Zenaida vs. Pandita Ramabai

Who will face Martha of Bethany for the Golden Halo? That's the question for today after Martha stung Gobnait 51% to 49% despite a late swarm (and a whiff of overzealous Gobnait supporters) to reach the Lent Madness Championship round.

To get to this point, Zenaida took down Apollonia, Nicholas of Myra, and John Chrysostom, while Pandita defeated Damien of Molokai, Marguerite d'Youville, and William Wilberforce. Whoever wins, the Golden Halo will be decided on Spy Wednesday, with the results announced at 8:00 am Eastern Time on Maundy Thursday. The end is near!

SEC Reminder: We know people get swept up in the fervor of Lent Madness, and sometimes they get so excited they want to vote a few times. Yesterday, we observed quite a few cases of people voting for one saint several times, often 20 or more times. When we catch these, we ban those IP addresses and, assuming we can ascertain with confidence the number of votes, we reverse the votes. Our goal is to make Lent Madness fair and fun for everyone, one person making one vote. We use a combination of manual and automated systems to watch this and yesterday, to try to get these as early as possible, we set our triggers pretty low. So if you find yourself banned, do let us know. And make sure you’re only voting one time per contest! Big Lent is watching...

Oh, and if for some crazy set of circumstances, you missed yesterday's final in-season episode of Monday Madness featuring our first-ever in studio guest, make sure to catch it here.

ZenaidaAs the sun began to rise over the mountains, Zenaida, Philonella, and Hermione linked hands and bowed their heads in prayer. Lifting their words and hearts to God, they ask that they be filled with grace to serve today’s patients. Zenaida loved this opportunity to connect with her sisters before a busy day at their make-shift hospital. The sisters found that beginning each day with prayer helped them focus their care and practice so that they would not only minister to what ailed their patients’ physical bodies, but also called them to minister to their spirits.

The day was going to be a hot one. The dust from the caves made it difficult to keep the wounds of the patients clean. The sisters gave thanks regularly that the cave where they housed their “unmercenary” hospital had a mineral spring to aid in cleaning the patients. So many of the poor arrived dirty, malnourished, and dehydrated. The spring was a gift to their pracZenaida Icontice that kept giving.

Despite the heat and dirt, Zenaida was excited. She had asked her cousin, Paul the Apostle, to come by. There was a patient who had asked to be baptized. This baptism was especially heartening as this patient had been convinced only magics, charms, and amulets could heal his illness. She knew through her studies that there were far more effective treatments available and that his true healing would only come through nurturing his whole person: mind, body, and spirit. Zenaida felt that she was helping him make a real breakthrough in his mental and spiritual health when he asked for the healing waters of baptism. He finally seemed to realize that no physical cure was sustaining without the gift of salvation.

Today, Zenaida felt the presence of the Holy Spirit strongly. So many of the patients thanked her and her sisters for the free healthcare they provided. She wished she could explain to them that the opportunity to share the love of God with others was worth more than any gold they could ever pay. In fact, Zenaida and Philonella had plans to take their inheritance and invest in building a hospital in nearby Demitriada. Zenaida knew she would have no need of her wealth as long as she could continue to serve the people of God. She was at peace.

Heavenly Father, we asked that we are called to be unmercenary like Zenaida and her sisters. That in our thoughts, words, actions, and lives that we consider giving freely of the greatest gift you have given us as humans: to love. Amen.

-Anna Courie


Pandita Ramabai
PanditaIn 1858, Pandita Ramabai was born into a high caste Indian family who defied custom by educating her. When she was widowed, she could support herself with her scholarly skills. However, she saw other widows thrust into dire poverty. Ramabai believed that the way to improve the status of women and change her culture was to educate widows so that they could provide for themselves. She went to England and fundraised to this end. There, moved by Jesus’s conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, she became a Christian. “I realized...that...no one but [Christ] could transform and uplift the downtrodden women of India.”

Upon returning to India, she began Sharada Sadan school and the Mukti Mission, which still operate today, teaching women trades so that they can support themselves independently. Her social activism was remarkable in her time, and her example of a life given to social transformation makes her deserving of the Golden Halo.

The need for such social transformation remains with us to this day. The United Nations, as part of its Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 has focused on girls' education because of the multiplier effect educating a girl has on a country’s economy.[1] Poverty, child marriage, and cultural traditions such as dowries are among the main obstacles to girls’ education.

According to UNICEF, “India has the highest absolute number of child brides in the world – 15,509,000. 27% of girls in India are married before their 18th birthday and 7% are married before the age of 15.”[2] Developed nations are not free of this problem. A Frontline investigation revealed that in the United States 200,000 legal marriages with at least one minor took place between 2000 and 2015. “The vast majority of child marriages were between a child and an adult. The majority of married children were girls.”[3]

The effects of child marriage are striking. When a girl gets married instead of educated, her marriage has an imbalance of power and she is more likely to be a victim of domestic violence. Statistically, she will have more children she will struggle to feed, and they will be less healthy. She will likely not have the skills to be independent, and if her husband dies, she may become destitute. Pandita Ramabai sought to change this reality for women.

For her challenge to cultural and religious hierarchy, she was vocally criticized. Her conversion to Christianity put her at the center of a debate about Colonialism and Indian nationalism, where she remains for some to this day.[4] But one cannot argue that her education, her convictions, and her faith in the liberating love of Jesus have led her to change the lives of thousands of women, a work that continues in her name. In honor of all the women touched by Ramabai’s mission, let’s award her the Golden Halo!

-Amber Belldene

[poll id="268"]

Zenaida: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zenaida_and_Philonella#/media/File:Menologion_of_Basil_023.jpg
[1] https://www.bridgeinternationalacademies.com/educating-girls-multiplier/
[2] https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/india/
[3] http://apps.frontline.org/child-marriage-by-the-numbers/
[4] https://swarajyamag.com/ideas/is-christian-conversion-missions-in-india-social-reform-the-case-of-pandita-ramabai


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106 comments on “Zenaida vs. Pandita Ramabai”

  1. Sometimes people find cheating exciting
    Yet it leads to a place uninviting
    Don’t risk Purgatory
    For personal glory
    It’s more fun to have contests nail-biting!

    1. Hail to the SEC,
      Two fine upstanding guys;
      They'll not let cheaters win the day,
      They watch with narrowed eyes
      For voting patterns sad
      Perhaps for hanging chads
      So vote but once
      Enjoy the game
      And keep Lent Madness glad.

      What Saint would want to win
      A Golden Halo bright
      By cheaters voting more than once?
      They grieve the loss of light,
      In those who cannot see
      How they destroy the fun
      Of those who love Lent Madness, thus
      Their cheating is a blight.

      Tune: Crown Him With Many Crowns

        1. I’m from Florida, I know those chads well. Possibly the SEC could monitor the next US election

      1. So much creativity in the Lent Madness community. Humor, thought provoking discussion and an inspiring way to the start the day. Why on earth would anyone cheat? There is obviously still much for us to learn.

        1. You helped me decide as I had voted for both of these heavenly women. Ramabai it is as she had to work all on her own

  2. Today, we pay tribute to Zenaida and Pandita Ramabai and the final contest of the Faithful Four to the tune of “Three Little Maids from School are We” from “The Mikado” by Gilbert and Sullivan. And remember. Big Lent is watching!

    (THREE SAINTLY MAIDS. MARTHA, PANDITA AND ZENAIDA, toddle downstage from up-center leaving GOBNAIT scowling at them and surrounded by buzzing bees. All other saints are arced around the trio, with those from the left side of the bracket on stage right and those on the right side of the bracket on stage left. Everyone is played by a late 19th Century British comic opera performer and wears startlingly stereotypical costumes reeking of cultural appropriation. Inexplicably, they all carry and use hand fans in the choreography.)

    Four saintly maids (how cool!) were left.
    Yesterday’s match made one bereft.
    Gobnait will claim the loss was theft.
    Three saintly maids are left.

    Doctoring is a source of grace. (chuckles)

    Girls should be taught to improve their place. (chuckles)

    Let’s get to work and clean this space. (chuckles)

    Three saintly maids. How cool!

    Three saintly maids, now adversaries,
    Due to their sex, no seminary.
    Their holy works were visionary.
    My, they rewrote the rules.
    Three saintly maids. How cool!

    One saintly maid beat John Chrysostom.

    Will Wilberforce didn’t see me come.

    Clashes with us like a rugby scrum.
    Three saintly maids. How cool!

    From three saintly maids, take one away.

    Two saintly maids remain in play.

    The final vote’s on Spy Wednesday.

    (as an aside)
    I’ll take my foes to school.

    Three saintly maids. How cool!

    Three saintly maids. Who’d think that they’d throw
    Down? Just imagine how far they’ll go
    Just so they’ll win that Golden Halo?
    Don’t take them for a fool.
    Three saintly maids. How cool!


    1. I think this is the best one yet!

      SEC, I'd love an album of these songs. Maybe you could find someone to record them. They'd be a great addition to the Lentorium.

    2. Brings back memories of my days as a theater major. Played a small role, basically a spear carrier, and got to sing in the chorus of this musical. This is perhaps my favorite song (along with "I'm making a little list..."). Thank you, Michael, for adding your special talents to this year's madness.

      Ah yes, and the SEC is watching! You better be good, for Heaven's sake!

    3. Oh, 'tis delightful, Michael! I love the thought of these gals interacting. And I love those stage directions, too--"startlingly stereotypical costumes reeking of cultural appropriation." Hi-larious! I am so going to miss waking up to this. Back to the NYTimes... Grim.

    4. Magnificent, Michael! I always think of the film, "Chariots of Fire" when I hear this song. I especially enjoyed the lengthy stage directions preceding the song 🙂 Three saintly maids. How cool!

    5. What a beautiful, yet , funny ,little song on one of the best contest during this, my first, Lenten Madness game!
      I want to know who wrote this, and what else he/she has written and produced! I have been with My choice all,thru this Lenten madness and will stay with her to the end! What a year of the woman, but, ladies don't get complacent, we still have a long wa to go in this "man's world!

    6. “Clashes with us like a rugby scrum” is the winner line today! Thanks, Michael, for every song you’ve toiled over for the benefit of the Lent Madness community!

    7. Brilliant, Michael, brilliant! A fitting finale to some excellent "re-purposing" of various popular musicals.

      Next year, could you use "HMS Pinafore"? (I played Buttercup in high school.)

    8. YAY!!! Hurrah for Michael! (And thanks for posting the clip from Topsy Turvey, my favorite film!)

    1. Oh dear, I have voted for both of these remarkable women throughout and would be delighted to see either take the Golden Halo. It is so hard to decide between them, both served the poor and vulnerable, both overturned social convention in their day, both were educated when women seldom were. In the end I am voting for Zenaida, on the strength of the moving narrative written by Anna.

  3. Both are laudable, but the effects of Pandita Ramabai's work are documented and hugely important. Besides, if she gets the Golden Halo I will get to cook up some festive Indian cuisine in celebration!

  4. For me this choice comes down to ancient versus modern. These women are so very similar: well born, committed to social good, non-white. This group has talked so much over the years about the preference for modern figures and the way the ancients get passed over because we don't have as much information about them. Having read the two testimonials, I must ponder.

    1. I voted for Zenaida. I want to counter the utilitarian, instrumentalist approach that says the more information we have about a saint, the "more better" she was. Somehow facts make her faith stronger! Facts aren't faith. Also knowing that Paul had a faith-filled family makes Paul seem a bit more human. Thank you, Zed sisters.

      1. Yes, how is it even possible that we are treated to two splendid and creative writings so soon after the SEC morning news? Well done, John Cabot & Diana, and thank you for bringing joy to the LM community!

        1. I agree! Love the writing and songs of John, Diana and Michael. They have truly made this Lent Madness extra special.

      2. Hear! Hear! "I want to counter the utilitarian, instrumentalist approach that says the more information we have about a saint, the “more better” she was. Somehow facts make her faith stronger!" I feel this urging as well; yet Pandita and all those vulnerable women and girls! What to do, what to do?? (Rending my garments, gnashing my teeth, and wailing with vigorous ululations...)

      3. I was leaning toward Pandita, but I so agree with your perspective on ancient vs. modern that now I don't know what to do!

  5. I'm voting for Zenaida today because of the countless people who suffer unnecessarily due to lack of affordable medical care. This is one of the days I want to be able to vote twice; once for Zenaida and once for Pandita because they both challenge us to love and serve those others prefer to ignore. I wish we could have two winners today and tomorrow - these two. I love and appreciate Martha, but these two, relatively unknown, have been such gifts to me this Lent. I was also deeply moved by Anna Courie's ability to enter into the heart of Zenaida and her sisters with her story and her prayer. Thank you Anna, for your loving work of "shepherding" Zenaida through this season of Lent Madness.

    1. Thank you! I don't know how much I "suffer" from it (yet) but speaking for those "countless people" who cannot afford health care, it sure would be nice this year to have a saint on our side. As much as I like Indian food, I will vote for Zenaida.

    2. So many people in this country need affordable medical care; so many women in the world need education. I'm still undecided!

  6. Great song. Amazing inspiration. Fun chuckles.
    It's Tuesday morning.
    Let's get to work and clean this place.

  7. I see Zenaida as the patron saint of universal healthcare for all, free at the point of delivery.

    This is such a timely, relevant, and urgent ideal for our times coming to us from the past: a mostly unknown saintly woman.

    Zenaida personifies an alternative to a broken system based on greed and profit.

  8. If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.
    – African Proverb
    The education of women is the best way to save the environment.
    – E.O. Wilson
    To educate girls is to reduce poverty.
    – Kofi Annan

    Nuff said.

    1. Jerry, this is how I'm leaning as well. Universal healthcare is important, but I don't think there can be much that is more important for improving the global society than through education, especially of girls and women. With those educational resources, all manner of things in this world will be improved!

  9. Well, I've been cheering on Pandita Ramabai from the start. But in this match up, I have to choose Zenaida. Ecclesiastes came to mind - to paraphrase, "Let us now praise famous wo/men and our fathers and mothers that begat us." Zenaida is, in essence, the mother of the later Pandita Ramabai. So I ask, let's praise first Zenaida.

    1. Agreed. Thank you, Leslie. Zenaida and her sisters (Hermione!!) as the forerunners of, if I recall earlier Celebrity Blogs correctly, psychiatry, gynecology and family medicine - all as "universal healthcare" - not only for the wealthy. Generosity and healing, rooted in prayer, all the way from biblical times. Child marriage and all the associated abuses are terrible and kudos to Pandita Ramabai. However, it's Zenaida for me today. Still sad about Gobnait. About to go outside and transplant some bee and butterfly-friendly plants.

  10. Honor to and thanksgiving for the lives and ministries of both. I voted for Zenaida because of my years working in laboratories and hospitals. Medical ethics dictate that we treat every patient equally, without discrimination. Unfortunately, money still can and does make a difference in the care available. For Zenaida and those who practiced with her, it did not. Thanks be to God. May we all one day follow their good example.

  11. I can only assume that it was an evil genie who voted out of turn, because no faithful follower of Lent Madness would dare bring shame to such a special Lenten exercise.

  12. This was absolutely the hardest choice for me. I love Zenaida- including her name, its just beautiful- and her story as a Christian woman who served the poor & sick like so many women, secular and religious, including Pandita- who came after. But in the end, I went with Pandita, one of her successors, because it reminds us we have saints in our modern age as well. And I think Zenaida would have really liked Pandita. anyway.

    1. Mental illness is still such an unrecognized and even stigmatized problem in our culture today, and it is inspiring to read about how a few caring people can make such a big difference.

  13. I would just like to point out, again, for clarity, that Pandita is a title, not her first name. It’s probably appropriate to call her Pandita. I’m no expert in Hindi, but it’s probably similar to calling that character on Gilligans Island “the Professor”. But her name is Ramabai. It’s a detail, but may be important to remember.

  14. Flipping a coin and Zenaida won the toss. But we would be happy with either of them! As I said when we found out who the Faithful Four would be, we are happy if any of those four win the Golden Halo!

  15. If you are interested in an excellent read for insight into forced marriage in the Indian caste system as experienced in modern western society, I recommend Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. It is by turn heartwarming and chilling, modern and barbaric, sensual and disturbing. Not a Bollywood production.

  16. both women of great faith put in great action. Both health and education so basic to life--I teach in a medical school (psychiatry, no less) and have seen the increasing numbers of women entering medicine, extending their skills from RNs to adnanced practitioners--this one is going to be hard, and again I probably won't vote till late tonight.

  17. Thanks SO much Michael, John & Diane for so wonderfully enriching our Lenten-tide! & to our awesome SEC team & to All of you for sharing (except cheaters who overshared :-/ Whoever is this years winner, each of us were blessed w/this study--Blessed Easter to ALL!

  18. Yesterday was easy. The top image of Gobnait in tbe window with the bee symbolism made it clear who should win my vote, though it appears Martha worked out a winning strategy..

    Today is hard.

    I have voted for each theee times (across six different days of Lent, so don't get any wrong ideas Fathers), now I must vote for one in a way that is against the other!

    I shall have to see if the comments are any help in discerning who should get my vote today.

    This is truly MADNESS.

    1. I have read the comments and peeked at the current vote count and I'm voting for Zenaida.

      If I suddenly won some massive lottery, which would be a miracle since one has to remember to buy a ticket, I would start at least a free clinic, in not a free hospital named Saint Zenaida's.

      As for Indian food, I could do with some fresh warm naan right about now. I'd drizzle some honey on it. Yum.

      Hum, I wonder if yesterday's voting irregularities were caused by a hive of bees sharing one IP address?