For the Golden Halo: Julian of Norwich vs. Dietrich Bonhoeffer


We embarked upon this Lent Madness journey over five weeks ago on “Ash Thursday.” With your help we have narrowed the field of 32 saints down to just two: Julian of Norwich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who edged Sojourner Truth yesterday 52% to 48%). Who will win the coveted Golden Halo of Lent Madness 2016? Only 24 hours and your voting participation will reveal this holy mystery.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome, we’ve met some truly remarkable saintly folks along the way. Perhaps you learned about some saints you’d never heard of or maybe you renewed acquaintances with saints who have long offered inspiration. Of course the entire notion of placing saints in a bracket is absurd — each “contestant” has already earned a crown of righteousness in addition to a “golden halo.” But at the heart of Lent Madness is the abiding conviction that encountering those who have come before us in the faith enriches and enlivens our own walk with the risen Christ.

In the process of this whimsical Lenten devotion we’ve all made some new online friends, encountered a community of believers who take their faith but not themselves too seriously, learned a few things, were inspired by saintly witnesses, and had a lot fun along the way.

Of course we literally couldn’t have done this without our stellar Celebrity Bloggers to whom we offer sincere gratitude: Amber Belldene, Laurie Brock, Megan Castellan, Anna Fitch Courie, David Creech, Neva Rae Fox, David Hansen, Beth Lewis, Hugo Olaiz, Derek Olsen, and David Sibley. Thanks to Bracket Czar Adam Thomas for his unsung behind-the-scenes work in keeping the bracket updated daily — in his inimitable style. And to our Resident Foodie, Maria Nolletti Ross, whose recipes in the Saintly Scorecard and online helped keep the inevitable weekend Lent Madness Withdrawal at bay. You all rock! And we’re all grateful for your good writing, good humor, and adhering to most, if not all, of the SEC-imposed deadlines.

We're also grateful to the Forward Movement staff who have supported this endeavor: Richelle Thompson, Rachel Jones, Heidi Weaver-Smith, Alyssa Finke, and Michael Phillips, as well as everyone who answered the phone in the Lentorium and all the other things to make Lent Madness successful: Tania Z. Jones, Carole Miller, Nancy Hopkins-Greene, Melody Shobe, Hugo Olaiz, Theo Lambert, Miriam McKenney, Jay Sidebotham, Loren Dixon, Samantha Franklin, Jane Paraskevopoulos, Barbara Hine, Vicki Everett, Amy Golden, Kathy Jose, Aleia Robinson, Peggy Sanchez, Debbie Springer, and the office mascot, George T. Dog.

2015 Golden Halo winner, Francis of Assisi, prepares to welcome the 2016 winner

2015 Golden Halo winner, Francis of Assisi, prepares to welcome the 2016 winner

Finally, thanks to all of you who participated by voting, commenting, drinking coffee out of Lent Madness mugs, filling out brackets, talking about saints at coffee hour, submitting "mug shots," liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter, and allowing us to play a small role in your Lenten journey. We’ve loved having each one of you along for the “madness” and on behalf of the Supreme Executive Committee we wish you a blessed Holy Week and a joyous Easter.

But enough gratitude. We have a Golden Halo to award! As with all the matchups, the polls will be open for 24 hours and the winner will be announced right here at 8:00 am Eastern Time on Maundy Thursday. At this point, everything about these two worthy saints has been said (though if you need some refreshers, click on the Bracket tab and scroll down). We have simply asked our two remaining celebrity bloggers, Amber Belldene (Julian of Norwich) and Beth Lewis (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) to provide us with one image and one quote.

The rest is up to you, the Lent Madness voting public. So go do your thing! And thanks for playing along this year — we’re delighted you joined us for the journey.

Julian of Norwich


"It appears to me that there is a deed that the Holy Trinity shall do on the last day…and how it shall be done is unknown to all creatures under Christ…This is the great deed ordained by our Lord God from eternity, treasured up and hidden in his blessed breast…and by this deed he shall make all things well.”

― Julian of Norwich

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


"There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God's commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Julian of Norwich window from St. George's Church in Dayton, Ohio.


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288 comments on “For the Golden Halo: Julian of Norwich vs. Dietrich Bonhoeffer”

  1. “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21). The philosopher Peter Sloterdijk writes that Western philosophy promotes “suspended animation”; that is, it practices death. And Christianity bears much blame for this, after Plato and Socrates, who upon his forced suicide said he “owed a cock to Asclepius” because death was the cure for life. Christians are ten times worse, promoting an anemic even masochistic bodily life on earth in preparation for “heaven.” Nietzsche imagines Christianity as a moral and intellectual syphilis, rotting out the cultural brain and sapping cultural virility. I think Christianity should meet the objections of the philosophers head on. How do we affirm human bodily existence? For me, having an incarnational theology means that I have the courage fully to live my embodied experience as it is happening and to speak it. My models are Bonhoeffer, whose witness surpasses anything I think I would ever have the courage to do, but whom I seek according to my strength to emulate, and Wilfred Bion, a British Object Relations psychoanalyst who wrote that the psychoanalyst’s task was to keep interpreting, despite pressure from either the general physician or the family for a “cure.” In an incarnational theology, we do NOT owe Asclepius a cock for dying. We get to live while we live and tell others our story. That’s my Resurrection. What is yours?

      1. "Whiskeypalians"! I had never heard that. I HAVE heard: "Wherever there are four Episcopalians, there's a fifth."
        What a great sermon. Thank you, Beth, for the link.
        A toast! to the dignity of every human being.
        And because the deacons among us have been a revelation to me--I can't admire you enough, you guys are like nuns or something!--a toast to deacons.
        To all of you, I will miss you. Have a great Easter. May you flourish. A toast to the coming year and all our journeys hence and back again. As Julian said: All will be well. (A toast to Julian!)

        1. Yes, here's to Julian! Although I have to admit-- this quote from Bonhoeffer is so beautiful I was almost swayed. I keep having to remind myself, the fact that the voting keeps getting so much harder means we've voted well up to this point. Happy Easter, everyone!

  2. A great lent madness season. Thanks to all and the SEC for another year of education, fellowship and reflection.

    1. As I shed I tear, I want to Thank ALL of you for enlightening my life during this Lenten season.
      I have laughed. I have learned. I have grown in so many ways.
      My 'God Spark' will burn brighter and longer because this experience has changed my relationship with God and Christ forever.
      May the Grace of Gods, Love, Peace and understanding be with you always.
      Till we meet again.❤️

    1. So did I. I have agreed with you most of the time, and have enjoyed getting to know you through your comments. Hope to hear you again next year.

    2. Oliver, You have mad this March Madness Golden Halo quest the most interesting ever. Your comments have been a gem od the day often. Blessed Easter

    3. Oliver, as they say here in New York. Ya got good insight kid!!! I have enjoyed reading your posts and everyone else who has posted during Lent. Thank you

      1. My vote is for Julian since being somewhat of an everyday Jesus-in-your-cereal mystic is normal for me. I relate to her connection with an inner sacredness thought DB is a hero, for certain. I want to live my daily life as a prayer and wash my sacred dishes, make my sacred beds, scoop my sacred kitty litter, etc. In truth I would call this a tie vote if I could do so since one heard the inner call clearly and the other lived that inner call. Very hard choice!

        1. I agree that is I could have you idea twice it wolf be a tie. Another good year ending to soon. Happy Easter to all. Looking forward to the 50 Days of Fabulous.

        2. Lea, I was not familiar with Julian when I began participating in Lent Madness. Her works are definitely on my "must read" list now. And I appreciated your comment about washing your sacred dishes and scooping your sacred kitty litter. As someone who hates housework, I would love to learn to see the sacred in daily/weekly chores. Sadly, I have barely begun and don't seem to be making much headway in adjusting my thinking (or in getting the work done).

          Nevertheless, my vote went to the amazing 20th century martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We are living in an age in which that level of courage is needed by Christians in the Middle East and in which it soon may be essential for all of us. These two saints are two sides of the same coin, though, as I suspect that it is only trusting that "all shall be well" that enabled Bonhoeffer and all of the other Christian martyrs to stand fast to the end.

          1. > As someone who hates housework, I would love to learn to see the sacred in daily/weekly chores. Sadly, I have barely begun and don’t seem to be making much headway in adjusting my thinking (or in getting the work done).

            I have found helpful the monastic tradition (Benedictine I think?) that directs a life of prayer and manual labor, ora et labora, keeping your hands productively busy while you pray. Like walking a labyrinth, the manual labor of chores and housework and yardwork can keep the front of my mind just occupied enough that the back of my mind doesn't get caught up in distractions. And I always ask St Benedict and his sister St Scholastica for help!

            I don't actually do this very often... but now I am inspired to make this part of my Good Friday observance this year. So thanks for your comment!

    4. As did I, Oliver. I have much enjoyed all your comments. I hope you will get to England one day, to see the Lady Julian places. There is a remarkable sense of her there.

    5. I concur and well done, Oliver. I hope you enjoyed this Lenten devotion as much as I enjoyed seeing your comments each round. Easter Greetings to you!

    6. I knew I was going to vote for Julian, but I was delighted to see that I'm in line with Oliver, age eight!
      Theology knows no age, really. Blessed Holy Week to you and your family, Oliver!

    7. Oliver, all through this Lent I've been benefiting from your comments. Reading what you have to say reminds me of something I read in the Bible:

      One day when Jesus was on earth, some children were praising Him for healing sick people. The authorities were angry that the children were praising Jesus so highly. But Jesus reminded the authorities of Psalm 8, verse 2, which says that God causes perfect praise to come out of the mouths of children and babies. (This is written in the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 21, verses 14-16.)

      Thank you very much indeed for your Lent Madness comments. I hope That next year I'll be reading comments from Oliver nine years old.

    8. Lea, I was not familiar with Julian when I began participating in Lent Madness. Her works are definitely on my "must read" list now. And I appreciated your comment about washing your sacred dishes and scooping your sacred kitty litter. As someone who hates housework, I would love to learn to see the sacred in daily/weekly chores. Sadly, I have barely begun and don't seem to be making much headway in adjusting my thinking (or in getting the work done).

      Nevertheless, my vote went to the amazing 20th century martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We are living in an age in which that level of courage is needed by Christians in the Middle East and in which it soon may be essential for all of us. These two saints are two sides of the same coin, though, as I suspect that it is only trusting that "all shall be well" that enabled Bonhoeffer and all of the other Christian martyrs to stand fast to the end.

    9. Oliver,

      Thanks for your comments throughout Lent Madness. Although I don't always vote the way you do, I like reading your reasons for your vote. I appreciate the fact that your reasons always make sense. I think you are probably the youngest person taking part in Lent Madness this year. I hope you learned a lot and had fun and I especially hope that you will take part in Lent Madness next year! Have a blessed Holy Week!

    10. I voted for Bonhoeffer, because he's my favorite theologian and a hero, but I am glad that Julian came this far. Oliver, I think you need to create a blog!

    11. I voted for her, too. I've enjoyed reading your comments through this lent. I hope that you have a joyous Easter.

  3. When I first saw the 2016 bracket, I figured the "Golden Halo round" would be between Constance and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (and I truly was torn about for whom I'd eventually vote). Both of them gave their lives for others, and (for me) are truly role models for how we might be called to address today's challenging world. So, since Constance earlier lost her round, my vote today will be for Dietrich! We might be called to emulate his sacrifice. What a saint for our time!

  4. Tough choice! I've voted for these remarkable saints consistently this Lent. an inspiring journey.

    1. This was so tough for me! I have always loved Julian and I feel such a closeness to her. But Dietrich really suffered at the hands of the Nazi's and was so courageous. he could have stayed in America but he chose to go back and face evil. Bravo to you both. But I had to vote for Dietrich. Sorry Julian. I love you too

      1. Amen to your comments. Some of us are called to speak out, and some of us are still struggling to speak up. But we are all called to prayer in these troubled times. I need Julian's assurance that all shall be well. And in memory of Barbara, a devoted follower of Julian, I will vote for her. And I give thanks for all who call us to stand against violence and oppression.

  5. Thanks to the SEC and all the folks who made my first Lenten journey one of awareness, joy and gratitude to those who walked the path before us.

  6. I'm afraid these days, Bonhoeffer's faith courage may be what we desperately need.

      1. I have dreaded having to make choice between these two, but the final quote from Bonhoeffer won my vote.

        Thanks to all involved in making this another wonderful Lent Madness and, in particular, George, whom I am sure keeps the whole process well-supervised.

        1. I agree -- it is so relevant to today when everyone wants "security". Security is impossible, but peace is not.

        2. Oliver, Can't believe we are voting for the saint who will receive the Golden Halo! I will miss not reading your comments! Looking forward to reading them again in 2017! Have a very happy Easter!

  7. It's 5 a.m. I forgot to say thank you to the celebrity bloggers and to Tim and Scott. I can only imagine the work that goes into this project. Great job.

    1. I agree w/what you said. The work is great to create such a complex and fun Lenten Devotional

  8. Thanks to all (the SEC, the bloggers, Forward Movement, and all of the commenters) who've made this such a fun and informative Lenten discipline for me. Now I must find another way to start my morning. I will definitely have Lent Madness Withdrawal!

  9. As the spread of terror continues unabated, and death follows death across the Middle East and Europe, I read the quote of Bonhoeffer and contrasted it with the response of so many world leaders which focus on security rather than on the seeking of peace through justice and so was moved to vote for him. We need his wisdom to inform our lives today, and we also need to hod on to the words of Julian, that in all the troubles and sorrows of the world, God is at work and one day all will be well.
    Thank you all for another inspiring and informative year.

    1. Yes, Fiona, yes. Your summation brought me to tears this morning. When I realized yesterday that the decision today would be between Dietrich and Julian--my two go-to people of the faith--I thought I would never be able to decide. But last night, I sat at my kitchen table and reread all the LM comments, and the news of the tragedy in Brussels played on the television behind me, and the choice became clear. Dietrich is the saint for us now to stand firm in the faith, firm for the Christ who is with us in days of fear and violence. I don't know which frightens me more--the threat of a bomb at the airport, or the spectre of totalitariansm here at home. But, as Julian says, too ... ASBW.


      1. SusanLee, you expressed my thoughts more eloquently than I ever could.

        Thanks to all who have worked hard to create Lent Madness and to all the contributors who have co-created this inspiring fun. Until next year!

        1. Ditto. Thank you, Fiona and the 2 Susans.
          We need both types of faith in this world today. I voted for Bonhoeffer because of his modern example, but Julian's vision gives me great comfort.
          Thank you for another fun season of Lent Madness!

  10. Thank you all for your thoughtful and prayerful contributions to my Lenten journey. Oliver to St. Celia and all, you have enriched my experience. To the SEC, your humor and devotion helped us all deepen our faith. I am filled with gratitude.

  11. The Saint for our time, our world, this day, this very hour and each one after until the last breath — Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

  12. I was so tempted by the cat at the bottom of Julian's picture! But I voted for Dietrich--in light of the terrorist bombings in Brussels and parts of the world that don't make headlines within this lent he is the saint for this time. His words on the true meaning of peace ring true. Julian will wear her silver halo with humility, dignity and grace.

  13. Nine votes apart at present, in this, the Be Careful What You Wish For Round. I wanted them both to come back to the Madness and win. So here we are, and how do I choose? An image came to me of Lady Julian offering an achoring rope stretching across the centuries, to which Dietrich could hold on. Hale and halos to all, and thanks for a deeply meaningful stay in this Lenten community.

    1. Peg, thank you for that beautiful image (vision?) of Lady Julian anchoring Dietrich.
      The Communion of Saints.

  14. While I've followed Lent Madness every year, this is the first I've opted for daily emails. Beginning each day with a reflection over my cup of coffee has really enriched this Lenten season. Now this morning, the end of the madness with a match up of two saints that even the staunchest atheist would be hard pressed to find flaw in the strength of their faith. I voted for Dietrich Bonhoeffer because like me, he is a product of the modern era and his unshakeable relationship to God inspires me to continue every day to seek and work to build the Kingdom of God in my little patch of earth.

  15. My wish for today is that the Spirit of Dietrich Bonhoeffer were alive in a couple of our candidates running for president.Obviously, neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz ever heard of Dietrich let alone read his books. A real shame. Thank you for your presence on earth Dietrich. Rest in peace in the arms of our Lord.

      1. Lucy, bless your heart and your foot. I have enjoyed your posts, and wish you a speedy recovery. Like I said, a Lent-Madness-shaped hole in my heart after today. <3

      2. Dear Lucy, May God bless you and continue the healing and comfort you. I enjoy reading your thoughtful comments during Lent Madness.
        Wishing you a joy full Easter !

  16. Thank you, SEC and CB' s, for another wonderful season. I am a big fan of Julian, but voted for Boenhoffer today based on the quote - even at a personal level, which is where it has to start anyway, peace is risky business.

  17. While still mourning the earlier loss of Constance, I have to go for the saint that was in the world and of it- not one who retreated to immerse herself in prayer. Bonhoeffer more closely followed the path Christ showed us, in my opinion.

    1. Well stated, ChrisinNY. I too would have voted for Constance as the third female Halo winner. However, if Dietrich Bonhoeffer wins, then I will be purchasing my first Lent Madness mug!

  18. I thought I would vote for Lady Julian, being a Norfolk (UK) girl and also, wanting a golden halo winner who would embody the mystic. (I voted Lady J and DB all the way through). Also, I often think there is a danger that we just become Christian social workers, rather than Christians. But in the end, DB got my vote for his Christian courage, the like of which I could never have.

  19. Grateful for all, and for this journey of faith and light-hearted holiness!
    My devotion to Julian casts my vote, but with these two there is no losing, only winning.

  20. No question about it. I was rooting for Bonhoeffer from the start. (Well, and Columba, too...) I subscribe to the "doers" of the world, those who went out into a unfriendly dangerous world and "dared" to bring peace. Mystics seem a bit self-absorbed and really, the cat thing is creepy...

  21. Great appreciation to all who participated in this revealing Lenten journey. I learned from CBs, SEC, and commenters. What a blessing.

    Couldn't read DB's quote out loud without some tears. He speaks to me right here in my heart, right now in our times. Praying for peace and not selfish security, praying for courage to act and speak for peace.

    God's peace,

  22. Very tough choice to make! Had to go with Boenhoffer over Julian knowing that all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.

  23. HUGE THANKS to ALL involved for another transcendent Lent Madness journey. as profoundly guided and inspired as i am by Bonhoeffer, my vote did, does and will always go to Julian. why? her words explain it better than i ever could, " I was answered in spiritual understanding, and it was said: What, do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For Love…. So I was taught that love is our Lord’s meaning."
    or as our very 'out in the world' PB Michael Curry paraphrased this revelation from Julian, " If it's not about Love, it's not about God."

  24. I finally understand the meaning of Lent Madness and enjoyed it! Very hard choice for the golden halo! Looking forward to next year. Thanks!