Dunstan vs. Maryam of Qidun

Hey, look! It’s a saint a lot of people have heard of! But, as history would suggest, that means nothing in this annual clash of saints. Nonetheless Dunstan squares off against Maryam of Qidun (we were referring to Dunstan, obviously) in today’s Lent Madness battle.

Yesterday, Marianne Cope erased Bartolomé de las Casas 65% to 35%, but only because we couldn’t think of a saint whose last name was also a liturgical vestment. Believe us, there’s no one named Charles Chasuble. We looked.

The history of the church in England, like that of the church worldwide, is not a story of continual growth but of constant invention and reinvention. Saint Dunstan’s great ministry was to preside over the reinvention of monastic life in England when its flame had nearly been extinguished by Viking invasions that began in the late eighth century.

Born to an influential family and raised in the household of his uncle, an Archbishop of Canterbury, Dunstan took a vocation to monastic life in 943, living at Glastonbury as a hermit within a five-foot by two-and-a-half foot cell. According to legend, he worked as a silversmith, a scribe, and a musician. Yet even as a hermit, his stature rose, and he became a fixture within the courts of Anglo-Saxon kings. Upon receiving two large inheritances, Dunstan used his newfound wealth for the restoration of monastic life in England. A political exile to Flanders proved to be transformative, as Dunstan encountered the Benedictine monastic revival.

When he returned to England after only a year of exile, Dunstan was ordained bishop of Worcester, then translated to be bishop of London, and ultimately in 960, he became Archbishop of Canterbury. He used his new influence and favor with the king to reform and restore abbeys at Glastonbury, Bath, and Westminster, among many others. Dunstan’s monastics were “contemplatives in action”—particularly focused on the immediate concerns of church and state. They regulated liturgical worship, revived monastic life for women, sought education and discipline among the clergy, and brought the church into closer alignment with the royal power instead of the power of local lords. The revived monasticism also valued the arts, scriptoria, and workshops within monasteries.

Soon after his death, Dunstan’s cult rose and grew to great prominence and was perhaps foremost in England until eclipsed by Thomas Becket in the thirteenth century; they shared a common site of pilgrimage at Canterbury Cathedral, where each was archbishop. Goldsmiths, jewelers and locksmiths claim him as their patron. Dunstan’s work to revive monasticism would be a defining work of the tenth century in England; that same century would prove to be the cradle of the next five centuries of English history.

Collect for Dunstan
Direct your Church, O Lord, into the beauty of holiness, that, following the good example of your servant Dunstan, we may honor your Son Jesus Christ with our lips and in our lives; to the glory of his Name, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

—David Sibley


Maryam of Qidun
Maryam of Qidun was a monastic woman with a story easily transformed into legend bordering on hyperbole. The scant, subjective information about her life leaves much to the imagination. Nonetheless, even when you remove all embellishment, we’re left with a woman worthy of our deep contemplation.

Maryam’s parents died when she was seven, and she went into the care of her uncle, Abraham, of Qidun, a desert village outside of Edessa, Turkey. Abraham was a monastic who gave his considerable wealth to the poor and lived the life of a hermit, entirely devoted to God. He raised his niece as part of his monastic cell, with him in an inner room and Maryam in an outer space. A small window between the rooms allowed Abraham to teach Maryam scripture and a rule of life, and they lived this way for twenty years.

One day, a man described as a monk “in name only” began to visit Abraham but set his intentions on Maryam. After a year of visits, the man convinced Maryam to leave her cell, at which point he “immediately contaminated and polluted her” due to his lust. Maryam immediately berated herself, believing herself unworthy of forgiveness. Considering her life over, she fled to a place where no one knew her and lived as a prostitute.

Abraham had two dreams that showed Maryam’s fate. After two years, he finally discovered her location, borrowed the clothing of a soldier so that he would not be recognizable, and set out to find Maryam. Once Abraham found her, he asked to meet with her and ultimately went to her bedroom. Abraham then revealed himself to her as her uncle, lamented her leaving, and begged her to return. Abraham convinced Maryam that she could confess her sin and God would forgive her, and they returned to their cell.

Abraham put Maryam in the inner room and himself in the outer enclosure. Her weeping and cries of penitence inspired people to visit her to cry out to God alongside her. Many people were blessed by her salvation.

Most of us are unwilling to publicly repent for our sins, let alone be willing to confess and submit our lives to God. Maryam reminds us that the repentance of others can help us in our need to be forgiven. Her greatest lesson and gift: no one is devoid of sin except for God.

Collect for Maryam of Qidun
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and restore them again like your servant Maryam, that with penitent hearts and steadfast faith they might embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—Miriam Willard McKenney


Dunstan vs. Maryam of Qidun

  • Dunstan (68%, 4,749 Votes)
  • Maryam of Qidun (32%, 2,214 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,963

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Dunstan: Randy OHC / CC BY (
Maryam of Qidun: Unknown

173 Comments to "Dunstan vs. Maryam of Qidun"

  1. John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
    March 3, 2021 - 8:00 am | Permalink

    St. Dunstan, so it is written,
    Rebuilt the great abbeys of Britain.
    Goldsmiths call on him still
    As a craftsman of skill;
    To advance him today is most fittin’.

    • Josh Nixon's Gravatar Josh Nixon
      March 3, 2021 - 9:04 am | Permalink

      Dunstan it is.

    • Diane Amison-Loring's Gravatar Diane Amison-Loring
      March 3, 2021 - 9:09 am | Permalink

      Dunstan is also the patron saint of bell ringers. It is reported that Dunstan “founded” his own bells and hung them in the churches in Canterbury.

    • Kathleen Stamm's Gravatar Kathleen Stamm
      March 3, 2021 - 11:09 am | Permalink


    • CeCee Mills's Gravatar CeCee Mills
      March 3, 2021 - 11:23 am | Permalink

      Very Clever!

    • Thomas Manney's Gravatar Thomas Manney
      March 3, 2021 - 3:54 pm | Permalink


    • Gwen McAlpine's Gravatar Gwen McAlpine
      March 3, 2021 - 8:55 pm | Permalink

      I voted for St. Dunstan, too. My great church is named for him. (And by the way, wouldn’t it be great to visit the places where St. Dunstan lived?)

  2. Linda Griggs's Gravatar Linda Griggs
    March 3, 2021 - 8:14 am | Permalink

    Please help me understand the sin of which Maryam repented? If I’m reading this correctly, she was assaulted and left to live with undeserved guilt for her “sin” for the rest of her life. She is a woman worthy of our deep compassion.

    • March 3, 2021 - 8:22 am | Permalink

      Agreed! she is not the sinner in this story.

      • Sarah Westbrook's Gravatar Sarah Westbrook
        March 3, 2021 - 10:29 am | Permalink

        Nor does she seem to be the protagonist of the story…rather that seems to be her uncle.

      • Richard Dorn's Gravatar Richard Dorn
        March 3, 2021 - 10:35 am | Permalink

        Well said, totally agree.

    • Lucy Sinkular's Gravatar Lucy Sinkular
      March 3, 2021 - 8:22 am | Permalink


      • Maggie's Gravatar Maggie
        March 3, 2021 - 8:33 am | Permalink

        Thank you! My thoughts exactly!

    • Betsy B's Gravatar Betsy B
      March 3, 2021 - 8:24 am | Permalink


    • Mary's Gravatar Mary
      March 3, 2021 - 8:27 am | Permalink

      I agree. Different time and different place, but is repenting for being imprisoned by a weird uncle, being raped and forced into prostitution and then recaptured a kind of saintly example? Ugh. Poor Maryam.

      • Claudia McKee's Gravatar Claudia McKee
        March 3, 2021 - 10:29 am | Permalink

        I find your use of the term “recaptured” interesting. I hadn’t thought of it like that – kind of like white settlers captured by native peoples and then recaptured by whites, sometimes unwillingly. Poor Maryam was definitely mentally, physically, and spiritually abused. Like others, I have tremendous compassion for her, but don’t see a “saintly” connection.

        • RodneyDudley's Gravatar RodneyDudley
          March 3, 2021 - 10:42 am | Permalink

          Exactly! I certainly have compassion for her, but her example, is not one I’d call saintly–unless surviving in a world where the choice is being a hermit or a prostitute is saintly.

        • brighter's Gravatar brighter
          March 3, 2021 - 6:19 pm | Permalink

          Not murdering the various men who imprisoned and raped her is pretty saintly, IMHO.

          • Becky Blackwood's Gravatar Becky Blackwood
            March 3, 2021 - 9:26 pm | Permalink


    • Geraldine Swanson's Gravatar Geraldine Swanson
      March 3, 2021 - 8:32 am | Permalink

      I could not agree more. She was a triple victim: raised in a hostile environment; exploited and abused by a misogynist society, and mentally battered into a life of unnecessary repentance.

    • Patricia's Gravatar Patricia
      March 3, 2021 - 8:34 am | Permalink

      Indeed, Maryam’s story is one of bitter one faced by many women, all worthy of our deep compassion, deep contemplation, and the repentance of dark histories of our church . However I am still trying very hard to find the saint part of it.
      Alternatively, Dunstan , silversmith, a scribe, and a musician, helped revive the arts, scriptoria, and workshops. Being able to bring song and the arts, using them honor and delight the Creator, rather than worshiping them, is one of the reasons I love my church.
      Today, voting for Dunstan, by a gold/silversmith, jeweler and sometimes lock picker.

    • Cynthia N Taylor's Gravatar Cynthia N Taylor
      March 3, 2021 - 8:35 am | Permalink

      That’s what I was thinking!!!!

    • Linda Leong's Gravatar Linda Leong
      March 3, 2021 - 8:46 am | Permalink

      I agree. Poor Maryam did not sin; she was raped. I feel only compassion for her.

      • Liz Brunton's Gravatar Liz Brunton
        March 3, 2021 - 8:54 am | Permalink

        My thoughts exactly.

      • Andria's Gravatar Andria
        March 3, 2021 - 10:36 am | Permalink

        Yes, triply unjust pile of lemons, yet she made lemonade that resonated with enough outside people that she is still remembered centuries later. Impressive for someone whose sole “reach” is one small cell.

    • kesmarn's Gravatar kesmarn
      March 3, 2021 - 9:09 am | Permalink

      I voted for Maryam on behalf of the many women who have been rape victims and have been gaslighted into blaming themselves. Their survival itself is a form of heroic strength.

      • Marian the Lutheran's Gravatar Marian the Lutheran
        March 4, 2021 - 7:52 am | Permalink

        I find your statement far more moving than the cries of sainthood is not for those who did not choose the life. Yes, she was forced into many things, but she survived all of it by drawing strength from God when all others blamed her and, by her cries for forgiveness, gave others the permission and support they needed to cry out publicly to God.

    • Deacon Mildred's Gravatar Deacon Mildred
      March 3, 2021 - 9:17 am | Permalink

      Precisely! She has my compassion but not my vote because I would hate to be confronted again with this theological viewpoint.

    • Cam's Gravatar Cam
      March 3, 2021 - 9:23 am | Permalink

      Yes! She should not have had to repent but once and again it was not her fault to begin with as she was a victim of society.

    • Story's Gravatar Story
      March 3, 2021 - 9:30 am | Permalink

      I couldn’t agree more.

    • Bev's Gravatar Bev
      March 3, 2021 - 9:38 am | Permalink

      Agree. I don’t understand the write up at all. It’s like it implies that because she thought she was impure (after what sounds like assault) her only recourse was a life of prostitution. Then she spends ages repenting of the prostitution forced on her by unrealistic understandings about sex and sin and we are all supposed to be inspired by that?????

      • teopa's Gravatar teopa
        March 4, 2021 - 1:43 am | Permalink

        couldn’t agree more.

    • Stephanie's Gravatar Stephanie
      March 3, 2021 - 9:38 am | Permalink

      I agree. Her story made me very sad. I voted for Dunstan because we shouldn’t normalize what happened to her.

    • Barbara's Gravatar Barbara
      March 3, 2021 - 10:09 am | Permalink

      My vote is with Maryam. She was assaulted then revictimized. Sadly, we still witness this type of blaming of sexual assault survivors and sex-workers. I vote for her, not because I think she had any cause for repentance, but because she stands for so many caught in a similar web.

    • MG's Gravatar MG
      March 3, 2021 - 10:10 am | Permalink

      Perhaps her becoming a prostitute?

    • MB Esser's Gravatar MB Esser
      March 3, 2021 - 10:29 am | Permalink

      Spot on! Thank you for expressing what many of us are thinking.

    • Jot Cass's Gravatar Jot Cass
      March 3, 2021 - 11:02 am | Permalink


    • Tiffany's Gravatar Tiffany
      March 3, 2021 - 11:13 am | Permalink

      I was wondering about this, too. Was she seduced or assaulted?

    • Julie Morris's Gravatar Julie Morris
      March 3, 2021 - 11:37 am | Permalink

      Yes, Linda! I voted for her so we can discuss how sex workers are made, not by their immorality, but by the immorality of others. Her wailing should draw us all into lament for the many ways we exploit the vulnerable and call it their fault.

    • Tessa's Gravatar Tessa
      March 3, 2021 - 11:41 am | Permalink

      I am glad to see that so many others had the same thought on reading this story. What did she do to believe herself unworthy of forgiveness? Why did she think that she had to (metaphorically) throw the baby out with the bathwater and become a prostitute because she’d been raped?

      And her uncle is not without fault in this story either. If he gave his considerable wealth to the poor, perhaps he should have dedicated some of his wealth (including whatever he got from Maryam’s parents) as a settlement upon his niece to raise her with others rather than as a girl child in a monastery full of monks, or even put his hermit life on the back burner and raised her in a less monastic setting until she was an adult. At the very least he could have given her the more secure inner cell and slept in the outer cell!

      And all she did after returning to Abraham’s cell was cry and ask for forgiveness, constant “me-me-me-me-me” even if she did allow people to come and cry out to God alongside her. I don’t see anywhere in this writeup that she did anything positive or proactive.

      I don’t see that she needed to do penitence, however I also don’t think she is anywhere near the saint that Dunstan is. My sympathy goes to Maryam but my vote goes to Dunstan.

      • brighter's Gravatar brighter
        March 3, 2021 - 6:28 pm | Permalink

        I think it’s entirely reasonable that a woman who was orphaned, confined in a monastery by the uncle charged with her care, seduced, raped, abandoned and forced to engage in prostitution, then confined again, engage in some “me-me-me,” behavior. She didn’t lash out at anyone or hurt anyone; she just begged for forgiveness and she repented.

    • Michele B Hall's Gravatar Michele B Hall
      March 3, 2021 - 1:29 pm | Permalink

      She became a prostitute.

      • Laura Graf's Gravatar Laura Graf
        March 3, 2021 - 6:01 pm | Permalink

        She became a prostitute because she would have had no other way to support herself after being raped, just as many sex workers throughout the ages have after being abused at home.

    • Kaye Bellot's Gravatar Kaye Bellot
      March 3, 2021 - 1:40 pm | Permalink

      I agree–the sin was on her rapist, not HER

    • Margaret Hasselman's Gravatar Margaret Hasselman
      March 3, 2021 - 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Yes! Her “sin” was in being raped, and assuming the guilt of the perpetrator as her wn. Come on!

    • Linda Strode's Gravatar Linda Strode
      March 3, 2021 - 5:28 pm | Permalink

      Linda, this is Linda. How are you? You are so right. Maryam’s sin was being a female orphan, preyed up on by a rapist, condemned by her community as the only life an unwed woman could have–prostituting herself to raise her child, then “forgiven” these sins by the uncle, who then imprisoned her again. Maryam’s only societal recourse was to cry out in weeping and wailing through her prison cell her impotence at her hopeless situation. That we have a record at all of her name and life story is due to the uncle’s wealthy status in their community. Otherwise, we’d never have heard of her at all. How many young women and girls today are still placed in the same impotent position of Maryam–doing the best they can after being raped?

    • Lynn Campbell's Gravatar Lynn Campbell
      March 3, 2021 - 7:07 pm | Permalink

      You said exactly what I was thinking

    • Thea Joy Browne's Gravatar Thea Joy Browne
      March 3, 2021 - 8:58 pm | Permalink

      Which is precisely why she got my vote.

    • Brenda S Overfield's Gravatar Brenda S Overfield
      March 3, 2021 - 9:26 pm | Permalink

      I am in full agreement! she was either seduced or raped and guilty of nothing. The reasons for her sainthood are extremely misguided and only further propagate the lie that men are not responsible for controlling their actions. this makes me very angry.

  3. March 3, 2021 - 8:19 am | Permalink

    Looking beyond self is best illustrated today by Dunstan.

  4. Chris Eggert-Rosenthal's Gravatar Chris Eggert-Rosenthal
    March 3, 2021 - 8:20 am | Permalink

    Each teaches great lessons. My question is did Dunstan continue liv in his tiny cell while doing all those other things?

  5. Gillian's Gravatar Gillian
    March 3, 2021 - 8:21 am | Permalink

    Me: “… The bishop of Wocster..”
    My mom: “Wait like the sauce?”
    Me: “It’s not spelled that way…”
    My mom: *takes out the sauce* “See? It is!”
    Me: “That’s Wosctershire!”
    My mom: “Same thing!”
    Me: “Fine! He’s the bishop of sauce!”

    And that’s why Dunstan is getting my vote today

    • Rene Jamieson's Gravatar Rene Jamieson
      March 3, 2021 - 10:53 am | Permalink

      I know it’s saucy of me, but I feel compelled to point out that it is spelled W-O-R-C-E-S-T-E-R.

      • Gillian's Gravatar Gillian
        March 3, 2021 - 11:04 am | Permalink

        XD Yes, I can’t spell and autocorrect on my phone certainly doesn’t help!!

    • Barbara Gay's Gravatar Barbara Gay
      March 3, 2021 - 8:36 pm | Permalink

      Bishop of Sauce really cracked me up – thx!

  6. Lucy Sinkular's Gravatar Lucy Sinkular
    March 3, 2021 - 8:22 am | Permalink

    This is really awful. Maryam was a sinner because some a-hole raped her? What crap. Living as a prostitute may have felt like the only option but I cannot possibly say she was a sinner who “repented”-to vote for her would feel like condoning the religious machine that painted her as a sinner! I think it was a poor choice to include a saint who was so poorly treated by the church, and poor Maryam. Also her uncle was a thoughtless man not to find her a proper home…he sounds abusive!

    • Joan's Gravatar Joan
      March 3, 2021 - 8:35 am | Permalink

      I agree.

    • March 3, 2021 - 9:17 am | Permalink

      My thoughts exactly. I am angry for her, disgusted with the uncle, the church who felt she must “repent”, and annoyed with the SEC for putting this out there! Not voting today…

  7. March 3, 2021 - 8:25 am | Permalink

    I almost wish I could vote for the people who came to weep with Maryam, instead of her/her uncle/etc. Because they indeed showed saintly compassion. I’m reminded of the friends of Jephthah’s daughter, who join her in lament before she submits to the abusive idolatrous oath of her father.

  8. Lee Greenawalt's Gravatar Lee Greenawalt
    March 3, 2021 - 8:33 am | Permalink

    Maryam’s illustration that God forgives the repentant sinner is important for us all to learn. However Dunstan’s wide spread and long lasting legacy got my vote.

  9. Emily's Gravatar Emily
    March 3, 2021 - 8:47 am | Permalink

    How Maryam make it to Lent Madness? I feel for this terribly abused woman, and must question whether her inclusion perpetuates misygonistic thinking. I agree I would rather vote for those who came and prayed with her, hopefully to comfort her and not for her repentance but for others.

    • Isabel Bonnyman Stanley's Gravatar Isabel Bonnyman Stanley
      March 3, 2021 - 9:08 am | Permalink

      Amen! Poor Maryam.

    • Linda Brown's Gravatar Linda Brown
      March 3, 2021 - 10:42 am | Permalink

      Does it perpetuate misogynistic thinking or does it hold up that thinking as something for us to consider, and condemn, and work to change, in our own culture? . . . giving an opportunity for us to join those who came and prayed with her and lamented with her? . . . and with the Maryams of our own churches today? The write-up, sadly, missed the boat and did not do that but the comments and responses show a hunger for it.

      • Diane's Gravatar Diane
        March 3, 2021 - 6:43 pm | Permalink

        Absolutely agree that the write-up missed the boat entirely. the conversation in this thread ,thankfully, redeemed her inclusion.
        Would love to see the original author comment on why she presented Maryam in that way. Even better, lets have the Church and Lent madness revisit her story and present it as so many more enlightened and compassionate Lent Madness participants have

  10. Kathy Brett's Gravatar Kathy Brett
    March 3, 2021 - 8:52 am | Permalink

    This is hard today. Maryam took me to prayer. Not of repentence though. Her story is the story of so many women who have been abused and have had to carry the guilt and shame, and the sin of those who are perpetrators of the sin.
    I voted for her because of the holiness and saintliness of tears… I hope she realized that she was a beloved child of God

  11. Jeanine's Gravatar Jeanine
    March 3, 2021 - 9:02 am | Permalink

    I really am disgusted by Maryam’s story – like others, I feel compassion for this woman who was so horribly treated and who felt she was unworthy of God. Who taught her that odious term”pollution” to refer to rape? Some supposedly godly person?

    I cannot vote for that story. Dunstan for me today.

  12. Caroline Sloat's Gravatar Caroline Sloat
    March 3, 2021 - 9:04 am | Permalink

    Dunstan it is. After the pandemic is declared over and we can return to our churches, we are going to need faith and imagination to regather and rebuild.

  13. Joyce's Gravatar Joyce
    March 3, 2021 - 9:05 am | Permalink

    As influential as he was, Dunstan moved from advantage to advantage, with the exception of a year in exile. I don’t see where he suffered any spiritual crises that compare with Maryam’s. Many of the recent female candidates have “fallen” because of sexual activity often initiated by unscrupulous males in their lives. The misogyny of power structures over the centuries have relegated these women to the margins.

  14. Amy Carr's Gravatar Amy Carr
    March 3, 2021 - 9:13 am | Permalink

    The truth in the story of Maryam is her cry of lament, however mixed with a sense of her own sinfulness. The defiled feel defiled; traumatic experiences can linger, especially if someone knows they could have done something differently to protect themselves (“I should not have gone outside my room”). The interior logic for Maryam didn’t integrate a feminist paradigm; and as many of us know from experience, internalizing a feminist paradigm doesn’t prevent survivors of sexual assault or abuse from the sense of pollution, defilement, being cast out of the ordinary world. Maryam bears witness publicly to her trauma, however mixed with her sense of her own sinfully limited choices–and in her heard cry, others could cry out with her. The beauty of her story is that she became a vocal focal point of pilgrimage for the inarticulate cry of sinner and sinned against alike.

    I voted for Dunstan because I have had so much in mind of late how institutions (ecclesial, higher ed, civic) are ever vulnerable and in need of creative administrative attention–even zeal. I like that Dunstan worked hard to crate spaces for others to thrive–including monastic spaces where one like Maryam could have found a home.

    • Bev's Gravatar Bev
      March 3, 2021 - 9:46 am | Permalink

      Beautifully said

    • March 3, 2021 - 10:16 am | Permalink

      I agree with Bev. Very well said. Thoughtful, balanced. That last bit especially: “The beauty of her story is that she became a vocal focal point of pilgrimage for the inarticulate cry of sinner and sinned against alike.” Thanks for sharing.

    • Jennifer Deegan's Gravatar Jennifer Deegan
      March 3, 2021 - 11:07 am | Permalink

      Beautifully articulated!!

  15. simple village priest's Gravatar simple village priest
    March 3, 2021 - 9:18 am | Permalink

    Message across the ages to Maryam: Beloved Child of God, This Was Not Your Fault!!!
    Message to Lent Madness leadership: What in the name of all that is holy and compassionate were you thinking? Wake up, and hear the echoes of thousands of “me too”s from throughout the ages bouncing up from this comments thread.
    Shaking, and shaking my head. And voting for Dunstan.

    • Weatherly Burkhead Verhelst's Gravatar Weatherly Burkhead Verhelst
      March 3, 2021 - 9:39 am | Permalink

      Thank you for writing my post for me. What I heard in Maryam’s story was a young woman being blamed for being lied to and raped. Maryam’s “sin” is echoed in all of the ages of “What were you wearing?” “Maybe you shouldn’t have gone on that date with him” and “You must have led him on.” Place Maryam as a candidate for her strength and resilience, and for her example to all of us who have survived sexual assault, that there is NO sin in being assaulted. Then I’ll be able to vote for her, because she deserves our recognition and praise. For now, I’ll remember her, and all of my brothers and sisters who have been burdened by being blamed for forces beyond their control.

    • Patricia Templeton's Gravatar Patricia Templeton
      March 3, 2021 - 12:50 pm | Permalink


    • Diane's Gravatar Diane
      March 3, 2021 - 6:45 pm | Permalink


    • Liz's Gravatar Liz
      March 4, 2021 - 2:25 pm | Permalink

      Did we ever hear from the powers that be on this?

  16. Lane Johnson's Gravatar Lane Johnson
    March 3, 2021 - 9:24 am | Permalink

    The British History podcast has devoted hours to Dunstan. He was a major figure in Anglo Saxon England.
    Some posters here indicate that Abraham, Maryam’s uncle contributed to her tragedy. I read the story diffetently. He accepted his responsibility for the child Maryam, brought her into his home, put her in the safest place he had, and taught her scripture and prayer. After she left her searched for her and brought her home. Insteaf of “weird,” isn’t he modeling the Good Shepherd?

    • Kate B's Gravatar Kate B
      March 3, 2021 - 11:47 am | Permalink

      Lane that was my thought about the uncle too. Especially thinking that in his culture and time, a lot of men would’ve written her off after she left. I am surprised that so many people saw him so negatively.

    • Tessa's Gravatar Tessa
      March 3, 2021 - 11:50 am | Permalink

      That’s a good way of looking the situationa. However, according to Ohio State’s Monastic Matrix,, Abraham accepted responsibility for the child but also gave her ample inheritance to the poor and orphans. I think the ample inheritance would have made it easier to find a safe place for her to grow up that didn’t involve her living in the monastery with him. Which did not turn out to be a very safe place at all. And then he brought her back to the SAME PLACE SHE WAS ASSAULTED?! The Good Shepherd went and brought the sheep to a place of safety, not to the abatoir.
      I respectfully disagree with your reading of the story.

    • Linda Strode's Gravatar Linda Strode
      March 3, 2021 - 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Lane, You have one good point. It was Maryam’s uncle’s responsibility to care for Maryam. Women were not allowed to inherit. Therefore, it was both her uncle’s familial duty and legal duty to provide care for Maryam. He failed her. She was raped and left his care, we can only guess what actions of his prompted her to leave a home she had known since she was a child. I am only conjecturing now, but I can guess why her uncle went looking for her. Since it was his societal and legal duty to care for her and she was no longer under her care, I’m guessing that when it became public (and legal) knowledge that he was no longer caring for her, he would have lost her share of her father’s inheritance. That’s why it took him two years before he went looking for her. He needed to prove that she was still in his care. A weaker but still valid guess why her uncle went to find her after two long years, was community condemnation. Maryam couldn’t have traveled that far to set up as a prostitute. There would have been talk among men about the “new” prostitute. Eventually, wives and well-intentioned community leaders would have approached the uncle, requesting him to “forgive his niece” and take her back into his care. If he had refused, there could easily have been both societal and monetary push-back negatively affecting the uncle.

  17. John's Gravatar John
    March 3, 2021 - 9:26 am | Permalink

    Mary am was the victim a Virgin until a man raped her she did not sin. Too bad it still happens in 2000

  18. Melissa's Gravatar Melissa
    March 3, 2021 - 9:30 am | Permalink

    As a companion to the story of Maryam, responding to the mood of several comments above, I’d like to offer a movie today: Anchoress (1993, dir. Chris Newby), starring Natalie Morse and Christopher Eccleston (of Doctor Who fame). This is NOT a feel good movie; however it does raise some interesting questions about walled seclusion and experiences of mysticism; it really sets in context the possibilities or lack thereof for a young woman in the medieval church. The spectre of abuse constantly hovers over the young anchoress; her connection to the divine remains. I loved this movie for the Anchoress’s glimpses of Divine Reality, despite the harshness and the bleakness all around her. I’ll be surprised if anyone out there has seen this film; however, if you have, chime in. [Comments a while back (Melangell) inspired me to watch the first episode of Brother Cadfael, which we enjoyed! Another Doctor Who connection, Sean Pertwee was in it. ]

    from wikipedia:
    The screenplay (written by two women) is partly based on accounts of an historical female anchorite, Christine Carpenter, who was walled into her anchorhold in a village church in Shere, Surrey, in southern England, in 1329. The story revolves around the girl’s mystical visions of the Virgin Mary, the local reeve who wants to marry her, and the priest who walls her into his village church and his dislike of her mother, a midwife whom he regards as a witch. The film is shot in black-and-white and visually resembles the works of Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, especially The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928).

    This movie doesn’t seem to be available streaming but maybe you could rent it from a Library?

    • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
      March 3, 2021 - 11:22 pm | Permalink

      Actually, it available online.

      Took less than a minute to find it via Apple TV’s search box on my MacBook.

      It is available on BFI Player Classics, free seven day trial, then $5.99US/month.

      • Melissa's Gravatar Melissa
        March 4, 2021 - 8:26 am | Permalink

        Thank you for letting us know where to find it!

    • Sasha Bley-Vroman's Gravatar Sasha Bley-Vroman
      March 4, 2021 - 12:46 am | Permalink

      Haven’t seen the movie but read the book. Very interesting indeed.

      • Melissa's Gravatar Melissa
        March 4, 2021 - 8:26 am | Permalink

        I think the book is not the same as the movie. 🙂

  19. Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
    March 3, 2021 - 9:32 am | Permalink

    Finally! I get a chance to vote for my parish saint, Dunstan. We are a small parish in the woods in the suburbs of Atlanta, and I could say so many wonderful things about it. But we’re talking about Dunstan the man today, so I won’t. I voted for Dunstan also because he was a musician (as am I) and because of the work he did to put the English church back together after the Vikings. Where would we be without him? Go Dunstan!

  20. Chris's Gravatar Chris
    March 3, 2021 - 9:33 am | Permalink

    Perhaps another Lenty:
    Favorite Patron

  21. Carol King's Gravatar Carol King
    March 3, 2021 - 9:39 am | Permalink

    As I cast a vote for Maryam, I agree 100% with those who wish we could vote for those who lamented with her. As I contemplate the question of, “is there saintly value here?” all I can find is a deep, heartfelt prayer I’ve needed a lot lately. “Dear God, please help me turn my anger from useless rage into some commitment to action. Please guide me to express it through responsible civic duty such as supporting education, mental health care for victims, reform legislation. Teach me not to hate power-crazed politicians. Amen”

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 3, 2021 - 9:47 am | Permalink

      Oh, I have prayed that last bit, too. So far, I am still praying!

    • Marjorie's Gravatar Marjorie
      March 3, 2021 - 9:48 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the prayer. Exactly right for these days.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 3, 2021 - 11:11 am | Permalink

      “Teach me not to hate power-crazed politicians.” Oh, lord. That struck close to home. A prayer for ALL of Lent 2021.

  22. Chris's Gravatar Chris
    March 3, 2021 - 9:44 am | Permalink

    Wow. I wrote my Lenty suggestion without knowledge of today’s comments. I guess that was obvious!

  23. Carol Buckalew's Gravatar Carol Buckalew
    March 3, 2021 - 9:47 am | Permalink

    Well I guess I’ll be voting for Dunstan, Bishop of Sauce (thank you Gillian). Although I wonder how he could have been “a fixture within the courts of Anglo-Saxon kings” while still being a hermit.
    Maryam’s story is tragic and I can’t vote for it for all the reasons already mentioned. I suppose she is the patron saint of all abused women. The Church has much to repent.

  24. Kris's Gravatar Kris
    March 3, 2021 - 9:56 am | Permalink

    I feel like I have spent most of the past year grieving. Maryam’s story is more misery. Had to vote for Dunstan.

  25. Lewis Marjorie P.'s Gravatar Lewis Marjorie P.
    March 3, 2021 - 10:00 am | Permalink

    Maryam’s life sounds like a fable, a cautionary tale for young girls at a particular place and time. I voted for Dunstan.

    • Linda Strode's Gravatar Linda Strode
      March 5, 2021 - 7:52 pm | Permalink

      Maryam’s story is the same as of today’s runaways, or others seduced by a boyfriend then led down the park of prostitution after being separated from their families. It isn’t a fable. It still happens all too frequently today. Newspapers have recently revealed a sex trafficking ring in a western state. That is not a fable either.

  26. JoJo's Gravatar JoJo
    March 3, 2021 - 10:10 am | Permalink

    I voted for the lady today due to the rape and further mental abuse she suffered.
    May her rapist & those who told her she sinned burn, burn, burn in everlasting fire.
    She didn’t sin she was a victim, it’s unfortunate that attitude is still around today.
    Maryam of Qiden should be the patron saint of Rape Crisis Centers & abused women.

    • Suzanne's Gravatar Suzanne
      March 3, 2021 - 2:27 pm | Permalink

      I agree. I felt sick reading Maryam’s bio. It’s NOT a sin to be raped, not even if you were lured out of your cell!

  27. William Scrivener's Gravatar William Scrivener
    March 3, 2021 - 10:16 am | Permalink

    What exactly was her sin – being raped?

  28. Cath Fenton's Gravatar Cath Fenton
    March 3, 2021 - 10:16 am | Permalink

    Another where I don’t particularly feel either deserves the golden halo.
    Dunstable was a real person with a known history . Unfortunately, he comes over as a “prince of the church”, a bit of a wheeler dealer.
    I feel so sorry for Maryam, she could have done with some counselling after she was groomed and raped, but how much of her story can be authenticated?
    So, reluctantly, I’ll use my vote for Dunstan

  29. tully monster's Gravatar tully monster
    March 3, 2021 - 10:16 am | Permalink

    Wow. Celebration of male privilege vs. blaming of female rape victims. How very . . . medieval. I’m voting for Maryam, not because I endorse the idea that she needed God’s forgiveness, but because men should be asking women for forgiveness. Whether women should be expected to give it, however, is a whole other question.

  30. Steven Putka's Gravatar Steven Putka
    March 3, 2021 - 10:16 am | Permalink

    Help me out here. Based simply on the text of our celebrity blogger, what evidence do we have that the relationship was not consensual? Why do we assume that it was not love that led her out of her cell, and that the sexual relationship was fully consensual? If sexual relations, fully entered into willingly, were then regretted by her, why would her feelings of guilt not be appropriate? Why do we automatically assume rape?

    • Laura Graf's Gravatar Laura Graf
      March 3, 2021 - 11:23 am | Permalink

      Your unseemly comment is consistent with claims by defense attorneys in rape cases who try to cast rape victims as willing participants. I am thankful that the #MeToo movement brought down abusers like Harvey Weinstein and hopeful that courts will be less likely to accept such ploys.

      • Steve P's Gravatar Steve P
        March 3, 2021 - 12:48 pm | Permalink

        I am also deeply grateful for the #metoo movement. The difference here is that the post did not state that she was raped, nor did it state that she even claimed that she was raped. Whether consensual or not, sadly the penalty for not remaining a virgin was punitive and shaming. The reality was left vague. I was simply remarking that it is best to avoid assuming anything in a 1500 year old account when we do not hear her perspective, nor the details of what motivated her to leave her cell. I don’t gamble, but if I did I would put money that she was sexually assaulted and terribly misled by a perpetrator. I am sorry that my remarks about seeking clarity reviewed as unseemly.

        • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
          March 3, 2021 - 11:28 pm | Permalink

          he “immediately contaminated and polluted her” due to his lust.

          Sure sounds non consensual. His lust. Not their lust. His.

          She wasn’t the one that needed to repent.

          I’ll probably end up flipping a coin to decide how to vote.

    • Tessa's Gravatar Tessa
      March 3, 2021 - 11:59 am | Permalink

      That is a valid argument based on the writeup, though I think most women who engage in consensual sex do not feel that they were “contaminated and polluted” and the writeup does say “he contaminated and polluted her” rather than that “they had relations” or other ways of wording the situation. Rape, however, as far too many women (and men) know, does cause the victim to feel contaminated and dirty even though they should not be the ones who feel defiled.

      And although we can’t really understand the mindset of a 4th century woman, I find it hard to believe that the aftermath of consensual sex would be terrible guilt, flight, and the adoption of a life of prostitution.

      • Steve P's Gravatar Steve P
        March 3, 2021 - 12:43 pm | Permalink

        Considering patriarchy at the time, I assumed that the quote was not from the saint (wasn’t Julian of Norwich the first acknowledged female author in Europe?). I assumed that the men looked upon her that way after the incident. In the quotation, I hear men shaming her for her departure to engage in a relationship, and leaving her restrictions set by a male family member. I am aware that people, especially women, had very little agency in those kind of decisions in the 6th century. Kind of a filling in the gaps thing here. To some readers, she was obviously raped. But if she were, would the original biographer include that salient fact, or was the culture of the time unable to see it that way? In the gaps, people make assumptions and assume they are factual. I am not insensitive to sexual abuse. This is very likely here. I do hope that the blogger presenting her story clarifies how the legend makes meaning of her story. Does the tradition see her as being forced into unwanted relations? Would that even be possible to consider and acknowledge in those times?

        • Bev's Gravatar Bev
          March 3, 2021 - 3:56 pm | Permalink

          I initially had the same reaction to your initial comment asking why we assume it was rape that Laura had. Then I agreed completely with Tessa. And thank you for continuing to dig deep here very carefully. I respect that.

          And I agree, I’d like to know more about how the physical relationship was portrayed in antiquity. The author who told Maryam’s story here did not do her any favors and in fact, it comes off as tone deaf in modern times.

  31. Kathryn's Gravatar Kathryn
    March 3, 2021 - 10:22 am | Permalink

    I will not vote today. Maryam has my heart, but I cannot support the way she was characterized in the description. I am deeply saddened that such an interpretation has been published.

    • Bev's Gravatar Bev
      March 3, 2021 - 3:57 pm | Permalink

      Me too. I hope someone from the SEC is reading these comments.

  32. March 3, 2021 - 10:24 am | Permalink

    My job supports Catholic lay people who go into mission overseas, but we are closely associated with a group of Sisters and one of Fathers and Brothers whose primary calling is also serving overseas. As the religious orders get older and older, I have to wonder what the future holds for these organizations. I have been exceedingly blessed by getting to know them, one sister even set me on the contemplative path, which has particularly enriched my life. They are the kindest, most considerate, and most highly evolved in spiritual matters of anyone I have ever met. So for Dunstan’s efforts at reviving this lifestyle I am grateful, and in thanks I cast my vote for him.

  33. Marie Fortune's Gravatar Marie Fortune
    March 3, 2021 - 10:27 am | Permalink

    Are you kidding?
    Indeed listen to the voices of many women responding here. Maryam is a rape victim in need of justice and compassion, not redemption.
    Your write up of her here perpetuates and justifies her victimization .
    Calls to mind Maria Gorretti who “died defending her virginity” when attacked by a rapist. And so was canonized as a model for Christian women.
    You could have presented her and reframed her persona to correct this injustice done by the church. But you chose to perpetuate the dominant narrative.
    No vote today
    And I may be done with Lent Madness

  34. Patricia Templeton's Gravatar Patricia Templeton
    March 3, 2021 - 10:34 am | Permalink


    Dunstan, the Archbishop of Catterbury and official greeter at St. Dunstan’s in Atlanta, says the choice here is obvious. Dunstan all the way!

    • Patricia Templeton's Gravatar Patricia Templeton
      March 3, 2021 - 10:36 am | Permalink

      Well, Dunstan’s servant, the rector of St. Dunstan’s, is technologically challenged and unable to post the Archbishop of Catterbury’s picture. Be assured it was a great one. And the message is still clear. Vote Dunstan all the way.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 3, 2021 - 11:09 am | Permalink
  35. Claudia McKee's Gravatar Claudia McKee
    March 3, 2021 - 10:35 am | Permalink

    I don’t think Maryam was appropriate for Lent Madness, although I do feel deeply for her story. Dunstan, on the other hand, got my vote because he saw the need to rehabilitate and expand the monastic communities when those pillars of learning were in danger of disappearing.

  36. March 3, 2021 - 10:41 am | Permalink

    I was excited to learn about a woman of the Eastern church, but I am revolted by her story. She was sexually assaulted, and her foster father reproaches her for not telling him that *she* had sinned? He raised her to believe that once “polluted”, she had no recourse but prostitution? It was her wails of shame and distress that inspired people to penitence?

    St Mary of Qidun, you deserved better.

    I’ve never criticized the SEC before, but I’m appalled that you chose to include a saint with such a story.

  37. Cap'n Black the Pyrate's Gravatar Cap'n Black the Pyrate
    March 3, 2021 - 10:45 am | Permalink

    I am a pyrate, yes I am
    My sins of the past I must claim,
    To be forgiven, no gift greater, my thanks
    that I be blessed by the Lord, same as Maryam.

  38. Mary C.lawsey's Gravatar Mary C.lawsey
    March 3, 2021 - 10:48 am | Permalink

    I was surprised and delighted to recognize the story of Maryam as the basis of one of Hroswitha’s plays!

  39. Bonnie Bowman's Gravatar Bonnie Bowman
    March 3, 2021 - 10:51 am | Permalink

    Maryam had nothing to “repent.” She was raped.

  40. Jane Anne Gleason's Gravatar Jane Anne Gleason
    March 3, 2021 - 10:55 am | Permalink

    At the risk of being thrown into deepest darkness I have tried to vote. First time after 3 minutes the ‘wheely thing’ just keep spinning so I baked out and waited an hour to try again and did vote. I believe it was your issue not mine as I had no problem on other sites. Thank you.
    Go Dunstan!

  41. Anne E.B.'s Gravatar Anne E.B.
    March 3, 2021 - 11:00 am | Permalink

    St. Dunstan!

  42. Kathlyn Rooney's Gravatar Kathlyn Rooney
    March 3, 2021 - 11:03 am | Permalink

    I had to go with Dunstan. When I lived in Michigan I went to a church called St. Dunstan for a while.

  43. Rene Jamieson's Gravatar Rene Jamieson
    March 3, 2021 - 11:03 am | Permalink

    Fascinating responses to today’s match-up. Fascinating in that we are viewing Dunstan and Maryam through 21st century lenses. After reading and re-reading their stories, I’m casting my vote for Dunstan, who at least DID something to earn sainthood. Sorry, Maryam, I prefer my saints with a little more substance to their stories.

  44. St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
    March 3, 2021 - 11:04 am | Permalink

    “When he returned to England after only a year of exile”! Dunstan was clearly a highly privileged mover and shaker. He reminds me of “Sherlock,” who having been banished to Siberia for murdering the Master of Mind Castles, is recalled after six minutes to solve a political crisis for the Crown. As his brother Mycroft tells him, “I certainly hope you’ve learned your lesson.” Dunstan doesn’t seem to have had any lessons to learn, for his punishment upon completion of exile was to be . . . installed bishop. Sad! It’s like having to write on the blackboard 100 times: “I will not pull Suzy’s pigtails anymore and will spend this $6MM inheritance wisely.” Apprenticeships in silversmithery, scribery, and music were highly technical and required a long education in letters and access to expensive tools, so there seems no risk of asceticism or poverty in Dunstan’s story. And I look with a skeptical eye on Dunstan’s political choice to “bring the monasteries into closer alliance with the crown”; that may have been a smart political strategy (until the Tudors!), but it militated against feudalism and made the church an agent of a centrist state. Not very saintly. Feudalism may have been “inefficient” (from the point of view of market capitalism), but one could argue that it might have allowed parishes and monasteries greater independence. I say “might”; I’m only speculating about the tenth century CE. I voted for Dunstan because he “rocked the cradle of monasticism” and set it on its course as a way of life for five centuries. May Henry VIII, instigator more of the Via Cruenta than of the Via Media, never darken the doors of Lent Madness. I was impressed by Dunstan’s cross-cultural education in Belgium, encountering the Benedictine revival. And by David Sibley’s noting that the church is always reinventing itself to respond to the pressures of the times. May we reinvent ourselves today to heal a planet in mortal danger and to offer succor and visibility to the movements of mass migration that are the human lot in a time of crisis. I do want to say of Maryam of Qidun that though her story seems to dissolve into so many other nearly anonymous stories of women inhabiting some undefined borderline between prostitute and monk, I nearly voted for her on the basis that her story rung so true as the account of rape victims everywhere. The rape victim blames herself for the violence committed against her, and the negation of her autonomy, and then “acts out” in self-destructive ways. I don’t know that her uncle’s advice to “confess her sin” is theologically how I would articulate it, but I do think that he is on to something: speak one’s story to God and talk to others about the experience. Embrace a full human life in return. I feel that Maryam’s story is an early effort to come to grips with the experiences of victims of sexual violence and to find a way to shape them within the larger Christian story. I’m not sure it quite captures the story as I would hope to see it expressed in contemporary Christian terms, but it feels like a step toward a path of narrative healing.

    • March 3, 2021 - 11:23 am | Permalink

      Thank you for this perspective on Maryam’s story.

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 3, 2021 - 11:32 am | Permalink

      I’m glad you voted for Dunstan! I had the same thoughts about his centralizing the church, but I like to think that in doing so, Dunstan weeded out some unsavory practices in the boonies and enabled Mother Church to look after her small parishes better.

  45. Laura Graf's Gravatar Laura Graf
    March 3, 2021 - 11:14 am | Permalink

    Maryam’s story reminds me of how unwed girls and women in Ireland who became pregnant, whether by a lover or a rapist, were isolated from society, forced to live in prison-like homes, and had their babies taken from them. Her story and theirs is tragic in every dimension.

    Though I find the write-up of her life offensive and agree that she had not sinned, I am voting for her on behalf of all women shamed for unwed sexual activity whether consensual or not.

    Few men receive such scorn. More likely, they get an “attaboy.” Within the last 20 or so years, it was learned that a longtime elderly Illinois legislator from a nearby district had fathered a child with his mistress. This was labeled “a youthful indiscretion” despite the fact that he was forty at the time of the affair. Later, a state park bearing his name was established in the area that had elected him repeatedly.

  46. Tiffany's Gravatar Tiffany
    March 3, 2021 - 11:14 am | Permalink

    I think her uncle comes across as the hero in this story. Rather than disowning her (even were she assaulted, as seems probable, my understanding is that her uncle might have blamed her for it), he does not give up on her, but leaves his comfort zone of his hermit’s life to go and find her, assure her of her worth, and bring her home.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 3, 2021 - 11:19 am | Permalink

      An interesting “take”; thank you.

  47. LA's Gravatar LA
    March 3, 2021 - 11:26 am | Permalink

    I knew the story of Maryam before reading this. My first encounter with it was through a beautiful and graciously portrayed mime piece years back. This write-up differs slightly (perspective, wording, etc) and I find myself relying on my memories of the beautiful and gracious story I first knew and voting for this young woman…

  48. Sandy's Gravatar Sandy
    March 3, 2021 - 11:32 am | Permalink

    Do we not continue to condemn Maryam by not voting for her?

    • yeop's Gravatar yeop
      March 4, 2021 - 1:51 am | Permalink


      I was not going to vote today because of match up.

      but you clarified for me.

  49. CeCee Mills's Gravatar CeCee Mills
    March 3, 2021 - 11:34 am | Permalink

    Maryam “sainthood” is ascribed to her calling others by her wailing. She created fallow ground in the hearts of many who otherwise might not have been open to confessing their own sin. Her stolen innocence, violent existence, and imprisonment reminds us that we all have something to confess and be forgiven. If even she had things to confess surely all of us have things to mourn and cry to God for repentance for in this life. It is a miracle that hearts were made contrite by her own cries of confession. For me this far outshines Dunstan’s actions seated in a life of privilege.

  50. March 3, 2021 - 11:41 am | Permalink

    Maryam for me, as matron saint for all women who are part of the #me too movement and suffered tremendously for the guilt of others.

  51. Alicia Clark's Gravatar Alicia Clark
    March 3, 2021 - 11:45 am | Permalink

    Maryam for me. I see Abram as doing the best he could with the resources he had. What “proper” home could Maryam go to ? In those times, I do not see children who have lost their parents going to the modern version of an orphanage. They would have starved on the streets. Guard against the assumption that our modern solutions to Maryam’s situation even existed back then. Also, Abraham did not “reproach” his niece when he found her, but pleaded with her to return to him. He could have tossed her out just like society did. Also any woman of that time – be she rich or poor – would have been raised to believe that a misstep, no matter what the circumstances, would mean “debasement”. An attitude still in force today. I stand with Maryam and all women in her situation in the hope that attitudes will finally change.

  52. James Lodwick's Gravatar James Lodwick
    March 3, 2021 - 11:49 am | Permalink

    Once again Lent Madness gives us a choice between someone we actually know a lot about from historical record and a shadowy figure of legend. Maryam of Quidun’s story, if there is any truth in it, makes her worthy of pity, but I’m glad to vote for a saint whose service to Christ is really known. I dislike it when Lent Madness proposes to us vague legendary figures about whom we know basically nothing.

  53. Judith's Gravatar Judith
    March 3, 2021 - 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Maryam lived in the front cell her uncle in the back cell. I wonder who did the washing , ironing , cooking and cleaning?

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 3, 2021 - 6:38 pm | Permalink

      Haha–I just assumed that they, being hermits, did no washing or cooking or cleaning! I imagine it to be a smelly place….

  54. Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
    March 3, 2021 - 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Maryam’s story is certainly thought-provoking, especially when seen from a 21st-century perspective.
    However, as a long-time ringer of handbells, I voted for Dunstan, no disrespect of Maryam intended.

  55. Jeff Downey's Gravatar Jeff Downey
    March 3, 2021 - 12:09 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Dunstan partly because he is mentioned in Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”.

  56. Nancy D. Stevens+'s Gravatar Nancy D. Stevens+
    March 3, 2021 - 12:11 pm | Permalink

    For all of the reasons previously posted, add me to the list of Lent Madness participants who are greatly distressed by the inclusion of Maryam of Quidun as one of today’s nominees. I’m not voting because this is a juicy orange vs. dried apricot match-up – not fair for either one of them.

    To the SEC: It’s time for more voices to be included in the selection of future Golden Halo nominees. I strongly urge you to a) increase & diversify your membership &/or b) create a separate, diverse committee to review your choices before announcing the final bracket.

  57. March 3, 2021 - 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I think I have to decline to vote today. Maryam is a saint in the same manner as the rest of us. You can’t even say she she chose to live her life in a particular way – she was a victim, physically and mentally. Dunstan was a swell guy, but talk about white male privilege!! These two were never on equal footing, and never could be.

      March 4, 2021 - 12:20 pm | Permalink

      I think I have to agree with this conclusion.

  58. Sharron's Gravatar Sharron
    March 3, 2021 - 12:24 pm | Permalink

    I had decided to read comments BEFORE I cast a vote thinking they might lightheartedly sway my vote; however, even after I remove all embellishment from Maryam’s story, I was indeed left with a woman worthy of my deepest contemplation in the wake of which I abstained from voting knowing how the essence of her legacy reverberates profoundly to this day in a way that leaves Dunstan’s silvery contributions sadly tarnished.

  59. Verlinda's Gravatar Verlinda
    March 3, 2021 - 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m disturbed by the portrayal of Maryam as a sinner; she appears to have been the victim of sexual violence, hardly committed of her own volition.

  60. Gaen's Gravatar Gaen
    March 3, 2021 - 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Maryam and I guess I read the story different than many this morning. Dunstan is a man of many gifts who got to choose him MO and rose to become Archbishop of Canterbury. He had a full life, traveled (if in exile), and worked at various crafts and then became an administrator. Maryam, like many who experience child sexual abuse or sexual assault as adults, blamed herself and condemned herself to a life of prostitution. Her uncle/closest family member sought her out and encouraged her to see herself anew. She did. Am I crazy about the literal details here, like that she was brought up in or returned to a hermit’s cell? No. But that’s true for so many of these earlier saints, male or female, and is especially true for many female saints (it’s my problem with St. Claire vs. St. Francis; he roamed around Italy she and her order had to live shut up at San Damiano). But if we set these details aside, I guess I feel more strongly for the woman who feels like she’s garbage (which is what so many children who’ve been sexually abused, for example, feel about themselves) because of someone else’s assault and then finds her life reclaimed — albeit in a way we don’t specifically feel so happy about. Dunstan is a big success story; but what about reclaiming the dignity, self-worth and humanity of the oppressed? People who dont’ look successful on the outside. People who’ve been harmed and damaged? That’s why I voted for Maryam.

    • Donna Lou Ritter's Gravatar Donna Lou Ritter
      March 3, 2021 - 1:55 pm | Permalink

      I voted for Maryam because I sensed despair in her story. “I was so bad, I am beyond God’s forgiveness.” I think that is a common occurrence for many and drives them away from church. I thought the story embodied the bringing back into the church/body of Christ for everyone, even when you feel unworthy. The acceptance of those who came to weep with her, in a way, welcomed her back no matter how rejected she felt. Her feelings were accepted.
      Dunstan struck me as someone who took advantage (in a good way) of the many opportunities he had. An easier story.

  61. Louise Hannah's Gravatar Louise Hannah
    March 3, 2021 - 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I vote for St. Dunstan’s 200+!!

  62. MARY ROSA's Gravatar MARY ROSA
    March 3, 2021 - 1:48 pm | Permalink


  63. Ron's Gravatar Ron
    March 3, 2021 - 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Struck a nerve today! Again. Go with the heart. Maryam.

  64. Judy Bye's Gravatar Judy Bye
    March 3, 2021 - 3:33 pm | Permalink

    MONASTIC, 4th c.

    “Maryam was orphaned at the age of 7 and so then lived a life as an achorite with her uncle Abraham, a hermit, for 20 years. When she was a young woman, one of the monks who followed Abraham desired Maryam. After a year of attempts, they finally had sex. Upon losing her virginity, she fell into despair and, rather than confess her sin to her uncle, she moved to another town, and established herself as a tavern prostitute.

    In a dream, Abraham realized that Maryam had been taken captive by a life of sin. He searched for her for two years. When he finally heard of her whereabouts, he put on military garb, mounted a horse, and set out to the town where she resided. He entered the tavern and requested that he take a meal with her. They shared a lavish meal together and finally retreated to Maryam’s room, where Abraham said, “My daughter Maryam, don’t you know me? Whatever has happened to you? Why did you not just tell me when you had sinned? I would not have been angry with you, for who is without sin, except for God alone? I would have done penance for you myself, yet instead you have left me all alone in unspeakable sadness and grief.”

    Together they returned to Qidun. Once there Maryam pleased God more by her sincere repentance than she ever had by her virginity.”

    I liked this source better.

    • Amy Carr's Gravatar Amy Carr
      March 3, 2021 - 4:01 pm | Permalink

      This tells a different story–one of consensual (if unmarried, disapproved) sex rather than rape or abuse. It reminds me of a presentation I once heard by Lutheran pastor and biblical scholar, Dr. Rev. Niveen Sarras, about how the story of Dinah in Genesis 34 may be a story not of rape, but of premarital sex.

      Then the story is about the over-valuation of virginity, and the sense of no path forward that could involve marriage (if it were even desired) between these two monastics. Who knows what other nuances abounded, whatever circumstances generated Maryam’s sense of shame for publicly disapproved sex?

  65. Sharon Davis's Gravatar Sharon Davis
    March 3, 2021 - 4:07 pm | Permalink

    OH MY GOODNESS! Same old story. Crazy teaching of an uncle. raped, trafficked and then SHE’S THE SINNER. Please give me a break. The victim is the sinner. Please vote for Maryam

  66. JustMeJo's Gravatar JustMeJo
    March 3, 2021 - 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Wow! I am stunned and, frankly, appalled, at so many of the comments on Maryam! Read some history, people! Back in those days, women were chattel, and generally sold off by their parents for fortune or favor. Single females, unless they were filthy rich in their own right (A rarity, to be sure!) were most often cast off by their families, as they were considered a burden, and this included widows and orphans. Read the stories of women in the Bible. Many of them turned to prostitution in order to survive. They absolutely had no other choice. And the idea that it was their fault was inculcated in them from the get-go, as they were being groomed for marriage meat market. Maryam managed to turn her feelings of being a worthless sinner into compassion, and brought that to others. For all of this, she got my vote (I can afford it – my brackets are toast, anyway!). Dunstable had oodles of money, and plenty of friends in high places, and, most important, he was a man, so he can afford to wait for another few years and try again…not that he will have to!

  67. Fiona's Gravatar Fiona
    March 3, 2021 - 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Deeply troubled by Maryam’s story. She is worthy of great compassion. I hope that she found it, but the weeping that drew others to her suggests otherwise. I voted for Dunstan, have served in the diocese of Worcester, and for his work reviving monasticism for women.

  68. Karin's Gravatar Karin
    March 3, 2021 - 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps this may help us think more about Maryam’s story:

    Her story can be found in “The Life of St. Mary the Harlot, Niece of the Hermit Abraham” by St. Ephraem of Edessa, included in books of translations from the Desert Fathers. It is well worth reading there (only a few pages). Quotes below are from The Desert Fathers, trans. Helen Waddell (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1957). I have no idea whether certain aspects may or may not be clearer in the original language. I do think that the story shows more nuance than the summary provided above.

    All stories of this type are troubling, partly for their insistence on the superiority of virginity, and partly because female victims are blamed. I do, however, find this author, Ephraem, to be far less critical of Mary than one might assume without actually reading. Although her opening the window and going out to the man is considered sin, she is nevertheless shown clearly as a victim—not just of the “monk in profession only” but also of the devil, who is only bothering to attack her in order to distract the mind of her uncle, the holy Abraham. The harshest language about her comes from her own mouth, and the reader feels pity that she is so ashamed she sees no choice but to leave Abraham. Going to another city, she takes “refuge” in a brothel without further comment from the author. (Presumably she needs to support herself and is too ashamed to go to the Church for charity.) Abraham, when he is finally able to find her, asks her “Who was it destroyed thee?” (p. 197) and she does not answer, but his real concern is with her running away and her life since then: “Why, when thou didst sin, didst thou not tell me? Why didst thou not come to me then and there? And indeed I would have done thy penance for thee, and my dear Ephraem too … For who is without sin, save God himself?” (p. 197). Because of what Abraham has already done we know these are not empty words. Indeed the story is about Abraham and his kindness just as much as it is about Mary; it includes touching (yet also somewhat humorous) scenes showing the old hermit dressing up like a soldier and forcing himself to joke with the innkeeper, eat meat, etc., in order to gain access to his niece, checking his tears in order to keep up the pretense. Ephraem ends the story with lamentation for his own sin and prayer for God’s mercy. (Compare the ending of the story of St. Pelagia: “This is the story of a harlot, this the life of a desperate sinner…” (p. 188).

    The story (at least in this translation) seems a little fuzzy about responsibility. The evil monk, who is certainly portrayed as predatory, tries for a year to seduce her. The fact that she finally gives in and goes out to him seems to imply that she is consenting to something at least (going away with him, or whatever he lied about, maybe?), yet the statement that “forthwith he debauched and defiled her” (p. 192) seems to mean rape, and he obviously deserts her after the act. I suppose the tricky aspect in this particular story is that she “opened the window of her cell and came out to him”—which in the context of the story she should not have done, and in the context of the story seems to make her responsible along with (but certainly not instead of) the man who “lay in ambush about her” (p. 192) for a year.

    The reader is left knowing that both Mary and Abraham would have suffered less if she had dared to tell the truth to Abraham instead of running away. (Perhaps this is supposed to encourage the reader to confession?) Another “what if” in the story is “What if Mary had told Abraham right away when the man kept coming around trying ‘by the softness of his words’ to seduce her?” (p. 192). Still, one assumes that the sad reason for her fear to tell Abraham both times was more the general cruel attitudes toward women than her own lack of courage.

    A sad story, though it does end not only with the reunification of Abraham and Mary, but with God giving Mary the gift of healing others. One of the best parts of the story is that Abraham and Mary seem to love each other. In the background there is also Abraham’s friend, “our dear Ephraem,” who, Abraham tells Mary, was “grieving sore for thee, and for ever pleading with God for thee” (p. 198). I find something hopeful in the mutual love and support among them.

  69. A Jennifer's Gravatar A Jennifer
    March 3, 2021 - 6:21 pm | Permalink

    A vote for Maryam. A side vote to SEC for choosing to include her story and to David S for putting his version together from available sources. Maryam would have been welcomed by Jesus so surely she has a place here. Soo much more to say about silencing voices who tell stories we don’t like to hear, but I’ll leave it there.

    Lent Madness is as silly or as serious as we choose to make it. Seriously. It’s silly for us to be ranking our fellow sinner/saints by perceived level of holiness – but fun. (Been fun for a long time, too, as Our Saviour knew – Luke 18:9ff). Today especially I appreciate the comments that lead us from judgements toward constructive action in our own spheres of influence, inspired by the story of the saints’ lives. THAT is the work of a saint – done by both contenders today.

    (create beauty, bring order, work with government for the greater good, listen to a survivor’s story, seek the lost, leave a self-destructive path behind…)

  70. Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
    March 3, 2021 - 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Great reflections, Karin and A Jennifer!

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 3, 2021 - 7:36 pm | Permalink

      I totally second that. Really thoughtful commentaries.

  71. Conny Santana's Gravatar Conny Santana
    March 3, 2021 - 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Just had to say that according to the Roman Catholics the Mother of Jesus, Mary is said to be totally free of sin. Consider the ejaculation, “Oh Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” EITHER the collect is in error or Mary is God incarnated as well.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 3, 2021 - 7:39 pm | Permalink

      “The ejaculation.” Just going to leave that right there. Remember that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s conception and birth, not to Jesus’. Many theologians have objected to that dogma, as it seems to suggest that if God wanted, God could have given us ALL an immaculate conception, and if so, why NOT? That’s the problem with pronouncements ex cathedra. Upon closer scrutiny, they start to look . . . fallible . . .

      • Conny Santana's Gravatar Conny Santana
        March 3, 2021 - 10:32 pm | Permalink

        Yup, ejaculation. Of course we were too young to know any other meaning. Jesus! Holy Mary, Mother of God! Short, exclamatory prayers for which so many days in purgatory could be removed from your spiritual account (indulgences). Makes me laugh in a bemused kind of way. I kept an account in my mind. I was only 9.
        Yes, ofcourse, I am aware of the implication of the Immaculate Conception but it went further than that. Mary never sinned. Ever. She was assumed into heaven for her goodness sake. I love Mary to this day but my theology has room to view the mother of God, as the feminine aspect of God, as in Holy Mary! Mother (of) God! Now that’s an ejaculation!

  72. Sylvia Miller-Mutia's Gravatar Sylvia Miller-Mutia
    March 3, 2021 - 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Meager beginnings, orphaned early
    And raised by an uncle in a monastery cell, mistreated by a stranger
    Ran away in shame
    Yet still received God’s graces through her uncle
    Abraham who carried her home to herself

    (St. Mark’s ABQ Members and Friends)

  73. Laura's Gravatar Laura
    March 3, 2021 - 9:15 pm | Permalink

    This is the first time I have read every single comment, right to the end. And I still can’t decide who gets my vote: the white male privilege, or the female victim of a rape? Sorry Lent Madness, I decline my vote.

  74. Catherina's Gravatar Catherina
    March 3, 2021 - 10:11 pm | Permalink

    A women raped even while living with a monk and then blaming oneself vs white male privilege who gave up his money.

  75. Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
    March 4, 2021 - 12:12 am | Permalink

    I have read all the comments. Which took awhile. I at one point mentioned in a reply tossing a coin to determine how to vote, but I have recalled something I saw earlier today elsewhere online that today is International Sex Workers’ Rights Day.

    So I will vote for the woman who was forced into some of the only work a woman who had been taken advantage of in that way at that time could do. And my vote is also in honor of groups like Rahab’s Sisters, here in Portland, who minister to women working the streets.

  76. Sasha Bley-Vroman's Gravatar Sasha Bley-Vroman
    March 4, 2021 - 1:08 am | Permalink

    Just wondering if Maryam really CHOSE prostitution. Judith wonders, above, “who did the washing, ironing, cooking and cleaning?” These are things a girl learns from her mother. Or maybe her aunties. Add carding, spinning, weaving, and sewing, and you have the jobs that an unaccompanied woman in a strange city might possibly earn a living at. A young woman raised by an uncle in a cell would not have any of this training. So there she is, wandering strange streets and probably weeping: likely someone else chose HER for prostitution. “Come with me, my pretty, I’ll see you’re taken care of.”

  77. Mary W.'s Gravatar Mary W.
    March 4, 2021 - 11:47 am | Permalink

    Can I vote for Abraham? He’s the one who figured out a way to raise Maryam and be true to his calling, then sought her out and convinced her to forgive herself enough for her ‘sin’ (not sin – enough has been said about that above) to come back and inspire others. Dunstan underwhelmed me. However, there’s something about Maryam’s story that doesn’t quite work for me either. I think it’s the lack of acceptance of Christ’s love even after she got back. Seems like the wailing and gnashing of teeth continued.

    • Linda Strode's Gravatar Linda Strode
      March 5, 2021 - 8:04 pm | Permalink

      Mary W, sadly I don’t agree with you. Her uncle Abraham was obligated to care for Maryam, as her surviving closest male relatives. He most likely received her inheritance from his brother, her father. He surely must have known about the “suitor” who pursued Maryam. He didn’t stop it. Then she left his care. I’m guessing due to feeling shamed by her uncle, or being pregnant, or both. Why did it take Abraham two years to find her? I think it was because society condemned him, eventually, for continuing to collect her inheritance but not helping her. Whatever the reason, he clearly fond her and brought her home. I think his village demanded he put an end to her prostitution and bring her home.

  78. John_S's Gravatar John_S
    March 6, 2021 - 12:33 am | Permalink


    It was thoughtful of you to share portions of the writings by by St. Ephraem of Edessa… very much appreciated.

    Still… in my view, all of these disclosures about the story of Mariam/Mary — together with the shared opinions of the other readers of Lent Madness — are not bringing to me the kind of closure that I crave!

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