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. It is very difficult this year to vote. The circle does not easily change to a dark one. My friend is also having this problem. Suggestions?

  2. Both C’s are worthy of a vote. Hard choice / but I appreciate feisty women so Canaire got mine

  3. Canaire may not be historical in a strict sense, but she represents all the women of the early Church who were silenced, whose names and teachings have been forgotten in the official narrative. Hints of their existence remain in stories like this one.Some woman, sometime, pointed out that Jesus had women as disciples too, and died for all of us, not just those with a Y chromosome. Men have been denying that ever since : "who for us men (oh yes, that includes women too, I guess...) and for our salvation came down from heaven..."

  4. Every single day I have to go through a whole rigamarole to vote. I have to press the button multiple times for it to register. Today I counted. Fifty seven times and I still could not vote for Canaire.

    We have enjoyed Lent Madness for many years and never had the problem like this since day one of this year. It’s become a trial instead of fun. My husband gave up a long time ago and I think I’m at that point now.

  5. All stories are true stories; some of them even actually happened. Canaire's story is a true story of one woman saying yes to God's call, and persisting in spite of patriarchal noes, belittlement and exclusion. It is an ongoing story still unfolding in our time, and Canaire is a force among a great cloud of women standing and witnessing to help the moral arc of God's world bend evermore toward fully embracing the gifts of all of God's people.

    1. I had trouble voting and posting today for the first time. I tried via my AOL email; I tried via Chrome and gmail. I finally tried via the old Safari link on my Mac and was able to vote and now comment.

  6. Wow! Yes, I was ready to vote for Canaire, such an incredible woman! However, I can almost hear the words of Galerius Maximus! What horror, and those words must have been repeated so many times. I voted for the courageous Cyprian.

  7. I voted against Canaire, not because of her, but because Ms. Miller writes incomplete and confusing sentences. Not the best writer Lent Madness has recruited.

  8. I predict that "Canaire" is going to become a very popular name for baby girls as a result of her part in Lent Madness. She gets my vote.

  9. The second day I’ve not been able to vote. Cyprian of Carthage gets my vote if votes count in comments.