Thomas the Apostle vs. Albert Schweitzer

Welcome to the Saintly Sixteen! With your help, we have successfully whittled our field from 32 saints to 16. For this round, rather than the basic biographical information, we enter the realm of Quirks and Quotes. Our brilliant Celebrity Bloggers will provide unusual information or legends surrounding their saints along with quotes either by or about their saints.

If you need a quick refresher on those first round battles (and want to look at the initial bios), click the Bracket Tab. Just beneath the bracket, you'll find all the previous matchups sorted by round.

Yesterday, Claire of Assisi snagged the last available Saintly Sixteen by defeating Rafqa of Lebanon 59% to 41%.

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Thomas the Apostle

Thomas is remembered as Jesus’ twin. In some texts, like the Gospel of Thomas, Thomas’ twinness is spiritual – he is Jesus’ spiritual twin and as such has special insight. In other texts, Thomas is Jesus’ twin physically. In one comical scene in The Acts of Thomas, Thomas leaves a room and immediately the risen Christ appears in the room and a man confuses him for Thomas.

Although Thomas is remembered for his journey to India to proclaim the gospel, Thomas was initially hesitant to go. After Christ told him, “Fear not” and promised him that his grace was with him, Thomas replied, “Send me where you will – but somewhere else!” 

Christ then appeared to Abban, a man sent by a king in India to secure a carpenter to build his palace (part of Thomas’ twinness included a facility with wood, apparently). Christ informed Abban that he had a slave who was perfect for the job and sold Thomas to him. The next day the Savior led Thomas to Abban and Abban showed Thomas the deed of sale. Thomas acknowledged that Christ was his “lord” and Abban replied that Thomas had been purchased from him. At this, Thomas prayed, “Send me where you will, Lord Jesus – your will be done!”

Once he arrived in India, he was taken to the king who ultimately left him with a mound of cash to build a palace. After the king left on a long journey, Thomas promptly gave all the money away to those who were poor in the city. The king continued to send Thomas money in installments, all of which Thomas continued to give away to those in need. 

Some time later, the king came to check in on the progress of his palace and discovered that Thomas had given all the money away. He locked Thomas up and planned a cruel execution for him. That night, the king’s brother died and was taken to see the magnificent palace in heaven that his brother had unwittingly built with his charity. The brother asked that he be allowed to return and tell his brother of the palace. This was granted and the king set Thomas free when he heard of the glorious abode waiting for him when he died.  

Thomas continued traveling around India, where according to some sources, he baptized the Magi who had come to see the baby Jesus. They then helped him in his missionary activity. 

There are different accounts of Thomas’ death. In one he converted the wife of the cousin of a king after which she “shunned her husband’s bed with horror.” When the king sent his wife to try to convince her to recant, she too was converted and would no longer sleep with the king. 

In a rage, the king arrested Thomas and tried to torture him in various ways, none of which were successful. Finally, in an Elijah-esque duel, Thomas cast a demon out of an idol. At Thomas’ command, the demon then melted the idol “like wax.” The high priest, furious at Thomas, and wishing to avenge his god, impaled him with a sword. Centuries later, Thomas’ remains were returned to Syria. 

David Creech

Albert Schweitzer

If Albert Schweitzer had written “The Quest for the Holy Jesus” as a role-playing game (RPG), then Albert would be a tenth level cleric with healing capabilities (going for the geek vote here). In fact, like any good cleric, Albert was wise and spent his life sharing his knowledge, love, and wisdom of God and life through writing and action. He spent his life in the quest for Jesus.

Like any good cleric, Albert was a fan of bards and cats (going for the cat and music people vote) saying, “There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.”  And was an avid member of PETA (if PETA were around then), “We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it.”  But these messages and teachings from Albert, were rooted in a search for what it means to love like Jesus.

In a world of war, disease, and misery, Albert brings a message of kindness and healing to those suffering around him, “Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

And Albert knows that the clerics in life are the ones who bring the light to dark places, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us” (y’all gamers know that the cleric always carries the torch).  He calls us to be that light for each other in our Quest to Find Jesus.

But unlike a truly savvy gamer who knows that the secular quest is about rolling better dice and getting critical hits, Albert teaches, and alternate way of living by way of entering the journey, both good and bad and trusting in God: “Eventually all things fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moments, and know EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON.”

Albert knows that the only way to win the game of life is love.  He teaches us that love is the greatest healing potion of them all.  And he knows that we all win the Quest for the Holy Jesus when we choose love. “The only thing of importance, when we depart, will be the traces of love we have left behind.”

Give thanks (and your vote) for the witness of Albert in the world today.  His witness provided a map for all of us to follow in the quest before us.

Anna Courie

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85 comments on “Thomas the Apostle vs. Albert Schweitzer”

  1. Not all was sunny with Schweitzer’s social commentary. In recent years, many have taken him to task for decidedly paternalistic and racist descriptions of his African patients that would offend many a 21st century observer. Guess I’m one of them. Thomas all the way

  2. A matchup between two people known for both their theological doubts and their courageous lives of Christian service. How appropriate!

  3. How do I get to the bios from the previous round? I went to the 'Bracket" listing in the menu tab but couldn't find a way to access the first round write-ups.

  4. Had to vote for Thomas since he's a character in my book 'Lazarus' and nice to know by all accounts he really did have a sense of humor since that's also the was I portrayed him. I love Albert S!
    Fierce match up!

  5. I enjoyed both write-ups today. Kudos to both bloggers: well done! The stories of Thomas, while utterly apocryphal, are fun. But I recoil at the idea that Jesus ever sold someone into slavery. And I doubt Albert's dictum: I don't think everything does happen for a reason. Some things are simply random and awful. We try to endure. I'm not sure either figure captured that for me today. However today's vote turns out, both bloggers win.

    1. I totally agree with your comment about Jesus selling Thomas (or anyone) into slavery, even metaphorically. We should never be forced into believing, nor slaves to our faith, religion, Christianity, spirituality, whatever you want to call it. If we are slaves to anything, we end up resenting it. Albert speaks of “sparks” and “gratitude” and being the light for one another to help us find our way. That is how I believe. Albert for the win today.

  6. I love the stories of Thomas and delight that the Mar Thoma Church continues to live for God in the world. As a non singing, dog loving Christian my vote still goes to Albert for his ministry of kindness, compassion and healing, and for the needed reminder, “The only thing of importance, when we depart, will be the traces of love we have left behind.”

  7. I'm a huge fan of St. Thomas, but I was won over today by the music and cats. And by the Way of Love. This was the hardest choice yet.

  8. Call me what you like, I preferred Thomas over Albert. First hand legends over fact!

  9. Voted for Albert. My vote again did not register 🙁 Perhaps it's because I use Google Chrome?

    1. I ended up voting in Chrome on my MacBook after having trouble in Safari on both my iPhone (vote stuck submitting so Captcha timed out [as if I stopped being human ]) and my iPad (wouldn't let me select the circle next to either name), so I doubt it is that you use Chrome. One just needs to keep trying different devices (if you have them) or at least different web browsers if you only have one device until you get your vote to fully cast.

      I voted for Albert in honor of all the cats I have known, currently know, and will know in the future.

  10. I voted for Thomas in the first round and I truly wanted to see him go all the way to the G Halo. Wish he and Albert had not been paired because I definitely would have voted for Albert also.

  11. Sorry, St Thomas, but I have lived with cats all my life, and was a professional cathedral chorister. Albert Schweitzer was considered god-like when I was growing up, and perhaps this is one way I can show my great appreciation for his mind.

  12. I think I can relate on multiple levels to "Send me where you will, Lord - but somewhere else!" Go, Thomas!

  13. The hagiological lockers are filled with Thomases. In addition to Thomas the Apostle, the doubter, a.k.a. Didymus, there are:
    Thomas Becket
    Thomas a Kempis
    Thomas Aquinas
    Thomas of Villanova
    Thomas More
    Thomas Merton
    Thomas of Celano
    Tomas de Torquemada (err, maybe not)
    There could be almost an entire LM consisting of this plethora of Thomases. So I voted for Albert Schweitzer of whom I learned from my grandmother, an admirer of the saintly man.

  14. I was going for Albert until I heard the ghastly cliche "EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON."

    It may not be his fault, but that is the absolute cruellest thing to say to someone who is suffering. Even the dreadful "You brought this on yourself" at least gives the sufferer agency.

    Besides, the pseudographical Gospel of Thomas is weird but nifty.

  15. “We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it.” <---wins the Internet today. Go Albert!

  16. I'm a longtime fan of Albert Schweitzer and am astonished to read that he said "Laugh at the confusion and live for the moments, and know everything happens for a reason." Sure enough, it's all over the internet, but so was, for a time, the claim that the celibate Dalai Lama told us to make love with wild abandon. Schweitzer built and ran a hospital in Gabon, lived through two world wars, and toward the end of his life devoted himself to world peace and nuclear disarmament. I cannot imagine him saying this. Does anyone know where to find it in his writings?

    Among the many joys of being retired, this morning I have had time to read his Nobel Prize Acceptance speech and his Declaration of Conscience, and dabble in his two volume (or is it three?) Philosophy of Civilization. The closest I can find to quotes that can be cross-stitched or meme-ified are: "Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man (sic) will not himself find peace, and "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

    Despite his famous paternalism, it's Schweitzer all the way for me. But "everything happens for a reason?" Ugh.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to do a bit of fact checking, as I think many of us have raised our eyebrows at "everything happens for a reason," etc. Things can be quoted (and quotes can be made up and attributed) with wild abandon on the internet, so I for one appreciate your thoughtfulness in pursuing this.

    2. This quote (or something very like it) seems to have been floating around the internet since at least 2004; it sometimes shows up anonymously, but also gets attributed to John Mayer (but never to a specific song) and a character from Sex&the City (though nobody seems to know which episode.) Strange company for Schweitzer!

  17. Starting in grae school, I was always picked on whenever they talked about "Doubting Thomas," so here is my chance to strike a blow and redeem both Thomas and myself!
    I think he has gotten a bum rap all these centuries as a doubter, but turns out he was a lot more than that!
    GZoing up against ALbert Schweitzer is a toughie, but I am still voting for my saint THOMAS! GO TOM!

  18. With the "y'all" I must surmise that Anna Courie must be from the great state of Texas!!

  19. Being the deacon at St. Thomas the Apostle in Humboldt TN you KNOW where my vote is going!

  20. Toughest matchup ever! Schweitzer was not perfect -- I did a bit of research this morning and found that yes, while he revered all living beings, he had trouble appreciating the cultural and societal norms, so different from his own, of his rural African neighbors, referred to them patronizingly as his "little brothers" and in other words which would make us shudder today. Yet he did so much good and is indeed arole model for our times in myriad ways. And I truly hope that that cringeworthy and hackneyed line of bad theology (in an otherwise very inspiring writeup!) did not in fact come from him.
    ... But my vote must go to Thomas. As Frederick Buechner wrote, "doubts are the ants in the pants of faith." Jesus loved him, doubts and all, and appeared to him. Through Thomas, the patron saint of all of us with antsy-pantsed faith, the risen Christ is seen morely clearly by us all.

  21. So sorry to see St. Thomas getting knocked out of the running. I need role models of people who doubted yet persevered.

    And PLEASE tell me that "everything happens for a reason" is apocryphal.

    Given the proclivities of many Lent Madness voters, I'm already foreseeing a final match-up of Julian of Norwich (my fave) vs. Albert Schweitzer where we see comments of "She was great but he actually DID something to HELP people!" Oh well! 😉

  22. Good job, Anna! I love the creative way you wrote up Albert Schweitzer. He gets my vote!

  23. My male Siamese, Samson, told me I had to vote for Albert. Since I am his personal servant, I voted for Albert Schweitzer.

  24. Are y’all really cool with voting for a man who thought Africans were ‘children’ who needed to be compelled to work by restrictions on their freedom? (Schweitzer, The Primeval Forest, pp 88-89)

    Over an Apostle and witness to the risen Christ?

    1. I look at people in the historical and cultural context in which they lived. No one is perfect. Not even the Saints at rest. It is tempting to judge people of the past by the standards of the present, but people do and say things based upon the knowledge they have at the time, not what we know in our time. A few hundred years from now, should Christ tarry still, people will look back and be tempted to judge us by their advanced standard.

      Random person (we can call this person Buck Rodgers if you want) in the 25th Century:
      Oh, those late 20th and early 21st Century Americans who put up with people sleeping on the street instead of building enough affordable housing for them, who let mass shootings happen - even in schools and places of worship - without enacting serious gun control, and tolerated extreme incivility in their political discourse, especially from certain candidates for high level offices; they were just horrid people. Cannot vote for ____ in Lent Madness CDXLIV because ____ said ____ which we know is just wrong.

  25. Both incredible men, but I voted for Albert. I love the quotes that he left us. A new one to me - "Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

  26. I love the admonition to laugh at the confusion and live for the moments. That advice seems to be a path to mental health these days. Albert gets my vote. Also I’m a cat and music person