Thomas Cranmer vs. Emma of Hawaii

Before we head into the weekend and another bout with LMW (Lent Madness Withdrawal) we must first finalize the saints of the Faithful Four. Mary Magdalene? Check. Dietrich Bonhoeffer? Check. Margaret of Scotland (very close call yesterday as she barely squeaked past Enmegahbowh!) Check. Today you will decide whether Thomas Cranmer or Emma of Hawaii will join this august trio in forming the holy quartet that will move forward in their pursuit of the Golden Halo.

To get this far, Thomas Cranmer defeated Ephrem of Edessa and Columba while Emma's road included surprising victories over Catherine of Siena and Paul of Tarsus. Check out the updated bracket to see how things have played out thus far.

We will begin the Faithful Four straightaway on Monday morning with Mary Magdalene taking on Margaret of Scotland. Then on Tuesday it's Dietrich Bonhoeffer battling the winner of today's match-up. Finally, voting for the winner of the Golden Halo will take place on Spy Wednesday. Enjoy a breather this weekend -- you've earned it! And be ready to go on Monday of Holy Week.

To this writer’s dismay, it seems no one has yet made a Thomas Cranmer action figure. If anyone has pull at Mattel, please put in a good word for the archbishop. The kitsch surrounding the writer of the Book of Common Prayer is pretty thin; however, Cranmer has the distinction of being the Archbishop of Canterbury played by more film and TV actors than any other. Most recently played by Hans Matheson in The Tudors, 22 actors have stepped into the role since 1911 (according to The character of Thomas Cranmer has even appeared in a film that won the Academy Award for Best Picture – A Man for All Seasons in 1966. This makes Cranmer the only member of the Elate Eight to appear in a Best Picture winning film.

Several Do-It-Yourself-ers provide goodies for those of us interested in Cranmer’s kitsch. Coffee mugs, T-shirts, bags, and mouse pads, among other things, are all available. If you head to England, you can stop by the site of Cranmer’s martyrdom, marked by a brick cross on Broad Street in Oxford. The Martyrs’ Memorial, built in the 1840s, includes a statue of Cranmer, and it stands in St. Giles Street, also in Oxford.

Looking to test your Cranmer knowledge? Take a ten-question quiz here. Finally, if you’re into historical fiction and mysteries, take a look at C.J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake mystery series. Running into our archbishop is a real treat: he is a character in Sovereign (2006) and Revelation (2008). One last thing: I want a Cranmer bobblehead. Can someone get on that?

--Adam Thomas

While Queen Emma of Hawaii - unlike her opponent in today’s match-up - never composed beautiful language that I will babble from the depths of memory (along with all the words to the Brady Bunch theme) when I am old and eating strained carrots in a nursing home, she influenced and improved the physical, spiritual, and mental health of thousands, perhaps millions, of people in her time and moving forward to our own day.

Kitsch-wise, she has her share but, after a small sampling, we’ll take a look at her real influence.

This Queen Emma beer stein allows you to “Make any day Oktoberfest whether with this impressive stein on the shelf or in-hand. Cheers!” The same photo of Emma may be purchased on a regular mug, a throw pillow, or a journal in which to pour your soul to the kindly queen.

For those who wish to share their enthusiasm for Queen Emma on their person, there is the “Emma and Proud” tee-shirt (pink only).

If you feel the need to cuddle up, there is always the 14-inch Emma friend doll from Buns of Maui on sale for only $25.19.

The philatelists among us are not left in the cold in the Emma-Commema-ration department. There are postage stamps, both old and new, commemorating Queen Emma, including a $9 stamp issued in 2011 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of her birth. A nine dollar stamp! The U.S. Postal Service just issued stamps bearing the visages of José Ferrer and Danny Thomas for a mere $.45.

[Celebrity Blogger’s Note: “In 1989, the 500th Anniversary of the birth of Thomas Cranmer...was celebrated. Actually, the event barely raised a whisper in England, where the good man...was denied a commemorative postage stamp!” Journal of Anglican Studies, November 2009, Vol. 7, No. 02, p. 246. Just sayin’.]

But back to influence.

Beyond the legacy of creating the premier healthcare center in the Pacific, beyond her tireless promulgation of the Anglican way in the Hawaiian islands through the establishment of schools, churches, and the Cathedral of St. Andrew’s, she exerted a profound influence on western social and cultural trends.

To wit:





A Renaissance queen indeed.

-- Heidi Shott


Thomas Cranmer vs. Emma of Hawaii

  • Emma of Hawaii (55%, 1,155 Votes)
  • Thomas Cranmer (45%, 955 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,110

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Kitsch Cranks
laughing jesus

Proof that some people find Lent Madness to be amusing.

It has come to the attention of the Supreme Executive Committee that not everyone is enthralled with our display of saintly kitsch. In fact a small percentage of commenters have cast aspersions on the Round of the Elate Eight.

We have decided to share and, yes, rebut a few of these less-than-flattering comments.

"While I appreciate a little kitsch, I was hoping for more info and quotes. Disappointed today."

That's what the first two rounds of Lent Madness are for -- basic biographical information and quotes by or about said saint. We're disappointed you didn't pay closer attention to the brilliant offerings of our Celebrity Bloggers in the earlier rounds. Also, we wish to remind you that Google is your friend. It can be helpful in getting "info and quotes."

"I am just a bit uncomfortable about the kitschy thing, I love a good time, but...we could have done without the Barbie and puppet."

Well, as much as we strive to maintain your comfort and give you a good time, it's not a Barbie. It's a Mary Magdalene Wisdom Doll. We don't mind if you criticize us using the wrong doll name, but we don't think you want to get on Ken's bad side.

"As we approach Holy Week, and today’s match-up is a daunting one, your casual irreverence, with the kitsch, feels very ‘off’ to me."

Casual irreverence? Please. Our irreverence is unparalleled in the history of Lent. Or the history of madness. Don't sell us short.

"I find the kitschy collection somewhat disturbing. Your “mockery & irreverence” theme for Holy Week reminds me: not everyone was sorrowful at the Crucifixion.'"

Actually, according to the liturgical calendar that has existed for centuries, Holy Week is next week. Also, you may be surprised to learn that we Christians have a specific day for pondering the Crucifixion: Good Friday. We'll be done with our “mockery & irreverence” theme by then.

"I am disappointed that the women get this sort of treatment — remains to be seen if the “humor” carries through the rest of the finalists."

Why is humor in quotes?! That's offensive.

"I’m disappointed with this post. I could never be accused of being either faint of heart of humorless and I think most religious kitsch is worthy of at least a laugh and a half but I’m...hoping that this kind of humor is shared across gender lines."

Consider yourself accused.

Also, we are puzzled. If the first match-up of the Elate Eight had been two male saints, we'd be accused of sexism. Here we are in the midst of the Year of the Woman in Lent Madness 2012, and we can't seem to win. Stay tuned, and you'll see that we are equal opportunity kitsch-finders. Just look at today's battle between Jerome and Bonhoeffer. If you don't believe us, have a look at the archives of Lent Madness 2010 and Lent Madness 2011.

In the end, if you're not into the kitsch thing or find it offensive, do yourself a favor and go on a Lent Madness fast. We'll see you for the first two rounds in 2013.

Those of you who hate Lent Madness at this point might want to visit "Literally Unbelievable." You'll find like-minded friends for your crusade toward an anti-humor, anti-satire, anti-fun internet. Meanwhile, we'll carry on here. St. Paul said we should be fools for Christ. Jesus partied at Cana. We think a little foolish fun for the sake of the Gospel is just fine. Even in Lent.

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Mary Magdalene vs. Evelyn Underhill

Welcome, friends, to the Round of the Elate Eight. As we get deeper into the madness, the tone changes  from the educational to the whimsical as we focus on saintly kitsch. At this point, we've learned about 32 saints -- 16 in even greater detail. Now is the time to see what popular culture has done to/for them. We don't view such items as sacrilegious but merely fascinating -- see Meredith Gould's footnote below. But, then again, if you've stuck with Lent Madness to this point you know that we have a great reverence for the saints even as we keep our sense of humor intact.

In yesterday's final battle of the Saintly Sixteen Emma of Hawaii surged past Paul of Tarsus 56% to 44% with over 2,000 votes cast. Later this week Emma will face Thomas Cranmer with a trip to the Faithful Four on the line.

To make it this far, Mary Magdalene defeated John Huss and Joan of Arc while Evelyn Underhill bested Nicholas and Monnica. Click on the links to see the previous write-ups by our fabulous Celebrity Bloggers and check the updated bracket for future match-ups.

When considering the following items inspired by Mary Magdalene, it's probably good to remember this adage when labeling something as kitsch*: “One person’s trash is another’s treasure.”  Consider this nod toward situational taste as my way of apologizing if any of the following Mary Magdalene-branded trash is something you’d treasure. Please note that I’m not including images of reliquaries out of respect for those who reverence such things.

Also note how popular depictions of this Apostle to the Apostles contain a mash-up of myth and legend.  In no special order – so don’t try to figure it out – I offer for your amazement and amusement the following items:

Hello Dolly!

From sales copy for the Mary Magdalene WisdomDoll: “… long, wavy auburn hair,  sunned skin tone, hand-painted face …. simulated leather boots, a sign during her time of ties to a wealthy family.  Her deep purple dress is regal and majestic. The color suggests wisdom and knowledge.”  Read the whole description here to learn more about the “powerful imagery” of the hand-made attire for this award-winning, 16” doll priced at $129.

Feeling manipulated? Then regain your power by getting the Mary Magdalene puppet instead. It’s 28” tall, has a workable mouth, comes with one rod that can be attached to either hand for movement, and currently on sale for $45.

Need some blessed super-bas relief? Go for this statue:

Now Who’s Light of the World?

Preparing His body? Woman of Sorrows bathing His feet with her tears and hair? Anointing His head with precious salve? Yummy-smelling Temple prostitute? This candle includes 100% natural essential oils of Frankincense, Ylang, and Spikenard, so you decide which Mary Magdalene is being honored.

A garnet is embedded in it. Why? Among other things, it’s a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice.  But why a fleur-de-lis, a symbol of Mary, Mother of God appears on Mary Mag’s third eye is beyond me.  (Enlarge the picture to behold her wild-eyed look of WhatEver.)


Love praying the Chaplet Prayer or The Rosary of St. Mary Magdalene in Seven Mysteries?  May I suggest that these earrings would make a suitable substitute for schlepping beads and medals?

At $78.95 for solid sterling silver or $280.95 for white or yellow gold, they’re pretty pricy kitsch, but remember: you’re honoring the person to whom Jesus the Risen Christ first appeared. Worth it!

And so what if this goodie is supposed to be a Christmas tree ornament? Consider  giving it to a loved one on St. Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day (July 22). The description of this $33.50 bauble makes my point about myth mash-ups, read it here.

*Definition of kitsch: “something of tawdry design, appearance, or content created to appeal to popular or undiscriminating taste.”

--Meredith Gould

Who better to inform the world of Evelyn Underhill kitsch than Dana Greene, the president of the Evelyn Underhill Association? Surely Evelyn Underhill merchandise abounds at the annual  Day of Quiet Reflection at the National Cathedral. However, in response to an email asking about Underhill kitsch and photographic evidence thereof, Dr. Greene replied, “Glad to help, but not absolutely sure what you want.”

Clearly, Evelyn Underhill products are not prevalent at Association events, leaving the path open for an enterprising person who wishes to capitalize on this lack—though further research shows that the field is far from clear.

First there is the (copyrighted) Underhill family crest, also available on a mug or keychain, linking you not only to Evelyn but to other notable Underhills such as Walter Underhill, a 19th-century Congressman who served on the board of managers of the Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents in New York City. (No hobbits are mentioned among the notables listed.)

More specific Evelyn Underhill items do exist, such as the T-shirt, mug, mousepad, magnet, greeting card, tea towel and keychain featuring a portrait by Mary Evans, which seems rather pedestrian as far as kitsch goes.

There is, however, a great niche market left untapped: namely, the Evelyn Underhill™ personal home mystic kit! Searching in vain for such an item unearthed only the Mystic Tan Perfect Tan Kit, both body and face. Now all we need is someone to develop the Mystic Tan Perfect Soul Kit. Surely Evelyn Underhill would lend her name to such a worthy product. Other Evelyn Underhill™ franchisees may have further ideas for this untapped market, which would be wonderful to see in the comments.

-- Laura Toepfer


Mary Magdalene vs. Evelyn Underhill

  • Mary Magdalene (77%, 1,179 Votes)
  • Evelyn Underhill (23%, 349 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,528

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Philander Chase vs. Jerome

Today in Lent Madness it's the long-anticipated Battle of the Curmudgeons: Philander Chase vs. Jerome. To put it into rhyme (and demonstrating a nuanced, if gender exclusive, use of French), "I do declare, this is not a touchy-feely pair, mon frere." Will the Kenyon College mafia again rise to put Philander over the top? Or will Jerome's jihad put an end to this Cinderella story? Many plot lines, but only one will make it to the Elate Eight.

Yesterday, Mary Magdalene trounced Joan of Arc 74% to 26% to advance to the next round. Make sure to check out the updated bracket courtesy of our unsung Bracket Czar and Celebrity Blogger Adam Thomas. This beautiful bracket even got top billing in yesterday's Houston Chronicle article about Lent Madness.

As this is the last clash of the week, we do wish everyone luck in dealing with their Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW) this weekend. If you're feeling particularly lost, feel free to call the Lent Madness Counseling Hotline (LMCH) 24-hours a day. You might recognize the digits as you dial since they're quite similar to Scott's home number. Lent Madness insomniacs are encouraged to contact the LMCH at all hours of the night -- just ask for "Scott." (Please note that after-hours calls may be transferred to our Hingham call center.) And we'll see you all bright and early Monday morning as the Round of the Saintly Sixteen continues with Enmegahbowh vs. David Oakerhater.

“Well, this will do!” exclaimed Bishop Philander Chase upon seeing the “landscape of unsurpassed loveliness and beauty” that would become the site of Kenyon College near Owl Creek in Knox County, Ohio. Lawyer Henry B. Curtis recorded Chase saying these words, his way of expressing “delight and satisfaction.”

This exclamation seems to be as laconic as Bishop Chase was wont to become; indeed, he subscribed diligently to the lengthy and complex sermon, which, to be sure,was the style of the day (making it difficult for this author to pick out quotations for you, dear reader). In preaching at the consecration of three other bishops, one moment stands out. Perhaps the Bishop was thinking about the vista of Kenyon when he preached,

“Once more: not only in the main and leading features of the Law and the Prophets do we see the illustration of the truth contained in the words of the text, but the same appears in those things which, were it not for the importance of the subject, might be deemed of small moment; the revelation of God, in this respect, being like his works in nature. It is not only in the sun, in the moon and in the planetary system, and the vast order of the Universe, that the wisdom, the power and the goodness of God appear: but even the flowers of the field in their minutest examination, by microscopic glasses, equally gratify the taste for divine knowledge in every humble and diligent inquirer.”


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Monnica vs. Augustine of Hippo

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

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

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

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

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


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Look Who's Talking #2 (Blogs, etc)

The Rev. Anne Emry, Curate at St. John's in Hingham, MA

With just five days until the start of Lent Madness 2012, it's time to highlight some recent bloggers and parishes who have jumped on the Lent Madness band wagon. We did this a few days ago which you can read here but since this is all snowballing or hitting a crescendo (depending on which analogy you prefer), we thought it was time to acknowledge some others with Lent Madness fever.

This is by no means a complete list. Some of us have day jobs after all. But if you don't see your own group, by all means send me a link at and I'll see what I can do to place your lamp on the proverbial lampstand. As we move forward, pictures and anecdotes are encouraged. You send 'em, we'll post 'em. Unless we get really busy because, you know, it's Lent.

Here we go:


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About Lent Madness

Lent Madness began in 2010 as the brainchild of the Rev. Tim Schenck. In seeking a fun, engaging way for people to learn about the men and women comprising the Church’s Calendar of Saints, Tim came up with this unique Lenten devotion. Combining his love of sports with his passion for the lives of the saints, Lent Madness was born on his blog “Clergy Family Confidential” which has subsequently moved locations and become "Clergy Confidential."

The format is straightforward: 32 saints are placed into a tournament-like single elimination bracket. Each pairing remains open for a set period of time and Who will win the Golden Halo?people vote for their favorite saint. 16 saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the coveted Golden Halo. The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move ino the area of saintly kitsch. If you're not sure about terminology, check out our glossary. It's free!

The major change from 2010 to 2011 was the introduction of four “celebrity bloggers” to champion particular saints through the Faithful Four. In 2012 we partnered with Forward Movement and Executive Director Scott Gunn to create our own website and broaden the number of people involved in the writing process, with Tim and Scott serving as the self-appointed Supreme Executive Committee.

Along the way we've added more celebrity bloggers, a poster-sized bracket, weekly Monday Madness videos, and the Saintly Scorecard, an annual publication containing all 32 first round bios, information about how to participate in Lent Madness as a congregation, and an essential Vocabulary List to decipher all things Lent Madness.

We've also inspired thousands of people along the way by forming an online community of people who are passionate about taking their faith but not themselves too seriously. Articles and spots about Lent Madness have appeared in the Washington Post, NPR, Huffington Post, FOXNews, NBC, USAToday, and even Sports Illustrated.

Tim and Scott discussing the relative merits and saintliness of Athanasius vs. Florence Nightingale

As Lent Madness continues to grow and evolve, what won’t change is the essence of Lent Madness: allowing people to get to know some amazing people who have come before us in the faith and reminding one another that there’s no reason for a dreary Lenten discipline. If this helps people connect with the risen Christ during this season of penitence and renewal, and have a bit of fun in the process, then it continues to be worthwhile.

We hope you'll participate fully this Lent and vote with reckless abandon! (Once -- this isn't Chicago).

New this year, we are thrilled to be using images of saints from St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco, CA. You can learn more about the images here. The images were created by Mark Dukes with the people of St. Gregory's.

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