Stephen vs. Alban

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.

Be sure to sign up for e-mail updates on our home page so you never miss a vote, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and encourage your friends to jump into the fray.

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!


Stephen is the protomartyr of the Church—the first person to give his life as a witness to his faith in the gospel of Jesus.

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.

-David Hansen


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.

-Derek Olsen

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Stephen: Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498–1543), Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Alban: Unknown artist, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons


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470 comments on “Stephen vs. Alban”

  1. I find it hard to believe I am the second voter? Where is everyone? Let the madness begin!

      1. Alas, at this late hour, it appears obvious that our choice , St. Alban, will be "one and done"

    1. I'm HERE,IM HERE!!!! Sorry I fell asleep!
      I have to go with Stephen. We just read his story in ACTS! So I feel like I know him.
      I do like what Alban did though.❤

        1. I went with Stephen because of my profound love and respect for our Deacons. They do such amazing work. Hi, Kellie!

    2. I have been getting emails from Lent Madness all along except today. I had to go to the site to cast my vote. I hope the Russians aren't trying to influence the Madness.

    3. I had to vote for Alban. He was a very new Christian who could have gone back to his previous ways when the chips were down but he didn't. I love Stephen, of course, and felt this was a hard choice.

    4. I have to agree with Don from Main. What a story I read it to my grandson and he laughed and really? I told him that is what is said Ido love Stephen, but had ro vot for Alban

    1. Total agreement on Alban. I can completely relate to his hiding the priest, and trying to save him. Also love the Venerable Bede's account.

      1. Alban is a saint for our times. His action is a model for the protection of the persecuted.

    2. The part of the story about Alban's head rolling down the hill and producing a fresh water spring gets my vote!

  2. Alban, if only for the fact that I was baptized at a St. Alban's (in Arlington TX) and confirmed at another St. Alban's (Bexley, OH).

    1. And I went for Alban since I taught at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, around the corner from St. Alban's in Bexley.

      1. Sorry, Hank, we've cancelled each others' votes! LOL! As a newly minted deacon I had to go with Stephen.

  3. I am such a sucker for saintly gore! As soon as the heads start rolling and springs start flowing, I start voting.

    1. Alban all the way! From hiding a fugitive, converting a non-believer, to decapitation and signs of death triumphing over political powers. Alban gets my vote!

    2. I had to vote for Stephen, patron saint of headaches! Although the head rolling down the hill creating a spring almost got me.

  4. Although my youngest brother is named for Stephen, as well as the parish where I served as curate, I am voting for Alban. Checkout the Diocese of Saint Alban's for their creative and quite popular celebrations of their patron saint! Quite something...and generally on 12/26, I'm too tired to think about keeping Stephen's Feast...except for singing "Good King Wenceslas" ( and that's really about an altogether different Saint and martyr)!

    1. Live in the St. Albans Diocese and as Nancy says the pilgrimage which anyone can join/follow is a sight to behold! Even the execution has an interesting twist!

  5. Stephen all the way! Without St. Stephen we would not have the Feast of Stephen and without the Feast of Stephen we would not have Good King Wenceslas! There is no Christmas cheer without Good King Wenceslas!

    1. Finally, a vote for Stephen! Thank you, Kate, and Merry Christmas.
      Oops…I forgot what season we're in!

    2. That's right! My father's name is Stephen, and we would get extra Christmas gifts on the 26th. I suppose they really should have been aspirins and ice packs for headaches! Off to a great start!

    3. I have always loved that carol, Good King Wenceslas but he could always have "looked out" on some other feast day, or Boxing Day would have been quite appropriate except that doesn't sing too well!

    4. Having been raised at St. Stephen's, Coconut Grove and serving my last full time ministry at St. Stephen's, Culpeper (VA), it could be no one else.

  6. Hurrah for deacons! Stephen was quite a roll model. And the patron Saint for headaches. So does your Deacon give you headaches with all their energy or are you a headache for the Deacon ?

    1. Considering the bit about Alban's beheading, I'd say he was quite a "roll model" too.

      As someone discerning a possible diaconal vocation, I voted for Stephen.

  7. And let's not forget that Paul (at the time, Saul) was at St. Stephen's execution. God uses us in ways that to us will not make sense but t there is a bigger picture. Comforting.

  8. Wow? Tough matchup to begin. However, as a frequent sufferer of headaches, I have to vote for Stephen.

  9. This was tough, I was baptized in St. Alban's Church, the same church, my mother, aunt, many cousins, had been baptized. But Jan Grinnell, Archdeacon is an admired friend, so I went with Stephen.

    1. Fr. Peter, thanks for sharing. As I was reading the comments, I began to wonder if I was the only one to vote for Stephen. The first martyr of the church should not suffer further by being the first eliminated saint in this tourey.

  10. Going with the Anglican martyrs down the line! Also love Albany's compassionate treatment of people he didn't even yet agree with! Wonderful witness.

    1. Well said Daniel. A good reminder to love others no matter what their beliefs, especially these days.

  11. After visiting St. Albans Cathedral in England twice - how could I pass St. Alban by ? My desire would be to to visit again.

  12. I'm touched by Alban's hospitality to a stranger and his passionate conversion. Talk about walking the walk. He's the man!

  13. As a longtime deacon recently ordained priest, I've gotta go with Stephen. However, I'm a little nervous to realize once again that it was not his advocacy for the "foreign" (Greek-speaking) widows, but his preaching the Gospel that got Stephen killed. What have I gotten myself into?

    1. How wonderful to hear of your ordination! Blessings upon you, Rodger. 🙂 And if my memory serves me well (i hope), "Happy Birthday" on Saturday.... The only day of the year that's a complete sentence.
      Another vote for Stephen here!

  14. Not fair, O great SEC, to pit British and biblical protomartyrs against one another right out of the gate! How is a cradle Episcopalian to decide?? Alas. My first inclination was for Stephen, though, and I have been to some pretty good Boxing Day parties. So I'm voting for Stephen, even though I'm fairly sure Alban would have better kitsch.

    And awaaay we go!

  15. You may have cameras everywhere to assure one person, one vote, but what about Russian influence?

    1. Maybe it is your name that produces the quirky humor since it is exactly the sort that goes on at our house. Loved your comment!

  16. From the blood of the martyr Alban came the birth of the church to which we belong. May he win the day!

  17. Its's got to be Stephen. Not only do I know some incredible people named Stephen (some are even priests) but I suffer from migraines so, Stephen it is. Let the games begin.

  18. Stephen was the first to pay the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs. He will hard to beat for the Golden Halo.