Eglantyne Jebb vs. Seraphim of Sarov

What's in a name? Eglantyne Jebb and Seraphim of Sarov might just have some theories on this question. The twelfth battle of the first round pits a 20th century English laywoman against an 18th century Russian monk.

In yesterday's action, Dymphna played cat and mouse with Gertrude of Nivelles before prevailing 58% to 42%. She'll face the winner of John of Beverley vs. Martin of Porres in the Saintly Sixteen.

For those of you who filled out brackets in advance, how are you doing? Anyone still have a perfect bracket? Anyone 0 for 11 (which, frankly, would be equally impressive). We know it's about learning rather than winning. But still. We know there are some competitive Christians out there...

Eglantyne Jebb

Eglantyne JebbEglantyne Jebb didn’t care much for children. This is ironic, as Jebb founded Save the Children, an international non-governmental organization that promotes children’s rights, provides relief during crises like natural disasters and armed conflicts, and helps children have a healthy start in life in 120 countries, according to its website.

“It is a judgment on me for not caring about children that I talk all day long about the universal love of humanity toward them,” she said. But Eglantyne’s story goes to show God can use us in unexpected ways. God can call us to join in the work God is doing all around us, to respond to needs unique to our time and place.

In 1918, while others were celebrating the end of World War I, Eglantyne was protesting the impact of the Allied blockade after seeing newspaper photos of starving children in Germany and other European countries. She was born into a well-to-do British family of strong women who worked to meet the needs they saw in society. Originally, she studied to become a teacher, but she called it quits after a year because of that not-caring-much-for-kids thing. She became involved in the Charity Organisation Society and later traveled to Macedonia to report on refugees. Those experiences revealed to Eglantyne the difficulties faced by children in poverty and in crisis around the world.

Eglantyne was arrested for protesting—for handing out pamphlets in London with moving images of those children. Her trial made her famous, and while she was found guilty, the judge publicly gave her the money to pay the fine. That money became the first donation to Save the Children.

The organization was the first to take out full-page newspaper advertisements to promote its work and the first to enlist celebrities to promote its cause, according to Jebb’s biographer Clare Mulley. That’s something you can thank her for the next time you hear Sarah McLachlan’s voice with pictures of Precious Moments-eyed puppies.

Save the Children campaigned for the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which later was adopted by the United Nations, and the organization continues Eglantyne’s unlikely work today. The Church of England remembers her life and service each year on December 17.

Collect for Eglantyne Jebb
Almighty God, you appeared before Moses as a burning bush and in the heart of your servant Eglantyne Jebb as a white-hot flame: Encourage us with the same fierce and fiery spirit to defend the least, the lost, the lonely, and especially children in distress, that we may ease their burdens and live into your love and will with childlike faith; through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

-Emily McFarlan Miller

Seraphim of Sarov

Seraphim of SarovOne of the most well-known saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Seraphim of Sarov embraced the Holy Spirit and expounded upon monastic practices of contemplation and self-denial. Born Prokhor Moshnin on August 1, 1759, Seraphim became quite ill at age ten and saw in a vision a promise from the Virgin Mary that she would heal him. A few days later, he was brought to an icon of Mary that was known to have healing power. Shortly after touching the icon, he became well.

His interest in the church continued to grow, and in 1777, he joined the Sarov monastery. His mother supported his entry into the monastery and gave him a copper crucifix that he wore his whole life. In 1786, he became a monk, and seven years later he became a monastic priest.

Seraphim is known for his asceticism. He only ate one meal a day and fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays. One of his notable feats was praying for 1,000 nights with his arms outstretched.

Shortly after becoming a priest, he moved to a log cabin in the woods and lived as a hermit for twenty-five years. When wild animals came to the hermitage, he would care for them. One time, he was seen feeding a bear from his hand.

At one point Seraphim was attacked in the woods by robbers. They beat him but he did not resist. They left him for dead. They found nothing but his icon of the Mother of God of Deep Devotion. Although he recovered from the assault, Seraphim walked with a hunched back for the rest of his life. When the robbers were caught and being tried, Seraphim asked the judge for mercy on them. He later would say, “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved.

He returned to his cabin in the woods, and many people made pilgrimages to him for healing and to hear his prophetic words. Seraphim would often answer their questions before they were even asked.

Seraphim of Sarov died kneeling before an icon of the Theotokos—Mary, the God-bearer—on January 14, 1833.

Collect for Seraphim of Sarov
Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant Seraphim of Sarov, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at last we may with him attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-David Creech

Eglantyne Jebb vs. Seraphim of Sarov

  • Eglantyne Jebb (73%, 5,444 Votes)
  • Seraphim of Sarov (27%, 1,992 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,436

Loading ... Loading ...

Eglantyne Jebb: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Seraphim of Sarov: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


* indicates required

Recent Posts



223 comments on “Eglantyne Jebb vs. Seraphim of Sarov”

    1. And he didn't fight back, did he, Oliver? If that's not turning the other cheek, I don't know what is.

    2. Without forgiveness there can be no peace. Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved. I voted for Seraphim, too. We shouldn't start overlooking the hermits in our lives.

    3. Oliver,

      I'm voting for Seraphim, too, partly because of his saintly, forgiving, and gentle spirit and partly because he has no chance against Eglantyne. This was a difficult choice for me. Eglantyne's passion for saving children, whom she didn't like very much, is a true example of devotion and sacrifice.

  1. Important to the Orthodox Church means that sometimes you vote to be more ecclesiastically open minded.

  2. Like Oliver I find it amazing and inspiring that Seraphim forgave the robbers who beat him up. I also love the quote “Acquire a peaceful spirit, and thousands around you will be saved."
    However, I had to vote for Eglantyne and Save the Children today.

  3. Eglantyne for me today. While Seraphim's faith and devotion are commendable, he lived as a hermit and people had to seek him. Eglantyne's faith sent her out into the world and she heeded God's call and direction even though she wasn't all that fond of children. She was born to privilege, but used it to the benefit of others.

    1. I don't think we should attach more value to the work of the person who goes forth into the world. Seraphim gladdened God's heart through his devotion, and for the people who sought him out, I am sure that the seeking was part of their journey to deeper knowledge and love of God. Indeed if Seraphim had tried to seek them out, they may well have rejected him.

    2. She was so inspiring...truly taking the love and light of Christ to those children in such dark circumstances, then taking their plight to the world to shine a light on what the world must do to help them!! I mean, The United Nations, for Heaven's sake!!!(literally).
      Deacon Pam

    3. I agree Jane! It was a hard choice but the fact that Eglantyne allow compassion to over her aversion to children swayed me. A good example for examining our own prejudices and learning to allow our love and compassion over come it. A much needed lesson for our day. God bless Eglantyne for embracing the most marginalized among us.

  4. I have seen the work of Save the Children at work in El Salvador so had to vote for Eglantyne because her work continues today. Also she is a good example to us of getting involved in issues of our day and not to ignore the terrible situations around us even though it is uncomfortable to do so.

    1. Before we adopted our four children, we supported children through the organization that Eglantyne Jebb founded. I hope others will do the same (support the organization, not necessarily adopt four children, although that's fine, too).

  5. Eglantyne Jebb did not find working *with* children to be much to her liking, but she did work tirelessly *for* children. She persisted in showing Jesus' love for the children, and for someone with an avowed dislike for them, clearly showed an amazing empathy for their needs. Truly, God does move in mysterious ways! (I loved that a Judge who felt compelled under the law to find her guilty and fine her felt equally compelled to pay her fine as a donation to her cause - a greater miracle is hard to imagine!) As much as I may admire many monastics, her actions have my vote today! Onward into the mission fields!

  6. My daughter works for Save the Children, how could I not vote for Eglantyne? And how amazing to spend your life devoted to working for those you really didn't care for!!

  7. A very religious hermit or the woman who was fined for trying to save starving children yet inspired the judge to pay her fine and went on to found an organization that has helped millions of children. No contest!

  8. I had to go for Eglantyne and Save the Children. Like her, I taught for one year before realizing I didn't care for children much either (on a personal basis). I am a big fan of programs that ease child suffering - Save the Children, St. Jude's, and more. Nothing is more heartbreaking than the suffering of a child, and it is heartwarming to see someone with privilege use it for such good works. I especially appreciate those that are willing to be arrested for their principles, and shout out to the judge that paid her fine. How cool was that? So despite her works being the origin of those tear-jerking ASPCA commercials (I have 6 adopted pets - I've done my job - leave me alone Sarah McLaughlin!) I had to give her my vote.

    1. June......I love your comments! I, too, was a teacher originally but never very gooey-eyed about babies or children. I ,too, have adopted 7 cats(at different times) and can't bear to watch the ASPCA ads. Eglantyne was English like me and I was fascinated to read her story and hear of the wonderful organization she founded.

  9. Eglantyne's story reminded me of what another (probably well-off) woman said about children: "I love little children, especially when they cry, because then someone comes and takes them away." Eglantyne did a wonderful thing for children anyway.

  10. I liked Seraphim bc he set his mind to something and did it. And Eglantyne didn’t like children so we couldn’t vote for her.

  11. Eglantyne. Sometimes teachers need models of care and advocacy for children (who may or may not be particularly likeable) in spite of one’s personal feelings about them.

  12. As a former Labor ad Delivery Nurse turned teacher of religion/lay chaplain and science teacher to children in ages Preschool--5th grade I have to vote for Eglantyne despite her un-pronouncable name!

      1. No, no, don’t jump, just wait 22 seconds, and once you know the answer I dare you to stop before the end!

        Thanks so much, Susan, and how did you do that? Not by witchcraft, I trust!

        1. Hahaha! I'll never tell! I've been singing it since I first saw the bracket!

      2. The people running, with sorrowing angels as in many images of the Crucifixion, would make a moving icon. Maybe with the Mater Dolorosa looking on, as a focus for devotion.

        There’s an iconographer in Orvieto who might actually be interested in the idea. I’ll mention it the next time I’m there.

      3. LOL! Love that movie, and as soon as I saw this saintly match-up, that song started playing in my head - Eglantyne, Eglantyne.....

      4. Very charming use of the library equipment for the dancing routine! Is the lady Angela Lansbury? I can well see why the poor man is smitten!

  13. While in high school the students supported a child from Save the Children. Followed that way after marriage for many years. Eglantine's has my vote.

  14. As a teacher and advocate (I hope) for children, I thought Eglantyne would be the one for me. The ASPCA snark was unnecessary to her biography, and made me think twice. My Lenten study group have so many causes we care about, and so many problems we try to be praying thoughtfully about that it becomes overwhelming. So I chose Seraphim, and am trying to “acquire a peaceful spirit.” That may include a donation to Save the Children, by the way.

    1. I like your combination action, Sara, and think I may follow. Despite the heartstring pull for Eglantyne's story, the Spirit led me to click Seraphim for the vote, but my next donation could go to Save the Children.

    2. I agree with you, Sara, about the ASPCA snark. Sometimes people who advocate for abused and neglected animals are subjected to "What about?" "What about the children, the poor, the sick..." as if it is somehow wrong to care about animals as long as one of our own species is suffering somewhere.

  15. Self denial- Does That mean obeying the ten commenments and denying adultery, false gods, etc than great. If that means hurting your body by denying its needs or physical hurt to self than I can not understand how that is a good thing.

    1. I think it usually means, primarily, not reacting to your own self-preservation instincts first and foremost, and not easily giving in to your appetites. We all do it to some degree, whenever we think, "But am I *really* hungry, or do I just want to eat?" or don't buy something we want but don't need, or let someone go ahead of us in line, etc.

  16. Both were important and did good deeds but, for me, Save the Children won out. Eglantyne got my vote today.

  17. You must run the race set before you.......sometimes the race is a hard one in this life and in Seraphim's in need of that peaceful spirit! Seraphim for me today!

  18. Seraphim has been one of my favorite saints for years. He is, what I call, a "rustic" sort of saint.

  19. This was a hard one. I had to go away and cogitate for awhile before choosing Eglantyne because of her concern for refugee children.

  20. I had to vote for Eglantyne. I feel that white hot- flame burning for justice. We need a little righteous indignation in these times.

  21. The thought of someone who didn't enjoy working with children being called to work for children is pretty awesome to me. Though Seraphim is a wonderful and worthy saint, I had to go with Eglantine.

  22. A hermit monk who only counseled those who trekked to him vs. someone who went all over to assist children in need? Incarnation theology wins -- no contest.

  23. When presented with a choice between being and doing, we often discount being. What I love about Seraphim is that he realized that caring for our being matters to our doing. Both saints today are commendable, but as one whose work as a spiritual director is soul care, I chose Seraphim. Imagine what could happen in our world if more people took seriously the need to acquire a peaceful spirit. The needs of all would be provided for.

    1. Agreed. I'm going to guess that the Lent Madness Global Voting Public will go for doing over being, but today I need the contemplative and peaceful too.

  24. I feel bad for Seraphim having to go up against Eglangtyne. Both are commendable, but I have to go with Eglangtyne. Her work lives on in the world today.

  25. "Don't feed the bears.". Besides, what happened to the copper cross when he was beaten? Did they leave it behind with him? And what true monk keeps personal possessions?

    Eglantyne for the win!

    1. That's funny because I thought the same. If he wore the cross his whole life, where was it when he was robbed?

  26. I voted for Eglantine in large part because of the write up by our celebrity blogger. You had me at the opening with the mention that she didn't like children, but founded the NGO Save the Children, and gave up teaching after a year because of the whole "didn't like children" thing. Her story is a testament to God using us for God's purpose despite ourselves.

    1. Does that mean you don't like little children? What about your new grandchild?