Harriet Tubman vs. Julie Billiart

One of the joys of Lent Madness is engaging with both well-known and virtually unknown saintly souls. Many have heard of Harriet Tubman and know of her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Few, perhaps, know the story of Julie Billiart, a courageous French nun who lived through the French Revolution. That's your choice today as we cast our last vote of the week.

Yesterday, Elizabeth Fry scorched Florian 82% to 18% in the biggest rout of our tournament to date. Speaking of which...with the cancellation of this year's March Madness NCAA tournament, Lent Madness is officially the longest-running consecutive bracket-based tournament in the world! (11 years and counting). Sorry basketball fans.

Try to survive without us this weekend, and we'll see everyone first thing Monday Morning as Joanna the Myrrhbearer faces Junia. Now go vote!

Harriet Tubman
Araminta Ross was born into slavery around 1822 in Maryland, the fifth of nine children. Later, she took the name Harriet and her husband’s name, Tubman. In 1849, she escaped to freedom using the Underground Railroad, a network of abolitionists, black and white, offering protection and support to escaped slaves from the south.

Harriet faced daily physical violence that caused her permanent injuries. She began to work when she was five years old and at around twelve, Harriet began working in the fields. Harriet was strong and stood up for justice even as a young person. Once, an overseer threw a two-pound weight at her and struck her in the head for standing in the way of him getting to a fugitive slave. As a consequence of these abuses, she suffered seizures and severe headaches for the rest of her life. The head injury also appeared to be the start of vivid religious visions and dreams that played a major role in Harriet’s life.

Between 1850 and 1860, Harriet made about thirteen trips on the Underground Railroad, guiding more than seventy people, including part of her family, from slavery to freedom, and earning the nickname “Moses” for her direction. Because of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850—which required that all escaped slaves be returned to their owners—Harriet led freedom seekers out of the United States and into Canada.

Harriet’s commitment to abolishing the slave system took her to South Carolina during the Civil War where she served as nurse, cook, armed scout, and spy in the Union army. She was the first woman to lead an armed assault during the Civil War and rescued more than 700 slaves.

After the war, Harriet settled in Auburn, New York. There, she continued her justice work as a community activist, humanitarian, and suffragist. In her 70s Harriet showed special concern for the elderly because there were few social services available. Her dream was to build a house for the elderly, and in 1908 Harriet Tubman Home was inaugurated with Harriet as the guest of honor.

Harriet is the Underground Railroad’s most famous “conductor.” Her success led slaveowners to post rewards for her capture or death. She was never caught and never lost a “passenger.”

Collect for Harriet Tubman
O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth and makes us free: Strengthen and sustain us as you did your servant Harriet. Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sandra Montes


Julie Billiart
Born in Cuvilly, France, on July 12, 1751, Sister Julie Billiart always loved to teach. It is said that her favorite game as a child was “playing school.” An avid student, she loved to study facts and prayers and memorized the catechism by age seven. A local priest noticed her early love for Jesus and the church and allowed Julie to make her first communion at the age of nine. Five years later, she took a vow of chastity and became known as the saint of Cuvilly for her piety and devotion.

When she was twenty-two, her father was the victim of an attempted murder. The stress and anxiety from the attack may have caused a nerves-induced paralysis of Julie’s lower limbs. For the next thirty years, she was confined to a bed. Yet she knitted lace and linens for those in need and, from her bedside, helped local children prepare for their first communion.

At the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Julie began hiding priests in her home to protect them. The resistance learned of her efforts, and for her own safety, Julie was smuggled out of Cuvilly in a haycart. Despite the stress and anxiety of the war, her spiritual life flourished, and many came to her, seeking guidance and wisdom about how to pray and to develop a contemplative life centered on God. One of the women who visited was Françoise Blin de Bourdon, the Viscountess of Gézaincourt; she eventually helped Sister Julie found the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, which was inspired, in part, by visions Julie had of Christ surrounded by women in religious habits and a voice saying, “Behold these spiritual daughters whom I give you in an institute marked by the cross.” The Sisters of Notre Dame devoted themselves to the care and education of the orphaned children of France.

It is said that on the feast of the Sacred Heart, Sister Julie made a novena to her confessor and was cured of her paralysis. Her remarkable life teaches us that our spiritual gifts are not restricted by the limitations of our bodies. She died in 1816, at the motherhouse of her institute in Namur, Belgium, at the age of 64. Many schools exist in her honor, including many Notre Dame schools in the United States and the United Kingdom. Her feast day is April 8.

Collect for Julie Billiart
Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Anna Fitch Courie


Harriet Tubman vs. Julie Billiart

  • Harriet Tubman (82%, 6,197 Votes)
  • Julie Billiart (18%, 1,327 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,524

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Harriet Tubman: c. 1860-1880. [Public domain]
Julie Billiart: Artist unknown, c. 1830. [Public domain]


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123 comments on “Harriet Tubman vs. Julie Billiart”

      1. Smudge is a Canadian cat. I’m sure he’s happy Harriet Tubman brought all those escaped slaves to safety in Canada.

    1. That was so good I showed it to my Unitarian partner and he laughed too.

      The white cat deserves time off once in a while.

    2. That pretty much summed up my thoughts when I first looked at the overall bracket. I’m sure Smudge the white cat would agree.

  1. Glad that I only have one bracket that can be busted this year!! After seeing the movie "Harriet", I have gained so much admiration for Harriet Tubman and her unfailing efforts to free her people, even risking her life time and again.

    1. I also was deeply moved by the movie, "Harriet". I wish Julie had not been "up against" Harriet, because she is also a saint worthy of study and recognition!

      1. I was thinking the same thing! There wasn't any hesitation for me in voting for Harriet, but Julie seems interesting as well.

      2. My thought exactly... It just might be a Lent Madness design-fluke, which eliminates very worthy saints by pitting them against candidates who are almost-sure to be voted winner of that round.

  2. Difficult decision but I never know about Julie and though she deserved my recognition. Harriet is great and so well-known so I voted fro Julie.

    1. I went the same way. I greatly respect Harriet Tubman, but Julie diserves some love, too.

      1. I hope she inspires enough of us that she makes a return appearance on some future bracket!

      2. My thoughts exactly. I voted for Sister Julie because education is so important for lifting persons out of poverty. I know that both these women have already received their crowns oof glory, well-deserved.

    2. Several times I have voted for the lesser known person, because I thought that they deserved to be recognized and honored. It was so very hard today, but I did vote for Harriet.

  3. Harriet’s appearance on the IS $20 has been delayed since early 2017 (no surprise considering other remarks made by those at the top of the current administration) but she has the opportunity to win the Lent Madness 2020 Golden Halo. Maybe once she does replace the less than saintly Andy Jackson on the US $20 in a future administration, she’ll be pictured with said halo.

    1. If you look on Etsy, you can find an ink stamper and directions for using it to replace AJ with Harriet Tubman. I gave it to several friends for Christmas. Altered bills are still negotiable. Let's put Harriet's face on as many $20s as possible until the govt sees the light!

    2. Since slaves were currency, should Harriet Tubman be on a bill no matter that Andrew Jackson was abhorrent? Just wondering....

  4. Very hard choice today as both these brave women deserve to win. So many other women unkown to history did such remarkable work for our Lord. God Bless their memories.
    However, the demon beast of slavery that Harriet faced and risked her life to fight against, is still tangible in our times. So Harriet it is.

  5. I love Julie’s story and will share it with my mother who is living a good life from the confines of a power chair. She proves daily much can be done with walking. However, Harriet is the bravest, truest, most bad-ass woman in modern history so she gets my vote without question.

  6. As an American and one who served an internship in the human trafficking division of a social service agency, I chose to vote for Harriet. Nevertheless, Harriet and Juliet lived exemplary lives of faith, courage, and service. All honor to both.

  7. As an educator - and a special educator at that - my inclination is to go with Julie. But as a southerner whose roots go back to the shameful crime of slavery, I feel called to vote for Harriet. Wish they hadn't matched these two up right away! But it was good to learn about Julie Billiart.

  8. When a craven, incompetent shill
    Blithely denigrates heroes at will
    Let's put him in his place:
    With a Halo now grace
    One who’s been kept from a Treasury bill.

    1. I see what you did there. Bravo. Can't wait for the photo of Mnuchin with that sheet of bills.

  9. in honor of my sister Harriet now in heaven ,my vote is for Harriet Tubman, an incredible woman.

  10. I know I will say this at the end, when we arrive at Canterbury, but I will say it preveniently now, thank you to Tim and Scott. I cannot believe you have been doing this for eleven years. I can only imagine the work that goes into this, the planning, the organization, the logistics. Such a gift to a small band of pilgrims who travel together, praying, joking, sharing cocktail recipes (where are this year's cocktail recipes?), telling bawdy jokes (where are the bawdy jokes this year?), forswearing chocolate and alcohol (for at least the first several hours of Lent). Thank you, THANK you, THANK YOU. You put the otolaryngology in lENT.

    Though I am certain today will be a blowout, I voted for Soeur Julie. I saw her paralysis as hysterical and was struck by the theme of violence in her life. I suppose I voted for her in honor of the sixteen Carmelite nuns guillotined during the French Revolution. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 will be a stain on American history forever. That dishonor will never wash away; neither will the blood of the unfortunate in the Place du Trône-Renversé. It was not a small thing to hide priests; and Soeur Julie seems to have functioned as a sort of anchorite in her invalid bed. Given the theme of hysteria, I also cannot but see her reclining in bed as an early exemplum of Freud's consulting couch. The spiritual conversation and direction she engaged in--with children!--may have integrated her nerves and psyche and effected a cure. Here's to all the "green martyrs" who go the course, serving faithfully--like us!

      1. Jagermeister, mead, and cold brew in a coconut shell: callest that thou a "cocktail"? Lord, I beseech thee, grant me patience. As a service to the faithful, I cast you "Pearls before Swine" from Death & Co:
        Gin, Martin Miller's Westbourne-strength, 2 oz.
        Lemon juice, 1/2 oz.
        Orgeat, 1/2 oz.
        Greek yogurt, 1 tsp.
        Lemon curd, 1 tsp.
        Rose water, 3 drops
        Shake all except rosewater with ice, then double strain into a coupe glass. Top with rose water. No garnish.
        Mister Death makes a great cocktail. A toast: to the plague. One more reason to go on pilgrimage and tell one another edifying stories as we carefully scrub the germs from our hands and keep an eye out for our neighbors who are just now discovering with shock and dismay that there is no more TP on the grocery store shelves.

          1. Me too! When your hand sanitizer runs out, refill the bottle with rubbing alcohol. When entering a building with elevators, press buttons with the knuckle instead of the pad of the finger. I was taught that in the hospital where I worked as a chaplain.
            Having visited a church that was a station on the Underground Railroad in South Jersey last summer, I cast my vote for Harriet Tubman.

    1. Thank you St. Celia for you words on this good Sister. I really had to vote for Harriet but am so glad to learn about this shining light in the dark, brutal time of The Terrors.

  11. My whole family, including my sister, my kids, my nieces went to a Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur school. Harriet's awesome, but I have to go with our home girl Julie.

    1. As a grad of Emmanuel College in Boston, I would never have gotten a college education without the sacrifices of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Julie vs. Harriet" What a tough match up.

  12. Harriet’s motto...” Keep Going..Keep Going..Keep Going “
    You may be tired but keep going..You May be scared but keep going..You May be hungry but keep going..Keep Going..Keep Going..Keep Going!

  13. I'm an alum of Emmanuel College in Boston. It was founded by Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. I definitely had to vote for Sister Julie.

  14. I feel the SEC put together a good match-up. Not that there's a real race, but rather I see parallels in Harriet & Julie's lives, and I had never heard of Julie before, which is the point of Lent Madness. I'm glad she gets her moment in the sun, brief though it will be, and I am sure she will inspire more people than Just Shan and her mother. Let me offer my thanks as well to Tim and Scott as well for such an incredible undertaking which must be a lot of work. You know, I probably wouldn't know of Tim and Scott's existence without Lent Madness and by following them on Facebook and reading Scott's works (sorry, Tim, I haven't gotten to your coffee book yet) they have added much to my life, spiritual and otherwise. Big shout-out for your sermon on Day 1, Scott!
    All that being said, I voted for Harriet, a shining inspiration for many years and a powerful reminder of an extremely evil time in our history and all the people held in slavery (then and now). Sadly, it seems we have more to learn about how we treat our neighbors.

  15. Really tough choice here but I have to go with what's close to home and a "savior" to so many slaves' lives.

  16. Tough call today since I am a grateful product of the School sisters of Notre Dame in Baltimore, Maryland. Although I was raised as an Episcopalian, I attended Notre Dame Preparatory in Towson, Maryland, and the SSND were quite kind to a non-Catholic in their midst. I received an incredible education thanks to their dedication and generosity of spirit. But as a Maryland girl, I am also so inspired by the unflinching dedication of Harriet Tubman to freedom and human rights. Sigh, must you make it so hard to pick?

  17. I'm usually quite poor at matching the majority's choice, but Harriett Tubman may be on the road for the Golden Halo

  18. Thank you for teaching us about St Julie
    However, Harriet has my vote and my gratitude for her sacrificed.

  19. Two women who personify courage in dangerous times. Harriet Tubman is a serious contender for the Golden Halo for me, but I vote for Sister Julie because of her current wallflower status. She did not allow her physical (and perhaps emotional) challenges to distract her from living out her faith to confront evil. Oholiab, Bezalel, and Dorcas have always been role models for me, so there’s that, too.

  20. I greatly admire Harriet Tubman, but the bio of her Jas no mention of her faith or church involvement, which is a pretty important part of sainthood. I see in great Cloud of Witnesses" that she believed she was called by God to fight slavery - that sense of calling is important. She did wonderful work, grounded in faith. Halo material!

  21. "She said her name was Harriet Tubman and she drove for the Underground Railroad."- Holly Near, "Lifeline",from albumof the same name she recorded with Ronnie Gilbert(formerly of the Weavers, who also sang in support of human rights and got blacklisted for their efforts).

    1. What in Heaven's name is "orgeat"?
      Otherwise, this sounds like an interesting cocktail.

      1. “A syrup . . . originally made from barley, flavored with almonds and orange flowers.” [Webster’s New World Dictionary]. The name, according to the same source, comes from the Provençal word for barley (cf. Italian “orzo”).

    2. If you live in the New York City area, I commend the radio program "Woody's Children" on WFUV-FM, obviously a folk music program. I've been listening to it since Robert Sherman, then of WQXR and now still active, started it more than half a century ago. I also nominate Pete Seeger as a modern-day saint, in addition to Holly Near, Ronnie Gilbert, and many, many other folk singers who inspired and fed us spiritually through the years.

  22. The patron saint of my high school, Notre Dame in Chicago, is St. Julie. Much as I love Harriet I have to honor the nun who founded the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who helped mold me into the person I am today. A very very fine group of very educated and dedicated women.

  23. How could I not vote for Harriet, a woman of amazing courage and action. . . . but then, I have been blessed with the fellowship of a number of the good sisters of Notre Dame d' Namur and blessed with the example of their dedication to education and service. Harriet will most probably (and perhaps, justifiably) win today's bracket but I will cast my vote for the underdog, Julie. They are both examples of courage in hard times despite physical limitations and I have no doubt they are both reveling arm in arm in eternity.