Evagrius the Solitary vs. Euphrosyne

We hope you had a restful couple of days away from the saintly electoral process, because we’re back for another full week of exciting Lent Madness action. On Friday, just to catch you up, Theodora the Empress roundly defeated Theodora of Alexandria 75% to 25% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen, where she’ll face Albert the Great.

Sometimes the Saintly Smackdown involves well-known saints. The kind of familiar names and images you may see embedded in stained glass or molded into statuary in your own parish church. And at other times, Lent Madness features Evagrius the Solitary vs. Euphrosyne. Today is one of the latter days and, as always, we enjoy introducing lesser-known saintly souls to the Lent Madness faithful. Whether or not you’ve heard of today’s competitors, enjoy the ride!

Oh, and go vote.

Evagrius the Solitary 
Evagrius the Solitary (345-399), also known as Evagrius Ponticus, was born to a country bishop in the region of Pontus in Asia Minor. His life intersected with and impacted many of “the greats” we know today. Evagrius was ordained a lector by Basil the Great. He traveled to Constantinople and was ordained a deacon by Gregory of Nazianzus around 380. He became a protégé of Gregory when he went the way of the Jerry Falwell Jrs. of the world and became embroiled in scandal.

In Constantinople, the handsome Evagrius had an affair with a married woman and had to flee when he was warned in a vision of her husband’s impending revenge. Evagrius sauntered the streets of the Holy City until he had a mental and physical breakdown, ultimately finding refuge and the restoration of his health in a monastery in Jerusalem in 383.

It is only then, around the age of thirty-eight, that Evagrius left the monastery in Jerusalem to become a semi-eremetical monk in Nitria and later Kellia in Egypt. In this monastic arrangement, monks lived in individual residences under the supervision of an abba. Over the next sixteen years, Evagrius became a renowned spiritual teacher to this community of monks. His writings and teachings had significant influence on the development of western monasticism through translations from Greek to Latin and through his ardent admirer John Cassian, who, in turn, would significantly shape the Rule of Benedict of Nursia.

While Evagrius left many works, one of the most interesting (to me, anyway) is Talking Back, a treatise on the tactics needed to defeat the eight demons that undermine monastic life: gluttony, fornication, love of money, sadness, anger, listlessness, vainglory, and pride. This book is a collection of 498 biblical passages that a monk can use to “talk back” and cut off the demon. Evagrius is especially pointed on the demon called Love of Money. He argues that monks shouldn’t confuse sufficiency with economic security and that they should live on the edge of poverty, giving any surplus to the poor.

Evagrius was rigorous and relentless in his thought and practice. Indeed, his bodily regimen proved to be so harsh that he exhausted his health within a span of just a few years. He died on the feast of Epiphany in 399 just sixteen years after arriving at the monastery in Nitria and Kellia.

Collect for Evagrius the Solitary
O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that, inspired by the devotion of your servant Evagrius, we may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

—Miguel Escobar


Many saints are born into wealthy families. It goes without saying that they are devout followers of Christ. It is also common for them to leave their wealthy, privileged lives when their families arrange a marriage that is distasteful. These saints all seem to be strong-willed, have a clear calling for God in their lives, and deeply want to serve rather than be served.

Saint Euphrosyne of Alexandria is no different. Born in fifth-century Alexandria, Egypt, Euphrosyne’s parents were an older, wealthy couple who had been unable to have children. They called on the abbot of the local monastery to pray over their infertility. Shortly after that, Euphrosyne was welcomed with joy and awe and as a sign of a miracle from God. However, her mother died shortly thereafter, and she was brought up by her pious father, who took her to the local monastery for reading, writing, and theology.

Like many other girls of her time, she was promised to another family of equal social station in Alexandria, and her dad began planning the wedding festivities. Euphrosyne was not pleased. And so she prayed. Her prayers led her to a decision to run away to the local monastery (the same one that prayed for her birth), dress as a male, take on the tonsure, take on a new name of Smaragdus, and proceed to perfect an ascetic life. The word “Smaragdus” means emerald, and Euphrosyne is also known as “The Emerald of God.”

People would pilgrimage from all over to learn from Smaragdus how to pray and center their lives solely on God. One of those individuals that traveled to the monastery to learn at the feet of Smaragdus was a man called Paphnutius. He was Euphrosyne’s father but did not recognize Smaragdus in the habit and tonsure.

This deception weighed on Smaragdus’s soul, and nearing death, Smaragdus told Paphnutius their identity. This commitment to Christ and willingness to serve God touched Paphnutius’s heart, and he, too, was called to take up the tonsure and habit and live out the rest of his days in the same monastery.

In honor of this ministry and witness, the church recognizes the feast of Saint Euphrosyne of Alexandria on September 25.

Collect for Euphrosyne
Merciful God, who looks not with outward eyes but discerns the heart of each: we confess that those whom we love the most are often strangers to us. Give to all parents and children, we pray, the grace to see one another as they truly are and as you have called them to be. All this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our only mediator and advocate. Amen.

—Anna Fitch Courie


Evagrius the Solitary vs. Euphrosyne

  • Euphrosyne (64%, 4,643 Votes)
  • Evagrius the Solitary (36%, 2,583 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,226

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Evagrius the Solitary: (Leuven: Peeters, 1997). / Public domain
Euphrosyne: Wolfymoza / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

119 Comments to "Evagrius the Solitary vs. Euphrosyne"

  1. John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
    March 1, 2021 - 8:08 am | Permalink

    For my money, Evagrius wins:
    All my efforts his work underpins:
    For most limericks stunk
    Ere the work of this monk,
    Who came up with the first Deadly Sins*.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins

    • Sue Campbell's Gravatar Sue Campbell
      March 1, 2021 - 9:15 am | Permalink

      Bravo! My vote, as well.

      • Linda S's Gravatar Linda S
        March 1, 2021 - 10:29 am | Permalink

        Has there been research into the number of pious women who assumed the identity of a man so they could hide out in a monastery to serve God in peace? This makes me so sad, and yet the phenomenon produced enduring examples of godly devotion.
        Anyhoo, I voted for Evagrius today, and it’s official – my bracket is busted.
        I’m won over because he seemed to initiate the concept of the 7 Deadly Sins in his book, Talking Back. One in particular, listlessness, is of interest. That melancholy sin a monastic experiences in the heat of the late afternoon (we’re in a desert hovel), and it feels like life in God is just a bore and going nowhere. Is this man NOT a perfect saint for pandemic quarantine life?

        • Karen Rhodes's Gravatar Karen Rhodes
          March 1, 2021 - 9:12 pm | Permalink

          That’s what led me to my first losing vote. Well put.

        • Karen Rhodes's Gravatar Karen Rhodes
          March 1, 2021 - 9:14 pm | Permalink

          That’s what led me to my first losing vote. Well put. I like a reformed sinner. Always wonder about stories in which a young woman is able to pass as male in a cloistered environment. Did she do all the laundry?

    • Josh Nixon's Gravatar Josh Nixon
      March 1, 2021 - 9:58 am | Permalink

      Today there’s another contender
      Who is famed for disguising her gender;
      Euphrosyne showed us,
      Disguised as Smaragdus,
      That women should never surrender.

      • Sue's Gravatar Sue
        March 1, 2021 - 11:00 am | Permalink

        Fantastic! You win high praise for rhyming with Smaragdus!

      • Rufus's Gravatar Rufus
        March 1, 2021 - 11:50 am | Permalink

        Yes, Sue is right.
        It’s nothing short of mirac’lous
        To find a rhythme for Smaragdus!

    • March 1, 2021 - 2:32 pm | Permalink


  2. Mariclaire Buckley's Gravatar Mariclaire Buckley
    March 1, 2021 - 8:14 am | Permalink

    I hope that Evagrius the Solitary has left some writings helpful in the casting out of the demon of “listlessness

    • John Cabot's Gravatar John Cabot
      March 1, 2021 - 8:21 am | Permalink

      He called it “acedia” (also known as “accidie”), and it is indeed addressed in Talking Back. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acedia.

      Personally, I find participating in Lent Madness to be an efficacious exorcist of this particular demon.

  3. Ann M Smith's Gravatar Ann M Smith
    March 1, 2021 - 8:23 am | Permalink

    He lack of comments says it all. This is one where you toss a coin.

  4. Kate Mason's Gravatar Kate Mason
    March 1, 2021 - 8:31 am | Permalink

    The Collect for Euphrosyne did it for me…. Yes, true, and may we indeed receive the grace to see our loved ones as they are, and not as we wish they would be.

    • Michele May's Gravatar Michele May
      March 1, 2021 - 9:51 am | Permalink

      Yes! I copied this prayer into my Lenten journal modified to refer to my friends whose choices I cannot control.

    • March 1, 2021 - 11:15 am | Permalink

      Yes! That was what tipped the scale for me, too.

  5. Catherine Linberg's Gravatar Catherine Linberg
    March 1, 2021 - 8:33 am | Permalink

    Two matchups in a row featuring Alexandrians and their haircuts, hmmm. My choice Theodora of A didn’t make the cut; let’s see if Euphrosyne can.

  6. Marian the Lutheran's Gravatar Marian the Lutheran
    March 1, 2021 - 8:34 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure how to say the other than, I’m so tired of all these women being held in high regard for joining a monastery as an alternative to marriage. Why was it more acceptable and noble to join a monastery than a house of nuns? You never hear about men escaping their alleged fate by growing out their hair and becoming a nun. I understand it had to do with an extreme patriarchal society, but it is very sad all the same.

    • Helen-Louise Boling's Gravatar Helen-Louise Boling
      March 1, 2021 - 8:43 am | Permalink

      I had not thought of this, but you are correct. Perhaps there were fewer houses of nuns?

    • Melanie's Gravatar Melanie
      March 1, 2021 - 9:19 am | Permalink

      Two somewhat related possibilities: First, the saint may have wanted to live as a man, as an early expression of what we would today recognize as transgender. He chose a new name for himself, Smaragdus, which I wish we would respect and use. Second, life in a monastery would offer more opportunities for an ambitious and/or scholarly person. Smaragdus lived as a respected teacher in his monastery.

    • Lisa Keppeler's Gravatar Lisa Keppeler
      March 1, 2021 - 9:47 am | Permalink

      Quite possibly there were fewer monastic opportunities for women, but also I read elsewhere that Euphrosyne thought her father would think to look for her in a convent, but not in a monastery. More thoughts further down.

    • Jackie B's Gravatar Jackie B
      March 1, 2021 - 11:56 pm | Permalink

      There is also the issue of facial hair. And deeper voices, making it more difficult for a man to disguise himself as a woman.

  7. Kitty Whitman's Gravatar Kitty Whitman
    March 1, 2021 - 8:34 am | Permalink

    I am left unimpressed with the deception of Euphrosyne. Though her reasoning may have been pure, her actions do not follow. I may not judge her, but her story is a bit unseemly. Redemption came in the presence of her father and in her confession. Thanks be for the grace of God to see her heart and grant her fulfillment.

  8. March 1, 2021 - 8:36 am | Permalink

    This one was tough! I like the scandal ridden drama of Evagrius’s life being turned to righteous purpose but I also love the single-minded courage of Euphrosyne. I voted for Euphrosyne in the end because I found her deathbed peace-making inspiring but both of them are impressive.

  9. Elizabeth W's Gravatar Elizabeth W
    March 1, 2021 - 8:37 am | Permalink

    I love the story of The Emerald of God. But I appreciate the legacy of the writings of Evagrius

  10. Helen-Louise Boling's Gravatar Helen-Louise Boling
    March 1, 2021 - 8:40 am | Permalink

    I will vote for Euphrosyne. I very much like the portrayal of her relationship with her father, and the collect’s prayer for parental relationship, And – Evagrius disobeyed the command to honor the temple of one’s body, showing very poor stewardship in his [lack of] care of his body.

  11. Isabel Spencer's Gravatar Isabel Spencer
    March 1, 2021 - 8:41 am | Permalink

    After googling I read the Gifford lecture on EEvagrius. Very helpful. I was tempted to vote for her because she’s a saint but reading more I have to go for Evagrius.

  12. Vicki's Gravatar Vicki
    March 1, 2021 - 8:41 am | Permalink

    Ok, it’s time to give our transgender, gender non binary brothers, sisters and them encouragement. I think Euphrosyne would have wanted to be their patron saint -maybe they are.

    • Laurie Eiserloh's Gravatar Laurie Eiserloh
      March 1, 2021 - 8:51 am | Permalink

      Yes agree

      • james's Gravatar james
        March 1, 2021 - 11:53 am | Permalink

        yes i agree

  13. Belle's Gravatar Belle
    March 1, 2021 - 8:42 am | Permalink

    I voted for Euphrosyne. Women being forced into marriage had to either submit or resort to extreme measures. I love it that she didn’t torture her body like Evagrius did, I can’t support that; and that she gave her full devotion to being a monk. I also love it that she reconciled with her father in the end.

  14. Susan's Gravatar Susan
    March 1, 2021 - 8:42 am | Permalink

    It was her Collect that decided my vote!

  15. Patricia's Gravatar Patricia
    March 1, 2021 - 8:42 am | Permalink

    ” the handsome Evagrius had an affair with a married woman and had to flee “…and then after a breakdown entered the monastery. I don’t know if this should be counted for or against Evagrius who then wrote “a treatise on the tactics needed to defeat the eight demons that undermine monastic life.” I left the Southern Baptist Convention because of things like the “way(s) 0f the Jerry Falwell(s)” only to have the parish I currently attend be hurt by two similar leadership indiscretions.
    I pray for them and that I can move on, remembering that G-d can use all of us redeemed sinners to do G-d’s work. But today I just can’t. Euphrosyne for me.

    2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; the Epistle appointed for Ash Wednesday

  16. Melanie's Gravatar Melanie
    March 1, 2021 - 8:46 am | Permalink

    Why are we not voting for St. Smaragdus? If that is the name the person chose…

    • A Jennifer's Gravatar A Jennifer
      March 1, 2021 - 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Chose, but under non-ideal circumstances while on the run and needing to stay hidden. Not necessarily a desired state of affairs. Good question but to me either name works.

  17. Lee Greenawalt's Gravatar Lee Greenawalt
    March 1, 2021 - 8:47 am | Permalink

    At first I criticized Euphrosyme’s deception pretending to be a male, but I recall Paul’s “I become all things to all men, that by all means I may save some.” I do not know why she did not flee to a convent, but perhaps God directed so that her teaching would be heeded. Evagrius is truly saintly having repented of his sins. This was a tough choice.

  18. Laurie Eiserloh's Gravatar Laurie Eiserloh
    March 1, 2021 - 8:56 am | Permalink

    Both compelling stories!

  19. Jack Zamboni's Gravatar Jack Zamboni
    March 1, 2021 - 8:57 am | Permalink

    Read the comments before voting, and if they changed me from Evagrius to Euphrosyne. I had been drawn by his significant role in shaping monastic spirituality, but the comments helped me see her choices in a wider frame then I previously had.

  20. March 1, 2021 - 9:00 am | Permalink

    As I considered the two contenders, a thought kept running through my head:

    Which of you is Smaragdus?
    I am Smaragdus!
    I am Smaragdus!
    I am Smaragdus!

    • Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
      March 1, 2021 - 10:01 am | Permalink

      Chortle, chortle! (But I forget the actual source.)

      • March 1, 2021 - 11:21 am | Permalink

        “Spartacus “– 1960 American epic historical drama film. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Screenplay: Dalton Trumbo. Based on the 1951 novel of the same title by Howard Fast. It is inspired by the life story of Spartacus, the leader of a slave revolt in antiquity, and the events of the Third Servile War.

        • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
          March 1, 2021 - 2:10 pm | Permalink

          Oh, well done, Ken! I’ll chuckle over that the rest of the day!

    • Peg S.'s Gravatar Peg S.
      March 1, 2021 - 12:58 pm | Permalink

      [loud hoot of laughter, vigorous applause]

    • Claire from Quincy, MA's Gravatar Claire from Quincy, MA
      March 1, 2021 - 3:18 pm | Permalink

      That decided it for me! Thank you.

  21. Susan C.'s Gravatar Susan C.
    March 1, 2021 - 9:18 am | Permalink

    I vote for Euphrosyne, who early made her choice to devote her life to God and to leave behind the trappings of wealth. She was humble, devout, but with a strong sense of what she needed to do to be true to herself. I am glad that she was able to reconcile with her father at last.

  22. Eleni Barber's Gravatar Eleni Barber
    March 1, 2021 - 9:21 am | Permalink

    Evagrius not only wrote about the sins but also counseled for their cures. The modern movement of the enneagram to understand and address personality types is rooted in Evagrius’s work. I first learned this at a workshop with Helen Palmer. Above link one article on his contribution.

  23. Patrick's Gravatar Patrick
    March 1, 2021 - 9:23 am | Permalink

    A difficult choice, as is so often the case. But I decided to go with Evagrius on account of his views on money. In a day when materialism and consumerism run rampant, when the quest for security and material comfort often dominates public discourse, when “greed is good”became a slogan, his teachings are badly needed.
    Benjamin Franklin was not the first to say the love of money is the root of all evil.

  24. Loretta's Gravatar Loretta
    March 1, 2021 - 9:36 am | Permalink

    Voted for Evagrius, whose work “Talking Back” might be re-titled “Talk to the Hand” these days. And what the heck is vainglory???

  25. St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
    March 1, 2021 - 9:39 am | Permalink

    HUGE shoutout to Miguel Escobar for a highly entertaining bio of Evagrius. I like how he slipped in that Evagrius was “born to a country bishop.” Clearly chastity was either not required of clergy in the fourth century or not enforced. And I laughed when the rogue was “warned in a vision” that his adulterous affair was going to end in bloody revenge. As Horatio says to Hamlet, “My lord, it takes no ghost returned from the dead to tell us that.” I almost voted for Evagrius, but I have trouble with saints so ascetic that their bodily self-mortification leads to early death. Anorexia is not a practice pleasing to God. We saw this with St. Clare of Assisi a year or so ago. Starving oneself into an early grave robs God of a faithful servant and steals the time of the brothers and sisters around one who have to tend to a weakened member of the community. Shoutout as well to Anna Fitch Courie for the wonderful collect for Euphrosyne. “Those whom we love the most are often strangers to us.” Anna has captured the pathos of the human condition. And yes, special prayers for older parents and for all struggling with infertility. Still, I cannot distinguish Euphrosyne from all the other “saintly” legendary (as in mythical) women who entered monasteries disguised as men and then converted some man yada yada yada. Perhaps these stories were inspiration for Shakespeare’s cross-dressing women such as Portia, but that’s a slender reed on which to hang the weight of a vote. Emeralds versus an early self-help book on defeating monkey mind? Sigh. I don’t know what to do today: toss a denarius?

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 1, 2021 - 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Although I wouldn’t call anorexia a “practice”… “Asceticism” instead maybe?

  26. Lisa Keppeler's Gravatar Lisa Keppeler
    March 1, 2021 - 9:42 am | Permalink

    My vote goes to Euphrosyne/Smaragdus. The writeup is eloquent — Anna Fitch Courie, I see what you are doing here, and celebrate it. We cannot know whether Euphrosyne was escaping a particular marriage matchup, the state of marriage in favor of a life in Christ of prayer, study, and contemplation, or a life lived out in a gender that was not a fit for Euphrosyne/Smaragdus. The subtle change to gender-neutral pronouns toward the end of the bio is masterful…
    …and the Collect moved me to tears, and had me Googling Gibran’s “Your children are not your children” poem. May we all strive to love others as Christ loves us, seeing and loving people for who they really are.

    • Ellen L Mintzmyer's Gravatar Ellen L Mintzmyer
      March 1, 2021 - 10:20 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I also had thoughts that Euphrosyne might be a saint for all our trans kids who see opportunities in gender that those born to it are sometimes blind.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 8, 2021 - 2:03 pm | Permalink

      Dear Lisa, I do not know if you will ever see this, but I have been looking for your posts daily and do not find any recent ones from you. I enjoy your posts and very much hope you will gift the pilgrim community with another limerick. I also hope you will return to commenting! It would be a loss to the group if you didn’t.

  27. Jane Fenicle's Gravatar Jane Fenicle
    March 1, 2021 - 9:46 am | Permalink

    Thank you thoughtful readers for your insight and commentary. I was in a coin toss quandary until I decided to check the comments. Melanie made the points that turned my vote to St. Smaragdus. It was important to realize that there were greater opportunities for education and for teaching via a monastic life rather than life in a nunnery. The concept of early transgender connection also made great sense and seems a realistic possibility and positive response to an inner need. Bravo for Lent Madness opening our hearts and minds to new pathways to love and unity.

    • Shelly's Gravatar Shelly
      March 2, 2021 - 12:34 am | Permalink

      Yes! This! Your words express my thoughts perfectly. Thank you.

  28. Jendi's Gravatar Jendi
    March 1, 2021 - 9:52 am | Permalink

    Voting for St. Smaragdus, and gently cautioning my cis siblings on this thread to avoid words like “deception” when discussing someone who switched gender presentations, whether or not the saint was genuinely male-identified (as we would understand that term now) or doing it for pragmatic reasons.

  29. Kathy in Nicaragua's Gravatar Kathy in Nicaragua
    March 1, 2021 - 9:55 am | Permalink

    This was a hard choice for me because I wasn’t particularly attracted to either. Euphrosyne is the second woman-escaping-to-become-a-monk we’ve had this year, and there was another one last year (or recently). But I didn’t find the biography of Evagrius inspiring. I finally voted for him for his influence on the monastic life, which is something I find inspiring. And, of course, he’s losing. Nine contests so far and my choice has only won three times. Ah well. I am enjoying learning about all these new saints I had never heard of before.

    • Sara L's Gravatar Sara L
      March 1, 2021 - 11:07 am | Permalink

      I’m also having a tough time with this match-up (and getting my brackets busted – oh well). Getting judgy in my old age, with concerns about eating disorders being sanctified and family divisions as well. The Lord’s use of our frailties to His greater glory is the grace I need to hold to. With that, I’ve talked myself into Evagrius for his writings that live on to help all of us in our frailties.
      Thanks, everyone, for your comments!

  30. March 1, 2021 - 10:01 am | Permalink

    Wow. The Collect for Euphrosyne really resonated with me.

  31. Laura S.'s Gravatar Laura S.
    March 1, 2021 - 10:02 am | Permalink

    Evagrius was a big “no” for me. He struggled with his inner demons because of his privileged upbringing. I voted “yes” struggled as an adoptive child and urged into a marriage through her privileged father. Although I understand that this was the custom in those days and in many cultures of G*d’s world today, I do not agree with arranged marriage.

  32. tully monster's Gravatar tully monster
    March 1, 2021 - 10:03 am | Permalink

    Euphrosyne may have dressed as a man and pretended to be one to avoid rape–for the same reason Joan of Arc wore men’s clothing (and was burned at the stake partly for doing so). Male clergy have traditionally viewed convents as their own private brothels–and in some areas of the world still do.

  33. Verdery Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery Kassebaum
    March 1, 2021 - 10:09 am | Permalink

    Thank you to all those who related Euphrosyne/Smaragdus to those who find themselves in the “wrong body”, so to speak. I have a transgender godson and so I’m voting for Euphrosyne/Smaragdus in honor of him.

  34. Linda S Horn's Gravatar Linda S Horn
    March 1, 2021 - 10:10 am | Permalink

    Sorry to be a downer but this year’s saints seem so minor I find it hard to care about them. Today is a prime example. Have loved Lent Madness in the past but this year not as much. Maybe some non-halo winners from the past could be resurrected?

    • Mariclaire Buckley's Gravatar Mariclaire Buckley
      March 1, 2021 - 7:12 pm | Permalink

      I am loving learning about these obscure saints!

    • Shelly's Gravatar Shelly
      March 2, 2021 - 12:38 am | Permalink

      They do bring back non-winners, and there are only so many well-known saints. I don’t always find these obscure saints as inspiring as the better-known ones, but I enjoy learning about them, and I especially enjoy the insightful comments.

  35. JoJo's Gravatar JoJo
    March 1, 2021 - 10:11 am | Permalink

    Didn’t need to read any comments to make you decision today even though I hadn’t heard of these people before. The more I read of Evagrius the more I hoped Euphrosyne was a woman I could vote for. And she was!!!! A well deserved vote from another only child who was with her father.

  36. Verlinda Henning's Gravatar Verlinda Henning
    March 1, 2021 - 10:11 am | Permalink

    It has to be Euphrosyne for me–her feast day is my birthday! And I remember how blessed it was to get to know my parents more when I became an adult. That knowledge has enriched and informed my life ever since.

  37. March 1, 2021 - 10:13 am | Permalink

    Evagrius the Solitary (Evagrius Ponticus) gets my vote because I think theologians are special. But this guy is REALLY special. His choice of the ascetic life included eating only once a day without consuming fruit, meat or vegetables or any cooked food and never taking a bath, a real time saver. Evagrius rigorously tried to avoid teaching beyond the spiritual maturity of his audiences (excellent practice). He taught that tears were the utmost sign of true repentance and that weeping, even for days at a time, opened one up to God. His esoteric speculations regarding the pre-existence of human souls may have been a little over the top but no one is perfect.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 1, 2021 - 10:19 am | Permalink

      No cooked food when grains are the only thing left on your list means eating raw oats your entire life, maybe with some fresh milk to soften them. Bleeech. Still, never taking a bath was probably much more efficacious at preventing fornication than the “talking back” manual.

      • Tessa's Gravatar Tessa
        March 1, 2021 - 3:01 pm | Permalink

        I was trying to think what was left on the list of acceptable edibles. Grains (not a timesaver if you are eating them uncooked because of the amount of chewing needed), raw milk and eggs, nuts and seeds. That’s about it. And not taking a bath probably meant he had no problems avoiding minor sins like gossiping, because nobody would get near him.

  38. Alethea Eason's Gravatar Alethea Eason
    March 1, 2021 - 10:18 am | Permalink

    I vote for Euphrosyne because I can’t condone starvation as a path to God. The lives of the early saints, their legends, at least, often seem voyeuristic in their details of torture and self-mortification. Jesus incarnated in a human body, but loving that we are in our bodies still challenges so many of us. Perhaps Euphrosyne/Smaragdus was transgender. Who knows, but she seemed to thrive on her chosen life. In light of the comment of a certain Senator from Kentucky last week about transgender people, my vote goes to them!

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 1, 2021 - 10:31 am | Permalink

      There’s a Damascus in Virginia, due east, so perhaps that sin-blinded Paul should take a road there. However, since that road is the Jeb Stuart Highway, the odds of anyone seeing the light while travelling thither are essentially nil.

      • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
        March 1, 2021 - 11:01 am | Permalink

        Having been through many childless years myself, I thought how miraculous Euphrosyne’s birth must have been to her parents. I wonder what her name means; we named our miracle “Grace.” For the resonance of her story with my own, I voted for Euphrosyne.

        • simple village priest's Gravatar simple village priest
          March 1, 2021 - 4:19 pm | Permalink

          Apparently Euphrosyne means “merriment.” Very much in the vein of Isaac/laughter — or Grace.

          • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
            March 1, 2021 - 5:45 pm | Permalink

            Thanks, svp!

  39. Carol Buckalew's Gravatar Carol Buckalew
    March 1, 2021 - 10:28 am | Permalink

    The collect for Euphrosyne did it for me. I very much enjoyed the comments. Thank you all for your insights today.

  40. Mary Browne's Gravatar Mary Browne
    March 1, 2021 - 10:40 am | Permalink

    If ever I was tempted to be a less than honest practitioner of Lent Madness, today would be the day. I could easily have voted for both Euphrosyne and Evargrius if they were each up against other people. Had to drink and extra strong cup of tea from my Lent Madness travel mug while I deliberated. In the end Evargrius won out. My sermon series for Lent is using stories of healing in Matthew’s gospel. This week the theme is on mental health healing and wholeness. The comments in his bio about Evargrius’ healing from physical and mental breakdown tipped the balance for my vote today.

  41. Miss Jan's Gravatar Miss Jan
    March 1, 2021 - 10:42 am | Permalink

    I’m voting for Euphrosyne.

    I’m part of a group that does a weekly Taizé style liturgy of prayer, worship, & meditation on Zoom. We have been reading through Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk and the recent weeks have covered the chapter on the virgin martyrs. And while Euphrosyne did not lay down her earthly life, she did give up her life of wealth and privilege to live out the vowed life of poverty and chastity in disguise to follow a calling that otherwise might not have been allowed her at that time because of her gender and her father’s wedding plans. And going to a convent wouldn’t mean that she wouldn’t be found and returned home to face an unwanted arranged marriage by force.

  42. Sharon's Gravatar Sharon
    March 1, 2021 - 10:50 am | Permalink

    I may be confused, but I don’t wee transgender in Euphrosyne’s actions. I am not sure what the female equivalent of drag queen is, but according to the writeup she did not question her gender just her opportunities as a woman. So she put on men’s clothes and did her hair up as a monk would. Maybe today with women wearing pants and suits that resemble a man’s attire there could be the equivalent to Euphrosyne’s.

    • Melanie's Gravatar Melanie
      March 1, 2021 - 11:55 am | Permalink

      Smaragdus chose a man’s name and lived as a man. That’s more than just changing ones hair and wearing men’s clothes. With as little information as we have, it’s equally valid to assume that she was hiding in fear, or that he was living the life he chose. I’ll choose the more positive interpretation.

      • March 1, 2021 - 1:13 pm | Permalink

        As a scholar of church history, I am wary of anachronistically project modern concepts (like “Trans” saint) onto the people of early Church. All we know is that Euphrosyne (whom I voted voted for) left her father’s home after he offered her in marriage without consulting her (common practice then) and that she posed as a man to become part of a monastery, which she could not openly do as a woman. We do not know whether her primarily motive was to live as a man or to join a monastic order or to avoid unwanted male attention as an unattached, itinerant woman.

        To assume that she/he was trans may make us feel affirmed as LGBTI-affirming people/congregations but it is essentially no different from anti-LGBTI writers who anachronistically project their own concepts of same-sex relations as a an “abomination.”

        We just don’t know…

        • March 1, 2021 - 1:14 pm | Permalink


          • Melanie's Gravatar Melanie
            March 1, 2021 - 2:01 pm | Permalink

            Well, I did say “equally valid.” Erasing the possibility is not the solution. We don’t know, but it is possible, and it is affirming (to us, today) to recognize the possibility. Most commenters here–yourself included–have used the feminine name and pronouns; why not welcome the occasional use of the masculine name and pronouns as well? For that matter, is it affirming of the Saint’s own existence to use the name Smaragdus, the name the saint chose and was known by?

            (Also: Hi, Ken!)

        • Shelly's Gravatar Shelly
          March 2, 2021 - 12:45 am | Permalink

          Just because transgender was not recognized or understood hundreds of years ago does not mean transgender people didn’t exist. I agree with you that “we just don’t know.”

      • March 1, 2021 - 5:12 pm | Permalink

        Also: Hi, Melanie! (I wondered if it was you)

  43. Sharon's Gravatar Sharon
    March 1, 2021 - 10:51 am | Permalink

    oops — I don’t see

  44. Mary O'Donnell's Gravatar Mary O'Donnell
    March 1, 2021 - 10:52 am | Permalink

    Talk Back is amazing so I voted for Evagius but God wants us to take care of our body so I do not think he will make others last bracket.

  45. Sarah P's Gravatar Sarah P
    March 1, 2021 - 11:03 am | Permalink

    I’ve taught transgender kids. I was aware, and they knew I was there for support, but they just wanted to be treated as worthwhile human beings. I truly don’t think we need to assign gender roles to folks from several hundred years ago, which frames history in a 21st century context). I voted for Euphrosyne because she was wise, loving, and willing to reconcile with her father at the end (a man who may only have wanted security for his daughter by arranging a marriage as he was a traditional, older man and a single dad). Too much judging of societal mores going on in the contest this year.

    • St. Celia's Gravatar St. Celia
      March 1, 2021 - 11:21 am | Permalink

      Since anachronism is built into many of the stories themselves, it is hard not to be anachronistic when responding to them. People try to find a way to connect, empathy, judgements, and all.

  46. Brenda Conrad's Gravatar Brenda Conrad
    March 1, 2021 - 11:06 am | Permalink

    I voted for Euphrosyne (Smaragdus, The Emerald of God). I also loved the Collect. I also could not help but think of transgender people. Last week’s inquisition of the candidate for Assistant Secretary of Health by a “certain senator from Kentucky” has haunted me. The candidate was nothing other than saintly in her answers.

  47. Anne E.B.'s Gravatar Anne E.B.
    March 1, 2021 - 11:14 am | Permalink

    Evagrius the Solitary and all his humanity and faults gets my vote. Bless his heart!

  48. Ger's Gravatar Ger
    March 1, 2021 - 11:19 am | Permalink

    Cheers to the trans saint!

  49. Sandra's Gravatar Sandra
    March 1, 2021 - 11:24 am | Permalink

    Voting Evagrius today for the wisdom of his sayings and his contribution toward what we know as the Enneagram.

  50. Andrea Schussler's Gravatar Andrea Schussler
    March 1, 2021 - 11:32 am | Permalink

    I was thrilled and astonished to read that there was a female bishop in 345 AD! Evagrius…..son of a bishop! Somehow, I do not think this wordage would have occurred with a female writer……..

  51. Jennifer Seaver's Gravatar Jennifer Seaver
    March 1, 2021 - 11:35 am | Permalink

    As long as the pandemic is rampant in this country, I might as well be a solitary nun. Hence my vote for Evagrius.

  52. Fiona's Gravatar Fiona
    March 1, 2021 - 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Another difficult choice. I really struggle to vote for extreme ascetics, but the writings… In the end I voted for Euphrosyne, but wondered if her life might have been different if she had spoken to her father about her call in the first place. Also, I loved the collect. Families can be complicated at times.

  53. Nancy's Gravatar Nancy
    March 1, 2021 - 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I am not going to vote today. If it was St. Euphrosyne of pototsk, she would get my vote.
    But after much research …Google?… On both our contenders, I find I can not wish advancement for either today. Although I will be reading Talking Back for insights against listlessness. Is that the same as sloth?

  54. Lois Alworth's Gravatar Lois Alworth
    March 1, 2021 - 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Voting for Euphrosyne because you just cannot make this stuff up!

  55. Brenda's Gravatar Brenda
    March 1, 2021 - 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Evagrius is my choice. We are all sinners and saints. I am partial to those who have known suffering, sin, repentance and redemption.

  56. Elisabeth Woods's Gravatar Elisabeth Woods
    March 1, 2021 - 1:26 pm | Permalink

    As others have said, it was Euphrosyne’s collect that went straight to my heart. I am a retired family therapist who, over the years of my practice, saw so many families in turmoil because they didn’t know how to love or understand how to love, understand or care for one another. I am a cradle Episcopalian. Before any session, I silently prayed that God would give me the opportunity to help heal the person or persons who were coming to see me. This was a ritual that helped me to better understand my clients’ issues. Some families were successful in their willingness to understand each other; some were not. I didn’t often speak about God and His love for all His children but I was able to feel His presence.

  57. Tiffany's Gravatar Tiffany
    March 1, 2021 - 1:34 pm | Permalink

    It seems that when we look back on women who live as men and view that as a means to accomplishing a goal we deem worthy – Euphrosyne living as a monk, Joan of Arc fighting for her country, the fictional characters of National Velvet as a jockey and Yentl as a scholar – we approve of the choice to bend gender norms or live as a transgender – but should someone want to live as a transgender without having some extraordinary goal that we deem worthy, it is something that frequently frown upon. In many of these cases, fictional and true, the woman did not continue to live as a man once she had accomplished what she wanted to as a man. But for Euphrosyne, it was a choice that lasted the remainder of her life, and she achieved sainthood for it (or partly for it), rather than being lambasted. Although should she have been found out, I’m not sure her choice would have been accepted.

    It’s very interesting to ponder.

  58. Mama J's Gravatar Mama J
    March 1, 2021 - 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Talking back to the devil. . . living on the edge. . .these should have done it for me. . .
    So I vote for Euphrosyne, instead. Go figure! We never really know those closest to us, do we? (and yet they may be a sign of grace.)

  59. MARY ROSA's Gravatar MARY ROSA
    March 1, 2021 - 1:45 pm | Permalink


  60. Beth Parkhurst's Gravatar Beth Parkhurst
    March 1, 2021 - 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Evagrius all the way! He deeply influenced Western monasticism and spirituality, but he’s all but forgotten today.

  61. Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
    March 1, 2021 - 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Maybe Eusophryne’s dad just wanted grandkids in his old age!

    • Susan Lee Hauser's Gravatar Susan Lee Hauser
      March 1, 2021 - 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Oops… that’s Euphrosyne!! Hahahahaha

  62. Kathy Puffer's Gravatar Kathy Puffer
    March 1, 2021 - 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Evagrius’ sins were so numerous I came to the conclusion the only reason he is a saint is because he died before his next amorous or other adventure.

  63. Judy Bye's Gravatar Judy Bye
    March 1, 2021 - 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I tried to make this a hard choice. Alas, I like happy endings. I also like that either Smaragdus was so beautifully integrated, or Anna Fitch Courie percieved (decided, thought, recognized, knew) and therefore wrote “Smaragdus told Paphnutius THEIR identity.” Then summed it all up in the perfect collect for all families and suddenly it was very personal. “Give to all parents and children, we pray, the grace to see one another as they truly are and as you have called them to be. All this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our only mediator and advocate. Amen.”

  64. March 1, 2021 - 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I recently watched a discussion of comedic roles for women in Shakespeare, and mostly they talked about As You Like It and Twelfth Night, both featuring women who dress as men. One actress opined that she thought the best role for a woman Shakespeare ever wrote was Rosalind. I was in a production of As You Like It some decades ago (playing Adam, Orlando’s faithful servant), and I much enjoyed the production. Keeping in mind that in Shakespeare’s time Rosalind would have been played by a boy, who was then playing a girl disguised as a boy, I will vote for Smaragdus. Although I didn’t have much professional success at it, theatre has enriched my entire life since.

  65. Rene Jamieson's Gravatar Rene Jamieson
    March 1, 2021 - 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Methinks I’m about to break my streak (I’m eight for eight so far) by casting my vote for Evagrius, but I find him much more ‘real’ than Euphrosyne. As a woman who has been both wife,mother, and grandmother, and is about to embark on great-grandmotherhood, I have to confess that I’m very tired of all these women who scorned marriage and motherhood. While I am intrigued by the idea that Euphrosyne/Smaragdus may have been transgender, I believe it to be more likely that she was yet another Marina/Theodora of Alexandria, and I fail to comprehend how one who lives a life of deception can be regarded as a saint. Evragius, on the other hand, repented of his wrong-doing and devoted the rest of his life to helping others to change their ways. I have a premonition that as of tomorrow I’ll be eight for nine, but Evragius is my choice.

  66. March 1, 2021 - 4:35 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Sarah P, but I still voted for Evagrius.

  67. Sharon Davis's Gravatar Sharon Davis
    March 1, 2021 - 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Another brave woman that dedicated her life to God.

  68. Kim's Gravatar Kim
    March 1, 2021 - 5:08 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Evagrius simply because his story was a bit different. The runaway don’t-wanna-be-a-bride-would-rather-be-a-monk seems to be fairly common. But I can see Euphrosyne looks to walk away with this one.

  69. Sue Ann Barnes's Gravatar Sue Ann Barnes
    March 1, 2021 - 6:28 pm | Permalink

    This one was hard for us, my Aunt and I, but we chose Euphrosyne. But it was hard too, because I read the entries to my Aunt and so I have to try to pronounce those names. Sue

  70. Stannard Baker's Gravatar Stannard Baker
    March 1, 2021 - 7:35 pm | Permalink


  71. Sylvia Miller-Mutia's Gravatar Sylvia Miller-Mutia
    March 1, 2021 - 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Eternal feminine figure
    Miracle child, long sought after
    Ever faithful to the Lord
    Ran to the monastery to avoid regret
    Anointed by God
    Lived in the skin of a man
    Divulged her true identity, drawing her Father to become her brother
    (St. Mark’s members & friends, ABQ NM)

  72. Dottie Hoopingarner's Gravatar Dottie Hoopingarner
    March 1, 2021 - 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Monks didn’t bathe much, and probably wore (and maybe had) dirty habits.

  73. Sasha Bley-Vroman's Gravatar Sasha Bley-Vroman
    March 1, 2021 - 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Long ago I visited half a dozen monasteries in Romania. The monks tended to look blissed out. The nuns tended to look overworked, worn out, and fed up. If there was anything in this distinction that was inherent in the way men’s and women’s monasteries worked, I can well see how a daring person might have preferred to become a monk rather than a nun.

  74. Mary W.'s Gravatar Mary W.
    March 2, 2021 - 11:41 am | Permalink

    Ok, I’m a day late and a vote short on this one due to a migraine yesterday. I gotta say, the thing that hit me most was the thought: She was name Euphrosyne and couldn’t do better than Smaragdus as a new name. Yeah, probably not the most important takeaway, and it does mean a beautiful thing. I would have voted for her despite all that. Plus I like the fact that there is a somewhat transgender person in the past that was sainted.

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