Jonathan Daniels vs. Macrina the Younger

February 14, 2013
Tim Schenck

Did you ever think you'd utter the phrase "Thank God It's Lent?" Well, thanks to today's kick-off of Lent Madness 2013, you'll probably be hearing people saying "T.G.I.L." all day. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised to see a restaurant chain spring up called T.G.I. Lent's.

In any case, we're delighted to welcome you to this year's Saintly Smackdown with a First Round battle between Jonathan Daniels and Macrina the Younger. Yes, it's a martyred 20th century civil rights advocate versus a 4th century teacher and monastic. Such is the "madness" of Lent Madness.

If you're new to Lent Madness, welcome! You may want to check out the Voting 101 video if you have any questions. Be sure to sign up for e-mail updates on our home page so you never miss a vote, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and encourage your friends to jump into the fray. While you are on our Facebook page today, please "Check In" to Lent Madness so all your friends will know you have gone to Lent Madness.

We can assure you this will be a wild, joyful, educational, ocassionally gut-wrenching ride. Let the madness begin!

JM Daniels with girlJonathan Myrick Daniels

On Sunday, March 7, 1965, Jonathan Myrick Daniels, a second-year student at the Episcopal Theological School (ETS, now EDS) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, watched as television newscasts showed Alabama State Troopers beating and tear-gassing civil rights marchers as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The next day, Martin Luther King, Jr. called for white clergy from the North and people of good will to stand with the protesters. Daniels and 10 other ETS students answered the call, flying to Atlanta and arriving late Monday night.

After traveling by bus from Atlanta to Selma, on Tuesday, March 9, Daniels and about 2,500 others participated in the second march to the Pettus Bridge and back. Later that day, three white ministers who had come for the march were beaten, one of them (who had traveled from Boston on the same flight as Daniels) dying two days later.

At the end of the weekend, Daniels and fellow seminarian Judith Upham missed the bus that would take them back to Atlanta and on to seminary. As they watched many of the white protesters leave, Daniels and Upham began to feel it wouldn’t be right to abandon those left in the struggle. Returning to ETS, they petitioned the seminary to let them go back to Selma for the semester.

Daniels and Upham returned to Selma on March 21 and joined the final march to Montgomery. Staying with a local family, they “just hung around, doing what we could to help,” according to Upham, including tutoring children, registering voters, and integrating St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

After taking his finals in Cambridge, Daniels returned to Alabama for the summer. On August 13, after picketing a whites-only store in Fort Deposit, Daniels and around 30 other protesters were arrested and jailed in Hayneville. Released a week later with no transportation back to Selma, Daniels, 17-year-old Ruby Sales and two others went to Varner’s Cash Store for Coca-Cola where they were confronted by an unpaid special deputy with a shotgun. The deputy threatened the group and took aim at Ruby Sales. Pushing Ruby out of the way, Daniels took the full brunt of the shotgun blast and died instantly. He was 26.

Ruby Sales, who was saved by Daniels’ actions that day, went on to attend EDS and founded the SpiritHouse Project and the Jonathan Daniels and Samuel Younge Institute. Judith Upham became a priest in 1977 and still serves at St. Alban’s, Arlington, TX. The Diocese of Alabama hosts a yearly pilgrimage to Hayneville in honor of Jonathan Myrick Daniels and the Martyrs of Alabama. In addition, Daniels’ alma mater, the Virginia Military Institute, has established a humanitarian award in his honor.

Collect for Jonathan Daniels
O God of justice and compassion, you put down the proud and the mighty from their place, and lift up the poor and afflicted: We give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ the just one: who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Laura Toepfer

4491378363_2db6696f8bMacrina the Younger

Macrina the Younger (to distinguish her from her granny, Macrina the Elder, in a time before surnames) was the oldest child of a wealthy Christian family in Caesarea, Cappadocia, in the Roman Empire. She was educated in Holy Scriptures, and had a particular interest in the Psalter and the Wisdom of Solomon and focused on ethics in the Bible. When her betrothed died (she was to be married at the ripe old age of 12), she decided to dedicate herself to a journey into Christian wisdom. Her theology, known to us through the writings of her brother Gregory, reminds us that a Christian’s journey is not an inconvenience simply to get to the destination; the journey is the joy itself, filled with the wealth of relationships good and bad, mistakes, successes, and moments that take our breath away and moments that leave us in tears. For Macrina, the journey with Christ is the destination.

Macrina’s journey may not have left us speeches, writings, or sermons, but her life was preached in a breathtaking way through her relationships. Two of her brothers, Gregory and Basil, became two-thirds of the Cappadocian Fathers, men who helped finalize the Nicene Creed and gave words to the great mystery of the Christian faith. Gregory and Basil were bishops, as well as another brother Peter, in part from their sister who refused to let them believe their own hype. She reminded them that Christian faith demanded humility, dedication, and service. She told Gregory his fame had nothing to do with his own merit, and when Basil returned from a successful preaching tour with the big head, we are told she dressed him down considerably (or, as we say in the South, took him out to the veranda for a talking to). She served as an example for Basil and Peter, who followed their sister’s lead and renounced material wealth and focused their education on theology and Holy Scripture. While her brothers may have been early church rock stars, Macrina frequently challenged them on their theology, spiritual practices, and opinions and often, they realized she was right.

She also converted her family’s large, wealthy estate in Pontus to a monastery that cared for the poor and provided a safe, peaceful shelter for study and meditation for women and men alike. Many who lived, studied, and prayed in her monastery were starving women she would find while walking on the roads around the city. Basil and Peter used her life as a monastic to write a Rule for community life; therefore, Macrina became the spiritual mother of monasticism.

Gregory of Nyssa visited his sister as she lay dying and later shared her last words, a mixture of a Greek farewell oration and reflections on Holy Scripture, in his writings. One of the great fathers of Christian theology, Gregory of Nyssa (a saint), and one of the great fathers of Christian spirituality, Basil the Great (a saint, too), called this woman, their sister, the greatest teacher of the faith they ever encountered. Macrina, in her faith, her intelligence, her deep humility, lived a gentle life, and the elements of strength, love, and mercy so mixed in her that the great Fathers of our faith would say to all the world, “This was a woman.”

Collect for Macrina the Younger
Merciful God, you called your servant Macrina to reveal in her life and her teaching the riches of your grace and truth: May we, following her example, seek after your wisdom and live according to her way; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Laurie Brock


[poll id="57"]


* indicates required

Recent Posts



148 comments on “Jonathan Daniels vs. Macrina the Younger”

  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! Jonathan Daniels all the way to victory! As I prepare breakfast after a marathon Ash Wednesday at the Cathedral, I grind my coffee beans joyfully, boil the water, and prepare my morning java to drink from.....what, you say? LENT MADNESS 2013 cup graced by the visage of the one and only.....ta-da-ta! (trumpet fanfare) MARY MAGS !!!!On to a meal I obviously need. Holy Moly and Hallelujah! LENT MADNESS IS HERE!!!!!

    1. Aleathia, you can't say Hallelujah in Lent!
      I'm sure that disqualifies your vote. Oops!
      I just said the H word myself!
      Guess that disqualifies mine too.

  2. This was a tough one, but I remember when Jonathan Daniels was martyred and have to give him the vote.

    1. Why should martyrdom trump everything? Not to take anything away from good Jonathan, but his story is being told big time already. Poor Macrina has been eclipsed by her brothers. She was a martyr to sexism.

      1. Ahh-men, Phil. It does not take anything away from Daniels to acknowledge the debt which the entire Church owes to Macrina.

        I'm grateful to Laurie Brock for this: Macrina's theology "reminds us that a Christian’s journey is not an inconvenience simply to get to the destination; the journey is the joy itself, filled with the wealth of relationships good and bad, mistakes, successes, and moments that take our breath away and moments that leave us in tears. For Macrina, the journey with Christ is the destination."

      2. Amen to Phil!! Although I prefer to think of it as a woman who knew she was in charge and was able to ignore the men in her life who wore very large hat sizes!! Macrina you go girl!!!

        1. Women in history (or herstory) are always the unsung heroes. I hereby sing Macrina's praises. She also influenced many through her influence on her brothers!

  3. The minister who died was, I believe, James Reeb...a UU minister from the Boston area. Surely his sacrifice merits his name being spoken.

    1. My dad was one of the 10 ETS students -- Jack Lawton. My mother, who mainly organized the contingent, and other Episcopalians as well, usually ends up being left out, or is referred to as "Jack Lawton and his wife." The sexism of the day, I suppose. Her name was Nancy Lawton. She worked with the Northern Student Movement in Boston alongside Byron Rushing and many other wonderful folks. She was instrumental particularly in persuading Jonathan to go to Selma; he had doubts about the project that have been much written about. She always felt a little responsible for his going, and what happened.

      When they heard on the news in August 1965 that an unnamed seminarian had been killed in Alabama, they knew. They were on their way to Williamstown, MA for my dad's curacy, with all their wordly goods packed into their car, and they heard it on the radio somewhere along the Mohawk Trail (Route 2). They dropped their stuff in Williamstown, turned the car around, and headed to Keene, NH for the funeral.

      My parents died in a car crash in July 1991, but the last thing my mom did in her life, as a General Convention deputy from W. Mass, was to work with the Civil Rights veterans from the Episcopal Church in those days, and the dioceses of Alabama and New Hampshire, to put Jonathan's name on our calendar. That convention in Phoenix was a challenging one, but in my last conversation with my mom, she was full of joy of the recognition he and that struggle were getting. I treasure that.

      So, for my mom and all the many who worked in the Civil Rights Movement, and those who are still working today for racial justice through Christian witness, I voted for Jonathan. Macrina is surely worthy too, but it was a no-brainer for me today.

      Blessed Lent Madness to all,
      Sarah Lawton
      Diocese of California now, child of Western Massachusetts

        1. Dear Lorna,

          I assure you (and I believe I speak for the other bloggers here) that I take the responsibility for telling this story very seriously -- especially knowing that there are people in this audience who knew Jonathan Daniels personally.

          You are quite right that the goal here is not the game, but to share the stories of these saints, some well-known, others more obscure, in hopes that we may be inspired to live our lives in service to God and others. The game part is only a vehicle for making that happen.

          I hope that helps.

          Laura Toepfer

      1. Thank you for sharing this story, Sarah. Important to remember the family and friends behind every saint.

  4. I am fairly confident that Jonathan Daniels is going to beat Macrina by a wide margin, and prolly make it to the Faithful Four, which is why I'm voting - Macrina!

    1. really tough! Want to vote for both on different days. Had to go with Macrina - 1) because folks who haven't a heart for the Fathers will ensure Daniels gets more votes anyway and 2) the woman who personally helped form the authors of the Nicene Creed w/o getting credit for it deserves everything we can give her and more.

  5. I want to vote for both. But with Anne Wrider, I chose the martyr. Tough way to start! Hail Macrina anyway!

  6. Both deserve a vote, but unfortunately if push comes to shove I would have to vote for Jonathan Daniels.

    That said, I intend for my votes as a whole to reflect a balance between men and women, saints of European descent versus saints from the Global South, saints of color versus White saints, martyrs vs. non-martyrs, etc.

  7. Thank you Laurie, for not defining Macrina simply as sister to her more famous brothers. She has so much more going for her and her brothers wouldn't have become saints without her prodding.

  8. Macrina held her brothers accountable, when they needed to be humbled, and to be reminded they were serving the highest good. The prayers of the monastics have kept this troubled world in balance. Macrina gets my vote.

  9. Both are very deserving, I went the Macrina route, for she has little chance of being the victor today! I am so happy to have Lent Madness back in my life! I can't wait to vote for Father Damien of Moloka'i. Let the madness begin!!!

  10. This was a bit difficult. In my research of deaconesses, Macrina is on the top ten list. But, in my heart, Jontn Daniels won out. As the deacon at St Clement's in NYC, I shared the sacred chapel space with a stained glass window depicting Jonathan. I was told that Ruby Sales attended its service of dedication.

    1. Agreed. Nothing against JoDa, but if "Gregory of Nyssa (a saint), and one of the great fathers of Christian spirituality, Basil the Great (a saint, too), called this woman, their sister, the greatest teacher of the faith they ever encountered" then, that's good enough for me.

  11. Unrelated, I will only attend T.G.I Lent if it serves fish fries all day every day. 24 hour fish fries!

    Related, this was a tough choice. I voted Macrina for the same reason Scott did.

  12. Boy, y'all know how to start this off with a bang! A very tough choice! Finally decided to go with Macrina because she is probable the one who really gave the foundation for our credal statements and so deserves all the recognition she can get! Go Macrina!

  13. Wow! Macrina's mother must have been one heck of a witness to have turned out a brood like that.

    Hard choice today. Still pondering.

  14. Oh, no fair! How do I pick? I'm a lay Associate of a monastic order, and in Macrina I see the foundations of the path that has meant most to my spiritual growth as an adult...but Jonathan Daniels was martyred! The year I was born, even; I remember my mother telling me that her parish priest had gone, in early March, to the protests (while she was just weeks from delivering and really wanted him not quite so far away). Oy! this is hard.

  15. I love the story of Macrina the younger, however, the story of Jonathan Daniels took my breath. He was, as was MLK, martyred for the faith, love and compassion shown during a time of great oppression in modern times.

  16. Such a toughie! But having been a seminarian at St. Clement's in NYC, have to go with Jonathan, although Macrina's leadership/creation of what probably was one of the first double monastic houses, saving starving women and holding her two big fat head brothers to account... wait! Here it is in real time, a vote switch! Macrina you're a sister after my own heart!

  17. Jonathon has an amazing story, almost movie worthy, but Marcina has had a very different type of's almost not a fair competition...hmmm

    1. Check out "Here I am, send me: the journey of Jonathan Daniels." It is a documentary, not a true movie, but I believe available for viewing on the web.

  18. Macrina also had a sense of humor. She wrote these famous words for Basil to say when he entered a basilica followed by the two Gregorys, "Hi, I'm Basil and this my brother Bishop Gregory and this is my other Brother Bishop Gregory." Sadly to the detriment of Macrina's legacy, this bit of Cappadocean humor was co-opted by the writers of the Newhart show set in Vermont when it was placed in the mouth of the backwoodsman who said everytime he and his two brothers entered the room, "I'm Larry and this is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl."

  19. A tougher choice than I initially thought (kind of like having two high seeds meet in the first round of March Madness). But, being an ETS graduate, and having arrived there while Jon's memory was still fresh in the minds of many, I have to go with him.

  20. Welcome the return of Lent Madness -- with a very tough choice. As much as I revere Macrina, I had to go with Jonathan, a modern martyr for civil rights.

  21. Good to see you here, Dolores! I'm with Jonathan Daniels all the way, too. Macrina was quite a gal (I especially love her keeping Bas and Greg in line!), Jonathan Daniels is such an inspiration. Just wish the bio included the connection between the Magnificat, Daniels' call to prophetic action in AL, and the collect...

  22. This is my first Lent Madness, and if this is any indication of the tough choices to be made then I am in for a struggle.

    1. Just remember that your vote in no way impacts their place in the kingdom of God. The last shall be first!

  23. The story of Jonathan Daniels brings me to tears whenever I read it - I remember his murder because I was in high school and had just become an Episcopalian when it happened. If anything firmly established me as a member of this church, it was his witness. That said ... I have to vote for Macrina. Jonathan may be a witness for civil rights in the USA, but Macrina has and will always have a much deeper impact on the church catholic.

  24. Tough call. I knew and know people who were in Selma during that time and the events are more horrific than we know. It is a good, courageous and noble thing to be drawn to battle injustice because it is wrong, is the right thing to do and is in the news.

    It is quite another to contended with systemic gender dismissal and bigotry day after day, every day of your life, with no realistic hope of changing the status quo, no public platform from which to fight it. And yet, soldier on. Continue to persevere in healing and loving where and as you can and helping God to keep “the boys” slender enough for their Bishop britches.

    Mac-Y for me.

  25. This was a difficult one, but Jonathan Daniels is my NH home boy. There are other stories of events that happened in his activism in the South which are important lessons about seeing humanity and Christ, even in those with whom we are locked in a bitter struggle. He learned a lot... and left a teaching legacy in his martyrdom.