February has turned to March and the Season after the Epiphany has turned to Lent and next week, with the first round of the annual NCAA basketball tournament, the eyes of America will turn toward college hoops. And I can't help but wonder; why should college basketball fans have all the fun while we're sitting around giving up chocolate?
With this in mind, you are invited to participate in Lent Madness 2011. Thirty-two saints from the Episcopal Church's Calendar of Saints are facing off against one another for the coveted "Golden Halo." This is the second annual Saintly Smack Down -- last year George Herbert pulled off an upset in the finals against Julian of Norwich to claim the illustrious title. Who will win this year? That's up to you because this all takes place not on the hardwood of the court but on my blog, Clergy Family Confidential.
Here's how it works: As each pairing is posted, voting will be open for at least 24 hours, so you'll have plenty of time to get your votes in. Once the voting is closed, the winner moves on and the next pairing will be posted. This will continue until the 32 saints have been whittled down to one.
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 an entirely new 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.
Who are the early favorites? Who are the Cinderellas? Who will claim the hallowed crown? This year's participants include everyone from Barnabas to Florence Nightingale to Patrick to Perpetua. Click here to view the complete bracket for Lent Madness 2011 and then keep an eye on the blog. Throughout this holy season you will find intriguing matchups as the field moves from the First Round to the Saintly Sixteen to the Elite Eight to the Final Four. 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.
While we'll undoubtedly have some fun with this, I also hope that by the end of Lent people will have learned a few things about a wide cross-section of saints. This is an opportunity to get to know some of the amazing holy men and holy women who have come before us in the faith. And anyway, there's no reason that a Lenten discipline should be dreary. If this helps us connect with the risen Christ during this season of penitence and renewal, it all will have been worthwhile.
Blessings to all for a holy Lent, and may the "best" saint win!