Let the games begin! Yes, Lent Madness 2017 begins RIGHT NOW. After months of speculation and the crushing ache of anticipation, "Ash Thursday" has arrived. Over the next (more or less) 40 days and 40 nights, you will have the opportunity to re-immortalize one of our 32 competing saints with the coveted Golden Halo.
Today we see two martyrs squaring off as Stephen faces Alban. Which one will face yet another ignominious exit? That, dear friends, is up to you and your single (we mean that and we have cameras everywhere) vote.
If you’re new to Lent Madness, welcome! If you have any questions about how to participate, just let us know by leaving a comment. The Lent Madness community is both friendly and helpful, often answering questions before the Supreme Executive Committee arrives in their grand purple, if imaginary, chariot.
We urge you to take full part in the Madness. Leave comments here on the website. Read what others have to say. Enjoy the (mostly) friendly rivalry and trash talk on social media. During the day, check in on the website often to see how each day’s contest is going. And above all, delight in seeing how each saint was a powerful witness of Jesus Christ.
We can assure you this will be a wild, joyful, educational, ocassionally gut-wrenching ride. We're delighted to share this journey with you. Let the Madness begin!
Along with six other Greek-speaking believers, Stephen was tasked with serving and providing for those in need, serving as one of the first deacons in the early Jesus Movement. In some traditions, Stephen is given the title of Archdeacon.
Tasked with feeding the hungry, Stephen performed wonders and signs for the people. Unfortunately, these actions did not go over well with some in Jerusalem’s religious power structure, and the Sanhedrin tried him for blasphemy.
Stephen delivered a powerful sermon in front of the Sanhedrin, recounting the relationship between God and the people—his sermon accused listeners of murdering the prophets who foretold the coming of Jesus. While his message seemed to be extremely well-received, with the Sanhedrin shouting “Amen!” and “Thanks be to God,” they immediately took Stephen out into the street and stoned him. With his last breath, Stephen prayed for the forgiveness for his killers.
In death, Stephen has become quite the world traveler. His relics were first identified at what is now the monastery Beit Jimal, just outside of Jerusalem. Stephen’s relics moved around Jerusalem to a location near the northern gate of the city—known to the Crusaders as Stephen’s Gate.
A portion of his relics made a post-mortem trip to Rome, where he was interred alongside the deacon Lawrence (a very polite roommate who made
room for the protomartyr in the crypt of the Basilica of San Lorenzo).
Stephen’s feast day is December 26. He is the patron saint of, among other things, headaches—and, perhaps, family members during uncomfortable holiday situations.
Collect for Stephen
We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ, who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
The early martyr Alban is regarded as the protomartyr of Britain—the very first person to die for his confession of Christ in the British Isles. Also, while none of the records are terribly clear, it appears that Alban was only a Christian for a matter of days prior to his martyrdom! The story of Alban comes to us through three chief sources—a medieval text connected with Germanus of Auxerre, the account of the sixth-century British monk Gildas the Wise, and the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. As is common with martyrs in the early medieval period, Alban’s story grows longer and more colorful with each step.
During one of the Roman persecutions of Christians, Alban (who was a kindly man but apparently not a believer) hid a priest in his house rather than allow the priest to be caught and killed by the authorities. The priest remained hidden for several days and instructed Alban in the faith. Once the Roman authorities learned of the priest’s presence, they came to the house demanding the fugitive. Alban dressed himself in the priest’s distinctive clothing and was led away to see the judge. The judge (somehow realizing that Alban was not the priest in question) promised to let Alban go if he renounced Christianity and sacrificed to the gods. Alban refused, asserting his full faith in Christ, and was led away to be executed. However, the bridge linking the court to the execution site was totally blocked by would-be spectators. The waters of the river parted, enabling Alban and his execution party to continue on dry ground to the place of his martyrdom. The executioner was so moved by this divine sign that he refused to kill Alban and was executed alongside him instead.
Bede’s narrative adds that upon killing these two martyrs, the replacement executioner’s eyes promptly popped out of his head as punishment. Furthermore, the head of Alban rolled down the hill, and at the point where it stopped, a spring of pure water sprung up.
Collect for Alban
Almighty God, who inspired your servant Alban to lay down his life for the cause of the Gospel; grant us the grace to follow his example that our own lives may be reflections of your love and witnesses to the truth of your power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Stephen vs. Alban
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