Saintly Shenanigans

The greatest site in all the land!

The Penultimate Match-up: Luke the Evangelist and Oscar Romero March 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 1:50 pm

Here it is, the penultimate day of Lent Madness.  Today’s semi-finalist will go head to head with Frances Perkins who trounced Hilda of Whitby yesterday.

The Annunciation — another story we would not have had it not been for Luke

Archbishop Romero — the patron saint of Latin America

Our two semi-finalists today are Luke the Evangelist and Oscar Romero.  Again I remind myself that: a) this is Lent Madness and the actual saints don’t really care and b) a vote for one is not a vote against the other but simply a personal opinion about which had the greater impact on the world.  Using the criterion of b and the reminder of a, today my vote goes for Luke the Evangelist.  The Celebrity Blogger in today’s LM post reminds us of everything the author of Luke/Acts has given the world — all the stories, all the amazing people (including a “patron saint” — Zaccheus —  for the vertically challenged) and all the formative events in the life of the early church starting with the story fof Pentecost.  But above all, it is in Luke and Acts that God’s all-encompassing, unconditional love for all humankind is most boldly proclaimed.  In Christ there is no north or south, no east or west, no male or female, no black or white, no gay or straight.  Without the testimony of the author of Luke/Acts I daresay our understanding of God would be very different.  And I daresay the words of Mary’s “Magnificat” must have been foundational in Archbishop Romero’s understanding of who God had called him to be in the particular and place in which he found himself.

To vote, go here.


Day one of the Faithful Four: Frances Perkins VS Hilda of Whitby March 25, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 2:40 pm

Today, tomorrow, and Wednesday and then it’s all over.  I shall miss Lent Madness — it has really helped shape a different sort of Lent for me.  I’ve learned a lot and had fun along the way and have enjoyed hearing others’ stories both in person and online about how they’ve responded to LM.

Hilda encouraged Caedmon to write a song, thus giving birth to English poetry

Today is the first day of the Faithful Four, tomorrow will be the last.  Frances Perkins goes up against Hilda of Whitby and then tomorrow Luke the Evangelist and Oscar Romero square off.  One of these four will win the Golden Halo.  I really encourage you to read  what the “Celebrity Bloggers” have written about Frances and Hilda today as they are in the process of making their closing arguments.  They have delved deeply into the lives of their saints and have really come to know them — and have made them come alive for the rest of us.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise, but I’m once again voting for Frances Perkins.  And I see that the voting is extremely close at this point.  I am still bewildered as to how Hilda took out Harriet Tubman, but so it goes.  I’ve read opinions to the effect of “why should Frances Perkins even be considered a saint — she’s just a liberal do-gooder.”  It is really clear from the research her LM champion has done that Frances’ life and work was rooted in her Christianity.   She understood what we tell our day school children and their parents quite frequently:  that God has created each one of us in God’s image and has given us each gifts and talents to make the world a better place.  Pretty much sums up our Gospel imperative, and it was what Frances lived by.  She also happened to be an Episcopalian (as was, by the way, FDR also.  He even served as senior warden at St. Thomas, Dupont Circle before he was elected president).

To vote, go here.


Final Match-up of the Elate Eight: Luke the Evangelist and Dorothy Day March 22, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 1:52 pm

Everyone who ever went to a St. Hilda’s school (and I am told by Lynne Allen, the former head of one of them, there are many) will be delighted with yesterday’s outcome.  I confess to being hugely surprised that Hilda defeated Harriet Tubman — but such is the way of Lent Madness.

Right, did I also mention we wouldn’t have the infancy narrative we hear each Christmas had there been no Luke? This is a rendition of him by El Greco.

A painting of Dorothy Day by Nicholas Brian Tsai with Andrei Rublev’s famous icon of the Holy Trinity in the background. That icon represents hospitality and community, which are key tenants of the Catholic Worker movement.

Today’s match-up between Luke the Evangelist and Dorothy Day had me going back and forth, on-the-one-hand thissing and on-the-other-hand thatting.  I finally had to ask what would be lost if either one of them hadn’t existed.  A reverse of that appeared on facebook yesterday, a short video which I felt compelled to share, asking us to imagine if Martin Luther King, Anne Frank, Matthew Shepherd, Yitzak Rabin, and others had lived how different would the world be today.  It made me weep…

But to reach today’s decision I asked “what would be lost had there been no Luke the Evangelist or Dorothy Day?”  The Catholic Worker movement and a legacy of commitment to social justice vs the story of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, and the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (all of which are unique to Luke/Acts).  Seen in that light I have to go with Luke, much as I admire Dorothy Day.  There are other examples of following Jesus Christ by embracing social justice (Liberation Theology comes to mind) but the world would, IMHO, be the poorer without Luke’s stories.  Having just preached a dialogue sermon on the Prodigal Son during which I saw, yet again, how profoundly people connect with the characters in that story (including the fatted calf!) is testimony to how powerful those stories are.

Our senior warden, Robin Lawrie, has titled her latest blog post “God loves a story.”  She quotes Elie Wiesel who in turn quoted a Hasidic parable: “God created man because He loves a good story.”  You can read the full posthere and if you wander through other pages on that blog, Tending the Garden, you’ll find vestry reports and other interesting tidbits about our life as a community at St. Stephen’s.  I do believe that without stories our lives would be meaningless.  Think of the way we look back on our own lives:  we find themes and threads and ultimately seek meaning.  How often do we hear “everything happens for a reason”?  That is the beginning of story, of narrative– seeking meaning from seemingly random events.  Without story, without narrative, life IMHO would just be one damn thing after another.  Among the four Evangelists Luke is the master storyteller and my life would be the poorer without him.

To vote, go here — and do pause to enjoy the richness of kitsch the SEC of Lent Madness has fiendishly dredged up for our enjoyment today!


Two Saintly Women from Two Vastly Different Times: Harriet Tubman and Hilda of Whitby March 21, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 1:23 pm

Sad to see Florence Li-Tim Oi go, but the Elate Eight round requires resolve and strength.  Not for the faint-hearted are these remaining days of Madness.  Thank goodness these are just hypothetical match-ups and the actual saints still retain their exalted entries in the Episcopal Church’s Holy Women, Holy Men chronicle of feast days.  Florence Li-Tim Oi is not actually being knocked out of contention; her role in the road to women’s ordination remains undisputed.  Believe it or not, someone actually quit Lent Madness yesterday saying “I give up. Obviously PC has governed both the brackets and the voting. When Christ’s own apostles are beaten out by simply good people, the humor and fun goes out of the game. I’m glad, however, Jesus was not one of the ‘contestants.’ He would have lost to a feminist, ecologist, or chicken-raiser. It was fun for a while, but I quit.”  The Supreme Executive Committee (SEC) were extremely conciliatory to this person; my response would have been that someone seriously needs to get a life.  There is room for humor in the church — far more room than is currently allotted.  Humor is the ability to step out of ourselves and put things into perspective.  In fact, the tradition of April Fool’s Day has its origins in the church:  always occurring close to Easter, the once-a-year reversal of the norm was a way to turn things upside down and to laugh at ourselves, the way Jesus laughed at death when he rose out of that tomb.  So — lighten up, everyone!  It’s good for you!

What’s with the Celtic saints and snakes? Legend has it Hilda turned them into stone– which explains all the ammonite fossils near Whitby… (?). This drawing is from the Jean Charlot Collection at the U of Hawaii library

Of course it wasn’t an actual railway… Drawing by Elizabeth Scism

Today’s match-up continues to pit saints for whom I have been consistently voting against each other.  Today it’s Harriet Tubman vs Hilda of Whitby.  Hands down — I whittle away the Abbess in favor of the conductor of the Underground Railroad (so, okay, maybe I haven’t quite forgiven Hilda for her role in the Synod of Whitby in which the Celtic Church bowed to the Roman way of doing things…).

As I’ve chronicled in previous posts about Harriet Tubman, she was a giant — leading people from slavery to freedom, recruiting men to fight with John Brown, joining the Union Army and leading a charge.   And then when most would be happy to sit on a rocking chair and enjoy some time of peace and quiet she teamed up with Susan B. Anthony and others to fight for women’s suffrage.  Later in life she married a man 20 years her junior (you go, girl!) and even underwent brain surgery — without anesthesia! (ouch!!!) — biting down on a bullet the way she had seen soldiers on the field do.

I would hope that Harriet Tubman today would look down on us and smile seeing an African-American in the Oval Office.  But I have an even stronger hunch that she would say, that’s not enough, keep going, keep going.

To vote, go here.  As I’m writing this on Wednesday, I have not yet seen what kitsch the SEC has in store for us today.  Do pause to soak it all in before you get to the voting box!  We people of the cloth do so love our kitsch! — while I was in seminary the class ahead of ours created a meditation garden in front of Aspinwall Hall — complete with a gaudy statue of the BVM, white tires,  pink flamingos and an equally disturbing birdbath.  Sadly the administration took it down, but not before the VTS “basketball and flag football teams” (quotation marks intentional) were named the “Pink Flamingos.”  I hear they have a more dignified mascot now, more’s the pity.


March 20, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 2:06 pm

The Lent Madness folks have dubbed her the “Cinderella of 2013” and that held true through yesterday’s match-up:  Frances Perkins took out Civil Rights martyr Jonathan Myrick Daniels by a quite respectable majority (or is it plurality?  I can never remember which is which — any way, she won).  Perkins will advance to take on whoever wins today’s Elate Eight match-up, either Florence Li-Tim Oi or Archbishop Oscar Romero.  Just think, after tomorrow we’ll be halfway through the Elate Eight round.  Lent has truly flown by this year.

The Rev’d Florence Li-Tim Oi surrounded by her congregants at the Morrison Chapel in Macau, Autumn, 1945

“Aspire not to have more but to BE more,” Oscar Romero
(Artwork by Caritas, Australia)

Once again the choice is between two people for whom I voted in both of the previous rounds.  Yes, Loving Spoonful, I did “ever have to make up my mind” and have to again today as well.  And, as indebted as I am to Florence Li-Tim Oi (and now that I’ve finally learned how to spell her name without checking back to the LM site to remember where to put the hyphen) — it is to her that I’m bidding so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.  (Speaking of which, if you’ll indulge me yet another ADD sidetrack — I forgot to mention in yesterday’s write up of Frances P. that we have her to thank for all that wonderful, ear-wormy music about hills being alive, does  being deers, and Edelweiss being small and white– she played prominently in getting the Von Trapp family safely to the US in the late 1930’s).

Where was I?  Right — bidding farewell to Florence.  I am grateful that she was included in LM as a reminder that for every gain any group of people has made (in this case ordained women) inevitably someone has come before who struggled and put themselves at personal risk in one form or another to make it happen.

But for me the giant of today’s match-up is Archbishop Oscar Romero who laid down his life for the cause of justice for the poor and marginalized in El Salvador — with echoes of what he did still being felt around the world today.  I can’t help but wonder if Pope Francis’ heart for the poor might have been inspired in part by the life, teachings, and death of Romero.

The story of Archbishop Romero, particularly that of his assassination should give us as citizens of the US pause, especially as it comes (coincidentally) during the week of the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.  There is no proof that the US was in any way directly involved with his death, but during the late 70’s and 80’s we certainly trained, funded, and armed the right wing death squads against whom Romero preached.  This support actually escalated after his assassination.  The 80’s in Central America are not a time we as Americans can look at without anything but horror and shame.  As the news media are covering the 10th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq (remember “Shock and awe”…?) I heard one commentator yesterday morning  observe in  words to the effect of “Our own house is severely broken.  Shouldn’t we fix it before we go projecting our power into the wider world?”  Amen to that.  And praise God for the witness of Archbishop Oscar Romero and others like him, for I am convinced that in the end theirs shall be the strongest voices. the following is a prayer written by Archbishop Romero:

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own

To vote, go here.


Day had her Day-Ay Ay-Oh; Elate Eight starts with Daniels VS Perkins March 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 1:19 pm

Well okay.  We’re jumping into the Elate Eight with a bang:  Jonathan Myrick Daniels, one of the martyrs of the Civil Rights movement, and Frances Perkins, largely unsung hero of the labor movement.  We couldn’t have warmed up with something more kinder and gentler, hunh?   I voted for both of them in the last two rounds (Perkins against MLK no less…) and here they are.

A poignant reminder of how young he was to have paid the ultimate price

A stamp was issued in her honor in 1980, the same year the Department of Labor HQ was named after her.  Oh, and also the 100th anniversary of her birth.

To recap:  Jonathan Daniels was a seminarian at the Episcopal Theological School (aka Episcopal Divinity School after it merged with the Philadelphia Divinity School in the ’70’s.  Look up EDS on google and you mostly get stuff about Ross Perot’s old company now…).  He had graduated from the Virginia Military Academy before heading off to seminary.  He became aware of the struggles for Civil Rights and had initially intended to send a donation of money (how often we send a check somewhere for some cause which mostly makes us feel good about ourselves…) but attending Evening Prayer one night at ETS the words of the Magnificat — “‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things…” came crashing into his very soul and he knew he had to do more than write a check.  He went to Alabama where he paid the ultimate price by putting himself in front of a bullet meant for 16-year-old Ruby Sales.

Frances Perkins was, I’ve learned during the course of Lent Madness, “under-known” by many of us.  In his introduction to the 2011 re-issue of Perkins’ book The Roosevelt I Knew,” Adam Cohen, former New York Times editorial writer, wrote the following:  “If American history textbooks accurately reflected the past, Frances Perkins would be recognized as one of the nation’s greatest heroes – as iconic as Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Paine.  Like Franklin, Perkins was a brilliant self-creation….  Like Paine, Perkins helped to start a revolution….  The New Deal was Perkins’ revolution, and it did nothing less than create modern America.”  Perkins would have been famous simply by being the first woman cabinet member, but her legacy stems from her accomplishments. She was largely responsible for the U.S. adoption of social security, unemployment insurance, federal laws regulating child labor, and adoption of the federal minimum wage.  The headquarters of the Department of Labor was named the Frances Perkins Building in 1980, her alma mater Mt. Holyoke has instituted the “Frances Perkins Program” for non-traditional students (those over 24), and her house at 2326 California Street, NW, Washington DC has been designated a US Historical Landmark.  Never knew that, even having grown up in DC.  You can bet I’ll make a point of visiting it when I’m in DC in May.  Oh, and the Episcopal Church observes her feast day on May 13 (I bet she’d be surprised!).  Jonathan Daniels’ is August 14.

So for whom shall I vote today?  The young seminarian who paid the ultimate price or the first female cabinet member who designed so much for which FDR is remembered?  Lent Madness offers no “both/and,” so sadly I must choose.  And today I continue to choose Frances Perkins.  I see part of Lent Madness’ mission as being to lift up the heretofore unsung who henceforward should be sung from the rooftops (I didn’t participate in last year’s LM but apparently Queen Emma of Hawaii hung in there til almost the bitter end).  My new hero, as a direct result of Lent Madness, is Frances Perkins — Episcopalian, visionary, promoter of justice for all workers — and one whose voice so desperately needs to be recaptured and re-told in this time when the gap between the 2% and the rest of us continues to widen at an alarming rate.

To vote, go here.  Lent Madness promises us tales of kitsch and candor (kandor?) during the Elate Eight round, so do pause to read the actual post before scrolling down to the voting box.


Whose Day will it be To-Day? Benedict of Nursia and Dorothy Day March 18, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — revwaf @ 3:58 pm

Today is the last match-up of the Saintly Sixteen; tomorrow begins the assonantly and quaintly named “Elate Eight.”  I covered the meaning of “assonance” several posts ago.  I applaud the Lent Madness Supreme Executive Committee for broadening my vocabulary’s horizons with “elate.”  I shall try to use it in a sentence some day, but don’t hold your breath.  Friday’s match-up led to a victory lap on the Underground Railroad for Harriet Tubman as she left Martha of Bethany in the dust.  For anyone who follows that other Madness event — University of Miami continues to advance.  I don’t remember UM’s being a basketball powerhouse before, but we Miamians are enjoying this run.    But back to the madness at hand…

I love it! A mousepad reminder to worship God through our work. Designer: happysaints, available on

Sorry, but we already have. The full quote is actually “Don’t call me a saint.  I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”

Today pits fifth/sixth century monastic — nay, not just any monastic but pretty much the father of monasticism as we know it today — against the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement.  Benedict of Nursia vs Dorothy Day.  Both have left a legacy of prayer in action.  For Benedict it was the balance of prayer, work, and recreation all being offered up to God and for Day it was work done in community for the benefit of others.  For both hospitality was a huge theme.  Benedict’s famous quote ““Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ…” sums up his understanding of hospitality.  For Day, as historian Walter G. Moss wrote: “By 2011, according to the Catholic Worker website, ‘213 Catholic Worker communities remain committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken.'”  Yes, I lifted both quotes directly from today’s Lent Madness post.

Obviously as we move closer to the Elate Eight round (and I shudder to think of the tough choices ahead in that round and beyond!) the choices have become very difficult.  As worthy as they both are (and a case can be made that Day could trace her theological lineage directly back to Benedict) I am going with Dorothy Day today.  Ironically I voted for Benedict in the round of 32 and against Day (I was trying to boost the lesser-known first African-American bishop, the Rt. Rev’d Edward Thomas Demby).  I note a trend in my own voting (which in this round at least has pretty much mirrored the general LM voting) of going with the more modern saint over the older one.  I didn’t set out to do this intentionally, it just seems to have happened.  Reflecting on this I realize I must be favoring the more modern saints because they seem so much more approachable, available.  Knowing that someone who was alive in my lifetime, or at least within the last hundred years, lifts up a mirror and reminds me that, no, saints are not distant, dusty people from centuries ago, they continue to walk and work among us today.  And what am I doing to follow their example…?

I also choose Dorothy Day for another reason.  Her life bears testimony to the very things I’m hearing from the new pope:  a heart for the poor, a passion for justice, the need to live simply in a time when we are destroying God’s creation in ways that may not be reversible at this point.  I know Lent Madness is meant in good fun (and wider knowledge about some great people) and will certainly not (but who knows?…) influence the wider doings in the world, but I would love to see the Roman Catholic Church move forward in the effort to beatify Dorothy Day (take note, RCC:  she is already in the Episcopal calendar of Holy Women, Holy Men!).  Her beatification would continue to set the tone that Pope Francis has clearly already staked out in just his first week.  Certainly I wish he were in a different place about the role of women in the church, full rights for the LGBT community, reproductive rights, and, at the very least, allowing parish priest to marry (a right which was rather gradually eroded over away over several centuries, but certainly hastened along by Pope Gregory VII who in 1074 said: “priests must first escape from the clutches of their wives” and by Pope Urban II who, in 1095, had priests’ wives sold into slavery, and their children were abandoned).  But hey, now that he’s pope these things could change.  Remember how Oscar Romero had a huge conversion experience after he became Archbishop (and remember where it got him…)?  I am greatly impressed, though, with Pope Francis’ very clear stance on justice, the huge and growing gap between the rich and poor in this world, and the environment.  And I also love that he is a Jesuit!  I keep him in my prayers as so many billions do; may he be a beacon of light to our world.

Can’t vote for Pope Francis today, but you can vote for either Benedict of Nursia or Dorothy Day by going here.