Occasionally the SEC adds matchups based on little more than (deeply prayerful) whim. This isn't such a case, mind you, but we do sometimes get jazzed by things like alliteration. Thus, today it's Dorcas vs. Douglass. That has a certain saintly ring to it, don't you think? The winner faces Juan Diego in the Saintly Sixteen.
Yesterday, Cuthbert sent the Venerable Bede packing with a veritable Bede-down of his medieval contemporary, 63% to 37%. He'll next square off against Molly Brant.
Don't forget that our Bracket Czar updates the online Bracket each day. Scroll down to see the corresponding Matchup Calendar and learn the precise date when your favorite saint will be locking horns (not that saints have horns) with his or her next saintly rival.
After today's competition, we will be exactly halfway through the first round. Remember, no voting takes place over the weekend so the next matchup will be Francis of Assisi vs. John Wycliffe on Monday morning. Now go vote!
Dorcas, which is not as bad a name as it sounds (it translates into Tabitha in Aramaic and Gazelle in English), made her first and only appearance in scripture after she had already died.
A lay leader of the early church in the port city of Joppa (now Tel Aviv-Yafo), Dorcas is known only by what was reported about her in Acts 9:36-42. She was described first as a disciple, and then as a person “devoted to good works and acts of charity.” After Dorcas’ death from an unnamed illness, the church in Joppa sent two men to get Peter, who was visiting in nearby Lydda. When Peter arrived, he was taken to see the body by a group of widows, who wept as they showed some of the garments Dorcas had made for them. Peter cleared the room, prayed, and said, “Tabitha, rise,” at which point she returned from the dead, presumably to continue in her ministr y.
Reading between the lines, it seems likely that Dorcas was young and her death untimely. Although it’s easy to infer that her good works were the sewing of “tunics and other garments,” there is nothing to say that Dorcas’ charity stopped there. It is likely they were only the outward and visible signs of a life devoted to charity.
In these visible signs, Dorcas shows us that charity is eminently practical and involves providing things for people close at hand. However, charity also involves the heart and spirit. Had these practical gifts been given with a condescending attitude or unkind heart, would she have been mourned to the point of two men traveling to another town to get Peter?
In the Episcopal Church, Dorcas is remembered along with Lydia, the dealer of purple cloth who was converted by Paul, and Phoebe, a church leader mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Although understandable, it is perhaps unfortunate that these three are grouped; it seems to suggest that being a woman was the distinctive role each brought to the early church as opposed to her charity, her faith, or her leadership. In Dorcas’ case, it is easy to focus on her sewing instead of the bigger picture of her deeply rooted charity. But in Acts, the fact that Dorcas was a woman is, at best, a secondary consideration. She was first a disciple, full stop.
Even in the very brief passage in which she appears (during which she was dead most of the time), Dorcas comes across as loving, pragmatic, and well-respected — a worthy model of charity for all of us.
Collect for Dorcas
Almighty God, you raised to life again your servant Dorcas. Grant, that like her, we may always seek to weave your love into every fiber of ourselves, clothing those we love and care for in the raiment of your mercy and kindness. May we, like Dorcas, rise up from the impossible places in our lives, praising you and emboldened to continue the ministries to which you have called us. Amen.
Many people are familiar with Frederick Douglass’ work as an abolitionist in the nineteenth century. What is not as well-known is the depth of Douglass’ Christian faith. Douglass’ love of scripture and his fascination with the apocalyptic writing of Revelation was a guidepost in his quest for personal holiness and social transformation.
Born to an enslaved woman and a white slave owner in 1818 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Douglass was sent to work for a Baltimore shipbuilder following his mother’s death when he was seven years old. Over the course of the next eight years, Douglass learned to read and write and developed a love of the Bible. His affinity for the Bible served as a catalyst for his conversion to the Christian faith when he was thirteen. In his well-known autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, he recalled that after being sent back to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, he continued to have abiding hope in God’s promises and established a Sunday school for other enslaved men and women.
While on the Eastern Shore, Douglass was subjected to numerous whippings and beatings from the plantation’s overseer, which left permanent scars on his body. These violent beatings and Douglass’ prophetic reading of scripture led him to plan his escape to freedom. Although his first attempt was not a success, in 1838 Douglass finally fled to safety in New York, before settling in New Bedford, Massachusetts, with his wife. Together, they had five children.
In New Bedford, Douglass joined an abolitionist society and an A.M.E. Zion church, where he assumed leadership as the church’s preacher. By 1841 Douglass was traveling across Canada and the northern United States rallying support against slavery. Douglass believed that individual holiness was essential to the reformation of society’s morals and the work of abolitionists. To this end, Douglass refused to drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, or engage in any other behavior he felt threatened the Christian’s call to righteousness.
After the Civil War ended, Douglass continued advocating for equality — not only on behalf of African Americans, but Native Americans and women. For Douglass, God’s justice would not be complete until all were treated with dignity. Douglass published more than ten books and speeches, including the conscience- raising, “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?” He died at his Washington, D.C., home in 1895 and was buried in Rochester, New York. His Washington home is currently a national landmark, housing Douglass’ collection of Bibles, religious books, and angel depictions.
Collect for Frederick Douglass
Almighty God, whose truth makes us free: We bless your Name for the witness of Frederick Douglass, whose impassioned and reasonable speech moved the hearts of a president and a people to a deeper obedience to Christ. Strengthen us also to be outspoken on behalf of those in captivity and tribulation, continuing in the Word of Jesus Christ our Liberator; who with you and the Holy Spirit dwells in glory everlasting. Amen.