We’ve come to that ineffable (and you thought this word only worked when praying collects) place where the saintly heavyweights slug it out: the Lent Madness Final Four. Our four celebrity bloggers will take it from here. I’m delighted that Neil Alan Willard (C.S. Lewis), Meredith Gould (Clare), Scott Gunn (Thomas Becket), and Penny Nash (Perpetua) have agreed to take up the banners of these respective saints. I trust they know that that their very own self-worth is on the line.
We begin with C.S. Lewis taking on Clare. Lewis advanced to the Final Four by defeating Monnica, Fabian, and Polycarp while Clare bested Gregory the Illuminator, Florence Nightingale, and William Tyndale. Click Lent Madness 2011 to view the updated tournament bracket and let the games begin!
C.S. Lewis partisan Neil Alan Willard, who blogs at Laughing Water from Edina, Minnesota, offers us the following:
- Lewis engaged others in the marketplace of ideas, like Paul in conversation with philosophers in the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17). Lewis was well-educated at Oxford University, where he also taught, and came to Christian faith as an adult. He knew, therefore, how to address various audiences from those hostile to Christianity to those struggling to follow Jesus. Our churches could really use a 21st-century version of Lewis to do the same today.
- Lewis nurtured the imagination of children and famously corresponded with his young fans, taking seriously the invitation to allow the little ones to come to Jesus for a blessing (Matthew 19). The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven fantasy novels by Lewis that contain Christian themes, has become a classic of children’s literature. In a time when overly aggressive parenting is robbing kids of their childhood, we need the example of Lewis to stop the madness.
- Lewis married Joy Gresham late in life and raised her two sons after her death. The cancer that took her life caused Lewis to wrestle with the problem of suffering and tested his faith. So he knew the harsh realities of walking through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). This chapter of the Oxford don’s life was depicted in the 1993 film Shadowlands, starring Anthony Hopkins. Those who saw it and refuse to admit that they left the theater crying like a baby aren’t being honest with themselves.
- Clare and her followers slept on piles of twigs. That’s right, twigs. Gathering twigs over and over again obviously led to our current problems with deforestation and the despoiling of the environment. For the love of God’s creation, don’t vote for her!
- Becket demanded the use of separate ecclesiastical courts for clergy trials, which is not unlike the indefensible policies of too many bishops-in-the-news recently. And the excommunication scene in the 1964 film Becket is only cool in a creepy Darth Vader kind of way.
- Perpetua was arrested, placed in a dungeon, and had a vision about a golden ladder guarded by a dragon. I think this gives us a clue as to the true reason she got into trouble with the law. Can anyone say, “Puff, the Magic Dragon?” Just say, “No!”
Clare is represented by Meredith Gould who blogs at More Meredith Gould from Baltimore, Maryland.
Whether or not you vote for St. Clare of Assisi* is ultimately between you, God, and Polldaddy, but here are several reasons why she deserves your vote:
Clare not only lived what St. Francis taught, but inspired many women and men to do so long after St. Francis exited his flesh unit.
Clare deserves much more credit for developing the practice of contemplative prayer.
Clare managed to get two popes following her suggestions and caving in to her demands.
Clare deserves much more credit for inviting Christians to see God in “all people and creatures.”
Clare challenged aspects of the already-venerable Rule of St. Benedict and created the Poor Ladies’ Rule for her Order, emphasizing cooperation, love and respect among sisters – and between sisters and their Abbess.
In reality – whatever that is – Clare doesn’t need to win no stinkin’ Golden Halo to be a true saint among saints. If, however, you do choose to vote for someone who hasn’t been dead long enough to be considered a saint,** don’t even think about petitioning Clare when your television reception stinks.
* Before casting your vote, please review posts about her bio and Clare-inspired kitsch.
** You have no business voting for C.S. Lewis if you, like most people if they’d be totally honest) have merely skimmed Mere Christianity.
Note: Feel free to argue directly with Meredith Gould on Twitter (@MeredithGould).