Margery Kempe vs. Eustace

Welcome to the one and only Saturday matchup of Lent Madness 2020. From here on out every contest will take place exclusively on the weekdays of Lent. In a word, today is SPECIAL! And to mark this special occasion, Margery Kempe, a 14th century mystic, takes on Eustace, an early Christian soldier.

Yesterday, Elizabeth soundly defeated Andrew 63% to 37% in a battle of Biblical saints. We're still waiting for that first real nail-biter, but fear not! You're guaranteed to have a number of them before our work is done here.

By the way, if you need to check out the results from previous matchups or view the updated bracket, just head over to the bracket page. Our trusty Bracket Czar, Adam Thomas, updates the page every day, in his inimitable manner.

Now go enjoy your Saturday and don't forget to vote!

Margery Kempe

Margery was born into a prosperous family in about 1373, and at age twenty, she married John Kempe. She might have been like many other women of her time, known only through church records and occasional correspondence, except for The Book of Margery Kempe, the earliest surviving autobiographical writing in English that details her spiritual crisis, visions of Christ, and subsequent devotion to Jesus.

Margery herself could neither read nor write; she dictated her book to a priest in her later years. Margery’s book invites us into the life of a woman whose faith in God did not require her to edit herself but instead to offer her experience of God and her call as a disciple in unflinching, raw, humorous, and lovely glory.

Margery begins her book telling of her post-childbirth illness. She fasts and prays in response to horrific visions of demons. In this desperate state, Margery describes Jesus coming to her, saying to her she was not forsaken but loved. Margery devotes herself to Christ, eventually (after fourteen children) forcing her husband to honor her decision to live a life of chastity, calling on God to terrify her husband when he feels a desire to break this vow.

She is also imbued with the gift of tears, weeping and praying for hours in public and in private, especially when meditating upon the Passion of Christ. She begins a life of pilgrimage. She meets the Archbishop of Canterbury, is almost burned as a Lollard, visits with Julian of Norwich, and is arrested and examined as a heretic because she preached…as a woman. Margery travels alone to the Holy Land, Assisi, and Rome, walks the Santiago de Compostela, and engages in conversation with Christian mystics from all across Europe.

Margery did not dictate her book as a memoir or travel guide. She would likely not have considered her life experience alone worthy of recording. She instead recognized the profound, mystical, and even unsettling presence of God in her life and for that reason, sought to record the presence of the grace and mercy of God in her life so that God would be glorified. Her book is a wonderful testament to the grace of God in the extraordinary life of a woman who dared to be a disciple.

Collect for Margery Kempe
Direct our hearts, O Gracious God, and inspire our minds; that like your servant Margery Kempe, we might pass through the cloud of unknowing until we behold your glory face to face; in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—Laurie Brock



Strange things can happen when a person is out alone in the mountains, as shown by the legend of Saint Eustace. During the reign of the emperor Trajan, a Roman general named Placidas left his quarters to hunt. While in the countryside outside of Rome, Placidas came upon a stag moving in his direction. Between the stag’s antlers he saw a figure of Jesus Christ on the cross, and as the animal approached, he heard a voice calling him by name.

The vision changed him; Placidas immediately sought baptism into the church for himself and his family, moving from a general in the armies of Rome, which was persecuting Christians, to being numbered among the persecuted. At his baptism, Placidas changed his name to Eustachius—or in its anglicized form, Eustace. A series of catastrophes followed: Eustace lost all his wealth, and his servants soon died of a plague. As if those calamities were not enough, Eustace’s wife, Theopista, was kidnapped by the ship’s captain when on a voyage at sea. At a later point, when the family was crossing a river, his sons were taken away by a wolf and a lion. Yet Eustace remained faithful.

Eustace’s military acumen remained in high demand, and he was recalled to the Roman legions. Upon his recall, Eustace somehow managed to both reunite with his wife and children and play a part in a victory for Rome’s armies. Yet when the time came after the army’s victory to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods, Eustace refused. Legend holds that Eustace and his family were then martyred for the Christian faith, suffering death by roasting in a bronze statue of a bull.

Eustace is counted among the Fourteen Holy Helpers—fourteen saints venerated together in Roman Catholic tradition because their intercession against illness came to be believed as particularly effective in response to the Black Death. Among other things, Eustace is the patron saint of hunters, trappers, and those facing trouble; his intercession is invoked against family discord and against fire (as some sources clearly note, both temporal and eternal). He is also the patron saint of Madrid, Spain. Eustace is remembered in the West on September 20.

Collect for Eustace
Almighty God, who gave your servant Eustace boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

David Sibley

Margery Kempe vs. Eustace

  • Margery Kempe (70%, 6,120 Votes)
  • Eustace (30%, 2,650 Votes)

Total Voters: 8,770

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Margery Kemp: An illumination from M.S. Royal 15 D1, The British Library. c. 1470.
Eustace: St. Eustace, 13th c. English M.S. Venice, Marciana Library. Public domain.


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174 comments on “Margery Kempe vs. Eustace”

    1. Eustace is no buttercup, no choker in the face of evil! Lift high the Cross! Vote Eustace!

    1. Is that St Eustace or St Hubert on the Jagermeister? I went with Eustace because my sisters' high school was St Hubert, who also saw a stag with a cross between its antlers.

    2. We don't need tears confronting the devil's injustice,
      A buttercup or choker won't do in evil's face,
      We need Jagermeister, for health, ist gut,
      Prep for the Coronavirus brute,
      We need strength as a stag! Lift high the Cross! Vote Eustace!

      1. Dear Neil: Thank you for the note on the adoption by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1947 of the less is more. It was adopted by CoCo Chanel in the 1920's. The most correct translation from french is less is always more. The original source turns out to be a poem by Robert Browning, entitled The Faultless Painter, published in 1855. The history of the less is more becomes more interesting as it moves from literature to fashion to architecture. Best, MJ

  1. The life of Eustace reminds me of the life of Job. Still, he remained constant in his faith to the point of being martyred in a particularly horrible way.
    I like the fact that Eustace is one of the Holy Helpers. Any enemy of the plague, bubonic or pneumonic, is a friend of mine.

    1. Even though Eustace gets my vote today, I like that Margery Kemp dared to preach, risky behavior in her day. And fourteen children meaning, unless some were multiple births, fourteen times going through labor and delivery? I would embraced celibacy well before Margery did. A brave, eloquent woman, remarkable in any age.

    1. I also voted for Margery. And after 14 children she deserves to win. And waiting that long before she decided to celibate. WOW!

  2. In the words of John McEnroe, "You Cannot Be Serious!" Eustace is really saint Hubert. There is a festival for him in San Hubert, Belgium. It goes on for days and it's quite fun. I went to it and was calling him "Saint YouBert" and got weird looks or no response at all. I was giving the townspeople Saint Hubert medals painted in orange and green. Finally a lady who I gave a medal to looked me in the eye and saidt "San OoooBear," the correct pronunciation. After I said his name the right way, the townspeople loved me and my medals, including their police who proudly wore my clasped medals on their uniforms. The reason I painted San Hubert in orange and green, with a gold cross in the stag's antlers, is because San Hubert, according to me, is the patron saint of Jaegermeister! He is featured prominently on the bottle. The San Hubert festival is a lovely weekend long event and if you talk to Mark at the Code Pub, he will tell you about his work going to Africa helping all sorts of exotic felines. Hail San Hubert! Look at his painted medal and read his story by clicking my name. Visit San Hubert in Belgium!

    1. I think I have to go to Belgium!

      BTW St. Hubert was an eighth-century bishop in the Netherlands. What he has in common with St. Eustace is seeing a stag with a cross between its antlers.

  3. Oh, my! Before I could vote, I had to do a bit of research I lived in a small rural community in Germany (with a US Army base where armored divisions came to hone their artillery skills), called Wildflecken- "The Wild Place". There the locals held St. Hubert in high esteem, and Hubert also found himself called to Christian piety by a stag with a crucifix entangled in its antlers! Was this the same stage that called Eustace? I don't know, but I took it as a sign to me, so Eustace it is, today!

    1. You're thinking of a "Holy Hand Grenade", Michael.

      Let me see, I seem to recall that is 3 oz. Jägermeister, 2 oz. mead and 6 oz. cold brew over cubes. Count to three (not four), then serve in a coconut shell. Guaranteed to produce a vision…

      "Oh, don't grovel! One think I can't stand, it's people groveling!" — words to live by. Right, Manny?

  4. I initially misread Margery's profile - "Margery was born into a preposterous family ..."

    I felt something like kinship. She gets my vote

  5. Margery Kempe had me at " Margery’s book invites us into the life of a woman whose faith in God did not require her to edit herself but instead to offer her experience of God and her call as a disciple in unflinching, raw, humorous, and lovely glory." Then I discovered her reaching out to other holy people such as Julian of Norwich, her close brushes with martyrdom, one just because she preached as a woman. I acknowledge the full sainthood of Eustace who indeed had a difficult and miraculous life followed by martyrdom, but Margery reaches my heart and my vote is for her.

  6. Eustace was amazing but Margery Kempe had 14 children and then went on to preach. what an awesome woman.

  7. Definitely Margery Kempe. This week, we have just experienced the joy of becoming grandparents for the first time, and our daughter in law's childbirth experience directly influenced my vote today. Also, I am a woman Mennonite pastor, who knows the difficulty of being a "woman who preached." Go, Margery!

    1. Congratulations on your grandchild, and it's nice to see a fellow Mennonite commenting! We were in WDC and are now in ACC (we moved, not congregation!) and I'm trying to hook other members into studying saints for Lent. I'm afraid the Mennonite in me forbids voting for Eustace, unless he was turned into a dragon and then restored by a Lion...

    1. Yes - but Margery had a priest willing to write her story as she told it, which I took as support for the facts stated in Margery's testimony.

  8. Picking Eustace as protection from the Black Plague - looks like we need the intercession these days. Stay healthy and wash your hands frequently.

    1. Vote for Eustace who was one of the Holy Helpers because of intercession against illness especially world wide illness. Timely.

  9. I read Margery Kempe's book, and if I met her I don't think I could take all the crying, collapsing and shouting she describes doing. Plus, Eustace is the patron saint of Madrid, and I'm going there in the fall, so it's Eustace for me!

    1. I agree - to me Margery seems a bit of a nut case. Eustace lived his Christianity through action.

    2. I couldn’t decide until I read in rapid succession the comments from Andrea, Mary C, Beverly and Richard - no more waffling. I smiled, laughed, agreed and voted for Eustace ( who appears not to have the snowball’s proverbial hope!) of a win but I don’t care so another vote for Eustace! And I love the Lent Madness community!!!!!


  10. I voted for Eustace, although I’ve always loved Kemp’s ( especially because of her ties to Julian of Norwich)but in this time of uncertainty with the caronavirus I am going to pray each day to St. Eustace to eradicate this deadly virus fraught with fear and panic and restore our world to health and sanity.

  11. My 9 year old daughter votes for Eustace. She was particularly upset last night about the coronavirus spreading to those she loves. We read about Eustace and his Holy Helpers and knew God was talking directly to her.

  12. Although I've always thought that Margery Kempe made up her visions to keep from having more children, I can't vote for the patron saint of hunters.