March 11, 2011

An Interview: Lent Madness 2011

Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, we interviewed Episcopal priest, blogger and author Father Tim Schenck (@FatherTim) about Lent Madness, a spiritual practice now in its second year.

Lent Madness started last year (2010). What was your original impetus for creating this sporting romp during an otherwise somber season? In other words: what were you thinking?
What was I thinking? “Please, God, don’t let this offend anyone, at least not too much.” Actually as a big sports buff I love the excitement of the NCAA’s March Madness — it’s the only thing that gets me through the sporting doldrums between the Super Bowl and Opening Day of baseball season. But then I thought, why should college basketball fans have all the fun while we’re sitting around giving up chocolate? And anyway, Lent gets a bad rap — why should it be all gloom and doom? After all, what could be more joyful than a season specifically set aside to get closer to God?

How do you decide which saints make it onto the roster? Do you use any special system to ensure diversity? Does height matter?
I’d love to tell you that it’s the Holy Spirit at work. And that might be part of it but I’m afraid it’s more Ouija Board than Holy Spirit. Last year, I simply took 32 saints at random from the Episcopal Church’s Calendar of Saints. That in itself is a pretty broad group of saints Biblical and modern, ecclesiastical and monastic.

The bracket is too short on women, of course, but judging from last year, a number of women were powerhouses! Julian of Norwich lost a squeaker to George Herbert in last year’s final to claim the first ever Golden Halo. This year, I chose an entirely new slate of saints so while there will undoubtedly be duplication in subsequent years. This year’s crop of holiness is all new to Lent Madness.

A little birdie, looking suspiciously like a diving dove, told us that you were cursing this project midway through Lent last year. Care to confess?
The only thing I was completely relieved about around the fourth week of Lent last year was not sticking to my original plan of matching the 64 teams in March Madness! That would’ve been a nightmare for a priest trying to get through Lent to Easter in one piece. I also plan to have this wrapped up well before Holy Week — I may be a glutton for punishment but I’m not into self-flagellation.

All kidding aside, what do you hope will happen for people who participate?
My real goal in hosting Lent Madness on my blog is to give people an opportunity to get to know some amazing people who have come before us in the faith. There’s no reason that a Lenten discipline should be dreary. And if this helps people connect with the risen Christ during this season of penitence and renewal, and have a bit of fun in the process, then it’s been worthwhile.

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