By Neva Rae Fox
Since February 27, there has been one overriding question on the minds of many — Who will win The Golden Halo in Lent Madness?
The wait is over — the 2023 Golden Halo winner has been decided by voters: Jonathan Daniels. In the final round, Daniels defeated Joanna the Myrrhbearer to capture the honors.
In August 1965, Daniels absorbed the shotgun blast intended for a young Black activist in a store east of Selma, Alabama. He died instantly at the age of 26. The girl he saved was 17. They and others had just been released from jail for picketing white-only stores. Had he lived, he would have turned 84 on March 20, 2023. His life and witness are commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on August 14.
Joanna the Myrrhbearer brought spices to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body on the morning of Resurrection. She and other “Myrrhbearing women” are commemorated by the Episcopal Church with a feast day on August 3.
In its 14th year, Lent Madness is the brainchild of the Rev. Tim Schenck of Bethesda by the Sea, Palm Beach, Florida, and the Rev. Scott Gunn of Forward Movement.
The purposes of Lent Madness are: to learn about the lives of the saints, and why there are so important; to offer an educational experience for Sunday schools, individuals, adult forums, and anyone who wants to learn; to promote an avenue for community, both online and in-person; and to add an element of whimsy during Lent.
Statistics prove its popularity here and abroad. “According to Google Analytics, there were 99,844 unique users this year on Lent Madness, if you look at the whole season,” Gunn said. “Of course, many of those folks don’t stick around long. Each day of Lent Madness we were visited by around 10,000 unique visitors.”
Lent Madness is modeled after a well-known sports event — March Madness, the NCAA college basketball tournament. The two share some elements: both occur mostly in March; both depend on brackets; and both garner the attention and the fervor of fans.
Kicking off the day after Ash Wednesday, Lent Madness starts out with 32 saints. The process is simple: each day one worthy saint is pitted against another, with readers of all ages and in all locales voting for their choice online. There are four rounds: Round of 32; Saintly 16; Elate 8; and Faithful 4. The conclusion, always on Wednesday of Holy Week, is the two-saint smackdown for the Golden Halo.
Some saint names are familiar, but the celebrity bloggers who run the contest uncovered tidbits and facts that may have been unknown. For other saints, it’s like being introduced to a new friend.
In the 2023 edition, the saints were delegated to particular categories:
Ancient and Apostolic: Augustine of Hippo, Blandina, David of Wales, Hippolytus of Rome, Joanna the Myrrhbearer, Monica, Simeon Bachos, Brendan of Clonfert.
Mostly Monastics: J.S. Bach, Cuthmann of Steyning, Richard Hooker, Leoba, Martin de Porres, Maximus the Confessor, Harriet Monsell, Scholastica.
Royals Roundup: Bertha of Kent, Botulph, Juan Diego, John Donne, Edmund, Olga of Kiev, Chief Seattle, Stanislaus the Martyr.
Modern Mayhem: Josephine Bakhita, Jonathan Daniels, Enmegahbowh, Rutilio Grande, Florence Li Tim-Oi, Eric Liddell, Dorothy L. Sayers, Nicolaus von Zinzendorf.
Details on each are available at lentmadness.org.
Previous Golden Halo winners are: George Herbert (2010), C.S. Lewis (2011), Mary Magdalene (2012), Frances Perkins (2013), Charles Wesley (2014), Francis of Assisi (2015), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (2016), Florence Nightingale (2017), Anna Alexander (2018), Martha of Bethany (2019), Harriet Tubman (2020), Absalom Jones (2021), and José Hernández (2022).
Celebratory bloggers represent a wide array of (admitted) quirks themselves. They include the Rev. Laurie Brock, the Rev. Megan Castellan, Anna Fitch Courie, Dr. David Creech, Neva Rae Fox, the Rev. David Hansen, Heidi Haverkamp, Miriam Willard McKenney, Emily McFarlan Miller, the Rev. David Sibley, and the Rev. Eva Suarez plus Bracket Czar the Rev. Adam Thomas, known and admired for his attention to detail.