John Wesley vs. Charles Wesley

Ah, this long anticipated family battle has finally arrived. Methodist Meltdown, Fratricide-apalooza, whatever you choose to call it, today's match-up will be epic. While they share a Collect, today the sibling rivalry will be bitter. A fitting end to the Round of 32 as tomorrow we kick off the Round of the Saintly Sixteen.

Yesterday, despite his impressive name, Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky lost to Harriet Bedell 63% to 37%. While he will be missed, those responsible for updating their church's poster-sized brackets will rejoice. Harriet will go on to face Thomas Gallaudet in the next round.

We recently heard a rumor that there are still some people who have not liked us on Facebook or followed us on Twitter. That seems impossible. In any case, it's time to vote between a heart "strangely warmed" and a "strange palpitation of the heart." If you find your own heart beating too fast with this heart-thumping saintly action, please call your cardiologist. The Supreme Executive Committee is of limited help in such matters of the heart.

JwesleysittingJohn Wesley

It may not be completely fair to call John Wesley an overachiever, but he provides good reasons for making that case. An excellent student, John attended Christ Church, Oxford, where he and his brother Charles established the Holy Club. They were mockingly called the Methodists because they were so methodical about church attendance, Bible study, prayer, and service to the poor.

After they were ordained as Anglican priests, the Wesleys went to the primitive colony of Georgia where they failed to impress anyone, and John managed to get sued for breach of contract by his sort-of former fiancée. John came back to England utterly downcast.

While in the New World, John had become friends with Moravian missionaries. It was while attending a Moravian service in Aldersgate that John felt his heart “strangely warmed,” and he gained a new understanding of God’s grace. It is out of this Aldersgate experience that John rebooted his ministry.

He used his remarkable organizational skills to establish Methodist societies within the Church of England, though he was barred from preaching in most churches due to his evangelistic methods. He often traveled more than 4,000 miles a year–250,000 miles during his lifetime. He preached over 40,000 sermons, mostly in the open air to working class people. He published 233 books, receiving over £30,000 in royalties, most of which he gave to charity, including funds to establish the Kingswood School in Bristol.

Although he remained an Anglican priest throughout his life and did not intend to found a new denomination, his ordination of two lay preachers set the stage for the split of Methodism from the established Church of England.

He continued preaching until days before his death at age 88 in 1791.

Collect for John Wesley
Lord God, who inspired your servant John Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and endowed him with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Laura Darling

charles-wesley_1Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley was the younger of the famed Wesley Brothers, whose Methodist revival changed the shape of religion in eighteenth-century England. Charles was among the greatest hymn writers of all time, with over 6,000 hymns written during his ministry. Among his texts are such beloved hymns as “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” While often eclipsed by his elder brother, Charles Wesley was described by those who knew him as a “man made for friendship.”

Charles attended Christ Church, Oxford, where he and John gathered with close friends for regular communion, religious study, and prayer. Because of the group’s fastidious and structured habits, they were snidely called “Methodists” by their peers; the name stuck. Anyway, Charles was ordained in 1735 before going to serve as a missionary in the colony of Georgia, where he would preach and minister while also serving as the secretary to the colony’s governor. Charles found life in Georgia difficult and was often caught in the crossfire of his parishioners’ feuds; he returned to England after three years.

Charles experienced an inner conversion on Pentecost Sunday, May 21, 1738, at the home of the English Moravian John Bray. He described it as a “strange palpitation of the heart,” in which he gained the confidence and assurance of Jesus’ great love for him. His brother John’s famous Aldersgate experience would come three days later. The brothers would then go on to preach and proclaim that experience to all in England, especially in fields, factories, and under-churched populations.

As Methodism grew and experienced pressure from within to separate from the Church of England, Charles Wesley remained fiercely committed to avoiding schism from the church, which he lovingly called “the old ship.” Charles consistently and vehemently opposed any steps his brother John took which he saw as possibly leading to schism. Charles was not informed of John’s ordinations of Asbury and Coke in 1784 until after the fact, primarily to prevent him from intervening. On his deathbed, he wrote to the local vicar, saying: “Sir, whatever the world may say of me, I have lived, and I die, a member of the Church of England. I pray you to bury me in your churchyard.”

Collect for Charles Wesley
Lord God, who inspired your servant Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- David Sibley


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Joseph Schereschewsky vs. Harriet Bedell

What's in a name? Fortunately for Harriet Bedell, this contest won't be decided by the number of letters in one's name. In this category Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereshewsky would not only win 30 to 13 but he'd run the entire Lent Madness table. Two fascinating stories, two amazingly saintly lives, yet only one will move on to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen.

In yesterday's Lent Madness action, despite a late charge by old man Simeon, Phillips Brooks defeated him 52% to 48% and will face Catherine of Siena in the next round.

Enjoy today's penultimate first round match-up and don't forget to watch the latest edition of Monday Madness. We guarantee it will make your Tuesday even more like a Monday (it's a Lent thing).

schereshewskySamuel Isaac Joseph Schereshewsky

Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky was born to Jewish parents in Lithuania in 1831, and his early life and studies were designed with the intention that he be ordained to the rabbinate. After studies at the Rabbinical College in Zhitomeer, Russia, he moved to Breslau, Germany for two further years of graduate study. It was there that, under the influence of missionaries, and after his own reading of a Hebrew translation of the New Testament, Schereschewsky became a Christian. In 1854, he emigrated to the United States, settling in Pittsburgh. There he entered the Western Theological Seminary, with plans to seek ordination in the Presbyterian Church. After two years in Pittsburgh, he became an Episcopalian. He enrolled at The General Theological Seminary in New York City as a candidate for Holy Orders from the Diocese of Maryland. He completed his studies there in 1859 and was ordained deacon that year, and priest the next.

In response to a great need for missionaries in China, Schereschewsky continued to wander the globe, this time boarding the ship Golden Rule and moving to China in 1859. Already very talented at learning foreign languages, he taught himself Mandarin during his voyage in order to further his missionary work. The time after he landed was extraordinarily productive–by 1865, Schereschewsky had translated the Psalms and the bulk of The Book of Common Prayer into Mandarin Chinese; from 1865 to 1873, he translated the entirety of the Old Testament.

In 1875, Channing Moore Williams, who had been the Bishop for Japan and China, was assigned to Japan alone. Schereschewsky was elected as the new Bishop of Shanghai, but he declined, not trusting himself to be fit for the office. In 1877, he was elected again, and this time he accepted and was consecrated. While bishop, he founded Saint John’s University and began yet another Bible translation, this time into Wenli, the local dialect.

After developing Parkinson’s disease, he resigned his See in 1883. He remained dedicated to his translation work, even after becoming almost fully paralyzed, and typed the last 2,000 pages with the one finger he could still move. He moved to Tokyo in 1897, where he died in 1906.

Collect for Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky
O God, in your providence you called Joseph Schereschewsky from his home in Eastern Europe to the ministry of this Church, and sent him as a missionary to China, upholding him in his infirmity, that he might translate the Holy Scriptures into languages of that land. Lead us, we pray, to commit our lives and talents to you, in the confidence that when you give your servants any work to do, you also supply the strength to do it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- David Sibley

harrietbedell500Harriet Bedell

Born in Buffalo, New York in 1875, Harriet Bedell first trained to be a schoolteacher, but her life’s work was not to be contained in a classroom. When she was thirty years old, she attended a lecture given by a missionary to China. Soon after she attended the Episcopal Training School for Deaconesses in New York City, a one-year program where she learned about religion, teaching, mission, hygiene, and nursing. Her mother balked at an overseas posting, so in 1907 Bedell accepted an assignment to serve as a missionary-teacher among the Southern Tsitsistas/Suhtai (Cheyenne) people at the Whirlwind Mission in Oklahoma. She served in Oklahoma for nine years until the mission closed. She was then called to work with the Gwich’in people in Stevens Village, Alaska. She was finally made a deaconess there in 1922.

However, Alaska was not to be her life’s work. In the depths of the Great Depression, funds were scarce to run the boarding school she had helped to found. She returned to New York in 1931 to plead for funds, but the school was closed and she never returned to Alaska. One door was shut, but another would soon open.

On a speaking tour in Florida, Bedell visited a Seminole Indian reservation. Appalled by the living conditions, she wasted no time, moving right in to the Blade Cross Mission, where she lived for the next thirty years. She encouraged tribal members to revive many traditional crafts to sell in the mission store. Her friendship with the Seminole people won their respect, and her faithful witness contributed to the improvement in their quality of life. She continued to serve until Hurricane Donna destroyed the mission in 1960. She died in 1969.

Bedell’s ministry placed value on health, education, and spiritual comfort over religious conversion. Once, when asked to speak at a Seminole funeral, she translated Psalm 23: “The Great Spirit watches over all of us. He feeds us and leads us to the waters of comfort. When we walk in the shadow of death, we need fear no bad things. The love and mercy of the Great Spirit will be with us all our lives and we will always be welcome in the Great Chickee.”

Such was her verve and passion for life and work, the Rev. Howard V. Harper wrote in his essay, “Always Welcome in the Great Chickee” that Bedell “played all of life in the Key of C Major.”

Collect for Harriet Bedell
Holy God, you chose your faithful servant Harriet Bedell to exercise the ministry of deaconess and to be a missionary among indigenous peoples: Fill us with compassion and respect for all people, and empower us for the work of ministry throughout the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Heidi Shott


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Phillips Brooks vs. Simeon

And...we're back for another week of hard-hitting, halo-busting Lent Madness action! Today we have a battle between a renowned 19th century preacher and an aged Biblical figure who held the newborn Jesus in his arms. It's "O Little Town of Bethlehem" vs. the Nunc Dimittis as can only happen in Lent Madness.

This week we'll see the conclusion of the Round of 32 and on Thursday we'll commence with the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. To paraphrase Scripture, "Many (well, okay, 32) are called, but only one will receive the Golden Halo." Onward Christian Voters!

phillipsbrooksPhillips Brooks

While in our day Phillips Brooks is best-known as the man who wrote the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”—and the prayer on the back of Forward Day by Day issues—in the mid-to late-nineteenth century, he was so renowned as a preacher that he was invited by Queen Victoria to preach at her private chapel at Windsor Castle.

Born into a distinguished, devout family in Boston in 1835, Brooks was one of six brothers, four of whom became Episcopal priests. Educated at Boston Latin, Harvard, and Virginia Episcopal Seminary, he was ordained in 1860 and served the first ten years of his ministry in Philadelphia. He was known there for his support of emancipation and, after the Civil War, full voting rights. The sermon he preached after Lincoln’s death is still highly regarded for its eloquence.

However, his home in Boston called to him, and in 1869 he became rector of Trinity Church. Three years later, the building on Summer Street was destroyed by fire, but as a testament to his leadership and gifts as a pastor, the church continued to thrive. According to Harvard Magazine, the congregation was known for its “evangelical warmth, diversity of classes, and charitable activism.”

After land was purchased at Copley Square in 1872, Brooks and his friend, the architect H.H. Richardson, designed the new Trinity, a church that became one of Boston’s most magnificent landmarks. The uncommon placement of the altar in the center of the chancel embodied Brooks’s vision, which he called “a symbol of unity; God and man and all God’s creation.” Unlike most preachers of his day, he didn’t preach from a pulpit. He was also a supporter of congregational singing.

After serving as rector of Trinity for twenty-two years, Brooks was elected Bishop of Massachusetts. He served for only fifteen months before dying of diphtheria at age fifty-seven. Harvard students carried his coffin, and the people of Boston of all religious stripes mourned the passing of a great figure.

At six feet, four inches tall and nearly 300 pounds, he was both a big person and a huge personality who was regarded as a faithful pastor along with his fame as preacher and leader of a large parish. Throughout his ministry, he devoted a great deal of care to the nurture of young people. When one young man wrote to him asking the secret of life, Brooks replied, “I am sure that it is a deeper knowledge and truer love of Christ... I cannot tell you how personal this grows to me. He is here. He knows me and I know him. It is no figure of speech. It is the realest thing in the world. And every day makes it realer.”

Collect for Phillips Brooks
O everlasting God, you revealed truth to your servant Phillips Brooks, and so formed and molded his mind and heart that he was able to mediate that truth with grace and power: Grant, we pray, that all whom you call to preach the Gospel may steep themselves in your Word, and conform their lives to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Heidi Shott


Simeon, we read in the Gospel of Luke, was a righteous and devout man living in Jerusalem. His name is the same as Simeon (Hebrew Shimon), the second son of the patriarch Jacob and his wife Leah and namesake of the Israelite tribe of Simeon. One translation of the name is “he has heard my suffering;” this meaning echoes scripture that tells how Jacob favored his other wife, Rachel, over Leah, Simeon’s mother.

An ancient legend tells that the Egyptian pharaoh Ptolemy II called seventy scholars together to translate the Holy Scriptures into Greek for the library at Alexandria (this translation would become known as the Septuagint). Simeon was one of the seventy, and while he was translating the book of Isaiah, he read, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a Son” (Isaiah 7:14). Thinking the word virgin should read woman, Simeon began to make the correction. An angel appeared to him, saying, “You shall see these words fulfilled. You shall not die until you behold Christ the Lord born of a pure and spotless Virgin.”

According to Luke, the Holy Spirit guided Simeon into the Temple when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus there for customary Jewish rites. Simeon took the infant Jesus into his arms and prayed what has become known as the Song of Simeon, or Nunc Dimittis, traditionally used as a canticle at Evensong in The Episcopal Church:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

— The Book of Common Prayer, p. 66

When Simeon holds the infant Jesus, the ancient tribes of Israel meet the new incarnation of God. The laments of Israel are heard; the Messiah has been born and is presented in the Temple, held in the arms of the namesake of a tribe of Israel.

We don’t encounter Simeon again in Holy Scripture. Tradition says he died at a very old age. Simeon is called the God-receiver in the Orthodox Church. In the Western Church, Simeon is predominant in the Feast of the Presentation (also called Candlemas) on February 2, where the Church commemorates the dedication of Jesus in the Temple by his parents.

Collect for Simeon
Almighty God, you gave to your servant Simeon the hope and consolation of seeing your salvation in the baby Jesus at the temple. Like Simeon, give us eyes to see your salvation, that when our day comes, we too may depart this world in peace. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Collect written by Nancy Hopkins-Greene.)

 -- Laurie Brock


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Nicholas Ridley vs. John of the Cross

Will John of the Cross get "rid" of Ridley? Or will Nicholas Ridley "crucify" John of the Cross? These are the questions that emerge when an English martyr faces a Spanish mystic. Enjoy the last saintly square-off of the week and stay tuned for more Madness on Monday as Phillips Brooks takes on Simeon.

Yesterday it was Thomas Merton in a romp over Aelred 60% to 40%. The day wasn't without controversy as the Supreme Executive Committee was forced to deny allegations of a "Payment for Placement" scheme involving Saint Louis of France (or Missouri).

LM RidleyNicholas Ridley

Nicholas Ridley was a leading voice in the Protestant movement in the English Church and was executed for heresy and treason in the reign of Queen Mary I. In 1547, during the reign of Edward VI, Ridley was named Bishop of Rochester. He worked with Thomas Cranmer to develop the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and was enthroned as Bishop of London in 1550. He was a tireless advocate for reformed doctrine and took part not only in its promotion but also in the prosecution of Catholic-minded bishops and clergy. Ridley gained royal notice and favor having preached with energy and zeal before King Henry VIII. Once Henry abandoned Rome, Ridley’s star rose even higher. He showed concern for the interior spirituality and moral fabric of individual churchmen and the wider Church as a whole. He was unburdened by theological depth and known more for the fiery energy with which he preached and taught. Writing on Roman Catholicism, he declared in his Piteous Lamentation on the State of England, “What word of God hath that devilish drab, for the maintenance of her manifold abominations, and to set to sale such merchandise wherewith, (alas, the madness of man!) the wicked harlot hath bewitched almost the whole world?”

As bishop, Ridley ordered altars to be removed from the churches of his diocese and replaced by spare tables for services of the Lord’s Supper. Ridley supported the dissolution of the monasteries and was fierce in his assault on religious imagery in churches, on the doctrines of purgatory, confession, and saints, and on other articles of Catholic faith.

He took part in a plot to remove Queen Mary from the throne in favor of Lady Jane Grey and preached that Queens Elizabeth and Mary were illegitimate and thus not true monarchs. It was for this treason that, after his excommunication for heresy, he was burnt at the stake on October 16, 1555. He was executed alongside fellow bishop, Hugh Latimer. (Cranmer’s execution for heresy followed five months later). Latimer famously said to Ridley before the execution, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as (I trust) shall never be put out.”

Collect for Nicholas Ridley (and Latimer and Cranmer)
Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servant Nicholas Ridley, we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Robert Hendrickson

John_Cross1John of the Cross

Born in 1542, John of the Cross (Juan de Ypres y Alvarez) was a Spanish mystic, friar, poet, and priest. His father came from a wealthy family that disowned him because he married a woman beneath their social stature. When John’s father died soon after John’s birth, his family was left struggling in poverty. John would later say that the sacrifices of his youth taught him to have joy and peace in the midst of dire circumstances.

As a young adult, John studied at a nearby Jesuit college and later became a Carmelite friar and priest in 1577. Soon after, Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun, asked John to help her institute a series of reforms that would help return the Carmelite order to its original purpose of prayer and poverty. John agreed to take up her call and dedicated himself to greater prayer and self-sacrifice, including walking without shoes (as did other nuns and friars who sought a return to a deeper life of prayer). Those who participated in the reforms became known as “Discalced Carmelites” (or “Carmelites of Strict Observance”).

However, not everyone supported the reforms, and some of John’s fellow Carmelite friars kidnapped and imprisoned him in a 6x10-foot prison cell. Several times a week, John’s captors beat him. Even still, it was in the midst of his captivity that John wrote some of his most respected mystical writings, including poetry and spiritual commentary. Many of these writings reflected his dependence and journey to union with God. In The Dark Night of the Soul, one of John’s most well-known writings, John described the journey of feeling spiritually abandoned by God and how such a struggle can be a grace through which Christians can grow in faith and union with God.

After nine months in prison, John finally escaped and fled to a nearby convent. Over the course of his life, he traveled more than 30,000 miles and established more than eight monasteries across the Spanish countryside. John died in 1591 and was canonized a saint by Benedict XIII in 1726.

Collect for John of the Cross
Judge eternal, throned in splendor, you gave Juan de la Cruz strength of purpose and mystical faith that sustained him even through the dark night of the soul: Shed your light on all who love you, in unity with Jesus Christ our Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Maria Kane


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Thomas Merton vs. Aelred

The photograph vs. the icon points to the 800 years standing between these two giants of monasticism, Thomas Merton and Aelred of Rivaulx. And by "standing" we mean amid the blue grass of Kentucky for the one and among the moors of North Yorkshire, England for the other.

While we generally try to keep any Celebrity Blogger bias out of the contests, it should be noted that Laurie Brock hails from Kentucky and Robert Hendrickson is, well, an Anglophile. He also cleverly used a Merton quote in support of Aelred. So subplots abound!

In yesterday's Lent Madness action, Thomas Gallaudet trounced Louis of France 78% to 22%. King Louis was last seen muttering something about "eating cake." And, as we highlighted late in the day, Lent Madness also received some more media attention.

If you're still looking for some ways to use Lent Madness as a series for adults, the Rev. Anne Emry has some very helpful ideas on her blog Sacred Story. Since she serves as the Assistant Rector at St. John's in Hingham, Massachusetts (where Tim's the rector), she has an inside track on all the latest Lent Madness "gossip."

primary-mertonThomas Merton

Outside Bardstown, Kentucky, on acres of land, sits the Trappist Monastery that would likely be obscure except for one man. Thomas Merton entered the monastic life there in 1941, after a long, wandering, and sometimes turbulent life.

Born in France, Merton experienced frequent moves, the death of his mother, and the absence of his father. After his father died in 1930, Merton rejected the nominal Anglicanism into which he’d been baptized and became an agnostic. His later writings recall Merton being drawn to observe Mass, but he made no formal excursion into religion until 1937, when Étienne Gilson’s explanation of God in The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy resonated with him, and he was introduced to mysticism in Aldous Huxley’s Ends and Means. A year later, Merton joined the Roman Catholic church; two years later, he began the process to become a Franciscan monk. Later, Merton was told he was not a suitable fit for the Franciscans. After a retreat at the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, Merton found his spiritual home—and became known as Brother Louis.

Merton’s superior at Gethsemani encouraged Merton’s writing. He first published poetry. His spiritual autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain was published in 1948 and immediately became a spiritual classic. A prolific writer, Merton became increasingly well-known outside the walls of the monastery, which created some tension within his monastic community.

Merton’s writings and correspondence with global figures show a man whose spirituality became connected to issues of social justice, nonviolence, racial equality, and a deep life of contemplation. As his fame grew, he moved into a hermitage on the grounds of Gethsemani, which is still available for monastic solitude. Merton died on December 10, 1968 by accidental electrocution in Thailand while on pilgrimage in the Far East.

One of Merton’s epiphanies is commemorated by a plaque at the corner of Fourth and Walnut streets in Louisville, Kentucky. Noted in his private journal and included in his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Merton writes:

“I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness...The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream.”

Merton’s vision of the unity of all continues in his writings, treasured by people of many faiths, and even people of no professed faith, across the world, bound together by these mystical experiences of Brother Louis.

Collect for Thomas Merton
Gracious God, you called your monk Thomas Merton to proclaim your justice out of silence, and moved him in his contemplative writings to perceive and value Christ at work in the faiths of others: Keep us, like him, steadfast in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Laurie Brock


lm aelredAelred

Aelred of Rievaulx was a learned monk of manifold gifts and spiritual depth. He was born in 1110 and was the son, grandson, and great-grandson of priests (born in Scotland, which had resisted papal insistence on celibacy for clerics). Aelred served the court of King David I of Scotland and developed a close bond with the king.

After about a decade working in the court, Aelred left for England and a monastery at Rievaulx. There are competing historical narratives about Aelred’s decision to join the Cistercians monks. In some narratives, the decision was literally overnight, and in other accounts, he spent long years yearning for a monastic life. In any case, his connections and friendships enabled him to become not only a gifted monk and abbot but also an influential advocate for the monasteries and the faith.

Lent Madness 2014 rival saint Thomas Merton wrote of the order, “The Cistercians of Saint Bernard’s generation had become one of the most important influences in the active life of the Church and even in European politics of their time. . . Anyone who had any talent or, worse still, any powerful connections, was likely to find himself in danger of leading an increasingly active life.” With Aelred’s gift for languages and knowledge of courtly diplomacy, he became integral to the order’s influence in both the Church and the Kingdom.

Aelred was not only skilled in the worldly affairs of his community. He was also a gifted writer and pastor. He wrote extensively and learnedly but also with directness and simplicity on matters historical, ascetical, and spiritual. He had an able mind and a pastoral heart. Aelred’s writings convey the depth of his friendships as well as his longing for closer and richer community. He wrote in Spiritual Friendship, “...the friend will rejoice with my soul rejoicing, grieve with it grieving, and feel that everything that belongs to a friend belongs to himself.”

Aelred was elected as abbot and his true legacy is in creating a community famed for its welcome of all. One historian wrote, “It is the singular and supreme glory of the house of Rievaulx that above all else it teaches tolerance of the infirm and compassion for others in their necessities.” Upon his death, Aelred was buried in a shrine, which became a renowned pilgrimage site. The shrine survived until the violence of the dissolution of the monasteries under Protestant rule.

The Collect for Aelred
Almighty God, you endowed the abbot Aelred with the gift of Christian friendship and the wisdom to lead others in the way of holiness: Grant to your people that same spirit of mutual affection, that, in loving one another, we may know the love of Christ and rejoice in the gift of your eternal goodness; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Robert Hendrickson


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Louis of France vs. Thomas Gallaudet

Will the people of St. Louis, Missouri, rise up to support their namesake or will the alumni of Gallaudet University emerge in force? Will the people of France cry "Mon Dieu!" and vote for Louis or will the Deaf community throughout the world come together in support of Thomas? These questions, and probably more, will be answered in today's edition of "As the Steeple Turns."

In yesterday's Battle of the Catherines, Catherine of Siena solidly defeated Catherine of Alexandria 61% to 39%. No word on how Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kate Middleton (aka the Duchess of Cambridge), Katy Perry, Katie Couric, or Katharine Jefferts Schori voted.

lm louisLouis of France

Though other monarchs have been named saints, Louis IX of France is the only French sovereign on the Roman Catholic Church’s divine rolls. Louis IX acceded to the throne when he was just twelve years old. Although he was known for his fiery youthful temper, he was widely viewed as an able commander and generous ruler. He endowed monasteries, abbeys, and cathedrals from the earliest years of his reign. Most spectacular is the Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel) in Paris, which housed numerous relics including the Crown of Thorns and relics of the True Cross.

Throughout his reign, Louis was well regarded for his impartiality, even-handedness, and willingness to negotiate rather than go to war. He worked tirelessly to find a fair peace with Henry III of England, though he could have insisted on punitive demands. Instead, he allowed the King of England to retain not only substantial claims to land but also his dignity. In return, the English monarch named himself a vassal of Louis, pledging mutual military support and protection. An able negotiator and trusted arbitrator, Louis was often asked to navigate difficult diplomatic situations between parties across Europe (and was even called upon to make peace between Henry III and his English barons). Louis became known as the ideal of Christian Princedom.

He changed laws to limit corruption and increase transparency. Trial by combat, judicial duels, usury, and more were done away with as Louis sought to create a more humane and responsible system of governance. Had popular voting in brackets been invented in the thirteenth century, we are pretty sure Louis would have supported this particular mode of governance and competition. Louis is not without flaws, though, and was not given to unleavened piety. He struggled with gluttony and always worked to maintain his temper. (He was often most exercised by the abuses of clergy, which he punished with some ferocity.)

Perhaps the most damaging parts of Louis’s legacy are his leadership of the failed crusade in Tunisia, which would prove to be his mortal end. In addition, at the urging of the Holy See, he burned thousands of copies of Jewish texts (this campaign against the Jews was overturned by the succeeding Pope).

At his death in 1270, Louis demonstrated his deep care for his people. He commanded his son to protect and assist the poor, who were the humblest of his subjects. Louis IX was popularly recognized as a saint long before the Vatican declared him as such in 1297.

Collect for Louis of France
O God, who called your servant Louis of France to an earthly throne that he might advance your heavenly kingdom, and gave him zeal for your Church and love for your people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Robert Hendrickson

TGallaudetThomas Gallaudet

Along with his father and brother, Thomas Gallaudet played a leading role in establishing deaf education and promoting the advancement of the Deaf in the United States throughout the nineteenth century. (The capitalized “Deaf ” is used when referring to Deaf culture, as opposed to “deaf ” to describe hearing loss). His father, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, co-founded the first School for the Deaf in America. His brother, Edward Miner Gallaudet, became the principal of what is now Gallaudet University, the first to offer college degrees to the Deaf.

Both his mother and his wife were Deaf, and Thomas Gallaudet was fluent in sign language from childhood. At that time, no one recognized signing as a language. Most people considered sign merely crude gestures; it wasn’t formally recognized as a language until the 1960s.

Gallaudet first taught at his father’s school in Connecticut, then at the New York Institution for Deaf Mutes. While there, he began teaching Bible classes to the Deaf as he studied for the ministry. Shortly after his ordination as an Episcopal priest in 1851, he established St. Ann’s Church, the first congregation in any denomination for the Deaf. Services were both spoken and signed and were free to all in a time when pew rent was the norm. Beginning in 1859, he expanded this ministry to other cities.

Throughout the 1800s, a fierce battle raged over whether the Deaf should be allowed to sign or not. The 1880 Milan Conference of Deaf Educators declared oral instruction (teaching speech and lip-reading) superior to sign and voted to ban the use of all manual instruction in deaf education.

Gallaudet managed to maintain a generous spirit, working with people across the spectrum of the issue while continuing his advocacy. Although incorporating oral instruction in his work, he continued to offer signed services and interpreted at churches throughout the country. He promoted Deaf candidates for the priesthood. In fact, the first Deaf priest, Henry Syle, shares Gallaudet’s feast day. And he helped the Deaf establish their own institutions to care for their community. Gallaudet changed people’s minds about what the Deaf can do. Throughout his ministry, he gave his personal testimony, telling those with ears to hear “that signs can make up a real, living language as well as sounds. If this be so, the imparting of the sacramental life, according to our Lord’s appointment, cannot surely be limited to the latter.”

Collect for Thomas Gallaudet
O loving God, whose will it is that everyone should come to you and be saved: We bless your Holy Name for your servants Thomas Gallaudet and Henry Winter Syle, whose labors with and for those who are deaf we commemorate today; and we pray that you will continually move your Church to respond in love to the needs of all people; through Jesus Christ, who opened the ears of the deaf, and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Laura Darling


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Catherine of Alexandria vs. Catherine of Siena

If your name happens to be Catherine (or Katherine or Cate or Katy or even Katharine -- like  a certain Presiding Bishop of a certain mainline denomination) this is your day. No matter which Catherine emerges victorious -- of Alexandria or of Siena -- you win! Of course after 24 hours one Catherine will be discarded onto the Lent Madness heap of irrelevance. But that's okay because this is your special day!

In yesterday's action, Lydia defeated Moses the Black 60% to 40% and will advance to face the winner of Nicholas Ridley vs. John of the Cross.

And if for some (inexcusable) reason, you missed yesterday's edition of Monday Madness with Tim and Scott, you can watch it here. Basically we DVR it for you so you can watch in peace without pesky commercial interruptions for saintly products like St. John's Wort or Yves Saint Laurent.

512px-Catherine_of_Alexandria_PacherCatherine of Alexandria

Many legends surround the life and death of Catherine of Alexandria. Tradition tells us Catherine was born at the end of the third century to Roman rulers in Alexandria, Egypt. An incredibly beautiful and intelligent woman, with every privilege at her disposal, Catherine excelled in her studies and developed renown for her ability in the arts and sciences, especially philosophy. As a young woman, she converted to Christianity after a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary giving her in mystical marriage to Christ.

Some years later, during the persecution under the Roman Emperor Maxentius, Catherine scolded the vicious ruler for killing Christians and for his own idolatry. In response Maxentius gathered together fifty philosophers to engage her in debate. Impressed by her erudition and the force of her arguments, the philosophers converted to Christianity and were summarily burned alive by the humiliated despot. Maxentius jailed Catherine for her insolence. While she was in jail, Maxentius offered to release Catherine if she would marry him. She refused, claiming that she was married to Christ. Later, Catherine converted many in his household, including his wife. The furious hegemon executed his wife and 200 servants and condemned Catherine to death.

The executioners put her to the spiked wheel, but at her touch the wheel shattered and instead killed many of her assailants. Maxentius commanded his soldiers to behead Catherine. When the blade sliced through her neck, milk, not blood, flowed. Legend has it that her body was taken by angels to the Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai, which today is commonly referred to as Saint Catherine’s Monastery. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is the same monastery that until the late nineteenth century housed one of the oldest, complete manuscripts of the Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus.

Saint Catherine of the Wheel, as she is sometimes called, was for centuries an important saint in popular piety. She appeared to Joan of Arc, who believed Catherine had been appointed as her advisor. Today she is seen as a patroness to philosophers, girls, librarians, and ironically, people who work with wheels (such as potters, spinners, and mechanics).

Collect for Catherine of Alexandria
O God, by your Holy Spirit you give to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant Catherine, and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- David Creech

catherine of sienaCatherine of Siena

Catherine of Siena is one of the foremost mystics, reformers, and politicians of all saintly history. Born Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa on March 25, 1347, she was five or six years old when she had her first vision and seven when she vowed to give her life to Christ.

But before she could take any vows, her older sister, Bonaventura, died in childbirth, and her parents wanted her to marry the widower. Catherine said no. She stopped eating and chopped off her hair (in order to thwart her mother’s wishes that she look attractive in order to catch a husband). Successfully staving off marriage, Catherine basically formed a one-woman Dominican order, living an active, prayerful life devoted to quiet service to the poor, while still living with her family.

This irritated her parents, but Catherine was immovable, especially after receiving an encouraging vision from Saint Dominic. Eventually, she prevailed on her parents to let her join a tertiary order of the Dominicans; she remained in quiet contemplation and service to the local community until she was about 21.

Then, there was a turning point. Catherine had a vision of a “mystical marriage” to Christ, and an overpowering sense of God’s love and closeness to all creation. This vision compelled her to join public life and leave her life of solitude.

No longer content to live quietly at home, Catherine became more involved in aiding people, not just through charity but through politics and advocacy. She gained a reputation for wisdom, fairness, and mercy, and her opinion was widely sought. She travelled around northern Italy, advocating for clerical reform and renewal of the church in every place, asking that people themselves, as well as the institution, renew the Body of Christ through the “total love of God.” She organized against the anti-pope—an illegitimately elected rival pope. Catherine urged Pope Gregory XI not to give in to schism but to move the papacy back to Rome from Avignon. She badgered Gregory with letters until he eventually gave in. We might say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, if this didn’t appear to be an endorsement of Catherine of Alexandria.

Pope Gregory XI came to rely on Catherine so much that he sent her as a peace emissary to the warring states of Florence and Rome. Gregory unexpectedly died soon after Catherine arrived in Rome, and riots broke out. In the ensuing chaos, Catherine was nearly assassinated. But she was undeterred and achieved a peace deal a few months later.

The new Roman pope was a fan as well, and Urban VI soon brought her to the papal court in Rome to be his personal adviser. She helped calm the waters during the Western Schism—a split within the Roman church with rival popes claiming to be the true leader. She argued for the legitimacy of Urban in Rome until her death at age thirty-three of a stroke.

Collect for Catherine of Siena
Everlasting God, you so kindled the flame of holy love in the heart of blessed Catherine of Siena, as she meditated on the passion of your Son our Savior, that she devoted her life to the poor and the sick, and to the peace and unity of the Church: Grant that we also may share in the mystery of Christ’s death, and rejoice in the revelation of his glory; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Megan Castellan

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Lydia vs. Moses the Black

We trust everyone survived their weekend-long bout with LMW (Lent Madness Withdrawal). We realize it's tough to make it through an entire two days devoid of saintly voting. Yet congratulations are in order as you have all made it through this agonizing "wilderness" experience. The good news is that another full week of intense Lent Madness action begins right now!

Be sure to check out Maple Anglican's latest video as Archbishops John and Thomas preview the week ahead and answer some viewer mail. And if that's not enough to get your Lent Madness jets going, we invite you to watch and re-watch the FOX News story about Lent Madness that aired all over the country this weekend.

Today we encounter a Biblical saint baptized by Paul and a fourth-century Ethiopian who embodies the whole idea of "once was lost and now am found." Lydia was a strong woman in faith and determination; Moses the Black was a strong man both spiritually and physically.

Lydia (st lydia's)Lydia

Lydia is considered the first documented convert to Christianity in Europe. Yet for someone who had such a large impact on Christian history, what we know of Lydia’s story is slight. She appears only in Acts 14, praying by the river near Philippi, as Paul and Silas come by on their mission to Macedonia of preaching the gospel. Lydia listens attentively, volunteers for baptism along with her household, and insists that Paul and Silas stay at her house while they are in the neighborhood. We know Lydia was a God-fearer, a Gentile who worshipped the Jewish God but hadn’t officially converted. She lived in a town that didn’t have enough Jewish faithful to sustain a synagogue of its own, so they met outside by a river. Lydia was determined.

We know she was head of her household: Scholars differ on this, but the author of Luke and Acts never mentions a husband, and it is likely that if she had a husband, she would not have been running the business and making hospitality decisions as she did. Lydia was in charge.

We know she was prosperous. The purple dyes that she made were highly prized, [perhaps because one day it would become the official color of Lent Madness]. Used to color the textiles of royalty, the purple dye came from carnivorous sea snail mucous, and as one might imagine, the retrieval process was arduous and slow-going. (And I imagine it really irritated the snails.) So the resulting dye was incredibly expensive. The colloquialism for children of royalty was “born into purple.” Plus, given the root of her name, it is likely that she and her household moved at some point from Thyatira (located in modern Turkey) to Macedonia (in Greece), where she encountered Paul. That took money.

We know Lydia was hospitable: she welcomed Paul and Silas into her home after she heard them preach, and she provided for them out of her resources. It was out of this small beginning that the church of Philippi was born—and we later get the Letter to the Philippians. From her conversion, hospitality, providence, and generosity, on an entire continent sprung into the gospel.

Today, there is a church dedicated to Saint Lydia on the site where she was baptized, as well as several in Macedonia. She is a canonized saint in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, with the Orthodox even titling her as “Equal to the Apostles.”

Lydia’s life of determined faithfulness resonates still through the ages, and bears fruit, even to today.

Collect for Lydia (and Dorcas and Phoebe)
Filled with your Holy Spirit, gracious God, your earliest disciples served you with the gifts each had been given: Lydia in business and stewardship, Dorcas in a life of charity and Phoebe as a deacon who served many. Inspire us today to build up your Church with our gifts in hospitality, charity and bold witness to the Gospel of Christ; who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Megan Castellan

Moses the Black (3)Moses the Black

Also known as Moses of Ethiopia, Moses the Black was born around 330. As a young man, he left Ethiopia for adventures in Egypt. He found himself a servant to a wealthy Egyptian landowner. Moses would surreptitiously steal from his boss, lining his pockets with the profits. When the man discovered Moses’ perfidy, he expelled him from his house.

Moses, a large and formidable man, gathered around him other bandits. Together they robbed and harassed people living in the Egyptian countryside. As he was fleeing the authorities, he took refuge among monks in Sketes, a desert community outside of Alexandria. In time, inspired by their contented piety, Moses converted to Christianity and renounced his former ways of violence and carousing. Legend has it that four robbers once assaulted his monastery. Moses stood his ground, and with his bare hands, he unarmed and tied up the would-be thieves. He brought them to the other monks and asked their advice. Moses suggested that it would not be very Christian to repay violence with violence. The bandits were so moved by the compassion of the monks that they too joined the monastery.

On another occasion, Moses was summoned to a council to pass judgment on a brother who had committed a fault. Moses refused. Urged by the priests to join the council, Moses grabbed a leaking jug of water (some say it was sand) and carried it into the meeting. Perplexed by this, the brothers asked him what he was doing. He replied that like the trail of water, his sins follow behind him but he did not see them, and yet he was being asked to judge another man. The brothers were moved by this gesture and forgave the man straightaway.

Moses ultimately became abbot of a community in the desert and was later ordained a priest. In 405, he was warned of marauding Berbers from North Africa who intended to attack his monastery. Moses sent away all but six or seven of the monks and insisted to those who stayed that they not respond to any attack with violence. “Those who live by the sword die by the sword,” he reminded his brothers. He and the monks welcomed the bandits. All of the monks, including Moses, were killed.

Early church historian Samilinius Sozomen wrote of Moses the Black that “no one else ever made such a change from evil to excellence.” Moses is a shining example of the transformative power of the gospel. He is the patron saint of nonviolence.

Collect for Moses the Black
God of transforming power and transfiguring mercy: Listen to the prayers of all who, like Abba Moses, cry to you: “O God whom we do not know, let us know you!” Draw them and all of us from unbelief to faith and from violence into your peace, through the cross of Jesus our Savior; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

-- David Creech


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J.S. Bach vs. Alfred the Great

Today's battle between musician and king is one of the more intriguing pairings of Lent Madness 2014. While on seemingly disparate paths, both J.S. Bach and Alfred the Great were fighters. Well, Bach once tangled with a bassoonist and Alfred fought Vikings but you get the point. However this match-up turns out, we know Bach will remain victorious in one category: children sired. He famously fathered 20 children while Alfred had a mere quarter of this number.

In yesterday's neck-and-neck race between James Holly and Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet eked out a victory 51% to 49%. She'll go on to face Alcuin of York in the Round of the Saintly Sixteen.

In the same way it's never too late in Lent to begin a Lenten discipline, it's never too late to join in Lent Madness! If you're just checking out this fun, informative way to learn about some amazing people and grow your faith, click here to watch our brief Voting 101 video. We also have some general information for those new to Lent Madness here.

If you haven't liked us on Facebook or followed us on Twitter, you're missing some supplemental conversation. Granted there's plenty of that among the hundreds of comments that follow each match-up but some people just can't get enough of the Madness!

Well, it's been a wonderful, wacky, heart-pounding first full week of Lent Madness 2014. Yesterday marked our second 1% margin of victory this week (see Antony of Egypt vs. Mary of Egypt). Yowza! The Supreme Executive Committee authorizes you to take a deep cleansing breath this weekend and then get ready for our next match-up on Monday morning as Lydia tangles with Moses the Black.


J.S. Bach

For someone who was orphaned at age nine and never traveled farther than 225 miles from his birthplace, Johann Sebastian Bach left a legacy to the world of music much grander than his circumstances might suggest. Born in 1685, the eighth child of a musical family in Eisenach, Germany, Bach studied organ and voice. He was known for his stellar soprano voice. After the loss of his parents who died just months apart, he lived with his older brother, Johann Christoph, an organist who likely continued Bach’s training and introduced him to contemporary music.

Bach’s first real job as an organist came at the age of eighteen when he was hired in Arnstadt, a city in central Germany. Over the next several years, as he moved to progressively larger and more prestigious positions, he began composing in earnest. At age 22 he married his first wife, Maria Barbara, and rather famously, engaged in a street fight with a bassoonist.

After stints in Weimar and Köthen as Kapellmeister (musicmaker), Bach landed in Leipzig in 1723 as Thomaskantor, or director of music, a post he held for twenty-seven years until his death. During this period, he composed more than 300 sacred cantatas that correspond to the weekly lectionary readings. In addition, he continued composing the large-scale orchestral works for which he is well known: the St. Matthew Passion and St. John Passion for Good Friday, the Mass in B Minor, the Brandenburg Concerti, and hundreds of other works. A catalog of his work created in 1950 lists some 1,127 surviving pieces; many more compositions were lost over the years.

In Bach’s day, the church was the only place an accomplished musician could make a living for himself and his family. And Bach required a substantial living: between his two wives (the second was the much-younger, highly gifted soprano Anna Magdalena) he fathered twenty children, ten of whom survived to adulthood. However, his deep devotion to the Christian faith was evident: he not only composed the sacred works but also taught Luther’s Small Catechism classes while at Leipzig. No one of his stature would have been forced to teach Sunday School.

J.S. Bach died at age 65 in Leipzig. He kept composing until the very end, despite contending with blindness for many years. His deep dedication to his craft resulted in some of the most beautifully complex music humankind has ever created. Certain of Bach’s pieces are the musical equivalent of a gothic cathedral. They make our hearts soar toward God.

Collect for J.S. Bach
Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, who teaches us in Holy Scripture to sing your praises and who gave your musicians Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel and Henry Purcell grace to show forth your glory in their music: Be with all those who write or make music for your people, that we on earth may glimpse your beauty and know the inexhaustible riches of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 -- Heidi Shott

alfred-the-greatAlfred the Great

Alfred the Great united the kingdom of England and was its first great moral leader. Born around 849, he was sent to Rome at the age of four, where some sources say he was confirmed and anointed king by Pope Leo IV.

This was a trifle premature, since Alfred had three older brothers, one of whom deposed his father shortly after they returned home to England. Until Alfred came of age, the kingdom was divided between his brothers, Aethelbald, Aethelred, and Aethelbert.

During this period, Alfred fought alongside his brother, Aethelred; first, against the “Great Heathen Army,” led by Ivar the Boneless, then against the invading Danish—also known as the Viking—army. This second battle did not go well, at least for Aethelred. He died, and Alfred became the new king in 871.

This was less impressive than it sounds. The Vikings had conquered most of England, but by 880, Alfred had managed to push them back out, and for the first time in history, unite England under a single ruler.

Alfred then set about reforming legal practices throughout the land. He issued a new legal code to standardize the laws throughout all England. This was called the Doom Book, which took inspiration from the Ten Commandments and the gospel’s call for mercy and combined them into a comprehensive system that meted out fines and payments instead of violence.

Alfred also saw it as his job to increase education and religious piety. So he began a court school to improve his own children’s learning as well as issued a decree that all primary education occur in English. To aid this cause, he commissioned the translation of numerous books into English, including the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History and the Dialogues of Gregory the Great. Alfred also translated several books into English himself, including the first fifty Psalms and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy.

Alfred believed it was his duty to care for both the physical and spiritual well-being of his people, and tried, throughout his reign, to do both equally. He died in October of 899. He is the only English monarch to be (officially) called “the Great.”

Collect for Alfred the Great
O Sovereign Lord, who brought your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people: Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world, and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Megan Castellan


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James Holly vs. Harriet Beecher Stowe

Here's a match-up that may have you scratching your hair shirt. James Theodore Holly, pioneering African-American bishop and missionary versus Harriet Beecher Stowe, author and abolitionist. Two 19th century figures who had a major impact upon race relations in the United States and abroad.

Yesterday F.D. Maurice defeated David of Wales in a day that saw a brief technical glitch in the initial daily e-mail sent out to subscribers. "Yes, Virginia, there are Lent Madness gremlins."

What's that? You say you don't receive these fantabulous e-mails insuring that you never miss a vote? Go to the home page and look on the right side just under the Voting 101 video -- enter your e-mail address and voila! You'll receive every match-up in your inbox at 8:00 am Eastern Standard Time.

Finally, as we enter into another exciting and occasionally heart-wrenching day of voting, remember that what we say about confessing our sins to a priest in the Episcopal Church also applies to engaging in Lent Madness: "All may, none must, some should."

Holly__James_TheodoreJames Theodore Holly

James Theodore Holly was the first bishop of the Episcopal Church in Haiti and the first African-American bishop in the Episcopal Church. He was born in 1829 to freed blacks in Washington, D.C. Holly was self-educated and taught himself Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and Creole over the course of his life.

As a young adult, Holly devoted his time to the cause of abolitionism and greater inclusion of African Americans in the Episcopal Church. He also worked alongside Frederick Douglass and Lewis Tappan and served as an editorial assistant for The Voice of the Fugitive, an abolitionist newspaper in Canada. Although he was baptized and remained Catholic through his young adult years, in 1852—a year after he married his wife Charlotte—Holly was received into the Episcopal Church. Three years later, he was ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and in 1856, a priest.

Holly founded the Episcopal Society for Promoting the Extension of the Church Among Colored People, a forerunner of the Union of Black Episcopalians. While a member, he passionately advocated for the Episcopal Church to make a public statement in opposition to slavery.

Emboldened by his belief that people of color could experience unique opportunities and freedom outside of the United States, Holly, his family, and a small group of emigrants left the United States for Haiti in 1861. During their first year on the island, many of the emigrants died, including Holly’s mother, his wife, and two children. Nevertheless, Holly went on to found Trinity Episcopal Church as well as a host of schools and health clinics. He was ordained the first missionary Bishop of Haiti in 1874.

Holly’s leadership and vision helped create a more culturally inclusive church in a period of great racial upheaval. Along with Holly’s dogged determination of a life of equality for all, his ministry expanded the geographical and cultural parameters of the Episcopal Church and served as a voice for the voiceless. At the time of his death in 1911, the Episcopal Church in Haiti had more than 2,000 members, fifteen parish churches, and fifteen ordained clergy. And today, the Episcopal Church in Haiti, with nearly 90,000 members, is the largest diocese in The Episcopal Church.

Collect for James Theodore Holly
Most gracious God, by the calling of your servant James Theodore Holly you gave us our first bishop of African American heritage. In his quest for life and freedom, he led your people from bondage into a new land and established the Church in Haiti. Grant that, inspired by his testimony, we may overcome our prejudice and honor those whom you call from every family, language, people, and nation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Maria Kane

harriet bcHarriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe put pen to paper and changed the world. She actually wrote more than twenty books in her lifetime but is best remembered for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which brought home the moral evil of slavery in graphically emotional terms.

Born June 14, 1811, Stowe was raised in a progressive and very devout household. She enrolled in a school run by her older sister and received an education in the classics, unusual for a girl at the time. At twenty-one, she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio (now known primarily as the headquarters city of Forward Movement, sponsors of Lent Madness) to join her father, who had moved there to serve as president of Lane Theological Seminary. There, she met Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor at the seminary and fellow abolitionist. They got married in 1836 and had seven children. Their home became a stop on the Underground Railroad and Harriet continued with her writing and work as an abolitionist.

Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a response to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This law stated that if any former slave was captured in the North, they had to be forcibly returned South and returned to their owner, or sold.

By this time, Stowe and her family had moved to Maine, where her husband was teaching theology at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Stowe would gather students and faculty to read over the chapters as she completed them. The book was published in June of 1851, when Stowe was forty-one years old. In a letter to an English Lord Chief Justice, “I wrote what I did because as a woman, as a mother, I was oppressed and broken-hearted with the sorrows and injustice I saw, because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity.” Initially, the novel came out in installments in the newspaper The National Era. She was paid only $400—considered a small payment, even for that time. When Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in novel form, the book sold a staggering 300,000 copies in less than a year.

The book not only articulated slavery as intellectually wrong but also as emotionally wrong, with the effects of slavery played out in the tragic lives of its characters. And the book sparked outrage over slavery like nothing else had to that point. In 1862, Stowe went to the White House to meet with President Lincoln. Her son reported that Lincoln greeted her with “So you’re the little lady who wrote the big book that started this war.”

Stowe kept writing through the rest of her life, though nothing ever matched the success of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And she kept fighting injustice. In her family’s summer home of Mandarin, Florida, she founded several integrated schools and promoted the ideal of equal education.

She died in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1896.

Collect for Harriet Beecher Stowe
Gracious God, we thank you for the witness of Harriett Beecher Stowe, whose fiction inspired thousands with compassion for the shame and sufferings of enslaved peoples, and who enriched her writings with the cadences of The Book of Common Prayer. Help us, like her, to strive for your justice, that our eyes may see the glory of your Son, Jesus Christ, when he comes to reign with you and the Holy Spirit in reconciliation and peace, one God, now and always. Amen.

-- Megan Castellan


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