Luke the Evangelist vs. Oscar Romero

The Faithful Four continues today as Luke the Evangelist and Oscar Romero vie for a shot at Frances Perkins and the coveted Golden Halo. To get to this point, Oscar sailed past Elizabeth Ann Seton, Lucy, and Florence Li Tim-Oi while Luke defeated Absalom Jones, John Donne, and Dorothy Day.

In yesterday's contest, after Hilda of Whitby jumped out to a slim early lead, Frances Perkins stormed past her like Spectacular Bid on the inside rail and cruised to a 61% to 39% victory with nearly 5,600 votes cast.

Voting for the Golden Halo will commence at 8:00 am Eastern Time on Spy Wednesday and the winner will be announced at 8:00 am on Maundy Thursday. Scott and Tim share this information and discuss the process for nominating saints for Lent Madness 2014 in their most recent Monday Madness video. And speaking of videos, don't forget to watch the archbishop's commentary about today's match-up from Maple Anglican -- AND they answer the question that many have been asking "Why is Wednesday in Holy Week called Spy Wednesday?"

st-luke (1)Luke the Evangelist

It is true that no one actually knows the name of the author of Luke-Acts. However, whoever it is took “Luke” as a pen name, writing in first person about adventures in the early church in the guise of a Gentile, a physician, and a faithful companion. Whoever “Luke” was, the author has shared the good news of God in Christ in ways that form me on a daily basis.

Because of Luke, we hear the angel messengers proclaim “Do not be afraid” to Mary and the shepherds in the fields. Because of Luke, we hear Mary sing the Magnificat and with Simeon see the Savior whom God has prepared for all the world to see.

Because of Luke, we hear Jesus proclaim “Blessed are you who are poor” and know the story of the poor man Lazarus brought to rest with his father Abraham. Because of Luke, we see Jesus call the wealthy and despised tax collector Zacchaeus by name and hear him proclaim, “Salvation has come to this house.”

Because of Luke, we hear the story of the Samaritan who teaches us to be a neighbor to all. Because of Luke, we hear the story of the St._Catherine_Cathedral,_Luke_the_Evangelist,_Saint-Petersbergwastrel son welcomed home by his extravagant father.

Because of Luke, we meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection and see him revealed in the breaking of the bread. Because of Luke, we see the Holy Spirit arrive on the day of Pentecost.

Because of Luke, we see how 100 men and women can turn the known world upside-down. Because of Luke, we learn along with Peter that God has called no one unclean.

Through Luke, we meet John’s mother Elizabeth, Anna the prophet, Stephen the deacon, Cornelius the Roman Centurion, an unnamed Eunuch from Ethiopia, Lydia the businesswoman and homeowner. Through Luke we meet Saul the persecutor and Paul the missionary.

PARIS_~1There is no doubt that the stories of Luke are an indelible part of my understanding of Jesus’ life and ministry and of the work of the Church.

But for me there’s something intangible, too, about Luke’s message. Shot through Luke’s works is a deep understanding of all being welcome, all being known, all being forgiven, all being loved. And it is due to Luke that I discovered that I too am called to convey this message of welcome and love and belonging to the world.

I simply cannot imagine my faith without the words and witness of Luke.

-- Laura Toepfer

RomeroOscar Romero

Palm Sunday 2013 marked the 33rd year since the assassination of Archbishop Romero. It has been thirty-three years since he was killed, saying mass for the few nuns and cancer patients in the hospice where he chose to live, even as the highest Church official in El Salvador.

For me, the hardest aspect of Romero's story is that there is no clear-cut happy ending; there is no moment you can point to when "it gets better." He lasted only three years as archbishop, then he was killed by the death squads who roamed his country. The government would not even let him be buried in peace: the funeral was the scene of a riot. From a purely rational standpoint, he failed.

And yet...his ministry reflected the love of God Incarnate in a way that few others have.  Romero so believed in a God made human that it was impossible for him to view his fellow humans with anything less than the devotion he reserved for God. God became human in Jesus, and now all humanity was no less holy, no less worthy than Christ --and not far off, in a distant heaven, but here and now.

That sounds like a pretty treatise, but for Romero, nothing was more urgent, or relevant, than the Incarnation. It was life and romerogentedeath. When he preached, he gave voice and affirmation to thousands who felt themselves punished and abandoned by God and the Church. When he said that God saw the suffering of the poor, and wanted it to end, he embodied God's love for them in a tangible way. When he read out the names of the desaparecidos on the radio, and handed them to the pope, it was a sign that God, too, remembered. When he called out the death squads, and asked them to repent, Romero made the gospel real for a struggling people that needed it.

oscar-romeroRomero always said he was unafraid of death, because he "believed in resurrection; he would rise again in the Salvadoran people." And indeed, after his death, it was the people who kept his memory alive. It was the people of El Salvador who turned out en masse for his funeral. It was the people who turned his grave into a shrine, declared him presente at rallies, remembered his words, and kept on struggling for justice, because they believed in the gospel Romero preached. They believed in the God Romero knew. And they had begun to see themselves as Romero did -- as inherently dignified, remembered, and loved by God.

Romero lives on, by virtue of the country he loved, the people he continues to inspire, and through the gospel he died to live.

Romero presente.

-- Megan Castellan


Luke the Evangelist vs. Oscar Romero

  • Luke the Evangelist (56%, 2,162 Votes)
  • Oscar Romero (44%, 1,670 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,831

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Frances Perkins vs. Hilda of Whitby

"The End is Near!" proclaims the ubiquitous sign of the doomsday prophet. In the case of Lent Madness 2013, our sign-wielding friend would be correct. Welcome to the Faithful Four. After weeks of learning and voting and debating, the saintly field has been whittled down from 32 to four spiritual heavyweights: Frances Perkins, Hilda of Whitby, Luke the Evangelist, and Oscar Romero.

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 Frances Perkins takes on Hilda of Whitby; tomorrow Luke the Evangelist battles Oscar Romero; and on Spy Wednesday the championship round will take place. For the Faithful Four, we let our 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. In this match-up, Heidi Shott is advocating for Frances Perkins and Laurie Brock for Hilda of Whitby. Tomorrow Laura Toepfer is writing for Luke the Evangelist and Megan Castellan for Oscar Romero.

To make it to the Faithful Four, bracket Cinderella Frances Perkins made it past Damien of Molokai, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Jonathan Daniels. Hilda of Whitby bested Samuel SeaburyIgnatius of Antioch, and Harriet Tubman. Here's your chance to send one of these inspiring women off to vie for the Golden Halo.

Don't forget to watch Maple Anglican's video previewing today's match-up.

perkins-momFrances Perkins

In his 2010 essay in The Anglican Examiner,Frances Perkins: Architect of the Gracious Society,” Donn Mitchell begins by recounting how Perkins once answered a provocative question.

‘Don't you think it's wrong for people to get things they don't pay for?’

‘Why no,’ Frances Perkins responded. ‘I find I get so much more than I pay for. Don't you?’

The woman who had conceived, birthed, nursed, and nurtured the New Deal's crowning achievement — the Social Security Act -- the Social Security Act — was revealing the theological perspective that informed her long career advocating, shaping, and ultimately implementing social policy. She knew she had not paid for the earth she walked on or the parents who had raised her. She had not ‘earned’ the breath in her lungs. All life was an unearned gift from God, as she saw it.

Perkins with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Perkins with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

What we ‘got,’ in her view, was a function of grace, not merit or its inverse correlate, sin. A godly society, therefore, would be a gracious society. Just as God had endowed humankind with the basics and then allowed them freedom to develop their capacities to create and contribute, so the community should graciously guarantee basic provision for its individual members while allowing maximum freedom to make their way in the world.


Plaque at St. Andrew's, Newcastle, Maine

We talk a great deal about the theology of abundance and the theology of scarcity in the Episcopal Church. Often it’s used to transform our old notions of stewardship or to get members thinking about capital campaign gifts. The transformation is local -- our own hearts or perhaps, on a truly miraculous scale, the collective heart of a congregation.

But Frances Perkins took her belief in the theology of abundance to an astonishing level. Through incredible hard work and determination and in the midst of a political and social climate that is unimaginable for a late-boomer woman like me, Perkins extended her theology to the whole nation for the benefit of all its citizens.


Perkins with President John F. Kennedy (Bettman/Corbis)

The prologue of Kirstin Downey’s biography, The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR’S Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience, begins with the ultimatum that Perkins gave to Roosevelt before she would accept the appointment to become his Secretary of Labor.

“On a chilly February night in 1933, a middle-aged woman waited expectantly to meet with her employer at his residence on East 65th Street in New York City. She clutched a scrap of paper with hastily written notes. Finally ushered into his study the woman brushed aside her nervousness and spoke confidently....

He wanted her to take an assignment but she had decided she wouldn’t accept it unless he allowed her to do it her own way. She held up the piece of paper in her hand, and he motioned for her to continue. She ticked off the items: a forty-hour workweek, a minimum wage, worker’s compensation, unemployment compensation, a federal law banning child labor, direct federal aid for unemployment relief, Social Security, a revitalized public employment service, and health insurance.”

Sloane, the girlfriend in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,  might have been just as astutely describing Perkins as Ferris when she said, “You knew what you were doing when you woke up this morning.”

Frances Perkins knew what she was doing.

perkins_1911I wasn’t thinking about Perkins, years ago, when I wrote an essay called “Cleaning the Fridge,” but now it seems obvious. “The people we revere most are simply human beings choosing from among the options laid out before them and then doing the work they’ve been given to do. Most of them would avoid the hard and unpleasant stuff given the chance. Most, like Melville’s Bartleby, ‘would prefer not to.’ But the difference between our saints and the rest of us is they do the hard things anyway.”

Frances Perkins -- lay woman, public servant, doer of hard things because they needed to be done. She knew God imbued her with the strength, talent, and experience to do them, and, like another saint in the bracket, she knew she could do no other.

-- Heidi Shott

images-2Hilda of Whitby

Hilda (or, more correctly Hild of Streaneschalch) is not known for one spectacular moment. Some saints are. That one moment where they make such a devoted decision out of love we are left in awe. She is not known for a profound body of literature, as are other saints. In fact, nothing of her own writing exists. Most of what we know about her was written by Bede. She is not known for anything other than perhaps hosting a synod.

Or at least that’s what I thought when I began my Lenten relationship with Hilda. Almost forty days and several rounds later, I am in awe of this woman who is not known for anything spectacular other than her profound ability to encourage others.

She might not have left her own writings, but when a young monk named Caedmon who

Abbess Hilda receiving Caedmon

Abbess Hilda receiving Caedmon

cared for animals at Whitby had a dream about composing song, Hilda encouraged him to write. In doing so, she helped birth what would become English poetry. She might not have been a great queen or powerful politician, but her compassionate wisdom grounded in the Gospel encouraged kings and rulers who sought her advice. She might not have been a pope or priest or bishop, but she created a community where equality of property, study, and communal prayer encouraged education and parity in a double monastery. Five of her monks became bishops; two are revered as saints.

She might not have even carried the day at Whiby, that synod she hosted. Yes, the Roman date of Easter and monastic hairstyle won, but Hilda continued to encourage. She encouraged Christianity to remain unified, despite differences. She encouraged obedience to the vote that carried the day, even though she personally disagreed with the outcome. She stood with unified dignity in a way our modern church leaders could emulate as we struggle with decisions that can be divisive.

images-3However we view saints, they are (hopefully) very human people who lived their lives in very remarkable ways. And while I will always be impressed with Hilda’s turning snakes to stone, I am in awe of her extraordinary ability to encourage others and to create a community where that encouragement could thrive. I am humbled by her example of desiring a unified, faithful community over her own position.

Hilda’s life is a holy example that speaks to us today as we wrestle with a changing church, with new understandings of theology that can be challenging and divisive, and with the temptation to nurture our own egos rather than encouraging lives lived in the radical love of Christ. She reminds us that this place is nothing new for the church. Her life speaks with calm love to us all. And her ministry of encouragement -- all of those spectacular moments she wove together in her days -- is still urging us on to live our lives in love, service, and community.

Thanks be to God.

-- Laurie Brock


Frances Perkins vs. Hilda of Whitby

  • Frances Perkins (61%, 3,434 Votes)
  • Hilda of Whitby (39%, 2,154 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,584

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