Good afternoon saintly supporters:
First, apologies for dropping the ball in the last few days, my own halo has definitely slipped.
In the last few days, we’ve seen our first real squeaker of a match, in which Blandina narrowly edged past Simeon Bachos, AKA the Ethiopian Eunuch, by 1 per cent. Last we’ve heard, Simeon has conceded and has not made any accusations of electoral fraud, which was a very saintly thing to do. Blandina’s victory occurred just on the eve of the Feast of Perpetua and her companions, a young woman who was martyred in 2nd century North Africa during another round of persecutions of Christians by the Roman authorities. Perpetua was a young mother and she and four other believers, two of them slaves, refused to renounce their faith and refused to make sacrifices to the Roman gods. For this they were tortured with wild animals before finally being executed. There are thus many similarities between the stories of Perpetua and Blandina, and both show the wide appeal of Christianity in the Roman world to those groups – slaves and women – who had the least value in their world.
During our bible study today, we discussed yesterday’s close race between Eric Liddell and Josephine Bakhita. Several people said they knew nothing about Liddell except his portrayal in the film Chariots of Fire, and no one had heard of Josephine until Lent Madness. We all agreed that despite the impossible choices of these matchups, the real fun of Lent Madness is just learning about these extraordinary people. Eric Liddell, sadly, has booked his fiery chariot to take him home and away from Lent Madness. Josephine’s life reminds us that slavery persisted in the West well into the 19th century, and indeed still persists in many forms such as sex trafficking and various forms of indentured work. I like to think of Josephine watching over and protecting those migrants from North Africa still washing up on Italy’s shores today.
Today’s matchup includes Botulph, of whom no one really seems to know much. I did find an article on this Dark Ages Suffolk Saint which said he was a saintly man and a wise teacher, with a side hustle as an exorcist. One medieval account reports that when he came to build his monastery on the shores of the River Alde, Botulph first had to evict some demons who were squatting there:
At the approach of our blessed teacher Botwulf, the place breathed out a most acrid black smoke, and, not realising that flight was imminent, [the demons] echoed out terrible cries. ‘We have occupied this place for a long time, thought we would occupy it forever, we have got nowhere else … When the whole world is lit up by your merits, why do you come poking into our dark corners? You are behaving inhumanely, and neglecting all love, in driving us poor things, exiled by the rest of the world, even from this place of solitude.’
So Botulph gets some marks for being tough on demons, even if the account sounds rather plagiarized from Mark’s gospel.
Chief Seattle certainly deserves to be better known. While there are stirring words attributed to his famous speech online
, they probably have as much credibility as the account of Botulph’s exorcism. However Sealth, to use his proper name, deserves to be remembered as a representative of all the inddigenous peoples who refused to be erased from our colonial history. The robust presence of his ancestors in our church, and their demands for justice, are a reminder that God works in human history and bends it to God’s good purposes.
Fearless prediction: nobody needs to be sleepless in Seattle over this vote, Sealth will triumph and Botulph will finish on Bottomph.
Blessed be their memories.
Cheers and blessings,