Constance vs. Dominic

Only in Lent Madness would you find a monk battling a nun across the centuries. Yet this is exactly what we have today as Constance, a 19th century American nun takes on Dominic, a 12th century Spanish monk.

Yesterday Meister Eckhart squared off against Drogo, and, sadly, it appears that the Patron Saint of Coffee entered the Lent Dome after drinking some Sanka. Eckhart handed Drogo the cup of defeat 55% to 45% and will go on to face the winner of Columba vs. Kateri Tekawitha in the Saintly Sixteen.

It may surprise you, but Lent Madness is not the only way to learn about saints. If you're interested in online Christian formation opportunities, ChurchNext is a valuable resource, with online video classes on all sorts of topics. Click here for information about a four-part video series hosted by the SEC titled "Praying with the Saints with Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck." Here's the official blurb:

In the Christian faith, the lives of exemplary Christians have inspired countless people to live more selfless and charitable lives. While a the word 'saint' can apply to any believer, as Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck explain, the term can also be applied to those who have lived particularly faithful lives. In this class, they help us understand more deeply the roles of the saints in history - and in our lives. Their lectures include: 1) What Is a Saint? 2) A History 3) How Can We Be Saints? 4) How to Pray with the Saints.



In 1981 the Anglican Communion moved to recognize a group of Episcopal nuns, the Martyrs of Memphis (or Constance and her Companions) for their heroic efforts in caring for the victims of the yellow fever epidemic of 1878.

Constance and her sisters belonged to the Order of Saint Mary. Along with eight sisters, Constance moved to Memphis, Tennessee, to establish a school. Before the new school could open for the 1873 term, an epidemic of yellow fever hit the town. Over half of the city’s residents fled. Those who remained were poor, sick, and disenfranchised. Five thousand contracted the fever, and 2,000 died. Constance and her companions were the caregivers for sixty of these patients. Because of their amazing care, only eight of their patients died. As the epidemic subsided, the sisters were finally able to open their school in 1874.

Four years later, mosquitoes descended once again on the city. Once again, people fled Memphis. Constance (along with a number of other nuns—both Roman and Anglican—several priests, a handful of doctors, and a prostitute) remained in Memphis to care for the afflicted. Records from the 1878 epidemic indicate this strain of yellow fever infected around 90 percent of the city’s population. So many people died that Memphis lost its charter as a city. It took fourteen years for the population to recover from mass casualties.

Constance and her companions were victims of the epidemic. Constance died on September 8, 1878, and is buried in the historic Elmwood Cemetery. Her last words were, “Alleluia, Hosanna.”

Collect for Constance
We give you thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the heroic witness of Constance and her companions, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and the dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death: Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

— Anna Fitch Courie



Born in Castile, Spain, in 1170, Dominic entered the priesthood at Osma. In 1206, he accompanied his bishop on a visit to an area held by a group called Albigenses. Dominic and the bishop stayed at an Albigensian inn on the first night of their trip. Dominic didn’t get much sleep. Throughout the night, Dominic conversed with the innkeeper, and when the new day dawned, the innkeeper had been converted.

This conversion was a turning point in Dominic’s life. He felt called to study this sect’s beliefs and engage in public debates comparing Christianity to Albigensian beliefs. He and the bishop made some progress, but in 1207 the bishop died and the Albigensians murdered a papal legate, a personal representative of the pope. This murder prompted the pope to declare a crusade against the Albigenses.

One of the tenets of Dominic’s life was a commitment to living in poverty. He thought an obstacle to the conversion of heretics was the material wealth of some of the clergy. With the approval of the pope, the order founded by Dominic became officially known as the Order of Preachers. They became known informally as the Dominicans or Blackfriars (because of their black habits).

Dominic was offered a bishopric and refused three times, feeling called to his work as a preacher and teacher. He died in 1220 in Bologna, Italy, after returning from one of his many preaching missions.

Collect for Dominic
God of the prophets, you opened the eyes of your servant Dominic to perceive a famine of hearing the word of the Lord, and moved him, and those he drew about him, to satisfy that hunger with sound preaching and fervent devotion: Make your Church, dear Lord, in this and every age, attentive to the hungers of the world, and quick to respond in love to those who are perishing; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

— Beth Lewis

Constance vs. Dominic

  • Constance (77%, 5,658 Votes)
  • Dominic (23%, 1,664 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,322

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Dominic: By Marco Ferrero - Lavoro Personale, CC BY 3.0,


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249 comments on “Constance vs. Dominic”

      1. With a niece named Constance who is always looking out for others, how could I not vote for her.

    1. Good for you, Oliver! I voted for het because like Jesus, she sacrificed her life for others. What a great example she is for others

    2. Couldn't agree more Oliver! The best reason in the world. Although it would be interesting to know the name of "the prostitute"

        1. And her order lives on at St. Mary's Convent in Sewanee, TN. (Also home of my favorite seminary, the Schoolmof Theology at the University of the South.

    3. And if you've ever been in Memphis, Tennessee in the summer it is hot and steamy. It would have been an extremely physically difficult place in which to live. Right on, Oliver. She stayed when even rational people would have left.

    4. I'm following Oliver's lead on this. I couldn't decide between the two, but Oliver's explanation makes sense.

    5. This one was REALLY hard for me. Dominic had a whole Priestship named after him! That's pretty awesome.
      But Constance stayed when the ugly stuff happened (bugs, eww) and she took care of people.
      I understand the importance of the spiritual connection, but when that spirit leads you to help PEOPLE, even putting yourself in harms way, well I'd say that's like a 3 pointer.

      I voted for Constance❤️

    6. Excellent, Oliver. As a nurse I also had to vote for Constance. Although Dominic seemed pretty cool too. Hope your Lent is going well.

    7. Me too, Oliver! I would be scared that I would get sick, too. But she was faithful to the people that needed her and to God. Sounds to me from her last words, that she was glimpsing Heaven as she died to Earth.

    8. I did to Oliver I loved how she stayed through the sickness and cared for the sick. If I was a sick person I would love to have one of them tend to my care.

    9. Yes, you have to admire people who care for the most difficult to care for. Those who run toward the ones others run from are a true gift from God.

  1. The prayer for Dominic swayed my vote, especially "to satisfy that hunger with sound preaching and fervent devotion."

    1. Dominic's collect is really good (one of the best I've seen this Lent Madness). But I've voted for Constance nonetheless.

  2. very difficult choice (big fan of the OP) but I'll always go with someone providing nursing care -- so Constance (and her Companions) get my vote!

  3. Go Constance! I will almost always go for the doers- the ones that use their hands and energies for others to manifest God's love in this world. Have always been a Martha rather than a Mary.

    1. I voted for Constance as well, but Dominic was also a doer, preaching and teaching.
      Also, he was firmly opposed to the use of violence against heretics. He believed that
      persuasion and love was the way to bring them into the Kingdom.

  4. I had to vote for the person who stayed when things got bad, knowing it could cost her everything.

  5. Okay, so before reading the description I was SURE I was going to vote for Dominic. I mean, what's not to like? He founded the order that gave us Thomas Aquinas and the mendicant movement gave rise to Francis and Clare of Assisi. What tipped the scales for me in favor of Constance was the part about the second yellow fever epidemic where it mentioned that the Anglican nuns served alongside Catholics nuns, priests, and a prostitute. That's the sort of inclusion our Lord showed. So in the end, as much as I admire Dominic, I had to vote for Constance.

    1. Amen, Jean. I thought the same thing, Dominic for sure! For a time in my life I actually worshipped at St. Mary's in Memphis and learned about Constance there. I didn't remember about the second epidemic. And like you I loved the part about the inclusion. It would have been a privilege to serve along side the.

  6. I wish I knew more about the Albegenses, but I voted for Constance, mostly because the Dominicans did so much harm in the Spanish conquest of South America.

    1. Actually, the Franciscans were in the New World several years before the Dominicans arrived, and did much worse. The first Dominicans to arrive were appalled by and spoke out strongly against the subjugation of the Native Americans that they witnessed.

    2. I gather from Wikipedia that the heresy of the Albigenses was little more than dualism, which doesn't seem so bad as heresies go, but murdering a papal legate is worse than heresy.
      It's hard to believe that the followers of St Francis were harder on the Native Americans than the Dominicans were, but nobody's hands were clean in that mess.

  7. I've been inspired by Constance and her companions since I first read the story. How could I not vote for her? But I was humming Dominic' s song as I voted.

  8. I'm with Jean. This is a tough choice because Dominic gave so much of great importance to the church. However, Constance and her sisters stayed and loved through a frightful time of sickness. Go, Constance!

  9. All respect to Dominic, but I had to go with my homegirl Constance. She, along with the other Martyr of Memphis, are much revered here.

  10. Growing up in Memphis and attending the Episcopal school founded by Constance and her sisters, this was an easy one. I am grateful for the grounding in scripture and the formation I gained during my years at St. Mary's School. As students, we were kept aware of the commitment and sacrifice made by these nuns. A vote for Constance.

    1. I've never heard the phrase "Chistian-UP" before... love it!!! After all, if cowboys can do it, so can we! A new way of taking on the armor of the Lord. So... Christian-UP everyone! And Constance did just that. Katie - you influenced my vote with that one!

  11. It is frequently easier to support the tangible over the intangible (Constance and crew) and their record of devotion in healing. However, I went with Dominic, because of the issue of the perceived wealth of the clergy being a stumbling block to belief. He chose real poverty and that witness has sustained many generations of Christians to walk more intentionally with the have nots of this world...perhaps even inspired Constance, centuries later. Who knows?

    1. Agree. Retired from nursing after 44 yrs. voted for Constance who cared for sick and dying without modern infection control measures or drugs. She and her sisters must have been a tough bunch

      1. I have been a nurse for 42 years & agree with you. My vote went to Constance that was pure dedication to healing the sick & dying.

  12. Aargh! Another wonderfully difficult matchup. Lent Madness 2016 is off to a great start. I really enjoy all of the passionate and thoughtful comments. And 8 and 10 year old participants-wow! I voted for Constance, since I believe that nuns and sisters are the "hands of God".

  13. Two saints, both called into the Lord's service, both heroic in their answers to that call. I don't know what circumstances surrounded Constance in her childhood and up to her vocation--were they those of wealth and privilege, like Dominic's? Possibly. But the life that chose her involved constancy in her care for the sick, the dying, the desolate, the outcast. One detail from an account of her life posted by a Tennessee history site: in her final illness she refused to lie on a comfortable mattress because after her death that mattress would have to be burned. There's an old saying that "Manners maketh man"; it might also be said that manners make a saint.

  14. While Constance and her fellow martyrs are certainly worthy of the win today, I voted for Dominic in homage to the Dominican Sisters of Adrian (Michigan). In 12 years of elementary and secondary education, those good and faithful members of the Order of Preachers formed me spiritually and intellectually, set me on the path to my career as a scientist, and modeled for me (in the 1960s) the possibility of women being unmarried and still living rich lives of service and scholarship. So it is with deep gratitude that I stand on the side of Dominic and his heirs.

    1. What a moving testament of the far reaching work of Dominic. Thank you for sharing that and for your service to humanity. I voted for him to as I felt his work made a bigger difference to the world thru time.

  15. Dominic and Constance both preached the gospel. Constance and companions just preached a little better.

    1. Her name was Annie Cook and she turned her brothel into a hospital. Her girls served as nurses.

    2. Me, too! I wanted to vote for Annie Cook! Constance and Dominic are awesome in their own right, and yet Annie Cook and her staff really brought it. Let's hear it for Saint Annie Cook.

  16. Terrible challenges and temptations attend the vocation of those with originality, vision, and tremendous energy -- those who found movements that catch fire and grow. The hardest thing for the founder of such a movement is to establish structures that will sustain the original vision of that movement. Dominic's record in that area is not great: the subsequent history of the Dominicans is deeply complicit in the terrible sins of the church during times of conflict, politicization, corruption, militancy, arrogance, and terrible spiritual pride. His vocation to preaching and education, particularly as an alternative to violent suppression of heresy, is crucial; but the forces he unleashed on the church and society wrought horrible destruction as well. How much was due to his own failure to envision how his unique vocation could be corrupted and abused? I don't know enough history even to guess, and it's probably unknowable.

    But if I have to pick, I'm going with the sacrificial love of Constance, whom I'd never heard of till this morning.

    1. Gretchen, you are probably referencing the role of Dominicans after Dominic played in the Inquisition among other atrocious history. Could not the same be said for many other religious orders? Whether missionaries who were used to help conquer native people throughout the U.S. or the crimes of Residential schools in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, the Magdalene laundries in Ireland, etc etc. I think if one points only to the harms done then the list of 100% purely good religious orders will be very short. I guess that's the problem with humanity being entrusted to be God's hands and feet in the world - we are more imperfect than perfect.
      And please, let no one misinterpret my advocacy for Dominic today as a knock against Constance.

      1. Yes. The Dominicans were implicit in the Crusades and Spanish Inquisition. But we can't lay that on Dominic.

  17. Constance and her companions have long been favorites of mine. Actually made a pilgrimage to Memphis and the cemetery. Constance sure has my vote - a good and faithful servant.

    1. Better to make a pilgrimage to Memphis to Constance's grave than to the other revered person of Memphis (Elvis).

  18. Evangelism and faith v. caring for the least of these ... during Lent ... Constance and her companions get my vote.

  19. Really hard choice. Episcopal nuns don't get alot of "press". The courage of nursing sisters in that time particularly was humbling and a powerful witness.
    I voted for Dominic for the number of souls saved by the creation of the Dominicans.

    1. Constance wasn't even a nursing sister; they had come to teach and open a school. She never said: "Not my job".

  20. The realization that clerical wealth may impede belief is indeed important. My problem with Dominic is that he was quibbling about doctrine, not substance. The Albigenses were Christian; they simply had a different dogma (which is mostly lost now because of repression), which they defended with the same ferocity that the Popes and "Christian" royalty did. I go with Constance who dispensed with the dogma and lived and died where Jesus led.

    1. I believe it was the Albigensian Crusade that gave us the story of a bishop advising a general to wipe out a city, saying "Kill them all. Let God sort them out."

    2. Susan C.
      I also voted for Constance, but I would like to put in a word for Dominic. You wrote that he was "quibbling about doctrine, not substance." But doctrine is an integral part of substance. Christianity is not simply good works and religious opinion. It is knowing God. Through doctrine we learn who God is (as much as that is possible) and how God operates (as much as that is possible). The Church has been concerned with doctrine from the very beginning. The Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-31) met to settle a doctrinal dispute. Elsewhere in scripture, Paul, Peter, and John address issues of doctrine. Over the centuries, the Church Councils worked to discern what is Truth and what is not. Adhering to the Doctrine of the Church is not going to put us into relationship with God: Opening our hearts to Jesus and giving our lives to him does that. But the teaching of the Church helps us to know the Beloved as much as we can. And that is why doctrine mattered to Dominic.

  21. This was a tough one for me. In my younger years I attended parochial school and was taught by Dominican nuns. However, as a retired Nurse, I can identify more with the trials of service performed by Constance. She got my vote.

  22. I lived in Memphis for three years and never heard about the epidemic...bless Constance and her 'sisters!'