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. martyrdom is hard not to vote for. But next time I hesitate to walk 6 blocks to work in bad weather, it's Kemper's example I'll think of to inspire my life (and save some fossil fuel). Didn't like Shakespeare? he had the courage to admit it.

    1. And you know, Judith, that's what I think is remarkable about Jackson Kemper. Mizeki is, indeed, an admirable man, sadly martyred and greatly admired. What Kemper did, though, is arguably more difficult: He got up everyday and made a hundred small decisions each day to live his faith joyfully, humbly, and generously. It is something we can all aspire to.

      1. Well, getting up each morning and serving God is what we are all called to do. But Mizeki got up each morning expecting to be killed--he was warned and told to leave lest he be martyred--and did not. I do not have that courage, I don't think. The daily battle in my head to make right decisions can hardly be compared to what Mizeki must have faced. Would you have stood with ML King on the bridge at Selma?

  2. Mizeki's story reminds me of just how much we are able to take the gift of Christianity for granted. Kemper was truly an amazing bearer of the Gospel, but being a Christian was almost a given in the United States in his time. Not so for Mizeki. Mizeki's preching was a threat to the basic fabric of society since he was telling people that the gods they grew up honoring did not exist. He was going against his culture for the sake of the Gospel. I have to support him.

    1. I think what you say is true, Jeanie, that we take the gift of Christianity for granted. And it may have been that being a Christian was a given in Bp Kemper's time, but building the church was not. When he was called to his missionary position in the west, there was one missionary in Indiana (no church), one church in Missouri (no missionary), one missionary in Wisconsin, and that was it in his area. So what he accomplished was quite remarkable and not a given at all!

  3. AARGHRGH, to borrow a term from Charlie Brown. I may have to mull this over (a cup of coffee) before voting. Both men are worthy of whatever haloes they have, as well as some well-earned rest.

  4.'s the quirks and quote round! Kemper's got all that over Mizeki. Thank you Laura for digging up some gems like the "flesh brush" and Kemper's need for a sugar rush. Went with Kemper in the first round too.

  5. Bernard Mzeki (we usually use the alternative Zulu spelling here in KwaZulu-Natal), gets my vote as one of our African martyrs who gave their lives for Christ!

  6. As an employee of a mission organization, I have to say I'm hoping Bernard gets the halo! I'm supporting him all the way!

  7. My vote is for Kemper as I have an appreciation for the Midwest winters that start in October and frequently don't end until late April. After seventeen winters I left that gorgeous state but not on horseback!

  8. Quirks & Quotes Jackson Kemper: "Cultivate, dear brethren of the clergy, cultivate with the utmost assiduity your own vineyard--love with the strongest affections your own spiritual children, but close not your hearts to the sufferings and wants of your neighbors. "

  9. I voted for Kemper, simply because he is currently the underdog. I couldn't decide between the two, with one being a martyr and the other being a missionary in my area.

    1. Would someone PLEASE explain the point/value/reason for voting for someone simply because they are the "underdog"? Doesn't what the person did or stood for or how the person relates to you, the voter, mean anything? I continue to be stymied by the "underdog" voters.

  10. Bernard Mizeki today. I agree with the other voters who just couldn't vote for someone who didn't like Shakespeare or fiction.

  11. Lent madness is NOT for the faint of heart - another terribly hard decision.
    In the end I was drawn to the dancing and singing inspired by Bernard and voted for him, but not without profound admiration for Jackson's humble dedication.

  12. Another hard one, but though I was born in the Midwest and admire Jackson Kemper tremendously, I had to go with Bernard Mizeki. Celebrating a saint with two days of song and dance is just a lovely thing. And as someone with a decided taste for fiction myself, I thought Kemper' s stance on that to be a little off.

  13. Having taught myself how to read when I was 3 years old, and reading ever since all kinds of books, including fiction and Shakespeare (to whom I am distantly related), I could not vote for Jackson Kemper -- even if he was from Madison where I live. That is the antithesis of what Madison is all about. Bernard Mizeki's work in Africa is incredible and worthy of applause and worthy of this contest!

  14. I'll be happy no matter who wins today. I voted for Bernard Mizeki, but could easily have gone the other way.

  15. Although during Lent Madness we must choose one of God's heroes over another, in the Kingdom of Heaven it is not either/or but both/and. We are the richer for knowing how these two saints spent their lives spreading the Good News to their people.

  16. Bernard Mizeki is the kind of leader Christians need today, but Jackson Kemper's midwestern attitude amuses me.

    I voted for Kemper, but I will be pleased if Mizeki advances to the next round.

  17. Apparently I was not the only one who was appalled that Kemper didn't like Shakespeare or Byron. I was already to vote for the midwesterner but my admired midwesterners are not small minded about literature! So I cast my vote for Mizeki who is remarkable.

  18. To the indefatigable Jackson Kemper:

    Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

    Whose woods these are I think I know.
    His house is in the village though;
    He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow.

    My little horse must think it queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near
    Between the woods and frozen lake
    The darkest evening of the year.

    He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there is some mistake.
    The only other sound’s the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.

    1. Wonder if Kemper likes poetry... I think the Frost is brilliant when connected to Jackson! I voted for Bernard, but loved this, Kim!

  19. I am in the Midwest and we know what Kemper had to do to be spreading the word of God during the winter as well as nicer times.

  20. The SEC has me a bit confused. Why not have the match up between Ken and Egeria on Ken's feast day which is today? Or would that have given him too much the edge. Anyway I believe Kemper spent way too much time in the snow so I vote for the African saint.

  21. Christianity, in some form, may have been considered the "norm" in Bishop Kemper's time, but the opportunity to worship regularly and participate fully in the life of the church was not. My spiritual ancestors in the various Methodist and Methodist-related churches, the circuit-riders and missionaries, ministered to the needs of many on the frontier. So did Bishop Kemper and some of the Episcopal priests he got to go west. I consider them my cousins in the faith. So, even though I don't want to take cold baths or avoid fiction, I still feel compelled to vote for Jackson Kemper today.

  22. Quirks & Quotes: "Jackson Kemper was affected by beauty of landscape and scenery. He loved the mountains. He observed, too, the details of nature, and he was fond of botany and other branches of natural history. He was in his element when making a round of parish visits, which he found to be an easy means of imparting religious instruction, and his tenderness and personal kindness in times of trouble, sickness, or death endeared him deeply to his people. He thoroughly enjoyed simple social visiting, and all his life was very particular about calling on strangers and returning calls. He was a generous giver to every good cause. He was exceedingly restrained in criticism of others. He had modest views of his powers and attainments, and was never satisfied with them but ever strove to improve himself. He was by no means lacking in humor of a gay and gentle kind. One of his most attractive qualities, which he never lost, was a certain boyish lightheartedness and zest for living. He was convinced if people would practice their Christian principles and follow along the way which the church pointed out to them, all problems would be automatically solved."

  23. Okay, I confess that I looked to see who was running behind and cast my vote there. Spoiler alert! It's going to be close. Why did I do it? (I don't usually.) Because I was left to wonder...which is the greater gift, a short life serving Christ that ends in martyrdom or a long life of continual service while enduring hardship? If both serve God's will, then that is not a choice that I can make. Even though it is very cold where I live and I can relate to the hardship. So I staged a one vote "sit in." Go team!

  24. Love Jackson, even if he didn't like Shakespeare(!), but voting for Bernard who I love too. And I'm looking forward to the matchup between the African Martyr & the slave-owning American loyal to George III. (How did she get in HWHM when Eleanor Roosevelt & Fred Rodgers aren't there?)

  25. A difficult choice. Someone commented about martyrdom in the "recent past." Is that like last week's news of the Coptic Christians murdered by Isis? Also, I would like to know something of Mrs. Jackson Kemper. I wonder how she managed, how many children, and no home until he retired? Did he censor her reading materials too? Since he was gone so much, I like to think she might have kept clandestine copies of Shakespeare for the children to read while he was gone. I think I might have voted for her.

    1. It's a shame that Bishop Kemper is not more widely known or talked about in the history of the Episcopal Church. Anyone who has lived or ventured out into the vast expanse of the Midwest can't help but marvel at his ministry and the impact it had in such a broad mission field.