Euphrosyne vs. Benedict the Moor

With Melangell no longer in the bracket, the most-difficult-name-to-pronounce award gets handed over to Euphrosyne, who takes on Benedict the Moor in today’s Saintly Sixteen action. To get here, Euphrosyne made it past Evagrius the Solitary while Benedict took down Nino of Georgia. The winner of this matchup will face Camillus de Lellis in the Elate Eight.

Yesterday, Albert the Great remained that way as he defeated Theodora the Empress 63% to 37%. But enough rehashing old results. Go vote!

Euphrosyne, now Smaragdos, shed/hid her gender to give up everything (or gain everything?) to live a life devoted to God. Smaragdos has become the Emerald of God. Where perhaps this is a symbol that a life centered solely on a Christian calling is more valuable than any gem. Do you see your Christian life as more valuable than any treasure?

In Greek, Euphrosyne stems from the word meaning good cheer, merriment and joy. Although we do not see it overtly in her story, perhaps Euphrosyne’s sacrifice of self, led to a life of joy.  Do you live a life for joy?

Euphrosyne’s story centers around her desire to give up everything to live a life devoted to God. Could you sacrifice everything about yourself, to be completely transformed where no one recognized you, as a devotion to your Christian life? Is there a call so powerful in your life that you would forsake your identity for Christ?

Smaragdos lived an ascetic life. Separate from family.  Divorced from a relationship. Smaragdos’ father mourned her loss and the emptiness in his life. After a time of studying the tenants of Christ, Smaragdos revealed herself as Euphrosyne to her father once again to seek healing and reconciliation in a broken relationship. Do you have relationships that Christ is calling you to heal? To give up a part of yourself for reconciliation?

There are no words of Euphrosyne/Smaragdos recorded for posterity, but the Orthodox Church of Antioch penned the following chat in Euphrosyne’s honor:

Troparion (Tone 1)
As an ascetic you hid your womanhood
And your falling-asleep was an amazement, O Euphrosyne.
Though a woman, you toiled as a man,
And by your prayers you save those who honor you!

Kontakion (Tone 2)
Desiring the life on high and forsaking all earthly pleasures,
You lived as a man among men, O Euphrosyne.
For the sake of Christ your Bridegroom,
You spurned earthly betrothal.” 1

Euphrosyne asks us:  What of this life are you willing to spurn, to give up, to shed, to hide about yourself to devote your life fully to Christ?

—Anna Fitch Courie

Benedict the Moor

Very few of the words spoken by Benedict of Palermo (Benedict the Moor/African; 1526-1589) were recorded – and it is also likely that in his piety and following of the rule of Saint Benedict he actually said very few words.

Throughout his life, he divided himself between the practice of manual labor for the good of others, and prayers and devotion for the good of others. Indeed, all that he did was focused on compassionate service toward his neighbor.

Once while he was serving as the Superior of his order, some destitute neighbors and traveling soldiers arrived at the door of the Abbey. One of the other brothers observed that there was barely enough food for the monks in the Abbey to begin with.

Benedict replied: “No matter. Give alms to these poor people; God will provide for us.”

And indeed. There was enough.

This foolish generosity persisted in Benedict’s ministry, as he gave to others even when it seemed to put himself at risk. And repeatedly, God did provide.

A later chronicler would observe that “Father Benedict of Sanfratello was adorned with purity, simplicity, and the spirit of prophecy, and favored with the gift of ecstasy.”

Benedict was renowned for his gifts of insight and prophecy. He used these gifts to offer comfort to those who were suffering, walking alongside both visitors and fellow monastics in their times of grief and struggle.

He was often known to sit up through the night while a Novice was struggling with an illness. At times he predicted the end of an illness or struggle, offering the comfort of the end of a season. At other times, his words in the face of the suffering of life helped those who sought him out to be assured of the presence and comfort of God while walking through death’s valley.

Benedict was revered within his own life, and after his life was remembered by the community of Palermo and beyond for his holy living, generosity, and compassion. He was exhumed just three years after his death, and was found to be “incorruptible” – his body had not decayed.

But the influence of this child of enslaved persons was most strongly felt half a world away and two centuries later. Benedict’s official canonization happened at the beginning of the 19th century – the height of the transatlantic trade of African people as slave labor. He was held up as an example of how free Africans can flourish in white society – not just as laborers but as people of faith and contributors to their community. He has become known as the patron saint of African-American Roman Catholics.

—David Hansen

Euphrosyne vs. Benedict the Moor

  • Benedict the Moor (85%, 5,094 Votes)
  • Euphrosyne (15%, 874 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,968

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Euphrosyne of Alexandria (Menologion of Basil II).jpg[1]
  1. Orthodox Church of America.
Saint Benedict of Palermo,  Juan Pascual de Mena (ca. 1770-1780)



93 Comments to "Euphrosyne vs. Benedict the Moor"

  1. John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
    March 17, 2021 - 8:01 am | Permalink

    When good Benedict fired up the oven
    No Franciscan to table was sloven
    The refectory rang
    With the praises they sang
    Till it came to resemble a love-in.

    • Elaine Culver's Gravatar Elaine Culver
      March 17, 2021 - 10:19 am | Permalink

      John Cabot, I hope you’ll publish a book of these limericks if you haven’t already.

    • Josh Nixon's Gravatar Josh Nixon
      March 17, 2021 - 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Really love the rhymes on this one. “Love-in” is brilliant.

  2. Mary Ippolito Winston's Gravatar Mary Ippolito Winston
    March 17, 2021 - 8:12 am | Permalink

    My grandfather was an orphan who was born in Palermo. He was adopted and raised outside of Palermo. I vote for Benedict in his honor.

    • Kitty Rolfe's Gravatar Kitty Rolfe
      March 17, 2021 - 9:32 am | Permalink

      John-thank you so much for your daily poetry, I really appreciate it. And I shake my head in wonder over how you can do this day after day. It’s terrific.

    • Margaret's Gravatar Margaret
      March 17, 2021 - 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Mary, did you attend Hillsdale College?
      Margaret McGowan Mock

  3. Sue Goodman's Gravatar Sue Goodman
    March 17, 2021 - 8:24 am | Permalink

    Euphrosyne’s enigmatic and intriguing. And Anna Fitch Courie’s reflection on them asks a lot of pointed questions of us readers. An appropriately Lenten devotion.

    • Tiffany's Gravatar Tiffany
      March 17, 2021 - 10:11 am | Permalink

      Yes, those were good questions.

  4. John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
    March 17, 2021 - 8:29 am | Permalink

    Benedict’s qualities once again remind me of characters in the Cadfael mystery series. Brother Petrus (good name, that) is a cook without equal, but of somewhat irascible temper. As healers, the knowledge and compassion of Brother Edmund the infirmarer is matched only by Cadfael himself, whose medical and herbal skills were honed during his many years as a man-at-arms in the First Crusade, where he observed the techniques of Islamic physicians.

    “To heal men, after years of injuring them? What could be more fitting? A man does what he must do.”

    • Kitty Rolfe's Gravatar Kitty Rolfe
      March 17, 2021 - 9:35 am | Permalink

      I had forgotten about Cadfael. Thanks.

    • Elaine Culver's Gravatar Elaine Culver
      March 17, 2021 - 10:22 am | Permalink

      Thank you for this reference to the Cadfael series. I’ve read all the books and watched a few of the PBS episodes. I’m a great fan of this herbalist priest.

    • Robin Smith's Gravatar Robin Smith
      March 17, 2021 - 10:23 am | Permalink

      I, too, am a great fan of Cadfael. Thank you.

      • Constance Santana's Gravatar Constance Santana
        March 17, 2021 - 4:58 pm | Permalink

        Just finishing my fourth book in the Cadfael series. Never heard of it until this year’s commentary. Really enjoying it too. Thanks everyone. An unexpected Lenten treat!

      March 17, 2021 - 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Loved Cadfael on PBS!

    • MaryAnn Nusbaum's Gravatar MaryAnn Nusbaum
      March 19, 2021 - 7:20 pm | Permalink

      I am just meeting the wondrous Cadfael. thanks!

  5. Anne Wrider's Gravatar Anne Wrider
    March 17, 2021 - 8:30 am | Permalink

    I’m afraid that preachy little commentary on Euphrosyne may have annoyed me so much that I voted for Benedict.

    • Lesley's Gravatar Lesley
      March 17, 2021 - 8:38 am | Permalink


      • Elaine Culver's Gravatar Elaine Culver
        March 17, 2021 - 10:25 am | Permalink

        Giving to a healthy relationship has always been beneficial to me. If a relationship requires giving up anything, it’s time to take a look at the relationship and discern whether it’s a healthy one. In my experience, it’s usually not.

    • Mariclaire Buckley's Gravatar Mariclaire Buckley
      March 17, 2021 - 9:04 am | Permalink

      Preaching is a large and important component of Lent. Being touched spiritually is one of the goals of this fun exercise

    • Karen R's Gravatar Karen R
      March 17, 2021 - 12:03 pm | Permalink

      I agree, well-intentioned as it surely was; and relevant to our Lenten practice. I read them as questions in a book club version of the story. Benedict would have been my vote no matter what though.

    • Betty Marshall's Gravatar Betty Marshall
      March 17, 2021 - 1:18 pm | Permalink

      my thoughts exactly

  6. Belle's Gravatar Belle
    March 17, 2021 - 8:42 am | Permalink

    “Foolish generosity” does it for me. I voted for Benedict.

    • JustMeJo's Gravatar JustMeJo
      March 17, 2021 - 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Indeed! That was the very phrase that tugged my heart into voting for Benedict. I must also admit that the questions asked in the presentation for Ephrosyne were also quite compelling, but those two little words tugged me away!

  7. Rebecca's Gravatar Rebecca
    March 17, 2021 - 8:47 am | Permalink

    As a mother of a trans son I have to support Euphrosyne.

    • Lee W.'s Gravatar Lee W.
      March 17, 2021 - 9:43 am | Permalink

      Me, too, Rebecca.

    • james's Gravatar james
      March 17, 2021 - 10:09 am | Permalink

      I agree with Rebecca

      • Colleen's Gravatar Colleen
        March 17, 2021 - 10:24 am | Permalink

        Me as well! God calls us to be authentic and vulnerable to who we are and to share that authenticity and love with others.

  8. Gaen M.'s Gravatar Gaen M.
    March 17, 2021 - 8:49 am | Permalink

    I too found the commentary on Euphrosyne unhelpful compared to what’s gained/revealed from doing a deeper dive on the life, words, teachings, etc. of the person him or herself. Everyone’s reflections will be different because we pass these lives through the filter of our own lived experience, we reflect on these lives from the mirror our own experience holds up to their example.

    I again ask that we rename Benedict the Moor as Benedict the African or Benedict of Palermo in the top-level name in the bracket itself. To call someone a moor in this historical context is to refer to the Islamic conquest of the wider Mediterranean, including North Africa, Spain and Portugal. Here we’re talking about the slave trade in Africans, a very different thing, and I think it’s important to face squarely that he was born an enslaved person and to enslaved parents. For me, “moor” (and yes I understand the etymology of the Italian “moro” for dark) is a dodge away from facing the truth.

    All that aside, I love how Benedict changed the circumstances of enslavement into a life of freedom and powerful witness.

    • Nadya Lawson's Gravatar Nadya Lawson
      March 17, 2021 - 9:08 am | Permalink

      Well said!

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 17, 2021 - 11:34 am | Permalink

      Gaen, if there are no words of a saint left to us over the centuries, our blogger can’t very well reflect on them. I thought she did a great job with what she had. She turned it into a thoughtful Lenten devotion. Well done, Anna.

      • Tessa's Gravatar Tessa
        March 17, 2021 - 12:18 pm | Permalink

        I agree, Susan. Euphrosyne/Smaragdos would be a tough subject for any blogger in the quirks and quotes round. Well said, and well written, Anna.

        Even tougher for the saintly kitsch round (though the kitschiest fake emeralds that can be found would be fun!) however I suspect E/S won’t make it this time.

        Which is a thought. Do the celebrity bloggers find the kitsch, and does the SEC help? Do they have to find something for each of the 32 in case they make it to the third round?

        • Anna's Gravatar Anna
          March 17, 2021 - 1:09 pm | Permalink

          Yes, we find the kitsch. 🙂

        • March 24, 2021 - 6:41 pm | Permalink

          Benedict, or Benito de Palermo as he is called in Latin America, as the first black Saint to be canonized, has long been an inspiration for black Christians, especially those of Afro-Caribbean heritage. Born a slave, Benito is someone who looks like them and understands the hardships their forebears faced. I love the sheer joy and pride evident in the music and pageantry of the chimbangueles festival of Venezuela, a unique fusion of Christianity and African spirituality.

    • Julia's Gravatar Julia
      March 18, 2021 - 7:02 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Gaen, for this important request that we adjust how we refer to this particular Benedict. I hope it can be honored and see it has been some in comments below.

  9. Lee Greenawalt's Gravatar Lee Greenawalt
    March 17, 2021 - 9:02 am | Permalink

    I vote for Benedict as working to help the needy and oppressed. His faith in giving inspires. Euphrosyne’s life of separation then connection is commendable, but not for me to follow.

  10. Fiona's Gravatar Fiona
    March 17, 2021 - 9:03 am | Permalink

    In the aftermath of the murder of a young woman walking home, and the raised awareness of the struggle of women to live freely and without feat I can’t bring myself to vote for someone who concealed her gender. Benedict’s love, compassion and generosity win my vote today.

    • Bee Durban's Gravatar Bee Durban
      March 17, 2021 - 8:25 pm | Permalink

      I felt similarly, Fiona. When reading about Euphrosyne I kept hearing Sojourner Truth saying, “Ain’t I a woman?” Euphrosyne gave up her opportunity to speak out so bravely.

  11. Laura's Gravatar Laura
    March 17, 2021 - 9:03 am | Permalink

    I enjoyed the challenge of the Euphrosyne commentary today. a little Lenten challenge for our lives is wonderful.

    • Nancy Carrillo's Gravatar Nancy Carrillo
      March 17, 2021 - 9:08 am | Permalink

      I agree!

    • Kate Mason's Gravatar Kate Mason
      March 17, 2021 - 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Ditto, ditto. I thought Anna Fitch Courie’s write-up was masterful. I stand in awe of our bloggers and poets both!

  12. Rene Jamieson's Gravatar Rene Jamieson
    March 17, 2021 - 9:16 am | Permalink

    While I appreciated the questions posed by Anna Fitch Courie is her essay on Euphrosyne, I am not drawn to Euphrosyne who separated herself from family, from friends, from meaningful relationships, and even pretended to be someone other than who she was. I have a couple of questions, too. Does God really call us out of the world when the world so desperately needs to know and feel the love of God expressed through God’s people? Is deception any way to honour God? Benedict the Moor gets my vote today for his cheerful involvement, and because he would sit up through the night to comfort a sick novice.

    • Andrena Wishnie's Gravatar Andrena Wishnie
      March 17, 2021 - 9:24 am | Permalink

      I agree completely!

    • Linda Brown's Gravatar Linda Brown
      March 17, 2021 - 10:11 am | Permalink

      I agree~ I don’t think we are called to forsake our identity as a devotion to Christ ~ rather, we are called to be fully and openly ourselves. Appreciate the questions but . . .

  13. March 17, 2021 - 9:32 am | Permalink

    It’s possible, of course, that Euphrosyne was actually transgender, putting their actions in a different light with regard to who she was. Natheless, I voted for Benedict.

    By the way, people, one studies _tenets_, not _tenants_. I wouldn’t quibble but my own students constantly misspell this and it grates like fingernails on slate.

    • Tiffany's Gravatar Tiffany
      March 17, 2021 - 10:15 am | Permalink

      That typo made me chuckle. Jesus the landlord. Well, he did say “In my Father’s house, there are many rooms!” LOL.

      • George Morgan's Gravatar George Morgan
        March 17, 2021 - 2:38 pm | Permalink

        Anyone catch the other typo, the “chats” composed in honor of Euphrosyne? Did she have her own chat room?

    • Sarah P's Gravatar Sarah P
      March 17, 2021 - 1:18 pm | Permalink

      As a science teacher, I was constantly asked by students if I wasn’t really an English teacher. I, too, caught the tenets/tenants thing, although spellcheck could also be to blame. No matter. I still had to go with Benedict today—once again destroying my bracket.

    • Shelly's Gravatar Shelly
      March 17, 2021 - 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Thank you! I have seen this so many times I had begun to wonder if I was actually incorrect in thinking that “tenets” was the appropriate word.

  14. Ruth Douglas Miller's Gravatar Ruth Douglas Miller
    March 17, 2021 - 9:37 am | Permalink

    Euphrosyne inspires us to commitment to God alone, above all else, and is deeply admirable. Benedict inspires us to service, to God and to humanity, and is deeply admirable. Because Benedict’s heritage is underrepresented, I shall support him today, but don’t disparage Anna Fitch Courie’s call for deeper inspiration—that challenge is also valuable.

  15. March 17, 2021 - 9:41 am | Permalink

    As one who struggles to be a contemplative, I am drawn to Smaragdos (I find this name easier to pronounce). Is there a place in this world for contemplatives? I certainly hope so, as God calls us all in different ways. Some of us go overseas to rescue others from catastrophes while others make donations to support the work of others and keep us all in their prayers. I have yet to turn down someone who offered me prayers, and I am truly thankful each time it has happened.
    In the end, though, I have to admit I voted for Benedict, someone who apparently combined his contemplative tendencies with a reply of “How can I help?” to all those who knocked on his monastery door. I pray that I can be as selfless every day.

  16. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    March 17, 2021 - 9:56 am | Permalink

    Not much information was provided on Euphrosyne so the write up favored Benedict which is reflected in the lopsided vote. In fairness, recommend less questions and more information on the Saint in the future.

  17. March 17, 2021 - 9:57 am | Permalink

    I want to know more about Euphrosyne amazing ability of “falling asleep.” What is THAT about? LOL! But I voted for Benedict.

  18. Kim Morse's Gravatar Kim Morse
    March 17, 2021 - 10:12 am | Permalink

    St. Benedict is a major saint in the region south of Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, his saint day celebrated in the most wonderful, uniquely Afro-Venezuelan ways. Enjoy!

    • Constance Santana's Gravatar Constance Santana
      March 17, 2021 - 5:28 pm | Permalink

      Thank you so much for this unexpected gift! In a year of Black lives Matter I can see Benedict the Moor being crowned with the Golden Halo! (And look at all of that kitch!

  19. St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
    March 17, 2021 - 10:20 am | Permalink

    If one can say Hermione, one can say Euphrosyne (remember, it has “sin” in it): You-FRO-sin-ee. I voted for Benedict the African. The patron saint of 3 MM black American Roman Catholics deserves recognition. I’m finding though, this Lent Madness, that it’s a hindrance to me to keep trying to assess saints on the basis of their earthly merits. I wonder if that’s part of what’s going on this year with the discontent and grumbling among this little faithful band, people sitting out the vote in protest: some of these figures are just “over the top” or too incredible to assent to. And I am reminded of what some wise pilgrim among us said, that we have endured over a year of covid now and people are struggling with anguish they cannot yet recognize or articulate. So I think the strategy Anna uses on behalf of Good-Cheer is really right: turn to the music and prayers and liturgy and poems of the group(s) that revered the particular saint, and let their practice speak to us. Marianne Borg said this last weekend we should give up three things for Lent: give up propositional accounts of Jesus that categorize and define him; give up journalistic accounts of the gospel stories that want an accurate representational who-what-when-where of Jesus’ actions; and give up teleological accounts of Jesus’ ministry, that he “came to save us,” and just accept with gratitude the fact of his love and life. Thank goodness the monks of Palermo didn’t install Benedict’s “incorruptible” body on a throne with gilded cherubs blowing trumpets all around him. Some customs don’t age well. For me this morning, given that both figures have devotional groups dedicated to their memory, and though I am drawn to the kontakia written and performed for Euphrosyne, I will go to the one hidden outside in my budding bushes praying for my healing. May you all be well today. Avoid any beer of unnatural hues.

    • Emily Howe Wilson's Gravatar Emily Howe Wilson
      March 17, 2021 - 10:39 am | Permalink

      Or go with the modern Greek pronunciation, ef-roh-SEE-nee.

      • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
        March 17, 2021 - 11:42 am | Permalink

        Thank you, rosy-fingered Emily of the chariots of the dawn.

    • Pamela Payne's Gravatar Pamela Payne
      March 17, 2021 - 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your thoughtful words, St.Celia. I voted for Euphrosyne last time and again this time, as I love her name (pronounced in the old Greek manner) and her full commitment to living for God. I also appreciate that she repaired her relationship with her earthly father, who followed in her footsteps.

      I think that we Lent Madness fans often reflect the modern preference for “doing” over “being”. I deeply admire Benedict and love the idea that God always provided what was needed to give away. Service to others is a true gift of gratitude to God, but so can be the dedication of one’s life to God as a contemplative. Euphrosyne also taught the many pilgrims who came to learn from her, so she also served as a teacher (another gift of gratitude to God). In Euphrosyne’s time, being a monk or hermit was considered a holy offering of oneself to God and we should not disparage her choice to do so.

    • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
      March 17, 2021 - 11:20 pm | Permalink

      Ah, so you too know Canon Marianne? Do you live in Bend?

  20. Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
    March 17, 2021 - 10:22 am | Permalink

    I voted for both of these worthy Saints in the last round, and it is quite obvious that I will have yet another chance to vote for Benedict.

    Unlike some, I was quite impressed with Anna Fitch Courie‘s write up today for Smaragdos née Euphrosyne. “What of this life are you willing to spurn, to give up, to shed, to hide about yourself to devote your life fully to Christ?” For some this might be an uncomfortable question, but it is still an important one. Like Mary of Bethany, Smaragdos née Euphrosyne chose the better part. Here is a Saint who chose Christ above everything even one’s own self. And I’m sure if it was a choice between the Golden Halo and our Lord, Smaragdos née Euphrosyne would always choose Him over it.

    No matter who you vote for today, ask yourself; @nbsp;What of this life am I willing to spurn, to give up, to shed, to hide about myself to devote my life fully to Christ?

  21. Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
    March 17, 2021 - 10:25 am | Permalink

    That should read:

    . . . yourself: nbsp;What . . .

    (Obviously I need coffee still.)

  22. Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
    March 17, 2021 - 10:26 am | Permalink

    . . . yourself:  What . . .

    (I’m persistent.)

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 17, 2021 - 10:30 am | Permalink

      Someone knows html! If only it would cooperate!

      • Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
        March 17, 2021 - 10:29 pm | Permalink

        Egeria would have been bad at coding as one little typo can mess up one’s desire for two spaces following a colon.

  23. Kathy in Nicaragua's Gravatar Kathy in Nicaragua
    March 17, 2021 - 10:31 am | Permalink

    I voted for Benedict in the first round, and still felt he was more than worthy of my vote today. But I was very moved by Anna Fitch Courie’s write up. Quirks and Quotes is the name of this round — Anna highlighted Euphrosyne/Smaragdos’ attributes (those count as quirks in my book) and then challenged us to reflect on our own lives in their light. We each have our unique call(s), but I probably would have voted for this write-up if I wasn’t already committed to Benedict.

  24. Anne Monahan's Gravatar Anne Monahan
    March 17, 2021 - 10:56 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know the Lord was a landlord
    and one who studied (business plan, pastoral needs?) has tenants.
    Me thinks you may have meant “tenets”. Just saying.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 17, 2021 - 11:40 am | Permalink

      We should add to our Lenten devotions the study of “the tenants of Christ”! Along with those tall ents in Tolkien that Matthew 25 prefigured!

  25. JoJo's Gravatar JoJo
    March 17, 2021 - 11:01 am | Permalink

    Euphrosyne’s write up made me realize how unworthy I am but Christ comforts me anyway. Smaragdos as Trans may make her more up to date it it’s Benedict the Moor whose time has come. Plus he had me at “God will provide” for the Mike Cross song about the buzzard & chicken hawk.

  26. Linda Goertz's Gravatar Linda Goertz
    March 17, 2021 - 11:09 am | Permalink

    To suggest that we should hope to “hide” aspects of one’s self to attain some spiritually advanced state (last sentence for Euphrosyne) is, in my view, very poor theology. Don’t we prayerfully bring ALL of our light-and-dark selves in trust to our most merciful God? Are we still mired in self-aggrandizing by means of supposed self-abasement?

    • Patricia Samuel's Gravatar Patricia Samuel
      March 17, 2021 - 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Remember the times in which she lived: women were expected/ commanded/forced to get married. Dressing & acting as a man sounds reasonable to me under those circumstances.

    • Ethel Hellman's Gravatar Ethel Hellman
      March 17, 2021 - 5:48 pm | Permalink


    • simple village priest's Gravatar simple village priest
      March 17, 2021 - 8:28 pm | Permalink

      Amen, Linda!

  27. Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
    March 17, 2021 - 11:16 am | Permalink

    Another really difficult choice. Voted for Euphrosyne because s/he was so far behind.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 17, 2021 - 1:09 pm | Permalink

      I almost wish I could go back and change my vote, simply because Euphrosyne is getting blown out of the water and I feel I should support the underdog. Still, s/he is shining in the presence of God and has little need of my mortal vote.

  28. March 17, 2021 - 11:27 am | Permalink

    Isn’t round two supposed to be the kitsch, Quirks and Quotes round? The funny one?
    The light hearted one? Or are we all so bowed down and intimidated by recent events that we’re afraid to tease? I remember the saint who made purple dye by squeezing snails, Christina the Astonishing who watched her own funeral after she flew up in a tree and on and on. If. you don’t laugh, you cry.

  29. Martha's Gravatar Martha
    March 17, 2021 - 11:38 am | Permalink

    tenet, not tenant. Sorry.

  30. Jendi's Gravatar Jendi
    March 17, 2021 - 11:44 am | Permalink

    Voting for Euphrosyne and once again reminding folks to be careful about describing gender-crossing as deception, as this language harms trans people today. We can’t know whether this saint was genuinely male-identified or escaping restrictions on women’s opportunities to live a holy life, but either way, s/he was responding to God’s call to his/her true nature.

    • Ethel Hellman's Gravatar Ethel Hellman
      March 17, 2021 - 5:49 pm | Permalink

      And again, Amen!

    • Julia's Gravatar Julia
      March 18, 2021 - 6:58 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Jendi, for this important reminder.

  31. mark stanley ricker's Gravatar mark stanley ricker
    March 17, 2021 - 11:52 am | Permalink

    Dear Anna… as a joy-filled proof reader I must point out that we must always center on and not around things, people and places. Thanks to a wonderful English professor in College I had to make mention of this.
    Love your closing question and yet had to vote for Benedict because of his gift of generosity!!! Mark

  32. March 17, 2021 - 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Standing with Jendi, Euphrosyne and the Trans community, and voting for the underdog, again.

  33. Nancy D. Stevens's Gravatar Nancy D. Stevens
    March 17, 2021 - 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Just as each person has a unique personalized call and vocation, so each finds a unique personal path to its fulfillment within one’s own time and context. Maybe she discerned that living as a man in a men’s community was part of what God was calling her to do. To measure Euphrosyne’s choices by 21st century understandings of psychology and agency is unfair to her, I think.

  34. Barbara MacRobie's Gravatar Barbara MacRobie
    March 17, 2021 - 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I vote for denoting Benedict as “Benedict of Palermo” or “Benedict the African” in his next bracket. (I see that Wikipedia ID’s the author of the Rule of Saint Benedict as “Benedict of Nursia.”) As other commenters have noted, “Moor” has different connotations for us now than it did for the people who knew our Lent Madness Benedict and gave him that sobriquet.

    Here’s a note from the catalog of a remarkable 2013 exhibition at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe”: “’Moor’ is an imprecise word that in the sixteenth century had been divested of its original religious meaning of a Muslim, to become a generic word most usually applied to an African or someone from the Ottoman empire. The word does not carry any indication of ethnicity or skin color: rather, further descriptors labeled people as white moors, brown or tawny moors, and black moors.”

    The Walters has generously put up the entire fascinating catalog online for free as a PDF:
    I found that quotation just by searching “Benedict.” The catalog introduction says, “The exhibition ends with the mesmerizing figure of St. Benedict the Moor, the Renaissance African-European with the greatest impact today.” You’ll see him on page 138 depicted by a 17th-century Spanish sculptor.

  35. Stephen Moore's Gravatar Stephen Moore
    March 17, 2021 - 3:16 pm | Permalink

    My vote is for Benedict, as he is particularly apropos during this worldwide effort to desystemitize racial disparities.

  36. March 17, 2021 - 5:57 pm | Permalink

    St. Benedict was not a member of the Benedictine Order and did not follow the Rule of St. Benedict. He was a Franciscan Friar and followed the form of life written by St. Francis of Assisi. He is known as St. Benedict the Moor, St. Benedict the African, St. Benedict of Palermo, and as St. Benedict the Black. Even the picture that accompanies his biography depicts him in a Franciscan habit.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 17, 2021 - 10:15 pm | Permalink

      Thank you. You inspired me to look up a Franciscan habit. I always forget that the Franciscans were friars not monks. Benedict was scornful of “peripatetic” monks, but that was during the “dark ages” when there were no cities, and a monastery was one’s anchor in life. Once cities arose in the high middle ages, the concept of a friar could arise, because a settled life was now the norm and friars could challenge that by “hedge” preaching and presenting a life not characterized by ownership in street grids and market days and mayors wearing ermine collars and big gold chains.

  37. Sylvia Miller-Mutia's Gravatar Sylvia Miller-Mutia
    March 17, 2021 - 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Brave and brilliant
    Empathy was his strong guide, those in
    Need could count on his assistance
    Eager to serve God and neighbor in food and prayer
    Dark skinned among strangers
    Intense in work and devotion
    Trustworthy in all things

    (Friends & Members of St. Mark’s, ABQ)

  38. Bee Durban's Gravatar Bee Durban
    March 17, 2021 - 8:29 pm | Permalink

    When reading about Euphrosyne I kept hearing Sojourner Truth saying, “Ain’t I a woman?” Euphrosyne gave up her opportunity to speak out so bravely. Benedict and his radical, ‘foolish’, hospitality and kindness for me.

  39. simple village priest's Gravatar simple village priest
    March 17, 2021 - 9:01 pm | Permalink

    I went back to read the first round bios and comments for these two saints (and BTW, St. Celia, I did not go silent, I just switched to a nom de plume!), and am frankly puzzled by the completely different tack taken by Anna Fitch Courie in her second writeup about Euphrosyne. The first was masterful and thought-provoking, especially the collect. Today’s was just provoking. It seemed to encourage a kind of mawkish and deceptive self-denial as an appropriate offering to God.
    Are we not called to present to God — in the words of Rite I’s Eucharistic Prayer A — “our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice”? How can we do this if we hide and deny our true selves?
    I voted again for Euphrosyne/Smaragdos, because whatever pronouns and gender identity she or he or they might have embraced in a different time, I believe Euphrosyne strove to serve God as authentically as possible. Maybe she was simply called to monasticism and the ministry of spiritual direction and not to (arranged) marriage, and living dressed as a male was just a necessary inconvenience. Or maybe he was truly himself as a male, serving God more fully and authentically.
    Either way, Euphrosyne/Smaragdos was beloved and made in the image (male and female?) of our Creator, and as such, is perhaps a much-needed icon of God’s welcoming and generous love for our trans and queer siblings in Christ.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 17, 2021 - 9:39 pm | Permalink

      You’re so eloquent!

  40. Barbara Gay's Gravatar Barbara Gay
    March 17, 2021 - 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Until quite recently, women who wanted to follow non-traditionally female pursuits had to hide their gender identities. Look at women of the past who dressed as men to go to war (one such woman from my hometown took on a male identity to fight in the Revolutionary War). Women took on male-sounding names when writing for publication, George Elliott as an example. No need to ascribe deception to this, it would have been a matter of necessity for Euphrosyne to adopt a male identity if she wanted to obey the call she heard.

  41. TJMannion's Gravatar TJMannion
    March 17, 2021 - 9:39 pm | Permalink

    This was tough: Euphrosyne, who gave it her all, or Benedict, who gave away what he had. In the long run, I chose Benedict (even though I typically go for the underdog, given my track record here!)

  42. MARY ROSA's Gravatar MARY ROSA
    March 18, 2021 - 2:06 pm | Permalink


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