Hilda of Whitby vs. Ignatius of Antioch

Welcome back, friends, to Lent Madness and the third match-up in the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. We'll continue all week with this round featuring quirks and quotes from our saintly contestants. Today Hilda of Whitby takes on Ignatius of Antioch in a clash of influential figures about 600 years apart. To get to this point, Hilda routed Samuel Seabury and Ignatius came out victorious in the Battle of the Iggys by slipping past Ignatius of Loyola.

We did our best to help keep your weekend bout with Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW) at bay. Because we care, we...

1. Shared some creative ways parishes are using Lent Madness in a post titled Creative Juices Overfloweth.

2. Linked to an article about Lent Madness taking over the entire state of South Dakota (we're still waiting on confirmation that the members of the Supreme Executive Committee will be added to Mount Rushmore).

3. Found out from the conservative website The Daily Caller that Lent Madness is part of a liberal conspiracy and may be responsible for the downfall of the Obama Administration. (Don't read the comments that follow if you have a weak stomach).

Our goal for this week, in addition to the usual Madness, is to get over 5,000 likes on Facebook. There's no reason, with your help, that we can't achieve this milestone. If you're on Facebook but have't yet liked us, you're missing some bonus material and links to get you through the day. (It's kind of like getting the deleted scenes on a movie DVD). We're hovering in the low 4,700's right now. Come on, people!

icon_st_hilda2Hilda of Whitby

Hilda (614-680) was the founding Abbess of the Monastery in Whitby, England. The source of our information about Hilda’s life is from the Venerable Bede’s The Ecclesiastical History of the English -- we have no surviving direct quotes from Hilda herself. According to Bede, Hilda was brought up in the court of King Edwin of Northumbria after her father, the king’s brother, was poisoned when Hilda was an infant. She was baptized along with King Edwin and his entire court in 627.

Bede tells us that Hilda's widowed mother, Breguswith, had a dream in which her daughter's destiny was foretold. In this dream she suddenly became aware that her husband was missing and, after a frantic yet fruitless search, she found a valuable necklace under her dress. When she gazed upon the jewel it brilliantly illuminated all of England. This vision was interpreted as foreshadowing the light Hilda was destined to shine on British Christianity.

As a young woman Hilda entered a convent, influenced by St. Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne. In 657 she founded the monastery in Whitby, where she remained until her death. Bede describes her as a woman of great energy, wisdom, and a skilled administrator. Many kings and princes sought her council and it is no accident that the Synod of Whitby was held at her monastery in 664. It was here that the church in England decided to follow the Roman rather than the Celtic path, a decision that would impact the course of Christianity in Great Britain.

Legend has it that when snakes infested the town of Whitby, Hilda’s prayer turned the snakes into stones. Here’s a verse by Sir Walter Scott commemorating this event:

When Whitby’s nuns exalting told,
Of thousand snakes, each one
Was changed into a coil of stone,
When Holy Hilda pray’d:
Themselves, without their holy ground,
Their stony folds had often found.

As Bede writes in his hagiography of Hilda:

Thus this servant of Christ, Abbess Hilda, whom all that knew her called Mother, for her singular piety and grace, was not only an example of good life, to those that lived in her monastery, but afforded occasion of amendment and salvation to many who lived at a distance, to whom the fame was brought of her industry and virtue; for it was necessary that the dream which her mother had, during her infancy, should be fulfilled.


Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch, and was martyred during the 1st-century. His series of letters, written as he was carried under guard to his death at Rome, provide key insight into the Early Church’s understanding of church unity, ecclesiology, and the sacraments.

Even as he was facing the near certainty of his death at Rome, Ignatius appears to have kept his own unique sense of humor as he wrote his letters. While writing to the Church at Ephesus, he opined on a few newly found fashion accessories:

Let nothing appeal to you apart from Jesus Christ, in whom I carry around these chains (my spiritual pearls!), by which I hope, through your prayers, to rise again.

While his letters show no sign that Ignatius ever owned any pets of his own, one of Ignatius’ statements reveals that he might have had great sympathy for any cat owner who just can’t seem to get their pet to act nicely:

I am fighting with wild beasts, on land and sea, by night and day, chained amidst ten leopards (that is, a company of soldiers) who only get worse when they are well treated. Yet because of their mistreatment I am becoming more of a disciple; nevertheless I am not thereby justified.

Among the common threads uniting Ignatius’ letters is his plea for unity within the church. In his letter to the Ephesians, he presents a stunning image of the church as a choir:

In your unanimity and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung. You must join this chorus, every one of you, so that by being harmonious in unanimity and taking your pitch from God you may sing in unison with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, in order that he may both hear you and, on the basis of what you do well, acknowledge that you are members of his Son. It is, therefore, advantageous for you to be in perfect unity, in order that you may always have a share in God.

Legends also abound about Ignatius; one holds that he was among the children taken into Jesus’ arms in Matthew 19. Another says that even as Ignatius was tortured before his death, he never ceased to proclaim Jesus. His tormenters are said to have demanded why Ignatius insisted, to his own detriment, to continue to preach Jesus Christ. Ignatius responded: “Know for certain that I have this name written in my heart, and therefore I cannot proclaim any other name.” After his martyrdom by lions, the legend holds that Ignatius’ body was opened and that Jesus’ name was found inscribed, in letters of gold, on his heart.

Legend or not, it is certain that Christ and the church never were far from Ignatius’ heart, for it was in service of both that Ignatius ultimately gave his life.

-- David Sibley


HIlda of Whitby vs. Ignatius of Antioch

  • Hilda of Whitby (54%, 2,049 Votes)
  • Ignatius of Antioch (47%, 1,781 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,829

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135 comments on “Hilda of Whitby vs. Ignatius of Antioch”

  1. After a glance at the CROSIER in Hilda's hands, I cast my vote, here under the oak trees, for Hilda.

    1. I hadn't noticed that at first. Good catch Gwin! I am so often left wondering, especially during Lent Madness (of course), how many other women saints went unnoticed through the centuries. And even though it is likely that Iggy will close the gap and win this, at least Hilda will have had her day a bit.

  2. No contest. Hilda of Whitby. Anyone who can turn snakes into stones. You go, girl!

  3. I was planning to vote for Hilda when I signed on, but Ignatius call for unity won my over.

  4. Hilda all the way. BTW was the SEC trying to sway the vote by not even giving Hilda's CB credit???

  5. I cannot decide. Both are shining examples of Christ-like authority and leadership. Ignatius is one of the great apostolic successors who led by the ultimate example. Hilda led by teaching, and by the example of seeking reconciliation.

  6. I will gently point out that contemporary documents have her as Hild, not Hilda.
    During her administration of Whitby, Bede tells us, a certain lay brother used to leave the Friday night gebeorscipe or beer-drinking session because he couldn't for the life of him compose a song as one was supposed to do; head hanging, he'd go hang with the sheep he herded. On one such occasion an angel visited him and said, "Sing me something." The brother protested that he couldn't sing a thing. The angel insisted: "Sing me Creation." And, to his own vast surprise, he did.
    In the morning the lay brother's astonished foreman took him to Abbess Hild. She had him recite the poem, questioned him, then sent him off with instructions to see if he could come up with another poem by the next morning. He could and did. Hild, correctly surmising that that this was a gift from God, admitted him to the community, which set about filling the gaps in his education. For the rest of his life, when Whitby needed a poem on a religious theme, this brother would be instructed in the necessary points of doctrine and sent off to think about it, and in the morning, "like a cow chewing its cud", he'd produce a gem of a poem in the Old English alliterative-stressed style. For this lay brother was Caedmon, first poet in Old English whose name we know. Bede, alas, preserves only the first eight lines of his considerable output, beginning "Nu sculon herigean • heofonrices weard" 'Now shall we praise • Heaven's Guardian'.
    Bright lady, Hild. She gets my vote.

  7. Love Hilda - but voted for Iggy. Could easily have supported either - but the slams in the comments about Iggy A. tipped the scales for me in his favor.

    Can't stand those negative ads....

  8. Ignatious - The teaching on unity even more important today. Also, this was my grandfather's middle name so I have to vote for him!

    1. It wasn't in today's post on her, but Hilda's example of speaking her truth at the Synod of Whitby, then accepting the outcome, is also an outstanding example of unity.

      1. Agree wholeheartedly. One more reason I'm finding it hard to decide between these two!

  9. I was going to vote for Hilda, the founder of a couple of co-ed monasteries, until I read Ignatius's metaphor of the church as a choir. This alto votes for the unity that comes from harmony.
    And puts forth the idea that a bell choir is an excellent example of the Body of Christ--each person does something different, but each is vital to the whole piece.

  10. I do wish y'all would update the bracket as we go along and put a link next to the current voting page. It might help some of us undecideds if we could anticipate upcoming matchups.

    1. Dear SEC, we would like to have our thumbnail choices back! This is twice where I have only been able to post on Facebook with the face of the person for whom I am not voting!

      1. I have this problem with FB, too and have very recently been told it's due to the way Facebook aggressively caches content.

        Facebook has something they call the URL Debugger, which Lent Madness (and perhaps we) can use to clear the cache so the most recent version is used instead: https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/. Try using this tool and plug in the address for the Facebook campaign, it should be able to resolve the issue.

      2. Hey, if you don't like the way Facebook works, yell at Mark Zuckerberg. We place two images on the page (one for each saint). What Facebook does with them is up to Facebook. Sorry.

        If you want to buy the SEC a controlling interest in Facebook, we assure you that many things will change about how Facebook works.

          1. Okay...but if pop-up ads for relics appear in the sidebar there, I am out. Eww.

            (There may be a "Saints preserve us!"/'preserved saints' joke in there somewhere, but I don't have time to find it right now -- perhaps by the kitsch round.)

  11. I came here determined to vote for Hilda, but ended up voting for Ignatius. I love me some snark, and well, I sing in a choir. How easily I am moved.... *sigh*

  12. I have been waiting to hear something of Caedmon, the first known English poet (and a singer.) He was recognized by Hilda and her Abbey. Is the Hilda blogger so certain that she will advance (as I am) that he/she is waiting to post this info later?

    1. I included this in her first round information, and had it ready to go in this round with the cow chewing cud story before my weekend respite derailed my Hilda plans. Stay tuned for how this Celebrity Blogger spent her weekend when she should have been writing. I do hope she makes it to the next round, though. Thanks to Tim for doing a great job as a pinch-hitting celebrity blogger!

      1. Ah-that explains why no byline for Hilda article this week. Hope all is well, or will be.

  13. OK, so I missed Lagerquist's wonderful post. Another fan of Caedmon and Hilda!

  14. So, Ignatius had pearls, too? If I recall correctly, the 1st round description of Hilda had her clutching her pearls. "And all the saints with pearls in hand..." Now there's a first line to get Caedmon going, don't ya think? Or do we also have to provide him some pub brew?

  15. Voting for Hilda for many reasons. She led a community of men and women, four men who became bishops trained under her (the Celtic cross in Whitby has a lovely carving of Hilda with four mitred bishops peeping out from behind her.) She argued for unity at the synod of Whitby, she encouraged Caedmon in his gifts. Oh and her feast day in the C of E has been moved to allow Hugh of Lincoln her day. The least we could do for her is redress this wrong.

  16. According to All Saint's Parish in Brookline, MA: "Hilda remained a peacemaker to the very end-her greatest concern was that her monastic family should be one in the Lord, and her last recorded words were: 'Have evangelical peace among yourselves.'" What an amazing woman. Of course I voted for Hild!

  17. In the end I've decided that Hilda's example of finding unity in dialogue tips the scale in her favor, at least for moi. But to play a little bracketology, I expect whoever wins here to eventually lose to Martha of Bethany.

  18. It's so difficult to decide.
    Perhaps Ignatius is the greater martyr and traditional witness, but women who serve the Church in leadership roles now see Hilda's wisdom and tremendous gift of leadership as a witness to the many women have lead Christian communities but whose names are not remembered.

    1. Speaking of bracketology David, I think who ever wins this side of the bracket will have to go up against Romero or Li-Tim-Oi, if we put Iggy up it will not be a fair fight, at least Hilda has a fighting chance...or Martha. 🙂

  19. What treasures we might have had from Hilda if more of her own words and actions had been committed to history and passed down to us! Here's to all the amazing but unknown, voiceless women ministering through the centuries. Hilda has my vote!

  20. Voting for Hilda is really a vote for the work of the Venerable Bede. Ignatius of Antioch letters survived, more of an original source, if you will, therefore making Ignatius a better choice for Saint de Jour.

  21. Of all the places in England that we visited a few years ago, my son, Chris and I put Whitby and Lindisfarne in the top ten of our list of Most Inspirational. The ruined cathedral is amazing!

    1. What ruined cathedral? Did you mean abbey? On second thought the abbey at Lindisfarne did served as a Cathedral for a time though apparently be default more than by intent.

  22. I hope we are not assuming that just because Hilda did not write anything that we have found yet-or survives she is some how a lesser saint. What documents did Jesus write? Oh that's right nothing because he was too busy being awesome.

  23. I miss the choice of thumbnails. Yesterday and today I posted with no thumbnail because the only choice was the st. I was not voting for. Bring back the choices.

  24. I voted for Ignatius of Antioch because of his plea for unity within the Church. His image of the Body of Christ as a choir, with everyone taking his pitch from God and singing with one voice, is a lovely one, and one we should strive to achieve. My own parish is beginning its search process for a new rector, the national Episcopal church will be electing a new Presiding Bishop in the next 2 years, and the Catholics will be getting a new Pope soon. A prayer for chuch unity seems quite timely.

    1. But Hilda was a perfect example of unity when she agreed to accept the date of Easter -- we would all be fortunate indeed if we had religious leaders with Hilda's gifts and holiness.

  25. Hilda!! Unfortunately, I was unable to fulfill my Celebrity Blogger obligations this weekend for Hilda (stay tuned for more info as to why, Lent Madness style), but thanks to Tim for getting it done. I'd add that Hilda has a college in England named after her (and Bede, but since this is all about Hilda...) that produced not one, but TWO actors who played James Bond. Changed the church, got rid of the snakes in Whitby, and gave us two James Bonds. All without being martyred. Winning, by church friends. Winning. Vote for Hilda!!

    1. Laurie,

      Great to see that you are up and posting and please know that we miss your blogs, no insult to Tim's efforts of course. Please know that we are all hoping that you are back to 100% soon. In the spirit of Lent Madness I trust that you have forgiven the horse.

      1. Up and around. Working on my post for tomorrow. Nina the horse has nothing to ask forgiveness for, as she was being a happy, exciting horse outside for spring. The fence, however, has much to ask forgiveness for.

        1. Liberal (Fence-al? Corr-al?) Conspiracy Responsible for Downfall of Lent Madness Celebrity Blogger. Quick, someone call The Caller! (or not)

  26. Also, this is not a battle between a martyr and a non martyr. This is a match up between a "red martyr" and a "white martyr." It is said that Hilda suffered for 7-9 years with illness and fever and still continued to work in the service of God until she died. By definition this makes her a white martyr, poor long-suffering soul that she was.

  27. "When her own community was divided over the differences between the practices of Celtic and Roman Christianity, a synod was called at Whitby. Hilda was personally sympathetic to the Celtic tradition, just as some of us have loved various aspects of our own tradition like the prayer book or certain hymns or particular styles of worship. But the synod did not choose the Celtic tradition; they opted for the Roman position. Hilda adapted to that decision and was one of the strongest proponents of peace." From "Brightest and Best; a Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts" by Sam Portaro. Thanks, Sam for this reference book for me during Lent Madness! Go Hilda!

  28. I think I will have to go with Ignatius today. This line got me just like the window in our church where Jesus is standing with the children ... "Legends also abound about Ignatius; one holds that he was among the children taken into Jesus’ arms in Matthew 19." If only we all held onto the capacity to wonder and experience mystery like children!