John Donne vs. Agnes of Rome

We finish up the first full week of Lent Madness with a match-up between a 17th-century priest and poet and a young, early 4th-century martyr. John Donne made it into the official bracket by defeating T.S. Eliot in the final play-in round known as the Great Poetry Slam. By winning that battle, Donne proclaimed to the world that he would not be, in the parlance of March Madness, “one and Donne.”

Yesterday, in the biggest blow-out to date, Hilda of Whitby crushed Samuel Seabury to advance to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. The only drama of the day was whether Hilda would be able to attain the magic blowout number of 80% of the vote. Samuel Seabury was able to stave off ignominy in this regard but still lost 79% to 21%.

Oh, and the other intrigue yesterday was whether we’d be able to make it to 1,000 followers on Twitter. As of this very moment @LentMadness stands at 989 followers (or, as we prefer to call them, “disciples”). Big (undetermined!) prize for our 1,000th follow.

images-1 John Donne

Rarely do great preachers, gifted writers, and esteemed Deans of Cathedrals begin life as poetic rakes who end up in prison.

Or maybe great preachers are great because they lived a life of passion, complexity, and redemption. John Donne certainly did. He was born to a Roman Catholic family, but struggled with his faith in his early life before converting to Anglicanism. He attended several institutions of higher learning without attaining a degree, womanized ladies in courts all over Europe, lived off the wealth of patrons, and wrote poetry. He was spiritual but not religious…and wrote poetry. His poetry was ground-breaking literature of the day with its images and ideas that connected seemingly unrelated things together like a parasite and sex (The Flea).

Donne eventually began a promising political career. His  intelligence and charm opened doors, and he sat in Elizabeth’s last Parliament. Until he followed his heart and married Ann More — a marriage that was opposed by all parties except the woman and man to be married. They married. Donne got sacked and landed in prison…along with the priest who married them. He was eventually released from prison, and he and Ann, by all accounts, lived happily married until her death.

As Donne’s life became more settled, his questions of faith became more complex. His poetry during this time spoke to the intricacies of human nature and the demands of the Gospel. He also wrote satire, pointedly observing the hypocrisy of government and church practices. He challenged Christians to think for themselves, not blindly to believe what someone in authority told them. He writes (translated slightly), “You won’t be saved on the Day of Judgement by saying Harry or Martin told  you to believe this. God wants to know what YOU thought and believed.”

King James wanted him to become a priest so badly that he declared to all of England that Donne could not be hired except in the church. Donne was ordained in 1615 and soon became known as a great preacher in an age of great preachers, in an era of the Anglican church when preaching was a form of spiritual devotion, an intellectual exercise, and dramatic entertainment.

Donne’s legacy of poetry; of life lived fully and recklessly, with forgiveness and redemption; a life lived in the freedom of human passion and the obedience of devotion to the Gospel; and a life of questioning faith are all great legacies. Perhaps, though, in his own writing, his legacy of community is his greatest. Donne recognized that there is no belonging to a faith community without truly belonging. We are all connected in God one to another. As he writes, “All that she [the Church] does belongs to all…. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”

One Lord, one faith, one baptism. We are all one in God. Amen and Amen.

Collect for John Donne
Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with your servant John Donne, that whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Laurie Brock

stagnesAgnes of Rome

Agnes was one of the early martyrs of the church whose story of faith and perseverance through persecution continues to inspire us today.

Agnes was a victim of one of the random persecutions in Rome that occurred during the first three centuries of Christianity. In the year 304, Diocletian, one of the most brutal and thorough of Roman emperors, launched a round of persecutions aimed at totally wiping out Christianity.

Agnes’ name means ‘pure’ in Greek, and ‘lamb’ in Latin, so perhaps she was destined for her fate, which she met when she was only 12-years-old.

Tradition tells us Agnes was born to Roman nobility in 291 and raised in a Christian family. Apparently a pagan prefect named Sempronius wished to have Agnes marry his son, but she refused. This decision condemned her to death.

However, Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins. So Sempronius had Agnes dragged through the streets naked to a brothel. There are legends that say on the way to the brothel Agnes prayed, grew hair all over her body, thus clothing her. Then, at the brothel, God continued to protect her: any man who attempted to rape her was struck blind. Agnes was finally led out to a stake to be burned, but the wood would not catch fire. That’s when the officer in charged killed her with a sword.

A few days after Agnes’ death, a girl named Emerentiana was found praying by her tomb. This girl claimed to be the daughter of Agnes’ wet nurse, thus her foster sister. Emerentiana refused to leave the place, and reprimanded the pagans for killing Agnes. She was stoned to death and later canonized.

Today, Agnes’ bones are conserved in the church of Sant’Agnese fuori le mura in Rome, which is built over the catacomb that housed Agnes’ tomb. Her skull is preserved in a side chapel in the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone in Rome’s Piazza Navona.

The anniversary of Agnes’ martyrdom is marked on January 21. She is regarded as the patron saint of young, unmarried girls. In fact, there is a folk belief that if a girl goes to bed without dinner on the eve of St. Agnes’ Day, she will dream that night about her husband to be.

Collect for Agnes of Rome
Almighty and everlasting God, you choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Chris Yaw


John Donne vs. Agnes of Rome

  • John Donne (63%, 2,523 Votes)
  • Agnes of Rome (37%, 1,496 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,017

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186 Comments to "John Donne vs. Agnes of Rome"

  1. Millie Hart's Gravatar Millie Hart
    February 22, 2013 - 8:07 am | Permalink

    Have to go with Donne since my daughter did her senior English project on him.

  2. February 22, 2013 - 8:07 am | Permalink

    Agnes may be a martyr here, remarkable and inspiring. But John Donne and I are old friends; he is one of my great spiritual companions and has inspired me constantly since the 12th grade when I first read the Flea. Perhaps because there are many points where our lives seem to have taken similar turns, but Donne is the only poet to whom I’ve ever taken such a shine. His works, both poetical and homiletical, continue to inspire me, and he has been quoted in my sermons more than any other man except Jesus. Maybe.

  3. February 22, 2013 - 8:10 am | Permalink

    Remembering we do this to learn and have fun, I stuck with Donne (as I had done before). Agnes’s story is heartbreaking and infuriating, partly because of the facts, but mostly because I didn’t know about it before now. Ignorance does not spare me indictment however. Oh well – now I know.
    But what’s done is Donne.

  4. Scott Elliott's Gravatar Scott Elliott
    February 22, 2013 - 8:16 am | Permalink

    I think so far, and quite rightly, martyrs for the faith have trumped. I think today will be an exception, and quite rightly.

    • February 22, 2013 - 11:18 am | Permalink

      Agreed, Brother.

      • February 22, 2013 - 8:20 pm | Permalink

        Wow- My Mother was Ellem M. Eckstrom born in Ingartabu, Sommoland, Sweden. She went to Duluth, Minnesota with her parents in 1913. I was babtized there in Saint Pauls. Just stepped down as Senior Warden at Saint Thoms, St. Petersburg, FL.

        I am very pleased with the Lentmadness, all sorts of great stuff that we did not know or were unwilling to study. This is a great Lent discipline. Don’t give up someting, learn and apprciate the saints that made us who we are.

        Today I went not with Donne, but that is unimportant, both did good for God.

        PAX Walt Jaap

  5. Laurie Atwater's Gravatar Laurie Atwater
    February 22, 2013 - 8:16 am | Permalink

    I recall my high school English teacher saying Keats’ “St. Agnes’ Eve” had the coldest stanza in English literature, for its description of that chilly wintertime feast day. But I’ll go with the one who said, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” This is to me the great statement of our connection as a human community.

  6. February 22, 2013 - 8:25 am | Permalink

    Agnes becomes a leap of faith to believe all those stories. It’s John Dunne for me!

  7. Patsy Duncan's Gravatar Patsy Duncan
    February 22, 2013 - 8:25 am | Permalink

    Donne is my hero!!! “He challenged Christians to think for themselves, not blindly to believe what someone in authority told them.”

    • Liz Hughes's Gravatar Liz Hughes
      February 22, 2013 - 10:05 am | Permalink

      I agree with Patsy. I also voted for Donne because it gives hope that one who was such a rake early on could end up as revered as he obviously it!

      • Johannas Jordan's Gravatar Johannas Jordan
        February 22, 2013 - 12:19 pm | Permalink

        I’m with Liz and Patsy. Donne is very complex and speaks to many people in many ways on many levels.

    • Lucia Ann McSpadden's Gravatar Lucia Ann McSpadden
      February 23, 2013 - 1:20 am | Permalink

      Amen to independent thinking!

  8. Tarheel's Gravatar Tarheel
    February 22, 2013 - 8:32 am | Permalink

    I am Donne voting for today!

  9. Scott Russell's Gravatar Scott Russell
    February 22, 2013 - 8:33 am | Permalink

    I know that Mr. Donne is going to win, but I had to vote for poor Agnes — she’s my birth Saint! Go Agnes!

    • February 22, 2013 - 10:51 am | Permalink

      I had to pick Saint Agnes too! Martyrdom is kind of a clincher for me, though I adore Donne’s poetry.

      • Barbara in VA's Gravatar Barbara in VA
        February 22, 2013 - 12:02 pm | Permalink

        Whichever of today’s saints wins, Luke will most likely trounce him/her in the Saintly 16 round… With her history of fortitude in the face of torture, had to go with Agnes for this fate!

        • Sue's Gravatar Sue
          February 22, 2013 - 12:51 pm | Permalink

          Me TOO!

        • ssn699's Gravatar ssn699
          February 22, 2013 - 2:22 pm | Permalink

          me too!

    • Vicki's Gravatar Vicki
      February 22, 2013 - 6:06 pm | Permalink

      I had to vote for Agnes, too, but really enjoyed the write up on Donne, which was nicely done.

  10. Sally's Gravatar Sally
    February 22, 2013 - 8:34 am | Permalink

    This was Agnesizing but I did Donne.

  11. Kristy's Gravatar Kristy
    February 22, 2013 - 8:36 am | Permalink

    Voted for Donne. But Agnes has the better Collect. Why does someone who lived by words not have a better one.

    • February 22, 2013 - 10:06 am | Permalink

      I think Kristy has a point SEC. With all the marvelous writers Lent Madness has, surely we can write a better collect John Donne.

    • ssn699's Gravatar ssn699
      February 22, 2013 - 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Maybe because he didn’t write it.

      • Gloria Rousseau's Gravatar Gloria Rousseau
        February 22, 2013 - 2:28 pm | Permalink

        Read that Donne collect again….I think it is one of the best. The desire to see God in any being might have prevented the horrible death of Agnes.

  12. Maggie Feczko's Gravatar Maggie Feczko
    February 22, 2013 - 8:37 am | Permalink

    Another difficult choice but must go with John Donne for his literary contributions, which, hopefully, still speak to many.

  13. Millie Ericson's Gravatar Millie Ericson
    February 22, 2013 - 8:39 am | Permalink

    The stained glass window for Agnes is beautiful and Donne’s picture must have been from his rakish period and is not very appealing. However, the case for Donne is overwhelming, much more so than in the play-in round, where I went for Tallis! He clearly embraced life to it’s fullest, a life of vibrant color and contrast, led to great wisdom, wisdom that enlightens us across the ages. Agnes has no sparkle for me, except in the stained glass. (Maybe I’m tired of the martyred young girl stories.). Hence John wins and my voting is Donne.

    I was hoping Hilda would reach that 80% mark. Disappointed she didn’t. Would have liked that to be taken by a woman. I think John D. will carry this reward!

  14. Deakswan's Gravatar Deakswan
    February 22, 2013 - 8:40 am | Permalink

    I remember reading Donne as a senior at an all girls Catholic High School. My senior English teacher included his work, pointing out that he was a tormented soul who “reluctantly” gave up his faith. I think that was the only way they would be allowed to include him in the curriculum..I found his writing exquisite and still do.

  15. Alice's Gravatar Alice
    February 22, 2013 - 8:44 am | Permalink

    This is a first for me – not particularly inspired by Donne and the life of Agnes seems to be based mostly on myth – Hmm..what to do!

  16. Mary Lou's Gravatar Mary Lou
    February 22, 2013 - 8:47 am | Permalink

    I found Agnes’ story heartbreaking and infuriating, but it’s hard to vote against anyone who believes “We are all connected in God one to another,” and writes, “All that she [the Church] does belongs to all…. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” Doing my part to make sure he isn’t “one and Donne”!

  17. Debs's Gravatar Debs
    February 22, 2013 - 8:52 am | Permalink

    Really? Donne up by 38 points???? Let’s beat the bushes!! All those Agnes wannabes…oh, right…martyr…well, Agnes died for her beliefs, sitting in English poetry class made you want to die because of Donne’s. Just kidding…

  18. Patsy's Gravatar Patsy
    February 22, 2013 - 8:52 am | Permalink

    With apologies to my friend’s late cat, Agnes, I’m Donne.

  19. February 22, 2013 - 8:58 am | Permalink

    Once again, I find myself siding with the underdog. Not that I don’t love Donne (just as I venerate yesterday’s blow-out winner). But Agnes is, for me, a marvelous icon for every girl who makes the radical (and often fatal) move of living the truth that her body belongs to her and to God, not to anyone else. Myth may have become attached to her story, but the kernel at the center is true: she refused to be chattel, and was killed for it. Girls and women all over the world can be inspired by her grace-filled example.

    • Dawn Fisher's Gravatar Dawn Fisher
      February 22, 2013 - 11:42 am | Permalink

      AMEN! It’s Agnes for me. (I have yet to vote for a winner.)

      • Denise Spreen's Gravatar Denise Spreen
        February 22, 2013 - 12:57 pm | Permalink

        I also seem to be unable to vote for winners. 🙁

    • Elizabeth's Gravatar Elizabeth
      February 22, 2013 - 2:51 pm | Permalink

      I have a 12-year-old daughter. You clinched it for me. In this culture, it is so hard to make your way through your teens and 20s and emerge sconfident and steadfast in your faith, sensuality and womanhood. These kinds of role models for young women are rare. I wish I had had one like Agnes.

  20. Joan Cesare's Gravatar Joan Cesare
    February 22, 2013 - 8:59 am | Permalink

    It’s got be donne. (However, I just might go to sleep tonight without my dinner.)

  21. Andy's Gravatar Andy
    February 22, 2013 - 9:01 am | Permalink

    Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

  22. Dave Clinton's Gravatar Dave Clinton
    February 22, 2013 - 9:02 am | Permalink

    I voted for Agnes for her story and to combat all the bad “Donne” word play.

    • February 22, 2013 - 10:42 am | Permalink

      LOL, Dave! The word play is getting pretty thick.

  23. Marguerite's Gravatar Marguerite
    February 22, 2013 - 9:02 am | Permalink

    Just Google “Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God” and see if you can possibly vote other than for John Donne.

    • ssn699's Gravatar ssn699
      February 22, 2013 - 2:26 pm | Permalink

      Sorry I vote before I read all the post.

    • Anna Kathleen's Gravatar Anna Kathleen
      February 22, 2013 - 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Agree. Voted for Donne

  24. February 22, 2013 - 9:03 am | Permalink

    Man, this is a difficult one! But in light of all the discussion of violence against women all over the world these days, I believe St. Agnes can inspire us to fight to make people aware of the injustice committed against women every day. Still, in our age, the first sexual experience of some 30 percent of women was forced (according to the WHO)! Though I agree wholeheartedly with Donne’s beliefs and sayings, I am going with the feminist cause today.

    • February 22, 2013 - 9:42 am | Permalink

      I voted for Agnes for the same reasons – too much of this still happening.

  25. Relling Westfall's Gravatar Relling Westfall
    February 22, 2013 - 9:04 am | Permalink

    Meditation XVII is so famous that even the waverers would be moved if they read it in its entirety. Donne’s poetry, and my long familiarity with it, clinch my vote, even though I would vote for Lucy in almost any other circumstance. Thisis a hard contest.

    • Relling Westfall's Gravatar Relling Westfall
      February 22, 2013 - 9:06 am | Permalink

      Oops my bad. I meant Agnes, I meant Agnes and not Lucy.

  26. February 22, 2013 - 9:07 am | Permalink

    O sacrificial lamb, thou art so sweet,
    all legend-clothed in fast-grown hair alone,
    yet wielded words wring Grace from iamb’s beat:
    something there is that loves good works well Donne.

    • Verdery's Gravatar Verdery
      February 22, 2013 - 10:45 am | Permalink

      Lovely! It’s good to know there are still poets in this 40-characters world. Thank you.

    • Harlie Youngblood's Gravatar Harlie Youngblood
      February 22, 2013 - 6:40 pm | Permalink


      • Gloria Rousseau's Gravatar Gloria Rousseau
        February 22, 2013 - 7:34 pm | Permalink

        The way I read that excerpt Donne would have voted for Agnes.

  27. February 22, 2013 - 9:08 am | Permalink

    Oh for Pete’s sake, John Donne ahead? Yes, great poetry, but as a man, Agnes is better than Donne.

    • Constance Santana's Gravatar Constance Santana
      February 22, 2013 - 2:13 pm | Permalink

      I see it as, really, John Donne? A man who had the opportunity to love life to the hilt as a young man, the opportunity to be educated at the best schools without ever getting a degree, pampered by the nobility, then marries the woman of his dreams and marries, is blessed with many children. Yes, he wrote great poetry and he was “forced” to be ordained. But sweet Agnes, she never had a chance to experience anything in life. She and her dear foster sister deserve at least this small acknowledgement of their lives. Sigh…

  28. Greg's Gravatar Greg
    February 22, 2013 - 9:11 am | Permalink

    Another tough one, you are really playing with us, aren’t you? Agnes wins simply for the purity, but I went with Donne. It makes me think I can be a saint(small s).

  29. February 22, 2013 - 9:13 am | Permalink

    Another toughie. I knew the story of St. Agnes, and it gives me chills to read it again. But I didn’t know the “rest of the story” about John Donne, a favorite of mine from my poetery class my senior year. Voted for Donne, and am hoping that this isn’t a lopsided affair.

  30. Betsy's Gravatar Betsy
    February 22, 2013 - 9:14 am | Permalink

    Sorry, Agnes, the bell rolls for thee…

  31. February 22, 2013 - 9:15 am | Permalink

    Donne was not once and done, but does he have more?

  32. Claire Woodley's Gravatar Claire Woodley
    February 22, 2013 - 9:20 am | Permalink

    Donne, passion, complexity and redemption… a story for our age if ever there was one. Agnes, in a world where the three words that most likely predict a death are, “It’s a girl.”


    • Anne Rein's Gravatar Anne Rein
      February 22, 2013 - 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, Claire Woodley. Yours is a moving testimony.

  33. February 22, 2013 - 9:20 am | Permalink

    This was the toughest day yet for me…as a priest/poet myself I was tempted to break my daughter’s heart and my usual custom of going for the girl in any coed contest. In the end though the beautiful picture of her with the lamb, just like the icon in our home of Rachel the matriarch– a memorial of our daughter Rachel who would have been 22 today– got Agnes my vote, pointless though it appears to be against such an Anglican hero!

    • February 22, 2013 - 10:04 am | Permalink

      The writer/poet/preacher in me won out. I had to go with Donne. Of course if I had a sweet little girl like yours I would’ve went with Agnes. You just can’t break sweet, little hearts like that.

  34. Mary W.'s Gravatar Mary W.
    February 22, 2013 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    Agnes seems like somewhat of a one-trick pony, whereas Donne had a whole corpus of work and deeds. Although Agnes’ story is aweful and I agree with those who commented about her inspiring those woman who were commonly treated like chattal at the time, I’m not sure how much more there can be to it. I’m going for the one who found redemption, and see what more I can learn in the later rounds.

  35. Nancy Baillie Strong's Gravatar Nancy Baillie Strong
    February 22, 2013 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    “Yes” to Donne, though Agnes’ story is compelling…my longer familiarity with and affaction for the poet, I find, compel me…

  36. February 22, 2013 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    As I get older, I find quasi-legendary stories of early martyrs just too far over the top. I vote for John Donne, whose life is well-attested and whose work continues to have an impact on Christian lives. And, besides, he had More!

  37. Mary Ellen's Gravatar Mary Ellen
    February 22, 2013 - 9:26 am | Permalink

    Really? Fur? Blindness and the wood? Come on . . . let’s be Donne with this!

  38. Linnae Himsl Peterson's Gravatar Linnae Himsl Peterson
    February 22, 2013 - 9:27 am | Permalink

    In John Donne’s day “preaching was a form of spiritual devotion, an intellectual exercise, and dramatic entertainment.” Now there is something we should work toward now! Vote Donne

  39. Adam Naff's Gravatar Adam Naff
    February 22, 2013 - 9:30 am | Permalink

    This was a tough one. I like that Donne led people to decide for themselves rather than blindly follow, but as the father of two daughters I had to go for the Patron Saint of girls. Agnes is looking out for my girls like I am.

  40. JoAnn's Gravatar JoAnn
    February 22, 2013 - 9:34 am | Permalink

    Agnes’ story is a bit over the top for me, although I have heard horrible stories about young girls in some countries who are victimized by their families for not marrying who they are told to that makes me think there may be some truth to it. But this sentence is the one that sealed it for me for Donne: Donne recognized that there is no belonging to a faith community without truly belonging.

  41. Laurie's Gravatar Laurie
    February 22, 2013 - 9:35 am | Permalink

    Agnes’s story is heartbreaking, but I am surprised at myself that I can’t shake a little bit of resentment. Untold numbers of girls have been killed from her time to now, have been seen/used as chattel, have not been permitted to treat their bodies as their own. Why does Agnes get to be the saint? I need to pray about this, I did not expect this reaction from myself!

  42. Allison Askins's Gravatar Allison Askins
    February 22, 2013 - 9:36 am | Permalink

    What a bizarre matchup –yes, Lent Madness is in full throttle. But I must go with the underdog here … any young child (I have a 14-year-old daughter) who is dragged through the streets to be raped so she can be killed because of her faith has my vote … and I’m thinking of all those young girls in Afghanistan and other parts of the world who are so undervalued and live in fear for their lives today. It’s Agnes for me!

  43. Marie's Gravatar Marie
    February 22, 2013 - 9:37 am | Permalink

    This is a heartbreaking choice – I did not know of Agnes’ story and am infuriated and inspired by her refusal to let others own her body. But John Donne – I mean just wow. Reading him never fails to make me proud of being an Anglican. Still, it seems unfair to vote for him because of his writing when Agnes didn’t live long enough to leave anything behind. I think I’ve just commented myself into voting for Agnes.

  44. Katrina Soto's Gravatar Katrina Soto
    February 22, 2013 - 9:39 am | Permalink

    Donne’s poetry was the subject of a paper I did in school many decades ago,
    yet I learned more about him today than I did after having completed that project. Thank you.

  45. Jane's Gravatar Jane
    February 22, 2013 - 9:40 am | Permalink

    The Agnes story has too much mythology around it. I had to go with Donne since the historical record is better.

  46. Livy's Gravatar Livy
    February 22, 2013 - 9:42 am | Permalink

    “There is nothing that God hath established in a constant course of nature, and which therefore is done every day, but would seem a Miracle, and exercise our admiration, if it were done but once” – John Donne

  47. Melanie Barbarito's Gravatar Melanie Barbarito
    February 22, 2013 - 9:53 am | Permalink

    If it were donne when ’tis donne, then it were well it were donne quickly. What can I say? I’m a sucker for English poets.

    • Sher Baechtold's Gravatar Sher Baechtold
      February 22, 2013 - 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Ah, Melanie that I should see you here after many years and both of us moving away from St. Thomas! Lent Madness reunites old church members! I went with Donne as well – any “recovering Catholic” has to appreciate his encouraging words!

  48. Janet's Gravatar Janet
    February 22, 2013 - 9:55 am | Permalink

    It has to be Donne. Two statements really speak to me: “You won’t be saved on the Day of Judgement by saying Harry or Martin told you to believe this. God wants to know what YOU thought and believed.” and “We are all connected in God one to another. As he writes, “All that she [the Church] does belongs to all…. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” It is the wonderful mix of a personal relationship – knowing what I think and believe while understanding the corporate relationship that we are all connected and have an impact on each other.

  49. Ellen L's Gravatar Ellen L
    February 22, 2013 - 9:58 am | Permalink

    Agnes is a very timely figure. When you look at the violence against women that we are now confronting with throughout the world, she is a good symbol.

    Still Donne’s body of work is terribly compelling.

  50. February 22, 2013 - 10:00 am | Permalink

    It was a Donne deal for me. While an English major many years ago, I came to appreciate his expression of faith through poetry. Milton was another one. I am glad my college taught the classics! Agnes of Rome is inspiring, but I went with pure unreasoned sentimentality today. So goes Lent Madness.

  51. Chris S's Gravatar Chris S
    February 22, 2013 - 10:00 am | Permalink

    I think both stories are inspiring, and Agnes has great meaning even if we likely conclude that she is largely or entirely myth. Nevertheless, I had to side with the confirmably true and redemptive story of Donne.

    Also, FYI, we should keep in mind what scholarship is saying about the literary style and rhetorical function of martyrdom. In a couple of weeks a church historian at Notre Dame will have her new book published, *A Myth of Persecution*. Looks like it is worth reflecting on and being challenged by:

  52. February 22, 2013 - 10:02 am | Permalink

    I really thought I would go with Agnes on this one. But this writer and preacher had to go with Donne in the end. I think the decision was made when I read that He wanted Christians to think for themselves. A man after my own heart.

  53. February 22, 2013 - 10:08 am | Permalink

    I know this is the “year of the martyr”, and generally I lean toward those folks over non-martyrs, since they sacrificed more, but Agnes’ hagiography is so over the top that I have to vote for a man who gave substantial intellectual and artistic contributions to the faith.

    On a totally separate note, I love that the patron saint of virgins is facing off against one of the Don Juans of the church.

  54. Carla's Gravatar Carla
    February 22, 2013 - 10:16 am | Permalink

    Christians think for themselves????? Novel concept…Donne it is!

  55. Patricia Nakamura's Gravatar Patricia Nakamura
    February 22, 2013 - 10:18 am | Permalink

    Much as I love Donne’s poetry, my sympathies have to be with the Little Lamb of Rome.

  56. February 22, 2013 - 10:19 am | Permalink

    It’s Donne for me…married as I am to Deborah Dunn…inspired by Donne’s work…he was also the fave of my late-great-father-in-law John Wallace Dunn…and I lost badly yesterday voting as I did for nasty old English Loyalist Seabury without whom we would have no Episcopal church. Also…I was smacked down for my sin of pride…I was perfect going into yesterdays vote. In the words of Charlie Brown: ARRRGGGHHHH!

  57. Nancy Mott's Gravatar Nancy Mott
    February 22, 2013 - 10:19 am | Permalink

    I agree with the discomfort of the clearly mythical aspects of Agnes. John Donne is inspiring in part because of the way he was able to evolve. It seems as if all the earlier parts of his life contributed to the extraordinary passion and intelligence of his later spirituality, characterized as it was with “gladness and singleness of heart.”

  58. Jill's Gravatar Jill
    February 22, 2013 - 10:24 am | Permalink

    I had to go with Agnes on this one, a timely choice in these awful days of so much violence against women. Plus, with an utterly completely sinful attitude, I’m still not over Donne smacking down T.S. Eliot…

  59. Michelle's Gravatar Michelle
    February 22, 2013 - 10:25 am | Permalink

    I am torn. As a lit major, I love Donne’s secular and spiritual writing. But I was born in Santa Ynez! For all the girls who have felt alone and embattled, I have to go with Agnes. Surely he who wrote “no man (one) is an island” would understand

    • Lawrence DiCostanzo's Gravatar Lawrence DiCostanzo
      February 22, 2013 - 10:39 am | Permalink

      I get it, Michelle. I voted for Donne, but the mission at Santa Ynez is really nice — tranquil and alive.

    • Elizabeth Byrd's Gravatar Elizabeth Byrd
      February 22, 2013 - 12:36 pm | Permalink

      I had not thought of Agnes as representing the stae of weome. Thanks to all who do.

      • Elizabeth Byrd's Gravatar Elizabeth Byrd
        February 22, 2013 - 12:37 pm | Permalink

        As for spelling and proofreading . . .

  60. RoodRunner's Gravatar RoodRunner
    February 22, 2013 - 10:29 am | Permalink

    I don’t think I can stand onne more Donne ponne. I would never speak ill of blessed Agnes, though one has to wonnder about the orgins of the hairy lady legend. Agnes’ story must be a great encouragement to those facing violent persecution; but most of our culture needs the witness of one who can communicate the Gospel with insight & beauty. Round to Donne.

  61. Lawrence DiCostanzo's Gravatar Lawrence DiCostanzo
    February 22, 2013 - 10:37 am | Permalink

    Although my grandmother was named Agnes, and I liked her a lot, I am voting for John Donne. He wrote good poems, and his sermons are good reads. Try them! Besides, before he came to religion, he was wild and sensual. Meaning: There’s hope for everybody.

  62. February 22, 2013 - 10:44 am | Permalink

    I finally went with Donne, based on his Christmas sermon 0f 1640 “THE AIRE IS NOT so full of Moats, of Atomes, as the Church is of Mercies; and as we can suck in no part of aire, but we take in those Moats, those Atomes; so here in the Congregation we cannot suck in a word from the preacher, we cannot speak, we cannot sigh a prayer to God, but that that whole breath and aire is made of mercy. “

    • Verdery's Gravatar Verdery
      February 22, 2013 - 10:53 am | Permalink

      OK, Deacon Alicia, you clinched the deal with “that whole breath and aire is made of mercy.” While Agnes’s story is indeed chilling, she was nowhere near the only young woman martyred because she wouldn’t marry Daddy’s choice. There’s only “onne” (Sorry, Roodrunner!) Donne.

    • February 22, 2013 - 10:43 pm | Permalink

      Oh, that’s beautiful. Thank you.

  63. Albert Krueger's Gravatar Albert Krueger
    February 22, 2013 - 10:48 am | Permalink

    I hope we’re donne with this silly game…

  64. FrDann's Gravatar FrDann
    February 22, 2013 - 10:50 am | Permalink

    Ordained to the priesthood January 21, 1994. Gotta go with sweet Agnes.

  65. February 22, 2013 - 10:52 am | Permalink

    In the words of Samuel Johnson, today’s matchup of Donne versus Agnes would seem “the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together . . . ”

    Had to go with Donne as much for the sheer beauty of his writing as for his fierce and uncompromising intellect.

  66. Kris's Gravatar Kris
    February 22, 2013 - 10:53 am | Permalink

    A “womanizer” paired against a virgin dragged to a brothel to be defiled before death…this IS madness.

  67. Barbara Cohn's Gravatar Barbara Cohn
    February 22, 2013 - 10:55 am | Permalink

    I think that the stories of the saints whether partially true or fully true are inspiring. I think that Agnes is a timely story today with the lack of respect for women in many countries.

  68. Cyndi DeBock's Gravatar Cyndi DeBock
    February 22, 2013 - 10:57 am | Permalink

    I vote for Donne because his flea poem was HOT!

  69. Gwin Hanahan's Gravatar Gwin Hanahan
    February 22, 2013 - 10:58 am | Permalink

    “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
    ― John Donne, No Man Is An Island

  70. February 22, 2013 - 11:04 am | Permalink

    We know that whatever happens today in Lent Madness, when today is Donne, we’ll still have More–just like John Donne.

  71. Michelle's Gravatar Michelle
    February 22, 2013 - 11:06 am | Permalink

    Seriously, Donne’s collect needs work!

  72. Pamela Dolan's Gravatar Pamela Dolan
    February 22, 2013 - 11:07 am | Permalink

    Some of us still believe that preaching can be “a form of spiritual devotion, an intellectual exercise, and dramatic entertainment.” Not that it’s likely to get me canonized…

    • Anne Rein's Gravatar Anne Rein
      February 22, 2013 - 1:54 pm | Permalink


  73. Marion Phipps's Gravatar Marion Phipps
    February 22, 2013 - 11:07 am | Permalink

    I am a John Donne fan, but martyrdom trumps beautiful writings for me…

  74. Jay's Gravatar Jay
    February 22, 2013 - 11:13 am | Permalink

    Batter my heart, three-person’d God!

    • Gloria Rousseau's Gravatar Gloria Rousseau
      February 22, 2013 - 5:21 pm | Permalink

      Yes read that last line and then think about the imagery and vote for Agnes

  75. February 22, 2013 - 11:19 am | Permalink

    This was a hard one as both saints have redeeming qualities. Donne seems the most likely winner because of his belief of personal thinking.

  76. Carol Anderson's Gravatar Carol Anderson
    February 22, 2013 - 11:22 am | Permalink

    I wonder how many young girls Donne encountered in his wild days of passion and entitlement? For all the girls who ever were part of the 30%, I vote for Agnes.

  77. Claudia Koczka's Gravatar Claudia Koczka
    February 22, 2013 - 11:36 am | Permalink

    I’m gonna have to stop playing if the matchups stay this hard–young female martyr vs priest/poet/preacher…though martyrdom is prophetic witness in its own right, I’ve cast my vote for the preacher, as so many prophetic preachers have influenced my life. Donne deal.

  78. Skip's Gravatar Skip
    February 22, 2013 - 11:39 am | Permalink

    Those that had trouble voting for Anges because of the mytical, over the top stories of her should remember another quote from Donne, “Reason is our soul’s left hand, Faith our right.”

  79. Bozema's Gravatar Bozema
    February 22, 2013 - 11:41 am | Permalink

    My head says John Donne, the rogue poet and priest, but my heart says St. Agnes, namesake of my hometown. Gotta go with the home team this time, but will be fine with the outcome either way.

  80. Aleathia (Dolores) Nicholson's Gravatar Aleathia (Dolores) Nicholson
    February 22, 2013 - 11:45 am | Permalink

    Donne deal and a little too much drama about Agnes…too over the top. maybe a sexist viewpoint but some martyrs tales are too too!

  81. Jerry Rankin's Gravatar Jerry Rankin
    February 22, 2013 - 11:46 am | Permalink

    I was all set to vote for Agnes the martyr. But after reading Donne’s bio., especially the “He was spiritual but not religious” which speaks so well to the changing nature of church and religion in our own day, I changed my mind. Here is one who could well speak to us as well as Brian McLaren or Diana Butler Bass. I think he might understand well our modern struggles of faith and religion. And, since I have not read this one yet…..
    Git’er Donne.

  82. Karen McLeod's Gravatar Karen McLeod
    February 22, 2013 - 11:49 am | Permalink

    Donne is one of the most profoundly spiritual writers I’ve read. He trumps stories about a child of the 300’s enduring an unlikely scenario.

  83. Lauren Stanley's Gravatar Lauren Stanley
    February 22, 2013 - 11:52 am | Permalink

    Donne. Community. Nuff said.

  84. Day Smith Pritchartt's Gravatar Day Smith Pritchartt
    February 22, 2013 - 11:52 am | Permalink

    Have always enjoyed celebrating my birthday on Agnes’ feast day. Vote Agnes!

  85. Lizzy Rake's Gravatar Lizzy Rake
    February 22, 2013 - 11:54 am | Permalink

    A Rake for a rake!

  86. Joy's Gravatar Joy
    February 22, 2013 - 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Have spent too much time with Donne not to give him my all. My vote goes to John today.

  87. Peg's Gravatar Peg
    February 22, 2013 - 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Agnes had a hard go, regardless of the mythical aspects of her story. She was a faithful kid abused and murdered by vicious adults. Donne was seducer (not a rapist) in his youth, but matured into a great writer and preacher whose works have the power to change hearts and maybe convince vicious adults that anyone’s death diminshes them, virginal or not.

  88. Cheribum's Gravatar Cheribum
    February 22, 2013 - 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Although I am really intrigued by the possibility of someone spontaneously growing a hair coat, I am taken today by the panache of Rev. Donne and a royal decree that he may only be employed by the Church! He strikes me as a reformed Jack Sparrow.

  89. Corey Sees's Gravatar Corey Sees
    February 22, 2013 - 12:25 pm | Permalink

    My heart is with Donne, but my vote goes to Agnes because the good people of St. Agnes Episcopal Church were so kind to my sister (a Methodist) while she studied abroad in Japan.

  90. dr.primrose's Gravatar dr.primrose
    February 22, 2013 - 12:25 pm | Permalink

    My favorite Lent Hymn (140) in Hymnal 1982 (with his own pun on his own name at the end):

    Wilt thou forgive that sin, where I begun,
    which is my sin, though it were done before?
    Wilt thou forgive those sins through which I run,
    and do run still, though still I do deplore?
    When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
    for I have more.

    Wilt thou forgive that sin, by which I won
    others to sin, and made my sin their door?
    Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did not shun
    a year or two, but wallowed in a score?
    When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
    for I have more.

    I have a sin of fear that when I’ve spun
    my last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
    swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son
    shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore.
    And having done that, thou hast done,
    I fear no more.

  91. Corey Sees's Gravatar Corey Sees
    February 22, 2013 - 12:28 pm | Permalink

    @Dr. Primrose: Not just his name, but his wife’s too! When thou hast DONE, thou hast not DONE, for I have MORE!

    • dr.primrose's Gravatar dr.primrose
      February 22, 2013 - 12:33 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, I meant to say the pun is at the end of each verse.

      • dr.primrose's Gravatar dr.primrose
        February 22, 2013 - 12:35 pm | Permalink

        Actually, my previous reply was supposed to be a reply to my own post above. Also, I had never picked up on the pun of his wife’s name. Such a witty guy!

        • February 22, 2013 - 3:13 pm | Permalink

          So, do I get any bonus points for alluding to this, complete with puns, earlier?

  92. The Holy Fool's Gravatar The Holy Fool
    February 22, 2013 - 12:37 pm | Permalink

    These match ups are “out of the universe” tough. Today’s is no different. Agnes has a fictional story/life.(Albeit real…)…..Donne has a creative way of addressing religion through poetry. I don’t know why? (not much success for the Holy Fool in these matchups)….I am going with “NO MAN IS AN ISLAND” Donne.

  93. Gloria Rousseau's Gravatar Gloria Rousseau
    February 22, 2013 - 12:41 pm | Permalink

    A 12 year old who is martyred for refusing to be chattel losing to a womanizer, even a reformed one, is a travesty of justice! Let’s get out the Agnes vote!

  94. Melissa Carlson's Gravatar Melissa Carlson
    February 22, 2013 - 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the lovely education.
    I voted for John Donne because I’m a sucker for redemption stories, but Anges almost had me when I read that her skull was in the Piazza Navona. I had previously thought the best thing about the piazza was Tartufo.

  95. Jill's Gravatar Jill
    February 22, 2013 - 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I like John Donne, I really do: his story, his poems, his belief for us to think for ourselves within our faith … ; but along with other’s comments and that young women and women, in general, are still in peril today in a lot of places around the world and beliefs are still so patriarchal, it was very clear I had to vote for Agnes.

  96. Milli Hayman's Gravatar Milli Hayman
    February 22, 2013 - 1:30 pm | Permalink

    My first and still deepest encounter with John Donne was through picking up the Hemingway novel and reading the poem that introduces it: “No man is an island, entire of itself…. Each man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Two overused, cliched quotes, so meaningful in their rightful context. That poem continues to inspire me as I struggle daily with fulfilling my baptismal vows to seek and serve Christ in every person, respect the dignity of every human being, and work for justice and peace in the world.

    Agnes’s story is interesting and certainly inspiring, if more than a little apocryphal. But John Donne speaks to us still, asking us to really THINK about what our faith means; to not respond to “religion” blindly but to exercise our minds and hearts in a deeper practice of our faith. I’m going with Donne.

  97. Barbara Traxler's Gravatar Barbara Traxler
    February 22, 2013 - 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I agree Gloria! The young among us are often the first to see truth. I voted for Agnes for all the young women whose fervent faith is an inspiration.

  98. JenniferThomasina's Gravatar JenniferThomasina
    February 22, 2013 - 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating to me that many are choosing not to vote for Agnes because they don’t believe her story. I’ll grant you that truth-telling in hagiography doesn’t always line up with post-Enlightenment views of truth as science and fact…but in solidarity with assault victims everywhere and everywhen who have had trouble finding people to believe them, today I stand with Agnes.

    • Karen's Gravatar Karen
      February 22, 2013 - 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Jennifer, your comment helped me to commit to voting for Agnes, as she does represent those victims who are so often not believed.

  99. Linda T.'s Gravatar Linda T.
    February 22, 2013 - 1:54 pm | Permalink

    We can’t get the Violence Against Women Act passed and Agnes is too mythical to be believed? I could get in big Madness trouble here, but if she’s too mythical, where does that leave Jesus? Calming a storm, walking on water, feeding 5,000 (not counting women and children) – those acts aren’t over the top? I don’t mean to equate Agnes with Jesus, but at what point does reason trump faith?

  100. Jen's Gravatar Jen
    February 22, 2013 - 2:01 pm | Permalink

    As a grad student in British Lit, I must go with John Donne.

  101. February 22, 2013 - 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Have to go with Agnes since it is my wife’s name!

  102. Alice's Gravatar Alice
    February 22, 2013 - 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for all the great comments. Agnes as a reminder of the inhumane treatment to which girls and women are still subject gets my vote.

  103. Donna's Gravatar Donna
    February 22, 2013 - 2:12 pm | Permalink

    In a poetry-laced contest, It is hard to decide–love The Eve of St. Agnes, but I love John Donne even more!

  104. Anne Rein's Gravatar Anne Rein
    February 22, 2013 - 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Although I could not express it at the time, when I read John Donne in high school in Mrs. Hudson’s class (herself an Episcopal saint whose encouragement lifted the spirits of a generation of depressed boomer creatives) I touched the mystical body of Christ for the first time and was lifted up. Donne’s writing and his life–the ongoing awakening to the redemptive power of God’s live–continue to inspire me. As Jerry Rankin commented above, Donne is an inspiration for our time, and he would fit right in with the emergent church. Like QEI (who I refer to as ‘the accidental pluralist’) Donne’s feeling & thinking about our global connectedness were way ahead of his time.

    Reading these comments each day has become an important (and favorite) part of my Lenten devotional. I feel a sense of community as I “listen” to the devotions of others who reflect theologically–and feelinlgy–on the lives of these many worthy saints.

    Thanks Scott and Tim for creating something fun which is also deeply moving and inspirational.

  105. Thomas van Brunt's Gravatar Thomas van Brunt
    February 22, 2013 - 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Whatever will we do until Monday?

  106. Susan Chacon's Gravatar Susan Chacon
    February 22, 2013 - 2:48 pm | Permalink

    There are some substantial, thoughtful arguments today for each saint. But for me, since this is, after all, Lent Madness, it comes down to this: I want to see the Agnes kitsch!!!

    • February 22, 2013 - 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Finally, a top-notch reason for Agnes. Her kitsch should be much better than Donne’s.

      • Susan Chacon's Gravatar Susan Chacon
        February 22, 2013 - 3:51 pm | Permalink

        You’re welcome!

  107. Phil Harrington's Gravatar Phil Harrington
    February 22, 2013 - 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Amazing. You manage to write all those paragraphs about J.D. without using the word “metaphysical.”
    Glad someone quoted “Hymn to God the Father” where he not only shows he wasn’t above punning on his own name, but does a pretty good riff on the Apostle Paul.

  108. Marcia Inman's Gravatar Marcia Inman
    February 22, 2013 - 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Constance — the little martyr deserves this remembrance, since she received so little honor during her time in this world. And I have to go with Agnes as the inestimably more Romantic poetic inspiration than fleas and lice. Virgins over vermin every time!!!

  109. February 22, 2013 - 3:26 pm | Permalink

    My first degree was in English Literature. I cannot vote against John Donne; I just can’t.

  110. Stephanie Shockley's Gravatar Stephanie Shockley
    February 22, 2013 - 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Here’s what I wrote on my fb wall when I posted today’s link:

    Another painful Lent Madness choice.

    I’ve been inspired by Donne’s poetry since high school, I have a deep love of the “spiritual but not religious” types, and I am always a fan of the reminder that even those with a PAST (especially those with a past!) have the potential to make great clergy.

    But Agnes, whether or not she even really existed as the legends say, is every young girl who has been thrown away by the world, whether in her time or ours – every one of those who have been assaulted, trafficked, forced to be child brides, killed by their male relatives, or refused a voice, a life, or an education.

    So I’m going with Agnes.

  111. Madge's Gravatar Madge
    February 22, 2013 - 3:50 pm | Permalink

    This story of Agnes is horrific. Glamorizing the “super virgin powers” is so incredibly toxic. And the hair thing? Since when is rape about confirming to conventional ideas of female attractiveness? And are women who don’t manage to thwart a rape with their super virgin powers less beloved by God? Gag.

    • JenniferThomasina's Gravatar JenniferThomasina
      February 22, 2013 - 5:11 pm | Permalink

      I agree that it is horrific and toxic, Madge. I voted the way I did to stand with Agnes, not necessarily with how her story has been used since.
      It may help to consider that Agnes’ virginity represents her choice (versus a forced marriage), and that power resides more in the idea of choice than in super virginity.
      In the gross image of the covering of hair I see actually quite a beautiful metaphor for drawing inner strength from God to preserve a sense of human dignity and self-worth as a beloved child of God when all about you is striving to strip it away.
      And to me it is absolutely not about ‘playing favourites’ — I am certain it is God’s will that everyone be protected from evils like those described in Agnes’ story…and that we have all got some work to do to in that regard.

      • Margret's Gravatar Margret
        February 22, 2013 - 6:40 pm | Permalink

        I agree with Madge in that I’m bothered by “super virgin powers” and the use of such martyrs to encourage young girls to be well -behaved and proper whilst they wait for their husbands. On the other hand, there are interesting comments to be made about the use of women as property even today and how difficult it is for young women in such cultures to break away from their property status. The hair thing is just creepy and strange.

        I’d rather vote for Emerentiana myself.

  112. Marguerite's Gravatar Marguerite
    February 22, 2013 - 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I have certainly learned to hate Diocletian this Lent Madness.

    As to Lucy, certainly some of the features of her story typify mythologies that develop around martyrs, particularly virgin martyrs. That said females were property in those times. No question that any willfulness would be met with force.

    It’s a shame that for many years stories like Agnes’s were used to stifle natural desires in girls (looking at you church of Rome), rather than to teach integrity, autonomy, faith.

    I voted for Donne but bless precious little Agnes for her tremendous courage.

  113. Izzy by the lake's Gravatar Izzy by the lake
    February 22, 2013 - 4:59 pm | Permalink

    The contest is for the “Holy Halo”: I think John Donne, the great poet, preacher, and churchman, the great believer that what touches one touches all, would have enthusiastically voted for St. Agnes.

  114. February 22, 2013 - 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Actually the Batter my Heart poem, with its androcentric comfort with rape imagery, was another reason I ended up not voting for Donne….Poignant contrast with a young woman who defended herself and whom God defended against such violation.

    • JenniferThomasina's Gravatar JenniferThomasina
      February 22, 2013 - 5:12 pm | Permalink

      Indeed! Huh. Good point.

  115. Gloria Rousseau's Gravatar Gloria Rousseau
    February 22, 2013 - 5:26 pm | Permalink

    I can’t stop thinking about Agnes and the reasons being given for the votes for Donne. Given the rationale for many of the Donne votes it is unfortunate those dragging Agnes down the street did not pause long enough for her to write a piece of poetry.

  116. Rob's Gravatar Rob
    February 22, 2013 - 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Donne is an “everyman’s” saint.

  117. Ginny Rodriguez's Gravatar Ginny Rodriguez
    February 22, 2013 - 5:44 pm | Permalink

    We know a great deal about John Donne through his writing and life story.
    We know very little about Agnes, but that her life was short and her tragic death.
    John became fully aware of Christ only after an extended period of “adventure”.
    Agnes never wavered in her faith in Jesus, though a compromise may have saved her life.
    Agnes , a lamb of God, sacrificed for her love of The Lamb of God.

  118. Madge's Gravatar Madge
    February 22, 2013 - 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Just to clarify, my beef with this is the way the virgin hagiographies get applied today. Donne was at the very least a cad. Assuming her story had historical validity she’s probably much more worthy of our emulation, super virgin powers notwithstanding.

  119. Rosemarie's Gravatar Rosemarie
    February 22, 2013 - 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Where do you guys come up with these pairings? An innocent, courageous 12 year old who gave up a life she had not yet had a chance to fully comprehend against a brilliant man who turned to Christ only after fully reaping the benefits of a life of sin and worldly glory. Those passionate virgin martyrs are inspiring, but the literally incredible stories about growing hair all over and fire refusing to start, while apparently meant to demonstrate God’s favor, actually diminish their greatness. True courage is possible only if we know God will not save us from suffering. John Donne is a dear old friend. The tremendous complexity and authenticity of his poetry about his marriage and his relationship with God speak to my modern soul struggling through a lifetime of faith and doubt in a way that a 12 year old never could.

  120. Patty's Gravatar Patty
    February 22, 2013 - 6:40 pm | Permalink

    In sorrow and in memory of the three young sisters raped and killed in India . . . I voted for Agnes.

  121. Harry W's Gravatar Harry W
    February 22, 2013 - 6:41 pm | Permalink

    “Agnes’ story is hard to believe”; tells the tale even today. If it’s not a man giving up his life for his faith then it is in question. The story is still to true even today; the girl child born has less value! Too many examples can be found in our even in the churches that see her as a saint – most of the Anglicans and all of the Roman faiths cannot give women the value of Priest.

  122. Old House Gal's Gravatar Old House Gal
    February 22, 2013 - 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Vote for Donne! This is a man who could write a love poem, albeit not your Valentine’s Day sonnet:
    “Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
    Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free,
    Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.”


    • Gloria Rousseau's Gravatar Gloria Rousseau
      February 22, 2013 - 7:18 pm | Permalink

      Look up the word ravish and see the irony in that poem in relatio to this “fun” contest.

  123. Anne's Gravatar Anne
    February 22, 2013 - 7:14 pm | Permalink

    I imagine that John Donne will win in a landslide and his richly complex/complicated life certainly merits it. But I am casting my vote for Agnes in the spirit of One Billion Rising, a movement focussed on preventing violence against women. I hope those who read this comment will urge their representatives to pass the Violence Against Women Act 2013.

  124. Alan Medsker's Gravatar Alan Medsker
    February 22, 2013 - 7:24 pm | Permalink

    I did not know who John Donne was until the play-in round. I have never considered myself someone that is cultured enough to appreciate poetry, unless you are talking about those limericks on Wait Wait, perhaps. But, after realizing that John Donne write things that even I have heard of, and especially that wonderful couple of lines from the Burial 1 service, which was Laurie’s reason #7 for voting from him (in the play-in round), I have to vote for him again.

  125. Deborah Dunn's Gravatar Deborah Dunn
    February 22, 2013 - 7:49 pm | Permalink

    It is amazing to me the passion with which the LM community has embraced this particular contest. The story of Agnes is so painful. It is really hard to pass a martyr by, particularly a 12 year old innocent; but I cannot not vote for John Donne. Understanding myself to be a sinner of no small scale, I have loved his words for their power and their almost comical honesty. Dunn votes Donne.

  126. William Loring's Gravatar William Loring
    February 22, 2013 - 7:59 pm | Permalink

    While Agnes’ story is certainly inspiring (even if somewhat exaggerated) Donne continues to speak directly to us in his poems and his prose, especially the sermons. The poem which struck me the most when I was studying his work is “Good Friday 1613, Riding Westward” (
    which, I am sure, records a key element in the process which brought him back from agnosticism to faith. And, if there really is “be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.” then Donne’s repentance after a misspent youth must have created huge bursts of of in heaven and a great sign of hope for us.

  127. William Loring's Gravatar William Loring
    February 22, 2013 - 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Since the current vote suggests that we shall not get any good Agnes trivia, let me fill the gap with this. As noted above her name means ‘lamb’ (actually more accurately it is a pun on agnus, lamb) so appropriately, on her feast day (Jan 21) two lambs are brought to her titular church where they are blessed by the pope — then on the following Maundy Thursday they are shorn, and the wool used to weave pallia to be given to newly created archbishops.

  128. Martha Cook's Gravatar Martha Cook
    February 22, 2013 - 8:35 pm | Permalink


  129. Cricket Cooper's Gravatar Cricket Cooper
    February 22, 2013 - 9:09 pm | Permalink

    I kept having flashbacks all day to that bizarro 1980’s movie, “Agnes of God”…..
    Made me wonder where the swashbuckling movie about John Donne is??? He’s got it all… romance, church, disobedience, fame ….. and lovely poetry thrown in for culture. Hmm….. Benedict Cumberbatch, anyone?

  130. Mary's Gravatar Mary
    February 22, 2013 - 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Certainly the Church of Rome would never consider Donne a saint, which is one good reason I voted for him.

  131. Steve Sedgwick's Gravatar Steve Sedgwick
    February 22, 2013 - 10:05 pm | Permalink

    A postscript to this round, perhaps: When Donne has won, Donne is not done, for he’ll have more.
    Some of our readers are taking this awfully seriously! The pairing of “dissimilars” – saints in this case, but words and images in the case of metaphysical poetry – seems to me part of the peculiar and provocative charm of Lent Madness. I look forward to more unlikely pairings, difficult as they may make voting.

  132. Cheryl Parris's Gravatar Cheryl Parris
    February 22, 2013 - 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Agnes! “All the Single Ladies!!!!”

  133. John's Gravatar John
    February 23, 2013 - 12:34 am | Permalink

    Some comments here have painted Donne as a “slacker,” attending universities but failing to take degrees. In his time, and well into the century before last, no one could receive a degree who refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy, recognizing the English monarch as Supreme Head and Governor of the Church in England. As a Roman Catholic, he had the choice of committing perjury by swearing falsely (a no-no, according to the Ten Commandments) or “going down” (leaving the university) without a degree. Later in the same century as Donne, Sir Isaac Newton nearly lost his teaching position at Cambridge because as a Unitarian, he could not in good conscience sign the Thirty-Nine Articles; he got by, presumably with a little help from his more pragmatic friends. By the Nineteenth Century people had worked out more ways of accommodating this relic of earlier religious wars. Irish Catholic MP’s met the canonical requirement of receiving the Sacrament from Anglican clergy thrice yearly and were routinely granted absolution for doing so by their Catholic priests of their parishes. Of course their wives and children did not share in these acts of “occasional conformity.” To Americans all this may sound like rank hypocrisy (it’s easy to call others hypocrites when you live under the protection of the First Amendment), but it is very much in the spirit of the Elizabethan Settlement; that wise monarch is on record as not caring to make windows into men’s hearts.

  134. Lynda's Gravatar Lynda
    February 23, 2013 - 1:24 am | Permalink

    I didn’t realise Agnes was so young (12), she was certainly very brave to say no to a patriarchal society that expected the young girl to just ‘do as she was told’. To drag her to a brothel naked, shame upon shame for the young girl. To die for what she believed in , she gets my vote. Now I am well and truly Donne!

  135. Jennings Hobson's Gravatar Jennings Hobson
    February 23, 2013 - 8:51 am | Permalink

    Tom et al,

    I have noticed that my daily emails from LM seem to be later than others in my church. Today I completely missed being able to vote in the John Donne-Agnes round as it came into my email at 1:14 am on Saturday.

    Is there something I need to do to get in better time?

    Jenks Hobson

    ps Have you seen the Pope Madness 2013 take off on your creation?

  136. Millie Ericson's Gravatar Millie Ericson
    February 23, 2013 - 9:10 am | Permalink

    Agnes rallied more than I thought she would against such a heavy hitter! Guess it just goes to show that the myth of the sacrificial virgin is still alive and well; still trying to influence young girls to be proper, chased and well behaved.

    • Gloria Rousseau's Gravatar Gloria Rousseau
      February 23, 2013 - 11:04 am | Permalink

      Chased but chaste.

    • JenniferThomasina's Gravatar JenniferThomasina
      February 23, 2013 - 11:46 am | Permalink

      Can’t speak for others but that’s not why I voted Agnes (see above). I would argue that Agnes was actually not especially proper and well-behaved, since her disobedience re marriage was what set the appalling subsequent events in motion. As for “chaste”, that looks like a far better alternative to me than what others had in mind for her. To me the takeaway from the Agnes story is God’s support for a strong-minded faithful young girl desperately (and appropriately!) trying to maintain her bodily integrity.

      I don’t begrudge Donne the win at all (great write-ups, great comments, & he’s m’man in the 16) – but I am glad there was support for Agnes too.

  137. Diane Lynch's Gravatar Diane Lynch
    February 23, 2013 - 10:17 am | Permalink

    “Criminy! Donne was a womanizer. Angnes the angel should have won by a landslide.” , My 12 yo daughter states in protest. At least Lucy won 🙂

  138. Doris Westfall's Gravatar Doris Westfall
    February 23, 2013 - 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Ask not for who the vote tolls…

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