Bernard Mizeki vs. Margaret of Antioch

In the penultimate battle of the first round, we have a South African missionary and martyr taking on an early 4th century martyr from Antioch. Courage (and at least one dragon) abounds in this battle between Bernard Mizeki and Margaret of Antioch with the winner to face Jackson Kemper in the Saintly Sixteen.

Yesterday in the Battle of the Greats, Dionysius the Great proved his greatness by defeating Irene the Great, 58% to 42%. Wondering how things are progressing? Check out the updated Bracket.

And in case you missed this week's stirring edition of Monday Madness: Global Edition, Tim and Scott awarded the first ever Lent Madness Medal of Valor. Oh, and they also coined the term "Servermaggedon."

Bernard MizekiBernard Mizeki

Bernard Mizeki is one of the most beloved martyrs in South Africa. Each year on June 18, one of the largest Christian gatherings in Africa takes place as part of the celebration of his feast day.

Born in Portuguese East Africa in 1861 and educated by the Cowley Fathers, Mizeki began his working life offering hospitality in the Fathers' Hostel for African men. Under their tutelage and with the additional evangelical efforts of a German missionary, Mizeki was baptized in 1886. Shortly after, he left his job at the hostel and began his training as a catechist.

Mizeki’s calling as a catechist and his innate gift for language made him a natural fit as a partner to missionaries working in what is now known as Zimbabwe. He and his wife provided pastoral care and formation to the people in and around the Marondera district, taking special care to explain the Christian faith in ways that used the indigenous culture to undergird the primacy of the gospel of Jesus. Mizeki understood the importance of respecting cultural integrity and had an ardent desire to preach the good news.

In a decision repeated by Martin Luther King, Jr. more than fifty years later, Mizeki refused to allow death threats and intimidation from local authorities to keep him silent. Mizeki was truly a shepherd to his sheep until the end of his life. During an 1896 uprising, Mizeki was attacked outside of his hut. In an effort to staunch his wounds and give him comfort, his wife and a friend ran back into the dwelling to retrieve food and blankets. Reporting a bright flash of light and a sound like many beating wings, the two helpers were unable to find Bernard’s body on returning to the spot where he had fallen. While his final resting place remains unknown, Bernard Mizeki’s faith and trust in the love and life of Jesus is unmistakable.

Collect for Bernard Mizeki

Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love in the heart of your holy martyr Bernard Mizeki: Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-Nancy Frausto

Margaret-2Margaret of Antioch

Margaret of Antioch is one of the Auxiliary Saints, the so-called “Fourteen Holy Helpers.” She was a victim of the Diocletian Persecution (302-303). In her story she was true to her name (margarites means pearl in Greek): shining, resplendent Margaret was a small but powerful woman. She is the patron saint of expectant mothers and was one of the holy personages said to have provided comfort, solace, and direction to Joan of Arc.

Born to a prominent pagan family in Antioch, Margaret’s father gave her to a nurse to be brought up as a proper lady. When Margaret was old enough to decide for herself, she was baptized as a Christian. Sometime later, when she was fifteen, a local prefect saw her and wanted her as his wife. Upon further inspection, he learned of her noble parentage and her apt name. He also learned of her Christian faith. The prefect expressed his disapproval for her religion, and Margaret likewise condemned him for not believing in the crucified Christ. This angered the prefect and he had her thrown in jail.

The next morning, Margaret was ordered to offer sacrifices to the prefect’s gods. Margaret refused and dared the prefect to follow through on his threat to torture her. He carried through — Margaret was placed on the rack, beaten with rods, and cut with iron rakes. The violence was so disturbing the prefect could not bear to watch.

Margaret was taken off the rack and sent back to jail. That night she battled a great dragon (thus a dragon is often included in artistic depictions of her). In some versions of her story, she fended off the dragon by making a sign of the cross. In other stories the dragon consumed her whole, and while in its belly Margaret made the sign of the cross and the dragon burst open, providing us with one of the most lasting and impressive stories about intestinal upset upon being confronted with the truth of the gospel and zeal of the faithful. Upon vanquishing the dragon, she faced off with the devil, appearing to her in the form of a man. Margaret grabbed the man by the head, shoved him to the ground, and pinned him under her feet. Knowing that she had vanquished the devil, she confidently approached the prefect the next day.

In front of a large crowd, Margaret refused to make sacrifices to the gods. She was stripped and her body was burned with torches. She was bound and placed in a tub of water to increase the pain. Immediately the earth shook, and Margaret emerged from the water unscathed. Five thousand people saw the miracle and immediately converted to Christianity. Fearing more people would convert, the prefect ordered her beheaded. Margaret died with a single stroke of the blade.

Collect for Margaret of Antioch

Everliving God, we remember before you today your servant Margaret of Antioch, who, though small and delicate in stature has become a giant of the faith. Grant that we, like Margaret, would have the faith and fortitude to cling to your love and solace, even in the midst of humiliation and great pain, so that we may always proclaim the words of your story and the faith of your church to encourage those around us in our darkest hours. Amen.

-David Creech


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175 comments on “Bernard Mizeki vs. Margaret of Antioch”

  1. As stated in his biography above, Bernard Mizeki was educated by the Cowley Fathers. So if you love SSJE, vote for Mizeki.

    1. This was a particularly difficult choice as both were fearless witnesses for the Gospel under hideous circumstances - more than once!!!

      1. I like the story of Margaret, even tough it echoes Perpetua. And we need more Margaret-pearls in this world.

  2. The SSJE/Cowley Fathers connection tipped me even further in favor of Bernard (just call me George?) Mizeki.

    However, as an EfM mentor, I was already leaning toward the catechist sensitive to cultural differences in his proclamation of the Gospel.

  3. Question - is it Bernard Mizeki or George Mizeki? The bio says Bernard, the voting button says George.

      1. *Not* fixed!

        -David Creech
        George Mizeki vs. Margaret of Antioch
        Bernard Mizeki (58%, 427 Votes)
        Margaret of Antioch (42%, 306 Votes)
        Total Voters: 733

  4. The SEC has given us yet another match up between a female saint from antiquity with fantastic claims attributed to her vs. a modern day male whose history is better documented and closer to us, albeit with his own sacred special effects. Guess which way this one will go?

    1. Blame the ferrets for the matchup. I agree with you that this is not a fair matchup. Photos and well documented historical facts vs the ancient record is not equal.
      I wonder how the whole madness will play out with the recent vs ancient thing going on.

      I wish there could be a Lent madness that celebrated the saints from yesteryear and let them "duke it out". In a separate year, the focus could be on the modern saints.
      How about it, SEC?

      1. Some of these fantastical match-ups raise larger questions about the role of myth and legend in saintly designation.

        1. Yes indeed, they do! *sigh* I think we are guilty of judging people's saintliness by whether or not they are photographable!

      2. I would lean more toward female verses female and male verses male in the first round, then have the all out, no holds barred competition in the second and final rounds.

  5. Bernard, for his sensitivity to culture in his work and for his lasting impact. (And whilst no animals may have been harmed in the making in Lent Madness, I am troubled by the fate of the dragon...)

  6. Margaret is an amazing example of courage in the face of persecution. Can you imagine being tortured, then, having survived that round, being brought back for another round and yet another? This is a strong woman and a worthy example of faith in Jesus Christ, her Lord and ours.

  7. How do we know that Bernard Mizecki's body wasn't taken away by another dragon or two? The "many beating wings" could be a clue.

      1. FWIW, Wikipedia, that unfailing fount of all inerrant knowledge, says the leader of the attacking group was later found guilty of murder and of taking Mikeki's body. I suppose that was to prevent his grave becoming a shrine, but it does not seem to have helped.

  8. This was a difficult choice.....but I have to go with Margaret - the small powerful woman. She suffered for her faith and never gave up!

    1. I went with Mr Mizeki due to his cultural sensitivity. How much better to build on what people already believe, than to damn their previous searching!
      On the other hand, I am married to a Margaret who is a pearl who shines with faith, especially in the tough times. Thanks be to God for the Margarets!

      1. I was wondering where the Margaret s are. I am one. Congratulations to your Margaret for having such a loving husband. I pray we never are so tested. Praise for this brave Margaret, who endured so much and remained faithful.

  9. Hard decision for many as seems a battle between SSJE & SSM. Voted for Margaret but liked
    Mizeki until the last when he vanished. Margarets life I am not sure of but loyalty to SSM prevailed.

  10. Geez Margaret's life was a bummer! I am definitely not martyr material, I guess. Can someone explain to me how she came to be the patron saint of expectant mothers??

    I admire Bernard a lot, but going with Margaret just for the dragon vision alone.

  11. Cultural sensitivity and steadfastness of faith in the face of intimidation and death threats wins the day for me...Bernard it is.

  12. Bernard's story is more believable, but Margaret's is cooler. Should I do the cool thing or the mature thing? WHY IS THIS SO HARD❗

  13. Another difficult choice. While I was inspired by Margaret's story - to go through all that torture and remain faithful, I had to go with Bernard. I liked that he taught the Gospel in ways that were meaningful and respectful to the local culture.

  14. Bernard is worthy of my vote, but being named Margaret and having briefly attended Antioch, I must vote for her today. I will be more responsible in future rounds.

  15. Bernard was schooled by the Cowley Fathers, while Margaret of Antioch is the patroness of the Sisters of Saint Margaret! And while I love the Brothers greatly, it was the Sisters who provided me with my first encounter with Anglican monastic communities at their former Mission House in Germantown, and that has marked my life indelibly! So, it's Margaret of Antioch for me! Oh, and God bless the Reverend John Mason Neale for pulling her story forward into modernity by establishing the community that bears her name.
    I think the reason she has been associated with expectant mothers has to do with the story about the dragon consuming her and her bursting forth from the belly of the beast...

  16. Margaret of Antioch was a brave Christian woman! I admire her faith, fearlessness, and strength of character.

  17. I vote for Margeret! She is so strong and she has powers cool. The dragon is awesome.

  18. How do choose among these? Perhaps "dragon" is a non-believer's characterization of a really powerful angel.

  19. Margaret had me at Patron Saint of expectant mothers. I think it has something to do with me becoming a first time grandma in May. The expectant mom is tiny and the baby seems to be a big one. Praying that everything goes alright.

  20. It was Margaret for me...her unstoppable faith touched me as I imagined whether I could take such suffering and remain faithful. It is always easier to run.

  21. Perhaps Bernard was named George above the voting because he also slayed dragons. His is an example of true steadfastness in faith and of the importance of spreading the Gospel in the context of who receives it. In honor of the present time's increasing number of martyrs, I vote for Bernard "George" Mizeki, with prayers that the dragon of violent religious intolerance shall be slain.

  22. As much as I admire George's ministry and courage (and the flash of light thing is cool too), I had to vote for Margaret because she just basically kicks a$$!

    1. Call him George, Bernard, or whatever, He is my brother in Christ and I am voting for him!

    2. That's an excellent link for more information on Bernard Mizeki--thanks! I was impressed by his mastery of English, French, high Dutch, and at least eight African languages, which allowed him to be instrumental in the Anglicans' translation of documents. He must have been a remarkable man. He got my vote.

  23. I was ordained deacon on June 18, Bernard Mizeki day, 44 years ago. Lesser Feasts and Fasts was pretty new, and Bernard pretty unkown. My ordaining bishop (may he rest in peace) tsk-tsked over recognizing Bernard in the service (and for other reasons - you can do the math). But only eight years ago, a family of refugees from Congo landed in our parish - themselves victims of a vicious middle-of-the-night attack that killed over 200 members of their tribe who were sleeping in their tents in a refugee camp. They were well-acquainted with Bernard and celebrated him with great joy each year. My vote and my heart go to him and to that family and tribe.

  24. I always seem to vote for the underdog! Margaret for me today. She was a strong woman and independent thinker.

  25. Though I love Margaret's ability to crush a dragon, throw a man to the ground and convert thousands - truly a powerhouse - I had to vote for Bernard because I think we need more people like him right now