116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
At first glance, the bracket sheets on the tables at many Episcopal churches look like those you'd expect to see in advance of college basketball's winner-takes-all-tournament.
But these brackets aren't for college basketball teams, and the 'competitors” aren't athletes. Rather than a trophy, the winner will receive a Golden Halo.
'Right now I'm working on Frederick Douglass, getting ready for the Saintly 16,” said Charles Crawley of Cedar Rapids. 'He will be going up against Juan Diego, the Mexican saint.”
Crawley is the adult forum director at Christ Episcopal Church, 220 40th St. NE, in Cedar Rapids, one of hundreds of churches across the country participating in Lent Madness, a more reverent spin on the popular March Madness basketball brackets.
'It's really quite fun, actually,” he said. 'And we're getting to learn quite a bit about each saint.”
Lent Madness was started in 2010 by a young Episcopal priest and the organization Forward Movement as a way to inspire 'thousands of people along the way by forming an online community of people who are passionate about taking their faith but not themselves too seriously.”
Here's how it works: Organizers at Forward Movement select 32 saints each year - in the Episcopal Church saints include not only the traditional saints of the Catholic and Orthodox faiths, but also people who have not been formally sanctified but have led lives worth emulating - and assign them to 'compete” in the first round. From there, parishioners fill out their bracket sheets.
Each week, participants log on to the Lent Madness website at Lentmadness.org and cast a vote in each bracket. The saint with the most votes advances to the next round.
The tournament runs during Lent, the 40-day Christian season of atonement and repentance from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It is broken down into segments: Round of 32, Saintly 16, Elate 8 and Faithful 4.
Two winners of the Faithful 4 square off to claim the title and Golden Halo. Previous Golden Halo winners were George Herbert, C.S. Lewis, Mary Magdalene and Frances Perkins.
Participants are challenged to study the saints and give a three-minute presentation on each to their group.
'This year the heavy favorite is St. Francis of Assisi,” Crawley said. 'He did really well a few years ago, but didn't win.”
At Christ Episcopal, participants pay a dollar to enter. The winner selects which charity the pool of money - this year it's $25 - will be sent.