Frederick Douglass vs. Egeria

In the last battle of the last full week of the last ever (just kidding!) Lent Madness, the last spot in the 2015 Faithful Four is up for grabs. Who will join Francis of Assisi, Brigid of Kildare, and Molly Brant (who defeated Bernard Mizeki 59% to 41%)? Will it be Frederick Douglass or Egeria? Well, that's up to you.

To make it this far, Frederick Douglass defeated Dorcas and Juan Diego while Egeria got past Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Ken.

Lent Madness will continue on the Monday of Holy Week with Francis of Assisi vs. Molly Brant. On Tuesday Brigid will take on today's winner. Then it all comes down to Spy Wednesday as the two remaining saints will compete for the right to wear the 2015 Golden Halo. Stay with us, folks, The End is Near!

Frederick Douglass

Cedar HillEvery tourist to Washington, D.C., visits the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Capitol Building. Such sights are classic but they’re so…pedestrian. If you want a bird’s eye view of the city and an opportunity to imagine a day in the life of one of North America’s greatest embodiments of faithfulness, wisdom, and activism, head south to Cedar Hill, Frederick Douglass’ historic and beautifully restored property in Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood. There you’ll have a chance to walk his expertly manicured lawn, which Douglass tended and on which he lifted weights each morning.

Yes, my friends, Douglass was a fitness buff and a naturalist who tended to his body and garden with great affection and detail. FRDO3136_3135_dumbBellsIndeed, he was a well-rounded man long before “well-rounded” became a buzzword on college applications.

Inside his home you’ll find the East Parlor room, where Douglass entertained guests with checkers, Roman mythology, and musical selections on his violin or from his family. In the same space, you will also find original copies of his 3 autobiographies — three, y’all. Most folks can’t even write one.

s99.2p1 copyAlthough, there are always at least one or two overachievers in every family, everyone in Douglass’ family was an overachiever. After supper — at which all the children were expected to attend no matter their age — the family would retire to the West Parlor room where they regularly regaled one another with stories, musical shows, and readings. They were also expected to engage in conversations on current events, literature, and history. Kids today don’t know how easy they have it, do they? Of course, with Frederick as their father, the Douglass kids stood little chance. Well into his 60s and 70s, Douglass continued to spend up to 5 hours a day in his study, reading, teaching himself foreign languages, and writing letters. So much for early retirement.

Now, lest one think Douglass is an ancient figure only fit for historic sites, museums, and Afro_Sheen_Douglasstextbooks, Mr. Douglass has also had his share of television fame. In a 1970's commercial for Afro Sheen, the ghost of Frederick Douglass instructed a young co-ed on properly styling his Afro and shared his thoughts on American progress.

So next time you visit Washington, D.C., don’t go where all the regular people go. Be an overachiever like Frederick Douglass and head across the river to Cedar Hill. There you will hear the triumphant story of a man who educated himself, escaped to freedom, published a newspaper, advocated for the disenfranchised, dedicated time to his children and grandchildren, and toned his way to some of the best biceps in town. The only thing he’s missing is the Golden Halo.

-- Maria Kane


Egeria stampEgeria, kindly recollect, was a Spanish nun who travelled to Palestine, Turkey, and Greece from 381-384 CE, and wrote letters home describing her adventures. As befits one of the first Pioneers of PenPals, Spain issued a stamp for her in 1984.

Somewhat confusingly, there is also a tropical aquarium plant named for her. Because egeria plantevery trip around the bowl is a pilgrimage for a goldfish who can only remember 30 seconds worth of stuff!

p-437-iwalkedblack_2Once she returned home, however, I feel confident in asserting that Egeria had a garment similar to this to notify people of her travels.

Egeria is invoked as an authority by the custodian Franciscans who live in and care fore the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and they invite you to pull a virtual-Egeria, and go on a pilgrimage through the shrine at their site. (It’s not bad—it’s just missing the pushing crowds, and the arguing priests, and the conflicting liturgies, and riot of humanity which sort of both ruins and makes the whole thing worth it).

For this reason, I think this means that any kitsch associated with the Holy Sepulcher (more properly titled Church of the Resurrection by the locals, as it marks the sites where Our Lord was crucified, died, was buried and rose again) can be attributed to Egeria. AND GOOD LORD, IS THERE A LOT.

egeria perfumeDo you want to smell like Jerusalem? (You don’t, actually. You really, really don’t.) But in case you’d like to smell like what these folks THINK Jerusalem smells like, there is perfume for that.

And get your own Holy oil from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It comes with a how-to pamphlet, and egeria holy oila certificate of authenticity from the Greek Orthodox Church. It is also buy 3, get 1 free, so act now!

There is also a pleasing/overwhelming assortments of rosaries, holy cards, olive wood carvings, relics, holy water, incense, candles, icons, and whatever else you can imagine available. Since Egeria’s time, pilgrimage has become a high-value industry.

However, her influence isn’t all commercial; there’s also the Egeria Project — a cooperative project between 12 state and religious organizations throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East, to promote pilgrimage and peace throughout the lands in which Egeria travelled.  The groups involved in the project look to Egeria as someone who embodies the values of coexistence, learning from others, and creative cooperation — truly a saint sorely needed!

-- Megan Castellan


Frederick Douglass vs. Egeria

  • Egeria (51%, 2,747 Votes)
  • Frederick Douglass (49%, 2,674 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,421

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174 comments on “Frederick Douglass vs. Egeria”

    1. My husband and I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. When we entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I remember the overwhelming perfume in the air. It is the smell of chrism, which the Greek Orthodox priests use to anoint the anointing stone.
      The oil advertised must surely have some of those spices in it.
      What an amazing smell. It was truly heavenly.
      Thanks for the memory.

      1. Her husband seconds the motion!
        I actually thought Douglas had the better blog (at least nobody inflicted a CE date on him) but loved
        Egeria's kitsch.
        One o f the beauties of Holy Sepulchre is that at least five different Christian Churches (none in communion with the others) occupy it -- usually peacefully -- and all of them agree on NO Daylight Savings time.

  1. Have to go with the father who required something of his children......wish more families today would follow his example!

    1. No television, nor all the electronics we love today. I am impressed with all Frederick Douglass did.

  2. I vote for Egeria, as Christians around the world prepare to imagine themselves in the holy places of Jerusalem -- we have her to thank for helping us picture Holy Week in the Holy Land. I am glad, however, that we can just imagine the smells.

  3. As one who loves liturgy and tradition, I vote for Egeria who recorded and preserved so much.

  4. I love liturgy, so Egeria is one of my favorites - but unless liturgy is enacted in the world and in the home, what is the point? Frederick Douglass for me.

  5. It's Douglass for me. He was a brilliant man of faith and courage. His autobiography is a gripping testimony of resistance to oppression. Douglass was not afraid to criticize President Lincoln when his actions indicated a hesitation in the movement to end slavery. He continued to strive for racial equality in the post-Civil War era. Throughout his adult life, he was committed to the equality of sexes. Douglass is a great American prophet and a personal hero.

    On the kitschy side, those interested in seeing the Afro Sheen commercial can find it here:

    1. My neighbor when I was a child growing up in NH told me that I shared Douglass' birthday. Thanks to Mr. B, I always think of my natal feast day as "Frederick Douglass Day." He was a true giant of our nation's history. And thanks for posting the link to the ad. The saintly kitsch round is my favorite!

  6. Oh my goodness, I would vote for Egeria's anyway, but she definitely won the kitsch kompetition!!

    1. I agree totally, since I also voted for Egeria and would have anyhow, but wasn't there any reasonably kitschy thing possible for Frederick Douglas, even a postage stamp?

      1. Yes, teh three AUTObiographies is a bit much for me too. OTOH, I'm in DC with a free day today, so maybe I'll find the Metro down there and go pilgrim aging myself before I vote...

      2. I agree, Frederick's kitsch is probably out there, but not too evident here. For example, he was a character in the Broadway musical, "The Civil War" and sang the stirring anthem "Freedom's Child." Like all Broadway musicals, it spawned plenty'o kitsch, including tee shirts, mugs, and CDs. And the actor playing Douglass was spectacular.

      3. I agree. I think the CB for Douglass missed the memo that this is the kitsch round? How are a mansion, barbells, and a newspaper kitschy?

        1. Thanks, Cindy! I figured that anyone as important as Frederick Douglass must have a stamp somewhere, but I had no idea how to locate it!

  7. As we approach Holy Week, I had to vote for Egeria since so much of our liturgy comes from her letters. No vote button for this, but I vote for Oliver as this year's most loved commenter.

  8. I wanted to vote for both of them, as they were both incredible human beings and contributed much to the world that was good. However, as I imagined a man that would right three (THREE!) autobiographies, the quality of humility was sorely lacking. I thus choose Egeria, who "embodies the values of coexistance, learning from others and creative cooperation", and provided a history of our church rather than of herself.

  9. This is a hard one. Both deserve the vote but I am really impressed by what must have been tremendous obstacles faced by Douglas in pursuing the life he did.

  10. Come on, how can you not vote for a guy who comes back from the dead to advise us on grooming! Egeria is an obviously exceptional person who did so much for the early faith (are her works published), but Mr. Douglass is a particular hero of mine, and I want him to go on through to the Faithful Four!

  11. Much as I am learning to appreciate Egeria, Frederick Douglass got my vote. I had forgotten all about the Agro-Sheen commercial (not why I voted for him, but kudos for dredging that up!)

  12. I vote for egeria because it is pretty cool that she has her own stamp in Spain. I didn't vote for Freddy because he beat Juan Diego in the round of saintly sixteen

  13. An aquarium plant? LOL!! While the Egeria write up made me laugh, I am pulling for Frederick Douglass for his care of body and mind and the spirit of freedom.

  14. Let's face it, Frederick Douglas had bad hair, no miracles, and what kind of saint writes THREE autobiographies?

    It's the traveling woman for me.

  15. Ride on Ride on Egeria. Couldn't quite bring myself to call her Queen but the thought was there. Because of Egeria, I'm understanding the venerations of the cross, appreciating the stations of the cross and who know what else as I get into her diary. What a gift she has been for me. Oliver, she not only looks awesome, she IS awesome.
    Egeria — Y0u Go Girl!

  16. After voting I began to check my other e-mail and on a site I sometimes use for my work there is an offer for a making your own Pascal candle. the blurb says it's believed hat the Pascal candle was made popular by St. Ambrose. Huuummmm. Now I wonder, did St. Ambrose read/hear about the Pascal candle because of Egeria's writings. Knowing about her will change the way I look at and think of so much now.

    1. Donna, can you share that link? And you make an excellent point about St. Ambrose, BTW!

      1. Probably can't do a link, I'm technologically very challenged but it's a Roman site for educators — Holy Heroes should get you to it, Susan.

          1. Way to go, Peg S.! Etsy and Pinterest are great sources of kitsch! Cafe Press is also good.

  17. As we enter into Holy Week I vote for Egeria who preserved us so much of the liturgy for us. Learning about her has made Holy Week even more meaningful as I reflect not only on our Lord but also feel connected to the earliest years of the Church and one with them in liturgical action.

  18. What a great contest. I am amazed and inspired. Who will join me in a rousing chorus of "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God"?

    1. I have never had such a losing bracket but I feel like a winner because most of my picks have been affirmed by Oliver.
      Hawking Afro Sheen from the Great Beyond is pretty groovy but I remain loyal to Egeria on this one. She would probably let me keep my messy hair.

    2. Me, too ~ this is my worst bracket year ever. sigh But they're all winners, right? (smile)

  19. I'm no soothsayer, but I can picture all this coming down to a battle between Francis and Egeria. And what a tough call that would be. Egad !!

    1. Yikes!!! And yet, in that eventuality I do know how I'd vote. And ask forgiveness of the other.

  20. Voted for Egeria b/c the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is really special to us since we had our wedding vows blessed there last year!

  21. i want to change my vote. i voted for Frederick Douglass before i read the comments. while i was reading about him i did think the 3 autobiographies were a bit much, but i voted for him anyway. i want to change my vote to Egeria. who determines what person gets the first writeup? it doesn't matter as long as Francis gets the golden halo!

  22. I've been on the unpopular side of almost every one of these, and it looks like egeria will win this one, but in my mind, there is no question which saint to choose here, it is unquestionably frederick douglas for me, an unlike in the case of molly brandt, I can at least understand the rationale behind egeria. Rise up all you fans of frederick douglas, bring him home to victory!