Thecla vs. Francis of Assisi

And then there were eight. We started with 32 saints and 3/4 of them have been sent packing. Welcome, friends, to the Elate Eight. Things kick off with Thecla taking on Francis of Assisi. To make it to this point, Thecla defeated John Keble and Brendan the Navigator while Francis of Assisi beat John Wycliffe and Cecilia. (Elate Eight Bonus: click on the names of vanquished foes to refresh your memory by reading the write-ups from previous rounds).

Yesterday, Egeria defeated Thomas Ken 54% to 46% to nab the final spot. After today's battle, it's Brigid of Kildare vs. Kamehameha, Bernard Mizeki vs. Molly Brant, and Frederick Douglass vs. Egeria. One of these eight will be awarded the coveted 2015 Golden Halo!

This round is also known as the Saintly Kitsch round. After basic biographies, quotes and quirks, what else could there be? There are always some folks who take offense to this approach — we call them Kitsch Kranks. This round is not meant to belittle or demean our saintly heroes but to have some fun and gaze in wide wonder at the breadth of devotional practice. So kindly relax and enjoy the spirit of the Madness as we push ever onward toward our goal.

Finally, if you want to know more about, and see some examples of, saintly kitsch, tune in to this week's episode of Monday Madness in which Scott and Tim also reveal why Lent Madness is the Original Saintly Smackdown©.


You may anticipate, Lent Madness reader, that Thecla – proclaimed as an “Equal-to-the-Apostles” and honored as a saint since the time of the early church – would be devoid of saintly kitsch. All hope would seem to be lost, especially when paired against Saint Francis, the saint whose face inspired a thousand birdbaths. With Thecla being most highly venerated in Eastern Christianity – a tradition not particularly known for turning its saints into garden gnomes – some kitsch would, it seem, be missing for Thecla in this round of Lent Madness.

thecla-totebagBut that, dear friends, is why Zazzle and Etsy exist. Truly, it seems, there is no member of the communion of saints beyond plastering on a tote bag. Thecla, revered for her own self-denial, may have travelled light, following in the footsteps of Saint Paul, but that won’t prevent her from helping you carry home your latest purchases from the supermarket in this sophisticated canvas tote bag.

Yet, something, it seems, is still missing. Thecla was put on trial and condemned for thecla-jellybeansrefusing to renounce her faith in Jesus Christ, the true and living bread. Thecla could have tasted death – but was delivered by God each time. While remembering her trials, you, dear reader, can think of the sweetness of God’s deliverance with a free batch of St. Thecla jelly beans!

thecla-mugYet, dear reader, I still sense something missing. Two different cities tried to put Thecla to death for her faith in Jesus Christ. Twice, she was delivered. One can only expect that the rulers of these cities were left asking one another if they “Got Thecla?” as they drank their morning coffee. The answer: no. God always delivered her.

Yet something, it seems, is still missing. The Acts of Paul and Thecla recount wild beasts being struck dead to spare Thecla from martyrdom, but evidently, modern day stuffed beasts haven’t gotten the message. These tigers, bears, horses and moose are big Thecla fans, and want you to vote for her today. They even have the t-shirts to prove it. Talk about rooting against their own self-interest.thecla-stuffedanimals

seal-chesspieceAlas, something, it seems, is still lacking -- one key and memorable piece of Thecla’s story. We become Christians through Holy Baptism, and the words of the liturgy remind us that we through that sacrament, we are “sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism, and marked as Christ’s own forever.” And, dear reader, we know that Thecla, like few others, can claim to be seal-ed in baptism, since she baptized herself in a pool of water filled with ravenous sea lions and, yes, loose seals. Yet she was baptized, and was not harmed in any way by these wild beasts – the ravenous sea lions and loose seals did not maul, bite, or harm her – instead, she was baptized in water and delivered. Ultimately, no Thecla kitsch round would be complete without a loose seal. And so, we present one to you now, humbly asking for your vote.

David Sibley

Francis of Assisi

StFrancisGrottoBirdBath100GKC090Faithful Lent Madness readers, Francis, whose life and ministry preached the Gospel both with and without words, gives us such a rich tapestry of love, faith, and adventures that the kitsch is most certainly strong with this one. Sure, he didn’t hang with someone named Paul in the New Testament, but his feast day ups most average Sunday attendance figures if clergy count the two and four-legged souls in church at the Blessing of the Animals.

After all, not every saint has the gravitas or the holy presence to be the final perfect touch for a garden. This particular birdbath captures Francis in the holy position of orans, blessing the water and birdseed for the very birds who set quite the high standard for a flock listening to a sermon. Squirrels, a lamb, a wolf, and bunnies listen in rapt attention. Bunnies. Bunnies loved this man!

i_love_st_francis_south_dakota_bag-rddff6c89dd9d4872a9ad9584455188f1_ftm1h_8byvr_324Francis lived a life of extreme poverty and asked his community to do the same. While not all of us are called to a life of holy vows of poverty, we are all called to remember that less is often more. Remember one of the Franciscan rules by downsizing your baggage with this small purse. Emblazoned with a reminder of our favorite saint, it is just roomy enough for essentials, asking us to leave our extra baggage behind.

st_francis_of_assisi_mouse_pad-rad5636dfcc47472e908f4325c1c0492d_x74vi_8byvr_324Francis’ legacy includes authoring what many consider the first work of literature written in the Italian language, the stunning Canticle of the Sun. In it, all of Creation praises God. While working at our desks, we can be reminded to stop occasionally and join Creation in praising God with this psychedelic mousepad featuring Francis and a unicorn. Bunnies AND unicorns loved Francis! He surely has their votes.

Some saints may try to sway your vote by name dropping their association with certain early il_570xN.729938158_66k5church bigwigs, but Francis just wants us to know that we are all loved. Francis’ compassion and kindness are mentioned with frequency by those who knew him or knew people who knew him. So when you have one of those days where nothing seems to go your way, fix a warm cup of cocoa and snuggle with this St. Francis doll to remind yourself that you, too, are part of God’s beloved creation.

WerewolfFrancis lived a faithful, adventurous life, and the stories of Francis are many. We cannot, however, forget one of his more dramatic encounters, with the Wolf of Gubbio. The ravenous wolf was terrorizing the town, making livestock and citizens the daily lunch specials. The town’s bravest men went to kill the wolf. Armed with their pitchforks and swords, they charged at the wolf, only to become more casualties. The townspeople were terrified of the wolf. They would look out their windows each night and see this. Horror!

Francis, hearing about their plight, took pity upon the townsfolk and the wolf. Francis went to meet the wolf, armed only with his fc,550x550,baby_bluelove and faith. The wolf charged at Francis, and Francis responded by making the Sign of the Cross and saying, “Brother Wolf, in the name of Christ, I order you not to hurt anyone.” Guided by Francis, the wolf and the townspeople made peace and lived in harmony.

So, in honor of Francis, who made ravenous wolves hold hands with children and who reminds us that everything can nudge us to remember the love of God, even questionably decorated mousepads, we humbly ask for your vote.

Laurie Brock


Thecla vs. Francis of Assisi

  • Francis of Assisi (71%, 4,142 Votes)
  • Thecla (29%, 1,728 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,870

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182 comments on “Thecla vs. Francis of Assisi”

  1. For creativity alone in the kitch dept., i was for a brief moment tempted to go with Thekla. The awesome blogger miraculously 'found' some surprising stuff!!!! I am not not saying that he crafted some of the wonderful souvenirs, but even if that were the case, what a dedicated effort for one's saint! And Thekla certainly deserves mugs and teddy t-shirts, not to mention a jelly bean jar. Totally admiring the effort, nonetheless (and because it is about favourites at least some of the time... sometimes newly learned about and acquired favourites), Francis has been my favourite saint for as long as i can remember. And since i'm pretty sure he had a hand in my mum saying 'ok' whenever i said "this crab (or whomever it was) followed me home," and then inspired me to let whomever go, and despite the neon mouse pad.... Thanks Francis, let's go for the halo bro. He would probably say 'give it to Thekla' of course and help her sit down and have a chat with the seals.

  2. Seriously impressed with both write-ups today. Thecla's is laugh out loud funny 🙂 However, having just discovered that it is National Puppy Day (in which nation I do not know) I had to vote for Francis.

    1. Dear Friends who voted in favor of puppies,
      My gorgeous Standard Poodle would have adored St. Francis as do I, but today's vote is a serious one, and not to be made on the basis of National Puppy Day, on a statue in one's garden or on the naming of dogs (or cats or popes for that matter!). This is about recognition of a woman who was proclaimed as an “Equal-to-the-Apostles,” and honored as a saint since the time of the early church but who has not received the recognition SHE deserves. Having just met her for the first time in Lent Madness, and having voted in previous rounds for both of the contenders today, I remain loyal to Thecla in homage to her service to the launch of Christianity and her work against adversity to spread the Gospel.

      1. Excuse me — I didnt' vore for puppies or such. I voted for a real live authenticated man of God who lived and breathed and was well documented. I did not vote for a specious woman of suspect existence, strange behaviors and obsessions who was apparently prone to rather rash acts of questionable value. Nice to on an equal with the apostles but from whence cometh that pronouncement?

  3. Just got a new puppy named him Francis, so I had vote for St. Francis or have a very naughty puppy today.

  4. Thecla gets my vote again. Any female who would break into prison to save Paul is a true warrior for Christ (and I love the mug). But I would like to have the St. Francis doll.
    To the SEC - I love all the kitsch. Great round!

  5. Maybe it's the animals that he loved and they loved him and his love and selflessness just tipped the scales for me. As to the blogger....GO TO YOUR ROOM!!!

  6. This is always my favorite round because I love seeing the whacky ways in which marketers commemorate the saints. I think there's a push to get Francis the Golden Halo, but no doubt Thecla got my vote...especially with that write up and refernce to St. Francis adorning many a birdbath. That gave me a good belly laugh for the morning!

  7. As a member of St. Francis, I really had no choice today, but as a knitter, it was nice to have confirmation of my choice. While I couldn't find the pattern for the cuddly St. Francis (and I've really never thought of him as cuddly, sorry), I was able to find some crocheted Francises for those who might be interested. Yay

  8. While we are all equal in the eyes of God, we are not all equal in the eyes of historians. Thecla must have been a truly amazing person to have earned any mention at all, let alone a whole alternative gospel (Acts of Paul and Thecla). That the best historians could do to malign her was to hint that she may have had a less than proper relationship with Paul, puts her into the realm of Mary Magdalene--also maigned as being a woman of questionable character.

    For having not only survived both human and non-human beassts, as well as the persecution of historians, it is Thecla all the way!

  9. St. Francis is one of the two patron saints of Italy, the other being St. Catherine of Siena. I am astounded that there has been little or no mention in three rounds of this decidedly non-trivial fact!

  10. Thecla won the kitsch, but Francis has been my choice the get-go unless he goes up against Kamehameha. Then, I will have a mighty struggle.

  11. Without reading any of the comments so far, I voted for Francis yet again. I can't help but think...I am voting as much for the writing about the saints as for the saint him or her self! The writer of both these kitschy bios deserve a vote, but the writer about Francis had me laughing! I love this tongue in cheek round! Yay, Lent Madness! You are making this fun and informative. Thank you to ALL the writers.

  12. It almost seems unfair for anyone to have to compete against Francis; the only one remotely likely to approach him in a popularity contest would be Patrick--birdbaths against green beer. Being constitutionally averse to fun (not out of any particular asceticism but simply from a dour temperament), I could care less about the kitsch, but aside from fighting off ravenous seals and putting up with the notoriously misogynistic Paul, Thecla really doesn't have much to appeal to me. Francis is a no-brainer.

  13. Sorry, Oliver. Francis because I love the story of the wolf of Gubbio. I live in the foothills and coyotes abound. They are known to have the neighborhood cats for lunch.

  14. I voted for Francis and have to recommend this delightful new book for children and adults told from the point of view of the wolf, The Wolf at the Gate! The beautiful wood block prints are too nice for classification as "kitch," but the book needs a mention as "necessary merchandise" for St. Francis fans!

  15. I voted for both these saints the first go-round so this is a hard choice for me. St. Francis it is.

  16. Have voted with Thecla in every round so
    ar; cannot desert her especially when she is the "underdog" in this match up. Forgive me St. Francis; her victory in this round would in no way diminish the examples of your life or my love of animals. Just raises visibility of another extraordinary life to try to emulate.

  17. I can't believe that this is decided by Mid-morning. Thecla's story seems to be all about what her faith did for her. St Francis, on the other hand is about his concern for others, including God's animal creatures.

  18. I would so love for Thecla to advance - but found it impossible for me not to vote for my favorite saint and mystic.

    Frenchy for the Golden Halo!

  19. I love the "wild beasts" in the "I [heart] Thecla" shirts, but a moose? Really? I also love the seal. Awesome!
    Nevertheless, my vote today goes to St. Francis. The story of the Wolf of Gubbio is depicted on one end of the altar in my parish, The Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas,TX. The version of the story that we tell is the one in which St. Francis solves the problem by telling the villagers to feed their wolf if they want him to leave them in peace. They do, and he does. Everybody wins.

  20. My great compliments to the bloggers! This was a hoot! Francis has been my pick for the Golden Halo from day one. Always good to be reminded that I, too, am beloved of Almighty God.

  21. I was leaving Francis and the there were "loose seals." So David got one vote for Thecla (slow wink.)

  22. I'm still leaning toward Francis, but Thecla's loose seal kitsch nearly has me hooked. It really was a miracle that none of those seals had experienced the taste of mammal blood before Thecla was cast into their midst. I really gotta hand it to Rev. Sibley on this one.

  23. The Canticle of Brother Sun

    Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
    Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,
    and all blessing.

    To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
    and no man is worthy to mention Your name.

    Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
    especially through my lord Brother Sun,
    who brings the day; and you give light through him.
    And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
    Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

    Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
    and the stars, in heaven you formed them
    clear and precious and beautiful.

    Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
    and through the air, cloudy and serene,
    and every kind of weather through which
    You give sustenance to Your creatures.

    Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
    which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

    Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
    through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
    and playful and robust and strong.

    Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
    who sustains us and governs us and who produces
    varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

    Praised be You, my Lord,
    through those who give pardon for Your love,
    and bear infirmity and tribulation.

    Blessed are those who endure in peace
    for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.

    Praised be You, my Lord,
    through our Sister Bodily Death,
    from whom no living man can escape.

    Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
    Blessed are those whom death will
    find in Your most holy will,
    for the second death shall do them no harm.

    Praise and bless my Lord,
    and give Him thanks
    and serve Him with great humility.


    St. Francis of Assisi

  24. Thank you SEC for the perspective to "gaze in wide wonder at the breadth of devotional practice" - extremely helpful. In the past, the kitsch round has always felt like a let down after all the inspiring bio's, but today I fully enjoyed this first match up. Well done both David Sibley and Laurie Brock!

    1. “Humor is a prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer.” --Reinhold Niebuhr (quoted recently in Lenten devotions offered by the Society of St. John the Evangelist)

  25. Thekla the Equal of the Apostles still has my vote because I love her mug. Got Thekla? indeed. And the lovely tale of the Wolf is probably a reworking of one of the tales of the Desert Fathers. He persuaded a hungry hungry hippo on the banks of the Nile to leave the villagers and their gardens alone. (Hippos are actually nasty and aggressive).

  26. Am wondering if I should just throw in the towel and consider Madness over. It is clear that Francis is going to win. Yawn.

  27. In honor of March Madness and Wichita State Shockers who took down KU (University of Kansas) had to go with Thecla!!! Got to love an underdog!!!!

    And yes I live in Wichita KS.

  28. Good heavens! "Got Thekla?" Is that for real--or did blogger David Sibley have that made up at his local kitsch supply house? In any event that mug is just too good. I want one!