Canaire vs. Barbara

Welcome to the FIRST FULL WEEK of Lent Madness XV! Today Canaire takes on Barbara as two strong and beloved women, with some surrounding legends, square off for a shot at the Saintly Sixteen. As Barbara is the patron saint of miners, you could call this matchup Canaire in a Coal Mine. But that would just be silly.

On Saturday, Kassia trounced Casimir 89% to 11% in the first major rout of 2023. 

Time to vote!


Any woman who’s been called “stubborn” or “obstinate” or told her gender kept her from following God’s calling will relate to the story of St. Canaire.

Little is recorded about Canaire’s life (also spelled Conaire, Canir, and Canera), but as it neared its end in the year 530, she had a vision of all the churches of Ireland. A tower of fire rose from each church to heaven, but the greatest tower came from the monastery founded by St. Senan at Inis Cathaig, an island off the coast of County Clare in Ireland.

Naturally, Canaire followed the light to Inis Cathaig, crossing the sea “with dry feet as if she were on smooth land,” Senan greeted her at the harbor.

“You see, I have come,” Canaire said, according to her biography on the website of St. Canera Catholic Church in Neosho, Missouri.

But Senan refused to let her enter the monastery, as the monks’ vows of chastity prohibited them from having contact with women.

Canaire’s reply rings true through the ages: "How canst thou say that? Art thou better than Jesus Christ? He came to redeem women no less than men. He suffered on the Cross for women as well as men. He opens the kingdom of heaven to women as surely as to men. Why then dost thou shut women out from this isle?"

In the end, Senan, apparently unimpressed by the fact Canaire was standing on water throughout this entire exchange, permitted the saint to come ashore, though not much farther. She went to heaven “straightaway” after receiving communion and was buried on the coast, as she had requested.

Her story lives on in the “Life of St. Senan.” So does her righteous indignation.

Collect for Canaire
Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen. 

Emily McFarlan Miller


Barbara was born in the third century in either Heliopolis in Syria (or possibly in modern-day Egypt) or Nicomedia in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) to a wealthy pagan family. After the death of Barbara’s mother, her father was worried for her safety, so he built a large tower to protect her – and keep her isolated from men.

Despite her father’s shrewd sheltering of her early life, Barbara converted to Christianity and refused to marry, having chosen consecrated virginity. It’s said that a traveling physician introduced Barbara to Christianity during one of her father’s extended absences. She believed the message of faith and was baptized. While her father was away, she hired workmen to construct a third window in her tower to represent the Trinity. She also used her finger to etch a cross upon the wall. Upon her father’s return, Barbara explained the significance of the windows and told him of her newfound faith.

Her enraged father intended to give her over to the authorities, but she was miraculously whisked away to a mountain gorge. Her father pursued her and eventually persuaded a shepherd to betray her hiding place.

Like many women of her time who wanted to resist forced marriage and assert their autonomy, she committed herself to the church in order to avoid various crusty dusty suitors. Her father therefore sent her to her martyrdom, and in some stories, he beheaded her himself, so loath he was to  pawn her off to another man.

Of course, since she was a holy woman, her evil father was punished by being struck by lightning and entirely consumed by fire on his way home. For this reason, St. Barbara is prayed to for protection from explosives. Which is kind of ironic.

Her feast day is December 4, and she is the patron saint of miners, military workers, including gunsmiths, artillery detachments, armor makers, and mathematicians. Her relics can be found at St. Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev. According to the Orthodox Church in America’s website, “The hand of Saint Barbara is kept in a special shrine at Saint Michael's Monastery in Kiev, on the left side of the church. The glove covering her hand is changed frequently, then the old glove is cut up and the pieces are distributed to pilgrims.” This does make me wonder, what do they do with the other glove of the pair?

If you like

  1. Independent women
  2. Bad guys getting blown up
  3. Fancy gloves

Then you’ll love Saint Barbara.

Collect for Barbara
Embolden your church, O God, with the stories of your saints Catherine, Barbara, and Margaret, that we might face all trials and adversities with a fearless mind and an unbroken spirit, knowing that we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ who strengthens us. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (LFF 2022)

Keegan Osinski


This poll is no longer accepting votes

7340 votes


* indicates required

Recent Posts



108 comments on “Canaire vs. Barbara”

  1. Well, I dropped the ball over the weekend but was glad to see that Kassia advanced. Although I have a different pick for the Golden Halo, I wouldn't be unhappy if she won.
    Today I thought Barbara's story was well-written, but obstinate and stubborn are monikers that have been applied to me since childhood, so Canaire got my vote.
    As all "negative" descriptions have their inside-out "positive"s, the inside-out of stubborn/obstinate is diligent, and I'll own that one! 🙂

  2. I voted for Barbara because her story appealed to me more. There are plenty of women today who are forced into marriages. I think "virginity" was just the resort women could use to justify a life independent of what their parents wanted. The wiki article does a lot more justice to Barbara.

    Also, I must say I myself would rather a narrative that was straightforward and devoid of unnecessary comments by the writers. I admire the write ups. I appreciate the effort it takes to make all this happen. However, some of the humorous asides take away from the impact. I'd rather get the biography of that saint straight up.

    1. Well, a straightforward biography of someone who was probably legendary ... can be pretty challenging. And the values reflected in those legends are often so alien to our culture that some kind of commentary is required. I agree with you that the tone of that commentary is important, and readers will have varying reactions when the tone becomes outright flippant.

      1. Gretchen, agreed, but the wiki article on Barbara states what miracles were attributed to her without recourse to flippant commentary. That saints might be venerated for things we would today find reprehensible is a slightly different matter, although Lent Madness runs into this quite a bit and takes that seriously.

  3. Oh my. I'd prefer for the golden halo to go to a better-documented, actual historic figure. But at least Barbara's story is a little more plausible. And with the terrible war in Ukraine today, it's worthwhile lifting her up.

    I'm sorry that the majority of fellow Lent Madness fans seems to prefer a woman who, after all, justified the monks' prejudice by dying after setting foot on their island.

    1. Ah, but her last words were so forthright.

      And I assumed she knew she was dying and went there to take a stand as she did so. "This is my LAST WORD to you men who are so terrified of your own desires that you deal with them only by insisting that the women who excite those desires be suppressed and banished. Find a better way, as your Lord did. He didn't tell men who lusted after women to put down women or send them away. He said 'put out your own eye.' Take THAT and figure out how to obey it."

    2. There’s very little in the Bible that is “well-documented,” and yet we believe it. Look for the merit or lesson in the story. It’s not a contest for historicity.

  4. I am weary of oppression and murder and seek the hope of salvation and blessing in speaking the truth and trusting God. I love the imagery of Canaire stepping through the thin place to God's presence.

  5. It was hard to choose, especially given the eloquent tongue-thrashing Canaire bestowed upon the monk, but I went with Barbara. Slava Ukraini!

  6. Had to vote for Barbara as I remembered many summer days fly fishing in northern New Mexico's Rio Santa Barbara. The catch might not always have been great but the beauty, peace and quiet certainly were.

  7. First time voting this year, although I am caught up on the previous "mad" face offs. I picked St. Canaire because her on foot pilgrimage across water and witness to Jesus's gospel for all impressed me.

  8. This was a very hard choice. Being raised in a family that adhered to very strict gender 'rule's and expectations and having attended seminary and then ordained into ministry, I can really relate to St. Carnaire. However, my closest and much loved sister was named Barbara and she was as vivacious, fiesty, and determined as St. Barbara. I went with Barbara as I miss my dear sister every day.

  9. Having lived in Santa Barbara for most of my adult life, how could I choose differently? While in the Czech Republic, the story of St Barbara is a little different, but,nonetheless, the same end.

  10. As a retired Army Air Defense Artillery(wo)man named Barbara, I had to cast my vote for St Barbara today.

  11. Having worked in explosives safety to protect people from the effects of explosions for almost 30 years, how could I not vote for Barbara.

  12. Definitely a fan of St. Barbara--my father was an armourer and spent his military career working on explosive devices of various types. He was dyslexic and always worried about wiring and hooking things up backwards! I am sure St. Barbara watched over him and his co-workers and kept them safe.

  13. I love Canaire's reasoning and indignation, but my mom is Barbara so I have to vote for her. Also, I do love Barbara's Trinity windows and being whisked of to a gorge.

  14. Yay! A day where I was allowed to vote was counted...and yet chosen saint in this bracket is losing. Such is the way of Lent Madness. Enjoyed the write ups today. Thank you!

  15. Why can't you do more modern saints then what are chosen? How does anyone know what happened so long ago? I'd rather pray to modern saints?

    1. It does seem that most of the saints nominated this year lived not very recently, though there have been many modern saints in the brackets over the years that Lent Madness has been available. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and C.S. Lewis, both 20th century Golden Halo winners, come to mind. There's a lot to be said for learning about saints both ancient and modern.

  16. The vote counts here, although I will leave another message on facebook. The gloves win the day for me. my mother requested gloves on her hands in the casket so no one saw her bony fingers! Plus I know several Barbara’s who are definitely saints!

  17. Both of these women are sturdy folk, but I voted for Canaire because I've been to Irelnad. (Dumb reason, i know)

  18. I grew up in a military family and St. Barbara was the only saint this Baptist (at the time) family revered. She got my vote for protecting three military generations of my family!

  19. This is the third day of Lent Madness that I have been unable to vote. Is it server problems or have I been banned from voting?

    I worked for the Army and each year we had a St. Barbara’s Day ball. She was the patron of those in the Field Artillery Corps.

  20. Must vote for the patron saint of mathematicians, a woman to boot!

    P.S.: Finally got vote without a problem!

  21. All ye former communicants of St Barbara’s, Newcomb, ny, vote! The church (now, sadly , decommissioned) originally served the mining community of Tahawus, extracting iron ore and later titanium.