Catherine Booth vs. Constantine

Today we’re back for our second helping of Saintly Sixteen action as the round of Quirks and Quotes continues. Catherine Booth takes on Constantine as 19th century meets 3rd century — a pairing you’ll only ever encounter in the looniness of Lent Madness. To get here, Catherine upset Joan of Arc, while Constantine got past Miguel Pro.

Yesterday, in a hotly contested matchup, Camillus de Lellis snuck past Melangell 52% to 48% to become the first saint to snag a spot in the Elate Eight. Serious bracketologists will note the battle also made Lent Madness history for most “Ls” in a single pairing.

Well, we’re off for the weekend, but we’ll be back bright and early Monday morning as Arnulf of Metz faces Egeria. Try not to miss us too much.

Catherine Booth
Catherine Booth was a gifted preacher, teacher, and evangelist—and fearlessly carried those gifts at the height of the Victorian era—where the leadership of women in preaching and the church was at best unknown, and at worst derided and mocked. Booth once preached “There is no improving the future, without disturbing the present, and the difficulty is to get people to be willing to be disturbed.” Truly, Booth was a pioneer willing to be disturbed; not only her preaching but her work among England’s poor and disenfranchised are a legacy that lasts to this day.

Indeed, Catherine understood that disruption as part and parcel of the Christian life, and the church all too often seeks to ease its discomfort with easy solutions—thereby showing the motive for her ministry in the hardest and most difficult places, and in spite of opposition: “It is a bad sign for the Christianity of this day that it provokes so little opposition. If there were no other evidence of it being wrong, I should know from that. When the Church and the world can jog along together comfortably, you may be sure there is something wrong. The world has not altered. Its spirit is exactly the same as it ever was, and if Christians were equally faithful and devoted to the Lord, and separated from the world, living so that their lives were a reproof to all ungodliness, the world would hate them as much as it ever did. It is the Church that has altered, not the world.”

Indeed, Catherine didn’t have time for lukewarm Christianity: “Here is the reason why we have such a host of stillborn, sinewless, ricketty, powerless spiritual children. They are born of half-dead parents, a sort of sentimental religion which does not take hold of the soul, which has no depth of earth, no grasp, no power in it, and the result is a sickly crop of sentimental converts. Oh! the Lord give us a real, robust, living, hardy, Christianity, full of zeal and faith, which shall bring into the kingdom of God lively, well-developed children, full of life and energy, instead of these poor sentimental ghosts that are hopping around us.”

This was not an abstract concept for Catherine: “The Gospel represents Jesus Christ as a real, living, mighty Savior, able to save me now.” That same hope able to save her now was to be communicated to as many people in the way they can receive it: “Here is the principle—adapt your measures to the necessity of the people to whom you minister. You are to take the Gospel to them in such modes and circumstances as will gain for it from them a hearing.” Above all, she prayed that she would be found true, with the whole church, to the call of God: “We are made for larger ends than Earth can encompass. Oh, let us be true to our exalted destiny.”

—David Sibley


The marriage between Christianity and the state will always be tendentious. The benefits to both in the marriage are real as are the great costs. Constantine’s momentous step to bring the two into closer harmony must thus be received with a certain ambivalence. As one noted historian wrote of Constantine, “Zeal for the church did not absolve him of the harsh realities of power.”

As seen in Round 1 of this august competition, according to Christian hagiographers, Constantine’s rise to power came with a sign from God as he was preparing to engage Maxentius in battle at the Milvian Bridge. Outnumbered and overmatched, Constantine saw the chi-rho and was promised, “In this you will conquer.” Christian signs were erected on banners and painted on shields and Maxentius and his army were driven into the waters. For some Christian historians at the time, the similarities to the Pharaoh and his army thrown into the sea at the exodus was uncanny. There was hope for a new liberation.

Constantine set out to create space for the Christian minority. The Edict of Milan calls for toleration in religious practice, not just for Christians. One line reads, “…the open and free exercise of their respective religions is granted to all others, as well as to the Christians.” (Roberts-Donaldson, trans.) In this way, Constantine can be seen as an advocate for tolerance between and within a variety of religious traditions.

Unfortunately, Christians would not always cooperate. Constantine was dragged into conflicts within Christianity by bishops seeking the official endorsement of their positions. In an early conflict with the Donatists, Constantine tried more subtle forms of persuasion. The recalcitrance of the disputants led to a more heavy-handed approach at Nicaea. He summoned the bishops and lavishly supported the council. In the council itself, he likely had a hand in the homoousios formulation and later he would call Arius “the mouthpiece of Satan.” Certainly, his desire was for peace in the Roman Empire but it could be argued that his hope for unity in Christianity was for the sake of Christianity. And yet, any unity that is enforced by political coercion will be fundamentally distorted.

Constantine’s commitment to the church and his place as an emperor thus opens an important dialog about how power is wielded in Christianity. His prominence in the debate is a gift.

David Creech


Catherine Booth vs. Constantine

  • Catherine Booth (70%, 4,571 Votes)
  • Constantine (30%, 2,004 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,575

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Image of Catherine Booth: Public domain
Ramazanov Nikolay, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons




109 Comments to "Catherine Booth vs. Constantine"

  1. John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
    March 12, 2021 - 8:03 am | Permalink

    Catherine Booth always preached in fine fettle;
    The hidebound she’d frequently nettle.
    With rhetoric stinging
    Her speeches kept ringing —
    Like the bell that goes with a red kettle.

    • Jordan Rippy's Gravatar Jordan Rippy
      March 12, 2021 - 9:13 am | Permalink

      I love these and look forward to them everyday. Thanks for doing them, John!

    • JoJo's Gravatar JoJo
      March 12, 2021 - 9:46 am | Permalink

      Dear John,
      I love your limericks, they are so cheerful. Where can we get a compilation of all after the Golden Halo is won?

      • John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
        March 12, 2021 - 6:38 pm | Permalink

        Dear JoJo,

        I am working on this; more to follow once I’ve got it set up.

        I am glad you enjoy the limricks; it’s been a Lenten devotion of mine for the last couple of years. I’m happy to see all the other ones out there, too; a limerick can be as difficult to compose as a haiku sometimes.

        • March 12, 2021 - 7:01 pm | Permalink

          I also enjoy your limericks – very well done!

    • Carol Todd's Gravatar Carol Todd
      March 12, 2021 - 1:12 pm | Permalink


  2. Emory Edwards's Gravatar Emory Edwards
    March 12, 2021 - 8:06 am | Permalink

    What a bracket! Unfortunately for me, Catherine Booth represents a very discriminatory and anti-LGBTQ understanding of Christianity as offered through the Salvation Army. On with the Emperor!

    • Teri's Gravatar Teri
      March 12, 2021 - 8:28 am | Permalink

      please check into this. I looked at the Salvation Army UK (where I live) website and read all their statements including this one:
      “We oppose any discrimination, marginalisation or persecution of any person. We find no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for any reason. Anyone who comes to The Salvation Army will receive assistance based solely on their need and our capacity to provide help. We work with people who are vulnerable and marginalised across the world, and offer very practical help, unconditional assistance and support regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.”

      Have they done wrong in recent years? Yes. Are they currently? Well, not that I can see on the website of the organisation for my country. Did she start that discrimination when she “mothered” this church into existence? No.

      • Linda Burnett's Gravatar Linda Burnett
        March 12, 2021 - 8:41 am | Permalink

        YES! I worked for Salvation Army for 16 years as a case manager at the Austin Shelter for Women and Children. J never witnessed any discrimination towards anyone seeking help the entire time I worked there. We also had a very diverse staff including members of the LGBTQ+ community. I’m not sure where these stories of discrimination started but they have been circulating for years with no substantive proof. If there ever was an issue I am quite certain it was an isolated incident. Yes, the SA is conservative in their practice of Christianity, but that in no way determines who they serve. They serve all equally.

      • Edmund Pickup's Gravatar Edmund Pickup
        March 12, 2021 - 10:03 am | Permalink

        The Salvation Army still takes the position that all expressions of sexually between persons of the same sex are biblically prohibited. They are definitely still a homophobic organization.

        See e.g.

        • Julie Carter's Gravatar Julie Carter
          March 16, 2021 - 2:36 pm | Permalink

          I am not a perfect person. I have a lot of character faults that need to be scrubbed out and replaced with the fruits of the spirit. Even though I am not perfect, I am doing some good things for the body of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven. If we had to eliminate every imperfect person or organization that works for the Gospel, we would not have any one left. As such, I am not one to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’. There are amazing, gifted, spirit-lead people in this world who still don’t think as forwardly as others do. That does not make them evil or worthy of abandonment. I would have voted for Catherine (I was out of town and forgot) because of her Zeal and her courage in a time when a loud mouthed Christian woman didn’t get a lot of support. I bet she cared for many LGBTQ persons in her time, with love and a desire to bring them to Jesus, who she knew loved them and wanted them in the Kingdom. There are so many issues that divide us. I want to concentrate on inclusion. Even for The Salvation Army.

      • TM's Gravatar TM
        March 12, 2021 - 11:37 am | Permalink

        I appreciate even knowing about this controversy! For me she just comes across as an incredible writer and activist– and next to Constantine, there’s no contest. I’ll vote against Constantine as often as possible. Ad Pacis Romanorum, ego diceo, “Non, tibi gratias!”

        • Chris's Gravatar Chris
          March 12, 2021 - 2:14 pm | Permalink

          I agree Constantine corrupted the Christian Church. Read the true history about Constantine, I was shocked when I found out what he actually did.

          • Linda Maloney's Gravatar Linda Maloney
            March 12, 2021 - 10:27 pm | Permalink

            How very true!

      • Melanie of Clermont's Gravatar Melanie of Clermont
        March 12, 2021 - 3:57 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your enlightening statements. So true!

    • Betsy B's Gravatar Betsy B
      March 12, 2021 - 8:29 am | Permalink

      Thank you for pointing that out.

      • Paul C's Gravatar Paul C
        March 12, 2021 - 11:13 am | Permalink

        When did disagreement on what the Bible teaches and how we interpret that stance automatically become hate and discrimination? Taking an (I hope) extreme example, my understanding that child and spouse abuse is non-Christian, un-Biblical, unloving, and wrong does not mean that I automatically discriminate against abusers who need help and Christian love and cast them into the outer darkness.

        • Julie Carter's Gravatar Julie Carter
          March 16, 2021 - 2:39 pm | Permalink

          I agree. Isn’t that when they need a Christian brother or sister the most? They have consequences to face and they need to be ready. They need us to be the hands and feet of Jesus. He came so that no one has to be cast into the outer darkness or the lake of fire. That includes child and spouse abusers. Everyone gets the same grace and mercy.

    • March 12, 2021 - 9:32 am | Permalink

      I don’t understand condemning Catherine Booth for what subsequent generations did with an institution she founded. By that criterion, all Jesus must be condemned for the hateful actions carried out in his name by Christians throughout history. While I am no fan of Salvation Army’s conservative stance on a host of issues, nor is SA a recipient of my charitable giving, Catherine Booth gets my vote for her personal strength and holiness

      • Jack Zamboni's Gravatar Jack Zamboni
        March 12, 2021 - 10:28 am | Permalink

        Well put.

        • Roni's Gravatar Roni
          March 12, 2021 - 10:56 am | Permalink

          I agree

      • Roni's Gravatar Roni
        March 12, 2021 - 10:55 am | Permalink

        I agree

      • Tessa's Gravatar Tessa
        March 12, 2021 - 12:34 pm | Permalink


        • Carl Fuglein's Gravatar Carl Fuglein
          March 12, 2021 - 7:31 pm | Permalink


    • Robert Coates's Gravatar Robert Coates
      March 12, 2021 - 4:23 pm | Permalink

      I have lived in many cities in this country where the Salvation Army was the only game in town for homeless people. In San Francisco, there are far more LGBT people receiving services from the SA then there are complaining about nonexistent discrimination.

    • Karen Rhodes's Gravatar Karen Rhodes
      March 12, 2021 - 7:13 pm | Permalink

      You can’t vote for anyone in Lent Madness if being provably LGBTQ friendly is your deal – breaker. Sad but true. I believe that the Salvation Army has made amends.

  3. Ellen L.'s Gravatar Ellen L.
    March 12, 2021 - 8:10 am | Permalink

    Eeek…. I’m not sure that the writer for Constantine was trying to help his case. But honesty is a Christian virtue, so I cannot fault them. But you know for good or bad, without Constantine, I’m not sure where we would be today. God often has a history of using the worst people to do a greater good. And while I admire Catherine Booth, there is no denying that Christianity found a perfectly imperfect advocate in Constantine. Perhaps that is the lesson, to recognize that our political and military leaders are only human and they will never really come close to the glory of God. So,, I will vote for Constantine, flawed and imperfect, but changing the path of the faith.

    • Debbie White's Gravatar Debbie White
      March 12, 2021 - 12:30 pm | Permalink

      I agree.

    • Georgene's Gravatar Georgene
      March 12, 2021 - 8:40 pm | Permalink

      I agree.

  4. Patrick's Gravatar Patrick
    March 12, 2021 - 8:14 am | Permalink

    Its too bad Constantine did not stick with the concept of tolerance for all religions(just like the framers of theUS Constitution did centuries later) instead of making one religion the official state one,
    Still, will vote for him as I did in the first round-though I am pulling for Absalom Jones to win the Golden Halo.

    • tully monster's Gravatar tully monster
      March 12, 2021 - 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Me too!

    • Derrick Zeller's Gravatar Derrick Zeller
      March 12, 2021 - 2:25 pm | Permalink

      Actually Patrick it wasn’t Constantine that made Christianity the official and only legal religion, but one of his successors in 379 AD. Just saying lol

  5. Patrick Ward's Gravatar Patrick Ward
    March 12, 2021 - 8:20 am | Permalink

    Easy choice, Constantine was a disaster for the church and we have been hampered ever si cr

    • Vic Culp's Gravatar Vic Culp
      March 12, 2021 - 11:57 am | Permalink

      Can’t say I understand the basis for this claim. Can you elaborate?

  6. Kate Cabot's Gravatar Kate Cabot
    March 12, 2021 - 8:25 am | Permalink

    My chosen was Saint Joan but since that was not to be, I’m voting against Constantine.

  7. Scott Rauch's Gravatar Scott Rauch
    March 12, 2021 - 8:25 am | Permalink

    Excellent and inspiring post, David Sibley.

  8. Marian the Lutheran's Gravatar Marian the Lutheran
    March 12, 2021 - 8:26 am | Permalink

    I have a feeling that Ms. Booth would not have been so tolerant of the religion of others. Constantine, and his immediate grasp on the idea that all religions must be tolerated equally to have equality in a kingdom, gets my vote.

  9. Judith Davita-Rauch's Gravatar Judith Davita-Rauch
    March 12, 2021 - 8:29 am | Permalink

    It was so much harder for Catherine in her time period than it was for Constantine. I often wonder how different Christianity would be if not diluted by the church-state connection.

  10. March 12, 2021 - 8:31 am | Permalink

    The very thing that Catherine Booth is quoted as decrying — the adaptation of the church to the power structures of this world, rather than challenging them — is the thing that Constantine literally started. He’s the one who put Church and Empire in bed together, and we are still paying the price.

    Catherine Booth gets my vote — for her insistence that women can and should lead the same as men, and for her organisation that does much good.
    (please please please look at the Salvation Army website for your country and read their actual statements….it seems me there’s been a clear policy shift there. Or perhaps the UK “branch” was always more inclusive than the US. But in any case, there’s pretty strong anti-discrimination language in all their policies and positions.)

  11. St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
    March 12, 2021 - 8:34 am | Permalink

    Booth, disturb us! The kitsch round gonna be lit. Booth gave a model for evangelism rooted in zeal for service, not in patriarchy, white supremacy, or christofascism. I would like to put “consubstantial” into a red kettle and leave it there. The Salvation Army will know how to transform it into food for the rickety, sinewless children they are feeding.

    • Diane's Gravatar Diane
      March 12, 2021 - 6:48 pm | Permalink

      Well said, St. Celia
      Catherine’s call for a disruptive, uncomfortable faith in action resonates with me! and I am so grateful to the women like her in the past and today that are moving us forward towards a better, more just world

    • Julie Carter's Gravatar Julie Carter
      March 16, 2021 - 2:44 pm | Permalink

      LOL! St. Celia, you hit the nail on the head! ‘I would like to put “consubstantial” into a red kettle and leave it there. The Salvation Army will know how to transform it into food for the rickety, sinewless children they are feeding.’ is my favorite part. Thank you for crystalizing my thoughts for me.

  12. Mary O'Donnell's Gravatar Mary O'Donnell
    March 12, 2021 - 8:38 am | Permalink

    Constantine religious tolerance is something of importance today.

  13. Walker A Shaw's Gravatar Walker A Shaw
    March 12, 2021 - 8:40 am | Permalink

    Booth by a mile!

  14. Helena Mbele-Mbong's Gravatar Helena Mbele-Mbong
    March 12, 2021 - 8:42 am | Permalink

    The Salvation Army today may be on the conservative and more evangelical side. Thanks to Teri for looking up the Salvation Army UK. – But, we need a little more of what she preached these days: “There is no improving the future, without disturbing the present, and the difficulty is to get people to be willing to be disturbed.” And we all need a bit of provoking. So I think I’ll go with Catherine. Would we be Christians at all today if it weren’t for Constatine? Good question. If so, perhaps less tied to the state. …

  15. Marie's Gravatar Marie
    March 12, 2021 - 8:44 am | Permalink

    Speak on, Celia!

  16. Jane Christmas's Gravatar Jane Christmas
    March 12, 2021 - 8:47 am | Permalink

    Teri: The US and the UK both voted in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood in 1992. In Canada, it was allowed in 1975.
    I voted for Catherine Booth — she had me at “They are born of half-dead parents, a sort of sentimental religion which does not take hold of the soul, which has no depth of earth, no grasp, no power in it, and the result is a sickly crop of sentimental converts.” Sing it, sister!

    • simple village priest's Gravatar simple village priest
      March 12, 2021 - 9:16 am | Permalink

      The US voted for Women’s ordination to the priesthood in 1976.

    • Vicar Mollie's Gravatar Vicar Mollie
      March 12, 2021 - 9:19 am | Permalink

      Jane, I’m with you on the “half-dead parents” of sickly sinewless ricketty children—the lady knew how to vilify!
      But if you’re talking about women’s ordination in the Anglican Communion, the US approved that at General Convention in 1976, two years after the Philadelphia Eleven were ordained.

    • Bettie's Gravatar Bettie
      March 12, 2021 - 10:32 am | Permalink

      Of course Florence Li Tim-Oi was the first woman ordained a priest in the Anglican Communion, January 25, 1944. She served in Macau, competently but controversially, and was asked to resign her license after the war ended, but it was later restored. In honor of her, as well as all the other women who suffered to become acknowledged as priests or full ministers of their respective churches, I cast my vote for Catherine, though I certainly understand the reasons Constantine has gotten as far as he has.

    • Teri's Gravatar Teri
      March 12, 2021 - 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Jane, I assume you mean in the Episcopal/Anglican Church? It seems clear that the Salvation Army had women as preachers and leaders from the very start. I’m a Church of Scotland minister and we have been ordaining women to the ministry of word and sacrament since the 1960s.

    • Sr. Heather Broadwell csc's Gravatar Sr. Heather Broadwell csc
      March 12, 2021 - 3:32 pm | Permalink

      I believe it was the UK and Australia who voted to ordain women to the priesthood in 1992. I was standing in Dean’s Yard when the vote was announced in London.

  17. Kim Wagley's Gravatar Kim Wagley
    March 12, 2021 - 8:52 am | Permalink

    I’d like to vote for both. Catherine gives an interesting insight into my evangelical sister while I can relate to Constantine trying to get get everyone to play nice together and getting a bit high handed in the process. My vote is going to Mr. Creech for making me look up two definitions, something I so rarely am challenged to do.

  18. Sandra Gustafson's Gravatar Sandra Gustafson
    March 12, 2021 - 8:52 am | Permalink

    I follow my grandmother’s lead by sending financial support to the Salvation Army. They do amazing work. However, for this contest, my opinion is that without Constantine we never would have had Catherine Booth.

  19. Carolyn's Gravatar Carolyn
    March 12, 2021 - 9:00 am | Permalink

    The Philadelphia 11 were ordained on St. Mary Magdalene’s feast day, 1974. General Convention passed the resolution for Women’s ordination in 1976.

    • Vicar Mollie's Gravatar Vicar Mollie
      March 12, 2021 - 9:21 am | Permalink

      No, it was July 29th, Mary and Martha of Bethany. My birthday.

  20. Deborah's Gravatar Deborah
    March 12, 2021 - 9:02 am | Permalink

    I found a wealth of information on the Salvation Army US web site. While I don’t know about practices in local chapters, the national organization appears to be striving to be inclusive and all. Please see for yourselves before voting solely on what you remember hearing in the past:

    • Marybeth McFarland's Gravatar Marybeth McFarland
      March 12, 2021 - 11:41 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Deborah. My mother was an orphan in Philadelphia, USA. Her mother was Catholic and her father was Presbyterian. When my grandmother went to each church for help raising her 2 granddaughters (orphans) 2 nephews (orphaned) as well as her 8 children, both churches turned her away, stating that the household was not Catholic enough and not Presbyterian enough. The Salvation Army helped her without concern about their denomination but with great concern about their need. I support them today.

  21. March 12, 2021 - 9:06 am | Permalink

    An easy choice for me today. I admire Catherine’s vigorous Christianity, even if she is a bit harsh to “lukewarm” Christians. Certainly her actions outweigh her sometimes unkind words. I remember my priest joking about “C and E Christians” (who only come to church on Christmas and Easter), but at the same time always glad to see them and welcome them in. I didn’t go to church for 35 years, now I’m there whenever I get the chance. God is calling all of us, and if the Salvation helps people hear the call, more power to them. Thanks, Catherine.

  22. March 12, 2021 - 9:12 am | Permalink

    My church history professor said the darkest day in the history of the church was the day Constantine said, “You guys are okay.”

    • Ralph's Gravatar Ralph
      March 12, 2021 - 11:55 am | Permalink

      When I was a kid in school we used to jokingly say “What we need is a good persecution.” I have to agree that the Kingdom of God did not need the military might of Constantine, any more than the Church today needs the military might of the US to enforce morality. I remember another old saying, “Christianity can only be taught by example.” Easy choice today without Miguel Pro.

  23. simple village priest's Gravatar simple village priest
    March 12, 2021 - 9:13 am | Permalink

    “When the Church and the world can jog along together comfortably, you may be sure there is something wrong.” Catherine got me right there!
    Maybe we would not even be having this discussion were it not for Constantine and his vision and appropriation of Christianity. But then again, maybe the Church would now be fully alive, a holy and mighty and revolutionary force standing up to the principalities and powers — and in no way “sinewless, rickety” descendants of a half-dead lineage. March on, Catherine! In that bonnet, conquer!

  24. St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
    March 12, 2021 - 9:20 am | Permalink

    Part of the resistance to the Salvation Army seems to be in its efforts to empower the poor, to give them authority. Catherine Booth wrote: “People contend that we must have quiet, proper, decorous services. I say, WHERE IS YOUR AUTHORITY FOR THIS? Not here. I defy any man to show it. I have a great deal more authority in this book for such a lively, gushing, spontaneous, and what you call disorderly service, as our Army services sometimes are, in this 14th of Corinthians, than you can find for yours.” She also wrote: “someone said, ‘Why, you are sending people to preach who cannot read or write.’ For a moment I was staggered, but I asked him, ‘How many of the Apostles do you suppose could read and write when they were first sent out?’ And then it was the questioner’s turn to be staggered. There is no reason to suppose, with but two or three exceptions, that any of them could. Education then was far more uncommon than now. It was not reading and writing that was the great qualification for preaching Christ; it was KNOWING AND SEEING! It was not the power of eloquence, but it was being able to cast out devils, that was the test. Give me somebody able to cast out devils, and I don’t care whether they can read or write, or put a grammatical sentence together.” Booth seems to have been a vigorous preacher and thinker, in her “Aggressive Christianity,” and committed, like the Jesuits, to setting the world on fire. I personally do think the poor should be taught to read and write, in addition to being fed, clothed, and healed. And I want my clergy to be able to put a grammatical sentence together. But oh, that Christians could cast out devils in our day and not vote for them.

    • Bobbie's Gravatar Bobbie
      March 12, 2021 - 3:44 pm | Permalink

      I look forward to your thoughts and knowledge each day. Thanks.

    • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
      March 13, 2021 - 12:46 am | Permalink

      Thou hast persuaded me to casteth my vote for Catherine.

    • Julie Carter's Gravatar Julie Carter
      March 16, 2021 - 2:52 pm | Permalink

      St C, you continue to be an inspiration. I am working in an Episcopal church as the student ministry director and I lead the worship team on Sunday mornings. These two positions are great for me because they require zeal. Catherine’s quote, “People contend that we must have quiet, proper, decorous services. I say, WHERE IS YOUR AUTHORITY FOR THIS? Not here. I defy any man to show it. I have a great deal more authority in this book for such a lively, gushing, spontaneous, and what you call disorderly service, as our Army services sometimes are, in this 14th of Corinthians, than you can find for yours” resonates with me big time.

  25. Beth's Gravatar Beth
    March 12, 2021 - 9:21 am | Permalink

    I’ve noticed in many match-ups that one saint may have paved the way for the other

  26. Len Freeman's Gravatar Len Freeman
    March 12, 2021 - 9:21 am | Permalink

    A no-brainer today. A tough-minded but clear Christianity… facing the too many “sentimental ghosts hopping around us”…. which may be an all too accurate description of too many “main-line” churches today. Salvation Army then (19th century Britain) and today remains one of the most effective consistent entries into standing up for the poor and “all sorts and conditions of persons.”
    What made the choice easy unfortunately is that it looks like Constantine’s writer did him (intentionally?) no favors today..

  27. Adelaide Kent's Gravatar Adelaide Kent
    March 12, 2021 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    Constance Booth = good trouble.

    • Pamela D's Gravatar Pamela D
      March 12, 2021 - 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Adelaide Kent – you captured my meandering thoughts on C. Booth with that great quote!!

  28. Mary W's Gravatar Mary W
    March 12, 2021 - 9:35 am | Permalink

    It’s much easier to vote for a person much closer to our own time and culture. Constantine’s idea of religious tolerance allowed Christianity to blossom and spread throughout Europe, and without that there probably would be no Catherine Booth, at least not in the way she was. Plus I think general religious tolerance back then was a very big step forward.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 12, 2021 - 9:46 am | Permalink

      The Roman empire practiced religious inclusion in the sense that they incorporated all the gods into their pantheon and tolerated them, as long as people burned incense to caesar as one of those gods. “Tolerance” can be a synonym for cynicism and co-optation by imperialism.

  29. Linda Kisker's Gravatar Linda Kisker
    March 12, 2021 - 9:44 am | Permalink

    We will never know the heart of Constantine. Indeed, part of our Christian discipline is to continually be examining our OWN hearts. The surety of judgments when we use the present world to judge actions in a radically different time and place befuddles me. The determination to vote primarily for a gender or an occupation is almost as befuddling.

  30. Lois Alworth's Gravatar Lois Alworth
    March 12, 2021 - 9:45 am | Permalink

    I like Booth’s idea that if we don’t disturb the present we won’t change the future. That applies to so many situations. She gets my vote. I also read “Constantine’s Sword” many years ago and that is in my mind as I vote, as well.

  31. Rene Jamieson's Gravatar Rene Jamieson
    March 12, 2021 - 9:50 am | Permalink

    When we get right down to it, none of the saints chosen for Lent Madness past, present, or future would have been brought to our notice had Constantine not issued the Edict of Milan. So my vote goes to Constantine despite my great admiration for Catherine and all those of her ilk.

    • March 12, 2021 - 11:42 am | Permalink

      I disagree that Constantine’s Edict was quintessential. In many ways and in many places around the world the church (and the gospel) survived without government or even ecclesiastical involvement, almost as though God can work with people whether institutions cooperate or not.

  32. Mama J's Gravatar Mama J
    March 12, 2021 - 9:51 am | Permalink

    St. Celia’s observations pushed me over the edge this morning. Blessed be the ‘disturbed’ community of Lent Madness!

  33. Tonya Eza's Gravatar Tonya Eza
    March 12, 2021 - 9:53 am | Permalink

    I was all set to vote against Catherine because I was so upset that she won out over Joan of Arc. However…I must admit that Catherine is the kind of saint that the church needs at this time as we try to wean ourselves away from a Christianity that has been married to country for too long. I appreciate David Creech’s write-up of Constantine and pointing out that he made space for Christianity, which had been persecuted up to this point. But, as someone else said, other than that, Constantine kind of ruined what Christianity was supposed to be. So I have reluctantly voted for Catherine Booth today.

  34. JoJo's Gravatar JoJo
    March 12, 2021 - 9:55 am | Permalink

    I don’t like either one today or we default to the preaching lady with the Bell Army

  35. Brixham Beth's Gravatar Brixham Beth
    March 12, 2021 - 9:57 am | Permalink

    We need as many feisty women as we can get, unafraid to chase away the sacred cows of ‘how we’ve always done it’. I love Catherine’s hatred and the scathing descriptions of the lukewarm Christians.

  36. Laura Schick's Gravatar Laura Schick
    March 12, 2021 - 9:57 am | Permalink

    Catherine Booth Yes indeed 🙂 (a Co-Founder of the Salvation Army in the UK).

    Although Constantine was attempting to achieve unity between people of all faiths, David Creech (the author of Constantine’s story here) lost me when I had to seek out definitions to the poly-syllabic words in his writing. I appreciate that you are a professor, David Creech; please consider the audience to whom you are speaking while speaking to the masses who are hungry for the higher Knowledge.

    • Barbara Meyer's Gravatar Barbara Meyer
      March 12, 2021 - 11:28 am | Permalink

      Would have bee worthwhile to look up the meaning of those words. Increase your knowledge

    • Tessa's Gravatar Tessa
      March 12, 2021 - 12:40 pm | Permalink

      I respectfully contend that opening another window in the browser to look up a word is not a bad thing. Few of us know the true definition of every word we encounter, and the Lent Madness audience may be a motley crew (even without youngsters like Oliver) however we are all capable of learning new things. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here.

  37. Henry R Cooper Jr's Gravatar Henry R Cooper Jr
    March 12, 2021 - 10:21 am | Permalink

    What tipped me in favor of Catherine was the last line in the text: “We are made for larger ends than Earth can encompass. Oh, let us be true to our exalted destiny.” I could not agree more.

  38. Tiffany's Gravatar Tiffany
    March 12, 2021 - 10:24 am | Permalink

    It had to be a lot easier for a male with power to proclaim that Christianity would be an accepted religion to follow faithfully than for a woman to be accepted as having power to proclaim that Christianity was not being followed faithfully. Emperor Constantine had only to decree; Catherine had to persuade – both to persuade others to listen to her, and to persuade them to action. Constantine made Christians more comfortable in their practice (not having to fear for their freedom and lives any longer), while Catherine made Christians uncomfortable for the sake of deepening their practice. And it’s Women’s History Month. And I feel we often fall into the trap of being weak and comfortable Christians.

  39. Jack Zamboni's Gravatar Jack Zamboni
    March 12, 2021 - 10:26 am | Permalink

    “There is no improving the future, without disturbing the present, and the difficulty is to get people to be willing to be disturbed.” ‘Nuff said. Go Catherine!

  40. John Anderson's Gravatar John Anderson
    March 12, 2021 - 10:30 am | Permalink

    The only emperor who never grew up: Constant Teen

    • Tessa's Gravatar Tessa
      March 12, 2021 - 12:42 pm | Permalink

      *ringing bell with vigor to drown out the sound of a dreadful pun*

  41. Craig Ewing's Gravatar Craig Ewing
    March 12, 2021 - 10:33 am | Permalink

    My problem with Catherine is that zeal for zeal’s sake can lead to all kinds of mischief. We’ve seen this throughout history but especially in the modern world. I wish there had been a bit more to the story explaining where Catherine wanted that zeal directed. With Constantine, we get the good (tolerance of all faiths) with the bad (melding of church and state). He reflects to me the complex and imperfect world in which we find ourselves – each doing good while also making significant errors. He gets my vote.

  42. Kitty's Gravatar Kitty
    March 12, 2021 - 10:45 am | Permalink

    Catherine’s words are galvanizing. I had to vote for her.

  43. Lee Greenawalt's Gravatar Lee Greenawalt
    March 12, 2021 - 10:47 am | Permalink

    Although Constantine had the greater influence in history and the Christian religion as an institution, I had to vote for Catherine whose solid faith and steadfast purpose I hope to share. Bell ringing has been a part of my Advent for a dozen years now.

  44. Fiona's Gravatar Fiona
    March 12, 2021 - 10:55 am | Permalink

    Wonderful to hear some of Catherine’s words in the write up and comments today. As someone who tries to discomfort the comfortable, I vote for Catherine and for all who recognise that we cannot change the future without disturbing the present.

  45. Anne E.B.'s Gravatar Anne E.B.
    March 12, 2021 - 10:56 am | Permalink

    Catherine will be the victor of the day, but I cast my vote for Constantine.

  46. Jane Fenicle's Gravatar Jane Fenicle
    March 12, 2021 - 11:07 am | Permalink

    Catherine reminds me more of Jesus than Constantine does.

  47. Gaen M.'s Gravatar Gaen M.
    March 12, 2021 - 11:15 am | Permalink

    This is a difficult choice, as I find neither of today’s saints inspiring or appealing. Constantine called Arius “Satan”; yet anyone who has ever seen the Arian mosaics in the churches of Ravenna, Italy has seen and felt the profound spiritual witness of Arius’s followers. And I’m not particularly happy about Nicea and its aftermath either: every week we chant a set of theological beliefs rather than reciting the actions of our Lord. I just completed a parallel Gospel speed reading of the canonical Gospels and Jesus spends most of his time healing, feeding, and teaching about the Kingdom not worrying about intricacies of theology that are ultimately unknowable. Catherine’s empasis on how Christianity should be at variance with society is hitting me the wrong way in an era in which Trumpified evangelicals (and I was raised Southern Baptist so they are my people in heritage) embrace ugly actions along with a victim mentality about how the “world” is out to get them. Sigh. Can I write in Joan of Arc?

  48. A.C.J. Roper's Gravatar A.C.J. Roper
    March 12, 2021 - 11:19 am | Permalink

    Could have done without Sibley’s penultimate paragraph. Methinks he over protested.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 12, 2021 - 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Sibley’s penultimate paragraph is almost entirely a quotation from Catherine Booth. You don’t like the passionate vision of “a real, robust, living, hardy, Christianity, full of zeal and faith, which shall bring into the kingdom of God lively, well-developed children, full of life and energy”? A cup of weak tea for you, then, with a soggy biscuit.

  49. Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
    March 12, 2021 - 11:29 am | Permalink

    Catherine was a pioneer for women to be clergypersons. She reminds me of some of those back in the 1960’s and ’70’s who pushed for the ordination of women. The success of her efforts eventually led to another Katharine, the amazing Katharine Jefferts Schori, becoming the first Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
    Constantine was no slouch, mind you, but in honor of all women clergy, whatever the denomination, I voted for Catharine.

    • Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
      March 12, 2021 - 11:31 am | Permalink

      Oops! Catherine. (I must have been thinking of “our” Bishop Katharine.)

  50. Margaret Jones Kilmartin's Gravatar Margaret Jones Kilmartin
    March 12, 2021 - 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t cast for Constantine–
    but a huge nod to celebrity biographer, David Creech.
    “…any unity that is enforced by political coercion will be fundamentally distorted.”
    Words to live by.

  51. Dana Kramer--Rolls's Gravatar Dana Kramer--Rolls
    March 12, 2021 - 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I am certainly cut from the same cloth as Catherine Booth. When I preach, I take no prisoners. Yes, we have become lukewarm . Constantine probably marked the end of Christianity as Jesus would have recognized it. Why my vote for Constantine? Because the Booths have survived, but without=, for good or ill, government approbation, Christianity well might have either disappeared, or become another odd cult. We needed the institution of the secular world a well aw the institution of the Church, which are often not kind or Christian. But they are the structure of our survival for those from Benedict to Booth who carry the Word.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 12, 2021 - 2:32 pm | Permalink

      A really interesting take. Thanks.

  52. A Jennifer's Gravatar A Jennifer
    March 12, 2021 - 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Seems unlikely at this point – so many worthies yet to battle — but wouldn’t a red cross vs red kettle final matchup be fun?

    CB sure has a mouth on her. Love it. Thanks for finding those great quotations, David S.

  53. Robert Coates's Gravatar Robert Coates
    March 12, 2021 - 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I am delighted to vote for Catherine Booth, to honor her work for the Salvation Army and Christian service. Also, to vote against Constantine for deserved revenge for Miguel Pro.

  54. Earl Higgins's Gravatar Earl Higgins
    March 12, 2021 - 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Catherine Booth and Gen. William Booth:
    Booth led boldly with his big bass drum
    (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
    The Saints smiled gravely and they said, “He’s come,”
    (Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)

    Onward, Christian soldiers
    Marching as to war.
    Is Constantine the inspiration for the 1950s slogan, “Kill a commie for Christ?

  55. Bee Durban's Gravatar Bee Durban
    March 12, 2021 - 8:32 pm | Permalink

    It is a joy to me indeed to have yet another opportunity to vote against Constantine. It will be a cold day in hell before I will vote for Empire. I am quite sure that I would have taken issue with some of Catherine Booth’s views but I agree with her that Christianity should be willing to disturb, which is in stark contrast to any religion that is in league with Empire and no doubt would have wound Constantine up no end. Catherine has my vote.

  56. Barbara Gay's Gravatar Barbara Gay
    March 12, 2021 - 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Voting for Catherine in honor of my great grandmother, Olive Marshall Gay. At age 14, she met Jesus in a cornfield and thereafter became a nurse, helped start a hospital in Kansas, then became a Methodist deacon and a preacher on the Chatauqua circuit. Someone I wish I could have met.

  57. Sharron's Gravatar Sharron
    March 13, 2021 - 9:40 am | Permalink

    voted for Booth but came away from the read on Constantine with another nugget added to my meagre grasp of christian history viz:
    Homoousios is one of the most important words in the Christian theological vocabulary, since it was used at the Council of Nicaea to express the divine consubstantiality of the Son with the Father. However, long and complicated debates have not yet produced any significant agreement among scholars concerning its origin and meaning.

  58. MARY ROSA's Gravatar MARY ROSA
    March 13, 2021 - 12:03 pm | Permalink


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