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. I especially like the first piece of artwork of Joseph holding the toddler, Jesus, with both of them wearing halos. I have tried to print it, but it does not work. Do you, by chance, know the artist? Martha

    1. I was also very impressed by this picture. There is a website link right beneath the write-up; maybe you can find out more there.

  2. The celebrity bloggers did a wonderful job today and throughout this season. Thanks for shining a spotlight on these saints. The value of Lent Madness for me is not which saints are Biblical or verifiable real people or shrouded in legends, or even about who wins the voting. The value is how do their stories and/or lives inspire or help me/us hear God today. The great cloud of witnesses is available to teach us and guide us in our lives and ministry today. As I learn about or study what they did or are remembered for in their earthly lives, and read about how they have inspired you through your comments, I am inspired for my own faith journey. That's what I love about Lent Madness.

  3. Even though I am Elizabeth and the descendant of Quakers... Joseph for me. And will likely be flipping a coin tomorrow... Harriet vs. Joseph

  4. Have to vote for Elizabeth Fry. She also inspired others such as Florence Nightingale and Margery Fry. Fry had established a group of nurses in 1840, the Institution of Nursing Sisters. One can read a paper about it at "Twixt Candle and Lamp: The Contribution of Elizabeth Fry and the Institution of Nursing Sisters to Nursing Reform" R G Huntsman, Mary Bruin and Deborah Holttum, Medical History, 2002, 46: 351-380

  5. What a great experience Lent Madness has been for me! I have learned so much about truly extraordinary human beings who clearly heard the voice of God. Last night, as I prepared for bed, I told God that I was grateful for the multitude of souls who have helped to steer me through Lent this year. It has been quite a journey! Many of the souls of whom I speak are those human beings we admire here and those who have commented here. Hope resides in us, if we let it.

  6. My vote went to Elizabeth. She speaks to the work that needs to be done today. The challenging work of loving your neighbor as yourself. The work of recognizing yourself as a beloved neighbor in God's eye whether imprisoned, successful, lonely, healthy, addicted, faithful or not. We're here to love one another and Elizabeth gives us an amazing example of love in action.

  7. My first year with Lent Madness!
    How much I learned and how much I smiled!
    To Tim and Scott, to all the bloggers, many thanks for your knowledge and wit,
    Helping us see the Holy Spirit alive and well especially in these troubled times

  8. Two saintly people but Joseph's many yeses to God have such profound impact. Don't forget that Joseph walks with refugees, too, & those whose 12 year olds have disappeared. God surely chose an exceptional man to be Jesus' human father/foster father/father figure. And Joseph certainly would have been further shaped by Jesus's daily presence in his life. I wonder what he thought when his son said "Surely you knew I must be in my father's house." Elizabeth Fry was an extraordinary woman but I must vote for Joseph!

  9. I will admit that this was a difficult choice; both are worthy of moving on. However that being said, I always believed that Joseph got the short shrift in The Bible. After doing all that he was asked to do, and not once turning his back on God, he did it all. Then he just disappears from the good book. No explanations! Nothing. Therefore, I truly had to stay with Joseph, a saint for all the people.

  10. Every year I look forward to Lent Madness and the joy, knowledge, and the deepened Lenten devotion it brings- but this year more than ever - it has lifted my heart. Thanks to the amazing SEC, the bloggers, the saints, and all those who leave witty and wise comments! Happy Lent and peaceful Easter in this challenging time!

    1. Amen, and Amen! In ordinary times, we say in our Sunday services, "I believe in the communion of saints." I feel this more strongly than ever this year. Thanks be to God for these women and men to whose prayers, as we learn about them and reflect on why they touch our hearts and lives, we join our own.

  11. If Jesus was indeed fully God and fully man as the Bible says, then the role Joseph played in his life was huge. God chose Joseph ( and I am sure He had many choices that would have fulfilled prophecy just as well ) to teach Jesus how to be a man. Think about what your father/father figure taught you. Jesus grew into the caring, loving savior we know not just because he is the Son of God, but also because he was raised by a loving family on Earth.

  12. Only 1 Liz made it so she gets my vote for a female finale tomorrow.
    It's been fun to learn about the more recent modern day saints & the odd traditional saints I didn't know much about.

  13. Joseph is too vague for me. Elizabeth was hands on, touching so many lives and defying the world's stereotype of women.

  14. They all enrich my thoughts and life--even when I don't agree. The comments are an integral part of Lent Madness, for me.

  15. My policy, when, as today, I truly can’t choose between two saints, is to look at the results and vote for the underdog. Thank you to the SEC and the celebrity bloggers for shining some light into this dark time.

  16. I was committed to Elizabeth Fry, a giant in the wonderful Quaker tradition of compassion, justice and social reform. However when I read the passage for Joseph, I teared up. Had to vote with the heart and tears.

  17. Elizabeth was my choice in previous matchups but I didn’t vote for her today for 2 reasons. One is a beloved uncle named Joseph who was a model of love and caring, dedication and commitment and charming and funny - I miss him every day. The other reason has to do with the current crisis engulfing the world. I am overwhelmed with grief when I read about people dying without the comfort of loved ones. St. Joseph is the saint to appeal to for a peaceful death. I hope for that comfort and peace for those who are dying now.

  18. Today’s choices are Joseph and Elizabeth Frye, hmm... My vote goes to Dr. Fauci! Can I do that?

    1. At first I thought, maybe next year, but isn't the first requirement for sainthood that the person dead? I wish Dr. Fauci a long and happy life. Maybe several decades hence he'll qualify for the LM Bracket.

  19. I voted for Elizabeth Fry because what greater good can a person do than to redeem and "resurrect" the lost, unloved and downtrodden as Christ did.

  20. Kudos to the celebrity bloggers for making an already difficult choice more difficult still. Ditto to those who posted and contributed so much to the conversation. I could vote either way – indeed, I believe I may have voted for both candidates over the past weeks – but it's Holy Week, so I feel that I have to go with Joseph.

  21. Two wonderful saints today whose lives and examples speak to us from the distant and more recent past and whose obedience to God both gently rebuke and encourage us in our journey. Both bloggers outdid themselves today with outstanding presentations of their chosen saint, but I was particularly moved by Neva Rae Fox's essay on St. Joseph and so voted for him. Sancti Joseph et Elizabeth, orate pro nobis!

  22. By the time we get to the Faithful Four, the choices are almost impossible. Fortunately, as the SEC often tells us, all these amazing people already have their heavenly golden halos. Having voted for Joseph all along, I could "go for the gold"---but even though she's a saint from the 19th century rather than the 21st, Elizabeth reminds me that there is still work to do and that, in the words of a contemporary hymn, "God is still speaking..." and we, like the saints before us, need to listen.

  23. Thanks, Michael for sharing your "Holy Week in the Time of COVID-19." It reminds me of one of my favorite people, The Rt. Rev. David Bowman who always said, "No matter what, we are always Easter people."

  24. I'm voting for Elizabeth Fry, but I vote a heartfelt "yes" to both the beautifully-written blogs.

    1. I agree! I think the presentations by the celebrity bloggers this year are the best yet! Maybe it's just that I've needed Lent Madness more than ever this year.

  25. All honor to Joseph. He must have been an awesome husband, father, role model - you name it. Also, I'm tired of seeing him left out of works of music and literature. Nevertheless, I voted instead for Elizabeth Fry for three reasons. First, Joseph is already a saint, and I think she deserves recognition for her work with women in prisons. Second, there is no reason to suspect that Joseph did not live. I agree with Mary Reed Newland in The Saint Book that he "left his mark on the Son of God," but the infancy narratives make significant theological points about him without being concerned about strictly historical facts or extrabiblical sources. Third, the practical theology issue, that is, her willingness to live out her faith caring for not only those who were unfortunate, but those who, whether through by their own fault or because of their circumstances, were on the other side of the law. "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?" we're asked when we renew our Baptismal vows. And we answer, "We will."

  26. This was a difficult choice. Who could deny the saintliness of Elizabeth Fry who set a movement toward prison reform which continues today. We now have businesses who only hire former prisoners with great success.
    However, as a child advocate, I had to vote for St. Joseph for his saintly model for fatherhood. He is the model for birth fathers, and perhaps more importantly for foster, adoptive fathers and male youth leaders. With the large number of families without fathers, St Joseph calls for men to father, adopt or provide leadership to children who are not their birth children. God bless the foster care, adoptive parents and youth leaders , who give parental love to those who would otherwise never experience it.

  27. I voted for Joseph because I have always felt that he got the short shift in the Bible. My own sons and I were blessed to have a wonderful man come into our lives who was a loving and faithful stepfather. Ironically, his name was Joseph also. Chance? I think not. L