Paul of Tarsus vs. Theodore of Tarsus

In the final battle of the First Round, Paul takes on Theodore in the epic Battle of Tarsus (you get extra Lent Madness points if you can find Tarsus on a map). The winner will do battle with Brigid of Kildare in the subsequent round.

Yesterday, in a hotly contested scrum between Margaret of Scotland and William Temple, Margaret ultimately emerged victorious 52% to 48% in heavy voting and commenting (119). Overall, it was a full day of Lent Madness news as the Supreme Executive Committee announced that they are threatening a lawsuit against some basketball tournament that uses "Madness" in the name. This led to an ensuing "controversy" over which virgin the state of Virginia was named after. Fortunately, this was all put into perspective on our Facebook fan page once a picture was posted of our two favorite voters, eight-year-0ld twins Hope and Skye of Burke, Virginia. Yes, that Virginia.

The Round of the Saintly Sixteen kicks off tomorrow with a fascinating match-up between two powerful and popular women, Joan of Arc and Mary Magdalene. Tickets are currently being scalped at astronomical prices.

Paul of Tarsus (5-67), the most influential Christian convert of the Early Church, is best known for his zeal in spreading Christianity and for writing more New Testament books than anyone else. His conversion story, from persecutor to disciple, involves an appearance of Christ so real that Paul insisted on calling himself an Apostle even though he had never met Jesus during Christ’s lifetime.

Paul was raised a pious Jew. His zeal for the Jewish faith is detailed in the Book of Acts where Paul condoned the stoning of Stephen, Christianity’s first martyr. Paul was then famously converted on the road to Damascus when he was blinded, knocked off his horse, and addressed by the voice of Christ. Following this conversion his name was changed from Saul to Paul. He then set out on full-time missionary activities, helping spread the Gospel to early Christian communities throughout the Mediterranean.

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Margaret of Scotland vs. William Temple

Today we stick with the British Isles for a battle between Scotland and England in the form of Margaret of Scotland vs. William Temple. So it's a pious woman of the 11th century (who didn't become a nun!) squaring off against an early 20th century theologian and Archbishop of Canterbury (who didn't become a nun, either!).

It's been said that "every rose has its thorn." In yesterday's Lent Madness action we learned that Rose of Lima's thorn is Brigid of Kildare who defeated her in the most lopsided battle to date, 82% to 18%. Ouch.

After today’s match-up, we only have one more battle left before the start of the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. Check out the updated bracket and the calendar of upcoming battles and then vote!

Margaret of Scotland (1045-1093) was born Margaret Atheling in Hungary and ended up in England with her family as part of a succession plan devised by King Edward. During the tumult following his death, Margaret and her family fled England and landed in Scotland where they found shelter in the court of King Malcolm.

Eventually Margaret set aside her plans to become a nun and married Malcolm. She had eight children and her descendants ruled Scotland for 200 years. During her reign, Scotland  became a center of Christian culture.

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Rose of Lima vs. Brigid of Kildare

Congratulations on surviving another weekend without Lent Madness! If it's easier to make it through these dark days, just think of it as a Lenten devotion within a Lenten devotion. At least this past weekend you were able to get your Lent Madness fix by reading about it in the Washington Post, Toledo Blade, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And if you're among the large contingent of those who prefer to read about Lent Madness in Portuguese, it was featured in Gospel Prime (we think they said flattering things but we really have no idea).

The Supreme Executive Committee of Lent Madness also replied to a letter from a young girl who couldn't believe that St. Nicholas lost to Evelyn Underhill last week. Read the letter and response in "Yes, Virginia, there is a St. Nicholas."

After today's match-up featuring two female monastics, we only have two more battles left before the start of the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. Check out the updated bracket and the calendar of upcoming battles and then go vote!

Rosa de Lima (1586 – 1617) was born in Lima, Peru, the daughter of Gaspar Flores, of Puerto Rico, and Maria de Oliva, of Lima. Her Christian name was Isabel (Elizabeth) and she took her nickname "Rose" at the time of her confirmation.

As a young girl she copied Catherine of Siena in fasting and penances (though unlike Catherine, she didn't lose to Emma of Hawaii in Lent Madness last week). As she aged and some in her family's social circle started to comment on her growing beauty, Rose cut off her hair to the great consternation of her father. While her family did not approve of her strong devotion and determination not to marry, her father eventually gave her a room to herself in the family home.

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Evelyn Underhill vs. Nicholas of Myra

In the last battle of the week, influential 2oth-century writer Evelyn Underhill squares off against Nicholas of Myra. You wanted to know how "Santa Claus" would fare in Lent Madness? Well, here's your chance to vote for or against St. Nick.

Regarding, yesterdays smackdown between Catherine of Siena and Emma of Hawaii, all we can say is "wow." With Catherine holding a slight lead throughout much of the day, Queen Emma came storming back to defeat Catherine 60% to 40% in heavy voting (over 2,000 votes cast). As the sun started to wane on the East Coast of the United States and rise over the Pacific Ocean, Emma's numbers slowly started to increase. Once the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii sent out a plea on Emma's behalf via their e-news, the Queen dowager never looked back, again highlighting the importance of rallying your friends and considering voting blocs to promote your favorite saints. Madness indeed!

We do hope you'll take the necessary precautions this weekend to ward off any lingering effects of LMW (Lent Madness Withdrawal). If you're feeling isolated, lonely, and depressed, you can always check in with our Facebook fan page, where the conversation never stops (and we just topped 1,500 'likes'). If you're on Twitter, you can always find people to chat with by using our hashtag #LentMadness. And if you missed this week's Monday Madness video, Tim and Scott discuss LMW remedies among other timely Lent Madness news. Finally, since Scott seems to fly anywhere at the drop of a biretta, I'm sure he'd be happy to make a personal pastoral call if you're feeling particularly lost.

Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) was a writer, theologian, mystic, spiritual director, and pacifist, who arguably did more than anyone else to illuminate mystical experience and claim it as one not reserved for the spiritual elite. She spoke with some authority, not being among the spiritual elite herself, but a lay woman setting forth what she herself discovered.

Born in 1875 to a prominent barrister and his wife, Underhill was baptized and confirmed in the Church of England but had no formal religious training. She married a childhood friend, Hubert Stuart Moore, a barrister, and lived a typical Edwardian life for a woman of her class, including charitable work and regular trips to the Continent. Less typically, she wrote 39 books and more than 350 articles (both under her maiden name and under the pseudonym, John Cordelier), presented programmes (as they say) on the Spiritual Life on the BBC, and became a prominent spiritual director and retreat leader. She became the first woman to lecture at an Oxford college on theology and the first woman allowed to lecture to Church of England clergy.

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Catherine of Siena vs. Emma of Hawaii

Today's match-up is fraught with intrigue as two popular women from fabulous vacation spots duke it out for the right to advance to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. If you were smart, you conducted some intense personal research by traveling to both Siena, Italy, and Honolulu, Hawaii, before the start of Lent Madness. If not, now is the time to lobby your travel agent for a 2013 Lent Madness vacation package.

In recent action, John Cassian coasted to victory over James Lloyd Breck (55% to 45%), making you wonder why Nashotah House graduates aren't more passionate about Lent Madness. Perhaps all that Tebowing (what we used to call genuflecting) distracted them from the task at hand. In any case, view the updated bracket and the calendar of upcoming match-ups and enjoy today's Lent Madness all-female revue.
Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) was a 14th century mystic, visionary, Dominican tertiary, and theologian. She’s best known for being an articulate critic of political battles among clergy within the Roman Catholic Church. Appalled by factional fighting that resulted in the Avignon papacy, she persuaded Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome and reform the clergy. When the next Great Schism broke out in 1378, Pope Urban VI demanded that Catherine come to Rome as his advocate.

In the midst of all this, Catherine experienced a “mystical marriage” with Jesus, received the stigmata, and found time to dictate a book of meditations and revelations, The Dialogue of Divine Providence. More than 300 of her letters to confessors, royalty, and church officials have survived over the centuries. Interestingly, 1/3 of her surviving letters were written to women.

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John Cassian vs. James Lloyd Breck

After a week full of major saints and prominent names, we're dialing it back and injecting a small dose of obscurity with this match-up. That's not to say that John Cassian and James Lloyd Breck are lightweights, they just don't have the name recognition of some of the contenders vying for the Golden Halo. Will the monastic carry the day or will he wander around on his hands and knees futilely seeking an oasis in the desert of Lent Madness? Or will Breck, like Philander Chase before him, rally Midwesterners and seminary alumni to his cause?

In yesterday's action, Dietrich Bonhoeffer swept to a resounding victory over the apostle James, leaving members of Jesus' inner circle (Thomas then James) to wonder just where they went wrong. Don't forget to check the the updated calendar of match-ups and the updated bracket.

John Cassian (360- c.435), considered a saint  by the Eastern church but never canonized by the Western church, was a Desert Father who championed monasticism as a spiritual way of life. He was a follower of St. John Chrysostom who ended up in Rome as an emissary to Pope Innocent I for that exiled Patriarch of Constantinople.

When invited to establish Egyptian-style monasteries in Southern France, Cassian did so for women as well as men. His writings, Institutes of the Monastic Life and Conferences on the Egyptian Monks greatly influenced St. Benedict whose Rule has shaped Western monasticism for centuries. It is said that Benedict insisted that sections of the Conferences be read aloud to his monks.

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James the Apostle vs. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today we get another one of these intriguing match-ups between a Biblical figure and a 20th-century theologian and martyr. The last time one of Jesus' inner circle appeared in Lent Madness, Thomas went down to defeat at the hands of Enmegahbowh. Will James, this "Son of Thunder," survive or will he be struck down by Bonhoefer's lightning?

In yesterday's oedipal action, Monnica (mom) defeated Augustine (son) 56% to 44%. Therapy will ensue. Check out the updated bracket and, if you're wondering about upcoming matches, view the complete calendar.

James was one of Jesus’ three disciples who formed the inner circle within the twelve. Along with his (probably younger) brother John and Peter, James witnessed the Transfiguration and the raising of Jairus’s daughter. He also fell asleep several times when he was supposed to be up watching and waiting while Jesus was agonizing in the garden before his arrest.

Jesus gave this inner circle of disciples names that would now be appropriate for modern wrestlers. Peter was nicknamed “The Rock,” and James and John were “The Sons of Thunder” (good for a tag team bout, yes?). This nickname probably came from their quick tempers, which may have led to James being the first of the twelve to be martyred. The Acts of the Apostles records: “About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword” (12:1-2).

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Monnica vs. Augustine of Hippo

After a long, painfully slow weekend without Lent Madness (local support groups are cropping up everywhere), we welcome you back to another week of saintly action. Today marks the long-anticipated epic oedipal battle between mother and son -- which may just be the definition of Lent Madness!

As one of our Celebrity Bloggers has pointed out, this pairing "suggests a dark, nay, diabolical streak in the hearts of the bracketeers, priests of the Church though they may be." (Thanks, Heidi. And for that remark, we have given you, a mother of two sons, both sides of this match-up). Nevertheless, the witnesses of Monnica and Augustine of Hippo will stand on their own merits. You, the people, shall decide whether mother or son will advance to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen.

With half the match-ups decided for the Round of the Saintly Sixteen, make sure to check out the updated calendar of future battles as well as the updated bracket.

Monnica (c. 331 -  387), born to Christian Berber parents in North Africa, would be unknown to us were it not for her depiction as the persistently devoted mother in her son’s autobiographical “Confessions of St. Augustine.”

Issue from her marriage to a difficult pagan bureaucrat named Patriclius included Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Monnica recognized early on that Augustine was tremendously gifted intellectually and her love for him was manifested in her deep ambition to see him succeed in the world. However, upon deepening her life of prayer and Christian maturity that ambition transformed into a passion to see him convert to Christianity. He scorned her efforts and influence. Ultimately, her quest led her to follow him first to Rome and then to Milan, where he was, after 17 years of prayer and “encouragement,” baptized by Bishop Ambrose on Easter Eve 387.

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William Law vs. Columba

After two gut-wrenchingly close battles involving saints named Thomas, the week's final match-up features an evangelical 18th century Anglican and a man closely linked to Ireland and Scotland.

Thomas the Apostle and Enmegahbowh faced off in an epic see-saw battle that wasn't decided until the wee hours (or early hours depending on your global location). In the end Enmegabowh prevailed 52% to 48% and will head to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen.

One note on our least favorite topic here at Lent Madness: Voter Fraud. Those who closely monitored the vote totals late yesterday will have noted the disappearance of some votes for both saints. This was not due to Lenten hackers but the keen eyes of the Supreme Executive Committee who noticed some irregularities and quickly acted to remedy the situation. It turns out someone from Overland Park, Kansas, voted 100 times for Thomas. Then someone else voted 50 times for Enmegabowh (equal opportunity cheating!). Scott deleted the repeat votes and banished the rogues into the outer darkness of Lent without Lent Madness. We are completely confident that the end result is fair and reflects the will of the non-cheaters. We will remain ever-vigilant and are even considering hiring Jimmy Carter on retainer as an election monitor.

We'll all need the weekend off to recover and prepare for Monday's oedipal match-up between Augustine of Hippo and his mother Monnica! But in the meantime, enjoy today's election and let's keep up the spirit and goodwill of keeping a holy Lent Madness.

William Law (1686-1761) was an 18th century theologian and evangelical writer. He was widely known for his book A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, which was a best-selling handbook on pious living and is still available today. Charles Wesley once said that William Law taught him all he knew about religion.

Educated at Cambridge University with plans to become a clergyman, Law would not take the oath of allegiance to George I, so he served as a private tutor to the children of Edward Gibbon (yes, ‘The Rise and Fall…’ Gibbon). Unable to use the pulpit or lecture hall, he preached through his books. This is when he penned, A Serious Call. It was Gibbon who said, "If Mr. Law finds a spark of piety in a reader's mind, he will soon kindle it into a flame."

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Thomas vs. Enmegahbowh

For the second straight day we get a man named Thomas opposed by a saint with a fantastic name. In 24 hours we've gone from Merton to the Apostle; from Philander to Enmegahbowh. But, of course, in Lent Madness saints don't emerge victorious by fanciful names alone. Otherwise Engelbert Humperdinck would be canonized and win the Golden Halo.

Bracket Buster Alert! In one of the most hotly-contested battles to date, Philander Chase stormed past Thomas Merton late yesterday afternoon and never looked back. Despite a late surge by Merton, Chase held on to win 52% to 48% in record voting (2,711 votes cast) and commenting (142 comments). Spurred on by an army of Kenyon College alumni, this may go down as one of the greatest upsets in Lent Madness history.

Check in with the updated bracket and view the calendar of upcoming battles as we mark one full week of Lent Madness action.

Thomas, aka “Doubting” Thomas, aka “Didymus,” aka “The Twin,” is best known for wanting something more than his fellow-apostles’ word that Jesus had appeared to them in the flesh after he had been crucified. It could also be noted that Thomas was the only apostle to leave the house after Jesus’ crucifixion when everyone else was waiting inside with the doors locked out of fear. When Jesus returned to the house a second time, Thomas, despite his stated demands for hands-on proof, did not hesitate to call the resurrected Jesus “My Lord and my God!”

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