Thomas Cranmer vs. Thomas the Apostle

Welcome to the opening matchup of Lent Madness XV! If you’re a veteran Lent Madness participant, welcome back! If you're joining us for the first time, we’re delighted you’re along for this wild, saintly ride! And if you're just penitential-curious, check out the About Lent Madness tab on the website to find out what all the fuss is about.

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to do a couple things. First, like Lent Madness on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter. Second, subscribe to the Lent Madness e-mails so you never miss a vote — you’ll get each matchup hand-delivered to your inbox on the weekdays of Lent. You can do this by going to the home page of our website and entering your e-mail address. We highly recommend doing this. Finally, you can fill out a bracket online and daily see how you stack up against those who take their Lenten bracketology seriously (keep scrolling and you'll encounter the 2024 Matchup Calendar to determine when your favorite saint will be doing battle). Oh, and if you've ordered a bracket poster, and your handwriting's lousy, you can download these nifty Lent Madness Bracket Stickers and impress your friends with your beautiful penmanship.

But mostly, we encourage you to read about the 32 saints participating in this year’s edition of Lent Madness (download the FREE Digital Saintly Scorecard), faithfully cast your (single!) vote on the weekdays of Lent, and add your comments to the great cloud of participating witnesses that gathers as the online Lent Madness community each year.

To celebrate the 15th year of Lent Madness, all 16 first round matchups are themed battles. Some will be obvious, some less so. For instance, today it's the Thomas Throwdown as Thomas Cranmer faces Thomas the Apostle.

But enough of this idle chatter. It's time to cast your very first vote of Lent Madness 2024! We’re glad you’re all here. Now get to it!

Thomas Cranmer

If you have taken to heart the prayer to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the holy scriptures that are written for our learning, or felt in awe in considering how in Holy Communion “we continually dwell in [Christ] and he in us,” you can thank Thomas Cranmer for these memorable turns of phrase.

Born in 1489, Cranmer undertook studies at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he was ordained. There he first came into extended contact with the text of holy scripture and the thought of the Continental Reformation. By 1529, when it was becoming clear that Pope Clement VII would not grant an annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Cranmer, convinced of the superiority of the King over the pope in purely English matters, worked eagerly to sway learned opinion on Henry’s behalf. When Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham died in 1532, Henry swiftly arranged for Cranmer’s elevation to the see of Canterbury.

Upon becoming archbishop, Cranmer became the king’s chief instrument in asserting Royal Supremacy over the church in England. He annulled Henry and Catherine’s marriage in 1533 (later pronouncing similar judgments on marriages to Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves) and he agreed with Parliament’s Act of Supremacy in 1534 which split the Church in England from the Roman Church.

Yet Cranmer was also his own man, devoted to the reformation of the English church. Together with Thomas Cromwell, he supported the first widespread dissemination of the Bible in English. After Henry’s death, during the reign of Edward VI, Cranmer achieved his greatest legacy and highest ambition –-to revise Church services into a “tongue understanded by the people.” He published the Great Litany in English in 1544, and his embrace of the ideas of the Continental Reformation ultimately led to the production of the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and its subsequent 1552 revision. It was his intense devotion to the English Reformation that would ultimately be his undoing.

Upon the accession of Mary I, a staunch Roman Catholic, to the crown following a nine-day power struggle, Cranmer was accused of treason and heresy, and was arrested and held inhumanely. The stress of his captivity led to deep depression and two recantations of the doctrines he once prized. At his martyrdom, however, he renounced his recantations, and when burned at the stake in Oxford in 1556, he put his hand into fire, proclaiming “this hand hath offended.”

It is to that hand that Anglican churches worldwide owe the masterful prose and poetry and essentially scriptural spirituality that infuse the Book of Common Prayer, guiding us in prayer to this day.

Collect for Thomas Cranmer
Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servants Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (LFF 2022)

— David Sibley

Thomas the Apostle

Thomas is simply named as a member of the 12 in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The Gospel of John, however, takes special interest in Thomas. And the disciple does not always look so great.

In John 11:16, when Jesus wants to return to Judea to mourn his friend Lazarus, Thomas sarcastically remarks, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” In John 14:5, during Jesus’s last meal with his friends, Thomas expresses confusion about Jesus’s plain teaching.

Perhaps most notoriously, Thomas refuses to believe the reports of the disciples when they announce that Jesus was raised from the dead. In John 20:25, Thomas famously says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (Though, to be fair, he only wanted what the other disciples already got to experience.)

Whatever beef the author of the Gospel of John may have had with Thomas, his assaults on Thomas’s character were effective. It probably does not help that Thomas’s name was attached to a collection of Jesus’s sayings that some would deem heretical. The image of “doubting” Thomas, the heretic, persists.

Such a view however, overlooks some of Thomas’s amazing triumphs. Shortly after expressing his desire to see the resurrected Christ for himself, Thomas makes one of the strongest Christological affirmations in the entire New Testament when, upon touching the resurrected Christ’s wounds, he exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

Thomas also became one of early Christianity’s greatest champions. He took the gospel all the way to India. His bold proclamation was accompanied by many miracles. Several early Christian texts bear his name and recount his exploits. The Acts of Thomas tell of his many adventures spreading the gospel (if you vote him into the next round, I promise to share some of the juicier tales). The Infancy Gospel of Thomas (which is really mostly about Jesus’ childhood) is essential reading, and really, the Gospel of Thomas is worth careful study too. That his name is attached to so many early Christian texts betrays his importance to the nascent movement.

Thomas was killed in India, either by a spear or at the hands of some angry priests (maybe angry priests with spears!). His feast day is celebrated on December 21 in the Episcopal Church. His story is often told on the second Sunday of Easter.

Collect for Thomas the Apostle
Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP)

David Creech


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260 comments on “Thomas Cranmer vs. Thomas the Apostle”

  1. For the prayer book all Anglicans ken
    We’re indebted to Thomas’ pen.
    For his work he was burned,
    So my vote he has earned:
    Please support Thomas Cranmer. Amen.

    1. That was interesting. The LM website was not responding from 7:55 to 8:00 EST, then worked for about a minute, then went offline again until about 8:17, when I was finally able to cast a vote.
      Supreme Executive Committee, any comments?

      1. I had the same issues and have finally gotten in. I always look forward to your posts every year…YEA FOR LENT MADNESS 2024!

      2. My page shows like I already voted, hopefully not because my wife got her vote in 30 minutes before mine? She's on a different email and device, so hopefully this is not a new bug.

      3. A bit before that my pad told me “thanks for voting” before I had done so. Guess I don’t get to vote today. ☹️ Not an auspicious start to my Lenten observance…

      4. I couldn't vote on my tablet. I had to come to my labtop to have my vote accepted. Hope that issue is resolved.

      5. The email has everything at the bottom and looks like you can vote from there, but there is no way to access the actual voting. I had to go to the website, t then to Lent Madness “most recent post”, and then refresh before I could vote.
        Maybe don’t copy and paste the whole page, but only the first few lines and then a link s as in the past?

    2. Thank you, Mr. Cabot for a glorious start to Lent! I look forward to your poetry in each match-up! Huzzah!!!

    3. Thomas Cranmer won my heart with the Book of Common Prayer. Not that I don't think Thomas the Apostle didn't earn a spot, too. After all, my journalistic heart fully understands some of his doubting. That being said, I cannot let go of Cranmer and what he gave us for our foundation.

  2. This was a tough one! I love Thomas Cranmer the architect of the BCP, but Doubting Thomas is my favorite Apostle. Went with Cranmer because I know a lot of people will gravitate to the other Thomas due to his Apostolic weight. Hey folks, Cranmer's boss was King Henry VIII so give him a break!

  3. Thomas the Apostle gets a bad rap. His doubting nature kind of embodies the motto “trust, but verify.” Sometimes Christians like to lean into the notion of “blind” trust as the epitome of faith and that certainly has its place, but retaining the ability to question is a God-given defense against those who would wield religion to cause harm. It’s something we shouldn’t take lightly, IMO, and a lesson of the life of this Thomas.

    1. I agree with TJ. I love the poetry of the BCP, but Cranmer’s closeness with the king - I find that troubling.

      Thomas the Apostle gets a lot of shade - but really, isn’t he just like us?

      And I’d love his stories from India. Just saying….

    2. I agree, TJ, and that's why I voted for Thomas the Apostle. Faith is so basic. I relate to Thomas's struggles in this regard. How many of us want/need some concrete proof that God and the spiritual realms exist? That we WILL see our loved ones again? Even that life has meaning? Thomas held onto his faith once he saw Christ's wounds and traveled spreading the Gospel story.
      And faith keeps us returning to the BCP and finding meaning in those words.

    1. I had the same issue. The voting mechanism didn't work from my email. But this is my first time in Lent Madness, so is that usual?

    2. At the bottom of the email click on "read online" that will take you to the page where you can vote. You have to click the recaptcha images. Once you've done that, you "verify", then you can vote.

    3. Agreed. Vote from email not working at 10:15 am EST. I was able to vote for doubting Thomas from the website. Sometimes struggles are good - though not with the electronics.

  4. Thomas Cranmer lived in religiously and politically fraught times -- and he paid for that with his life. He gave us our gorgeous and foundational prayer book -- including statements that still sustain us. Yet he was also willing to do the bidding of those in power. While anulling Henry's marriage to Anne of Cleves just makes sense, anulling Henry's 20-year-plus marriage to Catherine of Aragon still reeks, and what-did-he-know-and-when-did-he-know-it about Henry's bloody casting aside of Anne Boleyn? But it's for precisely all these reasons, this crazy mix of brilliance, deep piety, and willingess to questionably muck in politics that I'm voting for him. As shining and perhaps as besmirched as he is, he is a man for our grubby and yearning times. I can't blame him for recanting; I don't know that I'd do too well when faced with the flames. But his statement when he finally met the pyre still sears my heart.

  5. There is much about the birth of the English Reformation that is ugly, but I love the Book of Common Prayer.

  6. I can't stand recaptcha!!! If I have to choose pictures every time I want to vote. I'm quitting Lent Madness, and I have been here from the start.

    1. Don't quit! You may recall that, I believe, last year there were some "unfaithful characters" who tried to beat the system. Recaptcha was probably put in place to protect all of us.

    2. Oh, sad! Seems to me we have always had a few glitches during the first rounds but they always get it fixed asap. Seems sad you would give up LM during a first day glitch. Seems like this is a minor thing. I too had a bit of difficulty, but my vote went through after I waited and retried a couple of hours later. Figured they are working on it.

  7. The voting apparatus does not work well. It takes great effort for the push on the vote button to work. This was true last year too.

    Thomas the Apostle, without a doubt.

  8. For the last 15 years I have followed Lent Madness. I look forward to the smack downs right after Christmas. I voted for Thomas the Apostle because, to me, he represents us "Can believe it till you see it!

  9. I tried to vote - 3 times I checked “captcha” and 3 times my vote was not allowed. I just want my one vote for Thomas the apostle to be counted. And, please, don’t banish me!

  10. I went to the website and it doesn't allow me to vote, but rather says "Thank you for your vote." But I didn't vote yet? I'm confused.
    This is a fantastic idea, though. My first year participating!

  11. Such a difficult choice. Both are so deserving of the Golden Halo! My vote goes to the Apostle because I look forward to hearing about the Acts of Thomas!

  12. I was quite conflicted about this one. Having had a parish named for St. Thomas, I have probably preached more sermons about the doubter than any other of the sains. I find myself always going to his defence, primarily because he is so human on his response to the other disciples. On the other hand, Cranmer gave us the BCP and Anglicans are so clearly people of the book. We don’t park our brains at the door of the church. But Thomas wins out for me because he is the first one to make us think, to use our brains as well as our hearts.

  13. This year’s Lent Madness is not playing nicely with my phone. It told me my vote was not allowed despite completing the Captcha successfully and now it says Thank you for your vote. I’m not confident my vote was actually counted but maybe that’s appropriate since I voted for Thomas the Apostle.

  14. How do we know that Thomas was being sarcastic when he said, "Let us also go, that we may die with him"? I'd always thought that he said this out of extreme loyalty and enthusiasm (very much in the moment), but who knows? ... In other news, difficult choice this morning. I look forward to more.

    1. Exactly!
      some people cannot recognize definitively a sarcastic statement even when they're with someone. who's narrative do we have to verify that what he said was said sarcastically?

  15. Thomas Cranmer is my relative. The Cranmer name has been passed down every generation in my family.

  16. My vote goes to the Apostle who wasn't afraid to say what was on his mind, who sought his own company when things got tough and so missed out, who struggled but didn't give up. I also vote for Thomas the Apostle in honour of the wonderful Christians who were members of the Mar Thoma Church and attended the local Anglican parish where I served my curacy.

  17. Both are all too human Thomases and that is why I am drawn to them. I was ordained on the feast of St. Thomas but what kind of a church would I have served without the Book of Common Prayer? Thomas Cranmer it is.

  18. I read tte post on my phone but the vote button didn’t work. I went to the online version and it would not accept my vote.

  19. Having trouble voting…again. To my consternation is appears that I tried to vote twice. Or maybe 3 times. I do hope that my single vote will count, and the SEC of Lent Madness will not ban me from voting despite the fact that my brackets are always busted, often on the first round. What a choice today!

  20. The “juicy tales” about Thomas the Apostle are intriguing, but I love the Book of Common Prayer. Thomas Cranmer gets my vote.

  21. GM! My email from you didn’t allow me to vote so tried again at website but message said vote not allowed:(. And, ive been promoting LM at work and shared today’s matchup on FB!!

  22. It is Thomas who first proclaims in the Gospel of John Jesus equality with God most high, so to him we are most grateful.

  23. I had the same difficulty others have reported: unable initially to log onto the site, then having my vote rejected two or three times. I re-subscribed and updated my preferences and was finally allowed to vote. Lost my first smackdown! Not a good omen.