A Peek Behind the Purple Curtain

nyc_st_luke_fieldsThe Church of St. Luke in the Fields is an historic parish not in rural Iowa as the name would imply, but in the heart of Greenwich Village. That would be in Manhattan, New York City, not Manhattan, Kansas, just to be clear.

This year they're engaging in Lent Madness full bore on their parish blog. As every parish should.

But the folks at SLITF (no clue if that's the acronym they use but we like it) have gotten quite creative in the process. They're actually inviting parishioners to vote twice in each battle -- not in a voter fraud kind of way because then they'd all be banned from Lent Madness and this would quickly turn into a rather awkward post -- but once on our website and once on their blog. The idea is to fully participate with all of us but then to see which saints their own parishioners are supporting. We're not sure what they'll do with the information once it's collected but presumably the NSA is watching and keeping tabs on this subversive activity.

As part of their Lenten hype, they asked Tim to write something Lent Madness-y. So, ladies and gentlemen, prepare for a peek behind the Purple Curtain as Tim reveals what goes into the formation of the Lent Madness bracket.

Lenten Reflection
A Peek Behind the Purple Curtain of Lent Madness

People often ask me, “How do you choose the saints for Lent Madness?” It’s a good question – one that I’ve wrestled with since Purple-Curtainsstarting this “madness” on a whim in 2010.

I’d love to tell you that it’s entirely the work of the Holy Spirit and not just my trusty Ouija Board. Actually the process has evolved a bit over time. The first couple of years, back when I hosted it on my blog, I really did just go through Lesser Feasts and Fasts and pick 32 saints with good stories I thought people should know about.

In 2012 when I decided to partner with my online archnemesis, Scott Gunn, the executive director of Forward Movement, we collaborated and tried to be a bit more intentional about the choices. We always seek a diverse group of saints Biblical and modern, ecclesiastical and monastic, famous and obscure and I think we’ve done a pretty good job over the years.

For the last couple of brackets, we’ve solicited nominations from the general Lent Madness public sometime during Eastertide. I wouldn’t call it a “democratic” process since Scott and I still make up the (mostly benign) dictatorship that is the Supreme Executive Committee and have the final say. But each year a number of nominated saints do make it into the bracket.

Being into our sixth year, people also wonder if saints are ever eligible to make a return appearance. You know, if they were prematurely “martyred” in the early rounds. The answer is yes and no. Saints who went deep into the tournament the last few years are ineligible and previous Golden Halo winners are permanently retired from the competition. The whole idea is to give other saints a chance at Lenten glory (not that they need it) while allowing participants to learn about a whole new crop of saints.

So there you go. For the first time, the process of saintly selection has been fully revealed. Now go vote!


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17 comments on “A Peek Behind the Purple Curtain”

  1. I'm wondering about how the pairings come about. Is there forethought about whom they will face or incidental?

  2. Luke itF is a neat church. When I was visiting, the choir did a wonderful job on a Byrd Mass, but the high point was coffee hour: the sticky buns were To. Die. For.

  3. This is my rookie season at Lent Madness, and having always felt orphaned by my friends during the March Madness of Basketball season, I am having the most wonderful time this year. I am also learning a lot about Saints that I knew very little, if anything at all, about. I also feel blessed to have decided to do this, as my beloved St. Francis is in the competition. Scott and Tim are quick, clever, and, oh, so entertaining. I have been delighted by this Lent Madness, and will, hopefully, be playing for years to come.

  4. The whole thing is fascinating ! I really enjoy it. I'v learned so much and re-learned things that I had wrong before. The details are amazing. I feel kind of honourd because a couple of my suggestions are on the bracket this year. Brigid and Francis A.
    I did have a thought that the match ups were methodically planned out so tough decisions would have to be made. But that is all part of the fun. I cannot imagine going through Lent without the Madness. Thank you so much
    On a side note I do miss the Arch Bishops. I enjoyed their predictions and the prizes they would give out. Even though I never won.

  5. Does St Luke in the Field sell Christmas trees or did they? I believe I bought my first Christmas tree as a young bride from St. Luke's in Greenwich Village in 1969. Seems to me I remember the church owned property in VT so they were selling some really wonderful, fresh trees.
    Enjoying and learning a lot this Lent.

  6. I came in during the now infamous Emma contest. I was so intrigued by the concept of introducing others to the lives of the saints in this way. It took me awhile to adjust to the irreverence, esp kitch week! Now I've come full circle, love it, love the commentary, love the people and appreciate this way to prepare for the great resurrection. Thank you.

  7. As a "Life Long" Episcopalian, with lapses, with a multi-generational Anglican/Episcopal background and having matriculated at the Colleges of the Seneca (Hobart "71), thank you for "Lent Madness" and a peek behind the purple.

    BTW, my parish (congregation) is ASEC-FW no matter what the courts say!

    ABTW, GO TCU FROGS, who' s team color is also Purple .

  8. I love St Faustina. Her visions of Christ Jesus included the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the painting of the Risen Lord with the rays of blood and water emanating from His Sacred Heart, His hand raised in blessing and with the words: Jesus, I Trust in You along the bottom of the painting.

  9. Thanks for this, Tim! I am spending Lent introducing this to a local congregation here in Vermont (All Saints Episcopal Church in South Burlington). Some have asked this very question re: how does someone get into the bracket (outside of begin deceased) AND there are at least two folks who have ideas they want to put forth for next year. The Madness is catching on at All Saints!

  10. Thanks for the explanation of the pairings and saintly selection process. I am a new Episcopalian and having been raised in the Christian Reformed (i.e. Dutch) Church I had no clue about saints and their fascinating lives. I am really enjoying the entire process and it's opened up a whole new world for me!

  11. May I hopefully suggest that a premature martyr this year, who is deserving of another chance in 2016, is Teresa of Avila?

  12. Our church votes twice also. Once on-line and once by old fashioned paper ballot. (Great for folks that don't have a computer. Every Sunday, we have a visiting saint from the upcoming bracket who come in costume at the Peace and then gets up to tell their story. We have two brackets going , one keeps track of the Forward Day by Day voting, the other shows how our church voted. It is interesting to note the similarities and differences.

  13. It would be great to see Constance and Her Companions, the 1878 Martyrs of Memphis, in the competition.

  14. first year for Lent Madness and I am having so much fun. Learning so much that I can't wait to get the next days voting. Friend from my Cursillo reunion group told me about it and I have told so many people. Thank you, Michael, Church of the Nativity Episcopal Huntsville, AL.