In Good Faith: Lent Madness returns
Are you tired of logging onto Facebook and subsequently wanting to rip your hair out by the roots? Are you looking for something fun to focus on rather than all the rancor? Are you longing for inspiration and joy? For the eighth year running, people all over the country are gearing up for Lent Madness, the “saintly smackdown” in which 32 saints do battle to compete for the coveted Golden Halo during the season of Lent.
Based loosely on the NCAA basketball tournament, this online devotion, which I started on a whim in 2010, pits saints against one another in a bracket as thousands of voters choose their favorites throughout Lent.
Yes, the entire concept is absurd — saints don’t need any extra validation in their lives — but with its unique blend of competition, learning, and humor, Lent Madness allows participants to be inspired by the ways in which God has worked through the lives of saintly souls across generations and cultures.
Here’s how to participate: On the weekdays of Lent, information is posted at www.lentmadness.org about two different saints. Each pairing remains open for 24 hours as participants read about and then vote to determine which saint moves on to the next round. Sixteen 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 into the area of saintly kitsch.
This year, Lent Madness features an intriguing slate of saints ancient and modern, Biblical and ecclesiastical. This year’s heavyweights include Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, Florence Nightingale, Stephen the Martyr, and Sarah the Matriarch. It also includes several intriguing matchups including Augustine of Hippo vs. Augustine of Canterbury (All-Augustine Anarchy); Fanny Crosby vs. G.F. Handel (Battle of the Bands); and Joseph Schereschewsky vs. Nikolaus von Zinzendorf (Clash of the Consonants).
The full bracket is online at the Lent Madness website and this year’s competition begins on “Ash Thursday,” March 2, with a battle between two martyrs: St. Stephen and St. Alban. Only one will advance to the Saintly Sixteen; the other will be ignominiously “re-martyred.”
Who will win this year’s Golden Halo? That’s the question everyone’s asking. I personally have no idea. Sure, many people fill out brackets in advance and have a lot of fun competing with friends (often raising money for charity). But I never do. I may have created this penitential monster, but my picks are always wrong. No one can predict the will of the Lent Madness voting public.
If you’re looking for a Lenten discipline that is fun, educational, occasionally goofy, and always joyful, join the Lent Madness journey. Lent needn’t be all doom and gloom. After all, what could be more joyful than a season specifically set aside to grow closer to God?
— The Rev. Tim Schenck serves as Rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, MA. Visit his blog “Clergy Confidential” at clergyconfidential.com or follow him on Twitter @FatherTim.