Yesterday, Maria Skobtsova advanced to the Elate Eight by trouncing Quiteria by what is likely a record margin, 91% to 9%. We're too lazy to look back at all the previous matchups to figure out if this is an actual record margin, but knock yourself out and let us know. She'll face the winner of Martin de Porres vs. Dymphna.
"Hey, wait," you're thinking to yourself, "What happened to this week's episode of Monday Madness?" Don't worry, you're not losing a step. Due to some technical difficulties based on being in exotic locales like outside-of-Cleveland, there was a glitch in the production process. Look for a better-late-than-never edition later today.
“The Bar is Open!” is not a phrase uttered by Deaconess Anna Alexander, but it could be. Stories tells us that when the diocese would not build her a new church, she took over an abandoned whiskey bar and converted the bar to an altar to God. Come one, come all to the Bar of Christ! Maybe church membership would not be in decline if we decided to implement such creative practices in getting the job done as Deaconess Anna.
But Deaconess Alexander’s zeal for her fellow brothers and sisters in Christ did not just begin or end at the Altar of God, she walked the talk right out into her community and kept walking by foot to spread the word of God to African American Georgians between the towns of Brunswick and Darian. That’s what I call a real ChristWalk (™)! The children she touched along the way went on to become teachers, nurses, and advocates in their own communities for the education and inclusion of black people in the south. Deaconess Alexander is the pebble that was dropped in the pond of Georgia that had ripples of impact that went on for generations.
Recollections from her students account Deaconess Alexander as both mother and father to the children in Pennick, Georgia. No matter how bad her students acted, she responded with kindness and a firm assurance that learning to read and write would make a difference one day, even if her students did not realize it now. Students remember that Anna Alexander would not just ensure her students were well educated enough for college, she would drive them there if they did not have the means to do so. She was known for providing not just education, but clothes, food, and shelter to ensure the well being of her flock.
What comes to my mind as I read about Deaconess Alexander is a saying my father said to me growing up. He would say, no matter the situation, “Anna, soft overcomes hard.” Like my father, Deaconess Alexander responded to all from a place of consistency, tough love, and enduring kindness, to soften the hardest hearts. Her love established something that the community recognizes it needs more than ever today: how do we love others, more than we love ourselves? How do we love others enough to not just fix things on the surface, but to strive for a change that makes the world a better place? Through this softness she made a place for her children, assured their future, established a place for women and African Americans in the Episcopal church and lived the words that Jesus charged to us when he said, “Love one another.”
While some saints were deeply devout to all things God and church from infancy, Edith was not one of these saints. She was a typical child of her era. An avid artist (several of her paintings survive) and active outdoorswoman, she found Sundays tedious, as her father kept a strict Sabbath – no reading from any book other than the Bible, no play, and certainly no card games. We glimpse Edith’s opinion of this Sunday routine in a letter to a cousin, where she says, “Do come and stay again soon, but not for a weekend. Father’s sermons are so long and dull.” Servants of the household also frequently discovered the Cavell children deeply involved in card games while their father made Sunday parish calls.
Edith eventually found her way into nursing. Again, while some saints discovered their vocation and received glowing reviews, Edith reminds us of the beautiful holiness of mediocrity. Her nursing instructor said of her, “Edith had plenty of capacity for her work, when she chose to exert herself,” noting, “She was not at all punctual.”
As the daughter of a priest and an educated woman of her time, Edith was not expected to become a career woman. In fact, she received heavy criticism for her desire to become a career nurse. Edith observed in a letter to her family, “The old idea that it is a disgrace for women to work is still held in Belgium and women of good birth and education still think they lose caste by earning their own living.”
Nevertheless, she persisted in her calling and career as a nurse.
Edith ministered at the Red Cross Hospital in Belgium, where all wounded soldiers, regardless of nationality, received equal care. Edith was eventually arrested and tried for “assisting men to the enemy.”
In the hours before her execution, her chaplain reports she said, “I have no fear nor shrinking; I have seen death so often that it is not strange or fearful to me.” She said goodbye to her priest, adding she would see him again in the presence of God.
Edith was executed by a German firing squad on October 12, 1915.
Edith, quite contrary to her desire only to be remembered as a nurse who did her duty, was recast as a national martyr. She has numerous memorials in England, including a statue near Trafalgar Square in London inscribed with her most famous quote, “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”
Her other memorials include Mount Edith Cavell in the Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, several movies, musicals, and masses and an opera composed in the late 1920’s, of which two of three acts have been found.