Want to inject some fun into your annual season of Lenten sacrifice, penance and service? Well, Lent Madness offers a tournament of “saints” that works just like the NCAA basketball March Madness brackets.
On each weekday of Lent, information is posted on http://www.LentMadness.org about two different saints, then participants vote to determine who goes on to the next round. Each pairing remains open for about 24 hours — and people vote for their favorite saint.
In sporting spirit, the field starts with 32 saints and then goes from the Saintly Sixteen to the Elate (as in elation/joy) Eight, the Faithful Four and then finally to the winner — the Golden Halo. You can find bio information on the “saints” on the Web site.
Also to help get a leg up on the competition and properly fill out my winning brackets, I downloaded the Kindle version of Calendar of Saints, by David L. Veal, which was updated for this year’s competition.
This innovative approach has been around since 2010 thanks to Episcopal priest Rev. Tim Schenck at LentMadness.org. Last year, he teamed up with the Rev. Scott Gunn of Forward Movement and brought in a ton of publicity for the saintly competition. Visitors to the Web site can start voting for their favorite saints beginning Holy Thursday (Feb. 14), which is also Valentine’s Day.
The Episcopal Dioceses of Newark, N.J.; Arizona, Lexington, Ky.; Washington, D.C.; Texas and Hawaii are also on board to play with their various congregants. The competition has even surfaced in a few Catholic circles.
This year, Lent Madness features a variety of “players” from different religions and saint-like stations, such as: John the Baptist, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Luke, T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Martin Luther and Harriet Tubman as they compete to succeed 2012 winner Mary Magdalene.
As justification for including such a wide assortment of “saints,” here’s a definition from catholiceducation.org:
What is a saint? First of all, one who knows he is a sinner. A saint knows all the news, both the bad news of sin and the good news of salvation. A saint is a true scientist, a true philosopher:
A saint knows the truth. A saint is a seer, one who sees what’s there. A saint is a realist.
A saint is also an idealist. A saint embraces heroic suffering out of heroic love. A saint also embraces heroic joy. (This is one of the criteria for canonization: Saints must have joy.)
In light of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation and Catholic Church sexual misconduct scandals, turning this serious Lenten season into something fun and joyful seems to be entirely appropriate.
Many of the saints that I read about during my eight years of Catholic grade school were so down to earth. Their families moved from place to place, they lived in poverty and some with little to no education. But they had their faith and love for others. Reading about them helped me look at my life as a blessing, even if it didn’t seem like a blessing at the time.
I hope that I get to share this Lenten fun with my daughter and many others.
So who’s ready to play?
For more information, and to join the fun, check out: