Forced Choices: Who Is Your Favorite Church Mother?
In our last Forced Choice, I asked everyone to select their favorite church father. And I can’t say I’m terribly surprised that Augustine ran away with almost 34% of the vote. He got off to a fast start and never looked back. Irenaeus started off more slowly, but eventually came in second at 20%, with Athanasius close behind at 16%. Nobody else hit double-digits. Probably the most surprising was how badly the great Greek theologians (Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John of Damascus) fared. Given how well Eastern Orthodoxy did in our earlier poll, one might have expected a slightly better showing here. Which, of course, raises the question of how many people like Eastern Orthodoxy in the abstract without having spent all that much time reading her most influential thinkers.
This week, we’re going to change the channel and ask: Who is your favorite church mother? Now, I hope I’m not insulting anyone’s historical intelligence. But I think there’s a distinct possibility that many of you are not as familiar with the church mothers as you are the church fathers. So, unlike past polls, I’m going to provide a little information about the individuals you’ll be voting on. As with prior polls, this is not a comprehensive list. And if you think that I’ve excluded someone who absolutely must be on a list like these, please feel free to let me know in the comments.
Here Are the Contestants
Thecla. According to the Acts of Paul and Thecla, Thecla was a young, noble virgin who converted to Christianity and ministered alongside Paul. During her ministry, she was threatened with rape, prostitution, and martyrdom. But she persevered through it all to become one of the most revered women in the early church.
Perptua and Felicity (d. 203). These two young women were Christian martyrs in the third century, and the story of their faithfulness in the face of certain death was one of the most widespread and influential martyrdom accounts in the early church.
Brigid of Kildare (451-525). Brigid is one of the patron saints of Ireland, famous for founding a number of influential monasteries throughout Ireland.
Cecilia (d. ca. 180). Another famous martyr of the early church, Cecilia died sometime during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (ca. 161-180). According to tradition, officials attempted to smother her with steam, but she did not die. Then they proceeded to try and cut off her head, but she still didn’t die. And through it all she was singing praises to God. For this reason she is known as the patron saint of musicians.
Macrina the Younger (330-379). She was the sister of Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Peter of Sebaste, and she played an important role in discipling and shaping these key Christian leaders. Gregory portrayed her as the ideal Christian philosopher and teacher, and he even said her philosophy was further advanced than that of Socrates!
Monica (ca. 331-387). Monica was the mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo. Augustine wrote extensively about his mother, speaking highly of her life in Confessions and the obviously important role she played in shaping him into the person he would become.
So, Which Is Your Favorite?
(See the poll in the sidebar.)