Thomas Cranmer vs. Columba

The Round of the Saintly Sixteen continues with a match-up between two heavyweights from the British Isles. Thomas Cranmer and Columba -- the "Killer C's" -- face off against one another for a trip to the Elate Eight. Only one will advance to the next round in this the fourth of eight battles comprising the current round while the other will be left to "gather up the crumbs under thy table."

Yesterday, in a battle that ostensibly took place on the vast plains in the middle of the United States, but really happened on your respective electronic devices, Enmegahbowh knocked out David Pendleton Oakerhater 54% to 46%. He joins Mary Magdalene and Jerome among those who have earned a spot in the Elate Eight. Check the updated bracket to see the big picture of Lent Madness (metaphorically speaking -- there's not actually a mural depicting Scott and Tim).

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), architect of the English Reformation, was eventually arrested and tried for heresy. Weakened, broken, and sentenced to be burned at the stake, Cranmer recanted his Protestant beliefs. However, from the pulpit of the University Church in Oxford, he dramatically reversed himself and testified to those beliefs on the day of his execution, March 21, 1556.

Before Cranmer’s last sermon, there was a different sermon by Henry Cole. It was Cole’s unenviable task to explain to the crowd why someone arrested for heresy, who subsequently repented, should still be burned at the stake. Diarmaid MacCullouch’s award-winning biography of Cranmer describes this as “a problem in canon law which Cole had little choice but to acknowledge openly.”

The awkwardness was resolved when Cranmer recanted his earlier recantations. After the fire that would take his life was lit, Cranmer stretched out his right hand into it. This fulfilled a promise that he had made in the church: “forasmuch as my hand offended, writing contrary to my heart, my hand shall first be punished there-for.” At the stake, he repeated the last words of the first martyr, Stephen: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit . . . I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

It’s the language of common prayer, however, for which Cranmer will always be most remembered. This general confession from 1552 is based on Romans 7:8-25 and includes allusions to Isaiah 53:6; Psalm 119:176; I Peter 2:25; Psalm 51:13; Romans 15:8; I John 2:12; Titus 2:11-12; and John 14:13:

Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from thy ways, like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us: but thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders. Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults. Restore thou them that be penitent, according to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

 -- Neil Alan Willard

Dear Columba (521-597) may be adored by Christians for founding monasteries in Derry and Durrow in Ireland – and, of course, in iconic Iona in Scotland - but he is also beloved by those of another faith tradition for his little known work in the Scottish highlands.

In 563 Columba traveled to Iona with 12 companions to set up home base for the conversion of the native Picts and Scots. During his 32 years there, serving as abbot and preaching the Christian faith to the locals (including baptizing the kings of both the Picts and Scots), he traveled widely, making a famous trip to Loch Ness.

Legend says Columba came across a group of Picts burying one of their friends. The saint was told the man had been killed by none other than the Loch Ness monster.

Soon after, another Pict decided to brave those very waters and, in Columba’s presence, became endangered when the monster made yet another eerie appearance. Columba, staff in hand, hastily made the sign of the cross as he commanded the monster, “Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; go back with all speed.” At this point, the monster fled, terrified - leaving the assembled Picts amazed. In fact, all who gathered there immediately glorified Columba’s God.

This account, according to many of the Nessie faithful is regarded as the very first appearance in history of the famed monster. The sightings, of course, would continue to be recorded through the ages by such unbiased observers as local hotel and restaurant owners and other members of the Loch Ness Chamber of Commerce.

-- Chris Yaw


Thomas Cranmer vs. Columba

  • Thomas Cranmer (60%, 961 Votes)
  • Columba (41%, 656 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,615

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84 comments on “Thomas Cranmer vs. Columba”

  1. A classic Sophie's Choice, as both are dear to my heart. But in the end it must be Thomas, as the BCP is always there for me.

  2. Given that I have passed the Martyrs' Memorial in Oxford countless times and love the BCP with a passion, it has to be Cranmer, despite the eternal appeal of Columba and Iona.

  3. I was wrong to question the structure of Lent Madness. I have sinned in thought and word. By squandering my time doing word counts of all the write-ups, I have probably sinned by deed as well. The verdict: Ten write-ups with the longer word count have been winners. Nine write-ups with the shorter word count have been winners. I can't imagine anything fairer than that. I vote for Cranmer who never leaves me without the right words at the right time.

    1. I wonder about such things too. The voting gets pretty whimsical at times but it's still good to know someone out there is keeping an eye on process.

      I had the unsettling thought Sunday night that there was no real vote tally, and that SEC was simply plugging in made-up final numbers to ease us into their predetermined bracket choices. Apparently LMW has a "paranoia" component...

  4. How comfortable to sit in our pews and hear the word being preached to us as we then go about our merry way the rest of the week with little thought to the players and historical meaning of scripture. Cramner saw the life giving properties of living out the true meaning of scripture and the establishment dispised him for it!

  5. This is truly a tough decision. I am grateful to Cranmer for the prayer book and the familiar words. I also like the story of his weakness, recantation and then recanting the recant--so human. I'm sure I wouldn't stand up very well to torture. However, I have to go with Columba. Iona is a sacred "thin place" and I hope to return there someday.

  6. This is the first real struggle I have had with a vote, but the BCP is who I am. Cramner has my vote.

  7. I believe I have been influenced at least once by the authors of the write-ups for these saints. The liveliness of the texts made my decisions easier at least twice. These are hard contests, and I REALLY, REALLY wanted to vote for Columba. However, I'm with those who treasure the BCP. My current church rarely uses the old confession, but I still use it on occasion in my daily devotions. AND, with all the scripture references, there's a Lenten Study within the Lent Madness Lenten study. Woo hoo. I vote Thomas.

  8. Rah rah rah THOMAS! (Can you tell I'm a hardcore Thomas Cranmer fan?) And I always wondered? Would Cranmer pompoms be purple and red, for the liturgical season and martyrdom? *G*

  9. I voted for Cranmer to implore his intercession the next Rome undertakes to translate the Roman Missal into English.

  10. I'm always pleased when there is a matchup where both are worthy winners. I can rest easy until tomorrow.

  11. Anyone who has been to Iona can testify that it is a most unusual place, one where the Holy Spirit is present in many demonstrable ways. The little piece on Columba seems a little dismissive ignoring his efforts in evengelizing the Scots and the dangers imminent in invasion. I must vote for Cranmer because of the enormous impact he had on all of us but letsnot treat Columba with less respect.

  12. Without Thomas we would not be who we are today. We can go into almost any church in the Anglican Communion and feel right at home.

  13. I have to go with Cranmer. The choices seem to be getting tougher, but TC speaks to my heart. His instrumental role in developing a BCP that variations of are still being used today to bring many together with its beautiful language that incorporates and reflects the Bible and a deep reverence for God. Coming back to the Episcopal faith as an adult, the prayer book--the work started by Cranmer--was foundational to my finding a deeper relationship with God.

  14. Hmm. Sounds like even Chris Yaw would like to see the saint advanced who was part of a movement willing to sacrifice greatly to come to truth, rather than bend it to make a buck. Being co-opted by later commercial interests wasn't Columba's fault, of course, but it's going to be Cranmer and his costly and difficult struggle for me today.

    (In considering the Risking All for Christ Factor I asked myself what would be an easier ministry - standing between Catholic and Protestant elements in the church and trying to hold them together, or getting between a hungry displaced crocodile and its next victim? Both saints ultimately demonstrated great courage but it says something that confronting ravening monster turned out to be the less dangerous option.)

    1. "Sounds like even Chris Yaw would like to see the saint advanced who was part of a movement willing to sacrifice greatly to come to truth, rather than bend it to make a buck."
      ^^ Out of curiosity, what do you mean by that?

      1. I come at this from the perspective of a Nessie skeptic. Tying your saint to a monster tradition that (as Chris alludes to in his final paragraph) evolved into frank hucksterism doesn't seem like putting your best foot forward to me, if the Golden Halo has anything to do with Ultimate Truth.

        1. Oh. I read it as a personal dig on Rev. Yaw, which I found a little out of place here. Thanks for clarifying.

  15. From Bede's Ecclesiastical History, concerning Columba (Book III, ch. 4; A.M. Sellar translation):

    "In the year of our Lord 565, when Justin, the younger, the successor of Justinian, obtained the government of the Roman empire, there came into Britain from Ireland a famous priest and abbot, marked as a monk by habit and manner of life, whose name was Columba, to preach the word of God to the provinces of the northern Picts, who are separated from the southern parts belonging to that nation by steep and rugged mountains. For the southern Picts, who dwell on this side of those mountains, had, it is said, long before forsaken the errors of idolatry, and received the true faith by the preaching of Bishop Ninias, a most reverend and holy man of the British nation, who had been regularly instructed at Rome in the faith and mysteries of the truth; whose episcopal see, named after St. Martin the bishop, and famous for a church dedicated to him (wherein Ninias himself and many other saints rest in the body), is now in the possession of the English nation. The place belongs to the province of the Bernicians, and is commonly called the White House, because he there built a church of stone, which was not usual among the Britons.

    "Columba came into Britain in the ninth year of the reign of Bridius, who was the son of Meilochon, and the powerful king of the Pictish nation, and he converted that nation to the faith of Christ, by his preaching and example. Wherefore he also received of them the gift of the aforesaid island whereon to found a monastery. It is not a large island, but contains about five families, according to the English computation; his successors hold it to this day; he was also buried therein, having died at the age of seventy-seven, about thirty-two years after he came into Britain to preach. Before he crossed over into Britain, he had built a famous monastery in Ireland, which, from the great number of oaks, is in the Scottish tongue called Dearmach—The Field of Oaks. From both these monasteries, many others had their beginning through his disciples, both in Britain and Ireland; but the island monastery where his body lies, has the pre-eminence among them all."

    For the conversion of my Scottish Gaelic ancestors, it has to be Columba!

  16. I have to go with Cranmer, because he was so human and buckled to pressure -- for a while -- and then did the right thing after all.

    And, as a Catholic, may I say about that burning at the stake thing... we're terribly sorry... I have to hope we've learned our lesson on that one. It's been quite a while since we did anything like that. Now on to that woman's ordination issue... My goodness, we have a lot of catching up to do.

  17. Going with the story I hadn't heard before today--this is the quirky round after all. Besides, I love the image of the monster (mythical or otherwise) being turned back by the saint.

  18. Many saints have done and said things that touched me, inspired me, and challenged me. Cranmer, however, has truly formed me. Go Thomas!!

  19. I love Columba--and his varied ministries. But I have to vote for Cranmer, not because of his godliness, for which I have no information, for one reason: the first Book of Common Prayer. It is an incredible work of theology and classical rhetoric, and we still have much to learn from his work.

  20. The description of Thomas Cranmer being burnt at the stake was a bit too vivid for me. I should have voted for him. I love the BCP and am moved by his faithfulness and courage.
    But I cooled the flames with the waters of Loch Ness and the monster being turned away and voted for Columba.

  21. I adore Columba and all that he did for my Celtic forbears, AND I graduated from the Iona School for Ministry...yet this time I must go with Cranmer. We are all so blessed by our BCP, and we are the only Church that has anything like it. It forms my days with Cranmer's words.

  22. With the Loch Ness Monster.... how could we have not voted Columba? There is no surer way to my children's hearts than a story about Nessie.
    That said, they were chanting CO-LUM-BA before I started reading today.

  23. Where were all you BCP devotees when they were perpetrating this latest version (and not even accepting W.H.Auden's offer to vet the language!)?

  24. Well,Katherine, we are also realy,realy, sorry about the Thomas More and Charles the First thing. There is enough blame to go around.