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

Loading ... Loading ...




* indicates required

Recent Posts



130 comments on “Martha of Bethany vs. Photini”

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

    1. 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!

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

  3. 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?

    1. “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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. 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!!!!!!!

  6. 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!

    1. 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!

  7. 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.

    1. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

    1. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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 🙂

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!!

  18. 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!

    1. 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?)

  19. 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.... )

  20. 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!!

  21. 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.

  22. 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?

    1. 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.

      1. 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!

        1. 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.)

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

  23. 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."