Dorcas vs. Frederick Douglass

Occasionally the SEC adds matchups based on little more than (deeply prayerful) whim. This isn't such a case, mind you, but we do sometimes get jazzed by things like alliteration. Thus, today it's Dorcas vs. Douglass. That has a certain saintly ring to it, don't you think? The winner faces Juan Diego in the Saintly Sixteen.

Yesterday, Cuthbert sent the Venerable Bede packing with a veritable Bede-down of his medieval contemporary, 63% to 37%. He'll next square off against Molly Brant.

Don't forget that our Bracket Czar updates the online Bracket each day. Scroll down to see the corresponding Matchup Calendar and learn the precise date when your favorite saint will be locking horns (not that saints have horns) with his or her next saintly rival.

After today's competition, we will be exactly halfway through the first round. Remember, no voting takes place over the weekend so the next matchup will be Francis of Assisi vs. John Wycliffe on Monday morning. Now go vote!

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Bede vs. Cuthbert

Sure, almost everything we know about Cuthbert, we learned through the writings of Bede. Had Bede known that he would one day square off against Cuthbert in the saintly smackdown, perhaps he would have written a different tune? Nonetheless, these two face one another in a rare battle of contemporaries. The winner will go up against Molly Brant.

Yesterday we saw one of the greatest routs in Lent Madness history with Kamehameha spanking William Laud 84% to 16%. He'll go on to face David Oakerhater in the Round of the Saintly Sixteen.

Speaking of routs, our bracketologists did a bit of digging to unearth where Kamehameha's victory ranked among the annals of Lent Madness blowouts. In 2013 Florence Li-Tim Oi, the first woman ordained in the Anglican Communion, defeated Chad of Lichfield by the same percentage, 84% to 16%. Talk about your hanging Chad...

But the greatest blowout in Lent Madness history, percentage-wise, came in the very first year this devotional started. In 2010, Francis of Assisi defeated Aelred of Riveaulx 87% to 13% in the Elate Eight. For the record, Francis lost to Julian of Norwich in the Faithful Four that year and is now back in the bracket for the first time since.

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William Laud vs. Kamehameha

Ah, a battle between an Archbishop of Canterbury and a king. That seems rather familiar. But the real question is, which island will emerge victorious in this matchup between William Laud and Kamehameha? England or Hawaii? Whoever it is, the winner will advance to face David Oakerhater in the next round.

Yesterday's battle between Thecla and John Keble led to some respectfully passionate debate in the comment section. In fact, we set a record for most comments in a first round pairing with over 300. Impressive! In the end, Thecla prevailed 58% to 42% meaning we'll be hearing more about those ravenous seals in the Saintly Sixteen when she squares off against Brendan the Navigator.

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John Keble vs. Thecla

Today we experience something of a time warp, traveling from the 19th century back to the days of the early church. We encounter John Keble -- priest, poet, academic, and major player in the revival of the Church of England and Thecla -- companion of the apostle Paul and passionate pursuer of holiness.

In yesterday's saintly action, Juan Diego advanced to the Saintly Sixteen with a 57% to 43% victory over Hadewijch. He'll face the winner of Dorcas vs. Frederick Douglass. 

As an aside, we've been delighted to see the number of comments that come in throughout the 24 hours each matchup is open. They are a wonderful blend of thoughtful and gracious and educational and inspirational -- basically the opposite of nearly every other online forum!

And in case you missed yesterday's episode of Monday Madness, it included a verifiable miracle involving a corporeal Golden Halo. Not that Tim and Scott are angling to make it into the 2089 bracket or anything...

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Hadewijch vs. Juan Diego

As Lent Madness voting resumes for the week, we encounter Hadewijch and Juan Diego, two outsiders in their own unique ways. In case you're wondering about the pronunciation, Hadewijch rhymes with hate-a-witch (if you're either a Wiccan or from Salem, Massachusetts, please don't get offended). 

In the only Saturday match-up of Lent Madness 2015, Molly Brant sent Swithun back to the proverbial swamp 58% to 42%. Molly will face the winner of Bede vs. Cuthbert in the Saintly Sixteen.

 Yesterday, in case you missed it (and if you did, you should sign up on the home page to receive e-mails every time we post something), we shared some resources to supplement your Lenten journey. We've invited folks to add others in the comment section, not because we don't have all the answers but because we're lazy. So check out what we're calling "Lent beyond the Madness" and feel free to add to the list.

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Swithun vs. Molly Brant

"Wait, St. Swithun was a real person?" We get that a lot. "Wait, Molly Brant was a real person?" We never get that. Nonetheless, welcome to the first and only Saturday match-up of Lent Madness 2015. Go ahead, sleep late and dally over your coffee while you read about these two saintly souls. But don't get used to it: after today's battle, voting will return bright and early on Monday morning with Hadewijch facing off against Juan Diego.

In yesterday's action, David Oakerhater stunned Teresa of Avila in the first major upset of the season. In heavy voting (another day, another record total), David scored 60% of the vote to Teresa's 40% and will go on to face the winner of William Laud vs. King Kamehameha in the Saintly Sixteen.

Yes, folks, it's called Lent Madness for a reason. If your bracket is busted, you're not alone. But stick around -- the real goal is to learn about some amazing people, not to "win" Lent. Of course if you do stand victorious at the end of the season, you have every right to gloat. In a loving, Christian kind of way, of course. 

As long as you're enjoying a leisurely morning, why not listen to Tim chatting about all things Lent Madness from yesterday's edition of Boston Public Radio? Click here and then scroll to 1:28 of the broadcast to catch the only segment that really matters.

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Teresa of Avila vs. David Oakerhater

Today's match-up between Teresa of Avila and David Oakerhater is Lent Madness at its confounding best. A 16th century Spanish mystic vs. a 19th century Native American deacon. How can you possibly compare these saintly apples and oranges? Well, that's the challenge you're confronted with on this second day of Lent Madness 2015 and you may as well get used to it.

Don't forget, tomorrow is the one and only day there will be a Saturday Lent Madness battle. It's a math thing. So Molly Brant will face off against Swithun. In case you were wondering about the timing, these match-ups are always posted at 8:00 am EST and the polls are open for 24 hours.

Remember to vote only once. The SEC is vigilant about multiple voting (Scott used to work for IBM so he can zap votes if necessary and Tim, well, he has two teenage sons so he has at-home tech support). Voter fraud is a sin. Don't be cast into the outer darkness of Lent Madness where we guarantee there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth! And perhaps even public humiliation. If you will be casting multiple votes from a location because you're at a school or other institution, just let us know in advance. Also, you'll be glad to know that we keep Jimmy Carter on retainer to insure safe, honest, and open elections.

In yesterday's battle, Brendan navigated his way to a comfortable victory against Gregory the Illuminator 61% to 39% and will face the winner of John Keble vs. Thecla in the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. It was an historic day at Lent Madness as voting totals were at an all-time high with 7,800 votes cast. We also shattered the previous record for website page views in a single day with 38,000. So, in a fleeting moment of humility, we thank you all.

For an updated bracket and links to past rounds, click the Bracket 2015 tab on the Lent Madness homepage. Bracket Czar Adam Thomas updates it every day for your clicking pleasure.

Oh, and if you can't get enough of the Madness? Check out Scott's interview with Fr. Benjamin Gildas on the podcast Priest Pulse. And tune in to hear Tim talking about Lent Madness on Boston Public Radio today at 12:20 pm (Live radio! Could be a train wreck!).

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Gregory the Illuminator vs. Brendan the Navigator

And thus it all begins: Ash Thursday is finally upon us. Hang onto your halos as we start "navigating" the bracket and "illuminating" the lives of 32 saints throughout this Lenten season. All are worthy (yes, they have already received their respective crowns of glory) yet only one will attain the coveted Golden Halo.

Along the way there will be debates, ire, angst, rejoicing, and holy trash talking. Just remember, it’s all in the spirit of this season specifically set aside to grow closer to God through our relationship with Jesus Christ. On behalf of the entire Lent Madness team, we’re delighted you’ve decided to spend some of this holy season with us.

If this is your first year playing Lent Madness, welcome! You’re in for a fun, informative, engaging, occasionally wild, ride. (Looking for a how-to-vote primer? Click here). If you’re back for more heart-stopping saintly thrills, it’s good to see you!

After you vote, the Supreme Executive Committee of Lent Madness encourages you to do three things: First, like us on Facebook. Second, follow us on Twitter (if you just can’t get enough of the Madness, social media is the perfect way to continue the conversation). Finally, visit the Lentorium where you can purchase ebook versions of the Saintly Scorecard: The Definitive Guide to Lent Madness 2015 and other Lent Madness paraphernalia such as mugs, Bracket Posters, and Golden Halo Flying Discs. Perhaps you'd like to be among the first to wear a Purple Lent Madness T-Shirt, available starting today in small, medium, large, extra-large, and double-extra-large. You can play Lenty Claus by donning a purple hat and presenting Lenten gifts to your cat groomer, local barista, long-lost cousin, etc. -- they will be thrilled with such thoughtful and wholly unexpected gifts.

P.S. Here’s a Lent Madness “Pro Tip” — if you want to receive all the daily match-ups in your e-mail inbox, we encourage you to go to the home page and “subscribe” by entering your e-mail address (near the top right). This will ensure you never miss a vote!

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Free Stuff! Lenty Claus Visits Your Browser!

free-stuff-because-we-love-youLet's face it, Lent is not exactly known as a season of gift-giving. No one complains about the over-commercialization of Lent or the Lenten-Industrial Complex. Sure, we hawk a few Lent Madness mugs around here, but that's just to get everyone in an appropriately penitential mood.

Nonetheless, the Supreme Executive Committee is offering you a free, no-strings-attached Lent present. Don't get your hopes up -- it's not a hair shirt. But it is a perfectly serviceable newsletter/website article about Lent Madness 2015, lovingly ghost written by the SEC.

Feel free to use it (for free!) in all your church publications. If you are a parish administrator or communications specialist, this is your lucky day. If you are a member of the clergy being nagged by the newsletter editor for an article, manna has just fallen from the sky.

That’s not all, of course. This article can be sent to your local desperate-for-material newspaper. (If you want to share it with your local media, we suggest you add some quotes from church leaders or parishioners.) This article can be e-mailed as a chain santaclaus9letter to your entire contact list. It can be tattooed to your back. Multiple copies can be printed out and used as a drop cloth when you repaint the kitchen cabinets.

But that’s still not all! Because he's in a Lenten mood, Lenty Claus (that's us -- but don't tell the kids) will throw in free widgets for your website or blog! Click here to access them.

Lent Madness 2015
Which saint will win the Golden Halo?

For the sixth year running, people worldwide are gearing up for Lent Madness, the “saintly smackdown” in which thirty-two saints do battle to win the coveted Golden Halo. Calling itself the world’s most popular online Lenten devotion, Lent Madness brings together cut-throat competition, the lives of the saints, humor, and the chance to see how God works in the lives of women and men across all walks of life.

The creator of Lent Madness, the Rev. Tim Schenck, says, “People might think Lent is all about eating dirt and giving up chocolate, but it’s really about getting closer to Jesus.” Schenck, who is rector of St. John’s Church in Hingham, Massachusetts, adds, “The saints aren’t just remote images in stained glass windows or pious-looking statues. They were real people God just happened to use in marvelous ways.”

Lent Madness began on Schenck’s blog in 2010 as he sought a way to combine his love of sports with his passion for the lives of saints. Starting in 2012, he partnered with Forward Movement (the same folks that publish Forward Day by Day), to bring Lent Madness to the masses.

The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, Schenck’s Lent Madness co-conspirator, says, “Throughout Lent, as we’re having fun with the competition, we are also inspired by how God used ordinary people to do extraordinary things.” Gunn, who is executive director of Forward Movement in Cincinnati, Ohio, adds, “That’s the whole point of the Christian life: to allow God to work in us to share God’s love and proclaim Good News.”

Schenck and Gunn form the self-appointed Supreme Executive Committee, a more-or-less benevolent dictatorship that runs the entire operation. The formula has worked as this online devotional has been featured in media outlets all over the country including NBC, The Washington Post, FOXNews, NPR, USAToday, and even Sports Illustrated (no, really).

Here’s how it works: on the weekdays of Lent, information is posted at www.lentmadness.org about two different saints. Each pairing remains open for 24 hours as participants read about and then vote to determine which saint moves on to the next round. Sixteen saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the Golden Halo.

The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch.
This year Lent Madness features an intriguing slate of saints ancient and modern, Biblical and ecclesiastical. 2015 heavyweights include Teresa of Avila, Frederick Douglass, Francis of Assisi, Hildegard of Bingen, Balthazar, and the Venerable Bede. The full bracket is online at the Lent Madness website.

From the “you can’t know the saints without a scorecard” department, the Saintly Scorecard -- The Definitive Guide to Lent Madness 2015 is available through Forward Movement. It contains biographies of all 32 saints to assist those who like to fill out their brackets in advance, in addition to a full-color pull-out bracket.

This all kicks off on “Ash Thursday,” February 19. To participate, visit the Lent Madness website, where you can also print out a bracket for free to see how you fare or “compete” against friends and family members. Like that other March tournament, there will be drama and intrigue, upsets and thrashings, last-minute victories and Cinderellas.

Ten “celebrity bloggers” from across the country have been tapped to write for the project including the Rev. Amber Belldene of San Francisco, CA; the Rev. Laurie Brock of Lexington, KY; Dr. David Creech of Morehead, MN; the Rev. Megan Castellan of Kansas City, MO; the Rev. Laura Darling of Oakland, CA; Neva Rae Fox of Somerville, NJ; the Rev. Nancy Frausto of Los Angeles, CA; the Rev. Robert Hendrickson of Denver, CO; the Rev. Maria Kane of Houston, TX; and the Rev. David Sibley of Manhasset, NY. Information about each of the celebrity bloggers and the rest of the team is available on the Lent Madness website.

If you’re looking for a Lenten discipline that is fun, educational, occasionally goofy, and always joyful, consider this your invitation to join in the Lent Madness journey.

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