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

Loading ... Loading ...


* indicates required

Recent Posts



174 comments on “Frederick Douglass vs. Egeria”

  1. This one was a tough choice. I see I'm not the only one who thought so, and it seems this match-up will be won by a very slight margin at the end of the day. I cast my vote for Egeria. I think it was her "values of coexistence, learning from others, and creative cooperation" that swayed me. Although, the buy three, get one free offer for the Holy Olive Oil didn't hurt!

  2. Staying faithful to Egeria in anticipation of the prayers and liturgies of Holy Week.

  3. What a cool round. I think I'll visit Fred's home in DC and vote for Egeria . . . too many sacred memories from 28 days at St George's College, Jerusalem in 1998. By the way, I recall Holy Sepulcher was originally called CHURCH OF THE RESURRECTION and only after destruction (Hakim the Horrible) and the stunted "renovations" was it tagged HOLY SEPULCHRE. To recover some of the sacredness from the tourists, 4 of us sang in parts Cross of Jesus, Cross of Sorrow, all verses in 1998 by the hobbled Anastasis.

  4. I have an objection to this statement "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?" My parents also expect me (and my 2 sisters) to do converse, read,tell stories, and I often practice the flute before my elders. Besides, Egeria's letters have benefited the church immmensly! The letters were "earliest record of Christian liturgy during Holy Week that we have"!

  5. i have to vote for Egeria because she is at least part of the reason that we have the magnificent Holy Weekand Easter Vigil services which I so love!

  6. Living in Rochester, NY I had to vote for Frederick Douglass as our hometown saint. He lived here for 25 years and did some of his most important work during that time. In terms of Frederick Douglass kitsch, there are several notable examples in the Rochester area which you missed: the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge, the statue of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony having tea together located in a park near her home, and the Frederick Douglass statue in Rochester's Highland Park.

  7. This was tough, as both are amazing people whose influence persists today. I tried to imagine a world where neither had existed. The power of tradition may have preserved the liturgy in the church, but the power of tradition would have perpetuated deep injustices in American society. I had to vote for Douglass, whose courage lay in challenging tradition.

  8. '@klf- i like Lent Madness. the only semi sane thing on the internet. when the race card gets played i am out of here. i dislike that soooo much.

  9. The Frederick Douglass house qualifies as kitsch? Afro sheen commercial much better! But no, my vote went for the poor little goldfish making his perpetual journey...and the Jerusalem memorabilia. Egeria for sure...not sure how she'll do up against the likes of Francis tho.

  10. People! Egeria traveled and wrote; that is great. What did she personally do to improve the loves of her fellow human beings, at great cost to herself? I'm currently reading Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms -Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East by Gerard Russell. Apparently Egeria's pilgrimage also took her to Edessa, now the Iraqi city of Sanliurfa. Fish in a stream there were (and are) considered holy to the local inhabitants. Egeria made a point of eating some and declared them "very tasty." Sounds like a Jewish teenager sneaking out for a bacon cheeseburger during Passover... I enjoy Egeria's writing on Holy Week in Jerusalem. But we are talking about saints, or at the minimum Holy Women (and) Holy Men... people who manifested the will of God in concrete ways to their fellow human beings. Not travel writers, however interesting. I've also been wondering how much all that travel cost... might someone else have spent it differently?

    1. Tamara, your thoughts have made me consider the ways we define or look for saintliness. The Hindu tradition defines several ways: there is knowledge, wisdom, scholarship (Thomas Aquinas, for example); action and service (like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mother Teresa); devotion (Therese of Lisieux, for example), as well as meditation (the Desert Fathers). In Christianity, western Christianity especially, we have leaned very heavily toward devotion and service, and examples of the other kinds of holiness are less common. But could those ways be just as valid for those whose natures incline them to scholarship or meditation? I don't know that the answer is yes; I think our preference for devotion and service comes from the teachings of Jesus. And if that's right, then yes, the saints who sacrifice and serve are of a higher order than those who ponder and write. I'd be interested in what others think about this.

      1. Different gifts for different people — like the different members of the body — none higher/better than the other.

      2. I voted for Frederick Douglass this time, Oliver. But you're making me wish I'd chosen Egeria because I do love ponies. Well, I'll be happy whoever wins. Go, Oliver!

      3. Woohoo! I knew he must have better kitsch! Thanks! Now I can vote with a clear conscience.

      4. Hmmm. This thought follows the stream (or swims in the fish bowl) of consciousness I've been playing with today. My first thought this morning was: "How can I choose between contemplation and action???" As a choir member in a parish with a very traditional and serious RSCM music program, and as the spouse of a priest who loves to sing the Exultet, I could gladly vote for Egeria in anticipation of Holy Week. And since my Lenten reading has been focused on racism (OK y'all must read The New Jim Crow) I have new appreciation for justice-making Douglass. Your description of areas of saintliness is instructive; I see Egeria as a model of devotion and knowledge, Douglass as scholarship and action born of devotion. Personally, I feel nudged toward more action so, I believe I'll vote for Douglass. thanks.

  11. Egeria has better kitsch but Douglass is one of my all-time favorites. One of my college nicknames was "Fred" due to the uncanny resemblance my hair bore to his at that stage in my life.

  12. Decision, decisions, decisions . . .

    without her recordings how much of early Lenten & Holy Week liturgical practice would we know?

    without him agitating Lincoln towards ending slavery where would we (in the U.S.) be in terms of basic human rights?

    I want to vote for her & him both, but since I only get one vote I'm voting for him in case slave-owning Molly (how she for this far is madness indeed) somehow sneaks past nothing-owning Francis, in which case an eventual trouncing of Molly by Fredrick for the Golden Halo would be most appropriate.

  13. I have been vacillating all day between these two saints. Every time I'm ready to vote for Frederick Douglass, I think of his sexual escapades and Eugenia's devotion to liturgy and to preserving her observations of it for the benefit of her community Every time I'm ready to vote for Egeria, I think of Frederick's contributions to a freer and more democratic America, and his early support of the vote for women, and Eugenia's "mere journalism" vs. "true creativity". Both have had their influence on the way we live today. I think I will have to decide for Frederick Douglass.

  14. Well, down to 50 votes of separation right now. That is impressive. I finally went for Egeria although it was a very hard choice. I think Frederick Douglass is a great American hero and enjoyed learning a good bit about him. This is one where I will be checking in this evening to see the vote count!

  15. Any woman who would walk or ride a donkey hundreds of miles to go from Spain to Jerusalem in the name of Jesus Christ and preserves the church's early liturgy gets my vote.

  16. Egeria got my vote, despite not being on TEC's calendar of saints. Seems the SEC has some 'splainin' to do about this . . .

  17. Oh my, while muddling through the conundrum of voting choice, I somehow envisioned Douglass & Egeria Gracefully - & Gratefully - waltzing in the West Parlor...or was it on the Lawn?......

  18. My first Lent Madness season & what fun it is!! Even though I love Frederick Douglass on many levels (the retro Afro-Sheen ad not withstanding! Really??!) I have to go with my girl Egeria because women saints rock! Just wondering if Oliver is voting St. Brigid?? And since he has such a great Golden Halo voting record - could he put in a special word for Notre Dame against Kentucky in that other "madness" contest? Happy Holy Week!

  19. The SEC should hire Oliver to do the 'color commentary' next year. I haven't voted without reading about his selection first!

  20. The story of the Goldfish's memory and his 30 second trip half way around the bowl got me right off. I realize that is not exactly the serious stuff of which LM is made, but .... Egeria had better stuff than Frederick!

    1. I liked the postage stamp. I was able to find an I love Egeria/I heart T-shirt on the web. Not sure how to link to it or if it was named after her, but you go girl!

  21. I must admire the man who came so far within his own lifetime, despite such a harsh beginning, and still kept so much love, grace, and strength. He certainly knew how to put his priorities in order as he worked for equality and respect for his people, and by extension all people. He lived the principles he espoused, despite the unsavory times in which he lived. Egeria has her strengths, yet I must vote for the man who exemplified the courage of his convictions. And a family man, too! Yay, Frederick Douglass.