Stephen vs. Augustine of Canterbury

And then there were eight. We started with 32 saints and 3/4 of them have been sent packing. Welcome, friends, to the Elate Eight.

Who remains? Well, after Amelia Bloomer made it past Fanny Crosby yesterday 59% to 41%, she will join Stephen, Augustine of Canterbury, Franz Jägerstätter, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Raymond Nonnatus, Martin Luther, and Florence Nightingale. One of these remaining eight will be awarded the coveted 2017 Golden Halo!

Things kick off with two heavyweights of the faith as Stephen takes on Augustine of Canterbury. Yes, it’s the Church’s Protomartyr vs. the Apostle to the English. To make it to this point Stephen defeated Alban and Henry Budd while Augustine took down Augustine of Hippo and Scholastica. Don't forget to click the Bracket tab and scroll down to be reminded of what was written about these two in the earlier rounds.

The Elate Eight is also known as the round of Saintly Kitsch. After basic biographies, quirks and quotes, what else could there be? Now, there are always some folks who take offense to this approach — we call them Kitsch Kranks. Please remember that this round is not meant to belittle or demean our saintly heroes but to have some fun and gaze in wide wonder at the breadth of devotional practice. So kindly relax and enjoy the spirit of the Madness as we push ever onward toward our goal.

Finally, if you want to know more about, and see some examples of, saintly kitsch, tune in to this week’s episode of Monday Madness in which Tim and Scott reveal the Great Shema of Lent Madness (along with cameos by George T. Dog and 150 seventh grade boys from BC High in Boston).


When you are the first of a great line, the opportunities for recognition and tribute are manifold. This is certainly true for Stephen, the holder of two important firsts – first of the Christian martyrs and first of the Christian deacons. For the last two thousand years, the faithful have sought to honor Stephen’s memory.

You could start that the beginning of his story, and worship at the place of his martyrdom – St. Stephen’s Basilica and monastery in Jerusalem (Saint-Étienne in French). Or, just start wherever you are – chances are good that the there is a St. Stephen’s Church in or near wherever you live.

But perhaps even the place where you live is named in honor of Stephen – is a town "kitsch?" Perhaps, once you consider all the kitsch associated with life together in a town. You could attend St. Stephen’s College (in St. Stephen’s, New Brunswick), or just generally think St. Stephen is a great place (and protomartyr).

Of course, you will need a little special something to go with your new shirt – perhaps a purse depicting the funeral of Saint Stephen? You could always use it to carry around pebbles and small stones that you find – just in case. Or maybe you just want to keep some candy around to munch on later. 

As long as you are accessorizing, pick yourself up a small broach. You could choose a simple Saint Stephen medallion. But if you are looking for something fancier, you can’t go wrong with the badges and insignia of either of the two royal / military orders of Saint Stephen – it make it easier to get your hands on one if you are either a Duke of Tuscany or Hungarian royalty. Just don’t make a wrong turn, or you will end up with one of these fancy pins dedicated to St. Steve (Buscemi).

When you get home at the end of a long day of serving others, relax by playing with this Stephen doll. You can re-enact his preaching, or bury him under some stones in a sandbox. While unwinding, throw on some music – perhaps the Grateful Dead song, “St. Stephen” which the band has said was inspired by the first century martyr (following his death, Jerry Garcia’s funeral was even held in one of those many “St. Stephen” churches).

As you say your evening prayers for the forgiveness of those who have wronged you, light a candle. Then cuddle up to your Saint Stephen Beanie Bear and sleep soundly, trusting as Stephen did in God’s watchful care.

-- David Hanson




Augustine of Canterbury

Augustine of Canterbury: the first Archbishop of Canterbury; Benedictine monk; prior; priest; bishop; Apostle to the English; founder of the English Church; Archbishop of the English Nation.

How important is St. Augustine of Canterbury to Christianity? Based on the amount and types of items available for viewing, purchasing, wearing and reading, it is simple to witness and judge the depth of his importance, the expanse of his influence, and the widespread use of his name and image.

He is depicted in many mediums and in so many ways

There are many books…and statues...and icons...

Book about St. Augustine of Canterbury

Statue of St. Augustine

Icon of St. Augustine







and illustrations…and manuscripts. He's even on YouTube!

St. Augustine in Church

Manuscript depicting St. Augustine











Granted, none of this really qualifies as true saintly kitsch. Fortunately, Augustine fans, all is not in vain. We'll start slowly with postage stamps. Not exactly kitsch, but pretty great!




Thirsty? Drink your favorite hot beverage out of this Augustine icon mug.





Or, if wearing your Augustine pride is more your speed, why not don this t-shirt that also includes two other Archbishops of Canterbury thrown in for no extra charge?

Or this cartoonish Augustine the kids will love? 


You can also show your Augustine affinity by wearing buttons. Lots and lots of
buttons. On all your lapels. For an entire week. Or on your hat. 




Finally, you can visit the untold number of churches, abbeys, cathedrals, missions and prayer stations named for Augustine of Canterbury worldwide. Like St. Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury itself.

There are just so many choices among the myriad ways to remember Augustine of Canterbury -- reading, wearing, viewing, posting, mailing, sipping or visiting.

-- Neva Rae Fox

Stephen vs. Augustine of Canterbury

  • Stephen (62%, 3,772 Votes)
  • Augustine of Canterbury (38%, 2,301 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,073

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208 comments on “Stephen vs. Augustine of Canterbury”

    1. I want a St. Stephen ColBear, with Stephen Colbert's head attached to a beanie teddy bear body, clad in the saintly gear of the time, of course.

  1. The Elate Eight
    aka the Round of Saintly Kitsch

    For Stephen and Augustine of Canterbury
    Tune: Grosser Gott, Hymnal ’82, 366, Holy God we praise thy name

    Holy God we praise thy name
    For thy saints who art imperfect.
    For we know we are the same,
    Flawed, with foibles, that’s the verdict.
    Yet, like them, you love us still
    Why it is we cannot tell.

    Novice preachers may mistake
    Passion for the love of Jesus.
    Stephen earnestly did ache
    For your truth to be received.
    Didn’t use too much finesse!
    Thus his ending was a mess.

    Augustine obeyed the Pope
    Headed out to Canterbury.
    Did his best, had lots of hope
    He would unify the churches.
    Though in ways he did succeed
    Unity we’ve not achieved.

    Earnest people often fail.
    Still you love and work within us.
    We seek for some holy grail
    Though you urge us Live with kindness.
    Sin and error plague our wills,
    But your mercy guides us still.

    Holy, blessed Triune God,
    Ever gracious, loving, giving.
    We would honor you each day
    E’en through stumbling, fumbling living.
    Help us trust you and obey,
    Help us walk your holy ways.

    1. You have quite a gift, Diana. Thank you for enriching each vote, and making the choice even more difficult!

    2. That's was great Diana. Did you just get up and write this this morning? because I can't imagine coming up with something that fast.

      1. This one I did last evening. Sometimes I get up early. It just depends on the day. Once I've found the right hymn tune, the rest is easier. It's a great joy to do and I'm grateful others enjoy the results.

    3. Once again, Diana has nailed it! Great theology, amazing impromptu lyrics. I agree, this collection should be published. SEC???

      1. Mollie, Diana has said she plans to compile them in a PDF and share them with those who want them. I've suggested she offer the compilation to Scott and Tim as a free download via the Lentorium. We shall see.

    4. Thank you! We always need to be reminded that we all (Saints, included) are imperfect. We especially need to be reminded that God loves us all and works through us, even through our failings. Beautifully done!

    5. Diana, Thank you for sharing your wonderful talent and these saintly songs to help us remember their lives.

    6. Just had to sing this (to Caramek cat and Daisy May dog this morning. You've really blessed us, Diana, and I thank you. Your hymns also make it harder for us to make snap decisions. How to choose? Perhaps Stephen, being the first to suffer martyrdom, should get my vote. But Canterbury, with or without Augustine, stands out in so many ways. Will consult your lyrics again before choosing. The SEC and bracket master are not a bit cunning in managing, somehow, to press our buttons each day, for which I thank them.

    7. Gret! Except the next time we're processing to "Holy God, we praise thy name" I may find myself singing this instead -- and this could be a bit noticeable at the early and sparsely-attended Sunday service.

    8. Another awesome job! You synthesize the important points so well and avoid being contentious. Your hymns are one of the main reasons I read the comments.

    9. This speaks to me SO much. This is the essence of Lent Madness, and of how the saints inspire us through their foibles as well as virtues. "E'en through stumbling, fumbling living." That says it all. THANK YOU.

    10. Another great hymn. Pardon the nitpick, but in line 2 'art' should be 'are' -- art as a verb is not used in contemporary English, and in this context, it should be are in traditional idiom anyway,

      1. Ordinarily I wouldn't use archaic language. I do in these hymns sometimes - even though inaccurately as part of the tongue in cheek fun of Lent Madness. Should I ever find the grace within myself to write real hymns (a hope I nurture) I'll be much more sensitive to correct language and grammar. Thanks for reading my doggerel so carefully.

        1. Hilarious! That's one of the things I love about Stephen Colbert--he's not ashamed of his faith. He may lampoon those within it who don't live up to expectations, but I always get the sense that he is driven by a deep commitment to Christ and his example.

          1. Amen to that. I appreciate Stephen Colbert and his irreverent wit as well as his deeply held faith.
            I myself am an ex-Catholic, an enthusiastic nouveau Episcopalian who appreciates the spiritual and the humorous as co-equal necessities to make it through the day. That being said, I'm still struggling to choose between Stephen and Augustine today! !

        2. Oh, thank you, Kathleen! I love Colbert, but this is a new wrinkle in his convoluted and wonderful brain.

        3. Am off to watch. Stephen of Colbert is a good man. Has the SEC tried spreading Lent Madness to him? He could become our official late-night evangelist.

          1. Wouldn't that be a trip? Lent Madness has already been featured on NPR. If only we could get on Colbert, too, that would be just about perfect.

        4. Our rector occasionally shows this to the children, and they have a great time mimicking it.

      1. Count me in!
        Stephen Colbert is intelligent, funny, wise (which is a little different from intelligent), and not afraid to be silly. Much as I love the city and cathedral of Canterbury (and have seen the ruins of the abbey), I'm going for Stephen.

  2. There are many ways to witness. I'm for Canterbury who lived for his faith, rather than Stephen who provoked the people to the point that he died for his.

    1. I'm for Canterbury, too.. Yes, it was the life of faith, but the 'goods' were far nicer, too.

    2. It seems to me that Stephen was not going to get out alive from that meeting with the Sanhedrin in any case. Acts 5:17 - 8:3 shows that the religious authorities were spoiling for the Church and looking for an opportunity to crack down on it. The same day that Stephen died "a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem" (Acts 8:1). As for Stephen being provocative in his sermon, he was no more so than Jesus had been to the Powers That Be. Sometimes hard words need to be spoken.

      1. I think about that every time I'm getting my dander up about things important and trivial, Harlie. But I also try to remember that Jesus was God and I'm not. How do we discern between holy outrage, responsive to the Spirit, and indulging ego and taking the easier, temporarily satisfying road of rage rather than trying to build bridges and break down walls? I haven't managed to figure that one out yet and would be grateful for others' thoughts.

        1. I agree with you, Diana. We need to be careful to listen for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, so that we can, indeed, discern between righteous anger and just being pissed.
          There is a time for hard words and a time for gentle words. We must always pray that God will guide us in how we should speak and act. As for Stephen, as soon as he concluded his harsh words, he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. This would seem to indicate that he had spoken as the Spirit had guided him.

          1. Or it could be Jesus knew Stephen was in for a whole lot of suffering and mercifully provided the comfort needed to get through it. Many people have had the experiences of encountering the risen Christ before their deaths. Hoping for that mercy myself.
            I know there are times when it's essential to speak hard truths, even when it's necessary to speak with what might seem harshness. I just keep hoping to find ways to speak hard truths with love, compassion and gentleness - to tear down walls between people, not build them higher with sharp, bitter words. Of course we don't know the tone of voice used by Stephen - or Jesus for that matter. I often wonder how often when Jesus was saying things that sound harsh he was speaking in tones of grief and longing.

          2. You may be onto something there, Diana, about the possible ways Jesus or Stephen or anyone in Scripture may have been speaking. Scripture doesn't give us dialogue descriptors (or whatever the term is. In school I flunked Language Labels. Dangling Participle?). You are so right to want to find ways "to speak hard truths with love, compassion, and gentleness". That is something we all should seek.
            And Mildred, I'm sure that Stephen's words of forgiveness did, indeed, contribute to Saul's conversion.

        2. Hey, Father Jack (assuming nothing, of course...)! I, too, was charmed by the rock candy and even more by the link to the Greatful Dead song, St. Stephen.

          Plus, of course, I've been voting for the protodeacon and protomartyr all along.

          My first foray into the wildness that is the Elate Eight - what fun!

        3. It's worth noting Stephen's final words of forgiveness to those who were stoning him. Might those words have been a factor in Saul/Paul's eventual conversion?

          I voted for Stephen, but also find myself wondering if he might have been more convincing if less strident in his speech to the Sanhedrin. At any rate, I strive to be less strident because I've found that my harsh words have often been unnecessary and harmful. Maybe this is a case of God working through messiness, as is so often the case.

      2. Harlie and Diana, I appreciate your theological reflections on Stephen's sermon and on his death. Very often, I hear people claim they're "just speaking the truth in love" when what they are really doing is tramping in the souls and psyches of those to whom they are speaking. Dear Lord, deliver me.

  3. Sponsored by S. Stephen's of Providence for ordination - a very formative congregation for me - but it's Augustine. I also find solidarity with one who gets cold feet half-way through but musters the courage to continue forward (having Gregory the Great behind you sternly pointing the way probably helps). My epic matchup scenario: Augustine v. Luther.

    1. St. Stephen rock RED yet. Perfect!
      Will put on Bob Dylan and play Stephen's rock star theme song in dazed wonder and hope...

  4. Being the Rector of one of those St. Stephen's Churches, my choice was obvious. But for others who may be debating, how can someone that the Grateful Dead wrote a song about not be destined for the "Golden Halo" Really??

  5. Both are great saints. I voted for St. Augustine of Canterbury. Why? I think it would be great for the Golden Halo to be awarded to one of the founders of Christianity in England.

  6. The kitsch round is my favorite! Just as you think reflecting on one's sins will go on forever. To me, Stephen one this round. The Catholic inspired rock candy suitable for throwing at any nearby martyr trumps the volume of Augustinian kitsch.
    But either one would do honor to the golden halo.

  7. I can't decide which I liked better--the rock candy or the St. Stephen candle. Either way, it's St. Stephen for me!

  8. The rock candy and the Colbert candle make it impossible for me not to vote for Stephen this round!

    1. Thanks for reminding me that not all our votes need to be rational. A few months ago, in an old church along the pilgrims's way to Canterbury, I lay prone for a while on the top of a sarcophagus said to have once held the bones of Augustine. When I went to vote today, suddenly a strange force fell upon my own bones and my hand was driven to click on Augustine's name. Weird, huh?

      1. Was it John Wesley that said if preaching didn't move someone to be saved or anger someone it really was not true to the Word.

      2. Thanks for that reminder. I still remember exactly where I was when I got the word of MLK's death.

      3. The Stones of St. Stephen's, that is so cool! In our old parish in Arizona I sang in the praise band, State of Grace. We did a killer "Down to the River to Pray". Such blessed memories.

      4. Years ago I lived in Kent in a beautiful old farmhouse (or so I thought) on the Pilgrims' Way to Canterbury. There was an old church nearby that had fallen on hard times. It was not in the village centre so a "new" church had been built there. The "old" one has since been restored, the "new" one has been pulled down and services are now held in the original. I'm wondering if this could possibly be where you visited? The nearby village is Burham.

  9. I voted for St. Augustine of Canterbury, but St. Stephen definitely has the better kitsch. I loved the little purse in which you could carry around pebbles or small stones (if you feel so inclined), and I died of laughter at the image of "St. Stephen Rock Candy - Catholic Inspired." Pretty sure that's sacrilegious--both the candy and laughing because of it. But I digress.

  10. I never thought I would be directed to Greatful Dead music during Lent Madness. That was great! Thanks. A very impressive pitch for Stephen. And the rock candy... St. Stephen it is.

  11. A friend many years ago told me about a tradition in her culture of throwing peanuts at anyone named Stephen on St. Stephen's Day. My husband, Stephen, didn't appreciate being pelted with peanuts very much, but our children thought it was great fun!

    1. I suppose it depends on whether you like peanuts. And I'm guessing that the squirrels were following all the Stephens that day, waiting for peanuts to bounce in their direction!

  12. When the decision is so close, I vote for the home team -- St. Augustine. And also, Yeah Heels!

  13. As part of the Grammar Police, I had a hard time getting past "broach"-it's "brooch"; but will always go with the deacon-in memory of my very own archdeacon husband.

  14. Had to go with Stephen not only for the better kitsch, but in honor of all the deacons and soon-to-be deacons among my circle of friends.

  15. I was totally undecided, and then the Grateful Dead song was mentioned. That song was played at my first husband's funeral and to start his repast/wake/party afterward-- which ended up lasting until four in the morning--as he had repeatedly requested during his life. (His name was Steve, he loved the Dead, he loved this song.) So I think I'll have to vote for Stephen. "Saint Stephen will remain/All he's lost he shall regain."

  16. It was the icons of Stephen Colbert that put me over! Voting Stephen all the way.

  17. Lay down your life vs fishers of men, what a decision. I lean towards people who get things done, so Augustine gets my vote. Augustine planted the seed in southeastern England which took root and grew throughout the entire British Isles, involving them inextricably in the course of European Christianity. We are talking major getting things done!

  18. I know the tag attached to him reads "St. Stephen", but what has this stuffed animal got to do with the Protomartyr? Look at any photo of Stephen (posed or candid) and you'll see that this bear doesn't look anything like him.

      1. Now that I think of it, Stephen is the Patron of horses. When my wife and I were in Ireland during Christmas, we went to the Christmas Races at Leopardstown. The Races began on St. Stephen's Day.

  19. I saw the yellow T-shirt and thought, "Are we in the Kitsch round?" I really liked the "Catholic inspired" rock candy. I have to confess that Stephen's kitsch totally won this round; nevertheless, I voted for Augustine of Canterbury. I cannot imagine why Chaucer's Canterbury Tales were not at least mentioned. Much bawdy humor could be pulled from that work to bolster Augustine's kitsch cred. I have a feeling Stephen is going to "rock" this round.

  20. And if you live where there are elections today, don't forget to get out there and vote!