Bernard Mizeki vs. Jackson Kemper

In the penultimate (we love that word here at Lent Madness) matchup of the Saintly Sixteen, South African Bernard Mizeki faces Midwesterner Jackson Kemper. The winner will tangle with Molly Brant in the Elate Eight.

Yesterday, Brigid of Kildare took care of Dionysius the (evidently-not-so) Great 63% to 37% and will square off against Kamehameha in the next round.

Enjoy a weekend voting respite but be prepared to return bright and early Monday morning for the last battle of the Saintly Sixteen between Egeria and Thomas Ken. Then it's on to the Elate Eight! Oh, and go to church on Sunday. The SEC encourages that.

saint-bernard-mizekiBernard Mizeki

Bernard Mizeki's commitment to proclaiming the Gospel to the people of Africa led to his untimely death. Yet his courage, sacrifice, and commitment inspires thousands to gather every year to celebrate his life.
In 2013 Bernard Mizeki’s festival was held at his shrine for the first time in over five years. Before that the event had taken place in an area located about seven miles away due to the actions of former bishop Nolbert Kunonga, who barred any pilgrims from the shrine.
This festival gathers over 20,000 people for two days to dance, sing, and pray. After a religious service, thousands of pilgrims swarm to the hill where it is believed the body of Bernard Mizeki miraculously disappeared. Pilgrims draw water from the nearby stream believed to have been used to clean out Bernard Mizeki’s wounds. The water is believed to hold healing qualities
The zeal to dance and sing never dwindles throughout the two days of celebrations. For miles the praise songs in various African languages can be heard. Despite the low nighttime temperatures and scorching daytime temperatures, those who gather to pray and worship recognize Bernard Mizeki as one of the most important people in Africa.
The Most Rev. Albert Chama, Primate of the Church of the Province of Central Africa and Bishop of Northern Zambia, explained in an interview about the festival, the importance of the event and the relevance of Mizeki's example to the Christian people:

African Christians should know that the route they have chosen is not without challenges or hurdles. Christianity is about actions, some of which can lead to death. All pilgrims should remember that death in Christ is in fact a gain. The event itself shows the importance of Christianity among Africans, Bernard Mizeki was an African who was martyred for propagating the Good News to fellow Africans at a time when they did not understand the Christian faith. 

In the same interview the Bishop of Harare, the Rt. Rev. Chad Gandiya, goes on to recognize Bernard Mizeki's deep commitment to God and his people.

Even after being warned, he decided to preserve the lives of others at the expense of his own. As a shepherd, you don’t desert people that have been put under your care. Having been in exile for a long time, we understand and find a lot of relevance and comfort from his life.

Nancy Frausto

B_2YnRDUIAAKWPzJackson Kemper

The indefatigable Jackson Kemper established much of the Episcopal Church of the Midwest, including the Dioceses of Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, as well as the seminary Nashotah House.

He is memorialized in churches throughout the region, as in this stained glass window from St. Paul’s, Kansas City, Missouri. In the lower left-hand corner, he is riding a horse -- a fitting tribute, as he covered a territory of 450,000 miles, mostly by horseback.

He also appears in the novel The Deacon as a ghost who haunts Grace Church, Madison, Wisconsin. He might not have liked being fictionalized. According to his biographer, “He did not care for Shakespeare, and abhorred Byron.” He did, however, enjoy the occasional novel (“particularly, it is remembered, Judge Haliburton's ‘Sam Slick’") and “let his children read Scott's romances, but not too many of them at a time, fearing lest they should acquire a taste for fiction.”

Bishop Kemper “rose early, at five o'clock in summer and six in winter, and attributed his established health in large measure to his habitual morning bath in cold water, followed by the use of the flesh brush.” He wasn’t a total ascetic, however. It’s noted that he took lots of sugar in his coffee, and tea “very much sweetened.” After dining at 1:00 with family and guests, “if weather permitted, he would drive for hours or ride horseback, for he never acquired the habit of taking a nap in the afternoon.”

Not that weather stopped him from traveling. “He went once for twenty miles in a driving snowstorm without seeing a house; one night he was glad to share with eleven others the shelter of a log house of a single room; the snow drifted in and lay in heaps upon the middle of the floor: no one troubled himself to remove it, and it did not melt in the slightest degree.” St. Paul’s Church in Palmyra, Missouri, credits its founding to Bishop Kemper and bad weather: in 1836 when ice on the Mississippi stopped his travel, Bishop Kemper visited Palmyra, and sent a priest to establish the parish the following year.

When he was 62, Bishop Kemper accompanied one of his priests in Iowa. “One winter's night, when they had found shelter in a poor cottage on the plains, somewhere west of Dubuque, they were snowbound by a sudden and violent storm; in the morning all the water in the house was frozen; and they had to shovel a path through the snow to the shed where they had put their horse, to give him provender.”

For 11 years of his ministry, he did not have a permanent residence. Finally, in 1846, “Bishop Kemper took possession of a rustic homestead, thenceforth humorously known as ‘the Palace,’ hard by Nashotah” which became his home base until the end of his life.

Laura Darling


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126 comments on “Bernard Mizeki vs. Jackson Kemper”

  1. I voted for Jackson Kemper because he is strong and his father was friends with George Washington.

    1. I voted for Jackson Kemper for all that he has done past and present for the people and the church.

    1. We did not get ANY information about Bernard. Only that he was wounded, when, where, by whom??? I really appreciate knowing that he is revered, there is a festival in his honor, that a bishop forbad going to his shrine BUT THERE ARE NO FACTS! =;(

      1. Thiis is part of an ongoing competition. When Bernard competed in the first round, his initial biography was given. You can go back to the post for March 10 to get this information. Everything is not repeated every time.

  2. I opted for Mizeki this time around because African Christians are being martyred today.

    1. My feelings exactly. Christians are under severe attack throughout Africa and the Middle East. I hold them constantly in my prayers.

    2. Me, too. The threat of violence and death is real to Christians outside of this country. Pray for them, and pray for those who are the enemies of Christians in Africa and Asia. Lead them and us from prejudice to truth. Deliver them and us from cruelty, hatred and revenge.

  3. While both men worked tirelessly for God's Kingdom on Earth, I just can't vote for someone who didn't care for Shakespeare. St. Mizeki again gets my vote.

    1. I can understand the esteem felt for Bishop Kemper, but Bernard made the greater sacrifice.

    2. I too was troubled that Jackson Kemper was so down on literature. He sounds like a dedicated pastor of the far more austere sort. I wonder what inspired others about him--largely the sheer force of his strength of character?

  4. Being a member of the Diocese of Iowa, I had to vote for Jackson Kemper! But it was a tough choice as I really admire Bernard Mizeki for all he did for the Faith.

  5. Though the bishop's comment on Bernard Mizeki is true -- "All pilgrims should remember that death in Christ is in fact a gain" -- I have to vote for the pilgrim Bishop of the whole Northwest today. I have served my whole ordained ministry in Dioceses he founded, parishes he founded, serving alumnae of a school named after him, and now I am under a bishop whose dog is named Kemper!

  6. Yes, they are, Marjorie, and have been for a long time. Did you know that the Biafran War was a Nigerian Civil war? The Christians wanted to secede, and the Muslims just decided to starve them out. Meanwhile the Western world just sat on its hands until Russia started arming the Nigerians, at which point the US and UK couldn't wait to do the same thing. Meanwhile the Christians were starved into submission. Nobody (read: the press) wants us to know that the violence in Africa that seems to us to be random is really a deliberate and vicious campaign against Christians. Now, I must confess that I voted for Jackson since I live in Indiana, but I think that everyone could benefit from more education about the African situation. There are new martyrs every day.

  7. Both of these are great men, but I'm drawn to Bernard. He gave up his life for his parish and his faith! Riding 20 miles in a snowstorm is no picnic, but Mizecki gave the ultimate sacrifice for Jesus.

  8. When I visited an American friend in Senegal and a British medical missionary friend in Uganda, I attended services, both Catholic and Anglican. An Anglican chaplain at a Church of Uganda hospital in the rural northwest served as my host taking me all around the campus to introduce me to every unit manager and program head at this 3rd world facility. At churches, monasteries, hospital, and through my friends, I witnessed the profundity of what it means to be Christian under differing degrees of distress. Bernard Mizeki, a pioneer of the faith, gets my vote!

  9. Having spend a bit of time in South Sudan with fellow Christians struggling in the faith, my vote definitely went to Bernard. He's a hero and a saint.

  10. Jackson Kemper has to one of the most indefatigable, faithful, humble, generous, and joyful Bishops to grace the Episcopal church. His story is not one of martyrdom or a single great triumph, but of a quiet faith, lived out daily from youth into a rich old age. To the extent that a saint is someone who is an example of holiness we can follow, Jackson Kemper is a saint. His discipleship is something we can emulate and hold as a standard. Action Jackson today!

  11. And, if I may, I'd like to say at this point in the Madness how very much I appreciate all the time and energy pit into every day's contest. Thanks, Tim and Scott, Adam, all the CBs, and everyone who prays, comments, laughs or growls over these contests. Lent has never been so powerful for me before.

    1. I second your comments. Sometimes I ponder whether or not it is appropriate to be having so much "fun" with Lent !

      1. I know, Susan, that's an old ingrained idea for Lent to be dour and serious. And I know that sober reflection and discipline has its place. But I think it is a great way to prepare for our Lord's resurrection by reflecting not hear saints and enjoying each other's company along the way that's why I love the opportunity for comments. And I keep thinking of the hymn in the 1982 Episcopal Hymnal,
        "I come with joy to meet my Lord,
        Forgiven, loved, and free,
        In awe and wonder to recall
        His life laid down for me."

  12. Mizeki is a literal martyr, one whose martyrdom is not ancient myth: it is well-documented fact within the relatively recent past. And it continues to inspire tens of thousands of people. And all of this is taking place in Africa.

    1. Mizeki was, indeed, a martyr and his martyrdom continues to inspire the faithful, especially in Africa. I think, though, that we often fail to honor the very difficult (and saintly!) task of living a faithful life on a daily basis, doing what is put before us in a joyful and humble way, living out the Gospel with compassion and intention all the days of our lives. Martyrdom is not given to us all. The opportunity to live a faithful life is.

  13. Kemper is my man! Our LentMadness study group last night did a skit based on his life and all the hardships and obstacles he had to endure to establish Christian strongholds in the Midwest. What a guy.

  14. Kemper is my man! Our LentMadness study group last night did a skit based on his life and all the hardships and obstacles he had to endure to es
    tablish Christian strongholds in the Midwest. What a guy.

  15. Mizeki provides us with the rare opportunity of voting for an African. If that means something to you, you might want to consider going with Mizeki.

  16. Anyone, no matter how saintly, who didn't want his children to get a taste fiction will not receive the vote of this ex-librarian.

  17. I voted for Bernard Mizeki, but it was as close as the voting is right now: a difference of just 3 votes out of 280-some. The vigor of the church in Africa, the troubles they are having now and the support they have in the work and life of Bernard Mizeki, made the difference. Jackson Kemper already has his stained glass window memorials, and as good as that is, providing a place where this year over 20,000 went in hope and faith to honor Bernard Mizeki, tipped the balance.

  18. As someone living on the New England coast, I had to smile at the story about how Bishop Kemper and his companion found themselves snowbound and had to do a bit of shoveling! But my vote today goes to Bernard Mizeki both for his witness and sacrifice and for what he means to Africa today-- and might mean to all of us who, it seems, find more and more horrifying stories in the news of Christians in both Africa and the Near East being brutally martyred.

  19. African Christians face persecution today, but Bernard's legacy is a joy-filled faith. I voted for Bernard.

  20. Have to go with Bernard. So many Christians are still stuffering that it only seems right to send Been opp are into the next stage.

  21. I suspect that Kemper has an edge, since the global Lent Madness public probably has a lot more representation in the Midwest USA than Africa. I think both are very worthy, but I'm going with Mizeki.

  22. Both were devoted to mission/conversion work. Kemper had more resources and more time. Hard to choose, but I went offsite to learn more about them. A worthwhile effort, this Madness is.

  23. Hard choice. Both men cared enough to spread the word even under the worst conditions. Their prospective legacies linger even today.

    I did vote for mizeki after studying the reverend's interview.

  24. I re-read the biographies just to make sure I wasn't being unfair to Kemper for his fear of fiction and choice of a daily cold bath. Nope--I still feel like Kemper is a great candidate for an Outstanding Service Award (including a year's supply of body lotion), while Mizeki should advance, singing and dancing and rejoicing, toward the Golden Halo. I think Kemper would vote Mizeki, too.

  25. With all your getting...get thee understanding...these mornings with the saints has been a real eye opener.

  26. I'm missing some of the description apparently -- is there any description of when B. lived, what he did?

    1. A good brief bio - He was educated and converted by the SSJE brothers and his work to bring the Shona people to Christ , while still being sensitive to their culture and spiritual traditions, is inspiring. (They were monotheists .) His legacy has truly born fruit in the continent. Sadly his martyrdom was not the last. My vote is for Bernard, the Light of Christ continuing to shine in dark times.

    2. Arthur, you can read Lent Madness biographies of both saints by clicking "Bracket 2015" near the heading on this page. That will take you to a page that shows the brackets, and lower on that same page you will find links to the match-ups that have taken place so far. Click on the match-up won by Bernard and you can read the biography and collect that got him to this round.

  27. Easy choice for me. It's joy filled Bernard all the way. Kemper deserves credit for spreading the faith over the Midwest, but it seems a joyless, stiff kind of faith. And I couldn't vote for someone who doesn't like fiction!

    1. I certainly respect your vote for Mizeki, Rodney, and only want to tell you that Jackson Kemper was a joyful servant and his faith was expressed in a warm, humble, and compassionate ministry.