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. St. Francis all the way!!! Woo - Woo! I wonder what St. Francis will do with the Golden Halo? That vow of poverty might make this a sticky wicket for him.

  2. Went with Francis after much hesitation. I've always loved the Wolf of Gubbio since I encountered this tale in Italy back in the day.

  3. This is a match up of heavy weights that should not have occurred so early! (Grumbling about brackets.......) both of these saints get love from me.. but Thecla is a little less crazy so gets my vote

    1. Thecla's a little less crazy? Wow!! What have you been reading about Francis? And where?

    2. Oh! the windows filled with fat friars for the kitchen, bath, garden or any shelf space one has left over. I loved Assisi and found it to be much more than the snooty Roman tour guides predicted. I have a special fondness for St. Francis kitsch. As a 9 year old, I saw St. Francis placed in a wooden shelter displayed in a Santa Cruz, CA gift shop. I knew my mother liked St. Francis and asked my grandmother to help me find ways to earn the money to buy this. I don't remember the cost, but in the mid 50's it was more than one weekend of chores could earn. On every visit to my grandmother, and she was a 1/2 car trip away, I did any task requested and visited St. Francis (around the corner and down two blocks) anxiously checking to make sure he was still there. I think my usually ultra-thrifty grandmother bought the statue and let me pay her. She must have been worried that time was not on my side. Giving that gift to my mother was incredibly special. St. Francis lived in her garden for 50 years. Both my mother and grandmother live in my heart. and I shed a tear when I found that Francis had been broken by a little creature in my garden shed.

      1. What charming story. I bet, too, that your grandmother made a deal
        With the proprietor of the store. Aren't grandmother's the greatest
        Of creation. Mine certainly were.

      2. A delightful and sweet story. And I hope you'll find some solace in knowing that Francis would have understood and forgiven the "little creature in my garden shed" who brought about his demise.

        Happily, he lives on in glory and perhaps chats with your grandma on occasion.

        1. It's late and that last sentence wasn't very clear... the reference was meant to be to St. Francis, but on second thought it could as easily be the little creature 😉

    3. Francis helped keep the humanity in the Church at a time when it was headed towards automatic sainthood for those at the top and eternal purgatory for the rest of us. Francis gets my vote.

  4. While I know that I and others know more of Francis, Thecla was better known by early church. I want to thank again March Madness for bringing her deeds and thoughts forward so we all can see what she brought to our knowledge of God at work in her life and in ours. Thelca is my choice today.

  5. I wanted to see Francis knocked off in the last round. But this round with Spring on the way, who can pass up a good bird feeder or garden statue with wolves and lions and lambs all gathered around in rapt attention, without eating each other. Gotta admit, the "Got Thecla" coffee mug is a stroke of genius, narrowly beating the Canticle of the Sun Mouse Pad. But after this Winter, with the looming hope of spring it's St. Francis all the way!

  6. Gotta vote for Thecla almost as a protest vote against putting Francis in the Lent Madness match-ups. Having the Saint of Assisi in this is competition is like putting Lebron James play in that other March Madness tourney.

    1. Let me try that again: "Having the Saint of Assisi in this competition is like letting Lebron James play in that other March Madness tourney."

      1. And? So? Not knowing anything about that March Madness stuff, happily, the point is....?

        1. Quite a different competition altogether, though, in 2010, wouldn't you say? mich smaller voting pool, mostly clergy, I'm thinking...

  7. You neglected to mention Thecla's non-tangible kitsch. During my seminary days, "Thecla's Ravenous Seals" competed in weekly trivia contests at a local watering hole.

  8. You know, silly me, I thought this Lent Madness stuff would be EASIER than giving up chocolate, or something like.

  9. Voted for Francis do to the need of Thecla's section needing proof reading. Hint to David Sibley: read it out loud and where you stumble over words, fix them.

    Also, while seal-ed as Christ's own makes for a good written pun doesn't the Sacrament of Baptism require administration be done by a person who is Baptized? Therefore how could Thekla/Thecla immersing herself be considered legit? (Even Jesus was Baptized by John.). Her solo immersion has bothered me since round one.

  10. Love St. Francis, but my mother in laws middle name is Thecla. She has never liked that name, but I will need to tell her that St. Thecla is 'closet to the Apostles '. That might change her mind. Her first name is Marian, how much closer to Jesus can a woman's name be?

  11. I was hoping that Thecla would move to the forefront, especially since jelly beans are involved! This was a tough one because Francis was never one to cry wolf!

  12. I've voted for both of these saints, so this is a tough decision, but I'm going with Thecla again since few of the women associated with early Christendom are recognized, and she was a major player. St. Francis is already highly recognized and revered. Thecla deserves recognition too, something few women of that era received. I adore St. Francis, and I have many books and devotionals to refer to thanks to him, but too many women who promoted Christ in the earliest days are written out of histories and awareness. Let's include Thecla and grant her a righteous place.

    1. I don't often respond here--a bit shyish--but I did get up the nerve to be the 1st (I think) to suggest Thecla be nominated, and I was thrilled when she was. I actually read the Acts of Paul and Thecla (on the computer), and I was ever so impressed. I hated to see that she was up against Francis--we all love him--but Thecla DID work miracles, and I'm hoping for one here.

  13. Poor Thecla may as well be kin to St. Judas Tadeo Patron Saint of Lost Causes, at this point, but as I am all in for lost causes and invented kitsch (I need a "I heart Thecla" moose.) go Thecla!

  14. You picked a fine time to leave me loose seal. Frankie is such a giant, and I'm not certain I want Thecla around my dog.

  15. Where can I get that wonderful statue of Francis and all the animals? We have a simple statue of him in our back yard as a memorial to the cats who have lived out their lives with us, but I'd love to have that one join it.
    Also, why is there no lion among the "I [heart] Thecla" animals? They actually got to show that they did. And maybe there should be a sea lion, too. We saw a show on TV recently (on History 2?) that had a segment about Thecla. Apparently, there's some doubt about the animals in the water tank, as they suggested sharks.

  16. That Francis doll with the big nose just made me laugh! Debated back and forth but with apologies to Oliver I think it'll be Francis for me.

  17. I wasn't sure whether I was going with Thecla or Francis this round. But I lost it reading & seeing the stuffed animals in their I love Thecla tees & the seal. As much as I love Francis, I am voting for Thecla. I can't stop laughing about the Theclas kitsch. Who would have thunk it?

  18. I almost voted for dear Thecla just because of the "seal" reference at the end. Yes, you almost got me with that one! However, Francis defeated my mother's name-saint, Cecilia, so I have cast my vote for him.

    Oh - and I'm really surprised that you didn't recognize that those stuffed critters are wearing those shirts to proclaim their allegiance to Thekla and thus ward off certain death!

  19. In terms of kitsch which, as I understand, is the premise of this vote St. Thecla wins hands down. "Got Thecla" is so over the top.... will this be an incentive to buy "Dust Bunnies"? Buy a "Got Thecla" mug at full retail and get 50% off an autographed copy of Fr. Tim's "Dust Bunnies". I'd opt for it!

  20. What a choice between the seals and the wolves but ultimately the pinned swayed me.

  21. Here in Hawaii I just swim without ever worrying. Well, while in Mexico I was enjoying my swim when a sea lion's head came up within an inch of my face! I love Francis but I know he'll understand why I voted Thekla. Sea Lions are very scary in the wild and up that close!

  22. Sister Thecla is among the Martyrs of Memphis, memorialized on the altar at St. Mary's Cathedral.

  23. consider me a kitch klunker, since I've started following lent madness, the only madness I've seen, is the need to lower the conversation to retail trinkets, this seems to me like having money-changers in the temple.....