William Law vs. Columba

After two gut-wrenchingly close battles involving saints named Thomas, the week's final match-up features an evangelical 18th century Anglican and a man closely linked to Ireland and Scotland.

Thomas the Apostle and Enmegahbowh faced off in an epic see-saw battle that wasn't decided until the wee hours (or early hours depending on your global location). In the end Enmegabowh prevailed 52% to 48% and will head to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen.

One note on our least favorite topic here at Lent Madness: Voter Fraud. Those who closely monitored the vote totals late yesterday will have noted the disappearance of some votes for both saints. This was not due to Lenten hackers but the keen eyes of the Supreme Executive Committee who noticed some irregularities and quickly acted to remedy the situation. It turns out someone from Overland Park, Kansas, voted 100 times for Thomas. Then someone else voted 50 times for Enmegabowh (equal opportunity cheating!). Scott deleted the repeat votes and banished the rogues into the outer darkness of Lent without Lent Madness. We are completely confident that the end result is fair and reflects the will of the non-cheaters. We will remain ever-vigilant and are even considering hiring Jimmy Carter on retainer as an election monitor.

We'll all need the weekend off to recover and prepare for Monday's oedipal match-up between Augustine of Hippo and his mother Monnica! But in the meantime, enjoy today's election and let's keep up the spirit and goodwill of keeping a holy Lent Madness.

William Law (1686-1761) was an 18th century theologian and evangelical writer. He was widely known for his book A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, which was a best-selling handbook on pious living and is still available today. Charles Wesley once said that William Law taught him all he knew about religion.

Educated at Cambridge University with plans to become a clergyman, Law would not take the oath of allegiance to George I, so he served as a private tutor to the children of Edward Gibbon (yes, ‘The Rise and Fall…’ Gibbon). Unable to use the pulpit or lecture hall, he preached through his books. This is when he penned, A Serious Call. It was Gibbon who said, "If Mr. Law finds a spark of piety in a reader's mind, he will soon kindle it into a flame."

Both peasant and preacher found inspiration in William Law’s writings. Not only Charles Wesley, but William Wilberforce, and George Whitefield described reading Law was a major turning point in their lives.

Law eventually retired to his hometown of King’s Cliffe where he lived frugally, gave generously to the poor, helped to open homes and schools for the needy, and spent generous portions of his days in prayer. This is where Law wrote his second-most popular book, An Humble, Earnest, and Affectionate Address to the Clergy, which is still available today under the title, The Power of the Spirit. He died just a few days after this work went to the printer.

Collect for William Law: O God, by whose grace your servant William Law, kindled with the fire of your love, became a burning and shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Chris Yaw

Columba (521-597), was an Irish monk and founder of monasteries in the rough and tumble dark ages. He was born to royal lineage in the Clan O’Donnell in County Donegal. He entered the monastery at a young age where he distinguished himself as a serious student and devout Christian.

Columba is best known as a founder of three monasteries in Derry and Durrow, Ireland and Iona, Scotland. It was 563 when Columba traveled to the isle of Iona, with 12 companions, which, quickly became home base for the conversion of the natives, the Picts and Scots. Columba spent 32 years there, serving as abbot, and preaching the Christian faith to the local inhabitants of Northern Scotland. He would come to baptize both the king of the Picts and the king of the Scots.

The Venerable Bede says Columba’s example of, “preaching and example,” led many people to Christ. He was admired for his discipline and ascetic lifestyle, including sleeping on a stone pillow. It is said that Columba never spent an hour without study, prayer, or similar occupation. He is credited with writing 300 books.

On the eve of his death Columba was said to be home working on a transcription. Then, at the midnight service, Columba entered the church without assistance, sank before the altar, and, surrounded by his disciples, breathed his last.

Columba’s memory lives on in both Scotland and Ireland. While the buildings were desecrated during the Reformation, Iona still flourishes today as an ecumenical religious community.

Collect for Columba: O God, by the preaching of your blessed servant Columba you caused the light of the Gospel to shine in Scotland: Grant, we pray, that, having his life and labors in remembrance, we may show our thankfulness to you by following the example of his zeal and patience; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 -- Chris Yaw


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109 comments on “William Law vs. Columba”

  1. Today I was the second voter and the first for William Law. Why Law over Columba? Well, first I liked what I read about Law and understand people who have difficulties on the road to being a priest. Second, ascetics make me "itchy". Third, I think Law is the underdog in this match-up. Of course, I thought that both of the last two days and the underdog won. However, with no mid-western tied, I don't expect a big rally for Law and I know MANY people who truly love Columba, especially at St. Columba's in Marathon, FL. Remember, one person, one vote!

    1. Oh dear hearts! When "underdogness" becomes the quality that gives you an advantage there is no end of mischief!! When one of the men Jesus himself selected is turned back because he is a "favorite" you have to wonder just who it is we're hoping will win the coveted halo. Should we hope that Lucifer wins? Surely HE is the biggest underdog of them all. Or maybe Judas?

      1. "Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame," she said with a laugh! "An underdog among holy people is nothing like an evil person. It is only a person whose holiness is less well known in the larger world." She shook her head and went about her business, thanking God for the silliness of Lent Madness which helped to lighten the burdens of the day.

        1. I came to faith largely through the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Because of that I've always felt that I understood how Judas did what he is said to have done. I have a friend, a Catholic nun, who believes that Judas remained a true follower of Jesus. She believes that Judas only meant to press Jesus into revealing his true nature. I'm not sure I believe as she does, but it was nice to have a friend with such a generous heart. Even so, I don't think I could vote for him to win such a prestigious and important award as the Golden Halo! (The heavenly choir sings an appropriate chord!!)

      2. I do not think we need to be judgmental of other people choices, even less when we are choosing among two people who devoted their lives to Jesus’ cause. Well, this is my opinion. And by the way, I do not think that all Christians believe in Satan. For me it is a metaphor that encompasses evil, but by no means a creature with exceptional powers. There is only one God and all the Glory and the Power are His.

  2. I am sad and shocked to think that voter frauds are casting irregular and excessive votes for Saints! Is nothing sacred? How clever of the Supreme Executive Committee to have detected this mischief. The frauds deserve to be deprived of their Lent Madness.

    1. What in the world would compel someone to cheat on this poll in the first place? The guilty parties should seriously consider getting a life . . .

  3. I was really impressed by William Law. I would like to read his book at some point; it sounds truly inspirational. However, getting back to Iona has always been a dream of mine. I went there during my non-church years and even then found it a "thin place", with a sense of holiness. I had to vote for Columba.

    1. Gillian,
      If you do get William Law's book, don't read it at bedtime. 🙂
      As a survivor of required daily spiritual reading, I remember reading "A Devout Call..." . I fell asleep with it many times.

      1. Just a thought...I wonder if "A Devout Call..." is available as an e-book? 🙂

  4. Going for Wm. Law. Columba's legacy is imperishable, but Law speaks to the Lenten condition. And the cheating leaves me speechless.......

  5. I have to vote to Columba. My time on Iona was beyond incredible and will stay with me my whole life. My only association with Law is studying him in a boring class and not doing so well on the midterm.

  6. As one with a strong Scottish heritage and plans to take the Isle of Iona off my bucket list this summer, I have to go with Columba.
    Those cheaters deserve to be cast into outer Lent Madness darkness with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.
    Now, about that tatoo.

    1. What about that tattoo? Where are you going to put it? Inquiring minds want to know... 🙂

  7. Tough one! I'm a United Methodist, and Law reminds me a lot of John Wesley without the church's ordination... That said, Columba is a GIANT and likely had a more direct and immediate impact where he served. He was an evangelistic pioneer. Plus, I think my wife is a Pict. 🙂 Columba in a close one...

  8. I'm going with Law. The church rejected him for his refusal to swear allegiance to the king, yet he kept the faith. That's what's it all about after all.

    Plus, I will never understand anyone who insists on a stone pillow.

  9. Glad to vote for Columba! Celtic heritage and all...

    What would be the merciful way to deal with ballot-box stuffers? Just askin'...?! (since it seems that's one of the opportunities of Lent...)

    1. The Church never rejected Law -- it wouldn't ordain anyone who would not follow the rules. Perhaps it was a silly rule but it wasn't just made for Wm. Law, and for whatever reason he chose not to follow it (I really would like to know why).
      I voted for Columba because of his foundational work for British Christianity.

  10. I was ordained to the tradition diaconate on the feast of St. Columba; that's where my (one and ONLY) vote goes!

  11. One of my very favorite quotations is from William Law, and it is the sole reason he gets my vote over the wonderful Columba:
    "There is no surer sign of a confirmed Pride than when one thinks one is humble
    -- enough."

  12. Wonder what advice and help Law would give clergy today? Hmmm. Today, Columba is my vote.

      1. Meredith, I thought you were going to give up coveting for Lent? Oh wait, that was me. BTW, Beth Royalty was one of my priests back in the day and was instrumental in my becoming a priest myself. Her dad was a law partner of my husband's. Small world, isn't it?

        1. And Beth was a bartender at my daughter's wedding at Sewanee in 1998--before her ordination! I've always enjoyed her name, too: very memorable!

          My vote is for Columba...a no-brainer, as Iona is one of the holiest places on the planet, and one I want to go back to for a long, long third visit. But he was no total paragon...don't forget about that book deal he blew, and needing to get out of Dodge...uh, Donegal.

  13. Columba today. My vote almost always goes to saints who actively took risks to spread the gospel. I do, though, have a greater respect for Law from today's reading.

  14. Columba, who loved books, and loved people, for God
    (from a Godly Play saints lesson!)

  15. A sure sign of a confirmed pride surely must be rooted in the ned to sleep on a stone pillow....Heavens to Murgatroyd!!!! What could possibly be more indicative of the need to prove one's piety and saintkiness.....NOT !!! How-some-ever, I voted for him. Columba was truly too saintly. Also, it's easy to understand the Freudian(?) slip about the diaconate slip-up as there should be direct ordination. Yes, I am a vocational deacon. Thanks for asking.

  16. Columba gets my vote - affection for Celtic spirituality and fond memories of some associated with St. Columba's in Washington, D.C.

  17. Oooooo! Two misspelled words....Pardon...(need), not "ned" and (saintliness) not "saintkiness". That's due to no breakfast yet. I'm awaiting Cynthia's reply that "Once a deacon, always......" unless she's she's truly saintly and decides she'll forgive or ignore me

  18. I had a feeling Columba would be winning, but I was really moved by William Law - his refusal to pledge allegiance to a king, his acceptance of humble work, his commitment to live in a simple way, and his writing. Made me want to take a look at his books! He sounds like a character for a new PBS series - some mix of Jane Eyre, Downton Abbey, and The Vicar of Dibley?

    1. For this one I wish I could vote twice, because I want to vote for each of them. I love "A Serious Call" but Iona......Good grief this is a hard one.

  19. I voted for Columba ... and now I feel sorry for William Law. Sorry enough to read "A Serious Call"? Probably not. And I do like his not taking the oath of allegiance.
    Once again, I wish we could vote by half-votes, one half for each. I hate to have to choose. Sigh.

    1. Taylor--
      Don't worry! If Columba moves on to the next round (pretty likely) there's plenty more time for more stories. We celebrity bloggers have to hold some stuff back for later rounds!

  20. Sigh is right. I'll have to ponder this match up throughout the day before voting (once). As a lay professional, Temple is tempting. But my heart is with Columba, and I have a little crush on Philip Newell. What to do??!!

  21. I am grateful for the Supreme Committee’s constant diligence for voter fraud. But why should we be alarmed or afraid? Sin is among us and in us. Some of us just need a little more help to get on the right path. Isn’t that what these saints are teaching us?