Adapted from a Lent Madness press release

While much of the world is recovering from the Halloween sugar high, another segment of the population looks toward the church’s season of Lent. It may be more than three months away, but the 2016 bracket of 32 saints has been officially released by the Lent Madness Supreme Executive Committee.

For the seventh year running, people worldwide are gearing up for Lent Madness, the “saintly smackdown” in which 32 saints do battle to win the coveted Golden Halo. This all kicks off on “Ash Thursday,” February 11, but with the bracket release rabid fans of the saints are already picking this year’s favorites.

The bracket is released every year on All Brackets’ Day, November 3. This momentous day in the church year follows All Saints’ Day (11/1) and All Souls’ Day (11/2) to complete this early November trinity of feast days.

“It’s all part of our diabolical plan to create a year-round Lent,” said the Rev. Tim Schenck, creator of Lent Madness. “Why be penitential for just 40 days and 40 nights? And if you can walk into some big box store and see Christmas decorations in August, why can’t you walk into your local coffee shop and see purple lights strung up in November?”

The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement and Schenck’s Lent Madness co-conspirator, agrees. “The Lent-Industrial complex is alive, well, and thriving. We’re simply tapping into it in order to get people talking about saints throughout the year.”

This year Lent Madness features an intriguing slate of saints ancient and modern, Biblical and ecclesiastical, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Clare of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, Sojourner Truth, Joseph, Columba, and Albert Schweitzer. Intriguing matchups are Roch vs. Gertrude (patron saints of dogs and cats, respectively), Elmo vs. Barnabas (aka Elmo vs. Barney), and Cyril vs. Methodius (the Slavic Smackdown).

New to Lent Madness? Here’s how it works: on the weekdays of Lent, information is posted at lentmadness.org about two different saints. Each pairing remains open for 24 hours as participants read about and then vote to determine which saint moves on to the next round. Sixteen saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the Golden Halo.

The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch.

For those seeking an advanced list of all 32 first round bios along with a personal full-color bracket, the Saintly Scorecard: The Definitive Guide to Lent Madness 2016 will be available through Forward Movement in January.

Like that other March tournament, there will be drama and intrigue, upsets and thrashings, last-minute victories and Cinderellas. Unlike professional and collegiate sporting events, there is no admission cost for Lent Madness, but souvenirs are available in the “Lentorium” part of the Lent Madness website.

So let the saintly games begin! Well, in three months or so.

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