Lent Madness pits saint against saint

Sharpen those pencils, folks, and get ready to fill out your brackets. Lent Madness begins next week.

The brainchild of the Revs. Tim Schenck and Scott Gunn, Lent Madness began in 2010, and makes for a pretty lively Lenten devotional. From lentmadness.org:

The format is straightforward: 32 saints are placed into a tournament-like single elimination bracket. Each pairing remains open for a set period of time and people vote for their favorite saint. 16 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 coveted 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.

USA Today reports:

The brackets are designed to inspire exploration and commentary. Although Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, voting opens Thursday. That's St. Valentine's Day but he's not in the game because, said Gunn, "we didn't want to give anyone home court advantage on their saint's day."

Among this year's matchups:

A bit of wit: One of the play-in rounds, completed last week, was a poetry smack down. John Donne beat T.S. Eliot to face Agnes of Rome when the tournament opens.

Plays on names: Martin Luther squares off against Martin Luther King. Neither are saints in the Catholic Church but the Episcopal Church honors people whose lives offered virtues worth emulating, the priests say.

Names that will drive players to do a little research: Anglican Bishop of Uganda Janani Luwuum, who was murdered by dictator Idi Amin, faces 16th-century English composer Thomas Tallis.

They deliberately mixed in "all kinds of people we should be encouraged to remember," Gunn says. "The point to get people thinking, 'How can I live my life differently? What does this person teach me?'"

A number of “Celebrity Bloggers” will be contributing their perspective this year at lentmadness.org: Laurie Brock, Megan Castellan, Penny Nash, Heidi Shott, David Sibley, Laura Toepfer, Neil Alan Willard, and Chris Yaw. 2012 Celebrity Blogger Adam Thomas continues in his role as Lent Madness Bracket Czar. Read full USA Today story here. Print out a bracket here. In fact, print out enough for everyone in the office.

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