Joanna the Myrrhbearer vs. Martin de Porres

Welcome to the Faithful Four! From an initial field of 32 saints, we are down to a holy four: Joanna the Myrrhbearer, Martin de Porres, Jonathan Daniels, and Chief Seattle.

Today it's Joanna vs. Martin. To get to this point, Joan defeated Monica, Augustine, and Blandina, while Martin made it past Maximus the Confessor, Leoba, and JS Bach.

So, what happens in this round? Well, throughout Lent Madness, our saintly heroes have battled via basic bios, quirks and quotes, and even kitsch. In this round, we let our remaining Celebrity Bloggers loose as they answer the question “Why should Saint XX win the Golden Halo?” In other words, they’ve been charged with letting us know why their particular saint is so awesome. We have also invited them to share their two favorite images of their saints.

The Faithful Four continues today and tomorrow and then, on Spy Wednesday, 24 hours of voting begins to determine the winner of the 2023 Golden Halo.

The end is near! Vote now!

Joanna the Myrrhbearer

Sometimes we reporters think our articles will change the world. More often, I find, they change me.

Take, for instance, the article I wrote in 2019, interviewing Jewish New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine about her book “Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week,” which digs into the stories of the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. One story she said she is particularly drawn to is the anointing of Jesus: During dinner, a woman anoints Jesus with expensive perfume, and he says her story will be remembered wherever the Gospel is preached. “I think that’s the new feast that needs to be invented: We have a special dinner at the beginning of Holy Week and we tell stories about all the women who made this mission possible,” Levine told me.

The idea stuck with me, and every year since, several friends and I have gathered during Holy Week for what we call the Feast of the Women.

In true Midwestern fashion, the Feast of the Women is a potluck, and each of us chooses a female disciple alongside a dish to share. We read the story of Jesus’ anointing and then share Scripture, poems, music, artwork, or whatever else we can find about the women who followed Jesus and supported his ministry.

Year after year, we have returned to Joanna’s story.

We often think we don’t know much about Jesus’ female followers, but it occurred to me at last year’s feast, we know perhaps as much about some of The Women as we do some of The Twelve. We learn as much about Joanna in the Gospels as we do, say, Simon the Zealot.

And scholars have gleaned a lot about Joanna from the two passages in which she is named (make that three if you believe she and Junia are the same person): She likely was born into a prominent Jewish family in Galilee and married into Herod’s court. After a healing encounter with Jesus, she left her privilege behind to follow Jesus from one town and village to another, using it instead to benefit his ministry. She was one of three myrrhbearing women who followed Jesus to the tomb, and one of the first to proclaim the Good News he had risen. She may have continued sharing that message as a leader in the early church and as one of Luke’s sources for his Gospel and the Book of Acts.

Joanna has my vote today because her story has challenged me and changed how I read the stories of women in the Gospels. Could I be so courageous in laying aside my own privilege and following Jesus to the margins?

— Emily McFarlan Miller

Martin de Porres

The man spat as Martin passed him in the street. The anger, disdain, and rejection were etched in the creases around his eyes, mouth, and forehead. Martin wasn’t sure what set the man off as he passed, but it was clear that Martin needed to steer a wide berth. As Martin crossed the street to the other side, he whispered a prayer to God that God would soften the man’s heart. That he would be healed of his affliction of anger and distrust, and he prayed silently that others would not feel the sting of rejection Martin felt his whole life.

As he continued on his way, Martin sighed. The world was a hard place. As he saw the beggars in the streets, the children without homes, the stray animals, the widows, the immigrants, the miserable shop keepers, and the unbending priests, he wondered at God’s plans. He felt sad, and alone, seeking to do God’s work, but felt rejected at the monastery as well. He wondered if he would ever be able to take vows and serve God as a full member of the order.

Shaking off his sadness, he thought of the trials of Job and God’s promises to the afflicted, “Yet he rescues the orphan[d] from the sword of their mouth, the needy from the grip of the strong; so, the poor have hope and violence shuts its mouth.” Martin knew God was faithful to God’s promises.

As Martin arrived at the Dominican Convent of the Rosary to serve the brothers, he smiled. He was heartened by God’s promises. His joy came in service to others. As God continued to call his name, his smile grew further. It was in his care of the people who came to the Convent that he felt closest to God. Those that were sick, he could heal. Those that were lonely, he could comfort. Those that were forsaken, he could understand. Those that were confused and drawn by material things, he could teach. Those that were abandoned, he could offer shelter. Martin knew that simply by reaching to others in their moment of need, he could most live like Christ.

Martin arrived in the chapel for prayer. As he prayed, he asked God to show him all the ways he could act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. He realized with these three things, he had all he needed. The scorn of others, easily washed away with the love he felt from God. He only wished to share that love with others.

Anna Fitch Courie



​​Αλκιβιάδης ΠαππάςVasiliou at Greek Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 GR, via Wikimedia Commons

Myrrhbearers by Fr. Ted Bobosh, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr

St Martin de Porres and St Martin de Porres by Lawrence Lew, OP, via Flickr


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70 comments on “Joanna the Myrrhbearer vs. Martin de Porres”

  1. Starting with parental rejection, then racial rejection, and finally partial religious rejection, I think it would have been easy for Martin to conclude there was no God or perhaps God had no place for him. But the constancy of his faith showed he and God were joined in a way that could withstand anything and the way to show it was to there for others. Martin gets my vote again.

  2. It's always hard to choose when we get down to the final four and this year is no exception. Thank you to all the authors who have made this Lent Madness so interesting and difficult to choose between one great saint and another. I love the Feast of the Women and the inspiration of Joanna and the story of Martin praying for the man who was so angry and bitter. Hard choice.

  3. Well, I guess there's the 'mad'ness!If Bach is out for the count, then so am I. On to "St. Matthew Passion" then the Easter Oratorio. Appreciate the opportunity to participate in this exercise and extend sincere gratitude to all for their talent and dedicated work. Blessed Easter to all.

  4. My vote is for Joanna. The women’s voices have been left out of the gospel stories long enough.

  5. Martin is my choice. In 1962 when he was canonized I was 9 years old and a student at a Catholic grade school, we were told about him and received a holy card with a small cloth relic of his habit. I've always remembered his devotion to the poor and humility despite how he was treated.

    1. I was the same age as you and also in a Catholic grade school when Martin was canonized! No holy card (gosh, does that bring back memories!), but I was inspired to read about him, and he's been one of my favorite saints ever since.

  6. Wow, I never would have predicted that Joanna the Myrrhbearer would get this far, and yet I find myself voting for her yet again. As indicated by Emily's blog, Joanna's importance goes far beyond what has been written about her and what we can surmise. I have been listening to the podcast Two Feminists Annotate the Beatitudes in which they discuss all the women saints (not all of whom are celebrated in the church calendar), and it is a pity to me that so many of them don't receive the attention they have deserved. Let me cast a vote for Joanna today in honor of all the unsung women who have helped to make our church a loving one.

  7. Sticking with Martin though Joanna has had my vote through to this match. I am much taken by the idea of a woman’s feast and well aware of how women have been disappeared and belittled in church history. What grabs me about Martin is a thing I struggle with daily: not to despise those with beliefs I find repugnant, but to pray for them and for God to heal their hatred.

  8. Well, this is going to be interesting. I have voted for all four of these saints every single round, except for my first-round vote for Rutilio Grande since I live in Central America. I guess the silver lining to that cloud is that I can be happy with whoever wins the Golden Halo. (I have my guess as to that.)

  9. Martin de Porres
    Loved humbly, greatly, truly.
    May we all do so.

    I love the idea of a Feast of the Women, and I may well host one myself. But my vote goes to Martin de Porres, who led a life of love, healing, and humility — treating paupers and rich people with equal care — despite being scorned because of his race and class.

  10. I am going with Martin because his witness speaks more to me personally as a Christian.

  11. As Lent Madness is wearing down near the end, I want to thank the Supreme Executive Committee, the wonderful celerity bloggers and all involved in Lent Madness. I have enjoyed another year of fun and most importantly learning during lent. I am patiently waiting to see who wins the Golden Halo. My choice was Blandina, but alas, she isn't in the running anymore. Reading about her, I wondered how may 12 year-olds, including myself, would have been able to withstand torture at such a young age. I don't think I would have been able to at 12, and I had strong faith at that age. There are many others I have tried to put myself in their lives and guess how I would have reacted. This is truly a lenten practice. I have also enjoyed reading the comments section with more information, poems, limericks and such. Thank you everyone!!! Who Will Win?
    Blessed Easter to all!

  12. At this point, all of the candidates are strong. I voted for Martin of Porres as his life is much better documented than that of the first century Joanna, but I also recognize the importance of recovering the histories of those systematically overlooked, including women.

  13. Another difficult choice today, and I know tomorrow’s will be also as I voted for all four in the first rounds. Before I even read today’s writings I reread the original posts to see what made me vote for each in the first place. But because of two excellent, thought provoking writeups it was still hard to choose. All the Celebrity Bloggers have been outstanding (as usual) which made my decision making so tough.

  14. How am I going to decide today??? The woman who gave up her privileged position to follow Jesus and to provide for his ministry vs. the man who kept the faith, despite the cruel treatment he received, and lived the command in Micah? What to do, what to do?!

  15. It was a tough decision, but I voted for Joanna. I think we should have a special dinner for women, telling our favorite stories about women who have changed our lives. I like the idea of a Feast of the Women during Holy Week.

  16. The "contests" just keep getting harder, but I suppose that's to be expected.
    I was all set to vote for Joanna, for whom I had voted before, since women weren't particularly respected in those times.

    But then I read Martin and thought about how people of color are treated even today, and voted for him. Either way, I won't be disappointed.

  17. Until Bach went by the wayside (!), I still had 2 pristine brackets. Neither Joanna nor Martin was in either one, yet the write-ups today made decision making really tough. Thank you, celebrity bloggers, for taking us on this year's wonderful ride. I have so much respect for Joanna, but guess my own striving to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly tipped the scale for Martin.

  18. I have come to appreciate the simple humble man, St. Martin de Porres, who experienced racial prejudice, but over came it to bless and help many. A blessed by the Holy Spirit he continued to exhibit kindness and charity to all. However, after I began to think about the story of Christ… all told by men, the complete belief and trust that women put in Christ is a part of the story we never really hear! Today, I have to chose between two marginalized people… and I am choosing Joanna who chose to leave a life of wealth and privilege to follow Christ, and to be present at a seminal moment in Christianity… resurrection.
    She and the other women believed… with no doubt… and today we are, in part the beneficiaries of their complete acceptance of Christ. And all else follows…

  19. In one of the Scripture classes I attended at church, the priest pointed out that the Romans were very litigious and cruel. By Roman law, any man who came to be at the cross of an executed prisoner was subjected to the same punishment because they are considered an ally. Which was a reason given for why the apostles were not there, only John (the young guy) and the women who were considered nothing by the Roman military and officials. Glad to hear that more studies are unfolding about the lives of the women who followed and supported Jesus and companions.
    And of course with my name being Myrrh, I had to vote for the Myrrhbearer 😉

  20. I have long enjoyed Lent Madness, but this year is trying my patience. It seems the only combination of device and browser that would load the website and have a vote button kept changing over the course of Lent. It got to the point that only Chrome on my MacBook would have a vote option once it loaded. Other browsers on my MacBook would not load the site, each claiming a different reason for not loading it.

    My iPhone stated out not wanting to load in Safari at all, and I had to use Firefox to read the posts and vote, but then Firefox stopped loading the site on my iPhone, but once or twice I was able to read the posts and vote using Safari. But that ease of LM participation was all too soon gone along with the ability to vote, once and only once per matchup, on my iPhone.

    Finally it got to the point I had to download Chrome on my MacBook so I can vote. This having to use only one browser on just one device led me to totally forget about voting last Friday until late Saturday morning and again late last night once I got home from work. Since I only use Chrome for LM, I got sidetracked and forgot to open it and load the site and then feel asleep.

    I woke up in the middle of the night (at least to me with my swing shift work schedule) at around 4 AM Pacific and thought oh no, is it too late to vote in LM? So I grabbed my MacBook and launched Chrome and other than the weekly Lent Madness video post this was still the most recent. Excellent. It looked liked it is 5 AM Pacific was when the new posts posted, so I should still be able to vote.


    No option to vote. No results either. Nope. Not there. Totally gone.

    This. Is. Not. Fun.

    I used to enjoy Lent Madness . . . hopefully by Lent 2024 someone will figure out how to get the HTML to work correctly and consistently across ALL major browsers on ALL major operating systems.

  21. Well. Well. Well. After I finally get my comment to post (it kept telling me the header size of the website was too big, as if I have any control over that), then the voting widget part of the page appeared and I could vote and see who had how many votes.

    Seriously . . . ?