Lent Madness Ramblings

While we take a weekend break from Lent Madness 2011 here’s my latest “In Good Faith” article for the Hingham Journal. What did I write about? Lent Madness, of course. What can I say? It starts to get all-consuming after awhile.

Oh, and for the record, C.S. Lewis trounced Fabian in the most recent matchup with the largest margin of victory yet: 75% to 25%. Stay tuned for Monday’s battle between William Wilberforce and Perpetua.

Lent Madness

This year on my blog “Clergy Family Confidential” I’ve been running a little competitive devotional called Lent Madness. Based loosely on the wildly popular NCAA basketball tournament, it pits 32 saints against one another as they compete for the coveted Golden Halo award. Each day, I post information about two different saints and then participants vote to determine who goes on to the next round. It’s fun, it’s informative, it’s the saintly smack down!

As a big sports fan I love the excitement of the NCAA’s March Madness – it’s the only thing that gets me through the sporting doldrums between the Super Bowl and Opening Day of baseball season. But then I thought, why should college basketball fans have all the fun while we Christians are sitting around giving up chocolate? And anyway, Lent gets a bad rap – why should it be all gloom and doom? After all, what could be more joyful than a season specifically set aside to get closer to God? So there was a method behind my madness.

To win in 2011 will take grit, determination, holiness, and perhaps some good old-fashioned ballot stuffing (though this is discouraged, of course). Lent Madness 2011 features a slate of saints ancient and modern, Biblical and ecclesiastical. Some you’ve surely heard of; others are rather obscure. Half the fun is the absurdity of the matchups. Yet what they all have in common, of course, is a unique and single-minded approach to serving Jesus Christ. Only one saint will prevail; the rest will taste the bitter agony of defeat. Which, if they were martyred in the first place, will merely add insult to injury.

It’s not too late to get in the game – we’ve made it through the opening round and we’re in the midst of the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. Just log onto my blog at frtim.wordpress.com to play. Like the real March Madness, the first round of Lent Madness was fraught with drama and intrigue. There were upsets and thrashings; last-minute victories and blow-outs. Saint Patrick somehow lost (in March!), Vincent snuck by Clement of Alexandria, and Saint Clare dominated. Only time, and the rapid approach or Easter, will tell who will ultimately emerge victorious.

There was even a Hingham connection – John Henry Hobart, the early 19th century Bishop of New York and founder of Hobart College, lost handily to Saint Basil, the 4th century monk and bishop of present-day Turkey. Hobart’s ancestor, the Rev. Peter Hobart, was one of the founding fathers of the Town of Hingham and the first minister of Old Ship Church. No word on whether the town dump being on Hobart Street affected the voting.

My real goal in hosting Lent Madness has been to give people an opportunity to get to know some of the inspiring stories of those who have come before us in the faith. There’s no reason that a Lenten discipline should be dreary. And 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’s all been worthwhile.


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