Canaire vs. Cyprian of Carthage

Happy Tuesday! Today's it's an impromptu Battle of the Cs as Canaire faces Cyprian of Carthage. What type of C Change will this elicit in the bracket? We have no idea.

Yesterday, in one of the tighter contests of Lent Madness XV to date, Joseph of Arimathea snuck past Kassia 52% to 48% to advance to the Elate Eight.

Also, yesterday, Tim and Scott rued yet another Oscar's snub in this week's scintillating episode of Monday Madness.

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All that we know of St. Canaire comes to us in “a thin story from a thin place,” as one member of the Lent Madness community so eloquently put it. But it’s a good story packed with fiery quotes, and it resonates today.

A quick recap:

A vision of all the churches in Ireland as Canaire sensed her death was near in about 530 C.E.

A tower of fire from the monastery founded by St. Senan, considered one of the “12 Apostles of Ireland,” on the island of Inis Cathaig.

Walking more than 113 miles — the last leg, on water — to the place she saw in her dreams.

Going toe to toe with Senan.

And, finally, her remarkable sermon when Senan refused to let her ashore his all-male island.

“Art thou better than Jesus Christ?” Canaire retorted.

“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?"

“The Lives of the British Saints” records her response when Senan — possibly her brother, which would explain a lot — relented and did the halfway decent thing by telling Canaire she could step onto the beach and be buried there.

“‘God will grant,’ said she, ‘that the spot where I shall lie may not be the first to be swept away by the waves.’”

After taking communion there on the beach, Canaire set out on her next journey – through the veil. She stepped into the presence of the God who sent her vision and emboldened her words — but not before she spoke truth to power and reminded Senan of Jesus’ high regard for women, treating his female followers as equals.

Her sermon reportedly changed some of Senan’s thinking moving forward, and it speaks to us still as Women’s History Month begins and we have a long way to go.

Notably, Canaire’s grave was not the first spot swept away by the waves on Inis Cathaig, just as she foretold. You still can visit it today, and, reportedly, some ships do, picking up a pebble from the beach to carry with them for protection and to honor the saint. That’s why, in addition to being admired by many feminists by Ireland, she also is claimed as patron saint of fisherman and seafarers.

Semi-related legend: Inis Cathaig later was renamed Scattery Island, inspired either by the Norse word for “treasure” or the name of a mythical monster who resided there.

Emily McFarlan Miller

Cyprian of Carthage

We are fortunate that the writings of St. Cyprian – theologian, priest, and the first African bishop martyr - have survived since his death at the hands of his Roman tormenters in his hometown of Carthage in 258.

Emperor after emperor put Cyprian directly in the bull’s eye for his Christian beliefs and practices. Nonetheless, Cyprian resisted and forged on with his teachings and writings.

Most important of his surviving works is On the Unity of The Catholic Church. In it, as a young Christian, Cyprian movingly expresses his conversion and baptism:

When I was still lying in darkness and gloomy night, I used to regard it as extremely difficult and demanding to do what God's mercy was suggesting to me... I myself was held in bonds by the innumerable errors of my previous life, from which I did not believe I could possibly be delivered, so I was disposed to acquiesce in my clinging vices and to indulge my sins... But after that, with the help of the water of new birth, the stain of my former life was washed away, and a light from above, serene and pure, was infused into my reconciled heart... a second birth restored me to a new man. Then, in a wondrous manner, every doubt began to fade... I clearly understood that what had first lived within me, enslaved by the vices of the flesh, was earthly and that what, instead, the Holy Spirit had wrought within me was divine and heavenly.

Years later, after making an indelible mark on Christianity in North Africa, a heated exchange with the Roman Proconsul illustrates Cyprian’s staunch faith and his resistance to the Romans:

Galerius Maximus: "The most sacred Emperors have commanded you to conform to the Roman rites."
Cyprian: "I refuse."
Galerius: "Take heed for yourself."
Cyprian: "Do as you are bid; in so clear a case I may not take heed."
Galerius: "You have long lived an irreligious life, and have drawn together a number of men bound by an unlawful association, and professed yourself an open enemy to the gods and the religion of Rome; and the pious, most sacred and august Emperors ... have endeavoured in vain to bring you back to conformity with their religious observances; whereas therefore you have been apprehended as principal and ringleader in these infamous crimes, you shall be made an example to those whom you have wickedly associated with you; the authority of law shall be ratified in your blood."

The Proconsul concluded: "It is the sentence of this court that Thascius Cyprianus be executed with the sword."

St. Cyprian was beheaded the next day in the public square. His life was over, but his faith, illustrated through his works, lived on.

Neva Rae Fox

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45 comments on “Canaire vs. Cyprian of Carthage”

  1. Tough call.

    I love the quote "When I was still lying in darkness..." from Cyprian and I will print it out and post it somewhere. Very moving.

    Voted for Canaire though because her journey over the water was a personal one as she followed a clear call. And if Senan was her brother or not, making peace with family is so important and worthy of my vote today.

  2. I'll always vote for speaking truth to power. Canaire's arguments for women's equality are so strong as to leave no question.

  3. Come on, people! I love a Celtic saint at least as well as anyone, and Canaire’s “thin story” is right up there with the best of their legends. But Cyprian was for real and deserves to go forward, speaking truth to power, standing in his faith against Rome, not just sparring with his brother over a burial place. VOTE CYPRIAN!

      1. I am a woman and I voted for Cyprian. I believe Canaire had s true calling and a vision from the Holy Spirit. I admire her strong argument for equality in a time when it was highly unpopular. I voted for Cyprian because he literally lost his head for defending the faith!!

  4. Stong use of quotes for both. Canaire spoke the truth to one, died knowing she had made the journey and followed her understanding of God's call. Cyprian spoke the truth to many and to power and was martyred following his call from God. Hard choice today, but Canaire seems to speak for the women of the world today.

  5. A hard decision today. I admire Cyprian immensely, for his writings and his courage, but today my vote goes to Canaire on behalf of all the women around the world still fighting the same battle to recognition and for equality.

  6. Another hard choice:
    1/2 vote to each.
    To be martyred by the Emperor,
    or to be martyred by your brother?

  7. As noted, it is Women’s History Month and we are still far from having equality, so I am voting for Canaire. We need strong women whose voices echo over the centuries. We need strong women today who preach the Gospel. I for one appreciate her inspired story.

  8. I voted for Canaire, but it was very interesting to read the speech of Galerius, about the "pious, most sacred and august Emperors." When we look back on the Emperors these are not words that come to mind. "Galerius Maximus was a Roman senator... active during the mid third century... suffect consul for an undetermined nundinium in the early 240s. ... best known as the proconsul of Roman Africa who condemned Bishop Cyprian to death for not obeying the dictates of emperors Valerian and Gallienus and making public sacrifices." That is the whole wikipedia entry for him! Sad to think that Galerius is only known for toeing the party line and condemning a saint to death. As an Episcopalian, our "three legged stool" prompts us to use our own reason, in conjunction with scripture and tradition, to determine what is right for us to believe. I feel sorry for Galerius, and I wonder if he ever repented killing a good man, or if was satisfied to take part in the execution of a man condemned for his religious beliefs and for unlawful association. I oppose capital punishment, so for me the ring of "the authority of law shall be ratified in your blood" is chilling!

    1. Going by Wikipedia, it says that Galerius Maximus was a new proconsul. Granted he may have already had some blood on his hands in order to get that high, but I feel for those who are new in their position and have to take an ethical and moral stand right out of the gate- even now, how many are put to the test and fail? Having had a government job where I had to be a "company man" and make judgements that had actual real-word harm to people, I wonder if I passed...

  9. Cyprian's witness was so important, so strong, that he is specifically included in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer 1) of the Mass. He knew that by defying Galerius he would be killed. This is the essence of martyrdom.

  10. Although her life story is not particularly inspiring, her quote
    “Art thou better than Jesus Christ?” Canaire retorted. He came to redeem women no less than men" acknowledged a truth that has too often been ignored by the Church.

  11. I seem to be voting a straight losing ballot this year, but my vote today goes to Cyprian of Carthage.
    How many today are feeling trapped in habits they know to be wrong, asked to agree to priorities and definitions they disagree with, and long to be back to a more innocent, clean stage in life. And also knowing that doing so will only anger those who do not want to see anyone doing better than themselves. The people of Carthage needed his message, and they need it today.

  12. Cyprian, lthough truly a saint for his profession of faith in the face of martyrdom does not get my vote today. I have to go with Canaire for her boldness in speaking up for women and because shes the patron saing of fishermen (and women) Tight lines,Canaire!

  13. Canaire....a brave, early feminist. Had to vote for her reminding Senan/her brother that Jesus stood up for women, too.

  14. I tried to commment but the system said I had already posted the comment. But it's not there at this point so here it is again. Canaire....a brave, early feminist. Had to vote for her reminding Senan/her brother that Jesus stood up for women, too.

  15. I pity the fool who questions the supreme executive council may be rigging the election . Ms. m from Pierre, SD (another voter from the heartland of the USA)

  16. I could not vote online . What is going on ? This is the 2nd day I could not cast my vote. My vote today is for Caniare .

  17. I enjoy keeping track of the Celebrity Bloggers during the course of LM. Whichever saint loses today will also take his/her CB along into that outer darkness, to await a new call in 2025. Thanks to both of you today, and to all the Celebrity Bloggers for your ministry to the Lent Madness community.

  18. I didn't count how many times I clicked on the verify system, but I sat here for many minutes and was not able to vote. I will return later and see if I can manage it. I think I was in a loop.

  19. Yeah, yeah, Canaire is likely fictional, but so is Martha of Bethany, and she already won the Golden Halo. It's what Canaire and her words represent--a challenge to the all-male hierarchy of the Church--that got her my vote.

  20. I went with Cyprian, because the exchange with Galerius sounds like a Monty Python sketch. Is "most pious, most sacred, and august emperors" a laugh line? Why does power always try to put on a cloak of morality? I was less than impressed that Canaire's burial spot was "not the first" to be washed away. If I ever perform a miracle, it will definitely be more impressive than that. May the church ever be an "unlawful association" when that means it resists oppression and allies itself with the poor and dispossessed.

  21. Interesting that the indictment of Cyprian has almost identical wording that would be used against any that the Catholic Church also deemed to be heretical and would either torture and kill or outright kill. Take out the plural small-g gods and replace it with singular capital-G God and replace Pope for Emperors and you have the inquisition in a nutshell. (I’m still voting for Canaire, though.)

    “You have long lived an irreligious life, and have drawn together a number of men bound by an unlawful association, and professed yourself an open enemy to the gods and the religion of Rome; and the pious, most sacred and august Emperors ... have endeavoured in vain to bring you back to conformity with their religious observances; whereas therefore you have been apprehended as principal and ringleader in these infamous crimes, you shall be made an example to those whom you have wickedly associated with you; the authority of law shall be ratified in your blood."

  22. The dialogue between Cyprian and Galerius reminds me of the danger of religion allied with governmental power whether pagan, Muslim or Christian. Likewise it shows the danger of an unreasoning demand for strict orthodoxy.

  23. I love Canaire’s story…. But is it just a story… as over against a hard lived historical life?

  24. Cyprian is most honorable. But I have to go with Canaire and the support of women. We need all the help we can get.

  25. Aye, as a sailor I seek solace in the memory of Canaire. Though Cyprian speaks eloquent words, 'tis the water, the wind and the waves that reach the beaches of my soul. I, and me crew, with a pebble in our pocket, we sail with Canaire!

  26. This is going to be a vote heavily leaning towards women in the church. However Cyprian was a major theological mover and shaker over the thorny issue of submitting to Roman power and pagan religion. So with nod to my Sister in Christ, I move beyond gender identity and give Cyprian the vote.

  27. Much as I enjoyed Canaire's story, I had to vote for Cyprian, since we do know he was a real person!
    My track record this year is hovering at about 50% but I am not giving up! I have gotten the Golden Halo winners right the last couple of years, so here's hoping!
    BUT - GO, Cyprian!