Spy Wednesday?

imagesAs the Lent Madness faithful are fully aware, voting for the Golden Halo takes place on the Wednesday of Holy Week. You may have heard the Supreme Executive Committee refer to this day as "Spy Wednesday." Unlike many terms associated with the saintly smackdown, the SEC did not, in fact, make up this name on a whim. Thus, as several of you have asked us about this unusual name for the Wednesday in Holy Week, we thought we'd shed some light on this.

First of all, Spy Wednesday does not refer to James Bond, the Cold War, or even the famous Spy vs. Spy comic strip popularized by Mad Magazine (though there is an uncanny resemblance here to Tim and Scott).


Read More
Could a Golden Halo Winner Go Green?

No, this is not a green-themed story connected with St. Patrick's Day, because who would want to read about a saint who was driven out the Round of 32 in Lent Madness 2011? This is a story about good old American green currency.

The Supreme Executive Committee has just learned that Frances Perkins, winner of the 2013 Golden Halo, continues to leverage her newfound fame. She is among the short list of women who could grace the $20 bill!

Frances Perkins on $20

As reported in the Boothbay Register, there is a growing movement to put a woman on the American $20 bill. If you think a Maine newspaper might be biased toward their local hero, the New Yorker has the skinny too. Of course, we at Lent Madness would be happy to see Andrew Jackson (or anyone else for that matter) get tossed aside in favor of a Golden Halo winner. In fact, rumor has it that a number of Lent Madness fanatics have initiated a grass roots campaign to get Mary Magdalene on the nickel.


Read More
The "Other" March Madness

cbs-sports-2015Here at Lent Madness HQ, we take brackets seriously. Thus when someone alerted us to the fact that there is some other bracket-style tournament that takes place in March, we thought we'd better take a look. What follows is the Official Lent Madness Bracket Analysis For Tournaments Taking Place During March That Do Not Involve Saints.

When you examine the NCAA basketball tournament from a saintly hermeneutic (which is a $500 theological word that young preachers should never, ever, under any circumstances use in a sermon), three categories emerge: The Obvious, The Perhaps, and The Give Me A Break.


Let's start with The Obvious. Here are the teams encompassing overt saintly references. You can't deny the influence of the holy when looking at these teams:

St. John's University (Red Storm) -- The only question is which St. John. The Baptizer? The Evangelist? Of the Cross? They get additional points for the allusion to Pentecost in their nickname.

Providence College (Friars) -- The school moniker is a synonym for heaven. Plus they get extra credit for invoking Providencethe image of Friar Tuck.

Notre Dame (Fighting Irish) -- Any team named for Our Lady is "obvious." Too bad there are no "Hail Mary" plays in basketball. The word "Fighting" is lamentable but Celtic saints (Brigid of Kildare this year) often do very well in Lent Madness so it balances out.

San Diego State (Aztecs) -- The city is actually named for the 15th century Spaniard holy man San Diego of Alcala, not Juan Diego who made the 2015 Lent Madness bracket. Alas.

Xavier University (Musketeers) -- This institution is named for St. Francis Xavier, the Spanish Jesuit who was co-founder of the Society of Jesus.

Southern Methodist University (Mustangs) -- When you put "Methodist" in the name, you are clearly a religious institution. Plus, Charles Wesley is a former Golden Halo winner.

Villanova University (Wildcats) -- Named for Saint Thomas Villanova, 16th century Spanish friar.


Schools in The Perhaps category may have some redeeming saintly qualities. Or perhaps not:

North Carolina (Tar Heels) -- The Carolinas (north and south) were named for Charles I or England (Carolus is Latin for Charles). While Charles is commemorated by some Anglicans as Charles the Martyr, he is not on the official calendar of the Episcopal Church. His Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, however was defeated in the first round of Lent Madness 2015 by Kamehameha.

North Carolina State (Wolfpack) -- See above.

Coastal Carolina (Chanticleers) -- See above. BUT they get points for having a mascot that is associated with the thrice-denying apostle Peter. Also, what's up with so many teams from North Carolina?!

Valparaiso University (Crusaders) --  If nothing else, they get the award for the most un-politically correct mascotvalpo name. "Onward, Christian soldiers!"

University of Louisville (Cardinals) -- The city in Kentucky is not named for St. Louis the IX of France. No, it's named for Louis XVI -- who is not a saint. HOWEVER the mascot is named for an ecclesiastical order of the Roman Catholic Church.

Virginia Commonwealth (Rams) -- At first glance, the VCU mascot would be more at home in Los Angeles or St. Louis where the NFL team of the same name once resided and currently resides. HOWEVER the team is named for the animal caught in the thicket after God tells Abraham to stop the presses and not sacrifice his son Isaac after all.

Eastern Washington (Eagles) -- They get points because they named their mascot after the symbol of the Fourth Evangelist.


Teams falling under The Give Me a Break rubric shouldn't be listed here at all. Yet here they are:

Maryland (Terps) -- This would be listed under "The Obvious" except that the state is not actually named for the Virgin Mary. Rather for King Charles I of England's wife Queen Henrietta Maria (Queen Mary).

Virginia (Cavaliers) -- Ditto. Virginia was not named for the Virgin Mary but for the Elizabeth I, the "Virgin Queen."

Louisiana State University (Tigers) -- Not named for St. Louis (who once appeared in Lent Madness) but rather Louis XIV or France.

Kentucky University (Wildcats) -- Contrary to popular belief, Kentucky was not named for Lent Madness 2015 participant Thomas Ken.

Georgetown University (Hoyas) -- Named for neither St. George nor his dragon nor former Golden Halo winner George Herbert, nor Scott's dog George. Rather Georgetown is named for either George II of England or the town's two founders -- both named George.

dukeDuke University (Blue Devils) -- It doesn't matter how many games or titles Coach K has won. Your team is named after (a blue-tinted plural version of) Satan.

If your Lent Madness bracket has been hopeless busted, you may well decide to fill out the "other" bracket. Go ahead. And if you enter an office pool, we definitely suggest you use this analysis to decide all your picks. Or at least invoke St. Matthias, the unofficial patron saint of gambling (he was chosen to be an apostle by the casting of lots).

Read More
We're baaaaaaaaaack...

Dear Lent Madness Faithful,

Early this morning, at about 8:20 am EST, the Lent Madness website went down. You probably heard the collective weeping and shutterstock_52411522-arc-between-cut-wires-1-Croppedgnashing of teeth that rang out all over the globe. Or you may have noticed the uptick in purple votive candle sales that impacted the international markets.

After a lot of hard work, we are pleased to announce that the saintly smackdown is back up and running. Scott and Celebrity Blogger David Sibley (hard core technophiles) were able to remedy the presenting issue. This was particularly impressive since Scott is currently in Rwanda on a pilgrimage with Episcopal Migration Ministries. Also, when it comes to technical fixes, Tim is useless.

Our (soon to be former) hosting company 1and1 shut the site down due to high volume without giving us any notice. The good news is that we are provisionally back up and running and you can now go vote in today’s matchup between Balthazar and Cecilia. . The bad news is that we will need to shut the site down again to switch servers (hopefully on Sunday so it won’t affect voting). We’ll keep you posted.

Update 11:13 PM EST: Because of the high server load, things continue to be quite slow and a bit dicey - but voting is open, and votes are being recorded. Our advice: keep trying to vote!

In order to give both Balthazar and Cecilia their due. We are extending the voting period until tomorrow (Saturday) at 2:00 pm EST.  Then the polls will close and all will be right with the world. For the time being.

Now, to assign blame. That’s the Christian thing to do, right? We have several working theories:

Read More
Commenters: We salute you

20000_7e0bDuring today's battle between Jackson Kemper and Margery Kempe someone posted the 20,000th comment on the Lent Madness website. This milestone has put the SEC into a reflective mood and thus we offer the following thoughts:

1. 20,000 comments -- about saints?! It's pretty amazing that so many people have engaged their faith since we started this dedicated Lent Madness website in 2012. Sure, the advent of the internet led to an explosion of people sharing opinions in public forums and we're used to people opining about sports teams and politics. But the fact that so much thought has gone into commenting about people who have followed Jesus is still stunning.

2. Most online forums are hardly...gracious places. With rare exception, those who comment on the saintly smackdown are respectful and kind. People often share their impressions and personal experiences in touching ways. Humor and good cheer abound even amid differences of opinion. This is hardly common when it comes to open online forums -- the phrase "internet troll" is well deserved. Yet Lent Madness seems to bring out the best in people.

3. Lent Madness is a learning opportunity. Most people understand that the whole notion of saints "competing" against one another is absurd and that the real point is to learn about some amazing people. Of course brief write-ups are just scratching the saintly surface and we love it when commenters share resources with one another in order to go deeper.

4. It's self-policing. In the first year or two Scott or Tim would regularly have to jump into the commenting fray to answer questions or redirect the tone. This rarely happens now because others are quick to step in and we're grateful.

5. For the most part. Occasionally people should pause before hitting "submit" and think about whether the comment is hurtful in any way. Yes, advocate for your saint but please don't trash the other one. I mean, cultural context and all, there's good reason why all of these folks are in the bracket. If a certain saint "does nothing" for you that doesn't mean she or he hasn't inspired the person in the next cubicle.

6. Comments build community. It is through our interaction with one another -- the playful, the maddening, the informative, the prayerful -- that community is built. Yes, you are part of the Lent Madness community and it is a very real, not merely virtual, community.

7. We love lurkers. The term "lurker" isn't an insult. It refers to those who fully engage by reading and voting but never comment. Actually only a very small percentage of those who read blogs actually leave comments. This doesn't mean they don't care or aren't passionate about the topics at hand -- they're just not the commenting type. If you are a lurker, that's fine!

8. The dilemma for voters. "Should I read the comments before I vote or not?" Some participants check in comment-box_mediumthroughout the day to read and reflect and only then cast their vote. Others intentionally ignore the comments in order to remain bias-free. Whatever your method, you're right!

9. If you've never commented, jump in! Everyone's first comment gets moderated -- just to make sure you're not a troll or spam -- so if it doesn't appear immediately, you'll know why. Whether profound or trivial or somewhere in between, your comments do enrich all of us. If you've been hesitant to share your thoughts publicly, go ahead and jump in! The commenting water's fine.

Whether you've left one comment or 50 over the past few years, we're grateful for your engagement and trust that the process of reading others' has been food for your Lenten journey. Onward to the next 20,000...

Read More
A Peek Behind the Purple Curtain

nyc_st_luke_fieldsThe Church of St. Luke in the Fields is an historic parish not in rural Iowa as the name would imply, but in the heart of Greenwich Village. That would be in Manhattan, New York City, not Manhattan, Kansas, just to be clear.

This year they're engaging in Lent Madness full bore on their parish blog. As every parish should.

But the folks at SLITF (no clue if that's the acronym they use but we like it) have gotten quite creative in the process. They're actually inviting parishioners to vote twice in each battle -- not in a voter fraud kind of way because then they'd all be banned from Lent Madness and this would quickly turn into a rather awkward post -- but once on our website and once on their blog. The idea is to fully participate with all of us but then to see which saints their own parishioners are supporting. We're not sure what they'll do with the information once it's collected but presumably the NSA is watching and keeping tabs on this subversive activity.

As part of their Lenten hype, they asked Tim to write something Lent Madness-y. So, ladies and gentlemen, prepare for a peek behind the Purple Curtain as Tim reveals what goes into the formation of the Lent Madness bracket.

Lenten Reflection
A Peek Behind the Purple Curtain of Lent Madness

People often ask me, “How do you choose the saints for Lent Madness?” It’s a good question – one that I’ve wrestled with since Purple-Curtainsstarting this “madness” on a whim in 2010.

I’d love to tell you that it’s entirely the work of the Holy Spirit and not just my trusty Ouija Board. Actually the process has evolved a bit over time. The first couple of years, back when I hosted it on my blog, I really did just go through Lesser Feasts and Fasts and pick 32 saints with good stories I thought people should know about.

In 2012 when I decided to partner with my online archnemesis, Scott Gunn, the executive director of Forward Movement, we collaborated and tried to be a bit more intentional about the choices. We always seek a diverse group of saints Biblical and modern, ecclesiastical and monastic, famous and obscure and I think we’ve done a pretty good job over the years.

For the last couple of brackets, we’ve solicited nominations from the general Lent Madness public sometime during Eastertide. I wouldn’t call it a “democratic” process since Scott and I still make up the (mostly benign) dictatorship that is the Supreme Executive Committee and have the final say. But each year a number of nominated saints do make it into the bracket.

Being into our sixth year, people also wonder if saints are ever eligible to make a return appearance. You know, if they were prematurely “martyred” in the early rounds. The answer is yes and no. Saints who went deep into the tournament the last few years are ineligible and previous Golden Halo winners are permanently retired from the competition. The whole idea is to give other saints a chance at Lenten glory (not that they need it) while allowing participants to learn about a whole new crop of saints.

So there you go. For the first time, the process of saintly selection has been fully revealed. Now go vote!

Read More
The Lent Madness Peaceable Kingdom

Sharon_StCuthbertOttersWith the appearance of seals and otters in the early rounds of Lent Madness 2015, some of you have wondered about the Supreme Executive Committee's overall stance on and treatment of animals.

While we thank you for your concern, we are here and now announcing unequivocally that no animals have been harmed in the formation of this year's bracket.

Indeed, to our critics we point to the ultimate animal lover, Francis of Assisi's inclusion in this year's saintly smackdown. According to (perhaps someone's?) tradition, Francis preached to both Thecla's ravenous seals and Cuthbert's otters. In the icon above, you can see the otters in action doing a splendid job drying the feet of Cuthbert who, we have been assured, did not step on them by accident.


Read More
Lent Beyond the Madness

This morning at 8 a.m., we learned that Molly Brant had defeated Swithun to earn a spot in the Saintly Sixteen. This will be the only Sunday morning voting result of Lent Madness 2015. For many Lent Madness fans, today will be hard, because this is the first day in Lent without any voting. People will be twiddling their thumbs, constantly refreshing their web browsers, or scouring their homes for something purple. This unsettled feeling is familiar to veterans here, and it's called Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW). This one day won't be so bad, but future weekends will involve two days without voting. So to help with LMW, and even more important, to suggest some other ways to engage Lenten practices, we thought we'd share a few ideas.

lentAlthough the Supreme Executive Committee commends Lent Madness to every man, woman, child, dog, and ferret, we also acknowledge that the saintly smackdown is only part of a well-rounded diet of Lenten discipline. As we wrote on Ash Wednesday, "This Lenten season, we invite you to draw closer to our Lord Jesus. Give up those things which keep you away from Jesus. Take on those things that bring you closer to Jesus."

Here are a few ideas for Lenten practices that might bring you closer to Jesus.


Read More
Top Ten Lent Madness Pro Tips

Lent Madness 2015 is off to a great start. On opening day, Ash Thursday, we broke our previous record for page views and votes. Competition has been fierce, while the comments have been (mostly) gentle. That's just how we like it. Because the SEC cares about you, the Lent Madness Global Viewing Public, we wanted to offer a few pro tips to maximize your enjoyment and learning from Lent Madness.

But first, if you haven't yet voted in today's match-up between Swithun and Molly Brant, vote right now.


10. Lobby celebrities for endorsements
Let's face it. If you could get, say, Pope Francis to urge people to vote for your favorite saint, that would garner lots of votes. This is how to win -- rally others to vote for your saint. If you can't get the pope, try your neighbors, your priest, your local police chief, or your local news anchor. Here is Pope Francis showing his potential as a spokesperson, as he wears purple and possibly talks up his favorite saints.
Pope in Purple

9. Read up on the saints
If you were one of the lucky ones who scored a limited-edition Saintly Scorecard booklet, use it to read the bios and prayers for the saints. You can also get the Saintly Scorecard as an ebook. While the ebook doesn't include a fold-out bracket, you can add a fold-out bracket to your Kindle for maximum enjoyment. Jennifer Roland offers the paragon of digital-analog Lent Madness fandom, with her e-reader adorned by a homemade fold-out bracket.
kindle with bracket

8. Vote one time only
Those who vote more than once are liable to be cast into the outer darkness of Lent Madness. We want free and fair match-ups. Voting 300 times because you really want your saint to win is going to get you banned, and that's just no fun.

7. Make Lent Madness ubiquitous in your parish
St. Paul's Church in Rochester, NY has placed not one, not two, not three, but FOUR giant bracket posters around the church to tally the results. The posters are all sold out, so you have a couple of choices. You can print out regular-sized brackets (for free!) and issue magnifying glasses so they look big. Or you can find a bracket poster and use a massive photocopier to duplicate the number you need.
St. Paul's Rochester, NY


Read More
Happy Lent Madness Eve!

keep-calm-and-let-the-madness-begin-1As Ash Wednesday morphs into Lent Madness Eve, the stage is set for the start of the 2015 edition of "The World's Most Popular Online Lenten Devotion"®. Tomorrow's opening match-up between Gregory the Illuminator and Brendan the Navigator will go live at precisely 8:00 am Eastern Standard Time. Read about both saints and then vote (once!).

If you're new to Lent Madness you may want to participate by leaving a comment -- many people do and it's fascinating to learn why people vote the way they do, how a particular saint has touched them or why they identify with or connect with a certain person or story. Sure, sometimes you might vote for a saint just because you like her name but often the reasons run much deeper. In a very tangible way, this is how the Lent Madness community is formed and it's fun to check back throughout the day to see what people have posted.

Now, we know that all over the world, people are marking Lent Madness Eve. According to news reports, thousands have gathered in Times Square to watch the Halo drop. Others are popping non-alcoholic beverages and refraining from consuming chocolate.

We thought we'd offer a few suggestions for making your Lent Madness Eve both meaningful and safe. Here is a top ten list of activities to engage in as you keep vigil until 8:00 am EST.


Read More
1 2 3


* indicates required

Recent Posts