How to manage long-term Lent Madness Withdrawal

Many Lent Madness fans have beseeched the Supreme Executive Committee for ways to survive the long duration until Lent Madness 2013. By the way, Lent Madness 2013 begins on February 14, 2013, and you can check the countdown clock any time on Anyway, in their mercy, the SEC has compiled a list of suggestions for those of you wondering how you'll last until next year's Ash Thursday.

We're also starting a support group called Lenten Seasonal Affective Disorder, or LSAD. Never before have so many lamented the end of Lent. We've heard reports that in at least one parish, a distraught Lent Madness participant tackled the Celebrant at the Easter Vigil just before she proclaimed the Easter Acclamation. And the managers of several fine hotels along Waikiki Beach have complained about finding several defaced copies of the requisite Gideon's Bibles. It seems that several guests have crossed out verses referring to "40 days and 40 nights" and have inserted the word "endless."

Top Ten Ways to Combat Long-Term LMW

1. Study the lives of more saints. Not only will you learn more about ways God's grace can work through any of us, but you'll have a leg up on next year's bracket.
2. It's never too soon to start organizing Lent Madness 2013 parties (dress up as your favorite saint) and bracket betting pools. Just make sure you are giving the proceeds to charity, as we do not condone gambling. Sure, St. Matthias was chosen by lots in the Book of Acts but that doesn't mean you should call your bookie to get lines on Lent Madness.
3. Start something fun and educational in your own congregation. Freely steal promotional ideas from Lent Madness, such as weekly videos or "Brackets to Go." We probably won't sue you.
4. If you enjoyed the humor of Lent Madness, follow Tim's blog. He's also on Twitter and Facebook.
5. If you enjoyed Lent Madness humor, but want the slightly less filtered version, follow Scott's blog. He's also on Twitter and Facebook.
6. Identify holy people who have not made it onto the calendar of the Episcopal Church, which would make them eligible for inclusion in Lent Madness. Lobby your bishop and General Convention deputies to push for calendar reform. If John Muir can make it into Holy Women, Holy Men, then our calendar could certainly hold a few prominent athletes who would kick some saintly rear in Lent Madness.
7. Think of more ways Forward Movement can support humor and fresh ways to nurture spiritual practices. Let Scott know. Or if you have suggestions for what to do with a two-room rector's office suite, let Tim know about those (he could really use a fireplace).
8. Invite Tim and Scott to come speak to your congregation or diocese. Seriously. They'll talk about how the church can grow when we take ourselves less seriously while taking Jesus more seriously. Just make sure there two two green rooms separated by great distance, as they have resumed their archrivalry.
9. Find some other places with great humor on the Internet.
10. Stop by Lent Madness and say hello now and then. We'll post something every few weeks to keep the Lenten fires going. Look for saint- or kitsch-related news. And you can be the first to know about Lent Madness 2013.

Finally, if you have suggestions for the bracket of Lent Madness 2013, contact the Supreme Executive Committee soon. They will be meeting in an undisclosed location to begin deliberations. Make sure you review this year's bracket, as well as the brackets for Lent Madness 2010 and Lent Madness 2011. The only saints who make repeat appearances are those who did not make it past the first round. Unless the SEC grants a special dispensation.

Read More
Spy Wednesday

Those of you who have been following along will know that the Supreme Executive Committee has been promoting Spy Wednesday as the day for the final battle for the Golden Halo. Several of you have asked us about the name Spy Wednesday. Ever happy to educate and inspire, we are only too happy to oblige.

Spy WednesdaySpy Wednesday gets its name because this is the day on which Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin. Because Judas is thought to be sneaky, his actions conjured up the image of a spy. This is how the Gospel of Luke recounts the events of today:

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present. (Luke 22:3-6)

The illustration here evocatively depicts this infamous scene. If you go to Holy Eucharist every day of Holy Week, the Gospel readings provide the narrative of Jesus' final days, an ever-quickening story that spins out of control and finally brings us to Good Friday.

It is surely a strange juxtaposition to think about Spy Wednesday and Lent Madness in the same moment. But the whole point of Lent Madness is to engage us all in an exploration of the ways God's grace has filled the lives of women and men through history and across all cultures. Sure, we've been silly and even competitive about our Lenten exercise. In the end though, we are learning to see in fresh ways how Jesus Christ matters to all humanity. That seems like a good and holy thing to do on Spy Wednesday.

Now, get thee to the polls and vote! Only one saint will emerge standing today, wearing the coveted Golden Halo. Will it be Emma of Hawaii or Mary Magdalene? You decide.

Read More
Other Golden Halos?

In anticipation of tomorrow's Championship Round between Mary Magdalene and the winner of today's Dietrich Bonhoeffer vs. Emma of Hawaii match-up, we thought we'd scour the interwebs for other Golden Halos. There is only one that counts, of course, and we will soon be driving these other folks out of business. But just so you don't get confused tomorrow, we thought we'd highlight these interlopers.

First we found an organization called Golden Halo Eldery Care. Who knew "eldery" was even a word? Since it has do with nursing homes and elder care, I can only imagine it's synonymous with "elderly." It's not clear whether the caregivers are saints or whether their services prepare those who will soon enough meet their maker to become saints.

Then there's the Golden Halo Foundation. It's hard to argue with an organization that helps children with long-term disabilities and their families. I didn't see any halos on the website -- just a plethora of butterflys. We wish them well even as we're slightly annoyed that they own the domain name

We're less enamored with the Golden Halo Salon in Culpeper, Virginia, whose slogan is "Look hot and heavenly at the Golden Halo Salon." I guess if you're going for that saintly glow this would be your place though I think the closest thing they'd offer to an actual Golden Halo would be highlights. And anyway "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity," the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us.

In the same vein, Maybelline has a product called Dream Mousse Shadow Gold Halo. Neither member of the SEC is familiar with such products although we're both thinking of picking some up in time for Easter Sunday.

Believe it or not there's also a rose called the Golden Halo, technically the Rosa Savaholo for you gardening connoisseurs. A bouquet of these babies would make a perfect gift for that special Lent Madness-loving woman in your life. Or guy since we're all about equality around here.

For some reason neither Tim and Scott were not asked to be the featured speakers at the Golden Halo Banquet put on by the Christian Chamber of South Florida. So rude.

Finally, here's a product with which to celebrate the winning of the Golden Halo. Drink to your favorite saint with Golden Halo Blonde Ale from Red Rock Brewery in Utah. If the St. Pauli Girl-esque label is too much for you, perhaps you'll prefer the more staid yet much creepier older logo.

Well, there you go. I hope this little exercise makes you appreciate the Lent Madness Golden Halo even more. We'll see you at 8:00 am Eastern Time to start the voting.

Read More
Etheldreda's tawdry souvenirs

This is a guest post by the Rev. Josh Hale, pastor of Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church in Nacogdoches, Texas. You might know Josh from Twitter, where he is @expatminister.

With the Elate Eight narrowed down now to the Faithful Four, let’s pause a moment and reflect on all of the kitsch which helped catapult (or hobble) these saints toward the Golden Halo. Clearly we can see that tacky souvenirs are not just a modern, capitalist byproduct of religion, but something which has been around for centuries—even millennia!

So just how did we come by these knickknacks...and evaluate them as "tawdry"?

I'm glad you asked.

My first year of ministry was spent amongst the Methodists of rural northeastern England, and they had established vibrant and enriching ecumenical partnerships with the Anglicans in their area. One of my colleagues' villages was West Halton (North Lincolnshire) and its parish church dedicated to Saint Etheldreda, of whom I had never heard before.

Saint Etheldreda

St. Etheldreda holding a church, possibly a souvenir model with a tempting sale price.

Now Etheldreda (or Æthelthryth) was an East Anglian princess. As a Christian young lady, she took a vow of perpetual virginity, which caused a fair bit of strain as she kept getting married off to build political alliances. As I heard the story, Etheldreda was married to Egfrid, the King of Northumbria at the height of its power. He wanted children, she clearly did not…so she hoofed it. She made it across the boundary of the Humber River to freedom, and the spot where she prayed in celebration is where the West Halton parish church is now located.

Great, you’re saying, but what does this have to do with those St. Margaret tote bags from last week? We’re getting there! After our friend Etheldreda celebrates her escape with two female companions, she goes further south to Ely (which was a gift from her first husband) and founded an abbey there, which later becomes the diocesan cathedral. She finally dies in 679 after a life of exemplary piety and impressive administrative gifts.

But here’s what you need to know--another, more common, form of her name was Audrey. Pilgrims visiting her remains in Cambridgeshire, and later those who patronized the fair held in her name in Ely, often purchased local goods to remember her by, especially lacy clothing. These came over time to be considered low-quality or outdated goods, and among 17th century Puritans (who disdained frills and lace) they began to be sneered at by a corruption of her name: tawdry.

So the next time you’re visiting the megachurch coffee shop or a cathedral bookstore, think about St. Etheldreda’s life of faith...and how she too is likely facepalming at the tawdry stuff Christians are willing to buy.

Read More
Devo with the Faithful Four, Part II

To follow up on the earlier post from today, here are excerpts from devotional sketches for the two saints who are duking it out on Tuesday, Emma of Hawaii and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These are excerpts from Calendar of Saints: Lent Madness 2012 Edition, published by Forward Movement.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

bonhoeffer iconAs the Nazi ring closed in upon him and the Confessing Church he had an opportunity for asylum in the United States, which he declined. He was arrested and jailed in 1943, and from his cell in Berlin he helped plan an assassination of Adolf Hitler. The assassination failed and Bonhoeffer’s involvement was discovered, and he was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. But his life was spared, for reasons we do not know, and he was transferred to Schoenberg Prison. There he served as chaplain to fellow inmates until on a Sunday in 1945, immediately following divine services, he was summoned by the guards and taken by automobile to Flossenburg Prison, where he was summarily hanged. That was on April 9. Bonhoeffer was thirty-nine years old. The crumbling German Reich formally surrendered twenty-eight days later.

May we, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, count the cost of discipleship to be worthy of our whole selves. Amen.

Emma of Hawaii

Queen Emma windowThe Hawaiian Islands were first evangelized by sternly Calvinistic Congregationalists and by Roman Catholics. Neither group had much respect for the other or for the native Hawaiian culture and traditions. King Kamehameha IV, who was crowned in 1854, and his wife, Queen Emma, actively sought a branch of Christianity that was all-embracing, reconciliatory, and accepting of Hawaiian culture, yet orthodox and traditional. They found such in Anglicanism. Queen Victoria served as godmother to their son. Under royal patronage Thomas N. Staley became Hawaii’s first bishop, ground was broken for St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Honolulu, The Book of Common Prayer was translated into Hawaiian, the Queen’s Hospital was founded, and several schools were established in the islands with Anglican clergy as tutors. Kamehameha was only twenty-nine when he died. Queen Emma lived on for many years and became a symbol of dignity and Christian piety to the people of Hawaii. The Archbishop of Canterbury described her as one of the most saintly souls he had ever met.

We thank you for the witness of Kamehameha and Emma and for their work to build up your church. Amen.

By the way, for only seven bucks you can get your own copy of Calendar of Saints: Lent Madness 2012 Edition. It’s available as an ebook only for Kindle and Nook.

Read More
Devo with the Faithful Four, Part I

Today being Palm Sunday, the Supreme Executive Committee is focused on palms, processions, readings of the passion of Jesus, and so on. However, we also can't escape the fact that tomorrow begins the showdown in the Faithful Four. Bright and early tomorrow morning, both Mary Magdalene and Margaret of Scotland will compete. Only one will emerge, ready to enter the championship match on Wednesday.

After lots of kitsch last week -- and a little bit of, um, kontroversy -- we thought we'd encourage a more reverent contemplation today. As many of you know, Forward Movement (the sponsor of Lent Madness 2012) publishes a book called Calendar of the Saints: Lent Madness 2012 Edition. It's a set of devotional essays for every saint in the official calendar of the Episcopal Church, plus the saints who made it into the bracket of Lent Madness this year but who aren't yet officially commemorated. There are plenty of places to get facts and narrative hagiographies. These brief essays are intended for private devotional use, and they tend to focus on one aspect of the saint's life which can be applied to our own. Each entry concludes with a prayer.

Here are excerpts from the two essays for Margaret of Scotland and Mary Magdalene. Later today we'll post the entries for Tuesday's contentants, Emma of Hawaii and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Margaret of Scotland

Margaret of Scotland icon[Margaret] was always a deeply religious person, showing great interest in the church and great compassion for the poor. In her youth she considered a religious vocation and in her maturity she found one, as wife and mother. Her firm and loving influence on the king, the church, her children, and the people, virtually renewed the life of the whole nation of Scotland. Under her influence monasteries, schools, orphanages, and hospitals were founded and the quality of life greatly improved in the land. One tragic aspect of Scottish life about which Margaret could do nothing was that of clan warfare and blood feuds. Malcolm was treacherously slain at Alnwick in 1093 and the grief-stricken Margaret died a few days later. Their son, David, became one of Scotland’s finest kings. Their daughter, Matilda, married the English King Henry I, and so Margaret and Malcolm are ancestors of the present British Royal Family.

As you did endue with zeal and charity your servant Margaret, so endue us. Amen. 

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene iconTradition has held that Mary of Magdala was a very emotional person and our English word “maudlin” derives from her name. She followed Jesus into Galilee and helped care for him and the disciples there. She witnessed the Lord’s suffering on the cross. She took oil to anoint his entombed body and therefore she is often represented with a jar of ointment. Her tearful reaction on finding an empty tomb is still a favorite line to many faithful, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:13). When the Lord appeared and called her name, “Mary,” she recognized him and exclaimed, “Teacher!” She was the first to see the risen Lord.

Help us to recognize Jesus when we meet him, that we may proclaim the Good News of his eternal life to the world. Amen. 

By the way, for only seven bucks you can get your own copy of Calendar of Saints: Lent Madness 2012 Edition. It's available as an ebook only for Kindle and Nook.

Read More
Foods of the Faithful Four

To help you through this weekend's likely bout of Lent Madness Withdrawal, the Supreme Executive Committee wishes to offer menu suggestions for Palm Sunday. We hope this will also aid in your discernment as to which of the Faithful Four you will seek to propel into the championship battle on Spy Wednesday.

Monday morning, Margaret of Scotland will face Mary Magdalene beginning at 8 a.m. Eastern time. One of two queens in the Faithful Four, Margaret will face the "Apostle to the Apostles."

Flickr user Meri Tosh gives us this picture of the classic Scottish food, haggis. Of course, whether it is food is debatable, but that's not our purpose here. Because the SEC seeks to be inclusive, we note (with some wariness) that there is something called "vegetarian haggis" too.


Finding food to represent Mary Magdalene was tricky. The one time in scripture we know she showed up for dinner, she brought ointment in an alabaster jar (or so Pope Gregory the Great said, referring to Luke 7:37). That seemed like a lousy choice for an illustration, so we combed through tradition. She is said to have confronted the Emperor Tiberius to tell him of Christ's resurrection whilst holding an egg. The emperor laughed and said that Christ's resurrection was as likely as that plain white egg turning red. Well, guess what happened? So here we portray Mary's red eggs (thanks to Flickr user jessmonster).

red eggs

On Tuesday morning, Emma of Hawaii is up against Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The action begins promptly at 8 a.m. Eastern time.

People will argue about the quintessential German food. Here we shall go with the classic pretzel as portrayed by Flickr user avlxyz.


Finally, a photo which shows the ubiquity of Hawaiian influence on pan-Asian cuisine. A few years ago, I snapped this photo in Tokyo. Yes, that's a Hawaiian food truck. In Tokyo.

Hawaiian food truck

So there you have it. Tomorrow after church, have a meal with eggs, haggis, pretzels, and perhaps some fruit. As you say grace, ask God to inspire you through dining.

Be known to us, Lent Madness, in the breaking of the pretzel, the cracking of the eggs, the slicing of the haggis, and the peeling of the pineapple.

Read More
Kitsch Cranks
laughing jesus

Proof that some people find Lent Madness to be amusing.

It has come to the attention of the Supreme Executive Committee that not everyone is enthralled with our display of saintly kitsch. In fact a small percentage of commenters have cast aspersions on the Round of the Elate Eight.

We have decided to share and, yes, rebut a few of these less-than-flattering comments.

"While I appreciate a little kitsch, I was hoping for more info and quotes. Disappointed today."

That's what the first two rounds of Lent Madness are for -- basic biographical information and quotes by or about said saint. We're disappointed you didn't pay closer attention to the brilliant offerings of our Celebrity Bloggers in the earlier rounds. Also, we wish to remind you that Google is your friend. It can be helpful in getting "info and quotes."

"I am just a bit uncomfortable about the kitschy thing, I love a good time, but...we could have done without the Barbie and puppet."

Well, as much as we strive to maintain your comfort and give you a good time, it's not a Barbie. It's a Mary Magdalene Wisdom Doll. We don't mind if you criticize us using the wrong doll name, but we don't think you want to get on Ken's bad side.

"As we approach Holy Week, and today’s match-up is a daunting one, your casual irreverence, with the kitsch, feels very ‘off’ to me."

Casual irreverence? Please. Our irreverence is unparalleled in the history of Lent. Or the history of madness. Don't sell us short.

"I find the kitschy collection somewhat disturbing. Your “mockery & irreverence” theme for Holy Week reminds me: not everyone was sorrowful at the Crucifixion.'"

Actually, according to the liturgical calendar that has existed for centuries, Holy Week is next week. Also, you may be surprised to learn that we Christians have a specific day for pondering the Crucifixion: Good Friday. We'll be done with our “mockery & irreverence” theme by then.

"I am disappointed that the women get this sort of treatment — remains to be seen if the “humor” carries through the rest of the finalists."

Why is humor in quotes?! That's offensive.

"I’m disappointed with this post. I could never be accused of being either faint of heart of humorless and I think most religious kitsch is worthy of at least a laugh and a half but I’m...hoping that this kind of humor is shared across gender lines."

Consider yourself accused.

Also, we are puzzled. If the first match-up of the Elate Eight had been two male saints, we'd be accused of sexism. Here we are in the midst of the Year of the Woman in Lent Madness 2012, and we can't seem to win. Stay tuned, and you'll see that we are equal opportunity kitsch-finders. Just look at today's battle between Jerome and Bonhoeffer. If you don't believe us, have a look at the archives of Lent Madness 2010 and Lent Madness 2011.

In the end, if you're not into the kitsch thing or find it offensive, do yourself a favor and go on a Lent Madness fast. We'll see you for the first two rounds in 2013.

Those of you who hate Lent Madness at this point might want to visit "Literally Unbelievable." You'll find like-minded friends for your crusade toward an anti-humor, anti-satire, anti-fun internet. Meanwhile, we'll carry on here. St. Paul said we should be fools for Christ. Jesus partied at Cana. We think a little foolish fun for the sake of the Gospel is just fine. Even in Lent.

Read More
Killer (B) Limericks

From the "be careful what you ask for" department, the Supreme Executive Committee sent out a call for Brigid/Bonhoeffer limericks. This difficult choice has people in a poetic mood. Below are a few items that have come our way. Here at Lent Madness we're always trying to make people famous (even if we don't have your last name).

From Sister Mary Winifred (an outspoken Brigid proponent):

In her mind, a great lake of ale,
A resource never to fail,
A drink for the Three
With some left for thee,
A wondrous, heavenly grail.

From Edna:

Undercroft  York Minster
an encounter with Brigid
Blessing through all time

From Joe Stroud

The SEC asked for a limerick.
I thought, "To write one would be quick."
"Cheap grace," "Lake of beer?"
'Tis too tough, I fear,
Too bad we can't vote a split tick(et).

This actual limerick(!) came with a disclaimer: "OK, it's ALMOST a limerick; and, it's the best I could do in a hurry!" and a word of encouragement: "But, seriously, thanks, SEC, for a wonderfully educational AND fun Lenten discipline."

From Elizabeth Davidson:

St. Brigid was a fine Irish lass,
Who hosted the needy with class.
While Bonhoeffer was brave
all the way to the grave,
this sweet maiden should still kick his ass.

From Mary J:

I dreamed of a great lake of ale
It may have been India Pale.
May a beverage no fitter
Than these waters of bitter
Slake the thirst of the Saints who prevail!

From the Rev. Lou Florio, Pastor of Messiah Lutheran in Mechanicsville, VA:

There once a bracket with Bs
- A Brigid and Bonhoeffer tease.
Both seemed real great
for Elate 8.
But voting for just one? Oh, please!

From Peggy Varien and Bronwyn Skov:

Ode to St. Brigid

The Bride of Kildare became Abbess,
Providing beer during Lent for the masses;
Also known as a scholar
Ever faithful to the Psalter,
She also gave voices to dumb lasses.

Dietrich was faithful to Jesus,
And found Adolph Hitler most grievous;
A fan of the bull fight
He plotted to incite
A movement of resistance most specious.

In the madness of Lent we must choose.
Will Brigid or Bonhoeffer lose?
The contest is fair.
You should vote for Kildare!
Of this we strongly approve.

Thank you to all of our contributors! Fans of Lent Madness are an aboundingly creative lot.

Read More
BREAKING EXCLUSIVE: The SEC Reveals the Truth Behind the Archbishop's Resignation

The TruthIt is impossible to overstate the worldwide impact of Lent Madness. Not only is Lent Madness having an impact from Houston to Toledo, but even Lambeth Palace has been shaken to its foundations. Savvy Lent Madness commenter and intrepid reporter Jason Tillman writes about the truth behind the recent news from Lambeth. After much investigation, the Supreme Executive Committee is now able to confirm that Lent Madness is responsible for the leadership change in the Anglican Communion. Here is Tillman's report:

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams must be following Lent Madness. He was so impressed with Mary Magdalene’s trouncing of Joan of Arc that he was moved to accept the post at Magdalene College!

Obviously, Rowan Williams felt that it would be impolitic to resign immediately so he could devote his full energy to cheering on Mary Magdalene in Lent Madness 2012. But his resignation will have boosted her name recognition even further. And it is almost certain that his decision to go to Cambridge (as opposed to Kenyon College) must have been influenced by his desire to be associated with a Lent Madness winner.

Who knows what other world events will be influenced by Lent Madness? Will parents start naming their children Enmegahbowh? Will Santa Claus give up this year, and will children receive copies of books they'll never read? Will helicopter parents finally back off, thus enabling their children to be chaste, but "not yet"? Will people named Thomas ever regain their self-esteem?

All we know for sure is that the next Archbishop of Canterbury had better be more impressive than Theodore of Tarsus if there's to be any hope of getting past the first round of Lent Madness.

Finally, the SEC did want to quell one rumor that has Twitter all abuzz. In a jointly released statement Scott and Tim made it clear that neither one of them will accept the nomination to serve as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. "We are utterly dedicated to the task at hand: helping Lent Madness attain world domination. While we would both willingly accept a few hand-me-down cloth-of-gold copes and perhaps even the bishop's throne itself from Canterbury Cathedral, reliquishing a spot on the Supreme Executive Committee to become the titular head of the Anglican Communion would be a vocational step backward."

We trust this knowledge will allow Lent Madness Nation to sleep soundly this evening. And not merely because you have gorged yourself on corn beef, cabbage, and Guinness.

Read More


* indicates required

Recent Posts