Clare vs. Vida Dutton Scudder

The day after International Women's Day, we have two international women squaring off in the Lent Dome. Clare of Assisi (Italy!) takes on Vida Dutton Scudder (America!).

To make it thus far, Clare trounced Denis while Vida sailed past F.D. Maurice. Who will make face Constance in the Elate Eight? Only your vote and the next 24 hours will decide.

Yesterday Columba mastered Meister Eckhart 60% to 40 to advance to the next round.

And in the midst of the Saintly Sixteen, the SEC just wanted to offer a quick shout-out to all of our hard-working Celebrity Bloggers. As we get deeper into Lent, the turnaround times for the write-ups gets tighter. This is all being done in real time, folks! So if you spot a harried-looking CB, someone who may also be leading a congregation through Lent, give them a word of encouragement as you ask for their autograph. And then let them get back to their most important and holy task-at-hand.


Clare-washing-the-feet-of-the-nunsSo Clare was that person.

That person so sweet, so devoted, so honest, so deeply and genuinely kind to everyone even the haters can’t hate on her. Her only quirk was her deep goodness and authentic devotion.

Even before she was born, she was that person. While awaiting Clare’s birth, her mother went to a local church daily to pray for safe delivery as the date approached. One day, she heard a response to her prayer: “O Lady, do not be afraid, for you will joyfully bring forth a clear light which will illumine the world.”

Of course, that clear light was born shortly afterwards and named Clare, which means "clear one," in case you were wondering.

Writings about her life share that even as a child, she was holy and dedicated. One biographer notes she was praised by her neighbors and townspeople for her goodness and compassion and her devotion to daily prayer, even as an infant. As a child, she would take food from her plate to share with the hungry in her town.

Her only recorded act of disobedience was her refusal to marry the man her family selected for her. But since she made her vows, as she later wrote, “to take the Lord Jesus Christ, a spouse of a more noble lineage, who would keep her forever unspotted and unsullied,” even that act of disobedience gets a pass.

Clare spent all of her adult life in the contemplative religious order that would eventually be called the Order of St. Clare. Clare founded her order on deep contemplation of Christ and the purest ideal of Franciscan poverty. None of the women could own anything, and their daily lives reflected a faithful and serious commitment to poverty. For Clare, even her sleeping conditions were bare bones. In the Legend of St. Clare, we read about her sleeping conditions: “for a pillow, she took a block or a great stone; she lay always on the bare ground, or for to take the better her rest she lay otherwhile upon the cuttings of vines, unto the time that Saint Francis had commanded her, because that it was over foul, that she should use to lie on a sack full of straw.”

The vast majority of her writings are from letters to two women who were entering religious life. In her letter supporting Agnes and her decision to join the monastic life that embraces utter poverty, Clare writes:

O blessed poverty,
who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her!
O holy poverty,
to those who possess and desire you God promises the kingdom of heaven
and offers, indeed, eternal glory and blessed life!
O God-centered poverty,
whom the Lord Jesus Christ Who ruled and now rules heaven and earth,
Who spoke and things were made, condescended to embrace before all else!

Clare doesn’t mention the rocks for pillows, but otherwise, her enthusiasm and dedication to Christ is evident.

Clare is even that person for those of us who find respite binge watching House of Cards on Netflix. Yes, she’s the patron saint of television. But instead of House of Cards, Clare watched the Sacrament of the Mass projected by none other than the Holy Spirit on the wall of her room when she became too ill to attend.

Yes, she was that person who loved and served the Lord with her whole self and soul. She guides the sisters of her order: “Love him totally who gave himself totally for your love.”

We truly need more of those people like Clare.

— Laurie Brock

Vida Dutton Scudder

The more you learn about Vida Dutton Scudder, the more it is clear that her quiet influence and deep commitments touched many aspects of society throughout the last century and into the current one.

Vida was an educator, Episcopalian, editor/writer, principal advocate in social and women’s issues, social worker, welfare activist, anti-war/pro-peace proponent, and one of the most prominent lesbian writers of her time. She maintained that charity by and of itself is a failure; rather, an economic solution was the only avenue to effectively address social problems.

Her prolific writings were truly the window into her deeply Christian soul and provided an outpouring for her beliefs. Honored annually on October 10, Vida’s quotes mirror her life’s work, social beliefs and stances:

“War to win peace is at best a dangerously illogical method.”

“The suppression of war is not the equivalent of peace.”

“Luxury, like a minimum wage, is a relationship; it changes as we change.”

“Reality, like beauty, is in relationship and there only.”

“It is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed.”

“An element of abstention, of restraint, must enter into all finer joys.”

“The worst danger of the mystic is as always a quest of spiritual privilege leading to aloofness from the common lot.”

“If prayer is the deep secret creative force that Jesus tells us it is, we should be very busy with it.”

“Economic necessity is the determining base of permanent social change”

“Social intercession may be the mightiest force in the world.”

Living her beliefs was a strong part of Vida’s lifelong dedication and education.  She was an early member of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross (SCHC), comprised of lay and ordained Episcopal and Anglican women who are dedicated to a life of prayer for social justice, unity, peace and reconciliation.

Some interesting notes and tidbits about Vida and those around her:

  • She was a founder of Denison House where pioneering pilot Amelia Earhart served as a social worker for two years beginning in 1926. Amelia was reported to have helped Dennison House by flying over Boston, air-dropping pamphlets that heralded the organization’s events.
  • Both Vida and her mother were confirmed as Episcopalians by Phillips Brooks, Rector of Boston's Trinity Church, Bishop of Massachusetts, and writer of the beloved Christmas hymn, "O Little Town of Bethlehem."
  • At the onset of World War I, Vida supported the war effort, but changed course, joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1923, and by 1930 she was an avowed pacifist.

Vida Dutton Scudder lived from 1861 to 1954, bridging historic times that cried out for, and desperately needed, her social conscience, personal drive, and intense spirituality.

— Neva Rae Fox

Clare vs. Vida Dutton Scudder

  • Vida Dutton Scudder (51%, 3,214 Votes)
  • Clare (49%, 3,055 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,269

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American National Biography Online:  Vida Dutton Scudder. Drypoint on paper, 1932, by Bernard Sanders. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.


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160 comments on “Clare vs. Vida Dutton Scudder”

  1. Thinking about the saint and Saints and church programs and goals and initiative nd all that — what about the stated goal to end poverty? Where would Clare and the rest put themselves on that issue?

    1. Clare chose poverty. I'm sure she would have helped those who had poverty forced upon them.

      1. Maybe, maybe not. After all if it's such a good and desirable thing , something that brings you closer to God and Jesus, let's just all embrace it with a hearty halleluiah. Oops, sorry it's Lent, can't say that.

        1. Hallelujah! (Hebrew) might pass muster. Just don't stumble into Latin. (Straining gnats with tongue firmly in cheek.)

      2. For people like Clare and Francis poverty is more a calling and a spiritual gift, not a choice and certainly not desirable for all. I think it's best summed up in the quote from Clare: “Love him totally who gave himself totally for your love.” The point is that some are called to give up everything and rely solely on God's mercy and provision. But a part of that is definitely loving others as well.

  2. Both Clare's mother's prayers and Clare's giving up of material goods and enthusiasm and dedication to Christ encourage and inspire me!

  3. Only the Episcopalians would include a lesbian in the Saints bracket. That's why I love them and joined them. The Episcopalian church really DOES welcome you, whoever you are! +1 for Vida. To keep my dream alive for at least one more round: A lesbian wins the Golden Halo!!

  4. This was my first real struggle. I voted for Clare, more out of tradition, but Vida's writings and deeds really tempted me to vote for her.

  5. I think Vida is, probably, the spiritual child of Clare. That said, I voted for Clare because we need all the kindness and light we can get. (Including knocking off teasing on these comments because it's hard to, as one of you said, "hear the chuckle.") Also I'm a member of a ST. Clare chapter Daughters of the King.

  6. Contrary to several opinions above, I can appreciate voluntary poverty. But I voted for Vida. I especially appreciated her quotes shared with us today. Here's one in the same spirit that I have loved for years from Mons. Oscar Romero: It is only a caricature of love when we want to patch with charity what is owed in justice. (translated by Dr. Irene Hodgson) Romero, by the way, will soon officially be an RC saint; maybe he can appear in a future Lent Madness.

    Coincidentally, the other day I opened up the Journal of John Woolman, a famous Quaker and abolitionist from the turn of the century 1700's to 1800's. The edition I had began with a very long biographical and analytical preface -- written by Vida Dutton Scudder!

    1. I agree with Carol and Allison. That quote from Oscar Romero is worth remembering.

  7. A difficult choice. I love Scudder's commitment to social justice rooted in a a life of prayer. But I also serve at a parish dedicated to Francis and his picture, along with Clare's, are on either side of our altar. Clare it is for me!

  8. Thanks to Oliver and Sarah for their daily participation in the LENT MADNESS quest to learn more than they knew before this holy madcap adventure! Having said that, it's VDS all the way because she clarified what PEACE really means as being much more then the exact opposite of WAR. Her devotion to the Church involved efforts to help those in need in many ways other than simplistic, short-lived projects
    that didn't always make changes that had the potential to be life-saving ventures. Good Blogging.

  9. Even though I admire St. Clare's devotion to poverty, I like Vida's perspective much better: fighting to end poverty. It seems these were two very devoted women with very opposite beliefs. I'm voting for Vida.

  10. I named my daughter Magdalene Claire, after two strong, faith-filled Jesus followers. My own Claire (we call her by her middle name) is definitely the "clear one" in my life that God continues to shine through. I had to vote for Clare of Assisi...though I REALLY hate that she was pitted against Vida - totally not fair.

  11. My usual choose would be for Vida Dutton Scudde becasue of her social justice orientation. But Clare tops that in her life long effort to secure for women the choice to life the life God calls them too. In her case this as poverty in a monastic setting. The men, priests, bishops and even the pope thought that the Poor Clares were being too hard on themselves and for years forbad them from living the rule of poverty they felt called to live. This opposition was eventually withdrawn and the Clares lived the rule that they believe themselves called to. For me, always Clare, but especially on the day after International Women's Day.

  12. Even though I am Emily Clare, I had to go with Vida. Her quotes on justice and peace are things I would like to say, but she said them better than I could.

  13. Clare has already gotten so much press. We really need a Vida Dutton Scudder in this day and age. Wonder what she would think about the current presidential hopefuls? I think that this woman was a visionary. She needs to be celebrated!

  14. Pamela KC I aoree with you. As I was reading Vida's biography I was thinking about the front runners in today's presidential battle. They need to listen to her and SO SO WE.

  15. I was set to vote for the well known and beloved Clare. But after reading about our forward-thinking Episcopalian saint and all her good works, Vida gets my vote!

  16. Thank you, Celebrity Blogger, Neva Rae Fox, for your eloquent and very interesting writing about Vida Scudder. I voted for the life of an active Christian as opposed to one who preferred the contemplative life. These women lived in such disparate times that it made it difficult for me to decide for whom to vote. I decided to vote for the one whose life was devoted to current global issues.
    And the added information about Amelia Earhart, a hero to me since childhood, was the icing on the cake, so to speak. Go Vida!

  17. I am enchanted by the beautiful Clare, no doubt because of knowing someone named Vida who was strict, cold, and (pardon me) ugly. Margaret

  18. Voting today feels a lot like voting in yesterday's primary! I just can't get excited about either of these women. When I read stories like Clare's of self-imposed "safe" suffering ... "I'm going to sleep on the floor to prove I love Jesus!" ... I think "Oh, please! Get up, go out and DO something for those who are not suffering by choice!" ... which Vida did do.

    1. Clare did not sleep on the floor to prove she loved Jesus. Her writings, however limited, display a woman who entered a life of deep risk and commitment to pray hourly and daily for those sharing the message of Christ, for the safety of humanity, and for all to experience the love, grace, and mercy of Christ. Funds her order received went to support those in need, and for Clare, however we may consider her sleeping arrangements, having a bed when she realized the cost of a bed may be better spent on help for others, was a choice made out of love and devotion. While I deeply appreciate those who get out and do, I am equally thankful for those who support such action with contemplation and prayer, lest our actions become focused on our own motivations and not on God. Prayer is a form of action.

      1. Thank you Eileen. You have helped me to decide a difficult match-up. Vida as Clare in the modern world--great idea!

      2. You are so right, Laurie. Vida knew that prayer is a form of action, as the quotes in her bio show:
        "If prayer is the deep secret creative force that Jesus tells us it is, we should be very busy with it."
        "Social intercession may be the mightiest force in the world."

  19. Clare. She's no doubt loveable, but she is long ago and far away and I don't think it takes much bravery--only stiff-necked stubbornness--to use a rock for a pillow. Vida seems the braver one in today's world, so I voted for her.

  20. This was a really hard choice. Having visited Assisi on a few occasions, I'm partial to Clare (Chiara in Italian). But Vida -- what a woman. The SEC makes these choices difficult.

  21. Was all set to vote for Vida until Mollie's comment about Clare taking a stand for a woman's right to choose her own path in life. Vida would have approved, I'm sure.
    Too bad we can't vote for both!

  22. There is much to inspire us in the lives of both of these saints. Two of Vida's comments seem to me to contradict each other: “The worst danger of the mystic is as always a quest of spiritual privilege leading to aloofness from the common lot.”
    “If prayer is the deep secret creative force that Jesus tells us it is, we should be very busy with it.”
    Mystics are always very busy with prayer; that is the reason for cutting back on many other "normal" activities of life, to make room for prayer and service. We seek a close relationship with God not as a point of privilege, but out of love and desire to follow God's will for our lives. It is not always that easy to follow and obey, and our actions do not always make "sense" to others. I vote for Clare today, because she has been important in my own journey, even though I do not feel called to emulate her sleeping habits or her life of celibacy. I have always felt that my marriage to my husband, Scott, was a gift of God and we have served God as a team. The Poor Clares do not serve only themselves. Neither do any of us who find so much inspiration in Lent Madness.

  23. This is tough! Vida is more modern, an Episcopalian woman like me, has great quotes attributed to her, and is all around amazing. But Clare--wow, what a strong woman. I think we do her an injustice here to believe that she chose poverty and slept with a rock for a pillow just for the heck of it. Remember, she rid herself of all her personal wealth (and that money went to the poor, so she wasn't just sleeping on a rock and not "doing anything")--just as Jesus told us all to do. Jesus said, too, "Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of man has no place to lay his head." Like Jesus, Clare depended on the beneficence of others for her living. Perhaps, our dismissiveness of Clare's poverty stems for our discomfort with our own inability to do such?

    And, as in every contest like this, I chafe at the notion that getting out and "doing something" is better than devotion to prayer. BOTH are important, and without prayer for us all undergirding those of us who do not commit ourselves to constant prayer, I wonder where all the "doers" would be. "Martha, Martha...Mary has chosen the better part."

    Having watching "House of Cards" into the wee hours of the morning, this anything-but-poor American will vote for the patron saint of television. A vote for Clare-ity!

    1. I voted for Clare❤️
      This was tough, and a coin toss for me.
      To be honest I would say Ms. Brock got my vote over Ms. Fox.
      Again, Props to the SEC!

  24. I vote for Clare. She chose poverty and in a world of narcissism ( such as Donald Trump embodies) choosing to give to the poor and needy and to life in simplicity is rare. To worship God with your entire life is something remarkable.While her sleeping habits were austere, her devotion to Christ was evident, and that should be applauded, especially in Lent.

    Both women have traits to admire and appreciate, so it was a tough choice. But I go with Clare.

  25. Vida for me! I love her multi-tasking activism. I create a monthly e-newsletter for an arts agency and always include a quote relevant to the arts. "It is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed" is going on an upcoming issue. Though I respect mystics and do not always vote for an "action" saint over a "thinking/praying" saint, I'm troubled by the self-damaging patterns of behavior in Clare's story. I mean, St. Francis, no lover of luxury, had to tell her to sleep on nice clean straw instead of grotty nasty vines!

  26. Thought I'd be voting for Clare, than Vida won me over with “The worst danger of the mystic is as always a quest of spiritual privilege leading to aloofness from the common lot.” Voting for action this time around, rather than personal devotion.