It’s time for Lent Madness!

Lent Madness
Posted Feb 9, 2024

Grab your bracket and check your scorecard – it’s time for Lent Madness!

While February 14 is Ash Wednesday and the start of the penitential season of Lent, February 15 (aka “Ash Thursday”) is the kickoff to another madcap season of everyone’s favorite online religious devotion.

Modeled after a well-known college basketball tournament – March Madness – the two share similar points: both occur mostly in March; both depend on brackets; and both garner the attention and fervor of fans.

The purposes of Lent Madness are many: as an educational tool for Sunday schools, individuals, adult forums, and anyone who wishes to learn; to deepen a Lenten experience; and to promote an avenue for community, both online and in-person.

Lent Madness starts out with 32 saints. The process is simple: each day one worthy saint is pitted against another, with voting occurring all day. There are four rounds: Round of 32: Saintly 16; Elate 8; and Faithful 4. The conclusion, always on Wednesday of Holy Week (this year March 27), is the two-saint smackdown for the Golden Halo.

While some saint names are familiar, others provide a doorway to encounter new inspiring saintly souls.

With 2024 marking the 15th year of Lent Madness, every matchup is a themed battle, some more obvious than others. For example, in the first round, Thomas Cranmer is up against Thomas the Apostle; Polycarp faces Andrew the Fisherman; Rita clashes with Zita; and Hyacinth meets Rose of Lima.

An online digital Saintly Scorecard available here helps participants learn details of all the saints in this year’s bracket.

Lent Madness is the brainchild of the Rev. Tim Schenck, Rector of the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the Sea, in Palm Beach, Florida who created this unique online devotion in 2010. In 2012 he partnered with the Rev. Scott Gunn, Executive Director of Forward Movement to help bring Lent Madness to the masses. Together they serve as the self-appointed Supreme Executive Committee.

“Of course, the whole concept of saints doing battle is patently absurd,” commented Schenck. “They’ve all received their heavenly crown of righteousness. But Lent Madness is a fun way to meet some incredibly inspiring folks who have come before us in the faith. And as an online devotion it hopefully offers all of us some bread for the journey during the season of Lent.”

Stats from previous seasons prove the popularity of Lent Madness. In 2023, there were nearly 100,000 unique users with daily visits to the website numbering 10,000.

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), José Hernández (2022), and Jonathan Daniels (2023).

Celebratory Bloggers – aka the writers – are enthusiastic about their saints which shows in their offerings: the Rev. Laurie Brock, the Rev. Megan Castellan, Anna Fitch Courie, Dr. David Creech, Neva Rae Fox, Miriam Willard McKenney, Emily McFarlan Miller, Keegan Osinski, the Rev. David Sibley, and Bracket Czar the Rev. Adam Thomas.