Edward Thomas Demby vs. Dorothy Day

In the last battle before the Round of the Saintly Sixteen, we encounter two trailblazers. Edward Thomas Demby was the first African-American bishop ordained in the Episcopal Church and Dorothy Day was an important figure in the cause of social justice. Will Dorothy win the Day? Or will Edward Demby-onstrate the will to win? (sorry, couldn't come up with anything comparable for him). The winner will take on Benedict of Nursia in the next round.

In yesterday's action, Martha of Bethany trampled all over the "Little Flower," Thérèse of Lisieux. While we don't take sides, it's nice that we'll no longer have to search for those accents on Thérèse. Martha will face Harriet Tubman in what should prove to be a hotly contested battle.

Leadership_DembyEdward Thomas Demby

Edward Thomas Demby holds the distinction of being ordained the first African American bishop in the Episcopal Church. In 1918 he became the Suffragan Bishop for Colored Work in Arkansas and the Providence of the Southwest.

Bishop Demby, born in Wilmington, Delaware, and raised in Philadelphia, attended Howard University and Wilberforce University in Ohio. He then entered the academic world and from 1894 to 1896 was Dean of Students at Paul Quinn College in Texas. At this time he was confirmed in the Episcopal Church.

This is when Bishop John F. Spalding of Colorado took special interest in Demby. He went to work in the Diocese of Tennessee where he was ordained a deacon in 1898 and a priest the following year.

While in Tennessee, Demby served as rector at St. Paul’s Church in Mason as well as two posts in academic administration. Then, from 1900 to 1907 Demby ministered to parishes in Illinois, Missouri, and Florida.

Demby returned to Tennessee in 1907 to become rector of Emmanuel Church in Memphis. This is where he served as the Secretary of the segregated southern “colored convocations” and was the Archdeacon for Colored Work. It was while he was Archdeacon that he was elected the first African American suffragan bishop.

Demby's context was a segregated ministry, in which he worked tirelessly to establish black service institutions, like schools, hospitals and orphanages. Demby saw this as a way to build relationships with African Americans who, before emancipation, had understood the Episcopal Church as the faith community of their masters. However Demby’s witness, as a compassionate leader and committed Episcopalian, helped forge bonds that attracted many people and live on today.

For more than twenty years, Demby labored amidst white apathy, inconsistent funding, and the foggy commitment of his own denomination (not to mention the Great Depression) to build a ministry that would eventually evolve into desegregation.

Bishop Demby shares a feast day with the second African American bishop in the Episcopal Church, Henry Beard Delany, hence the wording of their Collect.

Collect for Edward Thomas Demby
Loving God, we thank you for the ministries of Edward Thomas Demby and Henry Beard Delany, bishops of your Church who, though limited by segregation, served faithfully to your honor and glory. Assist us, we pray, to break through the limitations of our own time, that we may minister in obedience to Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 -- Chris Yaw

dorothydayDorothy Day

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, was born in Brooklyn in 1897. As a young girl, while living in San Francisco where her father was a journalist, she experienced the devastating earthquake of 1906. Her memory of the assistance people offered to those made homeless by the tragedy remained with her throughout her life.

Though her parents were not religious, her brothers were members of an Episcopal church choir and, from the age of ten, she attended services and became enamored of the liturgy and music. She was baptized and confirmed but continued to think of herself as an agnostic.

After dropping out of college, she lived a bohemian life in New York City. She wrote for socialist publications and immersed herself in the causes of pacifism and women’s suffrage. Gradually a spiritual awakening crystalized into a conversion to Christianity upon the birth of her daughter Tamar in 1927. She was received into the Roman Catholic Church and later became an Benedictine oblate.

In the midst of the Great Depression, with her friend and colleague Peter Maurin, Day founded the Catholic Worker movement. Their newspaper, the Catholic Worker, an immediate success, focused on promoting Catholic social teaching and offering a pacifist viewpoint in a period when international tensions increased around the world.

Implicit in the movement was the need to care for those in need. Houses of Hospitality were started first in New York to care for the needs of anyone who needed food, clothing, or shelter. Before long several farms were established to allow people to live in community and grow their own food. By the early 1940s, 30 Catholic Worker communities were established across the U.S. Today 100 communities serve people in ten countries.

Throughout her life, until her death in 1980, Day spoke of God’s love and the causes of peace and justice, even when she ran afoul of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. When broached by critics with Jesus’ words that the “poor shall always be with us,” she replied, "Yes, but we are not content that there should be so many of them.”

Novelist and theologian Frederick Buechner said, “Vocation is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Dorothy Day’s life bears witness to that definition; she remains an icon for those who would meld their Christian faith with the pursuit of social justice.

Collect for Dorothy Day
Merciful God, you called your servant  Dorothy Day to show us the face of Jesus in the poor and forsaken. By constant practice of the works of mercy, she embraced poverty and witnessed steadfastly to justice and peace. Count her among your saints and lead us all to become friends of the poor ones of the earth, and to recognize you in them. We ask this through your Son Jesus Christ, bringer of good news to the poor. Amen.

 -- Heidi Shott


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Therese of Lisieux vs. Martha of Bethany

In the penultimate match-up of the First Round, two women square off with the winner taking on Harriet Tubman. Thérèse of Lisieux, the original flower child, takes on Martha of Bethany, Biblical disciple. Yesterday Gregory the Great defeated Martin of Tours in the Battle of the Bishops and will face Florence Li-Tim Oi in the next Round. We understand that, in an act of deferential concession, Martin then sliced his miter in half.

If you missed yesterday's release of the People's Edition of Monday Madness make sure you watch it today. Tim and Scott aren't in it -- we defer to the "little people" of Lent Madness. AKA some people who were with us in San Diego last week that were duped into finishing the statement "I love Lent Madness because..."

photoThérèse of Lisieux

While experiencing nervous tremors as a young girl, Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) believed that she saw a vision of the Virgin Mary and was healed. She described this to Carmelite nuns, whose questions filled her with self-doubt and caused her to believe, wrongly, that she had lied about it. Several years later, on Christmas Eve 1886, she had what she said was a “complete conversion” as love entered her heart and liberated her to serve others.

The next year she told her father about her desire to mark the first anniversary of that conversion by joining the Carmelite nuns before Christmas. He picked up a little white flower with its roots and gave it to her. He said that God had created it and cared for it. Thérèse, who would eventually become known as “The Little Flower,” believed that to be a metaphor for her own life and that she would be planted in different soil. Yet she was still considered too young to be planted in the soil of the Carmelite nuns.

Later that same year, on a pilgrimage to Rome, she knelt before Pope Leo XIII and asked him to allow her to enter that religious community. He blessed her but left the decision in the hands of its superiors. She stubbornly remained there and had to be removed from the room by the Swiss Guard. Finally, however, she was allowed to become a Carmelite postulant at the age of 15 and moved into a cloistered community in Lisieux, which is located in northwestern France. Thérèse made her religious profession there at the age of 17.

She finally had the life she wanted – a life dedicated to prayer. So it’s interesting to note that she frequently fell asleep while praying and was embarrassed that she couldn’t stay awake in chapel with her religious community. But she realized that parents love their children while they sleep just as much as they do when they’re awake. In the same way, she knew that God loved her.

Chapel presented other challenges too. One of the nuns made clicking noises in that setting that drove Thérèse nuts. She might have been playing with her rosary. She might have had bad dentures. Whatever the true cause, it was simply maddening to Thérèse. But Thérèse decided to make it into a kind of music and offer it as a prayer as she sat there in the presence of God.

Those are both examples of her “little way” of being a Christian. After Thérèse’s death from tuberculosis at the age of 24, her writings were collected and published as The Story of a Soul. That’s how the world came to know and love her.

Collect for Thérèse of Lisieux
O God, by whose grace Thérèse of Lisieux became, with the fire of your love, a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we may be inflamed with the same spirit of love, and ever walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

-- Neil Alan Willard

VERMEER_van_Delft_Jan_Christ_in_the_house_of_Martha_and_Mary_1654Martha of Bethany

Though Martha of Bethany is mentioned in only two places in Scripture (Luke 10:38-42, John 11-12), she has had a lasting impact, for good and ill, on our conception of the spiritual life. It is sometimes hard to remember that Martha is a person and not a type. But, as one commentator puts it, “She looks at us out of the pages, a curiously vivid personality; downright, honest, practical, unselfish” (Interpreter’s Bible 1952, Volume 8, p. 636).

Martha is a devoted sister, never mentioned except alongside one or both of her siblings, Mary and Lazarus. Whether Martha is the oldest in the family is uncertain.  However, Luke makes it plain that Martha invites Jesus to her house for that fateful meal when Jesus takes her multitasking to task. “Tell my sister to come and help me,” Martha says. In reply, Jesus speaks to Martha’s inner state rather than the presenting issue: “you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” Martha, who had sought to serve Jesus and wishes for Mary to do the same, is instead invited to be served.

John reports that when Jesus arrives at Bethany after the death of Lazarus, it is Martha who first goes out to greet him. They engage in a conversation in which Martha’s statement of Christ’s ministry rivals the Confession of Peter.

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world" (John 11:23-27).

Also like Peter, Martha has a habit of saying exactly what she’s thinking and keeping it real. As with Peter, Jesus treats this forthrightness with forthrightness. When Jesus tells those gathered to remove the stone from Lazarus’ tomb, it is Martha who points out Lazarus has been dead four days and smells pretty ripe. This earns her another ding from Jesus who says, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

Martha seems to take these rebukes in stride, continuing in her faithful discipleship and love of her Lord. In the final mention of Martha in Scripture, John 12:2, Jesus again joins the beloved siblings for dinner. Lazarus is at table; Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume. And Martha served.

Collect for Martha of Bethany
Generous God, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed the friendship and hospitality of Mary, Martha and Lazarus of Bethany: Open our hearts to love you, our ears to hear you, and our hands to welcome and serve you in others, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Laura Toepfer


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Gregory the Great vs. Martin of Tours

With another weekend rife with Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW) behind us, we turn our attention to the final three first round match-ups. Now, to our credit, we did try to help everyone get through the weekend with a Group Hug. But today it's back to business with Gregory the Great (who defeated Gregory of Nyssa in an earlier play-in round) taking on Martin of Tours. As two bishops square off for the first time in Lent Madness 2013, we're left to wonder which one will leave the arena with a cracked crozier?

After today, the remaining first round battles pit Therese of Lisieux against Martha of Bethany and Edward Thomas Demby versus Dorothy Day. On Thursday the Round of the Saintly Sixteen kicks off with two modern martyrs: Jonathan Daniels vs. Janani Luwum. But in the meantime, hang onto your hats, miters, or any preferred headgear of your choice!

Gregory the GreatGregory the Great

Long before he was known as “Gregory the Great,” he was just another boy born to an elite Roman family. His father owned estates in Sicily and the family home was a mansion on Caelian Hill. However, the mighty empire was in decline by his birth in 540. As a boy Gregory lived through repeated invasions by the Goths and Franks and a devastating plague. While his experiences are not recorded, it would be unlikely that he was unaffected by the uncertainties of civil society and his place in it.

Highly skilled in grammar and rhetoric and possessing a noble pedigree, he was destined for a prestigious career in public life. Indeed at age 30 he became a prefect of the city of Rome, but after much soul-searching and prayer he left his post to become a monk. He devoted himself to the ascetic life and turned his vast Sicilian estates into monasteries and his family home in Rome into one as well.

Gregory lived happily as a monk for several years until he was forced by the sitting pope -- much against his will -- to be ordained as one of the seven deacons of Rome. Because of the vast instability of Rome and his skills as a civil leader, he was swiftly dispatched to Constantinople to serve as the ambassador to the Byzantine court in order to plead for Rome’s need of protection from the Lombards. His mission was pretty much a failure, but he became very popular with aristocratic Greek ladies of a certain age. After six years he was recalled to Rome and so began a period of writing, studying, and preaching.

His contentment at returning to the monastic life was not to be, however. In 490 after a terrible year of floods, plague, and pestilence, Gregory was elected pope. The story that upon the confirmation of his election to the episcopate he ran away and hid in the forest for three days is considered apocryphal, but it does shed light on his frame of mind. Nevertheless, he did his duty.

He is known as the liturgical innovator of the 6th-century whose contributions to the order of worship endure to the present day. The form of music known as western plainchant is attributed to Gregory. (Though naming it after him a couple of hundred years after he died was a marketing move to capitalize on his venerated name in order to standardize liturgical practice across the Frankish empire under Charlemagne).

Hundreds of his sermons, letters, commentaries as well as his dialogues and his still well-regarded “The Rule for Pastors,” remain. A remarkable thing.

As pope he was a staunch advocate for the health and well-being of the poor and those displaced by war. He gave lavishly from his own substance and and became a gadfly to wealthy Romans by inducing them to give generously as well.

Gregory the Great’s compassion for the plight of young Anglo-Saxon slaves  (Non Angli, sed angeli --  “They are not Angles, but angels”) he encountered at the Roman Forum so moved him that, later as pope, he sent St. Augustine to England as a missionary. But for his compassion, we might still be worshiping gods with names like Woden and Tiw.

Shortly after his death in 604, he was canonized by popular acclaim, and John Calvin called him “the last good pope.” Gregory the Great skillfully navigated a complex landscape between the ancient and the medieval church and the wider world. Quite a skillset for a man who talked to doves.

Collect for Gregory the Great
Almighty and merciful God, you raised up Gregory of Rome to be a servant of the servants of God, and inspired him to send missionaries to preach the Gospel to the English people: Preserve in your Church the catholic and apostolic faith they taught, that your people, being fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Heidi Shott

Höchster_Schloß_Tor_St_MartinMartin of Tours

Martin of Tours was born in 330 in Hungary. He spent much of his childhood in Italy where he was reared by pagan parents. His father, a soldier, enlisted Martin into the army when he was 15.

Surely he had some Christian leanings, for one winter day he saw a beggar at the gate in Amiens (France). Martin, who had no money to give the ill-clad man, offered, instead, a portion of his cloak. The accompanying photo shows this famous event, in which Martin cut his cloak in half so that he could share it with the beggar.

That night, as the story goes, Martin had a dream in which he saw Christ wearing a coat -- in fact, the same cloak that Martin had given the beggar just hours before. This is when Martin knew he had to devote his life to serving Christ. He resolved to get baptized and become a Christian. At the conclusion of his next military campaign, Martin petitioned for release from the army with the famous words, "Hitherto I have faithfully served Caesar. Let me know serve Christ.” At the time Martin was accused of desertion and being a coward. He was subsequently imprisoned but soon released.

Martin became a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers, who was a chief opponent of an unorthodox believe called Arianism. These Christians denied the full deity of Christ, which Martin defended with such vigor and skill that he began to make a name for himself. Surviving persecution in Italy, he fled to France where he founded a monastery that was so successful it remained open until the French Revolution. Martin was eventually named bishop of Tours, a notoriously pagan diocese. However his compassionate personality, skill in dealing with people, and devotion to his mission, prevailed.

Today Martin is the patron saint of soldiers and his shrine in France has become a famous stopping point for pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela.

Collect for Martin of Tours
Lord God of hosts, you clothed your servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and set him as a bishop in your Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Chris Yaw


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Damien of Molokai vs. Frances Perkins

Holy Blowout Week continued yesterday as Benedict took Anne to the (holy vestment) cleaners. Today, features the long-anticipated match-up between Big Pineapple and Big Lobster as the Hawaiian Damien of Molokai takes on the Mainer Frances Perkins. Can the Hawaii lobby do for Damien what it did for Queen Emma last year? Last year's Lent Madness cinderella, Emma, rode the wave all the way to the finals. Will Damien have a similar run or will he be pounded into the surf by Frances?

In other news, the Supreme Executive Committee answered some critics even as they prepare to co-lead a workshop today titled "Stealth Christian Formation" at the CEEP conference in San Diego. They're amazing multi-taskers (with enough coffee and a deadline).

What's that you say? You haven't liked us on Facebook or followed us on Twitter or whatever it is you do for Pinterest? Get inside the mind of the men and women behind the Madness and like, follow, become our disciples, join our cult, etc, today!

damidrawDamien of Molokai

Jozef de Veuster was born to a Flemish corn merchant in 1840. His fondest dream was to be a missionary-priest like his hero, St. Francis Xavier, but his teachers thought he was unintelligent and delayed his ordination. Finally, he was ordained, taking the name Damien and was eventually sent overseas, taking the place of his brother, who had fallen ill.

He arrived in the kingdom of Hawaii on March 19, 1864, and was assigned initially to his order’s mission on Oahu. But Damien had landed in a community struggling with the effects of colonialism, including foreign diseases to which Hawaiians had no immunity. One of these was leprosy, and in 1865, the kingdom’s government set up quarantines for the afflicted on the island of Molokai, fearing a complete epidemic.

The government’s plan was for the lepers’ colonies to grow their own food and to be largely self-sustaining. This plan had some major logic-holes in it, however, and after a while, it became clear to the local bishop that the people were in trouble. A priest was needed in Molokai but he was reluctant to assign anyone fearing the assignment would be tantamount to a death sentence.

After much prayer, in 1873, Damien volunteered. In May, he arrived in Molokai, and promptly set to work. He lived as one of the people. He set up a church, schools, and farms. He tended gardens and built houses. He organized activities and choirs for the living. He built coffins and dug graves for the dying. When his agreed-upon time was up, the lepers and Fr. Damien went to the bishop, and asked if he could remain with them. The bishop agreed, and Fr. Damien stayed on.

Six months after his arrival on Molokai, Damien wrote back to his brother in Belgium, “I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.” His words turned out to be prescient. In 1884 he was diagnosed with the disease himself and died on Molokai in April, 1889.

After his death, his fame spread. After being attacked by an anti-Catholic Presbyterian minister, Robert Louis Stevenson (yes, that Robert Louis Stevenson) wrote an open letter defending him, and no less than Mahatma Ghandi claimed Fr. Damien as an inspiration for his work with the outcast. He was made a saint in the Roman church in October of 2009.

Collect for Damien of Molokai
God of compassion, we bless your Name for the ministries of Damien [and Marianne,] who ministered to the lepers abandoned on Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands. Help us, following their examples, to be bold and loving in confronting the incurable plagues of our time, that your people may live in health and hope; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Megan Castellan

 perkinswithpressFrances Perkins

Born in Boston in 1880 with roots in Maine, Frances Perkins studied at Mount Holyoke College and completed a masters degree in economics and sociology at Columbia University. While working as a young woman in Chicago, she was drawn to the Episcopal Church and confirmed in 1905.

At 31, working for the Factory Investigation Commission in New York City, she witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist fire that resulted in the death of 146 people, primarily young women factory workers. Perkins often said later, “The New Deal was born on March 25, 1911.” That experience galvanized her career as an advocate for workers. At a time when few women enjoyed a professional career after marriage and children, Perkins was spurred in her career by the emergence of her husband’s mental illness and his inability to earn an income. As the mother of a young daughter, she understood on a deep personal level the importance of work and the urgency of supporting a family.

In 1918, New York Governor Al Smith invited her serve in his administration and, with the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to governor in 1928, she was named Commissioner of Labor. When he was elected to the presidency in 1932, Roosevelt asked Perkins to serve as his Secretary of Labor, the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet and the longest-serving cabinet member in U.S. history.

Roosevelt called her “the cornerstone of his administration” for her tireless work in gaining passage of the Social Security Act of 1935 and the Fair Labor Standards of 1938 which established the minimum wage and prohibited child labor in most workplaces. Other New Deal efforts championed by Perkins included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), unemployment insurance, a shorter work week, and worker safety regulations.

She has been called Roosevelt’s moral conscience. Donn Mitchell, in his 2010 profile of Frances Perkins published at www.AnglicanExaminer.com, “Architect of the Gracious Society,” suggests she was the “most overtly religious and theologically articulate member of the New Deal team.” Throughout her 12 years as Secretary she took a monthly retreat with the Episcopal order of All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor, with whom she was a lay associate

“I came to Washington to serve God, FDR, and millions of forgotten, plain common workingmen,” she said. Her theology of generosity informed her professional life and, in turn, transformed the lives of millions of Americans.

She remained active in teaching, social justice advocacy, and in the mission of the Episcopal Church until her death in 1965.

Collect for Frances Perkins  
Loving God, whose Name is blest for Frances Perkins, who lived out her belief that the special vocation of the laity is to conduct the secular affairs of society that all may be maintained in health and decency: Help us, following her example, to contend tirelessly for justice and for the protection of all in need, that we may be faithful followers of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Heidi Shott

UPDATE: At 2:06 a.m. EST, the SEC noticed some irregular voting in this contest. About 200 votes were cast from one address in Arizona on behalf of Damien. Those votes have been deleted, and the address has been banned.


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Benedict of Nursia vs. Anne

Another day, another romp. At least that's what many were thinking after Harriet Tubman trounced Nicholas Ferrar in yesterday's Lent Madness showdown. Today we're anticipating a much closer match-up as the father of monasticism takes on the grandmother of Jesus. Is blood thicker than compline? This and other questions will be answered by the Lent Madness faithful over the next 24 hours.

There are many rumors flying around the world about the timing of Pope Benedict XVI's retirement on the very same day that his namesake, Benedict of Nursia, appears in Lent Madness. It's obviously not a coincidence and we're assuming that a bunch of people named Anne will also retire today. We wish them all well in their golden years. For Benedict and Anne, however, only time will tell whether they'll be enjoying their Golden Halo years.

photoBenedict of Nursia

Benedict of Nursia (c.480-c.550) was born into a world that was disintegrating. The Roman Empire had become a shadow of its former self. Benedict moved from his hometown of Nursia to Rome as a student. But he found there too much of an erosion of morality for his tastes. So he abandoned the “Eternal City” for a hillside cave and became a hermit for three years.

Although Benedict is called the “Father of Western Monasticism,” communities of Christian monks had existed for centuries before his birth. One group of monks, in fact, begged him to become its abbot while he was living as a hermit. Benedict tried that, but it didn’t work out. One legend describes how those monks tried to poison him unsuccessfully. Regardless, Benedict left them and eventually founded a monastery between Rome and Naples at Monte Cassino.

There he wrote his famous Rule for monastic life. The seventy-three short chapters of that Rule present the ideal of a balance between prayer and work. One of them also includes these well-known words about hospitality: “Let all…be received as Christ.” So what Benedict really did was to channel the stream of monasticism in fresh and creative ways that have proven for nearly 1,500 years to be life-giving to the whole world.

Here’s part of an ancient poem that was written after Benedict’s death by one of his companions named Marcus:

With hard and toilsome labour ‘tis that great things are attained:
Within the narrow path alone the blessed life is gained.
While hither coming penitent bow’d down with load of sin,
I felt its weight was gone from me, I felt at peace within;
And I believe in bliss above I too shall have my share,
If thou for Marcus, Benedict, wilt breathe an earnest prayer.

Benedict’s spirit is alive and well throughout the world today (and not only in Roman Catholic circles). My own congregation had a beloved assisting priest who retired last year and belonged to a religious community of Benedictines in the Episcopal Church. And thanks to the hospitality of Roman Catholic Benedictines, the Episcopal House of Prayer sits on five acres on the grounds of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. St. John’s is the second largest Benedictine monastery in the Western Hemisphere. It’s home to the world’s largest archive of manuscript photographs and to the St. John’s Bible, which is the first handwritten, illuminated Bible that a Benedictine monastery has commissioned in more than 500 years. Thankfully, guided by the Rule of St. Benedict, the priorities of these Benedictine monks in both the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions remain the same: Praying, working, and receiving all as Christ.

Collect for Benedict of Nursia
Almighty and everlasting God, your precepts are the wisdom of a loving Father: Give us grace, following the teaching and example of your servant Benedict, to walk with loving and willing hearts in the school of the Lord’s service; let your ears be open to our prayers; and prosper with your blessing the work of our hands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Neil Alan Willard


Anne is not mentioned in any of the canonical gospels, and there is no historical record of her life. Her name and the legend of her life are instead found in the Protoevangelium of James, a New Testament-era apocryphal gospel dating to around AD 150.

Legend holds that Anne was married to Joachim, and that the two were childless in their old age – a fact which deeply grieved both of them. As Joachim went into the desert for forty days and forty nights to fast, Anne sat and lamented both her pending widowhood and her childlessness. During Joachim’s absence, Anne sat beneath a laurel tree, and prayed she would receive a child just as Sarah received Isaac in her old age. As she bewails her inability to conceive, an angel appears to Anne, and promises her that she will conceive, and that “your child will be spoken of in the whole world.” (Pro.James. 4:1). In response, Anne promises that the child – whether male or female – will be brought as a gift to God, and will minister before God all the days of its life. Nine months later, Mary is born to Joachim and Anne. A year after Mary’s birth, Joachim presents Mary to the priests, and in their prayer of blessing pray that she will be given “an eternal name among all the generations” (Pro. James. 6:2). When Mary turned three, Joachim and Anne give Mary into the service of the temple in fulfillment of the promise Anne made to the angel when she announced Mary’s birth.

Anne’s legend heavily echoes the story of two barren women in the Old Testament – Sarah, who gives birth to Isaac in her old age; and Hannah, who gives birth to Samuel after being thought to be barren, and dedicates him to the service of the temple. Indeed, Anne’s name in Hebrew is “Hannah,” meaning “favor” or “grace.”

Devotion to Anne dates to the patristic era. The emperor Justinian built a church in Constantinople in her honor; her feast began to be observed in the west by the 14th century. By the end of the middle ages, devotion to St. Anne had become wide spread, and became a target for the Protestant Reformers, most especially Martin Luther. Nonetheless, in 1584, it was made a feast in the Roman Catholic Church.

In the Orthodox tradition, Anne is given the title “Forbear of God,” and the Birth of Mary (September 8) and the Dedication of Mary in the Temple (November 21) are principal feasts of the church. In the Western Church, her feast is celebrated with her spouse, Joachim, on July 26.

Collect for Anne

Almighty God, heavenly Father, we remember in thanksgiving this day, Anne, mother of of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and we pray that we all may be made one in the heavenly family of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- David Sibley


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Nicholas Ferrar vs. Harriet Tubman

A day after the biggest whuppin' of Lent Madness 2013, we meet two more fascinating figures on our continuing journey toward the Golden Halo. At first glance, Nicholas Ferrar, an early 17th-century Englishman, and Harriet Tubman, a 19th-century African-American born into slavery, seemingly have nothing in common. But of course, that's the thing about Lent Madness -- even the most disparate saints all have Jesus Christ at the center of their lives.

Yesterday, poor Chad of Lichfield was left hanging as Florence Li-Tim Oi trounced him 84% to 16%. The wide margin was pretty consistent throughout the day as those who obsessively check the results every ten minutes know.

In other news, the Supreme Executive Committee released a statement condemning an attempt to co-opt the bracket format to elect the next pope. They will, however, be forming a bracket to elect the next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Because that's different.

imagesNicholas Ferrar

Nicholas Ferrar (1592-1637) was born to a wealthy English family during the reign of Elizabeth I. Educated at Cambridge, he traveled abroad because of ill health after his studies ended. His travels were not serene -- an encounter with a sliding donkey almost sent him over a German precipice, and his ship to Spain was chased by pirates. Returning home, he was called to assist his family in saving The Virginia Company, which had fallen upon hard times. He was elected to Parliament, but his efforts to save the company failed and it lost its charter.

At that point, Nicholas and his family determined to renounce worldliness and commit themselves to a life of prayer and godly living. About thirty of the family joined him at Little Gidding where he founded and led a unique religious community -- an experiment in Christian living that was neither cult nor cloister.

Ferrar was ordained a deacon by Archbishop Laud in 1626 so that he could lead the community in worship (although he never considered the priesthood). His mother restored the church of St. John the Evangelist (abandoned during the 14th-century outbreak of the Black Death) before restoring the manor house for the family’s use.

Once settled, the community was committed to constant prayer (members took turns praying at the altar to obey the command to pray without ceasing) and they recited the entire Psalter every day in addition to praying all the offices from the Book of Common Prayer.

They also fasted and offered alms to relieve the poor, worked in the community to educate and look after the health of the local children, and also wrote books on the Christian faith. Some of the community members learned bookbinding; one of their books, a commission of a Gospel harmony by King Charles I, now resides in the British Library.

Ferrar was a college friend of George Herbert and upon his deathbed, Herbert sent the manuscript of his book of poems The Temple to Nicholas, asking him to determine whether it was worthy to be published, and if not, to burn it. Ferrar published The Temple in 1633.

Ferrar died in 1637 and is buried in front of the church door of St John the Evangelist at Little Gidding. The community was later broken up by Puritans, who called it an “Arminian Nunnery” and threw the brass font into the pond. The font was rescued and returned to the church 200 years later.

Collect for Nicholas Ferrar
Lord God, make us so reflect your perfect love; that, with your Deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household, we may rule ourselves according to your Word, and serve you with our whole heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Penny Nash

Harriet_Tubman_croppedHarriet Tubman

The early details of Harriet Tubman's life are fuzzy. So far as anyone can tell, and as far as she could later remember, she was born somewhere around 1822 on a plantation in Dorchester County, on Maryland's Eastern Shore. She was named Araminta Harriet Ross, and she grew up enslaved, working as a field hand.

During this time, while she was still in her early teens, she got into an altercation with an overseer, who was trying to catch a fleeing slave. She jumped in front of the escaping man, and in the melee, the overseer hurled an iron at her head. Harriet lay unconscious for several days, without treatment, and as a result, she suffered headaches, blackouts, sleeping spells, and hallucinations for the rest of her life.

For anyone else, this would have been a crippling setback, but for Harriet, the hallucinations were visions sent from God. They warned her of approaching danger, and assured her of God's love and care for her and her people. In 1849, she escaped her captivity, and headed north to New York and freedom.

Almost immediately, she turned around, and came back to bring her family out as well. When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, making it unsafe for former slaves even in the northern states, Harriet was undeterred, and just ferried everyone on up to Ontario without skipping a beat. She earned the nickname "Moses" among the slaves, and the signal for her approach on the Underground Railroad was the song "Go Down, Moses." (Meanwhile, advertisements were still being posted for her capture, with her former owner describing her as barely 5 feet tall, 'very pretty,' and calling her 'Minty').

When the war came, Harriet signed up. She became a cook and a nurse for the Union army, then when that proved unsatisfying, a spy and a soldier, leading Union troops onto Southern plantations to free the slaves, and lead them in revolt. (She did all this without being paid at all -- being black and a woman was not a recipe for getting paid by the US government at the time). After the war, she went back to her home in New York, where she became active in the struggle for women's suffrage. She helped write a book about her life, which ameliorated her financial situation somewhat. However, being Harriet Tubman, she immediately turned around and donated her financial holdings to the local AME Zion church and demanded that they open a home for the aged and infirm.

To the beginning of her life, through the end, Harriet lived by one rule -- so that no one else would have to suffer as she had.

Collect for Harriet Tubman (and some other people)
O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth, and makes us free; strengthen and sustain us as you did your servant/s [Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner, and] Harriet.  Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Megan Castellan


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Chad of Lichfield vs. Florence Li-Tim Oi

After a bruising match-up between two heavyweights, I think everyone's ready to get back to a bit of Lent Madness "normalcy." Yesterday's match-up had emotions running high as Martin Luther King, Jr. took on Martin Luther. This was like Kentucky squaring off against Duke in the first round or Borg taking on McEnroe in a Wimbledon qualifier. It wasn't fair; it was mean; it was diabolical; it was Lent Madness.

In the end, Martin Luther King advanced in heavy voting 55% to 45% sending his namesake to the heavenly showers. We were happy to welcome many of our Lutheran brothers and sisters to Lent Madness and we encourage you to stick around! Who knows? Maybe we'll have an Oktoberfest-themed play-in round next year.

Today we have a 7th-century Celtic saint taking on the first woman ever ordained in the Anglican communion. The SEC is paying special attention to issues of voter irregularity in case supporters of "Hanging Chad" of Lichfield try any funny business. We expect heavy, if controversial, voting from Broward County, Florida.

In case you missed yesterday's edition of Monday Madness, Tim and Scott reveal some interesting news about the timing of the pope's retirement and announce a rare joint appearance coming up later this week.

St ChadChad of Lichfield

Chad (or, in Celtic spelling Ceadda), was one of four brothers who lived lives in service of the Church. Chad was a native of Northumbria, and was a pupil of St. Aidan of Lindisfarne. Chad’s eldest brother, Cedd, was Abbot of a large monastery at Lastingham. Upon his brother’s death in 664, the abbacy passed to Chad. The Venerable Bede recounts that Chad was “a holy man, modest in his ways, learned in the Scriptures, and zealous in carrying out their teaching.”

Around the time he became Abbot of Lastingham, the Bishop of Northumbria died, setting in play a strange series of events in which Chad would ultimately become intricately involved. Oswiu, the King of Northumbria, chose Wilfrid, a Northumbrian noble, to become Bishop. However, due to an outbreak of the plague in England, Wilfrid found himself unable to find the three bishops necessary to ordain him; undeterred, he sailed for France to seek ordination.

The Venerable Bede notes that during Wilfrid’s absence, the King of Northumbria became impatient with the vacancy and decided to take further action. Impressed by Chad’s holiness, the King appointed him to take Wilfrid’s place as Bishop of Northumbria. Chad encountered the same problems in tracking down bishops as Wilfrid did; ultimately, he traveled to Wessex, where he was irregularly ordained bishop by two British and one Welsh bishop – none of whom were recognized by Rome. Bede recounts that Chad diligently set himself to the work of administering his see.

By the time Wilfrid returned from France, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus, denied the legitimacy of Chad’s appointment, and announced his intention to install Wilfrid to Chad’s see. Theodore instructed Chad to step down from his position as Bishop of Northumbria. In an act of profound humility and obedience, Chad did so without hesitation or reserve, and he returned to his abbacy at Lastingham.

Later that same year, the King of Mercia requested a Bishop. Remembering Chad’s example of humility and holiness, Archbishop Theodore recalled Chad from his retirement to Lastingham, and had him re-ordained as a bishop. Chad’s humility was most acutely seen when he refused to use a horse to travel his diocese, preferring to follow the example of the apostles by walking. Archbishop Theodore ultimately ordered Chad to use a horse for his longer travels, and Bede recounts that the Archbishop once went so far as to lift Chad into the saddle on one occasion.

Chad ran his new diocese as diligently as he had administered his former one, establishing a Monastery at Barrow. Two and a half years after his re-ordination, Chad succumbed to the plague in 672. Bede recounts that Chad was “mindful to his end of all that the Lord did.”

Collect for Chad of Lichfield
Almighty God, for the peace of the Church your servant Chad relinquished cheerfully the honors that had been thrust upon him, only to be rewarded with equal responsibility: Keep us, we pray, from thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, and ready at all times to step aside for others, that the cause of Christ may be advanced; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- David Sibley

imagesFlorence Li Tim-Oi

Born on May 5, 1907, in Hong Kong, she was named Li Tim-Oi by her father, which means "much beloved daughter." She took the name Florence when she was baptized as a student, because she came to respect the example of Florence Nightingale so much. From the time she was born, Florence Li Tim-Oi was encouraged to believe and to live into her essential, God-given worth.

At that time, women were allowed to be ordained 'deaconesses,' and it was at one of these ordinations in 1931 that Florence first felt a call to the ordained ministry herself. She pursued a theological degree in Canton, and was ordained to the diaconate in 1941. Upon her ordination, the local bishop assigned her to a congregation all her own in Macau.

Macau was, at the time, a Portuguese colony that was filling up with Chinese refugees who were fleeing from the war in the Pacific. Florence had her hands full, but she was on it. She fed those who needed food, started a huge Sunday school for the kids, educational opportunities for the adults, and ran the congregation by herself. This was great news for the congregation, but soon presented an eccesiological conundrum for the bishop. Because of the war, no priest could get to Macau to celebrate the Eucharist.

So, after pondering this puzzle for a bit, and flying over to the US to talk this over with Reinhold Niebuhr, the local bishop, Ronald Hall, came to a conclusion, and in January, 1944, Florence became the first woman ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Communion. She literally had to sneak through the Japanese army’s encampment to attend her own ordination.

She served as a priest in Macau until the war ended in 1946, and word got around in the Communion about what had happened. Consternation ensued. To keep the peace in Dodge/Lambeth, Florence relinquished her license to officiate, but she never, ever renounced her vows.

For the next thirty years, she lived as a Christian priest in secret, living the gospel in silent deeds. She went to help a parish near the Vietnam border, as a lay minister. She started a large maternity home trying to ensure the survival of infant girls. When the Communist takeover hit China, she was under constant suspicion by the authorities. At one point, the Red Guards made her cut up her own vestments with scissors.  She was removed from her parish and made to work on a chicken farm. She was sent to re-education camps and brainwashed.

Finally, she resumed ordained parish ministry in 1981 when she moved to Toronto. She died in 1992, but not before she saw women accepted as priests in other corners of the communion.

Collect for Florence Li Tim-Oi
Gracious God, we thank you for calling Florence Li Tim-Oi, much beloved daughter, to be the first woman to exercise the office of priest in our Communion: by the grace of your Spirit, inspire us to follow her example, serving your people with patience and happiness all our days, and witnessing in every circumstance to our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

-- Megan Castellan


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Martin Luther vs. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Welcome back to Lent Madness! We trust everyone survived early onset Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW) over the weekend and is ready for another full week of  voting. Thanks to Lent Madness more people than ever before now look forward to both Lent and Mondays. A Monday in Lent? Pure Nirvana.

In one of the most diabolical match-ups in the history of Lent Madness, we pit two heavyweights up against one another: Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, Jr. This ranks up there with last year's Great Oedipal Battle between St. Augustine and his mother Monnica (which mom won). If you're looking to blame someone for this, why not focus your attention on MLK's parents rather than on the SEC? We wouldn't have this problem if they'd named him Bob King or Gregory of Nyssa King.

You'll be glad to know that PBS evidently foresaw this match-up and posted a quiz titled "Who Said What?" Quotes are presented and participants then guess which one said it -- Martin Luther or Martin Luther King. Test your knowledge!

And finally, it's worth noting that at this point we are precisely halfway through the first round of Lent Madness. Four match-ups for the Round of the Saintly Sixteen have already been decided: Jonathan Daniels vs. Janani Luwum; Oscar Romero vs. Lucy; Ignatius of Antioch vs. Hilda of Whitby; and Luke vs. John Donne. Yowza!

martin_lutherMartin Luther

“In any century in which he was born, Luther would have guaranteed a richly memorable night out, whether hilariously entertaining or infuriatingly quarrelsome.” – Diarmaid MacCulloch

Martin Luther (1483-1546) didn’t need to worry about his career since his father had already decided it would be practicing law. But when he feared he might die in a severe thunderstorm, Luther the law student vowed to become Luther the monk. He entered Erfurt’s Augustinian monastery in 1505 and was ordained a priest in 1507.

Luther’s visit to Rome wasn’t the spiritual highlight he expected. He ascended the Santa Scala on his knees, saying the Lord’s Prayer on each step to release his grandfather from purgatory. Afterwards, he asked himself, “Who knows if it is really true?”

He began to question whether these things could indeed bring him closer to God. He started going to confession frequently (and anxiously). He tried to be the perfect monk, yet his conscience remained troubled. Finally, Luther was sent to the Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg in 1511 and earned his doctorate in 1512. At the newly established University of Wittenberg, he began to teach the Bible, going beyond the official Latin texts to study the Hebrew and Greek texts. Several years later he came to understand the “righteousness of God” in the Letter to the Romans to refer to a gift of God’s grace rather than a humanly impossible demand.

Pope Leo X issued an indulgence to shorten time in purgatory for faithful Catholics and, more practically, to finance an unfinished building project –- St. Peter's Basilica. Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar, was the salesman for these indulgences in Germany. Luther’s anger at Tetzel’s theology and business practices led to his nailing of 95 theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg on the eve of All Saints' Day, October 31, 1517 (or at the very least he sent a copy of them to his bishop – yes, there is a nailing vs. “mailing” only dispute). Here’s number 27: “They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.” Words such as these made Luther into a bestselling author thanks to the newly invented Gutenberg printing press.

Several months after he was excommunicated in 1521, Luther appeared at the Diet of Worms before the Holy Roman Emperor. Luther refused to recant his writings. He was “abducted” on his return home and hidden in a remote castle, the Wartburg, for his own protection. Alone, he sank into a depression but began his greatest project – a translation of the Bible into the German language. The rest, as they say, is history (i.e., The Protestant Reformation).

Collect for Martin Luther
O God, our refuge and our strength: You raised up your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew your Church in the light of your word. Defend and purify the Church in our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of your grace which you have made known in Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Neil Alan Willard

Martin-Luther-King-1964-leaning-on-a-lecternMartin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was, to quote the man who presented him with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, “the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence.”

Born Michael King, Jr., on January 15, 1929, his father, a Baptist minister, changed both their names to Martin Luther King in honor of the Protestant reformer.

At age 26 Martin, Jr., by then a Baptist minister himself, was chosen to lead the Montgomery (Alabama) bus boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. King’s strategy for this and all of his continuing efforts in the struggle for civil rights for blacks in the segregated South was to meld the precepts of non-violent resistance he admired in Gandhi with the Gospel of love espoused by Jesus Christ and the tenets of the Christian social gospel of Rauschenbusch with the strategy of civil disobedience championed by Thoreau. The result was a twelve-year career leading non-violent social protest against racial inequality through boycotts, sit-ins, and marches -- which led to the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, ending legal segregation in America.

For his efforts, he was vilified from every side. White clergymen told him that Jesus had nothing to do with civil rights and ministers shouldn’t get involved in politics. The young Black Power and Black Nationalist leaders repudiated King’s dream of (and struggle for) a non-segregated, non-violent world and obedience to Jesus' command to love his enemies. A black woman stabbed him with a letter opener at a Harlem book signing, and a white man shot him in Memphis. His house was bombed, and he was arrested thirty times -- the first time for driving five miles-per-hour over the speed limit. The FBI wiretapped his phones.

But he also inspired young blacks to occupy a segregated lunch counter and endure without retaliation white patrons putting out cigarettes on their necks, black citizens of all ages to walk everywhere for 381 days to protest segregated busses, and a white President Johnson to call out the brutality of the white response to Civil Rights efforts and push through the legislation that would end segregation.

And he did it all for the love of Jesus Christ and for the love of neighbor.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968. He was 39 years old.

Collect for Martin Luther King, Jr.
Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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John Donne vs. Agnes of Rome

We finish up the first full week of Lent Madness with a match-up between a 17th-century priest and poet and a young, early 4th-century martyr. John Donne made it into the official bracket by defeating T.S. Eliot in the final play-in round known as the Great Poetry Slam. By winning that battle, Donne proclaimed to the world that he would not be, in the parlance of March Madness, "one and Donne."

Yesterday, in the biggest blow-out to date, Hilda of Whitby crushed Samuel Seabury to advance to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. The only drama of the day was whether Hilda would be able to attain the magic blowout number of 80% of the vote. Samuel Seabury was able to stave off ignominy in this regard but still lost 79% to 21%.

Oh, and the other intrigue yesterday was whether we'd be able to make it to 1,000 followers on Twitter. As of this very moment @LentMadness stands at 989 followers (or, as we prefer to call them, "disciples"). Big (undetermined!) prize for our 1,000th follow.

images-1 John Donne

Rarely do great preachers, gifted writers, and esteemed Deans of Cathedrals begin life as poetic rakes who end up in prison.

Or maybe great preachers are great because they lived a life of passion, complexity, and redemption. John Donne certainly did. He was born to a Roman Catholic family, but struggled with his faith in his early life before converting to Anglicanism. He attended several institutions of higher learning without attaining a degree, womanized ladies in courts all over Europe, lived off the wealth of patrons, and wrote poetry. He was spiritual but not religious...and wrote poetry. His poetry was ground-breaking literature of the day with its images and ideas that connected seemingly unrelated things together like a parasite and sex (The Flea).

Donne eventually began a promising political career. His  intelligence and charm opened doors, and he sat in Elizabeth’s last Parliament. Until he followed his heart and married Ann More -- a marriage that was opposed by all parties except the woman and man to be married. They married. Donne got sacked and landed in prison...along with the priest who married them. He was eventually released from prison, and he and Ann, by all accounts, lived happily married until her death.

As Donne’s life became more settled, his questions of faith became more complex. His poetry during this time spoke to the intricacies of human nature and the demands of the Gospel. He also wrote satire, pointedly observing the hypocrisy of government and church practices. He challenged Christians to think for themselves, not blindly to believe what someone in authority told them. He writes (translated slightly), “You won’t be saved on the Day of Judgement by saying Harry or Martin told  you to believe this. God wants to know what YOU thought and believed.”

King James wanted him to become a priest so badly that he declared to all of England that Donne could not be hired except in the church. Donne was ordained in 1615 and soon became known as a great preacher in an age of great preachers, in an era of the Anglican church when preaching was a form of spiritual devotion, an intellectual exercise, and dramatic entertainment.

Donne’s legacy of poetry; of life lived fully and recklessly, with forgiveness and redemption; a life lived in the freedom of human passion and the obedience of devotion to the Gospel; and a life of questioning faith are all great legacies. Perhaps, though, in his own writing, his legacy of community is his greatest. Donne recognized that there is no belonging to a faith community without truly belonging. We are all connected in God one to another. As he writes, “All that she [the Church] does belongs to all.... Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”

One Lord, one faith, one baptism. We are all one in God. Amen and Amen.

Collect for John Donne
Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with your servant John Donne, that whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Laurie Brock

stagnesAgnes of Rome

Agnes was one of the early martyrs of the church whose story of faith and perseverance through persecution continues to inspire us today.

Agnes was a victim of one of the random persecutions in Rome that occurred during the first three centuries of Christianity. In the year 304, Diocletian, one of the most brutal and thorough of Roman emperors, launched a round of persecutions aimed at totally wiping out Christianity.

Agnes’ name means ‘pure’ in Greek, and ‘lamb’ in Latin, so perhaps she was destined for her fate, which she met when she was only 12-years-old.

Tradition tells us Agnes was born to Roman nobility in 291 and raised in a Christian family. Apparently a pagan prefect named Sempronius wished to have Agnes marry his son, but she refused. This decision condemned her to death.

However, Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins. So Sempronius had Agnes dragged through the streets naked to a brothel. There are legends that say on the way to the brothel Agnes prayed, grew hair all over her body, thus clothing her. Then, at the brothel, God continued to protect her: any man who attempted to rape her was struck blind. Agnes was finally led out to a stake to be burned, but the wood would not catch fire. That’s when the officer in charged killed her with a sword.

A few days after Agnes' death, a girl named Emerentiana was found praying by her tomb. This girl claimed to be the daughter of Agnes' wet nurse, thus her foster sister. Emerentiana refused to leave the place, and reprimanded the pagans for killing Agnes. She was stoned to death and later canonized.

Today, Agnes' bones are conserved in the church of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura in Rome, which is built over the catacomb that housed Agnes' tomb. Her skull is preserved in a side chapel in the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone in Rome's Piazza Navona.

The anniversary of Agnes’ martyrdom is marked on January 21. She is regarded as the patron saint of young, unmarried girls. In fact, there is a folk belief that if a girl goes to bed without dinner on the eve of St. Agnes’ Day, she will dream that night about her husband to be.

Collect for Agnes of Rome
Almighty and everlasting God, you choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame: Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Chris Yaw


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Samuel Seabury vs. Hilda of Whitby

In what seems to be shaping up as the Year of the Martyr, today's pairing involves not a whit of martyrdom. The first bishop of the Episcopal Church faces a 7th- century monastic leader and both died of natural causes!

Yesterday, in a most lopsided match-up, Oscar Romero made quick work of Elizabeth Ann Seton defeating her 68% to 32% with nearly 4,500 votes cast. Interestingly the comments were split fairly evenly between the two even if the votes were not.

Many of you, especially those new to Lent Madness (welcome aboard the SS Madness!), have asked how the official bracket is formulated. In this brief video filmed last Eastertide, Scott and Tim give you a peek behind the purple curtain of Lent Madness. You might be surprised at the "scientific/holy" methods used to create our special blend of saintly absurdity.

samuel_seaburySamuel Seabury

Samuel Seabury (November 30, 1729 – February 25, 1796) was the First Bishop of The Episcopal Church, consecrated as the Bishop of Connecticut on November 14, 1784.

Seabury was born in Groton, Connecticut in 1729. He attended Yale College, and studied theology with his father. From a young age, he had felt a call to ordained ministry; however, canonical age restrictions prevented his ordination following his university studies. To pass the time, Seabury moved to Scotland, where he studied medicine in Edinburgh. In 1753, at age 24, he was ordained as a priest.

Seabury returned to the United States, where he served as rector of several parishes from 1754 onward. It was during his time as Rector of St. Peter’s, Westchester (now the Bronx), that the American Revolution erupted. Seabury proved himself a staunch defender of the crown, writing several tracts under the pen name of “A. W. Farmer” (an exceptionally uncreative acronym for “A Westchester Farmer”). In 1775, Seabury was arrested and imprisoned by local Patriots. During this period, Seabury’s family was beaten, his possessions ransacked – and his wife ultimately died. Seabury faced the possibility of exile in England.

In March, 1783, ten Episcopal clergymen, meeting in Woodbury, Connecticut, elected Seabury as their second choice to be Bishop. When the first choice declined, Seabury sailed to London in July of that year to be consecrated bishop. But after a year of negotiation, Seabury was unable to obtain episcopal orders from the Church of England, since, as an American citizen, he could not give the canonically required oath of allegiance to the King. Seabury turned to Scotland, whose non-juring bishops did not require an oath of allegiance. In return for reception of episcopal orders from the Scottish Church, Seabury signed a concordat agreeing to incorporate elements of the Scottish Eucharistic Liturgy – most notably the invocation of the Holy Spirit (or epiclesis) – into the new American Liturgy. In November, 1784, he was consecrated bishop. Seabury’s consecration as bishop by the Scottish church ultimately spooked the English Parliament enough to make provision for the consecration of foreign bishops: in 1786, William White and Samuel Provoost would ultimately receive their episcopal orders from the Church of England. Seabury returned to New London, Connecticut, where he served as Rector of St. James Church, and Bishop of Connecticut; in 1789, his ordination was recognized by the first General Convention of the Episcopal Church; in 1792, he joined in the first ordination to the Episcopate on American soil when he, White, and Provoost ordained John Claggett of Maryland.

Seabury was ahead of his time in many of his liturgical persuasions – some of which made him a polarizing figure within the church of his day. Today, the innovations don’t seem quite as controversial and instead ahead of their time: Seabury advocated for weekly celebrations of the Holy Communion and was among the first post-Reformation bishops to wear a mitre.

Seabury died in February, 1796, and is buried at St. James Church, New London, Connecticut.

Collect for the Consecration of Samuel Seabury
We give you thanks, O Lord our God, for your goodness in bestowing upon this Church the gift of the episcopate, which we celebrate in this remembrance of the consecration of Samuel Seabury; and we pray that, joined together in unity with our bishops, and nourished by your holy Sacraments, we may proclaim the Gospel of redemption with apostolic zeal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- David Sibley

St_HildaHilda of Whitby

Hilda was born into nobility, the grandniece of King Edwin, and was baptized on Easter Day in 627 with the entire noble court of the King. We know almost nothing about the first half of her life. Presumably she did not marry, and after King Edwin was killed in battle, she went to live with her sister in East Anglia. She then planned to join her widowed sister in a convent in Chelles in Gaul, but Bishop Aidan of Lindisfarne changed her plans, as bishops tend to do. He asked her to settle in Northumbria to be part of a monastic community there. With her companions in this monastery, she lived in the Celtic Christian tradition Aidan brought from Iona. A year later, Aidan asked Hilda to found  a double monastery (which accepted both women and men) in Hartlepool. After several years there, Aidan again asked Hilda to take her monastic show on the road and establish a monastery in Whitby in 657. It, too, was a double monastery where men and women prayed, served, and learned together in community.

The Venerable Bede writes of Hilda that she established a regular life in Whitby and “taught the obedience of righteousness, mercy, purity, and other virtues, but especially peace and charity. After the example of the primitive Church, no one there was rich, no one was needy, for everything was held in common and nothing was considered to be anyone’s personal property.” Hilda was called “mother” by all who knew her.

Hilda was an early spiritual director and diplomat. Common people as well as kings and others in power came to her for advice in their spiritual challenges and questions of life. She would have eschewed the title (because she was a big fan of humility and equality) but she was most certainly a Cardinal Mother. Her monastery at Whitby produced five bishops and Caedmon, an early English holy poet who wrote in (shockingly enough) vernacular English, a first in literature of the day. Because of Hilda’s support and encouragement of his poetry and education, she is also called a mother of English literature.

As if being a Cardinal Mother, the founder of several successful monasteries, and the mother of English literature wasn’t enough, Hilda’s denouement in her life of faith occurred at the Synod of Whitby. The male leaders of the day got together to decide (argue) whether the Church in England would follow Aidan’s Celtic Christian lead or fall in line with the more Roman expression of Christianity. The big controversy between the two was not women’s ordination or the full inclusion of lesbians or gays, or the use of incense, but the date of Easter (I know, clutch your pearls). Hilda favored the Celtic tradition, but when the Synod decided to follow the Roman tradition, she spoke passionately and as one with authority that she would be obedient to the Synod’s decision and expected others to do the same.

She died in 680, surrounded by those who called her monastery home. Her last words were not of church power or ecclesiastical wealth, but of faithfully following a Gospel of love and peace. Always.

Collect for Hilda of Whitby
O God of peace, by whose grace the abbess Hilda was endowed with gifts of justice, prudence, and strength to rule as a wise mother over the nuns and monks of her household, and to become a trusted and reconciling friend to leaders of the Church:  Give us the grace to recognize and accept the varied gifts you bestow on men and women, that our common life may be enriched and your gracious will be done; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 -- Laurie Brock


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