Martin de Porres vs. Leoba

Welcome to the FINAL matchup of the Saintly Sixteen. With the conclusion of today's battle between Martin de Porres and Leoba, the Elate Eight will be all set.

In case you missed it, on Friday Chief Seattle sent John Donne packing 60% to 40% to set up a matchup with Bertha of Kent.

Look for the Elate Eight edition of Monday Madness later today. Assuming Tim and Scott get to it, which we assume they will?

And in the meantime, go vote!

Martin de Porres

I am alone. I am forgotten. I am different. I am unwanted. I am hated. I am persecuted. I am afraid. I am marginal. I am misunderstood. I am lonely. I am sad. I am scared. I am shameful. I am ugly. I am hurt. I am isolated. I am hopeless. I am unloved.

These are the words of generation upon generation of individuals throughout history of all races, education, economic standing, religions, and cultures. These are the words of humanity that struggles. These are the words of humans who crave welcome, kindness, and love. They likely resonate with all readers, because at some point, all humans struggle. It resonates because it is an experience, we all share. It is also a hallmark of the human and Christian experience that we should most seek understanding in those that are unlike ourselves. God calls us repeatedly to love first because we all struggle. We all hurt. And in the moment of hurt, struggle and rejection, the most profound action we can take is to show compassion.

Martin de Porres understood these words and his sainthood is marked by compassion,  welcome and service to others as he understood the loneliness and isolation of the human condition. These are the people that Martin cared for: all people. He welcomed them, fed them. Cleaned for them, and in his service, threw open the gates to the love of God for which all healing flows. Martin’s words are words of welcome, to love our neighbors first, and that compassion is never a wrong choice:

“Compassion is preferable to cleanliness,
With a bit of soap I can clean my bed,
but think of the flood of tears I would
require to clean from my soul
the stain that harshness against
the unfortunate would leave.”

Martin’s words remind us that our Grace is through God alone, and that we are called to extend the grace to others that God gives so freely to each of us: “What real merit have you? Remember that you ought to be nothing but a slave. Only through the mercy of God are you tolerated by others.”

Martin’s testimony echoes Paul’s teachings in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “’My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me.” When we embrace our suffering and the suffering of others, when we lend grace to ourselves and others in these moments, it is then we are living out, even in the middle of life’s greatest difficulties, is what Martin realized was the utmost spiritual salve of them all, love.

Anna Fitch Courie


Saint Lioba

Leoba was one of the leading figures, regardless of gender, in the Christianization of what is now Germany. Born in the early 8th century, Leoba lived much of her early life in a monastery in Wimborne. While there, she met Boniface, who was a relative of her mother and began a correspondence with Boniface. In the one surviving letter, likely one of the early ones in their correspondence, she shares of her father’s death, her mother’s ill health, and asks prayers for both of them.

She states further: “I am the only daughter of my parents and, unworthy though I be, I wish that I might regard you as a brother; for there is no other man in my kinship in whom I have such confidence as in you…. May the bond of our true affection be knit ever more closely for all time.”

She then signs off with a poem that she has written, saying she is learning the art of poetry under a woman named Eadburga, likely another abbess. The poem reads:

Farewell, and may you live long and happily, making intercession for me.
The omnipotent Ruler who alone created everything,
He who shines in splendour forever in His Father's kingdom,
The perpetual fire by which the glory of Christ reigns,
May preserve you forever in perennial right.

This poem, along with longer poems in the same era, suggest that the evangelism of women through poetry was much more common and normative in that era than first believed in the era – a contribution minimized in subsequent decades and centuries by the male leadership of the church. Women like Leoba were not only literate in Latin (the language in which Leoba writes), they were teaching each other in the art and craft of poetry and sharing their work to preach the Gospel. Women were using the poetic form of literary art to evangelize.

While sadly, precious little of Leoba’s actual correspondence and poetry remain, accounts of her life, particularly as abbess of Tauberbischofsheim, are captured in the words of a biography written by Rudolf of Fulda, considered by many to be one of the most learned men of his age. He writes of no less than 7 miracles connected to Leoba, from the mystical vision of the purple thread emanating from her mouth into the world that accompanied to her birth to an account of a nun of the order who was wrongfully accused of infanticide by the local villagers. Leoba called the sisters to pray the psalms and offer laments for the child and the one who took the child’s life. After a day of prayer and lament, mystical flames surrounded the actual killer, absolving the sister of any guilt and bringing peace in a situation that simmered with danger for the sisters.

When a much-maligned sister died, some of the other nuns took out their frustrations from her constant abuse by stomping on her grave, causing the dirt of her grave to sink many inches below ground level. Leoba called the sisters together and invited them as a group to explore Christ’s commandment to love our enemies, even those who had died, and to offer forgiveness so they would not be burdened by resentment. The sisters prayed and fasted, and after three days, Leoba prostrated herself in front of the altar. The ground on the grave rose at the end of her prayers, and the sisters found a new balance in their lives together.

Much of Leoba’s leadership is intertwined with Boniface, yet much of her life and saintly ministry occurred within the monastery she led and the sisters she gently guided to deepen their faith. Her examples were ones of witness, of love, and of prayer. May we all pray, live, and share the poetry of God’s love as Leoba did so faithfully.

— Laurie Brock



Martin de Porres By CAMILOFORE2 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Leoba By Andreas Schwarzkopf - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


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47 comments on “Martin de Porres vs. Leoba”

  1. I love the mystical life of Leoba, but Martin calls me to love others in tangible ways, something I need to grow in.

  2. Matin's commentary bothered me. Started with all the negatives we might feel (I am ugly etc). But then dropped this line: "Remember that you ought to be nothing but a slave." The story of the Garden of Eden always taught me that the way we may be now, is NOT THE WAY WE WERE INTENDED TO BE. We ought NOT to be a slave.

    1. I think that Martin was probably thinking about Romans 8:15 were we should all be slaves to sin, but God, through Christ's sacrifice, made us his children.

  3. Martin de Porres brings to mind the ending of the movie, "Revenge of the Nerds," when all who have ever felt marginalized or rejected are invited to come and stand in the football field, and a huge crowd does so.

  4. Three Episcopal churches in the Northern Virginia area recently merged and chose the name "St. Martin de Porres" for our new community. We are St. Martin all the way during this year's Lent Madness. We give thanks for the joy and love in our community and for the hope and light of a new future. To God be the glory!

    1. To God be the Glory,
      Great things He has done!
      So Loves He the world that He gave us His Son!

  5. Leoba is just a bit too "out there" for me. Martin's humility and compassion for the outcasts and misfits merits his advance to the Elate Eight.

  6. After further reading, I am voting for Leoba because of her devotion, her leadership, her many miracles, and her contribution to the growth of Christianity in Germany.

    1. Yes! This was one where I needed to do a bit of my own research on both of them before deciding!

  7. I know Leoba will probably lose, but I have always been fond of her ever since I did a paper on Anglo-Saxon saints in college. She believed in kindness. However, this was tough since I have always admired Martin de Porres.

  8. I voted for Leoba for several reasons, including the miracles attributed to her and her ability to work with the nuns under her tutelage to overcome anger and resentment -- things so many of us deal with.

    I've also never signed on to the "we're all wretches" theology of "Remember that you ought to be nothing but a slave. Only through the mercy of God are you tolerated by others."

    Who said we ought to be nothing but slaves? Why do we need to be "tolerated"? Slaves to God, maybe; "ought to be" slaves to other people? That's what I call Lowly Worm theology, and I don't see it in the Bible.

    1. As a youth, I left (ran away, actually) from organized religions due to too often being on the receiving end of statements such these. Decades later, I returned upon hearing and learning from compassionate voices.

  9. I voted for Leoba, because I love the idea of women teaching one another poetry and evangelizing through poetry. I do not know if any of the miracles are true, but I think of women living in community, working out their frustrations and hopes together, seeking "balance" in their daily lives. "Compassion" is the value for Martin, and that certainly seems like a fine value. But we still have poverty with us, and the powerful are unlikely to have any real desire to change that injustice soon. Leoba studied Scripture, languages, and canon law. We are only too aware that putting women into public office is no guarantee that systems will change for the better; some women reinforce the interests of economic domination, while some are too crazy and too crass to be interested in governance. But on the whole, educating girls and women is a way for societies to advance in equality, prosperity, and general well being. May the law be a means by which the poor and excluded can receive justice, and not a tool by which entrenched systems of power can regulate cruelty and the operations of empire.

    1. I also voted for Leoba for the reasons you mentioned and also for the story of the burial of the unloved nun. How easily we forget that loving your enemies is central to Jesus’ life and message!

  10. I would love to know more about those animals in the picture of Martin of Porres.

  11. Although I loved Leoba's focus on women enriching other women, with her emphasis on poetry, and on her work with women to eschew unforgiveness and hold on to the concept of loving one's enemy, I was not able to vote for her because she was beyond my reach. St. Martin de Porres' passion for those who are unseen, marginalized, misunderstood and lonely--now that is the Love that speaks to me deeply in many ways as I try 'to follow the Master.'

  12. This part of my bracket is busted as bad as the other one ()! Leona is my sole survivor here.
    She is the very best example of Bloom where you are planted, appropriate for this Spring day!
    Onward to Leo vs Jo?

  13. Martin begins by naming the universal feelings that humans have, as well as craving welcome, kindness, and love. Then he moves to compassion which is God's love alone. I had to vote for compassion.

  14. Another hard choice, but Laurie's eloquent words about the mystic abbess and poet sealed the deal for me, as I also use poetry as a way of furthering and sharing my walk with God. I vote for Leoba.

  15. This decision is very, very tough. Leoba’s achievements during her life were on a far greater scale than Martin’s; his were circumscribed by his race and class.But both saints gave their utmost. Martin’s achievements, humble in his lifetime, have touched many, many people over the centuries. The essence of his spirituality — loving compassion — won my vote.

  16. Who among us hasn't felt unloved, lonely, worthless, misunderstood, unwanted, unappreciated, over looked, neglected, marginalized, forgotten at some point in our lives? We can all rate to these feelings and so my vote is for Martin de Porres.

  17. I voted for Martin because here was just something about his "write-up" that really touched me this round. His compassion for others is very moving.

    But having voted for Leoba the last time around, I won't be sorry if she wins.

  18. Ugh. Again, 2 of my earlier choices pitted against one another. I ended up voting for Leoba, the poetess-abbess. However, if Martin wins this round, I’m ok with that.

    1. Try a different browser or try a different device, if you have access to one.

  19. I was all set to vote for Martin but had to change to Leoba because of her call to forgiveness of enemies.

  20. Both of the saintly two today spoke of and showed compassion, as we could pray for today's Nashville shooter, a woman conceivably feeling so much hurt and anger, she acted out against innocents.

    1. Please accept an edit to my comment to read: a person conceivably feeling so much hurt and anger, they acted out against innocents.

  21. I went with Martin de Porres because of his compassion towards others. I felt a kinship with him after reading his words that compassion is never the wrong choice.

  22. The saint celebrated on my birthday, Ephrem of Edessa, evangelized for orthodox Christianity through writing hymns and touring with a choir. It's good to hear of a poet-evangelist doing something similar!

  23. As someone who is tuning in Lent Madness for the first time, I'm surprised that the bio doesn't mention Saint Martín de Porres' background nor why he's usually portrayed with a broom and with domestic animals.

        1. Correction, I've now found two places where you can get to pre-March 16 write-ups. Just persevere. One is the bracket calendar, the other is bottom (left) of page that starts with photos of our fearless leaders.