Martha of Bethany vs. Photini

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. No, Virginia, Santa Claus will not be advancing in Lent Madness 2019. That’s because yesterday, in a shocking upset that rocked the North Pole, Zenaida defeated Nicholas of Myra 59% to 41% to claim the final spot in the Elate Eight. (Also, Virginia, congratulations on winning yesterday’s national championship in that other brackets-based tournament).

We started with 32 saints and 3/4 of them have been cast out, hanging their halos in shame. Okay, that’s not how it works – we’re pretty sure the saints themselves don’t actually care about our little Lenten game of learning. And each and every one of them has already received their own crown of righteousness. Nonetheless, welcome to the Elate Eight.

Who remains? Well, Zenaida joins Martha of Bethany, Photini, Ignatius of Loyola, Gobnait, John Chrysostom, William Wilberforce, and Pandita Ramabai. One of these remaining eight will be awarded the coveted 2019 Golden Halo.

Things kick off with two Biblical heavyweights as Martha of Bethany takes on Photini. To make it to this point, Martha defeated Mary of Bethany and Nicodemus, while Photini took down Ananias and Tabitha. 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.

For more about all things Lent Madness, tune in to yesterday’s edition of Monday Madness, if for some unknown reason you missed it. This week, among other things, Tim and Scott share the First and Great Commandments of Lent Madness.

Martha of Bethany

As an original disciple of Christ living in the first century, we have no idea what St. Martha looked like, nor much of her personality. Yet, people are drawn to her story and long to close the historical divide. Fortunately, there are many varieties of kitsch available to help us connect with her for devotion or emulation, from the orthodox to the syncretic.

On E-bay, you can purchase this multi-saint reliquary for about $1,300 that includes a tiny, holy piece of both Martha and Mary Magdalene, plus five other post-Biblical saints. What a bargain!

In the early days of photography, devotees dreamed up a new way to bring Martha close to us. These included dramatically staged Biblical scenes such as this one, showing the iconic Mary working/Martha listening scene.

And this one, showing the ruins of the house of Martha and Mary in Bethany, c. 1904.

As a novel writer myself, I appreciate the many authors who have chosen Martha as a subject and use their theological imagination to develop her character and explore Biblical themes in depth. I cannot yet personally attest to the theology or quality of writing in these books. However, they certainly have compelling covers that make me want to crack them open and dive in as soon as Martha stops winning in Lent Madness, and I have some time to read recreationally! (Just kidding, vote for Martha!)










And for those in the service industry, for whom Martha is the patron, comes this mini, plastic St. Martha statue, in which Martha holds a ladle and appears before a salver. Surely this devotional item has brought patience and solace to many a waiter while dealing with rude or difficult customers.


This Santa Marta Indio oil is meant for the anointing of the hands when one must overcome difficulties, such as a dragon threatening the town where you live. If you find yourself with that or a similar problem, you can order it online, only $2.50 per bottle! Or you can DIY with recipes available on the Internet.






The Indio oil above shows an offshoot of a Martha devotion I did not know about until I became her advocate in Lent Madness this year. She is honored in Voodoo and other syncretic spiritualities that developed among slaves in the Americas and mix Christianity with traditional West African religion. Martha is revered for her dragon slaying and worshipped as the Dominator, a symbol of female power. While the practices associated with this devotion fall outside orthodox Christianity, the symbol itself is potent: Martha, the friend of Christ and servant of all, is the champion of the oppressed and downtrodden.

Amber Belldene


Icons in the religious tradition are images of the holy, images filled with symbolism that invite us to venerate the examples of saints in prayer, to be still in the presence of an artistic imagining of a holy moment, and to be drawn closer to God in our prayer with them. The Woman at the Well is one of the most popular icons. The church built in commemoration of her encounter with Christ at the well is filled with artistic icons capturing the holy moment when she and Jesus speak with each other in the Gospel of John. While countless artists have imagined that moment, the icons of this moment bring a precise, ethereal vision for us to pray with as we, too, encounter Christ.

Icons, however, may not fully capture the dimension of the encounter. For those of you who appreciate sculpture, Timothy B. Schmaltz has created this sculpture, available in a myriad of sizes, from extra-large for those hard to fill secluded spots in the church garden to personal devotional size, perfect for a coffee table.

If a sculpture isn’t quite your style, don’t worry. The well that played such a central role in the encounter between Photini and Jesus was likely simple – made from stone and materials easily available in the community. While large stones may not be readily available in many communities, old tires are in constant supply, so you, too, can repurpose tires in to your very own garden well, in Lent Madness purple, nonetheless!

While you’re contemplating the magnitude of Photini’s encounter with Jesus in your lovely garden complete with a repurposed tire well, why not sit a while in this moment. But wait, while the ground is nice, having something to sit on would be helpful. And guess what? There’s a round beach towel complete with fringe that will create the perfect place to meditate on Photini and her witness to the Christian faith.


While her name isn’t recorded in the Gospels, after her baptism on Pentecost, the unnamed Samaritan woman in the Gospels is revealed as Photini, meaning, “the enlightened one.” And after a day of sitting on your Photini beach towel by your lovely well in your garden, wouldn’t you love a nice refreshing beverage served from your very own enlightened pitcher or lighted water bottles, for those times you’ve invited guests to your garden well?


Suddenly, you realize the day is done. The sun is setting and our eyes behold the vesper light. As we sing our praises to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we can turn on our Photini nightlight in purple, the official color of Lent Madness.

Of course, Photini’s faith didn’t limit the sharing of the Light of Christ to her homeland. She traveled far and wide in her life to share the teachings of Jesus, enlightening those whom she encountered with the Good News. Not all of us are called to travel the world to share the Light of Christ, but we all can enlighten our neighborhoods for all to see that we, too, are emulating the Enlightened One.


Laurie Brock


Martha of Bethany vs. Photini

  • Martha of Bethany (58%, 3,977 Votes)
  • Photini (42%, 2,844 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,821

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130 Comments to "Martha of Bethany vs. Photini"

  1. John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
    April 9, 2019 - 8:01 am | Permalink

    Once again, my bracket pick (Tabitha) did not make it out of the second round, so I have no limerick for today. However, all three of my other picks have made it to the Elate 8, so I’m still scrivening away…

    For today, I will continue with another stanza about lists, bringing us up to the present:

    As Elate Eight I contemplate, my bracket’s got a hole;
    The good philanthropist: Saint Tabitha’s dismissed!
    But look a little farther, and I might be on a roll
    Should my good luck persist — I hope it may persist!
    So in the meantime I should say exactly where things rest
    Pandita shackled Marguerite; perhaps “shellacked” is best.
    Then Gobnait poured cold water on poor Paula’s resumé
    Zenaida humbled Nicholas; a lump of coal today
    Yet even in this madness I can feel an optimist
    A cautious optimist — about my Lenten list!

    He put them on his list — he’s got ’em on the list;
    Though many of them missed — he’s still an optimist!

    • Kate the Catechist's Gravatar Kate the Catechist
      April 9, 2019 - 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Well done, John! You got it to scan just right too! I sang it.

  2. Michael Wachter's Gravatar Michael Wachter
    April 9, 2019 - 8:01 am | Permalink

    Our musical tribute takes us to the Land of Oz. Our daily show tune can be sung to “Popular” from Stephen Schwartz’s adaptation of “Wicked” – and 5-6-7-8…

    When people vote for someone less saintly than my picks
    (And, let’s face it, who isn’t less saintly than my picks?),
    My bracket shakes as it starts to bust.
    And with victors whom I disagree
    (Like Wilberforce and Photini)
    I try, I TRY not to seem too non-plussed.
    The quarter-finals slate
    (Lent Madness calls this slate: “The Elate Eight”) –
    Our last stops on the road to Holy Week.
    So don’t be meek.
    These gals aren’t weak: Martha of…

    She tends the house endlessly.
    Her brand needs a new upgrade.
    Martha’s not a maid.
    Listen to the words she’d say. (Girl!)
    Of Jesus, her faith confessed.
    (They were BFFs.)
    Theologian of her day. Then there’s…

    No buttercup, No wienie.
    Gave water from Jacob’s well
    Then they talked a spell.
    Living Water she received.
    She’s baptized
    With her five sisters she made believe.

    This is the last vote for the quadrant biblical.
    Take your time. Research. Make sure you’re hypercritical.
    Read what the bloggers wrote about their Quirks,
    Their Quotes, bios, and kitsches.
    Find out what the sitch is.
    Now let’s get back to…

    In Rome as a mission’ry.
    When Nero beat on her palms,
    She just sang the Psalms,
    Which only made him mad as spit…
    uh, Hell.
    And so he martyred her by
    Throwing her into a pit… well…

    La, la, la, la…
    Which one of you’s more pop-u-lar!

    When I watch the votes all day flow
    To saints for the Golden Halo,
    And I see my bracket start to crack,
    I – think – they’re
    Highly suited, well-reputed,
    Miracles are undisputed.
    Is one saint more deserving?
    What does one lack?

    Back to Bethany…
    To Martha of Bethany.
    Her travel to France acclaimed
    And that dragon tamed.
    She’s all she aimed to be.
    More to her than keeping house:

    Why, Lent Madness voter, look at your voting choices. Clear as mud.
    You’re welcome.

    And though some declare,
    “This is so unfair!”
    Go and vote caringly…
    We’ll total up the score, see
    Who makes the Faithful Four
    Next week.

    La, la, la, la
    One makes Faithful Four
    Against Iggy or Gobnait next week!

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 9, 2019 - 9:08 am | Permalink

      Oh Michael, you’ve made me a very happy lady! “Popular” was truly written for this moment! So much fun! “When Nero beat her palms/She just sang the psalms” crackes me up every time I sing it. “The quadrant biblical”! Very clever again, my friend!

      • Ray's Gravatar Ray
        April 9, 2019 - 10:37 am | Permalink

        I just sang it out loud and giggled all thru breakfast. Thank you Michael for a hearty laugh. And Martha got my vote!

  3. Diana's Gravatar Diana
    April 9, 2019 - 8:05 am | Permalink

    What a day in our Lent Madness His-try
    When Martha competes with Photini.
    These women have pleased us
    But more, they love Jesus!
    How are we to choose? ‘Tis a myst’ry.

    “You’re Messiah!’ she said, without question.
    But the Church has ignored her Confession.
    What got Peter a mitre
    Got Martha just nada.
    It’s injustice! More women repression!

    She was nameless, a nothing, a woman
    But Jesus saw in her a someone;
    Sent her from the well
    Her story to tell
    As Apostle, as witness, redeemed one.

    We must choose now the one we will vote for;
    For both proclaimed Jesus, the longed for.
    Whomever advances
    They both took great chances
    For love, hope and truth. Who’s your song for?

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 9, 2019 - 9:11 am | Permalink

      “What got Peter a mitre/ Git Martha just nada.” Truer words have never been typed!

      Fun multi-versed limerick! Thanks, Diana. I’m glad you have joined the ranks of poets.

    • April 9, 2019 - 12:16 pm | Permalink

      Really wonderful! Thank you for this thoughtful and delightful verse.

  4. Ann G.'s Gravatar Ann G.
    April 9, 2019 - 8:05 am | Permalink

    Love them both, both most worthy, but going with #VotePhotini today.

  5. Betsey's Gravatar Betsey
    April 9, 2019 - 8:13 am | Permalink

    I want a Photini nightlight! #VotePhotini

  6. Carolyn Mack's Gravatar Carolyn Mack
    April 9, 2019 - 8:13 am | Permalink

    I always think, “Get out of the kitchen, Martha! Jesus is only here so long. Sit with Mary!” Martha had a wealthy brother, a sister, and the frequent company of Jesus. Photini had little to nothing, not even a name in the Gospels, until, “Jesus gave her water; He gave that woman water; Gave her living, loving, lasting water, and it was not in the well.” Always feels to me that Martha was afraid to “drink.” Photini and Mary were the brave ones, for me.

    • Linda S's Gravatar Linda S
      April 9, 2019 - 9:34 am | Permalink

      Well said!

    • Sally Clark's Gravatar Sally Clark
      April 9, 2019 - 6:55 pm | Permalink

      My views also, Carolyn.

  7. April 9, 2019 - 8:21 am | Permalink

    This is a tough one for me, but I’m going with Photini for the win. Or, as it appears from early results, elimination 🙁

  8. Gloria F. Ishida's Gravatar Gloria F. Ishida
    April 9, 2019 - 8:26 am | Permalink

    I love Martha, not because she seemed a drudge, but because the account of Jesus gives her a raw deal, that she doesn’t deserve. What more did Jesus, who was somewhat of a free loader, say. “come here, Martha, I will help with my meal. Whoa. Really?

    • linda's Gravatar linda
      April 9, 2019 - 9:00 am | Permalink

      Thank you for writing what I have always thought.

    • Linda S's Gravatar Linda S
      April 9, 2019 - 9:48 am | Permalink

      Oh, my goodness! That hit me by surprise.
      One muse imagine Jesus’s value was in his liberating teaching and healing ministry he’s in the thick of as he visits Mary and Martha and Lazarus.

    • Barbara A.K. Franklin's Gravatar Barbara A.K. Franklin
      April 10, 2019 - 2:12 am | Permalink

      This is very unfair. Nobody suggested to Jesus that there was a need for a meal. If they had, I can;t believe that he would not have gotten up to help. He just wasn’t thinking about that. I am annoyed by martyrish Martha, and it looks like she is going to win. Have to say that everyone I have really liked and voted for this year has lost. BOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

  9. April 9, 2019 - 8:34 am | Permalink

    I had to vote for Photini because of the imagination and creativity of her blogger, Laurie Brock! She had me at the purple tire well!

    • Lynne Marie's Gravatar Lynne Marie
      April 9, 2019 - 11:48 am | Permalink

      If we were voting just on the basis of kitch, Photini should win hands down. My question is wether Laurie Brock found a picture of the tire well, or she made it herself in order to win this round!

  10. Patricia Rosenberg's Gravatar Patricia Rosenberg
    April 9, 2019 - 8:40 am | Permalink

    The tires! The nightlight! Oh, my.

  11. Michelle C's Gravatar Michelle C
    April 9, 2019 - 8:43 am | Permalink

    I love the saintly kitsch round. The celebrity bloggers do such a great job of finding the kitsch. Much of it makes me laugh and who can’t use a laugh first thing in the morning? I found the songs especially inspired this morning with even more giggles from me. Thank you Amber, Laurie, John, Michael, and Diana.

    This was a tough match up indeed. I have loved learning more about the woman at the well but I’ve always had a soft spot for Martha so it’s Martha for me today.

    • Tessa Lucero's Gravatar Tessa Lucero
      April 9, 2019 - 12:56 pm | Permalink

      I also get a giggle from all the saintly kitsch, and I think Pinterest has a lot to answer for as far as this morning’s serving of tchotchkes goes.

  12. Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
    April 9, 2019 - 8:43 am | Permalink

    Lent Madness Kitsch Round
    It’s a good thing.

    Even if the Golden Halo Ring Toss won’t be added to the reindeer games at the North Pole. I voted for Zenaida but I would have loved to see Saint Nick’s kitsch.

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 9, 2019 - 9:25 am | Permalink

      You are funny, Miss Jan! Golden Halo ring toss!

  13. Mama J's Gravatar Mama J
    April 9, 2019 - 8:48 am | Permalink

    I’ve been enlightened! Photini for the kitsch!

  14. Barbara Kurtz's Gravatar Barbara Kurtz
    April 9, 2019 - 8:48 am | Permalink

    What great examples of kitsch on both sides. I laughed out loud at the well made of purple tires. However, Martha of Bethany has always had my heart, and she’ll continue to have it. Go Martha!

    • Mollie Douglas Turner's Gravatar Mollie Douglas Turner
      April 9, 2019 - 10:18 am | Permalink

      My sentiments exactly! Photini kitsch was wonderful, wonderful! I was nearly swayed, but Martha and her sister are the saints of my birthday (and now they’re shoehorning brother Laz in there, too ), so I’m going for Martha for the Golden Halo!

  15. St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
    April 9, 2019 - 8:49 am | Permalink

    It’s hard to turn down that kitschy, fake well of repurposed purple tires. But I am voting for Martha. Both of these women are essential to the gospel. One cannot imagine it without either the Samaritan woman or Martha. Yet Martha was witness to one of Jesus’ miracles. I identify with her sense of dissatisfaction and her lamenting to Jesus. I still think one of the men should have gotten up to help her; and I like to imagine that one did.

  16. Tonya Eza's Gravatar Tonya Eza
    April 9, 2019 - 8:50 am | Permalink

    Yes to Miss Jan! Can we have a special post devoted to St. Nick’s kitsch? Please? As for today, I thought Martha had much better kitsch than Photini, so I voted for her.

  17. DyLynn's Gravatar DyLynn
    April 9, 2019 - 8:51 am | Permalink

    I’m always a bit dehydrated…need to drink more water. Going to the well!

  18. SuzyD's Gravatar SuzyD
    April 9, 2019 - 8:53 am | Permalink

    I bet Jesus still enjoyed that meal that Martha prepared, while basically criticizing her in front of her sister. As a responsible eldest child, I’m going with Martha. And, she did eventually get out of the kitchen 🙂

  19. Mary Jane C. Ingalls's Gravatar Mary Jane C. Ingalls
    April 9, 2019 - 8:54 am | Permalink

    Such silliness…I voted for Martha. I love the 3D stereoscope cards. I’m one of the dorks who collects those relics.

    • JustMeJo's Gravatar JustMeJo
      April 9, 2019 - 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Oh, me, too! And we are in excellent company indeed with Brian May!

  20. April 9, 2019 - 8:55 am | Permalink

    We have to choose tireless Martha who got it all done, day in, day out. We love her story, her medal, dragon, brother Lazarus, and sister Mary as well. We tend to admire her most for her supreme sisterly qualities, no doubt reasons why we describe her as a patroness of sisters, sororities and the esteemed sisterly saint invoked for lifetime friendships. On the “Brady Bunch,” Jan may have whined about “Marcia, Marcis, Marcis,” but in our book, there’s no big sister better than Saint Martha, Martha, Martha, of Bethany.

    • Kathy in Nicaragua's Gravatar Kathy in Nicaragua
      April 9, 2019 - 10:22 am | Permalink

      “tireless” Martha — true, today it was Photini who had the tires!

      • Grace Kennedy's Gravatar Grace Kennedy
        April 9, 2019 - 2:10 pm | Permalink

        LOL, loved that well! I’m going to start looking for some tires!

  21. Debbie Brewin-Wilson's Gravatar Debbie Brewin-Wilson
    April 9, 2019 - 8:57 am | Permalink

    I’ve been dreading today’s match-up, since I championed both of these saints in earlier rounds. Loved reading today’s info on them. I may need to order that nightlight & beach towel–but I voted for Martha.

  22. Peg S.'s Gravatar Peg S.
    April 9, 2019 - 9:02 am | Permalink

    Kitsch-finding kudos to Amber and Laurie! You made the decision even harder in this epic battle between two saints who each teach me something new every time I hear their stories.

  23. April 9, 2019 - 9:13 am | Permalink

    St Martha with a ladle? that is something I can get behind, I need one for my kitchen methinks!!! St Martha for the win for me!!

  24. Millie Ericson's Gravatar Millie Ericson
    April 9, 2019 - 9:14 am | Permalink

    OMG! The best kitsch ever. I’m envisioning a bidding war on eBay for that reliquary and an internet overload as folks try to locate that plastic Martha. I’ll also be on the lookout for bright lights in the sky emanating from a neighbor’s exterior lighting display and statuary signaling support of the “Enlightened One”.

    I’ve switched my support to Photini because, well, who can resist adding a purple tire well to one’s garden!

    • Barbara's Gravatar Barbara
      April 9, 2019 - 9:36 am | Permalink

      Agree that both bloggers outdid themselves today with their search for saintly kitsch and their entertaining writing. I laughed out loud at the purple nightlight and the over-the-top Christmas lights display. (Is that Dykker Heights in Brooklyn?)

  25. Mary Ruth McKenney's Gravatar Mary Ruth McKenney
    April 9, 2019 - 9:18 am | Permalink

    The purple tire well spoke to me!!!

  26. Dorothy Drennen's Gravatar Dorothy Drennen
    April 9, 2019 - 9:19 am | Permalink

    Martha, all the way to the Golden Halo. (And in the kitsch, she bears a remarkable[and fierce] resemblance to Mother Kali from the Hindu tradition…. )

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 9, 2019 - 9:30 am | Permalink

      Oh, you’re right! That is one scary lady…

    • St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
      April 9, 2019 - 10:27 am | Permalink

      She reminded me of the Minoan snake goddess.

      • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
        April 9, 2019 - 1:27 pm | Permalink

        These fierce women are everywhere!

  27. Samantha Rainman's Gravatar Samantha Rainman
    April 9, 2019 - 9:20 am | Permalink

    I have a butterfly garden made with repurposed tires that I have painted a variety of bright colors!! I HAVE to phote (!) for Photini!! The purple tire well sold me on it!! If she wins the Golden Halo, I will make a Purple Photini Water Well for my backyard!!! Pictures will be posted!!

  28. April 9, 2019 - 9:21 am | Permalink

    This is my favorite round. I was undecided today until I saw Marta Dominadora and was reminded that she didn’t have to kill the dragon. She tamed it. May we learn her wisdom.

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 9, 2019 - 9:39 am | Permalink


  29. Marie Cantrell's Gravatar Marie Cantrell
    April 9, 2019 - 9:26 am | Permalink

    Voting for Photini largely because I loved the folk song sung by Ian and Sylvia in the 60’s. Does anyone else remember that talented folk singing duo from Canada and their rendition of “Jesus met the woman at the well?

    • Marian the Lutheran's Gravatar Marian the Lutheran
      April 9, 2019 - 9:47 am | Permalink

      I do! I do! We still sing it occasionally at our church. I love when the pianist “puts a roll on it” and I feel like I want to dance. I think Peter, Paul, and Mary also did a cover of it.

      • Nano's Gravatar Nano
        April 9, 2019 - 10:58 am | Permalink

        I remember the PP&M version of the “Jesus Met the Woman at the Well” folk song. I heard PP&M sing it in person, when I was in college back in the 1960s. Great harmonies!

      • Becky Smith's Gravatar Becky Smith
        April 9, 2019 - 11:47 am | Permalink

        Our youth choir performed this song in church in the early 70’s. I don’t think I’ve heard it since (until today), though the song has stayed with me. Thanks Lent Madness!

        • St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
          April 9, 2019 - 12:52 pm | Permalink

          What were your keystrokes to get the video to embed? YouTube often simply puts the code in for me without actually embedding the video. (Asking the tech.)

    • Samantha Rainman's Gravatar Samantha Rainman
      April 9, 2019 - 5:17 pm | Permalink

      Several singers have sung that song, including Mahalia Jackson, Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan! I am partial to Mahalia Jacksons rendition!!!

  30. Alan Christensen's Gravatar Alan Christensen
    April 9, 2019 - 9:26 am | Permalink

    I have the plastic St. Martha statue. It comes with this prayer: “O blessed St. Martha, I beseech thee to help me to serve others with just enough grace, humility and patience to garner a healthy gratuity. Amen.”

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 9, 2019 - 1:29 pm | Permalink


  31. Jane Trambley's Gravatar Jane Trambley
    April 9, 2019 - 9:28 am | Permalink

    #Photini. The woman shunned, scorned, used. Until THIS guy talked to her.

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 9, 2019 - 9:36 am | Permalink

      Love. This.

  32. Elaine's Gravatar Elaine
    April 9, 2019 - 9:30 am | Permalink

    Tough choice. I did want to vote for Martha for her service, that much-ignored or maligned or thankless “women’s work” which she faithfully performed on top of her devotion to Christ. But I have to go with Photini. She engaged Jesus in theological discussion, and any first-century woman theologian must get my vote.

  33. Fiona's Gravatar Fiona
    April 9, 2019 - 9:30 am | Permalink

    Laurie Brock won my vote with the fabulous tire well, and inspired kitsch collection. Summer evenings in the garden will be transformed!

  34. Nancy's Gravatar Nancy
    April 9, 2019 - 9:31 am | Permalink

    Let’s give Photini a chance. Love the purple tire well and need more nightlights these days. We voted for Photini!!!
    We have my grandfather’s stereopticon cards too, quite a treasure including a series from the San Francisco fire.

  35. April 9, 2019 - 9:32 am | Permalink

    I said what I meant, and I meant what I said. I’m voting for Photini 100%! I love this round also, Willa. I’m a kitsch collector, so this round always makes me covetous!

  36. Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
    April 9, 2019 - 9:35 am | Permalink

    I decided to throw caution to the wind and vote today solely based on the kitsch. I had picked Tabitha for the biblical quadrant, so….. why not?
    And Photini’s kitsch was the kitschiest, IMHO. That purple well, the nightlight, and the drink (a photini, right?)—what a combination! Hilarious! Voting for Photini!

  37. Rhee Howard's Gravatar Rhee Howard
    April 9, 2019 - 9:39 am | Permalink

    The celebrity blogger’s post above has reversed the Bible story — Martha was the one working, Mary the one listening. Which is why Mary of Bethany should have had the chance to win the Golden Halo, not her sister, IMHO.
    Also, What the heck is up with eliminating NICHOLAS of MYRA!? So disappointing!!

    • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
      April 9, 2019 - 11:27 am | Permalink

      He probably got voted off Lent Madness Island because of all the Ponys that have not appeared next to Christmas trees. That and Saint Zenaida’s example of providing universal health care without regard to the patient’s ability to pay.

  38. Carolyn's Gravatar Carolyn
    April 9, 2019 - 9:40 am | Permalink

    Difficult to make a choice but Martha has to be today for me. Our book study in my Sunday School class, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, has inspired more thinking about Martha in depth for me , as Jesus told Martha “There is only one thing needed “ and I strive for that one thing, intimacy with God, and I believe all else will fall into place, Thanks be to God!

  39. Marian the Lutheran's Gravatar Marian the Lutheran
    April 9, 2019 - 9:42 am | Permalink

    This one is especially hard as both these women speak to different aspects of my personality. Who among us hasn’t been so focused on putting together a big family or church dinner (no matter how much help you have) that you missed being involved in the important stuff going on? And then even complained that this one person can’t lend a hand? Or been so consumed by grief that you blame others around you?
    On the other hand, we have a woman who listened with her mind and her heart. When presented with something out of the ordinary she came to an obvious conclusion (Well, duh. You’re the messiah. > eye roll<) and then others finally see what was right in front of them.
    We have the OCD and the seer of the obvious. Today I shall go with OCD since I'm Spring Cleaning and that seems to be a very Martha thing to do. (If only St Brigit were also here to help!)

  40. Anne E.B's Gravatar Anne E.B
    April 9, 2019 - 9:51 am | Permalink

    Martha has my heart.

  41. Rene Jamieson's Gravatar Rene Jamieson
    April 9, 2019 - 9:52 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that there are more than enough real people who achieved sainthood, that Scott and Tim don’t have to throw undocumented saints into the lists of Lent Madness. If this nonsense keeps up, I assume that next year we can expect to see Lady Godiva in the lists as the patron saint of Libertarians! My vote today goes to Martha, the patron saint of all the women who have toiled faithfully in the back rooms of the church down through the millenia. We can speculate that Photini talked with Jesus. We know that Martha did.

    • Lisa Keppeler's Gravatar Lisa Keppeler
      April 9, 2019 - 10:30 am | Permalink

      Photini is well-documented in the Gospels; she’s just not named. Happened with women all the time, and in her case tradition remedied this very early on in Church history.

    • April 9, 2019 - 12:19 pm | Permalink

      She literally has the longest recorded conversation with Jesus in any gospel. And is the first to share the good news with others. Despite being maligned for centuries she is LITERALLY the first preacher, first to name Jesus messiah, first to come into the light. John 4 documents her well, better than almost any other woman in scripture…

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 9, 2019 - 1:34 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know what you mean by “undocumented,” René. All the saints we vote on in Lent Madness are genuine, bonafide saints recognized as such in at least one branch of the Church Universal. And both these ladies are in the Bible, so…?

    • Davis Dassori's Gravatar Davis Dassori
      April 9, 2019 - 4:04 pm | Permalink

      But we do know that Photini spoke, at length, with Jesus. What we don’t know is what her real name was.

      • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
        April 9, 2019 - 5:28 pm | Permalink

        I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t Photini. Maybe it was Mariam, or Joanna. Or Shoshanna (Susan)!

  42. Sandy's Gravatar Sandy
    April 9, 2019 - 9:54 am | Permalink

    Marvelous kitsch for both saints!! I was almost drawn over by the hysterical purple tire well but in the end couldn’t vote against Martha.

  43. Carol G's Gravatar Carol G
    April 9, 2019 - 9:55 am | Permalink

    I planned to vote for Martha the Dominator but the Enlightened One glasses and pitcher setchanged my mind. I’m sure Martha would live to use them in hosting!

  44. Jendi's Gravatar Jendi
    April 9, 2019 - 9:56 am | Permalink

    Photini has the best kitsch today, but Voodoo Martha has my vote. For me, that statue embodies the archetype of woman’s wisdom, symbolized in many cultures by the serpent. Let’s be careful not to conflate white Western Christianity with “orthodoxy”. Such phrasing suggests that the folk religion of black slaves–truly “the least of these” whom Jesus had special concern for–is less legitimate than the traditions of the masters.

  45. Linda S's Gravatar Linda S
    April 9, 2019 - 10:07 am | Permalink

    This round has the two saints that sparked my imagination the most, and I must now chose between them.
    1. I love that the tradition of the Church has provided very plausible snippets that follow-up the Biblical narrative.
    2. With these ladies, I’ve appreciated that of course, they likely evolved in their faith and lives and became solid Christian workers.
    3. Using a holy imagination, Lent Madness has allowed me to see Martha in a new light. I can now see that one biblical scene as but her beginnings and, like us all, God takes those disappointing characteristics and reworks them into strengths. It makes perfect sense that Martha’s grew up in her faith and found a balance between all service and burn-out with fulfilling contemplation practices.
    4. I also LOVE that I now have “met” the wonderful, enlightened Photini! I love that the person with the checkered past has the longest recorded dialog with Jesus. I love that this nobody of nobodies in a nowhere backwater town had the attention of Jesus. Just as we have the attention of Jesus.
    I voted for Photini but I’ll be pleased for Martha, for sure!

    • Linda S's Gravatar Linda S
      April 9, 2019 - 10:15 am | Permalink

      Oh! I forgot to share a fun kitschy Martha detail. Over the years, I’ve been involved with a wonderful Catholic retreat program called ACTS. In the ACTS playbook, there are teams that have responsibilities for specific retreat functions. The folks wearing the aprons who run around serving coffee to the retreatants and who clean up the tables between meals and program are called the “Martha’s”.
      The Martha’s are always the funnest, hippest of the team members.

  46. Ann Tottenham's Gravatar Ann Tottenham
    April 9, 2019 - 10:18 am | Permalink

    As a down-to-earth bishop wh0 lost out on Tabitha, I must vote for Martha who is the epitome of grounded holiness and service.

  47. Rachel's Gravatar Rachel
    April 9, 2019 - 10:25 am | Permalink

    I’ll champion Martha to the end. People remember one story about her complaining but forget that when her brother died, SHE was the one who went out and met Jesus. She was the one who proclaimed him the messiah and proclaimed her faith in him and in the resurrection. And then afterward she had to make Mary go see him. Martha was no slouch in the faith department. Plus, dragon.

  48. Martha's Gravatar Martha
    April 9, 2019 - 10:25 am | Permalink

    As a Martha, I’ve always thought M of B got a raw deal — glad she got out of the kitchen to France and polished her dragon killing skills. There was always more to her than a household drudge. Go Martha !

  49. Ruth Douglas Miller's Gravatar Ruth Douglas Miller
    April 9, 2019 - 10:27 am | Permalink

    It remains that the story of the woman at the well has made the gospel clearer to countless people down thru the ages. I’m voting for my best guess at greates positive influence over centuries! (Besides, I’m a ‘Mary’.)

  50. Peggy Nelson's Gravatar Peggy Nelson
    April 9, 2019 - 10:28 am | Permalink

    Sipping a Photini Martini and sitting by the
    tire well…what could be better? Perhaps it
    could be better if I did this in the evening
    rather than with breakfast! HMMM!

  51. Kate Mason's Gravatar Kate Mason
    April 9, 2019 - 10:29 am | Permalink

    Outsider, open
    to Christ’s transformation.
    Photini is us.

    • Jane Trambley's Gravatar Jane Trambley
      April 9, 2019 - 3:14 pm | Permalink


  52. Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
    April 9, 2019 - 10:31 am | Permalink

    Much as I admire Photini, the statuette of Martha as a voodoo dragon-slayer/serpent-wearer tipped the scales.
    That and my original comment about God forgiving those of us who complain.
    (And that purple nightlight was just a bit too much.)

  53. Betsy's Gravatar Betsy
    April 9, 2019 - 10:33 am | Permalink

    My favorite round! Both celebrity bloggers are to be commended, but truly it was the purple nightlight that got my vote. Photini it is!
    And I just hope ya’ll who didn’t vote for Santa Claus yesterday don’t find yourselves with coal…or worse! in those Christmas stockings come Dec.

  54. Jeff Downey's Gravatar Jeff Downey
    April 9, 2019 - 10:35 am | Permalink

    One of my favorite images of Photini is a painting of Jesus sharing a smoke with the woman at the well. It’s one of the those traditional pieces of religious art with the cigarette photoshopped in. Not very edifying, but very human.

    Also there’s a wonderful series of paintings of Jesus and the Samaritan woman done by Jacek Malczewski, in a style known as Polish Symbolism, that’s worth looking up on Google.

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 9, 2019 - 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Links or photos, please!!

  55. Christina Swidrak's Gravatar Christina Swidrak
    April 9, 2019 - 10:36 am | Permalink

    I have to vote for Photini all the way through. I have thought of Martha throughout my life as someone who didn’t want to learn what God was teaching because of the pure act she never wanted to sit with Mary to listen to Him. I believe cleanliness is next to Godliness but when you have the chance to sit and be with the One you take that moment and put aside all things no matter what.

  56. Wendy Webster Coakley's Gravatar Wendy Webster Coakley
    April 9, 2019 - 10:37 am | Permalink

    Kudos to Amber and Laurie for setting such a high bar for future rounds of Saintly Kitsch. Laughing out loud is the new Lenten devotion.

  57. Kathy in Nicaragua's Gravatar Kathy in Nicaragua
    April 9, 2019 - 10:47 am | Permalink

    I voted for Martha. But during this kitsch round I wanted to share a photo of “Photini” from the Good Friday commemoration in the indigenous community Subtiava of Leon Nicaragua. I can’t find any way to post a photo in my comment. I tried inserting it in a Word document and copying over the whole document, but the photo did not appear. Anybody know whether that’s possible and how?

    • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
      April 9, 2019 - 11:34 am | Permalink

      You would need to find (or post elsewhere) the image online and then post the link in a comment here.

      • Kathy in Nicaragua's Gravatar Kathy in Nicaragua
        April 9, 2019 - 12:26 pm | Permalink

        OK, let’s try that. I voted for Martha. But every Good Friday I travel to Leon Nicaragua to see the sawdust paintings (called “alfombras” which means carpets) that are created in the streets of the indigenous community Subtiava. At the end of the night, a funeral procession bearing an effigy of Jesus on a bier comes through and walks along all those alfombras, kind of like rolling out the red carpet. People along the procession route frequently set up altars and/or portray Biblical scenes. The woman at the well is a favorite. See photo at

        • Kathy in Nicaragua's Gravatar Kathy in Nicaragua
          April 9, 2019 - 12:29 pm | Permalink

          That seems to work! All one has to do is click on the link, even though it doesn’t show up as a hyperlink. Thanks, Miss Jan.

        • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
          April 9, 2019 - 1:45 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, Kathy, for persisting and posting that cool picture! She looks elegant!

        • St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
          April 9, 2019 - 2:04 pm | Permalink

          I saw the picture. Also at the symphony during the national anthem at the opening concert I “took a knee” in the aisle. Don’t know if anyone paid any attention. Just FYI.

          • Kathy in Nicaragua's Gravatar Kathy in Nicaragua
            April 9, 2019 - 4:20 pm | Permalink

            So glad to know that. Thanks for reading my blog!

  58. Elaine Chilcote's Gravatar Elaine Chilcote
    April 9, 2019 - 11:08 am | Permalink

    This was the best kitsch ever. Except maybe for the bag of St. Stephen Rock Candy a few years ago.

    • St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
      April 9, 2019 - 2:06 pm | Permalink

      or the “yellow fever” cocktail in honor of the Martyrs of Memphis:
      1 1/2 ounces vodka
      1/2 ounce Galliano
      1/2 ounce lime juice
      1 ounce pineapple juice

    • April 10, 2019 - 6:54 am | Permalink

      I still laugh about the rock candy!

  59. Sai's Gravatar Sai
    April 9, 2019 - 11:11 am | Permalink

    The comments today have caused me to rethink my basic annoyance with Martha. It always bugs me that Martha feels compelled to complain to Jesus about Mary’s not helping her. I understand Martha’s frustration, but putting her guest on the spot seems totally out of line. So, yes, Martha can be viewed positively as “serving others,” but, to me, her complaining attitude negates her good works (in this instance).
    Photini, on the other hand, impresses me as someone who, outside Jesus’ sphere, totally ‘gets’ him. What a long conversation she had with Jesus! She was immediately converted and converted many fellow Samaritans. And don’t forget, Photini was tortured and died for her faith!
    Meanwhile, “Martha lived a life of daily devotion in France until she died.” She may have served Jesus (whilst complaining), but when and where did she serve others?
    Obviously, my vote goes to Photini.

  60. Barbara MacRobie's Gravatar Barbara MacRobie
    April 9, 2019 - 11:25 am | Permalink

    Delightful kitsch and witty write-ups! Thank you, Amber and Laurie! I especially love the stretch of “enlightening our neighborhoods. And wow, who knew that Martha was a powerhouse in Voodoo!

    I admire the woman at the well, but I think it’s precisely because she was such a compelling character that later writers couldn’t resist giving her further adventures- holy fanfiction. I agree with Leslie’s comment in the Tabitha matchup: “Photini is a later character – given a name, and martyrdom – and merged with the woman at the well for greater effect.”

    Martha has my vote. Outspoken, practical, hands-on active, and champion of all those who do invaluable but unvalued jobs.

  61. John Miller's Gravatar John Miller
    April 9, 2019 - 11:37 am | Permalink

    Photini is my choice in this round. Jesus is validating her by breaking through some of the prejudice that people had and still have about the place of women in society. Martha represents what role women are, still in some societies, expected to be. This is one more example of how Jesus crashed through the assumptions people had and often still have about women.

  62. Davis Dassori's Gravatar Davis Dassori
    April 9, 2019 - 11:53 am | Permalink

    While I have reservations about voting for a dominatrix, I have more about voting for Photini on the basis of unscriptural stories created by the early church. The Gospels don’t tell us a whole lot about who Martha was, but it’s much more than they tell us about the anonymous “woman at the well.” Jesus doesn’t even bother to answer her not unreasonable question, but launches into a discourse that plays on her incomprehension to further John’s purpose of telling us who Jesus is. Even her name, not to mention her subsequent career, is an invention of the early church. I love the stories, but Martha’s powerful presence in the Gospels needs no embroidery.

  63. Mary Lou's Gravatar Mary Lou
    April 9, 2019 - 11:54 am | Permalink

    I want that Martha with the ladle!

  64. Margaret Hasselman's Gravatar Margaret Hasselman
    April 9, 2019 - 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I could do without the kitsch, thank you.

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      April 9, 2019 - 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Oh no! You’re not being kranky, are you??

      • St Celia's Gravatar St Celia
        April 9, 2019 - 11:11 pm | Permalink

        Sie ist krank mit Kitschkrankheit.

  65. Venitra DeGraffenreid's Gravatar Venitra DeGraffenreid
    April 9, 2019 - 12:14 pm | Permalink

    What can I say? I have a culinary degree and work in the industry.

  66. Kim's Gravatar Kim
    April 9, 2019 - 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Hardest one yet! I so wanted to vote for both, but no can do. I will be happy if one of them wins the Golden Halo, though.

  67. Laura's Gravatar Laura
    April 9, 2019 - 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Celebrity Blogger, Amber Belldene, for increasing my vocabulary with “syncretic”!

    Excellent and inventive assortment of kitsch, Celebrity Blogger, Laurie Brock!

  68. Adelaide Kent's Gravatar Adelaide Kent
    April 9, 2019 - 12:28 pm | Permalink

    From last Sunday’s gospel: “Martha served.”
    Jesus: the one who would be greatest among you must be the servant of all.

  69. Doris Mote's Gravatar Doris Mote
    April 9, 2019 - 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I have to vote for Photini because way back in 1973 I wrote about her on my GOEs as a model for a modern day priest. One who meets Jesus, comes to believe in him,tells her friends and neighbors and who is finally told that they no longer believe in him only because of her witness but because of her they have met him themselves.

    • William Loring's Gravatar William Loring
      April 10, 2019 - 12:44 am | Permalink

      Thank you for expressing my thoughts so nicely.

  70. April 9, 2019 - 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Let’s see…the woman who missed the point when Jesus was literally in her living room, AND THEN triangulated Jesus instead of just talking to her sister directly, providing a biblical example of unhealthy communication that continues to cripple the church to this day…
    The woman who had the longest documented conversation with Jesus of anyone in the gospels, then shared what she had learned with her whole town, caking Jesus the messiah, and bringing them to him to see for themselves—aka, the first preacher to evangelise successfully, and the symbol of how enlightened ones act on the good news (as opposed to those still in darkness like Nicodemus in the previous chapter).

    Plus the well and the nightlight!
    I can’t believe this isn’t a landslide for #teamPhotini. Too many unappreciated people who missed out on the teaching because they insisted on cleaning up first, methinks. Please, people, don’t vote for the triangulator, but for the one who brings people to Jesus!

  71. JOAN OGDEN's Gravatar JOAN OGDEN
    April 9, 2019 - 12:50 pm | Permalink

    This was such a tough choice, but Photini — speaking back, and then speaking out — has to be celebrated!

  72. Judy Bye's Gravatar Judy Bye
    April 9, 2019 - 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I’ve chalked up Jesus’ rude response to Martha as coming from his fully human side and am lucky I never had to read that aloud, publicly. In spite of everything else credited to Martha, she seems to have kept women in the kitchen for centuries–actually and figuratively–as in not fit for anything in many denominations. In the Episcopal church females could dress the altar and the priest, and work in the kitchen. On the other hand, the woman at the well story, has validated and welcomed all, including all genders, who felt unworthy. I know real, living people for whom the woman at the well story brought them into the fold, just as they were. My vote goes to the woman at the well.

  73. Amy's Gravatar Amy
    April 9, 2019 - 1:33 pm | Permalink

    The purple tire well is mighty kitschy, but the $1,300 “reliquary” on ebay takes the kitsch-cake, for me. Martha gets my vote, also because I’d like to know who Jesus thought was going to feed him and those extra 13 guys he brought along to dinner. Imho, he should have had the whole group get up and prepare the meal together, and they could have talked while working!

  74. Pamela Payne's Gravatar Pamela Payne
    April 9, 2019 - 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely the toughest choice in this year’s Madness. I love Martha and her witness and work (also the taming of the dragon is such a great tale). But when I tried a first visit to the Episcopal church next door to my Roman Catholic church, I was invited to a meeting of the Women at the Well, a group of women sharing their journeys and ongoing faith studies. This church has been my faith home for more than 25 years now, and the Women at the Well were largely responsible. Photini for the Golden Halo!

  75. John Lewis's Gravatar John Lewis
    April 9, 2019 - 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Loved the Kitsch offerings, especially the Martha Dominadora statues (though I had to repress an urge to translate that title as Martha the Dominatrix). With my background in anthropology I have a great regard for syncretic religious traditions, so I’m looking around my house for a place to enshrine a statuette where she’ Be comfortable. However, this Lent I’ve been meditating night and day on Photini without any icon of her in said house, just the words in the Gospel.

  76. Judy Bye's Gravatar Judy Bye
    April 9, 2019 - 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I forgot. This has always been my favorite round. Amber Belldene and Laurie Brock it was well worth all your time! I laughed out loud for a long time and that means a lot. Like many others the $1300 ebay thing, plastic Martha, the awful book covers, the purple tire well, the drinks, the night light and the ugly Christmas lit up house had me in tears! Mike did bring some similar items back from Jerusalem that we wrapped up for Christmas gifts and all of us laughed till we cried. Many, many thanks. Well done.

  77. Cap'n Black's Gravatar Cap'n Black
    April 9, 2019 - 2:12 pm | Permalink

    My vote is for Photini. I shall recycle, repurpose, reuse, and re-tire. Then sit by my well, and listen for the voices.

  78. Diane in Maine's Gravatar Diane in Maine
    April 9, 2019 - 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Excellent comments all! Still, in honor of the dedicated “church ladies” who really keep the church running and as a former cocktail waitress/waitress, gotta vote for Martha!

  79. Jacque Fertick's Gravatar Jacque Fertick
    April 9, 2019 - 5:12 pm | Permalink

    This was a hard choice. I admire Martha as she is everything I’m not (cooking, cleaning, etc.). But I understand the value of water as I work for a water company, so feel a connection to Photini. So she got my vote. Plus I love all her kitsch.

  80. April 10, 2019 - 6:47 am | Permalink

    This is my favorite round!

  81. Tricia Pulsifer's Gravatar Tricia Pulsifer
    April 10, 2019 - 8:39 am | Permalink

    You did a great job on Photini kitsch, as well as, providing me with new appreciation for icons and other items to help us draw our attention and focus on the holy. Thank you.

Comments are closed.