Welcome to the Faithful Four! From an initial field of 32 saints, we are down to a holy four: Harriet Tubman, Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth Fry, and Joseph. In just a few short days, one of these saintly souls will be awarded the coveted Golden Halo.
To get to this point, Harriet took down Julie Billiart, James Solomon Russell, and Herman of Alaska, while Hildegard got past Romanos the Melodist, Elizabeth the New Martyr ,and Brother Lawrence. (note: click on the name of the vanquished saint to read that round's write-up)
Throughout Lent Madness, our saintly heroes have battled via basic bios, quirks and quotes, and event kitsch. In this round, we let our remaining Celebrity Bloggers loose as they answer the question “Why should Saint XX win the Golden Halo?” In other words, they’ve been charged with letting us know why their particular saint is so awesome. We have also invited them to share their two favorite images of their saints.
And as a side note, not that our wonderful Celebrity Bloggers are competing against each other per se, but this matchup does contain an interesting twist as our two newest Lent Madness contributors work to advance their respective saints. Both Sandra Montes and Miguel Escobar work at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Sandra as Interim Worship Director and Miguel as Executive Director of Anglican Studies. Talk about in-house bragging rights!
Well, it's time to vote. Go do your thing!
When I was invited to write for Lent Madness I was so excited because I had been playing and watching along for years! When asked for my top ten saints, I immediately put Harriet Tubman as my first choice. I taught about Tubman when I was a teacher, I love reading about her and her tenacity, I also really enjoy hearing sermons about her. I remember one in particular preached at the Chapel of the Cross in NC and then presiding bishop-elect Curry, quoted Tubman, “If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going… Don’t give up, don’t give in… if you want to taste freedom, keep going!” I was “Amen-ing!” and “Mmhmm-ing!” And I thought to myself, I can’t, I won’t give up no matter what.
Today, as I write this, I know Harriet is going against my wonderful friend Miguel Escobar’s saint, Hildegard, and I say to myself again, “No, I can’t give up!”
Harriet Tubman is an inspiration to any person who has felt in shackles. Any one of us who has ever looked to the heavens and begged, “Hear my cry!” feels hope and finds strength from Harriet’s story. Tubman saw visions and had dreams she interpreted as revelations from God that, I am certain, helped her continue to have strength, courage and intelligence to keep going, to keep helping and never give up.
She was born into slavery but decided that was not the path for her. She didn’t have to help others, but she chose to. She knew there was something more and went for it. What a testimony for any of us who are looked down upon or who are told we are not worthy to be of service or to have an amazing legacy. She couldn’t read or write but she was determined to be free. She was told no many times, but she kept at it.
She not only helped many enslaved people be free, as Jesus does, she also helped as a cook and a nurse and even led an armed assault during the Civil War! As Frederick Douglass wrote, she “labored in a private way… in the night” and what she is now known for may “seem improbable.” And, it very well may be improbable for us to imagine, but as the Bible says, all things are possible if we believe and, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.
In this time of pandemic, of fear, of confusion, death and pain, let us remember God’s promises, as did Harriet. Let us keep going. Let us keep believing. Let us never give up.
Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard of Bignen’s morality play Ordo Virtutum, composed around 1151, is about the struggle for a human soul, Anima, between the Virtues and the Devil. Importantly, the Virtues’ parts are sung by female voices, and were likely first sung by the nuns at Hildegard’s abbey, but the Devil is voiced by a male and never sings. Instead, he yells. He grunts. His appeal is wrapped up in lies and brash loudness. The play is about a soul wavering between the appeal of the Virtues and that of the Devil’s shouting, a singular fact that makes Hildegard’s work and vision especially relevant today.
For I believe that America’s soul is at risk today. Like Anima in Ordo Virtutum, we appear to be pushed and pulled between the quieter appeal of ancient Virtues and the Devil’s lies and bellowing. Further, I fear this is especially the case when it comes to global issues such as climate change as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Whose voices are we to believe?
The reason why I am making a case for Hildegard of Bignen today - against my good friend Sandra Montes’ appeal for Harriet Tubman, no less - is 1) that this is what I signed up to do when I agreed to write for this project but also 2) because I believe people -- indeed, perhaps even creation itself -- is longing for a visionary who will help point a way beyond this quagmire. With the effects of climate change closing in, and a bellowing nationalism resulting in less international coordination rather than more, we desperately need examples of ancient wisdom who will radically transform our relationship to consumption, to creation, and to truth itself.
As I wrote in this post for Lent Madness, Hildegard of Bignen has special relevance for a humanity seeking pathways for reconnecting to God’s creation. Drawing on her experience of the German forest as well as the medicinal garden at her abbey, Hildegard famously observed that “the Earth sweats greeness” and laid out a visionary theology wherein she saw Christ as sent by God for the ‘greening’ of humanity. In this vision, God is the source of both our own and creation’s abundant flourishing. This was such a central part of her vision that in the morality play Ordo Virtutum, the struggle over Anima is about whether the human soul can become reconnected to the Creator. In Causae et Curae, Hildegard again draws from this well of thought by arguing that human health is analogous to a thriving garden in that both are the result of the knowledgeable tending by a gardener/healer.
As the global threats of climate change and COVID-19 make abundantly clear, we humans are interconnected and entirely dependent on being in a healthy relationship with God’s creation. Furthermore, there is no promised land to escape to; we’ve only one Earth and I believe we have a decreasing amount of time to radically reorient how we will exist in this world.
Will we continue to listen to the loud bellowing of climate-change deniers, white nationalists, and isolationists whose primary appeal is the fantasy that we can blindly continue in our individualistic, hyper-consumerist, and exploitative culture? Or will we, at list, begin to listen to the quieter melodies of ancient virtues, rediscovering a simpler way and reconnecting with God and our creation? Hildegard’s mystical vision, her musical compositions, and her scientific insights from the 12th century may be just the saint we need to face today’s challenges.
Harriet Tubman vs. Hildegard of Bingen
Total Voters: 7,487