Joanna the Myrrhbearer vs. Blandina

Welcome to the Elate Eight! From 32 saints, we've whittled the field down to an octet of saintly souls. Today, Joanna the Myrrhbearer takes on Blandina, and from here we'll see Jonathan Daniels vs. Florence Li Tim-Oi, Bertha of Kent vs. Chief Seattle, and Martin de Porres vs. Johann Sebastian Bach.

The Elate Eight is also known as the Round of Saintly Kitsch. After basic biographies, quirks and quotes, what else could there be? Now, there are always some folks who take offense at this approach — we call them Kitsch Kranks. Please remember that this round is not meant to belittle or demean our saintly heroes but to have some fun and gaze in wide wonder at the breadth of devotional practice. So kindly relax and enjoy the spirit of the Madness as we push ever onward toward our goal.

To get to this point, Joanna defeated Monica and Augustine of Hippo, while Blandina bested Simeon Bachus and Brendan of Clonfert.

Vote now! (after watching Monday Madness)

Joanna the Myrrhbearer

Last time I was tasked with finding Joanna the Myrrhbearer kitsch, I leaned into the myrrh, the thing with which Joanna is most identified. That was pretty easy: Myrrh-scented candles and bath bombs proliferate on the internet.

This year, I’m embracing some deep cuts.

First up, the obvious: A less kitschy, more lovely handwritten icon of Joanna, the better to contemplate her story.

The Gospel of Luke says Joanna, a member of Herod’s court, followed Jesus to the margins and provided for Jesus and his disciples from her own means. This T shirt echoes Joanna’s story with the message that Jesus empowered, respected and was funded by women, among other things.

Luke also says Joanna was one of the women who followed Jesus to the tomb, bearing myrrh and other spices they had prepared to anoint his body for burial.

Hence the name.

She was not, as one friend thought when I mentioned I was writing about Joanna the Myrrhbearer, a “merbear” — that is, a mythical combination of fish and bear. Merbears are, however, a thing you can purchase to lift your spirits at this point in the story, like this sparkly, snuggly mermaid bear made by the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, a sentence I never thought I would type during Lent Madness.

Those who know the story know the women found the tomb empty that first Easter and were told by angels, “He is not here; he has risen!” The women returned to the apostles and shared the good news. Some consider them the first to preach the Gospel. But, Luke says, the apostles “did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” If only they had had this AirPods case to encourage them, “Listen to women preach.”

Some scholars believe Joanna may have been one of Luke’s sources for his Gospel and a leader in the early church, perhaps even the same person as Junia, who is described in the Book of Romans as “outstanding among the apostles.” So I have to sneak in a little Junia kitsch, just in case — like this vinyl sticker of Junia with the words, “She’s outstanding!”

Blame that other Joanna — designer Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” fame — if you will, but I’ve been making an effort to decorate my home for Lent and Easter this year, and one of my favorite finds is this wooden Easter “nativity” scene depicting Jesus, an angel and three women at the tomb. I’m going to go ahead and claim one of these little figurines as our saint and also maybe dust off some of Joanna Gaines’ brunch recipes for Easter morning. There are many ways to provide for others like Joanna.

— Emily McFarlan Miller


Blandina, a 15-year-old slave, was known for one phrase: “I am a Christian, and nothing bad is done among us.” Her story, her words, and the vivid images of her prolonged torture and martyrdom in 177 in modern day Lyon, France, survive and prove the lasting effects of those words. 

She is most often depicted surrounded by the vicious animals that tortured her. Illustrations, prayer cards, books, bracelets, stained glass windows, mugs all herald her tale.

But perhaps the most awe-inspiring tribute is a song by Manuel Fúria:

Irreducible to fragile Blandina,
I repeated these words
I raised these words
I'm a Christian, nothing bad is done between us

Blandina was taken to the arena
All open, raw to arena
Blandina hanging on the wood
She prayed hanging on the tree
The lions that cast him
They didn't even touch you
I'm a Christian, nothing bad is done between us

Blandina was taken again
Thrown in the arena again
After the beasts in the arena again
After the flames in the arena again

They threw her to a bull
Thrown up by the beast
Was harvested, sacrificed
went to the other side
I'm a Christian, nothing bad is done between us.

Neva Rae Fox


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72 comments on “Joanna the Myrrhbearer vs. Blandina”

  1. They Sang with Elation - Joanna and Blandina. Sung to Darwall's 148th, Hymnal #625

    They sang with elation; eight saints where weren’t elite.
    For they were humble souls who surely saw the Light.
    Through diff-‘rent ways they each gave witness in their days and sang God’s praise.

    First, there was Joanna, who heard the angels say:
    “He is not here, for Christ who died a rose today.”
    Her myrrh unused, she went proclaiming news to those who got confused.

    Later came Blandina. Great suff’ring she endured.
    Yet she bore all and with a pure heart was sure:
    “I am Christ’s own a Christian true, and evil thus can nothing do.”

    May we in our day now learn from them and aspire
    To be like saints who’ve made it to the heavenly choir
    And may we strive to love and serve as they have shown throughout our lives.

    1. Loved the line, "Her myrrh unused, she went proclaiming news to those who got confused." It had never occurred to me before that the myrrh-bearing women didn't get to use their ointments and spices. I wonder what they did with them?

      1. I wondered too. See my poem posted when Joanna was on the ballot in the previous rounds.

        1. Seriously. See that poem. The most wonderful piece to come out of this year's Lent Madness. Wow.

      2. Maybe they sold it for 300 denarii and gave the money to the poor ... that would be appropriate and ironic.

    1. YESSSSsssss! Let all songs today be for Blandina [who for some is a female Jesus]❗️ <3
      AND Mary Magdalene surely used burial supplies [] for another or donated in some Mar-i-lish-i-ous way. She's so controvesial & I luv her so much for it! But hoping Martin de Porres wins all this year due to the nod in 1945 as America's first canonized black male [this from a girl named Joy] b/c women will always win in some form or fashion. Miracles can be found if you look - sometimes hard enough - can always be found.
      God Bless Lent Madness and all who know my friend Jesus

  2. This may be the end of the bracket for Blandina. A child, a young woman, without fear, sworn to Jesus, knowing his love and the love of her brothers and sisters, and the pure beauty of that love everlasting, even unto death. "I am a Christian and nothing bad is done among us". Thank you lent madness for remembering such a lovely martyr and saint.

  3. How can I not vote for Joanna who knew Jesus and ministered to him? The link with Junia is intriguing and not something I had come across before. (I am also swayed by the great T-shirt...)

  4. I voted for Joanna because I loved the message on the t-shirt. I purchased it to wear to my Bible study group because a member, who is an old man and a raging misogynist, needs to see the message.

  5. TBTG, today's contest is a no-brainer. Joanna, who walked with and talked with our Lord, learned directly from Him, and gave up wealth and privilege to serve Him is the clear choice for me. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to order one of those sweatshirts!

    1. I agree. Joanna was my choice for the same reasons. She left wealth and privilege to follow Jesus. She stayed with him til the end of his earthly life and ministry.

  6. I have to vote for a young teenager who kept the faith despite being tortured in a most horrible way before being killed. I cannot even imagine how she kept from denouncing Christ especially having seen all her Christian friends killed before her.

  7. I just love the merbear! And all the gear proclaiming women as preachers. Thank you for that. That the Episcopal Church was ordaining women in the 1980s was one of the reasons I came on board, and one of the reasons I must vote for Joanna today. I also have to vote for Joanna for all the same reasons I did before: she was there while Jesus preached and healed; she supported Jesus's ministry in practical ways; she was at the tomb; she remains an icon for caregivers of the dead and dying. But I remember being very moved by Elaine Pagels' description of the early Christians in Lyon in her "Gospel of Thomas." That was a huge reason I voted for Blandina in earlier rounds. Pagels' "Gospel of Thomas" contains a detailed description of the round of persecutions that swept up Blandina and others, the deep love for others embodied in early Christian communities, and it made Blandina a real person to me not -- as some contended in earlier rounds -- an exploited figure of female purity. Her courage and her speaking out as a girl and a slave, a person of no worth, in frightening circumstances, is what continues to mark her story for me. I'm sad I can't vote for both.

    1. Me too ..seems much harder this year than any other..a short 13 years ago in 2010 [I seem to recall it began on a board b4 that but cannot confirm or deny by goggly].."Lent Madness Golden Halo winners". Has made me cry more than in previous years..tears of Joy! Praise His Holy name-Jesus

  8. Once again, a difficult choice. I voted for Joanna, although, I am not a feminist. I voted for her because of her deep and abiding faith, because of her unconditional love for Jesus.

    I am in awe of Blandina’s faith at such a young age. She had a brutal death… and why??? Is that brutal death for a young girl who loves Christ the punishment. Her lack of fear and pain speaks volumes of her faith- don’t know if I would do that. I am probably a bit more like Peter’s denial in that respect. Surely, the consequence does not fit her ‘crime’.

    God bless both Joanna and Blandina

  9. I love the round of Saintly Kitsch! It's the best thing about Lent, which sounds wrong somehow.

    My vote goes to Joanna, not only for being one of the evangelists. It's for being one of the disciples, following, supporting, and believing in the living Jesus. Nearly erased by the ones who write the histories, but her memory endures.

    1. Yes! AND the same can be said of Blandina, Apostle to Christ Jesus until the brutal end. So many had to have been crucified by the Romans similarly to this for pure blood sport - as was Jesus!

  10. If you click on “Last time” in the Joanna write-up it brings you to the blogger’s kitsch offering from 2020. The preview then also said that previous Joanna posts were available on the “Bracket tab”. (I wanted to read more about the Joanna/Junia confusion). So when I clicked that I got a photo of ….a metal bracket. Ha ha, very funny (Not!).

    Since I am already writing, I might as well question why Joanna is being featured again so soon after having participated as recently as 2020. Aren’t there hundreds or even thousands of saints who haven’t played yet?

    1. This year a good half of the saints were in Lent Madness previously. There are always a few brought back, but I don't know why we had so many this year.

    2. Hugh, I believe that's what is making it so hard this year. The well-known vs. the less-known! We are learning each year of new and 'more recently' canonized black, female, brown, male etc. humans.
      Also I call myself 'simple' at times and some years it seems so overwhelming to me b/c of so many new, unknowns. I know I'm not 'simple' but strive to be in many ways for Jesus' life and both [Blandina's & Jesus only through the Mercy and Grace of God] of their sacrifice. Great comment!

  11. This is difficult choice, one that is not as clear-cut in my mind as some of the others have been. Blandina suffered so much, and in that respect earns a comparison to the suffering that Jesus himself endured. Her suffering could be enough to earn her the Golden Halo. Yet Joanna knew and followed Jesus when he was here in person, and was responsible for sharing the Good News. Without her role, where would Christianity be today? So, I guess I'm voting for Joanna.

  12. Sorry, Blandina, not all Christians after you could say nothing bad was done among us!
    Go!, Jo! All the way to the Hall! I think that Myrbear is adorable. I’ve seen some wedding dresses in that style that you wouldn’t catch me (or Joanna) paying for! Joanna got things done of her own resources, provided for others & was faithful after death. Joanna gets my vote!

  13. Joanna was unique among the 2 choices in being first woman "apostle"
    But the write up didn't include photo of the Easter Nativity Scene

    1. If you place your finger on the underlined words, you are taken to Stay which has several attractive resurrection scenes.

  14. I've previously voted for Joanna twice. I've previous voted for Blandina zero. That makes my choice today pretty easy. Besides, Emily McFarlan Miller did a great job of making the kitsch round relevant to why we honor Joanna.

  15. I found today really difficult (what else is new?) and by the time I voted, sad. To think of myself, my nearest and dearest, their friends and mine at fifteen, it is no wonder that fabulous T-shirt came into my decision-making process. However, following Jesus not only to the margins, but to the tomb. and perhaps being one of Luke's sources for his gospel - Joanna is my hard come-by choice.

  16. Although I was tickled at the rhyme of “Blandina” and “arena,” Joanna’s kitsch blew me away. Great job, bloggers! I will never forget when I first discovered Joanna, and learned that she helped finance Jesus’ ministry. Why had no one ever mentioned this in all my churchgoing years!? How empowering that was! And to realize that Joanna was one of the first evangelists! This gal is one of my heroes!

  17. Joanna was a shoe-in for me today. But I must say that the Blandina song with refrain is stunning.

  18. Since I prefer stand-up women noted in the gospel to second and third century martyr stories, Joanna was a lock. But I had to stop and check out the work of Manuel Fúria. Not a name I run across too often. Still, Joanna gets my vote.

  19. Well, I am surprised to discover there appears to be more actual kitsch featuring Blandina than Joanna, but although it is a bit of a reach, I love that Easter "nativity." Joanna was undoubtedly one of the three. I know it gets tough for our celebrity bloggers when some of these relatively obscure saints reach the Elate Eight, so I will give Emily a point for creativity and Joanna my vote. Now can I convince myself to spend 30 dollars on that set?

  20. My vote is for Joanna. Love the “nativity-type” Easter display. But I’m saving for Tim’s and Scott’s books and of course the Golden Halo mug! Happy Lent my friends.

  21. I was already #teamJoanna for the predictable serious reasons. Then I thought I would be truly won over by the t-shirt hailing women's humanity. But, in the spirit of honesty, I am besotted with the "MerBear!"

  22. Still so sad about losing my Golden Halo hopeful John Donne...So I really needed the Saintly Kitsch Round and today I am all about that Merbear! 🙂