José Hernández vs. James Holly

The Round of Saintly Kitsch continues as José Gregorio Hernández faces James Holly in a battle of the J's. Which J will advance to the Faithful Four? That's up to you. To get here, José defeated Constance of Memphis and Emma of Hawaii, while James took down Lydia and Kateri Tekakwitha.

In yesterday's Elate Eight action, Teresa of Avila trounced Juliana of Liege 75% to 25% to become the fist saint to nab a spot in the Faithful Four.

José Gregorio Hernández

Images of Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez are ubiquitous across Venezuela–miniatures, prayer cards, candles, rosaries, statues, murals, and more.

These images tend to be modeled on the most famous photo of the good doctor, which accompanied his initial biography in the Round of 32. So they mostly look like this. 

But perhaps you’d prefer to sport your devotion to el medico del pobre a little bit more subtly…

Or Dr. Hernandez may just be a man for all seasons, and you’d appreciate a print for your wall with this summer-y get-up. He’s looking quite vaxxed and relaxed, if you ask me. 

Did you look at the bracket on Lent Madness Eve and wonder, “Who is Jose Gregorio Hernandez?” This book is here to help you!

There are many excellent documentaries on Dr. Hernandez’s life. This is not one of them! But listen to the groans of the hospital patients around 1:40–they are giving it their *all* for the saint they adore. Remember that time is a flat circle when “el general” lectures his doubtful wife that the flu pandemic is real and very, very serious, and tells his daughter that she ought not to run around kissing people. And watch a shiny new car slowly cruise the streets of Caracas, much like Jaws cruised the beaches of that town in the movie Jaws.

But things like this remind us that one man’s kitsch is another man’s faithful work. About an hour and a half in, when two parents cry their hearts out that their daughter is dying, only for her to be healed by the gentle touch of el santo medico, it is genuinely affecting! Affecting enough for this to be a good movie? You be the judge. 

Just as devotion to Jose Gregorio Hernandez can stretch the bounds of orthodoxy, so did this sick groove defy the conventions of traditional salsa music! Tap your toe to its irresistible rhythms, and ponder the way Christ is drawing all people to himself through the lives of His saints in heaven and on earth, even circuitously. 

You may be hoping for Dr. Hernandez’s gentle face on a commemorative mug, looking a bit more golden and halo-y…in the meantime, sate yourself with this more adorable rendering. Sip your coffee while you ponder life’s more difficult questions–what would it take for you to fully give yourself away to others, like Jose did? Would you let people pay you with your own money? How can you fight to dismantle barriers to health care in your own community and around the world? How do you, in your own life of discipleship, promote the dignity of every human being?

-- Eva Suarez

James Holly

You’ll notice a pattern for James Theodore Holly’s saintly kitsch: print, print, and more print. Let’s get into it. 

There appear to be exactly four images of Bishop Holly: one of him young, one of him older facing right, one of him older facing left, and one of him older and standing. You can purchase a framed picture of him on eBay - or get it free in the public domain for your saintly shrines. With this photo you get an idea of much of what pops up when you search James Theodore Holly. That’s right - lots of holly. LOTS.

This portrait of Bishop Holly with Frederick Douglass and F.E.W. Harper shows that at the time, Bishop Holly was held in high regard as an abolitionist.

St. Edmund's Episcopal Church, Chicago honored Bishop Holly with a glass window.

In 1904, W.E.B. DuBois wrote Credo, in which DuBois states many beliefs, beginning with his belief “in God who made of one blood all races that dwell on earth.”  Although they had never met, Bishop Holly wrote Dr. DuBois  a six-page response to Credo. Read Credo and Bishop Holly’s letter - and be prepared to use the zoom function on your computer. Dr. DuBois’s magazine The Crisis reported Holly’s death in March 1911 on the front page.

You might consider books kitsch, and in the case of Bishop Holly I believe it is meet and right so to do. You already know of his book which was heavily quoted in the last round. Several books about or by Bishop Holly are out of print, but digitized copies are available for online reading. You can still find print copies of Facts about the Church’s Mission in Haiti by Bishop Holly and James Theodore Holly in Haiti by William Louis Wipfler. Or, click the links to read them online.

Another book you’ll find is Black Separatism and the Caribbean, 1860 by Bishop Holly and J. Dennis Harris from a bookstore called Bolerium Books, purveyors of rare and out-of-print books, posters, and ephemera on social movements. 

Now, I can’t say if this is directly connected to Bishop Holly, but I did find a James Theodore font. Compare this font to Bishop Holly’s letter to Dr. DuBois and judge for yourself whether or not the creator of this font was inspired by The Episcopal Church’s first African American bishop.

-- Miriam McKinney

UPDATE: At 10:54 a.m., the Lent Madness team noticed someone voted for José Hernández 21 times. We blocked that address and added 21 votes for James Holly. We're watching another address carefully. Please vote once only, and invite your friends to vote! But don't cheat.

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66 comments on “José Hernández vs. James Holly”

  1. I voted for Bishop Holly who I hope, this year, will gain The Golden Halo! If that happens, we will need to create some more Kitsch for him. And, remember, Haiti...

  2. I can’t decide yet, as I supported and voted for both of these saints in earlier rounds. Lent Madness for sure! I’ll vote before the day ends, and ponder till then.

  3. My late wife was a physician too, devout and compassionate. She gave much of her professional attention to Spanish speakers. I must vote for Doctor Jose.

    1. You've explained to me why my gut told me to vote for el santo medico in this contest of saints who are both well-deserving. My late wife was studying to become a Physician Assistant after a career in biomedical research when she died. I think she was nudging me to vote for the medical caregiver.

  4. My late wife was a physician, devout and compassionate. I must vote for Dr. Jose.

  5. I cast my vote for Dr. Hernandez who practiced not just medicine but also the walk called for by Jesus, the walk of love for the impoverished, the lame, the outcast. Imagine anyone in the US today who would leave a bag of money by the door for anyone to take. He personified what it means to walk in Love.

  6. Too tough a choice. Vote for the meek vs the meek. My vote goes to Bp. Holly because of the work of his successors in the work - Beyond Borders who rescue women and girls from slavery in Haiti now and help them build homes and community. Check them out:

  7. This is a tough choice, especially with that fine salsa music thrown in! Ultimately, I voted for Bishop Holly, though Dr. Jose had some terrific kitsch! Both men espoused such noble causes...

  8. [sings] And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green...

    No shepherdess in this year's bracket, and the queen has already been eliminated. I'm voting for the doctor. With great admiration for Bishop Holly, but it's nice to have somebody advance who's not a bishop or a monastic. Secular saints for the win!

  9. I preferred the Holly kitsch, but Hernandez was a healer. I didn’t have time to watch and critique a movie—sorry.

  10. Holly’s kitsch was good, but it is impossible to beat my man José! Mugs, t-shirts, a telenovela, and Willie Colon with Ruben Blades and the Fania All-Stars?? It does not get any more chévere than that! I would post a picture of my own José Gregorio, wood, purchased at an out of the way artesanía shop in the old part of Barcelona, Venezuela who now takes care of my family in Topeka, Kansas, but alas, system doesn’t not let me. Point is that our man is a hip globe trotter who reminds us always and everywhere of who we can be through faith.

    1. Hey Kim, I thought I was going to need medical attention after KU won the other March Madness contest in a heart stopper so I voted for the doctor

  11. Two incredible candidates. I could vote for either easily. But I fell in love with Dr. Jose upon reading his original bio and decided I would back him as long as I could. Bishop Holly would also be a worthy halo bearer, but my heart belongs to Jose.

  12. I'm loving the Ruben Blades groove, although I don't speak Spanish so I can't tell how it relates to Jose Hernandez. Looks like the good doctor already has a mug, even if he doesn't win this year's Golden Halo.

  13. Kudos to the CBs -- especially Miriam McKinney who appears to have left no virtual stone unturned. Even a font!

    I don't base my vote on the kitsch but I am impressed by the writeups. For one candidate, so much to choose from, for the other, so little made into so much.

  14. La montana is grooving sickly to the trombone! This was the hardest choice for me. Both men are highly worthy, and both bloggers did a great job. Bonus points for the font, Miriam! I went with Jose, el santo doctor. Spanish speaking, the link to indigenous cultures, faithful service to the poor: he has it all. Perhaps we need a rara composition in Creole for Holly.

  15. A difficult choice today as I have voted for both in preceding rounds and would be happy to see either advance all the way to the golden halo. In the end the kitsch swung me to vote for the beloved Doctor. And it makes my heart sing to celebrate a lay person amongst the many religious.

  16. A difficult choice and one that causes distress. Both are so deserving. However, based on the relationship our home church in West Chester has had with the Sisters of St. Margaret in Haiti, my vote went to Bishop Holly.

  17. Didn’t know much about either of these two saintly men but Holly gets my vote for the stained glass window & Jose already has mug!

  18. Great kitsch! A movie! A font!

    I really like Dr. Hernandez, but decided to vote for Bishop Holly because our church has for many years helped to support an Episcopal school in Haiti.

    I liked this about James Holly:

    “Believing that Christ by taking a body had shown that people’s bodies as well as their souls needed care, Holly established social services such as schools, medical clinics, and a mutual fund society.”


    In honor of those children seeking an education, in a poor nation that is frequently battered by natural disasters and still struggles with corruption and crime, yet whose people retain a strong spirit, I’m voting for the Bishop who helped lay the foundation for these kids’ education with his missionary work. Shoutout to Institut la Rédemption in Gonäives, Haiti!

    1. I wouldn’t recommend double voting, as GH good fathers of the SEC frown greatly upon such deeds.

      If totally stuck . . . cast lots by flipping a coin and letting God decide for you so that your IP address is not cast away from Lent Madness access.

  19. I voted (only once!) - that's how the game is played. And I see that I will be glued to the site all day clicking on the refresh button to follow an excruciatingly close race. But, quite honestly, I believe both of these men are equally qualified to advance to the Faithful 4, or, for that matter, the Golden Halo itself. So glad to have learned about them, neither of whom I had known about before Lent Madness this year.

  20. Embarrassed to say how long I watched a movie that I did not know the language and couldn’t understand the action. I kept thinking I would figure something out, but I never did. I did like the Salsa… and healers have kept me alive so my vote goes to Jose! Too bad he doesn’t have his own font!

  21. I think this is the hardest match up for me so far! I voted for both in previous rounds, and both are certainly deserving. But there's just something about Dr. Joe...his story just makes me feel really hopeful about the human race. So...I vote for the good doctor today!

  22. Dr. Jose truly walks the walk of healer and consoler. Esp. in light of the coporatizing and for profit orientation of the U.S. health system, he is a beacon of what real healing is. It's also my vote for the dedicated and self-sacrificing of all those in the healing professions, including mental health, during our world-wide health crisis.

  23. So hard to choose between the two. Both are great role models, standing up for the poor and oppressed. Chose James Holly, enjoyed his writings.

  24. I think it a little sneaky to change the order for voting from what was presented on top. Usually, you present each candidate, then list them at the bottom for voting in the order they were presented. Today you reversed them...why?Many of us our reading and voting while sipping our first morning coffee; I think it uncivilized to mess with tradition this way-- and could skew the vote.

  25. Why are people cheating? Think of how embarrassed the saints must be who were cheated-for like that. "How bizarre, how bizarre..."

  26. What better candidate than a humble physician who understood pandemics and served the least among us. I voted for both these worthies in earlier rounds so it’s a tough call. This year, in honor of all our beleaguered and often unappreciated health care workers, may the good Dr Jose take home the halo.

  27. I think that the first time I tried to vote, I accidentally hit Results instead of Vote. So I tried again. I’m pretty sure I only voted once.

  28. Who on earth cheats at Lent Madness? That is truly madness.

    This is going to be a squeaker. It's a hard choice. In the end, I'm voting for James Holly as a mark of respect and love for all African-American episcopalians.

    1. Wonderful video on Dr. Hernandez and it was a tough choice, but in the end for me as well, Dr. Hernandez was a healer and that took precedence. Where would Bishop Holly also have been if he didn't have good health while working as an abolitionist, and for freedom for all races?

    2. Right? That was my thought exactly before voting and reading the note: who cheats at a cheerfully no-stakes game? Jeeeeez. Since both men are admirable, I had to go for the good doctor and that adorable mug.