Dietrich Bonhoeffer vs. Emma of Hawaii

The Faithful Four continues today as Dietrich Bonhoeffer takes on Emma of Hawaii for the right to face Mary Magdalene (who dominated Margaret of Scotland yesterday) for the 2012 Golden Halo. This match-up features one of the favorites to make it to the Faithful Four (Bonhoeffer) along with the true Cinderella of Lent Madness (Emma).

If anyone who completed a bracket before the start of Lent Madness had Emma of Hawaii making it this far, we commend you for your prophetic voice. Though we secretly believe you're lying. Seriously, did anyone out there pick Emma to make it to the Faithful Four?

To get to this point, Dietrich Bonhoeffer defeated James the Apostle, Brigid of Kildare, and Jerome while Emma of Hawaii got past Catherine of Siena, Paul of Tarsus, and Thomas Cranmer. And now, in the final battle before the Championship Round, we turn it over to celebrity bloggers Neil Alan Willard (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) and Heidi Shott (Emma of Hawaii).

Just as a reminder, the polls for the Golden Halo will open at 8:00 am on Spy Wednesday and close at 8:00 am on Maundy Thursday. Here's the updated bracket.

Easter Monday will mark the sixty-seventh anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Nazi Germany and of his last words: “This is the end – for me the beginning of life.” Those words, it seems to me, testify to the Easter faith that will be proclaimed this weekend throughout the world. In proximity to human suffering on a scale that is unimaginable to most of us, Bonhoeffer was able to declare that the ultimate word, a word of life, belongs to God.

The St. Stephen’s Martyrs – a group of men at my church – gather weekly for an hour or so of theology and a pint or so of beer. About a year ago we talked about the Holocaust. While having that discussion, there were related artifacts, Nazi and otherwise, in the middle of the table. It’s one thing to see those objects in old black and white news reels and quite another to see them in living color as we wrestled with suffering, revenge, justice, doubt, and – yes – faith, too. I can’t imagine how much harder it must have been for Bonhoeffer and others as they together wrestled not with relics but with realities. These were imperfect people, including Bonhoeffer, making imperfect decisions that they would have to live with for the rest of their lives.

Would we have returned home to Germany rather than stay in the United States? Would we have supported an underground seminary for the Confessing Church? Would we have chosen to jam the wheel of injustice by helping the conspiracy to assassinate the Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler?

Bonhoeffer made a decision, as a result of his faith in Christ, to stand with his own people and with the innocent in the midst of their experience of Good Friday. That, I think, was his most important and courageous decision.
Here’s a final endorsement from a higher authority in the Anglican Communion. Soon after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, announced that he would be resigning his position at the end of this year, he was interviewed about his various roles and secularism and faith by a parish priest in the Church of England. Archbishop Williams was asked, as the final question, with whom he would like to have dinner if he could sit down with anyone who has lived over the last hundred years. He answered, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury has cast his vote. Now it’s your turn.

-- Neil Alan Willard

After such hefty and regular doses of saintliness these past 40 days, the notion of what constitutes a saint is somewhat clearer in my mind. Several characteristics stand out: faithfulness to God despite hardship, fierce loyalty to one’s people, extravagant charity outside the bounds of cultural and social expectations. Queen Emma of Hawaii displayed all of these in boundless measure. Ultimately saintliness - our own included - is determined by the choices we human beings make over the course of our lives. Emma’s remarkable witness and legacy is defined by her choices.

Despite the tragedy of losing her beloved young son and her cherished husband as a woman still in her twenties, she chose to overcome her grief and become a staunch advocate for the Anglican mission in Hawaii and for her people. Despite her high station in life, she chose to work tirelessly to improve the health, the education, and the spiritual well-being of native Hawaiians of all ranks as well as haolies and foreigners.

Upon her death in 1885, Emma, whose baptism had been the first recorded in the parish register of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, was eulogized in Hawaiian by a congregational minister, the Rev. H.H. Parker. He posed the question to the grieving, “How did the late queen hold so supreme a place in the hearts of her people?”

He answered: “She loved the people. Love begets love. The common people believed that Queen Emma really did care for them.”

I am deeply inspired by the choices that Queen Emma made. She could have hunkered down in a cocoon of grief and privilege given her losses, her wealth, and her royal status. She could have abandoned the work of building the cathedral and the schools, but instead she sailed across two oceans to drum up funding for the cause. Indeed Bishop Wilberforce of Oxford, her guide in England, said, “...her energetic efforts and activities taxed his physical endurance.” By the time she left England - where she drew standing-room only crowds at numerous cathedrals - she had raised 6,000 pounds (about $640,000 in today's currency) for the work in Hawaii.

An obituary read, in part:

“The Queen is dead. We will not think of her as dead. Her good deeds will live after her, in them she will live, in that noble Hospital, in her Christian example she will live and those who knew her, loved her, cherished her can say with resignation:

There is no death!
What seems so is transition;
This life is of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life Elysian,
Whose portal we call death.”

Many saints are honored and venerated, but few are so beloved  - generation beyond generation - as Queen Emma of Hawaii.

“Love begets love” is right, and a standard for all the saints of God.

 -- Heidi Shott

Vote once!

NOTE: At 12:14 a.m. EDT, the Supreme Executive Committee removed 70 votes from Emma of Hawaii. We noticed that there were 20 votes in close succession from a residence in Hawaii and 50 from a residence in Arizona. While we commend your enthusiasm, we do not commend repeat voting. We're watching this one carefully, so don't vote more than once, please.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer vs. Emma of Hawaii

  • Emma of Hawaii (51%, 1,388 Votes)
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer (49%, 1,356 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,744

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Mary Magdalene vs. Margaret of Scotland

Welcome to the Faithful Four, friends. After weeks of learning and voting and occasionally squabbling (in a holy, churchy kind of way) we have whittled the field down to four spiritual heavyweights: Mary Magdalene, Margaret of Scotland, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Emma of Hawaii. Collectively, it's a fascinating group of four heroes of the faith stretching from Biblical times to the 20th century.

As we like to tell our five-year-olds when they join their first soccer team (that's football for our friends across the pond), "there are no losers, everybody's a winner." Of course we're lying. Thus, while we can sing the praises of these saints, only one Golden Halo will be awarded.

Today Mary Magdalene (Meredith Gould) takes on Margaret of Scotland (Penny Nash); tomorrow Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Neil Alan Willard) battles Emma of Hawaii (Heidi Shott); and on Spy Wednesday the championship round will take place. In this round, we let our four remaining Celebrity Bloggers loose as they answer the question "Why should Saint XX win the Golden Halo?" In other words, they've been charged with letting us know why their particular saint is so awesome. And, in a nod to the fact that the SEC is responsive to the cries of (some of) the masses, we are including a few works of saintly art.

To make it to the Faithful Four, Mary Magdalene dispatched John Huss, Joan of Arc, and Evelyn Underhill with relative ease. Margaret of Scotland bested William Temple and John Cassian before squeaking by Enmegahbowh. See the updated bracket and then please vote just once.

What calls any of us to embrace a particular saint? Our saints are extraordinary models of Christian faith and fidelity.  Throughout history, all have endured conditions and situations that, despite our best imaginations, we cannot fully comprehend.

These women and men of God are spiritual Sherpas, guiding us along the path; welcoming us back when we wonder and wander away. What makes Mary Magdalene first among equals is simply this:

“When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…” (Mark 16:9).

Jesus is indisputably the Christ, and entrusts Mary Magdalene with the near-thankless task of reporting his Resurrection from the dead. The disciples do not immediately believe her story of death defeated. Gospel stories about their resistance to hearing this liberating truth from a woman foreshadows a woeful and ongoing history of truth denied and evangelists mocked. (I sometimes find myself asking what has changed.)

While I have a (short) list of holy women and men who help sustain my faith, Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles, is my radical go-to saint. Contemplating her love and loyalty to Christ Jesus keeps my heart from breaking whenever I focus too long on wreckage wrought in the name of religion. For all this and more, she’s already wearing a golden halo.

Click here to see my Mary Magdalene board on Pinterest.

 -- Meredith Gould

Why should Margaret of Scotland win the Golden Halo? Because she was an awesome, saintly saint! Oh, yeah? you may ask...well, read on.

Margaret was intelligent, beautiful and devout, and she walked the walk of Christian service. After her rescue from shipwreck in Scotland, she gave up her plan of withdrawing into a nunnery and married a rough Scottish king and changed the ethos in the court and castle. Eventually the king himself was converted to the faith, thanks not only to her fervent daily prayers but also her daily charitable works.

She rose at midnight to pray (remember how her husband followed her into a cave, thinking she met with an enemy, only to find her in earnest prayer for him?) and in the mornings refused to eat anything herself until she had fed from her own hand nine orphans and given bread and alms to all the needy people who crowded into the great hall. She and King Malcolm washed the feet of beggars who came to them for assistance, even when it wasn’t Maundy Thursday.

Inspired by the Bible, during Advent and Lent, she hosted 300 non-royal people in the castle for banquets where she and Malcolm waited the tables, and she established not only several monasteries (including rebuilding Iona) and churches (for which she sewed fine vestments herself) but also had hostels constructed for the poor.

Further, Margaret had shelters built for travelers and paid the ransom to set free English captives. And she created a free ferry system across the Firth of Forth to convey pilgrims to the shrine of Saint Andrew. I just love ferries, don’t you?  Gliding across the water in the brisk salt air, wind in my hair, gulls wheeling and crying overhead, plumes of sea spray arching over the bow as the boat cuts through the waves...What? Oh. Sorry.

Margaret was a queen and wealthy, but she considered herself only a steward of that wealth. She used her power, influence, and resources to assist the poor and the hungry, orphans and pilgrims, prisoners and captives, as well as to build hostels, churches and abbeys. Instead of withdrawing from the world, she lived a disciplined life of labora et ora, work and prayer, in the world.

Margaret was not born at a time when she could touch Christ in person, but she strove to seek and serve Christ in everyone that she met in her own time and place. Plus she established the Queen’s Ferry and was awesome. She set an example for all of us to follow. And so, she deserves your vote for the Golden Halo!

-- Penny Nash


Mary Magdalene vs. Margaret of Scotland

  • Mary Magdalene (69%, 1,196 Votes)
  • Margaret of Scotland (31%, 548 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,743

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