states. There are over 160 varieties, and while its leaves are the most well-used part, its seeds are soaked into a gelatinous goo and added to certain drinks and desserts in Asian cuisine. Native to India for over 5,000 years, it was known and used in the ancient world for medicinal and culinary uses. Who knows, maybe Basil ate basil?

Laurie Brock

 

Lydia

unnamedLydia, while being your basic Patron Saint of Mystery when it comes to miracles, legends and basic life stories, nevertheless has inspired much devotional material the world over.

You can buy postcards of the church in Philippi where she was baptized, to gaze at adoringly, and tounnamed plan your next vacation. (Which will be Lent Madness themed, of course.)

You can also buy a necklace with a tasteful icon of Lydia on the front. On the back appears what looks like to me a snail shell motif, which just raises so many questions. Is it commenting on Lydia’s profession as a Milker of Snails? Is it seeking to reconcile her to the marine crustaceans at last? Make your own judgments here.

Speaking about marine crustaceans, are you curious about those snails that Lydia used for dye? Apparently, so is the rest of the world. This Italian restaurant in Toms River, New Jersey, formulated an appetizer using those very snails, and you, too, can make it at home, for the full Saint Lydia experience. (Provided, of course, you can find the snails somewhere, and you are a very good and well-trained chef.) No word on whether they turn your mouth purple.

unnamedNext, we have not one, but two, versions of Lydia as a doll for children. One is made of felt, and even comes complete with a tiny basket, filled with rolls of dyed purple fabric. 

unnamedThe other is a peg doll, suitable for even the tinest would-be church planters.

Buy them for your children and your grandchildren! Have them act out Lydia’s life: planting churches, assuming egalitarian leadership roles, and donating massive wealth to the struggling Christian community!

What better role model for the little ones than St. Lydia!

 

Megan Castellan

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Basil the Great vs. Lydia

  • Lydia (51%, 2,529 Votes)
  • Basil the Great (49%, 2,392 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,916

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Monday Madness — April 7, 2014

After a one-week hiatus from the World’s Most Beloved Priestly Duo Video Sensation, during which time the hashtag #WhereIsMondayMadness nearly swamped Twitter, Scott and Tim are back. This week’s episode features a look at the first and second missionary journeys of Lent Madness 2014, a preview of the Elate Eight (or Saintly Kitsch) round, a roundup of media coverage, as well as the back story on why Queen Elizabeth wore purple to meet Pope Francis.

Don’t forget to vote in today’s close battle. Visit LentMadnessTV for more high-quality video from the Archbishops and from the SEC.

Thomas Merton vs. Charles Wesley

In the last battle before the start of the highly anticipated Elate Eight (aka the Saintly Kitsch round), Thomas Merton takes on Charles Wesley. Poet vs. hymn writer. Both were brothers, of course — one a monastic brother (Trappist) and one an actual brother (to John Wesley). It’s the final match-up of the Saintly Sixteen!

In a quick media round-up, everyone’s favorite online Lenten devotion was featured last week on National Public Radio, Christianity Today, and even the Methodists got in on the action with a post on UMC.org, the official online ministry of the Methodist Church (something tells us they may be especially interested in today’s match-up). Also, Archbishops John and Thomas made their national television debut on Bloomberg TV.

What’s the secret behind all the Lent Madness love out there (besides the warm and fuzzy nature of the Supreme Executive Committee)? Forward Movement Managing Editor Richelle Thompson shares her take in an article titled “If At First You Don’t Succeed” on the Episcopal Church Foundation’s Vital Practices webpage (Hint: no high priced PR consultants were harmed in this process).

And if you’re looking to take the edge off Monday Morning, watch the Archbishops’ Update as they preview the Lent Madness week ahead.

Finally, we’re making progress in our campaign to reach 10,000 likes on Facebook before awarding the Golden Halo! We’re pushing 9,650 so make sure to share our page with everyone you know. We suggest pilfering the parish directory and sending handwritten notes to everybody urging them to like Lent Madness immediately.

unnamedThomas Merton

Thomas Merton is considered by many to be the voice of the contemplative tradition in the modern world. His books, over 30 of them, reinvigorated those interested in contemplative practice. Given his voluminous amount of writing, his quotes were more than plentiful.

The quirks, however, are what make his quotes matter. Perhaps the quirk was his life of self contradictions. An unhappy child and unsettled adolescent became an adult who, on a street corner in Kentucky, was overwhelmed with the realization he loved all these people, “that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.”

A man with an extravagant personality and celebrity also craved his own space, eventually granted, somewhat grudgingly, in The Hermitage. A deeply devout Trappist who described his order as one that “carried communism to its ultimate limit” also explored the truths in Eastern faith. A sometimes hermit shared his soul and spirit with millions through his words. A man who, in his later years, fell in love with a nurse, writing her love poetry, wrote love poetry to his monastic life, as well, and ultimately reaffirmed his life as a Trappist before his untimely death. Even that too held contradictions: the avid peace activist’s body was flown to Kentucky on a military plane.

Merton was a writer, a poet, an artist, a jazz aficionado, a dissident, a lover, a peace activist, a hermit, a celebrity, and a man — all held in union in his deeply contemplative soul. The illusion is that we are non-contradictory. To find our true selves, filled with beauty and contradictions and other-ness, we must enter into contemplation. For Merton, “We become contemplatives when God discovers Himself in us.”

Through contemplation, we seek truth. Merton writes, “We make ourselves real by telling the truth….But he can forget how badly he needs to tell the truth….We must be true inside, true to ourselves, before we can know a truth that is outside us.”

And that truth? That self that is beyond illusion, that welcomes our contradictions, our paradoxes and ambiguities? In that space is God.

The man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and yet recognizes that he may be the object of God’s love precisely because of his shortcomings, can be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God.

When all our shortcomings, our hypocrisies, our failings…when all that we’d rather not expose about ourselves is welcomed into contemplative union with God, we become part of the dance that is in the midst of us, “for it beats in our very blood whether we want it to or not.”

In the midst of Lent Madness, remember Merton’s call to cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join God’s dance.

Here is a video of a monk from Gethsemani praying one of Merton’s most famous prayers:

Laurie Brock

unnamedCharles Wesley

Charles Wesley (1707-1788), who with his brother John was among the chief leaders of the Methodist Revival within the Church of England, is especially quotable, having penned well over 6,000 hymns during his lifetime, in addition to a multitude of sermons a personal writings. Wesley knew well the power of hymns to convey theology to a wide audience.

One of Wesley’s great hymns was written on the anniversary of his inner conversion, which he described as “a strange palpitation of the heart.” The hymn spanned some eighteen verses, including some no longer in common use today, speaking to the theme of the assurance of salvation by the presence of the Holy Spirit:

O for a thousand tongues to sing, my great Redeemer’s praise
The glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace!

On this glad day the glorious Sun Of Righteousness arose;
On my benighted soul He shone, and fill’d it with repose.

Then with my heart I first believed, Believed with faith Divine;
Power with the Holy Ghost received, to call the Saviour mine.

Some of Wesley’s hymns weren’t as “worship-ready.” After his brother John appointed Thomas Coke as Superintendent for the Methodists in America – giving to Coke the responsibilities in America that would have belonged to a Bishop in the Church of England – Charles Wesley penned a sarcastic verse to express his sense of anger and betrayal:

So easily are Bishops made
By man’s or woman’s whim?
Wesley his hands on Coke hath laid,
But who laid hands on him?

But the vast majority of his hymns, however, remain firmly entrenched on our lips. As a man who often preached in the fields to people unable to reach a parish church, yet another text speaks to the heart of Charles Wesley’s ministry:

Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim,
And publish abroad His wonderful Name;
The Name all victorious of Jesus extol,
His kingdom is glorious and rules over all.

But it is one of his hymns written on the theme of Christian perfection that is perhaps the most beloved. The hymn is among the most fitting and most quotable summations of the theology and ministry of this incredible theologian, preacher, and author:

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish then thy new creation:
pure and spotless let us be
Let us see thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in thee
Changed from glory into glory
‘til in heaven we take our place
‘til we cast our crowns before thee, 
lost in wonder, love and praise!

David Sibley

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NOTE: The Supreme Executive Committee has adjusted vote totals based on some cheating we detected. See your announcement on this subject..

 

Thomas Merton vs. Charles Wesley

  • Charles Wesley (50%, 3,236 Votes)
  • Thomas Merton (50%, 3,185 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,421

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Chase Away the LMW Blues

Gripped by Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW) today? Wondering what to do, since you can’t check the voting tallies every two minutes? Trying to figure out how you’ll contain yourself until it’s time to vote on Monday? We’re here to help.

First, you might like to take advantage of some excellent resources from Forward Movement. With Holy Week around the corner, why not curl up with The Preaching of the Passion: The Seven Last Words from the Cross by the Rev. Peter J. Gomes? There are other resources for Holy Week and Eastertide as well.

Journey with MatthewWe’re also pleased to announce a great way to read yourself through Eastertide, A Journey With Matthew: The 50 Day Bible Challenge.

Take a journey through the Gospel of Matthew with fifty days of scripture readings, meditations, questions, and prayers. Twenty-five dynamic spiritual leaders and authors serve as guides, writing from around the world about the wisdom, lessons, and parables shared by Matthew, one of the great apostles and evangelists. A Journey with Matthew is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with scripture and an exploration of the Word of God.

Authors include: David Anderson, Frederick Borsch, Paul Butler, Bo Cox, Barbara Cawthorne Crafton, Michael Curry, Clifton Daniel, Mary Gray-Reeves, Scott Gunn, Daniel R. Heischman, Graham James, Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Bolly anak Lapok, Tracy Lind, Stephen Lyon, Ian S. Markham, Kate Moorehead, Barry Morgan, Riaz Mubarak, Sam Portaro, Jeremiah Sierra, Becca Stevens, Ray Suarez, Hillary T. West, and Marek P. Zabriskie.

There’s more, but it’s time to turn the floor over to our favorite deceased color commentators, Archbishops Thomas Cranmer and John Chrysostom. Enjoy!

Harriet Bedell vs. Thomas Gallaudet

Since they were both teachers, among other things, Harriet Bedell vs. Thomas Gallaudet can mean only one thing: Educational Armageddon! The winner of this penultimate (we just love saying that word) match-up of the Saintly Sixteen will square off against Harriet Beecher Stowe in the next round.

Yesterday Phillips Brooks defeated Catherine of Siena by a nose (head?) as preacher trumped mystic 53% to 47%. (okay, it wasn’t that close but when else besides, perhaps, John the Baptist’s feast day can we make references to disembodied skulls). He’ll go on to face Julia Chester Emery in the Elate Eight.

With the conclusion of today’s showdown the Round of the Elate Eight is nearly set. On Monday Thomas Merton takes on Charles Wesley for a crack at Anna Cooper. At this point, the others moving on are Basil the Great, Julia Chester Emery, Lydia, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Phillips Brooks, and Anna Cooper.

As we head into the weekend and yet another bout with LMW (Lent Madness Withdrawal) we leave you with a challenge. Help us get to 10,000 likes on Facebook before the 2014 Golden Halo is awarded. We’re over 9,500 at this point so it’s an attainable goal if we all pull together and compel people to like us during coffee hour, at the Peace, in the church parking lot, talking to strangers at IHOP, whatever. The Supreme Executive Committee likes big, fat round numbers.

unnamed

Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida

Harriet Bedell

Whether she was riding horseback in Oklahoma, mushing on dog sleds to remote villages in Alaska or poling through canals in the Florida Everglades (in her high-topped, snake-resistant boots), Deaconess Harriet Bedell, though tiny in stature, lived a super-sized life for God.

The Deaconess, as she is still known among Episcopalians in southwest Florida, never wavered in her faith or in her complete devotion to native people.

About her first post, among the Cheyenne people at the Whirlwind Mission in Oklahoma where she served with Deacon David Oakerhater (Lent Madness 2012 alum), she wrote:

We open school with Morning Prayer… I then take my twenty little ones to my house…which has this advantage, that I am ready to answer any immediate call which may come to the house. There is no doctor within twelve miles, so we have to act as doctors, and nurses, besides being lawyers, amanuenses, and spiritual advisors.

Her work in Alaska between 1916 and 1931, first in Nahana and then after a year in Stevens Village, was similar. Except with snow.

When the mission closed in Alaska, the Deaconess was sent to Florida to drum up funds for mission work. She was appalled at the living conditions of the Seminole people and how the people were put on display for tourists, wrestling alligators, and staging mock weddings. Apparently an appalled deaconess was a formidable deaconess, and, within a year, she was beginning the hard, patient work of winning the trust of the Seminole tribe.

She supported her new mission with the assistance from leaders of the Collier Corporation, a citrus concern that owned great swaths of the Everglades. One executive, George Huntoon, suffered the brunt of her “persistence.” He recalled, according Marya Repko’s her excellent 2009 book, Angel of the Swamp, “that she would come tromping up the stairs…to request help. In an attempt to avoid these confrontations, his secretary would say that he was not in while he snuck down the fire escape. It did not take long for the Deaconess to realize the ruse and meet him at the bottom of the steps.” Years later Huntoon observed, “When the Deaconess got after you for something. I found it was best to acquiesce and comply with her request because she would keep after you until you got it done for her.”

Margory Stoneman Douglas, a historian and of the Everglades, wrote of the Deaconess in 1947, “The deaconess, like a small steam engine in dark-blue petticoats, walks fast in and out of the trail camps, speaking to everybody by name, asking about sick babies, bringing some old man a mattress pad for his aching bones…taking somebody to the hospital, or getting work for the boys.”

According to Repko, someone once asked a Seminole man if he had known the Deaconess. He replied, “Yes, and I loved her.” Then he pointed to the heavens and said, “she knew God.”

Heidi Shott

unnamedThomas Gallaudet

One of the great things about Thomas Gallaudet is his amazing family. His grandfather, Peter Wallace Gallaudet, was the personal assistant to George Washington while the Presidency was in Philadelphia. His father, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, is considered by many to be the father of manual (i.e. sign-language based) Deaf Education in the U.S.

Gallaudet’s mother, Sophia Fowler, is a woman Gallaudet rightly held in high esteem. In a sermon, Gallaudet describes how his mother, who was deaf from birth, taught him sign language. “I learned this powerfully descriptive method of communicating ideas from my mother. I remember well how I watched her face and hands as she affectionately tried to train me in the right way.” Among other things, she taught him that deafness was not an impediment to intelligence or achievement, as she actively lobbied members of Congress to support the Columbia Institution for the Deaf (now Gallaudet University). Gallaudet’s youngest brother, Edward Miner Gallaudet, was Columbia’s president for 46 years.

Our Thomas Gallaudet was no slouch, mind you. It’s worth noting that, in a time when one could not receive communion without being confirmed, and one could not be confirmed without reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the sacraments were almost completely denied to those who could not speak. Gallaudet’s work in providing signed services made it possible, not only for the deaf to “hear” the service, but allowed them to be confirmed, receive communion, and become ordained.

“There is no reason, therefore,” Gallaudet preached, “why deaf-mute men, fitted to be admitted to priest’s orders, should not minister among their own kind in the language which makes prayer and praise common to those who have assembled (intelligently, notwithstanding their terrible deprivation) around the table of their Lord and Master, the Christian altar, and as they stretch forth their hands so eagerly and earnestly to receive the consecrated elements, and to spiritually feed on the Body and Blood of Christ, to know in their inmost souls the meaning of the encouraging word, ‘Ephphatha.’”

Gallaudet changed the hearts and minds of people in the Episcopal Church to believe that the deaf could and should, not only be welcomed, but lead and minister to others. That he did so while remaining beloved by all throughout his life is a testament to how he practiced what he preached: “In all works of practical benevolence, zeal must be combined with discretion, and earnestness must be controlled by judgment. And let us ever be ready to say in our hearts, that if this work, which is so dear to us, is not of God, let it not prosper, but let providential circumstances bring it to a speedy termination. This is looking at our labor with the eye of true Christian philosophy.”

P.S. Happy Deaf History Month!

Laura Darling

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Harriet Bedell vs. Thomas Gallaudet

  • Harriet Bedell (58%, 2,553 Votes)
  • Thomas Gallaudet (42%, 1,818 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,371

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Phillips Brooks vs. Catherine of Siena

Today’s match-up features two saintly souls with devilish potential for misspellings. Calling Phillips Brooks “Philip” is like calling Johns Hopkins “John” while spelling Catherine’s home of Siena with two “n’s” rather than one is like spelling Saint Monnica with one “n” rather than two. Wait, what? Anyway, there’s a lot of spelling on the line in today’s match-up.

Yesterday, besides hearing Lent Madness featured on NPR, Lydia sent John of the Cross to Dark Night of the Soul redux 58% to 42%. It was a bad day for snails but something tells us we’ll be hearing more about escargot during the Saintly Kitsch Round when Lydia faces Basil the Great.

unnamedPhillips Brooks

A dozen years ago Ellen Wilbur, a short story writer and member of Trinity Church, Copley Square in Boston, sought out Phillips Brooks’ sermons. A search yielded fragile, incomplete copies, some of which fell apart in her hands.

“I’d never read a book of sermons in my life, and now wanted to read nothing but Phillips Brooks. There was something wondrous about the loving voice with which he spoke and the utter faith which underlay and glorified all of his preaching,” Wilbur wrote in the preface to a collection of sermons she edited in 2003 titled The Consolations of God.

Peter Gomes, the late professor at Harvard Divinity School, wrote in the book’s foreword, “Even in print, and at the remove of a century, Brooks sounds well, which is no small thing when few sermons last beyond lunchtime.”

In one sermon Brooks inspired people to serve God whatever their station in life, not least, perhaps, his wealthy Back Bay parishioners.

Strike God’s iron on the anvil, see God’s goods across the counter, put God’s wealth in circulation, teach God’s children in the school— so shall the dust of your labor build itself into a little sanctuary where you and God may dwell together.

If you are not spiritually minded, do not wait for mysterious light and vision. Go and give up your dearest sin. Go and do what is right. Go and put yourself thoroughly into the power of the holiness of duty.

All the world is an utterance of the Almighty.

Brooks seemed not to worry about the scholarly detractors who dismissed him as an intellectual lightweight. Gomes wrote,  “Brooks consistently practiced biblical preaching…he understood that part of his task was to open the treasures of the Scriptures to his people; and it was his pastoral concern for the human condition and its relationship to the eternal truths of the Christian gospel that made him a biblical preacher and not merely an orator on religious themes.”

In lectures at Yale, Brooks was famous for positing that preaching is “truth through personality.” He said, “the personality of the  teacher invad[ing] the personality of the scholar, bringing the personal Christ to the personal human nature.”

Brooks was a rare breed of priest: a standing-room-only preacher and a deeply caring pastor, something people of all faiths and classes recognized. In 1893, after serving only 15 months as bishop, Brooks died, and the city of Boston grieved. M.C. Ayers, editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser, wrote after his funeral, “It was the people who were quickest to discern the incomparable worth of Phillips Brooks. They knew him, flocked to him, loved and trusted him.”

As usual, it comes down to love. Brooks knew he was entirely beloved of God and thus free to bestow upon his people lavish attention and words to stir their hearts to serve God.

Brooks once said, “Duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do them beautifully.”

Heidi Shott

unnamedCatherine of Siena

Catherine of Siena, the 14th century mystic, politician, carer for the poor, and all-around saintly all-star, was an overachiever on several fronts.

She was only seven when she had her first vision of Christ, but her visions kicked into high gear when she was in her mid twenties. She received the stigmata when the crucifix she was praying in front of exploded with five red beams of light, which pierced her hand, feet and heart. That same year, she had a vision in which Jesus appeared, and seemed to exchange her beating heart for his. When she received the Eucharist, she saw the bread become the Child Jesus floating down from heaven to earth to rest in the priest’s hands. Once, when she gave the usual response to receiving the host (“Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof”), she heard a voice respond, “But I am worthy to enter you.” As she received the bread, she said later that her soul merged with God so that “the soul is in God and God in the soul, just as the fish is in the sea and the sea in the fish.”

But all this vision-having did not make her popular with the local clergy of her time, most of whom found her befuddling, even frustrating. One Franciscan, Fr. Lazzarino, was very bothered by her, and sought a meeting to explain why she was Doing Faith Wrong. This did not go well for him, since meeting Catherine in person, and asking for her prayers, caused an acute attack of guilt that evening. He realized that he had not been following the Franciscan path as he had vowed as a youth, and he raced back to Catherine the next morning to apologize, and to give away all he owned to the poor.

As Catherine’s reputation as a great persuader spread, she was sought out by popes and politicians as well — and not just for guilt trips. She was a sought-after counsel to two popes, including Urban VI. She and Urban had such a close relationship that she would chide him frequently to curb his arrogance, and he insisted that she come to Rome to help him lead the Vatican.

After her death at age 33 in Rome, the people of Siena wanted to bring her body back home to be honored. One man from Siena tried to bring back just her head, but was stopped at the Roman gates by soldiers. He prayed to St. Catherine, and miraculously, when the bag was inspected, it had transformed into rose petals. To this day, Catherine’s head (and thumb) reside in Siena, and her body resides in Rome.

Megan Castellan

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Phillips Brooks vs. Catherine of Siena

  • Phillips Brooks (53%, 2,631 Votes)
  • Catherine of Siena (47%, 2,323 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,954

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Lent Madness love from NPR

npr_logo_rgbIf you woke up to the sound of Tim’s voice this morning, we apologize. If your commute was rudely interrupted by talk of Lent Madness, we’re sorry. If you spilled your skinny latte all over yourself and nearly drove your Volvo off the road at the mention of the Golden Halo, we’re not liable (according to the Lent Madness Legal Team).

Such are the vagaries of having a story about Lent Madness appear on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. Reporter Deena Prichep spoke with Tim and then met the Lent Madness fanatics at St. Gabriel’s Church in Portland, Oregon, a couple of weeks ago and the resulting story aired this morning.

We hear from St. Gabriel’s vicar, the Rev. LouAnn Pickering, along with some folks who are “representing” one of the 32 saints in this year’s bracket. unnamedSure, there’s some confusion between which of the Wesley brothers wrote all those hymns (we know it was Charles), but the sense of participatory joy comes through loud and clear.

Whoever wins this year’s bracket, Lent Madness 2014 will go down as a devotion that shows no partiality when it comes to media coverage. What other Lenten devotion can claim it was covered by both FOX News and NPR? Talk about Red State/Blue State ecumenism!

To listen to the story, click here.

Thanks to all of you who continue to embrace this madness in the spirit in which we intend — as a devotion to help introduce or re-introduce some pretty amazing folks who have served Jesus in their own way and in their own day. Sure, we have some fun along the way and, of course, Lent Madness isn’t for everyone (certainly not the humorless). But, as Scott likes to say, “If you don’t like it, go start your own online Lenten devotion.”

In the meantime, please help us continue to spread the word about Lent Madness by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, and illicitly making copies of the bracket at your office and then dropping then from a helicopter over your neighborhood. We’ll see you tomorrow as Phillips Brooks takes on Catherine of Siena.

Lydia vs. John of the Cross

It’s hard to believe but we are now officially halfway through the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. Four more battles and we’re on to the Elate Eight. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. To savor each day and immerse ourselves in the match-up at hand is part of the Lent Madness discipline. Speaking of which, we really do need to update the Ash Wednesday liturgy’s “Invitation to a Holy Lent” to read:

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word; and by participating in Lent Madness.

But we digress. Today it’s the Biblical vs. the Mystical as Lydia takes on John of the Cross.

Yesterday Anna Cooper shocked the G-clef off J.S. Bach 54% to 46% to advance to the Elate Eight. She’ll face the winner of Thomas Merton vs. Charles Wesley. We also learned of the impending cross-marketing deal between McDonald’s and Lent Madness that perhaps fell under the “Fool for Christ” heading.

And finally, you may have been rudely roused from your dreams this morning by a story about Lent Madness on National Public Radio. We apologize.

lydiaLydia

St. Lydia Thyatira appears only twice in the Biblical text, but her impact is much larger.  

As the first European convert to Christianity, she was baptized by Paul right after he came to Philippi, and there, she started a church in her own household. Early church planter, that’s Lydia! She starts the community that will grow into the church at Philippi, and receive the famous letter from Paul. 

This is a big deal, scholars opine, not only because it indicates that Lydia was clearly calling all the shots for her household, and established one of the first Christian communities in Europe, but also because of what it means for gender roles in the early church: men and women were called, men and women were baptized, and men and women led in ministry. And after his release from prison, Paul and Silas headed right back to Lydia’s house. It served as a de facto home base the entire time they were in Philippi.

It also indicates that Lydia, who had amassed quite a fortune as a dyer, had decided to dedicate her considerable financial resources to Paul and his work. This would be why she is now invoked as the patron saint of dyers, and all fabric workers, and a good thing, too. Obtaining the purple dye for which the city of Thytira was known required the patience of a saint all by itself. 

Purple dye came from a particular secretion from the spiny dye-murex, a sort of carnivorous sea snail. (Yes, such a thing exists). You obtained it in one of two ways: either you ‘milked’ the sea snail and poked the thing until it spat purple goo at you, or you gathered a lot of them together and crushed them into a mass of purple goo. And even then, twelve thousand snails yields only enough dye for the hem of a single garment, which is why purple was reserved for the very rich, for emperors. (This is also why the Church adopted purple for the Lenten array — to emphasize the kingship of Christ. Sorry, snails).

To this day, no one has managed to recreate the special sort of Thyatiran purple exactly as it was back then. The exact recipe is lost to history. But Lydia’s legacy of leadership, ministry, and giving nothing less than her best to Christ endures.

Megan Castellan

 unnamedJohn of the Cross

If you’ve ever endured debilitating periods of loneliness and despair in your life of faith, you have a loving companion in Saint John of the Cross. John of the Cross, a sixteenth-century Spanish mystic, wrote about such experiences in his popular and well-regarded books, The Ascent of Mount Carmel and The Dark Night of the Soul, both of which he wrote while being imprisoned by his fellow friars. John explained that the journey toward union with God necessitated detaching from self and the world. Noting that often times this process felt excruciating and ripe with loss, dejection, and uncertainty, John encouraged believers to remember that God had not abandoned them. As he said,

Faith is a dark night for man, but in this very way it gives him light…God sustains every soul and dwells in it substantially, even though it be that of the greatest sinner in the world, and this union is natural. The supernatural union exists when God’s will and the soul’s will are in conformity. Therefore the soul rests transformed in God through love.

Although John wrote most of his works in his mid-thirties, he had long been a person of deep compassion and faith. When he was 14, he served as a caregiver to hospital patients suffering from mental or terminal illnesses. Doing so helped him realize the richness of life with God and the futility of finding happiness in worldly possessions. For John, happiness was circumstantial, but joy was eternal and rooted in God’s love. He likened someone who settled for happiness alone to a “famished person who opens his mouth to satisfy himself with air.”

John’s works and humble life have influenced people for generations, including fellow Lent Madness competitor Thomas Merton, who wrote about John’s influence in his well-regarded Seven Story Mountain. John’s Dark Night also found voice in the work of T.S. Eliot, who expressed the sentiment of John’s works through poetry:

To arrive where you are, to get from you are not,
You must go by a way in which there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are no
You must go through the way in which you are not.

John’s life of love, poverty, and selflessness reminds us of the joy of seeking Christ and the eternal love of God that always enfolds us –- no matter what we feel or endure.

Maria Kane

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Lydia vs. John of the Cross

  • Lydia (58%, 2,994 Votes)
  • John of the Cross (42%, 2,191 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,183

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