Phocas the Gardener vs. Katharina von Bora

The Quotes and Quirks of the Saintly Sixteen continue as Phocas the Gardener faces Katharina von Bora. To make it to this round, Phocas defeated Isidore the Farmer while Katharina took down Wulfstan. Today’s winner will face Richard Hooker.

Don’t forget, the Saintly Sixteen write-ups are not the sum of what has been shared about each saint by our Celebrity Bloggers. Click the links above or scroll down on the bracket page to supplement your knowledge of our daily contestants.

Yesterday, the great controversy surrounding whether or not it was “fair” to stick an angel in the bracket was decided as Esther soundly dismantled Michael the Archangel 70% to 30%. This sets up the first Elate Eight matchup, a sure-to-be epic battle between Peter and Esther. Now go vote!

Phocas the Gardener

PhocasIt is no surprise that Phocas the Gardener is best known for his eponymous horticultural habits. Phocas’ garden, near the Black Sea city of Sinope, provided food to the poor and hospitality to strangers, including to the strangers at whose hands he would ultimately be martyred during the Diocletian persecution. In writing Lives of the Saints, Alban Butler praised Phocas, saying he was one who “join[ed] prayer with his labor, [and] found in his garden an instructive book and an inexhaustible fund of meditation. His house was open to strangers and travelers who had no lodging in the place; and after having for many years liberally bestowed the fruit of his labor on the poor, he was found worthy also to give his life for Christ.” Yet Phocas’ legend is not limited to his garden.

Phocas’ name appears to come from the Greek phoke, meaning “seal” (as in the lovable seafaring mammal, and, alas, not the British singer or a wax signet affixed to paper). It is speculated that his common name with the lovable sea mammal, along with a life and ministry lived near a major port, gave rise to his patronage of sailors, mariners, and watermen. A reference by Asterius of Amasea in the year 400 refers to hymns sung in Phocas’ honor by sailors in the Euxine, Aegean, and Adriatic seas.

It is perhaps around this time that a unique custom arose among some sailors in honor of St. Phocas. It became customary that for each meal, a portion would be designated for Phocas, which would be purchased by one of the voyagers or sailors. The cost of the meal would be left with the ship’s captain, and, upon arriving into port, the money from Phocas’ portion would be given to the poor.

Remembered and venerated for his patronage of gardeners, farmers, providers of hospitality, and sailors, Phocas’ witness of faithful generosity to the vulnerable and powerful alike paints a vivid picture of answering the call given to all Christians to love our neighbors as ourselves.

-David Sibley

Katharina von Bora
Katharina von Bora statueUnlike many of the women who played a role in the Protestant Reformation — or many of the saints who appear in Lent Madness — Katharina von Bora’s primary vocation was not ministry.

Rather, biographer Ruth A. Tucker notes, von Bora was “a farmer and a brewer with a boarding house the size of a Holiday Inn. All that with a large family and nursing responsibilities.” And yet, Tucker writes, the former nun was “the most indispensable figure of the Reformation, save for Martin Luther himself.”

(She was, of course, also the wife of the surly Reformer, which many have quipped should be enough to win her sainthood.)

It’s perhaps fitting that while few of von Bora’s quotes have survived, what letters remain are all business. Most plead with Luther’s benefactors to continue their support for her family after her husband’s death.

Nevertheless, several of her quips have persisted in letters written by Luther, in his “Table Talk” and in other contemporary accounts.

One of the most endearing comes after Luther tried to bribe von Bora to read through the Bible in a year, still a popular undertaking by many Christians. Her response, after having lived behind convent walls for nearly two decades: “I’ve read enough, I’ve heard enough, I know enough. Would to God I lived it.”

Evidently, she knew more than enough. Luther elsewhere said in his typically colorful language that his wife knew the Psalms “better than ever the papists had done.”

And in response to a joke from Luther about taking more than one wife, von Bora reportedly said, “I’d rather go back to the convent”.

Perhaps the biggest celebration of Katharina von Bora also has little to do with ministry: Thousands of people gather each summer in Wittenberg, Germany, for a quirky weekend festival that celebrates not the couple’s role in the Reformation, but their wedding. During “Luthers Hochzeit,” or “Luther’s Wedding,” performers dress as Luther, von Bora and 16th century wedding guests and parade through the streets — a far more elaborate affair than the couple’s actual wedding, which took place within a day of Luther’s proposal.

-Emily McFarlan Miller

Phocas the Gardener vs. Katharina von Bora

  • Phocas the Gardener (60%, 4,120 Votes)
  • Katharina von Bora (40%, 2,720 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,840

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Phocas: Orthodox Icon
Katharina: Photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

113 Comments to "Phocas the Gardener vs. Katharina von Bora"

  1. Ann's Gravatar Ann
    March 15, 2018 - 8:03 am | Permalink

    I voted for (what I thought was) the underdog — Phocas!

    • Caden's Gravatar Caden
      March 15, 2018 - 8:25 am | Permalink

      I voted for phocas

    • Pat S.'s Gravatar Pat S.
      March 15, 2018 - 9:54 am | Permalink

      Phocas got my vote again. I can only imagine how developed his spirit must have been been to host the men who he knew were to kill him and make all preparations to die – giving his things away and digging his own grave while they slept in his home. Then not to take the easy way out when offered by the soldiers yet to stand with his faith and die. May I some day have that deep a faith.

      • Karen R's Gravatar Karen R
        March 15, 2018 - 1:39 pm | Permalink


    • Larisa's Gravatar Larisa
      March 15, 2018 - 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Same! I assumed von Bora would take an easy lead!

      • Michael Shea's Gravatar Michael Shea
        March 15, 2018 - 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Me Too!

      • Barbara Gay's Gravatar Barbara Gay
        March 15, 2018 - 5:21 pm | Permalink

        Me too! I feel sorry for the legendary saints of long ago, who so often get matched up against saints from more recent times, whose claims to sainthood sometimes seem more relevant to us.

    • Ann's Gravatar Ann
      March 15, 2018 - 4:21 pm | Permalink

      So much for strategy!

  2. Cathy Pinner's Gravatar Cathy Pinner
    March 15, 2018 - 8:08 am | Permalink

    To have inspired sailors to continue his ministry of hospitality was enough to sway my vote to Phocas.

    • Anne Beckett's Gravatar Anne Beckett
      March 15, 2018 - 11:48 am | Permalink

      That stood out to me, too! I’m so glad to be able to vote for Phocas for the second time.

  3. Michelle's Gravatar Michelle
    March 15, 2018 - 8:17 am | Permalink

    Usually I am drawn to vote for the more modern saint probably because there is more reliable information about them. Although I am no gardener, I was moved by the words by Alban Butler “join[ed] prayer with his labor, [and] found in his garden an instructive book and an inexhaustible fund of meditation. His house was open to strangers and travelers who had no lodging in the place; and after having for many years liberally bestowed the fruit of his labor on the poor, he was found worthy also to give his life for Christ.” Besides, I just can’t forget that Phocas offered hospitality and forgiveness to the soldiers who would kill him. So even though Katharine has much to teach me, I had to vote for Phocas today.

    • Mary Beth Burns's Gravatar Mary Beth Burns
      March 15, 2018 - 1:19 pm | Permalink

      I agree with Michelle –

  4. JustMeJo's Gravatar JustMeJo
    March 15, 2018 - 8:17 am | Permalink

    I, too, voted (yet again!) for Phocas. It was a difficult choice in the first round, but over the days I have developed a great fondness for him, with his great generosity and courage!

  5. Debbie Northern's Gravatar Debbie Northern
    March 15, 2018 - 8:21 am | Permalink

    Phocas got my vote because of his faith and service to the poor. I like that sailors would remember him by donating money to feed the poor.

    • March 15, 2018 - 9:13 am | Permalink

      I also voted for Phocas, Debbie. It seems to me the guy has got it covered on all fronts, with his active spirituality, his hospitality, his good works, his courage in martyrdom, and as you cite, his inspiration to others’ good works!

      • Barbara Gay's Gravatar Barbara Gay
        March 15, 2018 - 5:22 pm | Permalink

        Richard, love the halo. Thank goodness for Photoshop!

  6. ava's Gravatar ava
    March 15, 2018 - 8:22 am | Permalink

    phocas is perfect

  7. March 15, 2018 - 8:22 am | Permalink

    Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever looked at Letn Madness this early: only 4 comments, and none of them Oliver! I had better wait for more wisdom to arrive, though my leaning is toward the loving and generous martyr.

  8. Steven Niccolls's Gravatar Steven Niccolls
    March 15, 2018 - 8:30 am | Permalink

    Voted for von Bora. Since Luther isnt in this madness, von Bora comes a close second. Besides, I usually pick the loser anyway.

    • Elaine's Gravatar Elaine
      March 15, 2018 - 9:02 am | Permalink

      I’m rooting for her, so I’m glad for your vote…but don’t vote for her as a surrogate for her husband! Vote for HER!

      • paul champion's Gravatar paul champion
        March 15, 2018 - 9:11 am | Permalink

        My thought exactly! Intelligent and well-spoken in her own right; worked (no doubt) day and night in the domestic area that made possible Martin’s work; partner, not surrogate or subordinate helpmate; dare I say that she kept him humble? Good, strong person, whether male or female.

        • March 15, 2018 - 10:51 am | Permalink

          Indeed, she did work day and night — Luther called her “the morning star of Wittenberg” because she rose so early in the morning to get to work. That’s probably why she didn’t have time for intense Bible study every day!

      • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
        March 15, 2018 - 11:41 am | Permalink

        Agreed, and her husband came in second to Florence Nightingale last year.

  9. March 15, 2018 - 8:31 am | Permalink

    These additional details about Phocas (or rather the cult associated with his name) further endeared him to me, especially all the connections with the seal and the sea. The sailors who honored him by perpetuating his benevolence remind us that our call to be saints includes us among “the meek and lowly.” Any good literary work from small-scale (Synge’s “Riders to the Sea”) to epic (“Moby Dick”) teaches us much about the sea-going life, its dangers, and the generosity of spirit it breeds.

  10. Steve's Gravatar Steve
    March 15, 2018 - 8:31 am | Permalink

    Katharina got my vote with “I’ve read enough, I’ve heard enough, I know enough. Would to God I lived it.”

    • Lee W.'s Gravatar Lee W.
      March 15, 2018 - 9:48 am | Permalink

      Steve, that’s what cinched it for me as well!

    • Carol Buckalew's Gravatar Carol Buckalew
      March 15, 2018 - 10:08 am | Permalink

      Me too.

  11. Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
    March 15, 2018 - 8:35 am | Permalink

    I love that sculpture of Katharina standing in the open doorway to offer hospitality (at least I think that’s what that is!). She does capture my heart, but Phocas with that shovel and an armful of beautiful vegetables reminds me that difficult sacrifice plus God’s power to create abundance and sustenance from plain old dirt can yield kindness and life-giving love. I vote for Phocas. Now I’m going to go water my chard!

  12. Judy Hoover's Gravatar Judy Hoover
    March 15, 2018 - 8:41 am | Permalink

    I am a gardener and a sailor so I have to vote for Phocas, even though I admire Katharina greatly.

    • March 15, 2018 - 9:16 am | Permalink

      My track records as a gardener and a sailer are both far from impressive. Can I still vote for Phocas? Actually, when I lived in the Pacific Northwest I was a pretty decent kayaker and always enjoyed the (careful) company of seals–so this additional meaning of his name, introduced today, is a nice surprise.

  13. Donna Devlin's Gravatar Donna Devlin
    March 15, 2018 - 8:53 am | Permalink

    I voted for Phocas just because growing things gives such pleasure to the grower and the ones who eat or smell (the daisies). I figured he’d be losing this match up and what a surprise I got when I saw the results of the voting to date.

  14. Kim's Gravatar Kim
    March 15, 2018 - 8:54 am | Permalink

    “I’ve read enough, I’ve heard enough, I know enough. Would to God I lived it.” sold me on Katharina. That is a statement that needs to become one of my prayers.

  15. Lisa Keppeler's Gravatar Lisa Keppeler
    March 15, 2018 - 8:56 am | Permalink

    A farmer, brewer, opener of her home to orphans and strays, and masterful practicer of hospitality? How can today’s writer not think of all that as consummate ministry? Katharina gets my vote.

    • Mollie Douglas Turner+'s Gravatar Mollie Douglas Turner+
      March 15, 2018 - 9:04 am | Permalink

      My thoughts exactly, Lisa! Katharina was apparently a nice (if spicy) blend of Martha and Mary. Would that we all could live that! It may be a hopeless vote, but I’m going for Luther’s lady.

      Kudos to Phocas, too, though—I love the maritime connection and the ongoing charity in his honor.

      • KG's Gravatar KG
        March 15, 2018 - 11:18 pm | Permalink

        This one is a very hard choice. I voted for Katharina though and am very surprised the sentiments so early were she would be an also ran. She seems the real deal to me and definitely an inspiration as others have said more eloquently.

    • March 15, 2018 - 10:57 am | Permalink

      Luther, perhaps because of von Bora’s example, greatly broadened what was then the definition of vocation in his writing. Every Christian has a calling and a ministry — even those that might not be considered traditional ministry, like von Bora’s, perhaps like many of ours. She’s patron saint of all us laypeople, without whom the work of the church couldn’t be done!

  16. Christopher's Gravatar Christopher
    March 15, 2018 - 8:57 am | Permalink

    Now this old black-shoe sailor has a rooting interest. Fair winds and following seas, Phocas

  17. Susan's Gravatar Susan
    March 15, 2018 - 9:04 am | Permalink

    I must admit, it disturbs me that Phocas offered himself up to be killed. Where is the merit in that? On the other hand, there’s Katharina, the bold, gutsy, hardworking wife and partner of Luther. She inspires me.
    Yeah, I’m voting for Katharina.

    • Isabelle Anne Melese-d'Hospital's Gravatar Isabelle Anne Melese-d'Hospital
      March 15, 2018 - 9:21 am | Permalink

      I re-read the biography on Katherina and wow!! Just like a woman (ie, dancing backwards on high heels, see Ginger Rodgers) always had to do twice as well, work twice as hard, raise 6 kids, caring also for all who entered the boarding house/ brewery. And though impoverished as a widow despite get husband’s best efforts, “stuck to Christ like a burr.”
      Also remember she escaped the nunnery in a herring barrel once Luther’s protestations were leaked… gutsy on so many levels!!
      For sainthood, she is definitely a top runner up. However, I went with Phocas, partially as I am biased toward seals.

    • Patricia Samuel's Gravatar Patricia Samuel
      March 15, 2018 - 9:28 am | Permalink

      Of course Phocas answered the soldiers’ question; he could hardly lie about his Christianity and remain true to Jesus. And just maybe the soldiers would spare the life of another Christian.

    • March 15, 2018 - 9:31 am | Permalink

      Merit in offering your live in witness? Watch Peter Weir’s The Year of LIving Dangerously again (or read the C. Koch novel). But I could go on listing dozen’s of stories (even in the NT of all places). Granted, Phocas’s offering, like that of Dirk Willems, has a special “crazy” twist to it. But I think that is the point of his story (cf the 1st round bio) and is why I am moved. Know, though, that I also say AMEN to the inspiration you find in Katharina.

  18. Nancy's Gravatar Nancy
    March 15, 2018 - 9:05 am | Permalink

    Voted for Phocas. Never heard of him before LM, but that’s part of the fun and consternation. And even though we are patio container gardeners these days, the gardener wins the day for us.

  19. Joanne B. Parrott's Gravatar Joanne B. Parrott
    March 15, 2018 - 9:08 am | Permalink

    I’ve read the Bible in a year, its a challenging task to read straight through
    without skipping parts because you know what is coming later on.
    My mother started reading the Bible, selecting a verse each chapter
    for the thought of the day. Took her 3 years the first time through
    but Mama knew her Bible better than most of the pastors we had.
    Come on Katherina, you can do it!

  20. Elliot Ashley's Gravatar Elliot Ashley
    March 15, 2018 - 9:16 am | Permalink

    This old submariner has to vote for the patron saint of sailors.
    Sailors singing hymns? Anyone who can get that going deserves a halo!

  21. R. Reimer's Gravatar R. Reimer
    March 15, 2018 - 9:18 am | Permalink

    As much as I enjoy the meditative aspect of gardens Phocas’ rather typical story of the period just doesn’t resonate. I prefer the robust and active life of Katharina von Bora who through her influence on Martin Luther and her own example and teachings affects so many lives today. Votes for Katharina!

  22. Stephanie C's Gravatar Stephanie C
    March 15, 2018 - 9:18 am | Permalink

    As the mother of a US Navy Sailor, I had to vote for Phocas! I probably would have anyway because his quiet dedication to God and service to others appeal to me even though I admire the bold Katharina.

  23. March 15, 2018 - 9:35 am | Permalink

    A marriage within a day of the proposal? Now how did the license get through the county clerk’s office so quickly? Does that count as a miracle toward Katharina’s beatification?

  24. Cathy's Gravatar Cathy
    March 15, 2018 - 9:42 am | Permalink

    I’ll never forget Phocas’s hospitality to the men he knew were sent to kill him.

  25. Marie Jones (Mama J)'s Gravatar Marie Jones (Mama J)
    March 15, 2018 - 9:49 am | Permalink

    Though I’m still smarting from the beating that Phocas gave Isidore, he is my choice this day. Gardeners ‘grow’ in their love of all creation and I find that gardening does indeed lend itself to meditative moments and life lessons.

  26. rm gens's Gravatar rm gens
    March 15, 2018 - 9:49 am | Permalink

    Could a women suffered more?!

    • March 15, 2018 - 11:02 am | Permalink

      An 1856 biography of von Bora says of her, “No innocent woman was ever more bitterly and cruelly defamed.” We haven’t even gotten into all the polemics written about her as a supposed evil seductress who caused a monk to break his vows, and one recent book I read suggested many in the town may have thought her a witch. We know several witches were killed in Wittenberg, and men always have been intimidated by strong women!

      • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
        March 15, 2018 - 12:28 pm | Permalink

        Ain’t it the truth?

  27. Timothy J. Mannion's Gravatar Timothy J. Mannion
    March 15, 2018 - 9:49 am | Permalink

    As tempting a it was too think about voting for the person who said she had “read enough, learned enough, and seen enough” but who wished to “live” the Bible, I still have to go with Phocus.

    He DID live the Gospel, even into death.

    Phocus for the win!

  28. Elizabeth Parmalee's Gravatar Elizabeth Parmalee
    March 15, 2018 - 9:49 am | Permalink

    This was a hard choice! I thought they were equally qualified, so I went with the Katharina, as she had a better personality.

  29. Oliver--Ten Years Old's Gravatar Oliver--Ten Years Old
    March 15, 2018 - 9:59 am | Permalink

    I voted for Phocas because he gave food to the poor.

    • Denise Bell's Gravatar Denise Bell
      March 15, 2018 - 12:35 pm | Permalink

      Me too!!

  30. St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
    March 15, 2018 - 10:02 am | Permalink

    I feel as though I’m voting between a harried housewife and a quaint legend. What appeals to me today is the vision of a garden and of hospitality. “Food for the poor and hospitality to strangers” seems to be at the heart of the Christian message. A garden nurtures both souls and bodies. So I’ll put my “seal” on this decision and vote for Phocas. Yesterday was pi day, so I’ll focus on charity and hospitality as the axis of symmetry for my heart’s parabola.

    • Karen Sculley's Gravatar Karen Sculley
      March 15, 2018 - 3:16 pm | Permalink

      great answer! I especially appreciate the mathematical tie-in 🙂

  31. Lucy Porter's Gravatar Lucy Porter
    March 15, 2018 - 10:03 am | Permalink

    Katarina for me. What a woman!

  32. Judy Bye's Gravatar Judy Bye
    March 15, 2018 - 10:04 am | Permalink

    Phocas seems too much like suicide by cop. Martin Luther consulted Katherina. He recognized how smart she was. She managed everything, including the finances. God only knows how many people she fed. I wonder who Martin would have been without her? I have no doubt we owe much to Katherina! Somewhere along the way it was recognized she was more than just a clergy spouse for she IS Katherina Von Bora!

  33. Jen's Gravatar Jen
    March 15, 2018 - 10:09 am | Permalink

    Could the sailors paying for a portion of the meal in Phocas’ name be the original pay it forward?

    • Donna Devlin's Gravatar Donna Devlin
      March 15, 2018 - 10:14 am | Permalink

      works for me

  34. aleathia nicholson's Gravatar aleathia nicholson
    March 15, 2018 - 10:15 am | Permalink

    Phocas was sincere in giving of his labors to the truly needy. Katherina was undoubtedly a smart and clever woman and helpmate but clever folk are a dime a dozen. True and sincere believers who do God’s will are true saints.

  35. Ruth Anne's Gravatar Ruth Anne
    March 15, 2018 - 10:24 am | Permalink

    Phocas has my vote today…while my garden is tiny compared to his, I hope my prayers and meditations while gardening benefit God’s creation, too. We gardeners have to stick together!

  36. Peg S.'s Gravatar Peg S.
    March 15, 2018 - 10:24 am | Permalink

    I dig the gardener.

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 15, 2018 - 12:28 pm | Permalink


  37. Catherine W Huber's Gravatar Catherine W Huber
    March 15, 2018 - 10:31 am | Permalink

    Phocas: my new patron saint as I read “Vegetable Gardening for Dummies” and try my hand at it. The idea is to grow enough to share. I do hope our neighbors don’t kill us.

  38. Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
    March 15, 2018 - 10:31 am | Permalink

    “Katharina von Bora’s primary vocation was not ministry.” Hogwash! Taking care of a family, running a boarding house “the size of a Holiday Inn”, being a support to one of the most influential men (perhaps “the” most influential) in the Reformation–that’s ministry, even without a formal ordination.

    Phocas is admirable, Katharina is amazing.

  39. Carolyn D. Mack's Gravatar Carolyn D. Mack
    March 15, 2018 - 10:44 am | Permalink

    Isn’t it amazing how, when a woman multitasks and accomplishes economic survival and comfort for many, her efforts end up sounding common place, but when a man does something similar he is seen as exceptional. I am for Katie!

  40. Michael Shea's Gravatar Michael Shea
    March 15, 2018 - 10:51 am | Permalink

    Katherine deserves better treatment than this!

  41. March 15, 2018 - 11:01 am | Permalink

    Phocas, in honor of my favorite farmer priest, Nadia Stefko.

  42. Deacon Victoria Rebeck's Gravatar Deacon Victoria Rebeck
    March 15, 2018 - 11:01 am | Permalink

    This was a very difficult choice. But I chose Katherine–she had to put up with Martin. I suspect she has much wisdom despite the dearth of written work from her.

  43. Random dude 101's Gravatar Random dude 101
    March 15, 2018 - 11:05 am | Permalink

    I just chose by random. Phocas to the next round! (But please make Richard Hooker beat him)

  44. James Lodwick's Gravatar James Lodwick
    March 15, 2018 - 11:06 am | Permalink

    Is Katarina von Bora actually revered as a saint in any Christian calendar? Among German Lutherans perhaps?

  45. Ouida Thomas's Gravatar Ouida Thomas
    March 15, 2018 - 11:08 am | Permalink

    I love the notes of humor in so many of the saintly descriptions.

  46. Suzanne's Gravatar Suzanne
    March 15, 2018 - 11:10 am | Permalink

    You had me at “seal”.

  47. Anne E.B.'s Gravatar Anne E.B.
    March 15, 2018 - 11:18 am | Permalink

    Loving our neighbors as ourselves. Phocas the Gardener.

  48. Marian the Lutheran's Gravatar Marian the Lutheran
    March 15, 2018 - 11:23 am | Permalink

    I am sure you knnow for whom I will vote, but let me lay out my argument. Phocas: How many of us have quietly taken our produce, excess or otherwise, to the church pantry, our neighbors, or the local foodbank? In Denver it is common and very much needed. Who wouldn’t choose to die at their own time and in the way they select (given the ‘this way’ or ‘that way’only ultimatum)? How large could the town really have been in the 400’s, even with the given that it may have been a port town? How many legends have sprung up to make a town’s saint apear more saintly than another? What actual miracles are attributed to him? None.
    Katherina Von Bora: A woman. Educated, possibly more than her husband, in a time when it was seen as excessive and un-necccessary for women to educated. She, too, “gardened” and fed many. Possibly thousands. She kept many from living on the street, or near-homelessness. It is admitted by Luther himself that she helped in his writings and helped clarify his attitudes. She raised 6 children (who knows how many she may have lost in that time, as it was common for 1 out of every 3 children to die before the age of 4). She brewed her own beer, as every good housewife did, to keep her family (and those pesky students who always were around) from contracting parasites and other yucky stuff from the water. She knew what the Bible, the Church, and Luther taught forwards and backwards – like many women in the Christian community, and then struggled to live it while faced with a busy and harried life. Just like we all do. She was never given the title of saint (as none of us will). She didn’t die a virgin, wasn’t threatened with decapitation or faced a firing squad/Roman centurians. She has yet to perform verified miracles, nor do I think she would want to. To her only “miracle” was living a woman’s life of active theology by caring for those around her as Jesus and the Bible demanded of her. It is a “miracle” that we all strive to emmulate in our daily lives.
    She represents all women of today, going about our daily lives, feeding our familys the best we can, nourishing the minds and hearts of our children, partners, and communities, without seeking acknowledgements or fame.
    SHE is US. So the cry must go out: Bora, Bora, Bora!

    • Lisa Keppeler's Gravatar Lisa Keppeler
      March 15, 2018 - 9:09 pm | Permalink


    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 15, 2018 - 11:08 pm | Permalink

      I appreciate your passionate advocacy for Katherina von Bora. Thank you.

    • March 16, 2018 - 6:22 pm | Permalink


  49. March 15, 2018 - 11:24 am | Permalink

    Yes, Katarina von Bora has a day in the Lutheran calendar, in December. It is 20th. I voted for her.

  50. Lois's Gravatar Lois
    March 15, 2018 - 11:35 am | Permalink

    I have great admiration for Phocas, and if it were just between him and Katarina, I would have voted for him. However, since the winner of this round will be up against Richard Hooker, I thought it would be interesting to see who would win: the Lutheran or the Anglican! It looks as if we’ll never know…

  51. Sara Legard's Gravatar Sara Legard
    March 15, 2018 - 11:49 am | Permalink

    As a lifelong Tolkien fan, I saw the humble heroism of Sam the Gardener in the description of Phocas. It was fascinating to hear of the sailors’ donations to the poor in Phocas’ name. What a wonderful idea! Should be encouraged on cruise ships.

  52. Mary O'Donnell's Gravatar Mary O'Donnell
    March 15, 2018 - 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I vote that Phocas not only wins today but receive the Golden Halo. Christianity is about protecting all Gods Creations. Feeding the poor, protecting the earth, sharing his faith including following the ten commandments. “You shall not be a false witness.”
    He was a small farmer, who probably used seaweed as a fertilizer which enriches the soil, so he could use the same land over and over. He lived by selling produce without damaging the earth, feed the poor, and shared his Christian faith without judgement. A man to emulate.

    • Karen R's Gravatar Karen R
      March 15, 2018 - 1:43 pm | Permalink

      I agree. I am hoping it will be Phocas. His life embodies so many Christian virtues and the glorious soulfulness of growing green things.

  53. Deacon Marcia's Gravatar Deacon Marcia
    March 15, 2018 - 12:25 pm | Permalink

    With all due respect (and it is mighty) to Katharina, as a passionate gardener and the widow of a proud U.S. Navy veteran, I choose Phocas.

  54. Jody Harrington's Gravatar Jody Harrington
    March 15, 2018 - 12:32 pm | Permalink

    The bio of Katharina doesn’t give her enough credit. She isn’t called the Mother of the Reformation for no reason. She was a theologian in her own right in addition to her many other roles. My vote’s for her.

  55. Fiona's Gravatar Fiona
    March 15, 2018 - 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Much as there is to admire in Katharina, faced with a garden that is hardly worthy of the name, and a pile of books I dearly want to read, my vote goes to Phocas, hoping that he will inspire me to tend a make a garden out of the rubble around our house, and also find the time and space to meditate on the written word.

  56. KarenR's Gravatar KarenR
    March 15, 2018 - 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Go, Phocas! I was overwhelmed by this humble servant of Christ. Forgiveness and serene faith are tough for me. I could not fail to honor his example.

  57. john w miller's Gravatar john w miller
    March 15, 2018 - 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I like the humble life of Phocas who seemed to have a holy sense of humility and hospitality. I am in the mood for quiet and calmness rather than the hustle and bustle of a household like that of Katharina. Although she does deserve sainthood for tolerating the surly Luther.

  58. Leamarie's Gravatar Leamarie
    March 15, 2018 - 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Phocas drew my focus today. Though I usually vote for the more modern person, especially if female, today’s description of Phocas the humble farmer stirred me. I was surprised that he was ahead when I saw the results at midday. Love these written descriptions of the lives of the saints and other holy folk.

  59. Jim Wiant's Gravatar Jim Wiant
    March 15, 2018 - 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Being the son of a pastor, I chose Katharina. She was a pastor’s wife who did as much as her husband in ministry, but likely not appreciated for all she did.

  60. TheJazzCat's Gravatar TheJazzCat
    March 15, 2018 - 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Phocas the Gardener, what a beautiful name, sounds like a Druids name from Dungeons and Dragons.

  61. Jacque Fertick's Gravatar Jacque Fertick
    March 15, 2018 - 1:59 pm | Permalink

    This was difficult, but my dad was a sailor, so had to continue voting for Phocas.

  62. MegK's Gravatar MegK
    March 15, 2018 - 2:16 pm | Permalink

    In loving memory of my mother, a rector’s wife, who welcomed strangers, parishioners, other clergy, and even vestry into her home and to her table, I cast my vote for Katharina. Especially poignant is her letter after Martin’s death, pleading for financial assistance. After her husband’s sudden death, at age 51, my mother had to move out of the rectory and find a job. Clergy spouses are truly saints. And God bless the pension fund.

  63. Lee Greenawalt's Gravatar Lee Greenawalt
    March 15, 2018 - 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Although trying to be the dutiful wife of Martin Luther is deserving of sainthood, I chose Phocas as exemplifying saintly life for me. Katharina begged for support from her husband’s friends, while Phocas treated beggars as friends.

  64. Nora's Gravatar Nora
    March 15, 2018 - 2:48 pm | Permalink

    You had me at “Would be to God, I lived it.”

  65. Karen Sculley's Gravatar Karen Sculley
    March 15, 2018 - 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Phocas, for “faithful generosity to the vulnerable and powerful alike” . . . although this was an exceedingly difficult vote today, as I am (along with this generation) challenged by Katharina’s “Would to God, I lived it.”

  66. Anne C.'s Gravatar Anne C.
    March 15, 2018 - 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Methinks I see a little bias in how these two ‘saints’ are portrayed in this round. Phocas’ info is all seriously religious, but the write-up on Katharina von Bora seems rather flippant indeed. But she was a great influence on Luther and her hospitality and family life with Luther was a tremendous ministry. I cast my vote for Katie!

  67. Peggy Hans's Gravatar Peggy Hans
    March 15, 2018 - 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Phocas is my man – as is/was my late husband, Bill, also a dedicated gardener and embodiment of hospitality.

  68. March 15, 2018 - 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Shocked to find Katharina von Bora so far behind. Alas, like many a pastor’s spouse, she is underrated and undervalued. What’s not to love of a priest and nun marrying and giving birth to the Reformation? Of course it wasn’t only them, I know, it was a whole movement; but how different would it have been without the steadying hand and support of Luther’s wife? I really appreciated the comments by Marian the Lutheran at 11:23 am (go see them). If ever a woman deserved sainthood, it is KVB!

  69. March 15, 2018 - 9:48 pm | Permalink

    He was a man of good heart, giving food to the poor and inviting those who were having malicious plans against him in his house and he was a devoted gardener whose work was fruitful…Surely this man was great.

  70. Beth's Gravatar Beth
    March 15, 2018 - 11:24 pm | Permalink

    I am still stunned over the snub of an Archangel!

  71. March 15, 2018 - 11:56 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Katie, who’s the real flesh-and-blood saint to me. As appealing as Phocas is, his story may be a fusion of as many as three different men named Phocas, and I don’t know which of those I’d be voting for.

  72. Tom Smith's Gravatar Tom Smith
    March 16, 2018 - 7:32 am | Permalink

    I’m finding it intriguing to see what inspires us to vote the way we vote. Identification, call to action, inspiration… I am hopeful for more inspiration.

    I’ll offer this borrowed from “Always We Begin Again”:

    Life will always provide matters for concern.
    Each day, however, brings with it reasons for joy.
    Every day carries the potential to bring the experience of heaven;
    have the courage to expect good from it.

    • Donna Devlin's Gravatar Donna Devlin
      March 16, 2018 - 9:20 am | Permalink

      Thank you and RIGHT ON!

  73. Elizabeth (12 years old)'s Gravatar Elizabeth (12 years old)
    March 16, 2018 - 7:48 am | Permalink

    I voted for von bora, for her sass, but of course the guy who gives to the poor was going to win! By Lentmadness standers, it’s not even a battle!

  74. Jennifer of Sol's Gravatar Jennifer of Sol
    March 16, 2018 - 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Points to David for making me look up Euxine Sea and Amasea, and what’s not to love about a generous gardener. But dagnabit I was rooting (ha ha through my tears) for Katharina. Dream of a Battle of the Sidekicks (Pete and Kate) and maybe a Bora beer glass (because realistically who is going to survive Peter) now shattered.

    • Donna Devlin's Gravatar Donna Devlin
      March 16, 2018 - 11:54 pm | Permalink

      Esther or Martin.

  75. Ruth Soule's Gravatar Ruth Soule
    March 17, 2018 - 10:23 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Phocas the gardener as he did more
    for the poor and those who went without food!
    He also made sure sailors had a place to go as well as others! I really didn’t see too much of what Katharina Von Bora did to help others!

  76. Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
    March 19, 2018 - 11:22 am | Permalink

    Just discovered a Phocas-related quirk. His hometown of Sinope shares a name with the 63rd moon of Jupiter. How many of us can say our hometown has a Lunar namesake?

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