Methodius vs. Albert Schweitzer

Wake up! Lent Madness is back for another full week of saintly, halo-busting action. We begin with the third matchup of the Saintly Sixteen, where we continue to encounter saintly Quirks and Quotes, as Methodius faces Albert Schweitzer. To get to this round, Methodius beat his brother Cyril in the Slavic Smackdown® while Schweitzer grilled Lawrence.

The winner of this battle will join Constance and Absalom Jones (who squeaked past Joseph on Friday 52% to 48%) in the Elate Eight.

We do hope everyone successfully made it through another weekend of Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW). This is not an affliction to joke about as many of the Lent Madness faithful have suffered deep emotional scars from the lack of voting for 48 hours. The Supreme Executive Committee keeps a slew of Lent Madness chaplains on call 24 hours a day over the weekends of Lent. We have the number around here somewhere...


Methodius-2Saint Methodius – patron saint of all of Europe, not too shabby – is often best known for being paired with his little brother, Cyril. Together they took the Gospel into the Slavic regions of Europe, helping the people to experience word and sacrament in their native languages.

This would be enough for some, but not for Methodius.

Methodius’ ministry without his brother was also filled with excitement and passion for a church that changes and adapts to new languages and cultures.

Following Cyril’s death, Pope Adrian II appointed Methodius as Archbishop of Moravia and Pannonia. Suffice it to say that the German bishops in the area were not fans.

Archbishop Methodius stood as an advocate for inculturation: the idea that “every people must integrate the message revealed into its own culture and express its saving truth in its own language” (Pope Benedict XVI). He continued to invite the people to worship and experience Scripture in their own language and culture. Those who opposed him believed that the Latin language and mindset (“the way we’ve always done it”) was the only way to experience the Gospel.

Methodius was imprisoned for two and a half years following an ecclesial trial in the presence of King Louis of Bavaria. Eventually, a legate from Pope John VIII settled the issue, declaring the legitimacy of Methodius’ appointment as Archbishop.

After Methodius’ death, his successor (who had served as his coadjutor) exiled all Methodius’ disciples – those who advocated the use of the vernacular for Scripture and liturgy. But the work Methodius had done in his life – his continued advocacy for a culturally and linguistically literate church – could not be stopped.

As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware observed, “Few events have been so important in the missionary history of the Church” as the missionary work of Methodius (both with and without his brother). The fruits of Methodius’ ministry can be seen to this day not only in the churches which continue to worship in Slavic, but in all churches who seek ways to speak the Good News in new and changing cultures.

— David Hansen

Albert Schweitzer

Albert Schweitzer was 19-years-old studying theology at Strasbourg when he had an epiphany. He was reading Matthew 10 in Greek. As Jesus sends out and receives the disciples, he tells them, “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.” Schweitzer understood these words to be a call on his life as well.

He would later write, "You must give some time to your neighbors. Even if it's a little thing, do something for those who have need of a another’s help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it." 11 years later, as a medical doctor, he would move with his family to Lambaréné in French Equatorial Africa (modern Gabon) and begin to live out that commission.

While in Africa, and while Albert Einstein was working on a scientific explanation that would explain and link together all physical aspects of the universe, Schweitzer was developing an all-encompassing moral theory that he called “Reverence for Life.” He wrote of this ethic, “It is good to maintain and further life; it is bad to damage and destroy life. And this ethic, profound, universal, has the significance of a religion. It is religion."

In many ways this ethic was way ahead of its time. Schweitzer was not only concerned with human life but with all life. He wrote, "People are ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to them, that of plants and animals as that of their fellow human beings, and when they devote themselves helpfully to all life that is in need of help." Elsewhere he said, “Until people extend their circle of compassion to include all living things, they will not themselves find peace.”

This reverence for life was not just a theory. It was also lived out. His obituary in The New York Times reported, “Lambarene was suffused with Reverence for Life to what some critics thought was an exaggerated degree. Mosquitoes were not swatted, nor pests and insects doused with chemicals; they were left alone, and humans put up with them. Indeed, building was often brought to a halt lest nests of ants be killed or disturbed.”

Later in his life, Schweitzer would devote himself to working against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He would write numerous letters to presidents and other world leaders imploring them to give up the quest for bigger and more powerful weapons. His Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in part for this work

— David Creech

Methodius vs. Albert Schweitzer

  • Albert Schweitzer (56%, 3,593 Votes)
  • Methodius (44%, 2,821 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,414

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Methodius: Statue "The True Cross" in Khanty-Mansiysk (image=public domain, original at


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129 comments on “Methodius vs. Albert Schweitzer”

    1. I voted for Albert as well, Oliver! He was my hero and inspiration when I was your age! And he still inspires us to this day! I hope you read his autobiography someday!

  1. This was a tough one. But I can't support anyone who lets mosquitoes proliferate....That's just wrong (and unhealthy as we now know).'

    1. Mosquitoes and then those ants — as I dispatch ants, one at a time, coming from who knows where, I voted for Methodius. Teach/preach/write in the vernacular and spray those ants!

      1. I voted for Albert because of his reverence for all life. I don't know if it's because I feel connected with everything but mosquitoes have not bitten me and ants have stayed away from my house since I moved to Flagstaff (and before). Maybe they know I love them - even spiders get escorted lovingly outside where they will have a better chance of surviving. Everything under the sun is sacred to me.

        1. I can't say the same -- if a skeeter bites me, or if an ant decides to enter my house, they are toast! But any insect or arachnid who means me no harm inside, or any in their own habitat outside, gets Albert-like treatment from me as well. (However, I do wonder at some of the creatures who were given a ride on the Ark all those centuries ago....)

        2. Amen Lea. If God is in everything, then everything is sacred, including mosquitoes and ants. And I cheer on the spiders because they eat mosquitoes.

  2. I voted for Methodius because he was an important missionary and he translated the Bible and Liturgy into a more vernacular language for his flock

    1. I stumbled across a bio of Albert in the public library when I was about seven, and was impressed not only by his devotion, but that he was also an organist, and quite a good one!

      Still, I have to go with Methodius. Latin "because we've always done it that way" (except, of course, when we didn't) is a bit elitist for me. How many of us speak Latin? I mean, I can do the Mag & Nunc, but not much more!

      1. As a retired Latin instructor at the college level, I used to speak Latin pretty well. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone to talk to.

        Spiders get reverential treatment at our house. We let them build where they will with the proviso that their homes won't be permanent. We love our arachnid roommates.

        Albert has made great contributions to the world, but I voted for Methodius because what he did, given his time and place, was not only a wonderful way to give people access to the Scriptures but also an act of great courage.

  3. I don't know about making his own cross, but Schweitzer has been a hero of mine since I read about him in elementary school. In addition to his ministry as a medical doctor in Africa, he was a gifted organist and wrote a definitive biography of Bach, as well as "The Quest for the Historical Jesus" A true renaissance man devoted to God and all of creation. Definitely voted for him!

    1. Composer Jane Marshall set the last words of Schweitzer in his book _In Quest of the Historical Jesus_ and those words have so impressed me as few others have.

      "He comes to us as one unknown, without a name,
      as of old by the lakeside, he came to those men who knew him not.
      He speaks to us the same word:
      And sets us to the tasks which he has to fulfill for out time.
      He commands, and to those who obey him,
      whether they be wise or simple,
      He will reveal Himself
      in the joys, the toils, the conflicts
      which they shall pass through in His fellowship.
      And, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience
      Who HE Is.

  4. I admire Schweitzer's work over his lifetime, but Methodius brought to us the ability to worship in our own language...........imagine if we still used the Latin in our churches today!

    1. No, that isn't Methodius. Unless you are Russian Orthodox. He advanced the idea of the Slavic peoples being able to worship in their languages. The West didn't follow this until really fairly recently. Folks like Cranmer and the writers of the Geneva bible take a lot of credit for that.
      I think the comments about Latin might not be entirely accurate, since Methodius' church was Eastern, and they primarily used, and still do primarily use, Greek, not Latin. The difference over language was one of the major reasons for the Great Schism, as I'm sure we all will remember. That came a fairly short time after Methodius. He sort of fell into the middle of the infighting between supporters of Greek and Latin and local languages.
      все честь великого святого Мефодия
      vse chest' velikogo svyatogo Mefodiya
      All honor to the great Saint Methodius
      [or something like that (it's been a few decades since I studied русский язык)]

  5. Methodius' seems to be apropos in our day today as we espouse inclusivity of different cultures into the faith. Giving him the nod.

  6. Methodius for me today, as I see a connection with the current struggle between the American Episcopal church and the Anglican communion to define the church's role in the world.

  7. I started Lent Madness today planning to vote for Methodius, because learning and worshipping in one's own language was one of the first beautiful things I learned our Mother, the Church of England, accomplished, and because my church, All Saints in Worcester, MA, recently began incorporating Spanish in our services, which I love! But that Albert Schweitzer included all creatures in his Reverence for Life won me over: our whole planet needs that reverence, from ending animal cruelties like dogfighting, puppymills and factory farming, to saving creatures' natural habitats and stopping global warming! Yay Albert!

    1. Suggesting Albert was a theological-ecologist or ecological-theologian; He expressed the first great axiom of Ecology- All things are connected. His actions and words were green far long in advance of the green movement. In the web of life all plants and animals have worth and purpose. The Creator made them all who are we to make judgement to destroy a species?

    2. Couldn't have expressed it better....a tough choice, but it's the saintly Schweitzer for me today!

  8. An Athiest has reverence for life. I thought we were discussing saints of the church.

  9. It had to be Methodius for me, to my surprise. It's very important to honor people's culture and language. Good going Methodius! Swat those mosquitos! spray those ants!

      1. Donna, if you must kill them, kill them, but PLEASE, don't spray because it kills EVERYTHING, good and bad. In my view, there are no bad insects. We all must die, right? it's not the insect's fault. Albert Schweitzer had the right idea: reverence for all life and helping disadvantaged people. We should help address the problem of open sewers in many localities in the world, for example.

        1. There's nothing else there but ants, in my computer, in my books, in my rug — sorry, when they are crawlg on me, when they are biting me, they're gonna get sprayed. If a few thousand dust mites bite the dust too so be it.

  10. Tough one. I finally had to go with Methodius because he fought for people to worship in their native language.

  11. Knowing that the modern saints seem to prevail, I still had to vote for Methodius. The fight to bring the Gospel in accessible languages was so important. And given what we know of mosquito-borne illnesses, I am a mosquito squasher.

  12. I agree with Schweitzer about mosquitoes and ants to a certain extent (pouring chemicals on them usually puts the rest of the ecosystem out of whack and can result in more or the same amount of mosquitoes due to killing off their natural predators), but I'm still going for Methodius. Sorry Albert.

  13. I voted for Methodius; that Schweitzer got to hear the gospel and understand it is due in part to him.

  14. Methodius for me. I admire his insistence on worship and scriptures in the vernacular long before the Reformation. And when I consider that Albert Schweitzer was running hospitals while allowing pests to multiply and requiring humans (presumably including patients) to put up with them, I just can't vote for him.

  15. This was a tough one. But the foundations of my faith were laid in a Slovak National Catholic Church (here in the U.S.). The church was a break off from a Roman Catholic Church, because the people wanted a priest who spoke their language. At first, Mass was in Latin and Slovak. Subsequently, Mass was said in Slovak. Much later, an English Mass was added. This was in the 1950's. As I later learned while working in Liberia, Methodius's struggle goes on today. Got MY vote!

  16. Two great men, but the whole principle of acculturation when it comes to the gospel is hugely critical in the spread of worldwide missions. I think methodius was way ahead of his time.

  17. I admire these modern day saints very much but am so sad to see them almost routinely defeating the old stalwarts who gave us such a strong foundation and set examples we cannot begin to understand. I am in awe of them all and thank God for them, and treasure the ancients.

  18. I voted for Methodius because I expect that there's a lot more Methodius tchotchkes than for Schweitzer, and I plan ahead....

  19. Very tough vote today. I had to read the two reviews and think carefully before casting my vote. To me this decision was over encounters with otherness: Methodius with eastern Europe, Schweitzer with Africa (which was barely even mentioned in today's review). I chose Methodius because of his foundational work to make inclusiveness the very basis of evangelism and liturgy. Use of the vernacular language in sacred liturgy was a central issue in the Reformation, and many people died for a right that we now take for granted. Today's review stressed Schweitzer's work against nuclear weapons, and that is important. I wonder if he would have anything to say today about our (U.S.) obsession with guns. But today I will not go with the modern candidate but cast my vote for the foundational work of Methodius and Cyril with the Slavic churches of the east. Dobrui dyehn!

      1. Sorry Susan! I usually do but was thinking as I typed this morning. (Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn't.) "Dobrui dyehn" is my romanized transcription of the Russian "good day." BTW, I meant to comment to you the other day that I saw you had put a picture on your posts. Good job. I will do that too, if I can ever figure out how to do it. You are a closet pre-Raphaelite! and have inserted Latin back into our discussion! (Ecce Ancilla Domini.) Be well!

        1. Thanks, St. Celia! Yes, I was reminded of the Rosetti Annunciation after Christina's day in the lists. As for adding it to Lent Madness, I just clicked on my empty photo spot, and it gave me the option to upload a photo. The hardest part was remembering my password!! Take care!

          1. You are right: the password was tough. I'm testing to see if my "gravatar" picture shows up.

  20. I have to honor the Slovak traditions of my grandparents. I experienced Mass in Slovak and although I understood very little I knew it had profound meaning for those whose roots were in that culture. Now an Episcopalian I have a huge appreciation of the Reformation in terms of the BCP. I assume Albert Schweitzer will advance and look forward to voting for him in future. Today I affirm the importance of the Apostle(s) to the Slavs.

  21. As someone struggling to learn a Latin Requiem for a choir performance later this week, Methodius has my vote.

  22. I went with Big Al in the first round and I'll stay with him in this one. Having been most aware of his work in music, I didn't know about his work as an ethical philosopher. The "Reverence for Life" theory is pretty radical when it extends to mosquitoes in a country where they're major disease vectors. I heard once of an Indian sect (I think) whose adherents sweep the ground in front of them while they walk so they won't step on ants. (Much as I admire Al, my own "reverence for life" does NOT extend to prairie dogs in Colorado.)

  23. I voted for Methodius in the previous round, but feel that Albert Schweitzer should advance to the next round and voted for him this time.

  24. After having read the first-round biographies of these two great saints, I had thought I would vote for Methodius. It seemed to me that both men left their homes to minister in what to them were foreign places (which I appreciate since I have done that, too, living and ministering in Nicaragua) and that that might have been harder in the ninth century than in the twentieth. However, after reading today's postings I had to vote for Albert. Reverence for life. That is an essential part of God's shalom and our commitment to αγαπή. I think with what we know now about vectors of the spread of diseases that maybe mosquitoes have to go! But I was in the pro-tarantula group when I first lived in Nicaragua in 1984 with Witness For Peace.