Yesterday’s match-up was not even close. Florence Li-Tim Oi took an early, substantial lead over Gregory the Great and held on to it throughout the day. There was a lively discussion in the comments to yesterday’s Lent Madness post — apparently Li is Florence’s last name, Florence is her Christian name and Tim-Oi is her given name (last names come first in Chinese), so now the record has been set straight. There was quite a bit of other conversation — I even checked in with a post mentioning that one of our fifth graders told Fr. Mike and me before the day school mass yesterday morning that a white bird had perched on the chimney above the Sistine Chapel and remained there until the white smoke billowed out. And then, the boy went on, the new Pope takes the name Francis and St. Francis loved animals! Did I mention that I love my job?
On to today’s Madness: Mary of Bethany, sister of Mary and Lazarus, friend of Jesus and proclaimer “you are the Messiah” in John’s Gospel (the role Peter played in the other three Gospels) — against Harriet Tubman. With apologies to all my friends named Martha, this one is a no-brainer for me. Before I make my case for Harriet Tubman let me repeat what I said in another conversation yesterday: “I did not vote against MLK on Wednesday; I voted for Frances Perkins.” And that is really what this is all about (along with just good fun and a huge learning opportunity) — I don’t see Lent Madness as voting against any one but rather weighing the overall impact each saint had — or sometimes just the saint I personally connect with, (or sometimes just eeny-meeny-miny-moe). Some people have dismissed the whole LM enterprise — why even have a competition between saints they ask — but do let us remember that the saints themselves most assuredly don’t care, or are perhaps mildly amused. They have, after all, moved on to a far greater glory than even the Golden Halo.
In choosing Harriet Tubman (again) today (I did also vote for Martha in the Round of 32), I am casting a vote for someone whose courage is way larger than life. Of course I had known that she had escaped slavery herself and then returned time and again to lead others to freedom. But I didn’t realize (before Lent Madness that is) how the rest of her life evolved: joining the Union forces during the Civil War as a cook and nurse and then ultimately not only becoming a spy but also leading an attack. Recruiting men to fight with John Brown before the Civil War. After the war joining forces with Susan B. Anthony in the fight for women’s suffrage. Being buried with full military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, NY. And the stories of her courage go on and on. March 10, five days ago, marked the 100th anniversary of her death.
Larger than life, indeed. But we cannot just look at saints whose contributions have been so enormous and say “Oh that’s way out of my range, I couldn’t possibly do anything like she did.” Probably not. But the whole point of venerating saints the way we do in the Episcopal Church (and indeed the whole Anglican communion) is because they continue to speak to us saying, “Perhaps not. But what can you do — right here, right now in the little piece of history in which God has placed you?” The saints are not lifeless stained glass icons beatifically gazing down on us as we spend our hour in church each week. They continue to live on and continue to urge us — go, make a difference in the world which you inhabit. Take the love of Christ that you have experienced and make it real in your words and, especially, your actions. Today!
To vote, go here.