For the Golden Halo: Benedict the Moor vs. Absalom Jones

The end (of Lent Madness 2021) is near! It's hard to believe we kicked things off over five weeks ago on “Ash Thursday” with 32 saintly souls. With your help, the field has been whittled down to just two: Benedict the Moor and Absalom Jones. Who will receive the coveted 2021 Golden Halo? That, friends, is up to you.

This excellent video comes from the Cathedral of Saint James in South Bend, Indiana, makers of the awesome opening video for this year's Lent Madness.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome, we’ve met some truly remarkable holy people along the way. Perhaps you learned about some folks you’d never heard of before (lots of those this year!) or maybe you renewed acquaintances with saints who have long offered inspiration. Of course the entire notion of placing saints in a bracket is absurd — each “contestant” has already earned a crown of righteousness in addition to a “golden halo.” But at the heart of Lent Madness is the abiding conviction that encountering those who have come before us in the faith enriches and enlivens our own walk with the risen Christ.

In the process of this whimsical Lenten devotion we’ve all made some new online friends, encountered a community of believers who take their faith but not themselves too seriously, learned some things, were inspired by saintly witnesses, and hopefully had some fun along the way.

Of course we literally couldn’t have done this without our amazing Celebrity Bloggers to whom we offer sincere gratitude: Amber Belldene, Laurie Brock, Megan Castellan, Anna Fitch Courie, David Creech, Miguel Escobar, Neva Rae Fox, David Hansen, Miriam McKenney, Carol Howard Merritt, Emily McFarlan Miller, and David Sibley. Thanks to Bracket Czar Adam Thomas for his stellar behind-the-scenes work in keeping the bracket updated daily. You all rock!

Thank you to Richelle Thompson and everyone at Forward Movement for putting up with our shenanigans and producing a terrific Saintly Scorecard this year. Special gratitude goes to Alyssa Finke for helping get words and images into the website each day.

Harriet Tubman prepares to pass off the Golden Halo to this year's winner.

Finally, thanks to all of you who participated by voting, commenting, drinking coffee out of Lent Madness mugs, filling in brackets, talking about saints with friends, liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter, and allowing us to play a small role in your Lenten journey. We’ve loved having each one of you along for the “madness” and on behalf of the Supreme Executive Committee we wish you a blessed Holy Week and a joyous Easter.

Before we invite you to cast this final vote, we should note that David Hansen has ably shepherded Benedict the Moor through the bracket, while Miriam McKenney has done the same for Absalom Jones. We’ve asked them for a single image and one quote either by or about their saint. We’ve already heard a lot about Benedict and Absalom — click the Bracket tab and scroll down to view their previous match-ups if you want to refresh your memory. And then, it’s time to make your choice.

The polls will be open for 24 hours and the winner will be announced at 8:00 am Eastern time on Maundy Thursday. Now go cast your vote — the 2021 Lent Madness Golden Halo hangs in the balance!

Benedict the Moor




"I am a miserable sinner, and full of pride; pray God to make me humble."

-- Benedict of Palermo (aka the Moor)




Absalom Jones

"Let the first of January, the day of the abolition of the slave trade in our country, be set apart in every year, as a day of publick thanksgiving for that mercy. Let the history of the sufferings of our brethren, and of their deliverance, descend by this means to our children, to the remotest generations; and when they shall ask, in time to come, saying, What mean the lessons, the psalms, the prayers and the praises in the worship of this day? let us answer them, by saying, the Lord, on the day of which this is the anniversary, abolished the trade which dragged your fathers from their native country, and sold them as bondmen in the United States of America."

— Absalom Jones, January 1, 1808 sermon celebrating the end of the slave trade

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119 comments on “For the Golden Halo: Benedict the Moor vs. Absalom Jones”

  1. During this Passover week, had to vote for Absalom Jones, who in today's brief message reminds me of Moses. Best regards to all other voters and to the Lent Madness crew for the fellowship and great info.
    Love the little video. Well done, Cathedral of Saint James folks!

    1. Belle, I hope you receive notifications, because I’d love to hear you share more with us. How does Ab remind you of Moses?

      1. Hi, I'm sorry Linda, I didn't have notifications set up so didn't see your message until now. Hope you get this followup.
        The overall answer is that the imagery of the Israelites being freed from bondage and led by Moses from slavery to freedom made a strong impression upon many enslaved people, particularly African-American, Afro-Caribbean, and/or black Christians (being as inclusive of preferences as I understand them, apologies if I'm deficient in this listing). The passage quoted reminded me both of the Passover seder accounts (which by tradition don't include Moses' name, to avoid idolizing him), and of Moses' various teachings about handing the history and the commandments on to the children, emphasizing that the Israelites must remember being "slaves in the land of Egypt," so as to treat the "stranger in your midst" as though they were neighbors, etc. The whole structure of the seder (which came after Moses' time, whatever that really was -- if it was -- but mentioned or not, he's the most remembered human in the story) was created for teaching purposes. The ritual of "the four questions," always asked by the youngest present who are able to, and other rituals engage children and adults alike in remembering and telling the history, to give thanks to God and to let this memory of having been enslaved guide their actions.
        That's a bit of it, as it felt to me. I hope it answers your question, to some extent. I'll sign up for follow-up comments if you want to chat about it.

    2. I went with Benedict, because I know that he will lose. I'm just trying to make the vote closer.

      1. Me too. I always regret that the Lent Madness crowd always goes for Americans when they're available. I think Absalom is extraordinary, but I have been touched by Benedict all along... and I also know that no saint has a chance against an American saint...

        1. I don't think that's fair. There have been many non-American Golden Halo winners. But I would say that the Episcopal Church (as opposed to Anglican) is "American" (defined as the US), and the opportunity to vote for an Episcopal saint, especially given the throes that the US is currently undergoing with respect to coming to grips with a vicious legacy of slavery and white supremacy, is an enormous opportunity that many people don't want to forego. I hope to see Medgar Evers win the Golden Halo one day, also James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and Jonathan Daniels. Ditto Oscar Romero, Julian of Norwich, and Blessed Syncletica (who might not be an actual historical person). "I know" is so often the prelude to an incorrect assertion. Benedict will return to the brackets.

          1. Well said, very good explanation. This is an extraordinary time in our country.

            St. Celia, I have enjoyed your insightful commentary throughout this season. As an aside, I must mention that I long ago named a cat Celia - after the Seal, the college yearbook I was editing.

  2. Harriet Tubman followed by Absolom Jones. Can any other combination be more appropriate in our collective fight for racial equity? Does any other saintly sequence speak more eloquently to our need for repentance for white advantage? Yes, Lent Madness is lots of fun, but it is also deadly serious, bathed in the blood of the martyrs who have died as a result of systematic racial iniquity, and ever pressing toward God’s justice for us all.

    1. Thank you, Ed. You helped me decide.

      And thanks to the whole Lent Madness crew—I’ve been a fan for almost the entire run, proselytizing every year to bring others into the happy tent. Now for the Triduum and the Resurrection!

      1. I couldn’t look away from the pic of Benedict’s icon and his soulful quote. Brilliant! Meeting both Absolom and Benedict thru Lent Madness is truly a joy. I have come to love examining the lives of these exceptional people, looking for the unique expressions of the Spirit and invariably, something sparks for me. This season, it was the mention of Absolom’s “recovery” from his decades of enslavement. This resonates for me as I think of social enslavements to greed, racism, et al. And those personal enslavements to insecurity, sloth, gluttony, et al.
        Walking free from enslavements has a recovering season. I look forward to finding out more as I dig deeper into Ab’s story as I drink coffee from my new Lent Madness commemorative mug.
        Many thanks to all who worked to make my Lent special. Your the best.

    2. And Benedict the Moor was also the son of African slaves. A great reminder that Christianity is not, even though some have tried to make it so, solely for privileged whites , but is for all peoples.

    3. Thanks so much to Edmund for your testament to Harriet Tubman and Absalom Jones, both key figures in the abolition of slavery in the United States. Although Lent Madness is lighthearted, I hope this acknowledgement says we are ready to get serious and do the work of justice-making.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful Lenten devotion. My husband and I look forward to it every year. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. As is most often the case, as the field narrows the Golden Halo winner comes into focus. At a time when systemic racism, the Black Lives Matter movement are highlighted, both of these candidates are worthy of the halo this year. Our vote remains with Absalom. God bless you all during this most holy time and especially over the next three days of the Holy Triduum.

  4. Many thanks to the organizers, the bloggers and all who worked to make the Lenten Madness so much fun. I certainly appreciated the extra spins the bloggers added to each candidate profiles. Admittedly it would have been more fun if after the first round my choices weren't rubbish but there is always next year. Well done all.

  5. Absalom has been my heart's choice since the very beginning and I wrote this haiku-style campaign slogan for today.

    Shine Golden Halo
    For Liberty and Justice
    Vote Absalom Jones

    1. My friends the Cabots are such a poetic family! I chose Absalom Jones from day one, too, Kate. I wonder how many others from our parish team did also? I never played Lent Madness before last year and my choice for the 2020 Golden Halo, Harriet Tubman, won.

      I agree with the comments of Kandice and Edmund above that our growing acknowledgement of systemic racism, realization that Black Lives Matter is not just a slogan. Desire for repentance and reparations has made us raise our fists and loudly cheer the legacies and courage of Harriet Tubman and Absalom Jones in fighting our shameful, cruel history of slavery (here in the “land of the free and home of the brave.”) Slavery is over, but racism continues - it has had a bold revival in some meeting tents.

      Go ABSALOM!

      1. I think a few of us are Team Absalom! And I had to throw in some haiku once John had stopped his limericks for the season (he writes them when he has someone who is running from his bracket).

        I backed Harriet Tubman last year as well. I've actually been following Lent Madness since the very beginning and it has been wonderful to see it grow and to meet so many wonderful saints through the years.

        Go Absalom!

      2. Deborah, I don't know if you will see this. There was no more "reply" button to your post in this "Russian doll" embedded WordPress structure. I want to thank you for your kind words. I hope to see you here again next year. (The Seal seems to refer to New Jersey. Enjoy your Garden by the Sea!) I am sure your cat was both nice and beautiful!

        1. Hi St. Celia, I have been getting notifications of all comments on yesterday’s voting. You are a good investigator! The Seal was the Seal of NJ, or perhaps the college, then called Trenton State College (Trenton Suitcase College to students as many went home on weekends. The big night for the college pub was Thursday!) Celia was a nice cat, left with my parents as she had gotten used to a yard and wouldn’t have liked being in a studio apartment in Brooklyn. I had a succession of cats during my time in NYC: Gretl (character in a Isaac Bashevis Singer story, thus the Polish spelling). Then Hildegard (Hildy) for Hilegard of Bingen and the nightclub singer, Hansel (after Gretl died), Maggie, a girl of the streets (Stephen Crane’s first novel), Henri (I lived on Henry Street and Humphrey, an old stray Tom with a battered face I picked up. My Shakespearean actress friend said he looked like Humphrey Bogart. Years later, where we live now near the famous John Cabot, we adopted two young sister cats and named then Hermia and Helena. We rescued three feral kittens: Timmy (who was timid at first), Heidi who hid at first, and Toby who I used to sing to from Sweeney Todd: “Toby! No one’s going to harm you Toby!” He was very feral and ran off when he heard fireworks (which we’d not known were going to happen). He was found 10 miles north, hit by a car on the exit of a local highway. Now we have dogs and kept the names they came with - no literary references!

          I typed this stream of consciousness on my phone, so excuse any typos and lack of editing. And that it has NOTHING to do with Lent Madness, except you sharing a name with a long ago cat!

  6. Thank you so much Tim for starting Lend Madness and Scott for bringing it to all. I’ve followed you since the beginning and this Presby has learned so much. I do so enjoy the limericks, songs, videos, mugs and all you do. (Can’t wait for next year and to see what y’all come up with already!) The comments from adults or kiddos are so interesting to read each year. Thank you for the fresh ways we see Jesus in saints and in our selves in this season.

  7. I have enjoyed Lent Madness over the past five years - the write-ups, the comments, the limericks, the haiku, and the community. I have also learned a lot. My thanks to those who prepare this feast each year and to all who sit at the table and share the fellowship. A blessed Triduum to all and may the joy of Eastertide be ours.

  8. Thank you to all involved. It's been a joy to participate in Lent Madness again. I have learned so much and have been challenged and inspired. Two remarbable saints, each worthy of winning the golden halo.

  9. Both are worthy of the Golden Halo, but in this day and age of continuing racism and discrimination, I opted for the more contemporary saint. He witnesses to the continuing challenges in the United States for Justice & equality.

  10. Interesting and timely Absalom Jones quote, as we in our Easter Vigil liturgies and our Jewish sisters and brothers around the Seder table celebrate Israel's deliverance from bondage in Egypt -- and our ongoing deliverance from human sin, now while watching a trial in Minneapolis.
    Also, his call for a joyous yet solemn New Year's Day remembrance of the end of the slave trade seems to parallel the New Year's Eve Watch Night tradition commemorating the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
    Of course my vote goes
    to the Philadelphia Freedman --
    All his days he sought and taught
    the Truth that makes us all free.
    Back to work for me -- thank to everyone for the learning, laughs, passion and joy of another Lent Madness journey!

  11. I came into this final round certain that I would vote for Absalom Jones, but was swayed by the simplicity of Benedict's quote. Also, I'm remembering the kindness of an African man who gave my husband and me his bus tickets in Palermo 25 years ago. The only place to buy tickets was closed for the long lunch hour and we would've been stranded. This was one of several times in my life when an angel has appeared in human form at just the right moment. (BTW, can you fix the the typo in Palermo - not Palmero).
    Many thanks to Scott, Tim, the celebrity bloggers and my fellow travelers who have made this year's Lenten journey memorable. I've learned a lot and had fun along the way.

    1. Thank you, Barbara,
      I must be a traditionalist, voting for Benedict, while also admiring Absalom.

    2. Indeed, all of the Faithful Four have been more than worthy. At the start, I jotted down Benedict the African to go all the way, up against inspiring 'adversaries' all the way.
      Cheers to all the saints and all the voters.
      Go Benedict!!

    1. As a native Fluffyan, I went with Absalom and, by extension, his partner in working for justice, Richard Allen.

  12. Thank you for the joy of learning about this year's saints! Absalom has my vote, but I have been inspired by all these saints.

  13. Thanks to all for your hard work and creativity! You’ve brought joy, fun and introspection to another fabulous Lenten Madness! I look forward to this each year! Ha! A new mug will be added to my collection to keep Harriet Tubman company!

  14. Absalom Jones is my vote , sent with gratitude, light and light for absolutely everyone who has travelled this years Lenten Madness path with me. Blessings for the coming days, be safe, be well.

  15. Thanks for another great Lent. Whoever wins we prove the “message of the year”
    Black Lives Matter!

  16. Absalom for me, but it's been a year with some very difficult decisions. With all that we have been experiencing here in the US though he seemed like the right choice in 2021.

  17. Thank you for another wonderful and enlightening Lent Madness. I had to look hard for God’s “message” in some of the choices and found in others a clearly revealed path to the Halo. A wonderful journey. I would gladly see either Benedict or Absalom “win” but have to vote for Absalom. We are currently witnessing the trial resulting from a modern-day lynching of sorts unfold, and while I don’t feel optimistic about its outcome, I can certainly find strength and promise in the life of Absalom Jones.

  18. Both would be good choices. One from some time ago and one much more current. They, along with last year’s winner, Harriet Tubman, in the midst of all the hoopla of voter suppression going serve to remind us of the hatred in this world toward minorities and of how far we still have to go to truly live the lives of love Christ would have us live. I voted for each of these entries all through this season. In the end, I voted for this country’s Absalom as I think he would speak louder to this country right now. May God show mercy on us for the racism we still have, forgive us for our weaknesses, and spur us on with his love. Amen.

  19. Both Absalom and Benedict deserve the halo, but my heart has been with Absalom from the beginning.

    This was my first time participating in Lent Madness and it has been a profound journey through deep contemplation, personal reflection, and a renewal of my commitment to my faith. I have learned so much (I love to go down internet rabbit holes researching anything and everything and getting lost for hours!), and I have been so often emotionally moved by the stories of these saints, as well as stories and perspectives in the comment section. It has also been so much fun!

    Wishing each of you a joyful Easter!

  20. Thanks for taking us on a wonderful journey during this Lenten season. The work of the SEC and Celebrity Bloggers is greatly appreciated. (Absalom was my choice from the beginning.)

  21. Thank you for a great Lenten journey with saints known and unknown. I am new to this fun process of learning and reflection, and I look forward to it each Lent. Absalom Jones gets my final vote. As someone else wrote, reading the quote from a sermon Moses definitely came to mind.

  22. During Lent I have been participating in "Sacred Ground"....the section on the slave
    trade and the video of the only door leaving Africa directly onto the slave ships
    was so impactful....while I appreciate Benedict, my vote today went to Absalom
    Jones. Thank you all, Bloggers and Tim and Scott who are referred to affectionately
    ( of course) in our house as The Boys for your hard work and generous hearts.