Nicholas Ridley vs. John of the Cross

Will John of the Cross get "rid" of Ridley? Or will Nicholas Ridley "crucify" John of the Cross? These are the questions that emerge when an English martyr faces a Spanish mystic. Enjoy the last saintly square-off of the week and stay tuned for more Madness on Monday as Phillips Brooks takes on Simeon.

Yesterday it was Thomas Merton in a romp over Aelred 60% to 40%. The day wasn't without controversy as the Supreme Executive Committee was forced to deny allegations of a "Payment for Placement" scheme involving Saint Louis of France (or Missouri).

LM RidleyNicholas Ridley

Nicholas Ridley was a leading voice in the Protestant movement in the English Church and was executed for heresy and treason in the reign of Queen Mary I. In 1547, during the reign of Edward VI, Ridley was named Bishop of Rochester. He worked with Thomas Cranmer to develop the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and was enthroned as Bishop of London in 1550. He was a tireless advocate for reformed doctrine and took part not only in its promotion but also in the prosecution of Catholic-minded bishops and clergy. Ridley gained royal notice and favor having preached with energy and zeal before King Henry VIII. Once Henry abandoned Rome, Ridley’s star rose even higher. He showed concern for the interior spirituality and moral fabric of individual churchmen and the wider Church as a whole. He was unburdened by theological depth and known more for the fiery energy with which he preached and taught. Writing on Roman Catholicism, he declared in his Piteous Lamentation on the State of England, “What word of God hath that devilish drab, for the maintenance of her manifold abominations, and to set to sale such merchandise wherewith, (alas, the madness of man!) the wicked harlot hath bewitched almost the whole world?”

As bishop, Ridley ordered altars to be removed from the churches of his diocese and replaced by spare tables for services of the Lord’s Supper. Ridley supported the dissolution of the monasteries and was fierce in his assault on religious imagery in churches, on the doctrines of purgatory, confession, and saints, and on other articles of Catholic faith.

He took part in a plot to remove Queen Mary from the throne in favor of Lady Jane Grey and preached that Queens Elizabeth and Mary were illegitimate and thus not true monarchs. It was for this treason that, after his excommunication for heresy, he was burnt at the stake on October 16, 1555. He was executed alongside fellow bishop, Hugh Latimer. (Cranmer’s execution for heresy followed five months later). Latimer famously said to Ridley before the execution, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as (I trust) shall never be put out.”

Collect for Nicholas Ridley (and Latimer and Cranmer)
Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servant Nicholas Ridley, we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Robert Hendrickson

John_Cross1John of the Cross

Born in 1542, John of the Cross (Juan de Ypres y Alvarez) was a Spanish mystic, friar, poet, and priest. His father came from a wealthy family that disowned him because he married a woman beneath their social stature. When John’s father died soon after John’s birth, his family was left struggling in poverty. John would later say that the sacrifices of his youth taught him to have joy and peace in the midst of dire circumstances.

As a young adult, John studied at a nearby Jesuit college and later became a Carmelite friar and priest in 1577. Soon after, Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun, asked John to help her institute a series of reforms that would help return the Carmelite order to its original purpose of prayer and poverty. John agreed to take up her call and dedicated himself to greater prayer and self-sacrifice, including walking without shoes (as did other nuns and friars who sought a return to a deeper life of prayer). Those who participated in the reforms became known as “Discalced Carmelites” (or “Carmelites of Strict Observance”).

However, not everyone supported the reforms, and some of John’s fellow Carmelite friars kidnapped and imprisoned him in a 6x10-foot prison cell. Several times a week, John’s captors beat him. Even still, it was in the midst of his captivity that John wrote some of his most respected mystical writings, including poetry and spiritual commentary. Many of these writings reflected his dependence and journey to union with God. In The Dark Night of the Soul, one of John’s most well-known writings, John described the journey of feeling spiritually abandoned by God and how such a struggle can be a grace through which Christians can grow in faith and union with God.

After nine months in prison, John finally escaped and fled to a nearby convent. Over the course of his life, he traveled more than 30,000 miles and established more than eight monasteries across the Spanish countryside. John died in 1591 and was canonized a saint by Benedict XIII in 1726.

Collect for John of the Cross
Judge eternal, throned in splendor, you gave Juan de la Cruz strength of purpose and mystical faith that sustained him even through the dark night of the soul: Shed your light on all who love you, in unity with Jesus Christ our Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Maria Kane

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Nicholas Ridley vs. John of the Cross

  • John of the Cross (79%, 3,956 Votes)
  • Nicholas Ridley (21%, 1,055 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,009

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131 comments on “Nicholas Ridley vs. John of the Cross”

  1. Talk about a 2nd burning. Ridley is being burned again in the 21st century! If one looks more closely at the history, one can't help but see that the celebrity blogger has a very negative opinion of Mr. Ridley. So consider, he was chaplain to both Cranmer and Henry VIII, part of the committee that wrote the first Book of Common Prayer, and great friends with Latimer and Cranmer. Here are a few quotes from "Stars in a Dark World" (a book I just discovered through Lent Madness).

    Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer were then all transferred to Bocardo Prison in Oxford, and, intending it to increase their discomfort, the jailers put the three martyrs in a single room. The prisoners found it wonderful to be together and supported each other. The jailer commented : "Latimer leans on Cranmer, Cranmer leans on Ridley, and Ridley leans on his own wit." And so Bishop Ridley was removed and placed in isolation in a private building, and was only re-united with Latimer when they came to the stake. They were the first two of nearly three hundred reformers who were charged with treason and burned at the stake on the orders of Bloody Queen Mary. Augustus Toplady, the author of "Rock of Ages" later wrote: "[ Ridley] was esteemed the most learned of all English reformers: and was inferior to none of them in piety, sanctity, and clearness of evangelical light." Heaton and Baxter wrote; "He was a star of the first magnitude, in any age. Honorable birth, a commanding form, superior learning, a generous spirit, sound judgment, united with unremitting industry, and all sanctified by an entire devotedness to the honor of God, gave to Ridley a degree of personal influence possessed by no other [reformer], probably not even Cranmer."

    Julian OJN, Fr John (2013-11-11). Stars in a Dark World: Stories of the Saints and Holy Days of the Liturgy (Kindle Locations 14810-14815). . Kindle Edition.

    Without any hesitation or doubt I cast my vote for an English reformer and not a Spanish mystic.

  2. Totally agree with the comments here. "Unburdened by theological depth" was amusing, but the clincher was the anti-woman language he used to describe the Catholic church: a “devilish drab" and "wicked harlot" with "manifold abominations" --really? Hate the Catholic church all you want, but leave women out of it!!

  3. John of the Cross has long been one of my very favorite saints, and the Dark Night of the Soul is probably my second-favorite spiritual writing (after the more hopeful showings of Julian of Norwich). An easy vote for me today.

  4. I was about to vote for Nicholas because of his use of big words but when I read that John walked over 30,000 miles, as a hiker, I had to support his cause.

  5. The Martyrs' Monument in Oxford honors Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer. (In my opinion, today's bio of Ridley is unfairly slanted, but that's the writer's privilege.) And today, 21 March, commemorates the burning of Cranmer in 1556. On this date, at least in some years, people lay flowers on the brick cross in Broad Street that marks the spot of the martyrdoms (I among them, when in town). Sadly, for some of us, Cranmer's martyrdom coincides with the birthday of another of this year's entrants, Johann Sebastian Bach!

  6. I have to vote for Ridley. Read other sources than the smear job done in this write-up. This is the last time I'll trust these summaries.

  7. I just have to vote for St. John of the Cross, a Christian mystic who is one of my tutors in the faith. (though it is unsafe to walk barefoot in NYC or its suburbs)

  8. I believe God uses all forms of worship (high and low, liturgical or not) to meet us as we are and lift us up. Theology, context, culture and even our personality can determine what speaks to us best. In any direction, we as humans can become extreme or too rigid thinking worship has to be one type or it isn't worship. We can let high, liturgical church become almost idolatrous and low, non-liturgical church become like entertainment. I think partly due to his context and temperament that old Nicholas went to an extreme, but he can still challenge us to consider why we do what we do. I appreciate his desire to live out his understanding of scripture and critique of excesses of his time. His associated work developing Anglican worship still blesses many in the world. Still, I voted for the mystic. Post-Reformation, John shares a heritage Luther (as well as I and many) have benefited from. (To learn about how the mystic tradition impacted Luther, I recommend “Theology of the Heart” by Bengt Hoffman and "The Theologia Germanica of Martin Luther (Classics of Western Spirituality).") The Dark Night of the Soul might differ in some details with Protestant understandings, but it remains a classic work that can help many encounter Christ more deeply. Come to think of it, God used both of these imperfect and quite different saints to ultimately aid us in that regard.

  9. I found today's bio of Nicholas Ridley to be far too negative, both to Mr. Ridley and the Roman Church. I know the Supreme Executive Committee is devoted to freedom of the press, and gives themLent Madness writers free rein in their writings, but did someone forget to tell Mr. Ridley's biographer that the goal was to get Mr. Ridley the Golden Halo, and not the golden boot out of the bracket? Is this yet another attempt by the SEC to control the outcome by allowing a negativity-laden bio out to the world? Do we have another scandal, with the SEC attempting to influence who makes it to the next round? Will Lent Madness 2014 be forever known as scandal-plagued??? (Seriously, the bio missed the point of advancing Ridley, and made some very cutting remarks ... Not nice.)

    1. I've been re-reading the bio for Nicholas. To start, he was executed (could be read martyred) and also helped with the BCP. It can be seen why he'd be on a calendar of saints.

      The bio continues with facts. Things that Nicholas said/did/wrote are facts. It is not that the CB wrote negatively about Nicholas, it's more that _I_ reacted negatively to Nicholas.

      I can still admire some of what Nicholas did, but having stood in the ruins of some abbeys and feel like they are still holy places, it's simply Nicholas' own actions that won't allow me to vote for him in this saintly smack down.

      Don't forget: No matter who advances in this silly, mad, bit of fun, they All already have a halo.

  10. At note to the SEC: please check the bias of your Celebrity Bloggers before assigning them to saints. This one clearly hates his assigned saint 'way too much to be even neutral! Sorry, Mr Cranmer, but your compatriot seems to have nothing whatsoever to recommend him. 'For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you bear it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer, you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.' - I Peter 2:20.

  11. John of the Cross, hands down. Ridley's dissolution of the monasteries and destruction of the images (I'm a devout iconodule, and John of Damascus is my Main Saint) ripped it for me.

  12. Ridley was vicar of my parish in Cambridgeshire, although we are told there is no evidence of him ever actually visiting the place. So not only 'unburdened by theological depth' but also unhampered by pastoral responsibility. St John of the Cross gets my vote!

    1. So, "lack of evidence" of a Cambridgeshire visit substantiates a fact for you? I'll bet he's innocent, but that's in light of the doubt that is necessitated by Faith! 🙂 At least the alternative has merit, too! And so do you, I'm sure. 😉

    2. Don't feel alone Anne..... I did the same thing! Had to go back and re-read to discover that it was John's father who had married .... Are we reading too fast?

  13. I had to think about this one. John of the Cross is certainly one of my favorites. Reading about his life, and how it shaped his writings, gives me greater appreciation for him. But as I sat with this, I realized that my inner rebel felt drawn to Nicholas Ridley. Reading more on the death of Ridley and Latimer, and how Ridley's death was particularly agonizing because of the wood being too young and not dry enough, and how slowly his body was consumed in the flames, made me appreciate him more for his calling out to God in the hour of his horrible death. And today, we celebrate his prayer book compatriot, Thomas Cranmer, also martyred under Bloody Mary. I see from the comments and the score that I am on the losing end of the scale on this, and I won't be sorry to see John of the Cross move on. But I am siding with the passionate protestant reformer.

  14. I have to say that as usual I am with the underdog. I am always swayed by 'actions' even though many of our saints have written and prayed so eloquently. I consider Ridley in the context of the historic times in which he lived. And yes, I wish so much of history had not been destroyed, but he died a horrible death for his faith. His being 'unburdened by theological depth' made me laugh out loud! A vote for the Anglican it is.

  15. Juan de la Cruz easily beats Nicholas Ridley for me. A poet, mystic, and long-suffering reformer is better than a haranguing and deeply divisive bishop who just happened to be burned at the stake for his actions. While both saints lived in times of corruption, decay, and strife, Juan de la Cruz responded with an insistent yearning for and trust in God and compassion for his opponents. Also, he was willing to follow Teresa's lead and work with her on as a compatriot, so he gets another point there.

  16. Too bad Aelred was defeated yesterday for I suspect without him, Merton would not have been the monk he was. Hopefully, the monk will win out today, though neither extremists are very appealing to me. I sort of want to quote The Cat in the Hat, "I don't like it! No! Not one little bit," in response to today's choice!

  17. Reading Nicholas Ridley's bio reminds me, as Merton reminded me yesterday, that good can come out of things that we consider awful--persecution, abandoning a one-night-stand and the resulting child, even to the more "mild" negative aspects of our lives and character. (you may read that "mild" in air-quotes, if you'd like.) I voted for Juan de la Cruz, but I'm glad we have the example of Ridley to remind us that God redeems us and our actions when we fall short.

    With that being said, "unburdened with theological depth" brought a slow, not-so-kind grin to my face. Fantastic rhetoric (especially when concluded with the rest of that phrase) that painted a vivid picture in my mind. Will be adding this one to the books.

  18. It's not always best to read the comments before voting, especially since the bios seem to be slanted in favor of the biographer's choices. Ultimately, the "Dark Night of the Soul" was the determinant for me having suffered more of those than I care to remember...BUT..they brought me across, thus my vote for the mystic. Intellect does not always equate with faith as we should know when attending our own diocesan conventions and even General Convention. Ridley was the product of his time and believe me, there have been and are worse!

  19. Easy peasey. John of the Cross. I grew TIRED of Ridley and his blah blah blah. He was against everything, wasn't he? John seems deeply sensitive, spiritual man.

  20. I'm positive that Ridley, who was against the veneration of saints, would not want to be part of this bracket any longer than necessary. St John gets my vote.

  21. Have to go with the man who could follow the direction of a woman. St. John was ahead of his time.

  22. Reading today's write up on Ridley was like listening to Sarah Palin describe Barack Obama's qualifications to be President. I'm
    not saying that the assigned biographer has to gloss over some negative aspects of his or her subject, but come on - this was a set-up for defeat from the start. "Play the man," master Ridley. I stand with you today in the face of such nefarious skulduggery.

  23. In my earlier research I had read about Ridley and, while I realize that he was inflamed in his zeal for reform, I felt that he was more a politician than a clergyman. I much preferred Cranmer. Even Latimer seemed too political. Since Ridley was the one at issue today, I chose John of the Cross. His reforms, along with Teresa of Avila, seemed more in line with the teachings of Jesus.

  24. "Unburdened by theological depth" and "unhampered by pastoral responsibility"? Nice work if you can get it. John of the Cross all the way, even if the authors of the biographies were not enamored of the riddle of Ridley. Burn baby burn...

  25. I couldn't help but see your comment Alene, as it was just above me opportunity to reply. I agree wholeheartedly! Although there is plenty to say about the dissolution of the monasteries and the impact Cranmer and his associates had on church history all I will say is that I found Ridley's bio depressing; and John's uplifting. If any of us has not at some point felt abandoned by God, we should consider ourselves lucky. John kept his faith in the midst of overwhelming lifetime trials. John of the Cross gets my vote!