Lent Madness 2015 is off to a great start. On opening day, Ash Thursday, we broke our previous record for page views and votes. Competition has been fierce, while the comments have been (mostly) gentle. That's just how we like it. Because the SEC cares about you, the Lent Madness Global Viewing Public, we wanted to offer a few pro tips to maximize your enjoyment and learning from Lent Madness.
But first, if you haven't yet voted in today's match-up between Swithun and Molly Brant, vote right now.
TOP TEN LENT MADNESS PRO TIPS
10. Lobby celebrities for endorsements
Let's face it. If you could get, say, Pope Francis to urge people to vote for your favorite saint, that would garner lots of votes. This is how to win -- rally others to vote for your saint. If you can't get the pope, try your neighbors, your priest, your local police chief, or your local news anchor. Here is Pope Francis showing his potential as a spokesperson, as he wears purple and possibly talks up his favorite saints.
9. Read up on the saints
If you were one of the lucky ones who scored a limited-edition Saintly Scorecard booklet, use it to read the bios and prayers for the saints. You can also get the Saintly Scorecard as an ebook. While the ebook doesn't include a fold-out bracket, you can add a fold-out bracket to your Kindle for maximum enjoyment. Jennifer Roland offers the paragon of digital-analog Lent Madness fandom, with her e-reader adorned by a homemade fold-out bracket.
8. Vote one time only
Those who vote more than once are liable to be cast into the outer darkness of Lent Madness. We want free and fair match-ups. Voting 300 times because you really want your saint to win is going to get you banned, and that's just no fun.
7. Make Lent Madness ubiquitous in your parish
St. Paul's Church in Rochester, NY has placed not one, not two, not three, but FOUR giant bracket posters around the church to tally the results. The posters are all sold out, so you have a couple of choices. You can print out regular-sized brackets (for free!) and issue magnifying glasses so they look big. Or you can find a bracket poster and use a massive photocopier to duplicate the number you need.
6. Wear purple, all the time
You don't need to wear a Lent Madness purple t-shirt to show your colors. Get it? Anyway, there are lots of ways to wear purple, so give all your clothes to goodwill and replace everything you own with purple.
5. Prepare for the kitsch round
Every year, we have to deal with Kitsch Kranks. These are (easily offended) people who linger for the Elate Eight and then get outraged that we showcase various bits of saintly kitsch for the competitors. How can you prepare? Go to your nearest church goods store and enjoy various statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary or other saints. Or visit a hip, youngish member of the clergy who is sure to have a good-sized kitsch display in his or her office.
4. Name your pet for a Golden Halo winner
This is George the Dog, who lives with one member of the SEC. Named for George Herbert, the first winner of the Golden Halo in 2010, this canine is crazy for Lent Madness. When he's not on Twitter, George loves to try out Golden Halo Flying Disc toys. But since they're designed for people to toss, they don't last that long as chew toys for dogs. Anyway, the point is that you should consider renaming your dog George, Clive, Mary, Frances, or Charles.
3. Forget Downton Abbey or House of Cards; binge-watch Monday Madness
We have over three years of Monday Madness in the can. Head over to LentMadnessTV and watch every episode, and then go watch Maple Anglican's oeuvre.
2. Get the head of your church to be a fan
True fans can't contain their enthusiasm. If you love Lent Madness, don't keep it to yourself. First, persuade the head of your church to fall in love with the saintly smackdown. Then get the leader of your church to show their support for Lent Madness. Here you can see the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Not only does she drink her coffee from a Lent Madness mug, but she is wearing a fan-favorite purple shirt.
1. Show the world what Lent Madness is about
Sure, this whole contest is pretty ridiculous. But the point of all the fun is to get us to learn more about the lives of saints. Proclaim the resurrection with the boldness of Mary Magdalene. Use your God-given gifts to change the world in your daily work and life like Frances Perkins. Take risks for the Gospel and urge the church to change like Charles Wesley. Inspire people with creativity like C. S. Lewis. Let Christ's light burn brightly in your life. And if you need help with that, ask the blessed company of saints for assistance. Our hope in the next life is to be nearer to God like the saints in light. Our hope in this life is, at least in part, to share some purple joy with the whole world.
Lent Madness veterans, please share your own pro tips in the comments!