For those of you who have read any of my previous posts, you’ll notice a trend I think: A bit about the life of the saint whose feast day we celebrate today, a portion of the collect or gospel passage for the saint and finally some wonderings about how the life of the saint and the gospel can be at work in our lives today.
Why write about the saints? Well, I like the saints–especially the obscure ones. It is encouraging to us to learn about God’s presence in others and the inspiration that the Holy Spirit provides. The saints provide for us a model and pattern…of rather ordinary people doing the work of God in the world in which they lived.
Another person who likes saints is Tim Schenck, an Episcopal priest who has turned his love of the saints and sports into an educational and fun daily Lenten devotion…and one I hope you will try: Lent Madness.
Here is the quick summary of how Lent Madness works: each day two saints are paired against one another in a single-elimination tournament, much like the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, affectionately known as March Madness. There is a biography and image of each of the saints “competing” that day and the collect for each saint. At the bottom one can vote for the saint deemed the holiest. The saint with the most votes wins that round and moves on in his or her quest for the ultimate prize in Lent Madness: “The Golden Halo.”
This is a fun and interesting way to learn about some of the many, many Christian saints. I invite you to take a spin through the website, and even to sign up to receive the daily match-ups as we march through Lent. Today’s match-up pits Evelyn Underhill against Nicholas. Should be an epic brawl!
“Well, Matthew, how in the world does this relate to today’s saint, Gregory of Nyssa?” I hear you wondering. I’ll tell you how: Gregory LOVED to match wits, intellects, and words, with just about everyone and anyone. I am certain he would approve of a saintly throw-down between say, Paul of Tarsus and Theodore of Tarsus (a match coming up on March 14).
Gregory was from a rather holy family; by “rather,” I mean, “VERY.” His grandfather was a martyr, his grandmother was, well, a saint. Gregory’s mother and father, also saints; his older brother a bishop, saint, and doctor of the Church; His younger brother a bishop…also a saint; his younger sister, NOT a bishop, but wait for it, waaaaaait for it….a saint.
Gregory did not start out being quite so saintly upon completion of his formal education. Initially he chose a different profession, one that suited his rather belligerent character: he was a rhetorician. He liked to argue–a lot–and he was good at it. These skills would later make him a very persuasive preacher and he employed them often in his preaching against Arianism. If anything, Gregory loved Jesus, but he also loved a good argument so I believe he would wholeheartedly approve of something that brought together holiness and a good argument.
Now, take a moment and check out Lent Madness. Read about the saints’ lives and cast your vote. As you read about each saint notice how ordinary most of them truly were and see how it is that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit filled their lives and enabled them to show forth God’s love in the world. Finally, pause and look at your own life for a moment–look at where and how God is alive and active in your life now, and will be in the lives of all the saints, until the Age of ages.
Thanks Matthew. An interesting web site. I voted today, but not for St. Nicholas. I’ll surely have coal in my stocking next Christmas. I’m so pleased that you have been granted “tenure” so to speak at St. Alban’s, richly deserved. Peter
I nominate Gregory to be the patron saint of the Capital Challenge Speech an Debate Tournament. This morning and afternoon, I had the blessing and priveledge to judge teenage homeschool students in Apologetics Speech, Lincoln/Douglas Debate and Extemporaneous Speech. The Apologetics round had challenging contentions and the students used a collection of Scripture and scholarly text to defend their faith. Gregory smiled on this tounament and all the students, judges and volunteers.