Elizabeth Fry vs. Joseph

Who will face Harriet Tubman for the coveted 2020 Golden Halo? That's the question we'll answer today as Elizabeth Fry faces Joseph, following Harriet's victory over Hildegard of Bingen 58% to 42%.

To make it to the Faithful Four, Elizabeth Fry defeated Florian, Clare of Assisi, and Margaret of Castello, while Joseph took down Joshua, Elizabeth, and Joanna the Myyrhbearer. (again, click on the defeated saint's name to read the previous write-ups). We're grateful to Celebrity Bloggers Amber Belldene (Elizabeth Fry) and Neva Rae Fox (Joseph) for shepherding their respective saints all the way to the Faithful Four.

Then, once the final matchup is settled, the Championship round will take place tomorrow on Spy Wednesday, with the winner announced at 8:00 am on Maundy Thursday.

But we still have a ways to go yet. So read, watch yesterday's last in-season episode of Monday Madness, and then vote! Though not necessarily in that order.

Elizabeth Fry

Two qualities make a person a saint.

The first is the ability and courage to see as Jesus taught us see--through the sinful illusions of this world that make us complacent, judgmental, and exclusionary. He refused to condemn outcasts, welcomed prostitutes and pilfering tax collectors, and crossed boundaries to touch and heal the diseased and unloved. By setting this example for us, he turned the world upside down and taught us the way to defeat corrupt powers is with nonviolent love. He had an excellent example of this in his own earthly father Joseph (a faithful four finalist), who had the courage to defy cultural norms to marry his unexpectedly pregnant betrothed.

Elizabeth Fry also exemplifies this quality. She was a woman of wealth and privilege who had no need to see beyond her own good fortune.  Yet, as a devout Quaker, she recognized the divine light in every person and believed that no one needs the good news of God’s love more than those the world does not love. Rather than writing off the women of her era who’d been imprisoned as criminals, she analyzed the social structures that contributed to their incarceration—poverty and lack of education--and changed them. In the same way that people were astonished that Jesus ate with criminals, polite Victorian society was astounded that respectable Betsy Fry went into the prisons, but go she did. She spoke out against appalling conditions and helped others to see the injustices that had been invisible to them before.

The second quality of a saint is, having seen through the veil of sin and corruption, working to bring about God’s justice and peace. We know from Elizabeth’s own words how tirelessly she strived for prison reform and other just causes such as abolition. “Oh Lord, may I be directed what to do and what to leave undone.” By educating and advocating for women in Newgate prison, she restored their dignity and brought them comfort, sometimes all the way to the noose. She achieved results that surprised prison wardens: women transformed by love.

Sainthood is not a single act of courage, but a lifetime of sacrificial love that transforms the lives of the oppressed and heals the world. Betsy’s lasting legacy changed the penal system for the better, improving sanitation, safety, and dignity. Although there is still need of major reform, thanks to Fry’s efforts, prisoners in many countries are given educational and employment opportunities. She showed us that a person is not either a bad apple or a good one. Her work continues to inspire countless others, especially through the Elizabeth Fry societies addressing current women’s issues such as human trafficking.

It is April 2020, and the world is in the midst of a pandemic unlike anything we have ever seen. I am sitting in a place of privilege like Betsy Fry once did, still employed and able to work from home. I look to her as my saintly example. May she show me and all of us how to industriously and courageously restore health, employment, and dignity to a suffering world.

--Amber Belldene


St. Joseph has been called a saint for all times, but there is no doubt that he is truly a saint for today. The world needs St. Joseph as we find ourselves in a pandemic that places us in a crossroads.

At this crossroads, together with the spirit of St. Joseph, we must choose faith, just as St. Joseph chose throughout his life.  He chose faith, trust, hope, and service to the Almighty.

Many Americans are experiencing at least a twinge of anxiety as the pandemic spreads, as we hear of friends, colleagues, and even those whom we don’t know test positive or succumb to COVID-19. Nonetheless, when I think of St. Joseph, a calmness blankets me. He faced so many obstacles on his life’s journey, but he remained calm and hopeful, devout in his beliefs, and loving in his care.

In this time of need, St. Joseph pray for us.

By tradition, he would have been within his rights to terminate his betrothal to Mary, but he chose not to. He could have ignored the angel who told him to take Mary and her child to Egypt, but he chose not to. He could have stayed in Egypt, despite the angel informing him it was okay to return to his homeland, but he chose not to. In each case, he trusted the messages of the angels, steadfast in his certainty in God, and followed instructions without question.

His life is the epitome of humility, obedience, tradition, silent witness, hope, and faith in the face of insurmountable obstacles. He never complained.

In this time of need, St. Joseph pray for us.

St. Joseph walks with so many – fathers, stepfathers, foster-fathers, and father-figures; carpenters and crafters; parents, stepparents and foster parents; the unemployed; realtors; workers and laborers; travelers; immigrants; home-sellers and home-buyers; numerous cities and nations.

Our current time calls for prayers to St. Joseph – prayers for those in doubt, in harm’s way, in need of protection, in trouble, and for those who desire a peaceful death.

In this time of need, St. Joseph pray for us.

St. Joseph flourished with faith, as we need to be today. He was flexible in his life, as we need to be today. St. Joseph was humble and obedient; he showed integrity and faith; he placed his hope in the hands of the Almighty, as we need to do today.

As we maneuver through this current crossroads, let us model St. Joseph. Let us allow thoughts of St. Joseph to blanket us with calmness, hope, and trust. When we trust in St. Joseph, we reaffirm our beliefs in the Almighty.

In this time of need, St. Joseph pray for us.


--Neva Rae Fox

Elizabeth Fry vs. Joseph

  • Joseph (59%, 4,101 Votes)
  • Elizabeth Fry (41%, 2,880 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,981

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George Richmond chromolithograph, 1913 or before (1843) NPG D38442 © National Portrait Gallery, London


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117 comments on “Elizabeth Fry vs. Joseph”

  1. A prisoner reformer, a carpenter, and a Tiger King…


    I posted this link yesterday in the Lent Madness comments. I received feedback from people that they found it helpful, so I am posting it again today. On Palm Sunday, the impact of virtual Holy Week hit me pretty hard. Writing this gave me great comfort. I hope it provides you the same.


    1. Thank you, Michael, for all your clever humor (how many captions can possibly go with a single picture??), and especially for your Holy Week reflection. Real, moving, and captioned with hope. Easter blessings to you and yours.

      1. We don't know how many Angels were in her life, but I suspect there were many as there is with you and I. I, personally feel that when ever I get serious about turning my life or situation over to God, he sends the Host of Angels to help and guide me.

    2. Thank you for your moving Holy Week thoughts. It's like you read my mind as I have been moaning about the same things all week. I will say you moved me to tears. Have a blessed Easter!

    3. Wow, we did not see this on Palm Sunday, we had a death of our niece Susan,56, who after courageously undergoing stem cell therapy in Hamilton, Ontario then Transferred to Kitchener, Ontario under isolation to keep, her safe! ! Early Sunday morning a blood clot took her away from us and into the arms of our maker! your message that we just read today, gave us some strength to know that all is In Gods hands and HIS TIME! THANKYOU ‍

    4. I really appreciated the post by Michael and was also comforted. I wept through most of our "virtual service" (which sounds like an oxymoron) on Palm Sunday and was not looking forward to more "virtual church" (which sort of sounds sleeping in and reading a little scripture). I have a slightly different perspective now.

    1. I love the way you added the litany, Pray for us. It touched me so deeply. Thank you, Neva!

  2. Voted for Elizabeth because Joseph is already a saint. Anyone who's willing to be a prison reformer and be a voice for the downcast in our culture has my vote

  3. I have great admiration for Joseph but my prison experiences just overwhelm my vote. I had to vote for Elizabeth, the reformer and risk taker.

  4. I, too, voted for Elizabeth Fry because of her two pillars of courage: to speak up about an issue that was not only unfashionable but that sought to give dignity to the lowest of the low; and to rise above the social culture of her day and speak boldly as a woman of conviction.

  5. I’m pretty sure Joseph will win this round, but I voted for Betsy anyway. I was actually voting for her celebrity blogger, who did such a beautiful job of showing how she lived out Jesus’ challenge to us, and even paid homage to her challenger.
    And, well, I would love to see another social worker named Betsy win either the silver or golden halos!

    1. This round is supposed to include the bloggers' connecting very personally with their saints. I therefore find the political references completely appropriate here.

  6. Tough choice! The reformer, or the obedient, silent one? As much as I'm fond of Joseph, today's vote must go to dear Betsy. There's more reform still needed.

  7. Joseph will probably win, today, and possibly tomorrow - and to me that is sad, and defeats the purpose of Lent Madness. Joseph already has his Golden Halo, and does not need the recognition from us! Elizabeth Fry, on the other hand, brings us a little known history, and fresh good news. She deserves the recognition today.
    I hope the Lent Madness team runs out of the towers of the early church soon, and stops pitting them against the less familiar saints we grow to love and admire in this process.

    1. So the Catholic in me didn't think Joseph would get this far in these Episcopalian brackets! I always think the "established saints" end up getting left in the dust. Looking at you, St. Patrick. Not sure if that is an established Lent Madness fact or just my impression. I admit it does get a bit weird when a saint already in possession of their wings goes up against a newbie (at least newbie to me). I so appreciate learning about these unknown saints as we journey through Lent. As we bid a fond farewell to Lent Madness 2020 I want to say thank you to the SEC, the Celebrity Bloggers and pay homage to the saints who inspire all of us with their good works and faith as we come out of the madness that was Lent 2020.

      1. I echo this. About four years ago, Joseph lost in round two, so I appreciate seeing his success this year! I still feel the sting of the losses of my beloved Catholic heavy-hitters, Cecilia and Dominic. In my observation, Lent Madness can bias in favor of more modern saints with richer biographical details. I enjoy giving pillars of our faith their due, starting with Martha's victory last year.

    2. but truly, the point of Lent Madness is to get to know those who's names are not on tip of our tongues
      It's all about the learning and not the Halo !

      1. Amen to that. I love learning about all these amazing saints!! And reading the comments is even more edifying, and often amusing! Thank you all so much. This has been a great educational experience, and escape from daily stress and angst. Blessed be the One who comes in the name of the Lord, heals us and comforts us, inspires so many to carry out His work here on earth.

  8. Thanks to Amber, Neva Rae, and all the Celebrity Bloggers who've given us such good morning reads throughout this Lenten season.

  9. A difficult decision again. Joseph cared for Mary and Jesus, and shaped Jesus as he grew, and I am deeply thankful. I expect Elizabeth to lose out to Joseph, but my vote goes to her. As far as we know Elizabeth did not have angels guiding her every step, prompting her to do what was right. Elizabeth applied her intellect and her energy to act for the despised and forgotten. She lifted up the lowly and gave them new hope. She challenged the mighty and brought about change. We need people like her today.

    1. I think that Elizabeth had a squadron of angels all around her quidding he footsteps and keeping her on the path.

  10. I was torn today. It was an especially difficult choice (where have I heard that before?). I think Joseph is an incredible role model for those of us who try to live a good life, but doubt that we can. Joseph shows us that we all have doubts, but with God's help we can do more than we thought. Elizabeth is someone who saw injustice and knew she had to do something about it. She reminds me of the people I work to support in mission. She changed the world, filled with God's spirit. She tells us that with faith in God we can do more than we think we can. I cast my vote for Elizabeth. We're so close to the end of Lent Madness that I am a little sad, but also very thankful to the SEC, the bloggers, all the people working behind the scenes, and my companions on this journey, who helped me see more and challenged me to see from the other side. Happy Lent!

    1. I feel the same way. It was the most difficult vote I've had. I really wanted them both to win. So thank you for all of the insights you have given over the many weeks.

  11. I am voting for Joseph. When we were selling our house three years ago, someone at church told us that we should plant a little statue of St. Joseph in our front yard to help sell. I had never heard of it before, but trusting in my friend, I planted him in our garden. We sold our house to a couple who saw the listing 10 minutes after it went up. Thank you, St. Joseph. We dug him up and kept him for our son for when he wants to sell his house.

  12. The bloggers again did a great job. I was torn because Josepth and Elizabeth gave so much and had so much faith. But I went with Elizabeth because I have been involved in prison ministry for years and am holding the men and women who are incarcerated in my prayers as the virus will greatly impact them.

  13. If we can join together and hold up Elizabeth Fry as our model, maybe we'll stop prisons for profit and release those incarcerated through false convictions and restore voting rights to ex-felons. Then we'd be continuing her work and not just acknowledging a job well done.

    1. Yes, we all need to see what we can do to carry on Elizabeth’s work of prison reform I our country today. She got my vote every time.

  14. During this past Lenten Season, I have been meditating on the Gospel stories, in particular those related to Mary and her location in the narratives. Where was she and what was she saying? And if these exchanges were considered to be an interview, who is she talking about? There is a good deal of content about Joseph and his character as a man. I like to think that Mary is giving this information to the Gospel writers. What we read in Scripture is about their journey together. She trusted him. She loved him. She honored him in her recounting of the days that they spent together. It is her voice that we hear in the Gospel writings. Nazareth, Bethlehem, Egypt, Jerusalem. Mary is in all these locations with Joseph. Walking together on dusty roads in the heat of the day, and the cool of the night. Companions of help, supporting each other in the daunting task of protecting the Savior.

    1. Me too. I've learned so much by reading the comments. Voted for Joseph today because of the lovely prayer.

  15. Elizabeth Fry, the one who is able to look past what someone has done and see the Christ looking back definitely has my vote.

  16. Such a worthy opponent, as will be Harriet Tubman, but as I have posted previously, my Patron, Saint Joseph has carried me through some of the most personally difficult times in my life and I know he is still there, not pushing but lifting me up and so voting for him to gain the "Golden Hale" is the very least I can do.

    1. I agree and support your choice, not only because St,. Joseph is so very worthy of this honor, but because he is the patron saint of my church family here in Lakewood, Co. Go Joseph!!

  17. I voted for Joseph....as I wrangled with it I thought of what EITHER of them might say - I doubt there are wounded feelings in their hearts so I won't let this conundrum disturb my peace. I voted for Joseph for the simple reason that many Christians ignore him...

  18. Thank you, Michael, for all your clever humor (how many captions can possibly go with a single picture??), and especially for your Holy Week reflection. Real, moving, and captioned with hope. Easter blessings to you and yours.

  19. Where do bad folks go when they die?
    They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly,
    go to a lake of fire and FRY. Go Betsy Fry!

    It's Elizabeth Fry for me all the way, a woman who spent her life serving others. She did not condemn people to lakes of fire. She worked to advance literacy and to ameliorate the conditions of the poor. There weren't any rich people in prisons then or now.

    Joseph is the man who got to have sex with the Virgin Mary. He has frisky bliss for all eternity. He doesn't need a shiny object, whose function in amorous dallying is entirely uncertain. Given the large number of brothers and sisters that Jesus had, Joseph may well have been the father of eleven, just like Betsy; in heaven they can discuss Dr. Spock knowledgeably and weigh out the relative merits of cloth versus disposable nappies.

    Speaking of dallying, people, we are within sight of the spires of Canterbury. Tomorrow we enter through the gates of Canterbury. Where are the bawdy jokes this year? Chaucer would consider us weak piss if we couldn't come up with a few blue jokes to humanize our entry into the holy city.

    Canterbury may be an earthly city and not nirvana, but here's Nirvana to remind you to vote for Betsy FRY and not burn in that lake of fire (which she would enter to comfort you, and whose torments she would labor to relieve).

      1. Very impressed with the Fry inspired Nirvana! I did vote for Betsy - since I had never heard her story before & was impressed by it. Actually expect to see Harriet beat Joe in the final. Harriet is just so much more appropriately Episcopal! This is my 1st LM season ... and I have fully enjoyed it. It has been one bright spot in a very sad spring. Thank you to all the celebrity bloggers, Tim, Scott, and everyone for doing a wonderful job. Happy end of lent.

  20. I enjoy lent Madness because I enjoy reading about the saints. but I hate choosing one over the other. I suddenly realized yesterday that this is designed by men because it forces competition-- a male thing. I think in the future I will read the bios but refrain from "voting," as a protest. This is all about basket ball not saints!

    1. Very insightful comment.
      In fairness, the concept was an educational tool that was built as a parody of March Madness. It’s not something invented from scratch.

    2. In the future, I will vote but try to read no comments. Many are tangential, judgmental, and political opinions. We all have the right to express each of these. I read them elsewhere. I wish there were a way to separate them from the ones that enrich my life and spirituality.

      1. Tracy, I find the comments one of the richest parts of the process. Yes, some are tangential and judgemental but many more are deeply thoughtful and insightful, and the political is an integral part of daily life to me. I am always surprised and enriched by reading them.

      2. I love the comments, both the thoughtful, insightful ones and the lighthearted ones. I also enjoy voting, and I really enjoy the Kitsch round. I know there are those who really dislike all these aspects, and I think one of the best things about Lent Madness is that it's possible to participate in whatever you choose to, and ignore the parts of it you don't like.

  21. I think that Elizabeth Fry truly had a squadron of angels with her, guiding her every step of way.

  22. I had to go with Joseph on this one, anyone who can step up and be a foster parent
    gets my vote.

  23. I look forward every year to Lent Madness. I do not, however, look forward to the final countdown. Today's match-up is especially difficult. I could vote for either St. Joseph or Elizabeth Fry and know that I had done the right thing with either choice. It comes down, then, to deciding between what it was that got both these splendid people into this round: Joseph, surrogate father to Our Lord; Elizabeth, gentle and loving presence to society's marginalized. In the end, I voted for Elizabeth, because while I will never have a chance to be, like Joseph, a surrogate parent to God, I can be a good disciple like Elizabeth and radiate, by my actions, the love of God in a dark world.

  24. I had to vote for Joseph with him being the ultimate foster father.
    He was given a situation and he stepped up like a man should. No complaints from
    Joseph, he just did what needed to be done.