I pretty much love the season of Lent. This time of study, prayer, and self-examination and reflection. In these 6 weeks, I always learn so much about myself, and I am always shaped by what I learn - much more so than any New Year’s resolution.
One thing I particularly like about Lent is participating in what is becoming an annual event for me - Lent Madness. The brainchild of the Reverend Tim Schenck, Lent Madness is a way of learning about the men and women who make up the Church’s Calendar of Saints. If you are in any way familiar with the NCAA March Madness brackets, then you will find much similarity with the Lent Madness brackets. On “Ash Thursday” - (no priest tackles anything on Ash Wednesday), 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. This year has pitted St. Peter against St. Paul (Peter was the victor), St. Peter against St. John (again, Peter was the victor), St. Michael the Archangel, Richard Hooker (the defender of the Book of Common Prayer), musician Edith Cavell, and Quiteria (who with her 8 sisters personally engaged in guerrilla-type attacks against the Roman Occupation). It is a fascinating way to learn all about the people (and angels) who make up the great cloud of saintly witnesses who have gone before us). Prior winners of the Golden Halo include St. Francis of Assisi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Florence Nightingale, St. Mary Magdalene, and C.S. Lewis.
One saint I have never seen included in the brackets since I have started participating is St. Matthias the Apostle. He was not one of the original twelve disciples; rather, he was one who followed them around (“accompanying” them to be more specific) during Jesus’ three-year ministry, beginning with Jesus’ baptism by John until the day of Christ’s ascension into heaven, until he was called by the Spirit and chosen by lot to take Judas Iscariot’s place among the Apostles.
Yet, although present at numerous healings, exorcisms, teachings, miracles, we hear nary a word from or about him. Did he see Jesus turn water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana? Did he bring people to Jesus, like Andrew and Phillip? Did he help in the feeding of the 5,000? The feeding of the 4,000? Did he see Jesus cleanse the lepers, bring sight to the blind, raise the dead? Was he present when Jesus calmed the storms, or walked on water, chased the money changers from the Temple? Did he hear Jesus’ teachings of the beatitudes or wonder at his parables? Was he present when Jesus was arrested, tried, convicted, crucified? While we may never know for sure, the writer of Acts seems to think so, and for an introvert like me, this is enough.
My introverted self has a hard time relating to a saint like Peter or John or Paul, always on the forefront, always with an opinion, or a question, or an answer.
I can identify much more to one who stayed on the sidelines - observing, listening, quietly doing the work to be done while simultaneously doing everything he can to not draw attention to himself (God forbid!). Perhaps this is why Matthias is the patron saint of carpenters and tailors – the people who work behind the scenes to make sure that everything is ready for the Peters and the Pauls of the world - much like the list of people we see scrolling at the end of the movie, people we never see or know but whose work is imperative to bring that one blockbuster to the screen.
It is the quiet, dedicated and diligent work of Matthias that is needed to heal a hurting and broken world - someone who understands that to observe is the first step in understanding, to listen is the first step to healing, and to accompany someone on their journey is a sign of love, for it is when we can walk together, accompany each other, the reconciling work of God can begin. Perhaps this is why Matthias is also the patron saint of people who need hope, such as persons struggling with addiction, as well as the caregivers.
The world needs more Matthiases – people out on the sidelines and in the trenches quietly and with fervent dedication observing, listening, accompanying, all the while understanding, healing, loving and reconciling, and bringing hope to a hurting and broken world.
As they say in the realm of Lent Madness - Happy Lent!