Good morning and welcome to this one and only Saturday Lent Madness email from Fr. Michael.   It’s been lovely to hear from some former parishioners and to add some new friends to this list.    It’s a fun project for me to send out these commentaries and I hope you’re all enjoying this Lenten learning opportunity.


Isn’t it interesting that Olga of Kiev comes up for voting around the one year anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine War.  Knowing something of the minds of Scott and Tim, the clerical chiefs behind this project, I’m pretty sure that’s not an accident.


The hair-raising story of Olga and her revenge on the killers of her husband might shock us, though to be fair, Olga has her equally dangerous sisters in Jael and Judith from the Hebrew scriptures and apocrypha  (Judges 5:24-26; Judith 13), perhaps proving what Kipling once said about the female of the species being more deadly than the male.   We might however put Olga in context by remembering that the Dark Ages got their name for a reason.   The world of Bertha of Kent, one of feuding petty kings, was equally dangerous, though Bertha herself seems to a non-bloodthirsty sort of saint.


Olga on the other hand is one of those nationalistic saints of European Christianity whose memory is resurrected in times of crisis and war.    For Ukrainians today, she is one of the symbols of national resistance, and her icon has been morphed into Saint Javelin, an image of the fierce saint in Ukrainian uniform, wielding an anti-tank missile called a Javelin – see

Whether this adoption of St. Olga is blasphemous or an appropriate tribute is a matter of opinion (I’ve heard both).



There’s some more discussion on Olga and the Ukraine war here:


Bertha of Kent, on the other hand, appears to have been a pious and righteous woman all her life, as opposed to Olga, who converted later in life.  If you were confused by the bio of her on the Lent Madness website, the Augustine she welcomed to Kent was not Augustine of Hippo, who had been dead for some centuries, but another Augustine, St. Augustine of Canterbury.   Augustine was apparently a popular name back then.


The chapel that King Ethelbert gave to his saintly wife still functions today, as part of a two-point parish of the Church of England known as St. Martin and St. Paul (   Parishioners of All Saints Collingwood or other historic churches can imagine the work of the building committee in maintaining a church that is 1400 years old!   Bertha and her chapel also remind us of something that Bishop Stephen Neill once said about Anglicanism, that those of us who go to the ancient churches of Britain feel a deep sense of kinship with the pre-Reformation past, and sense that this has always been our church.  


I noticed today when I voted on the Lent Madness site that the percentages and totals of votes cast were already displayed before I voted.   I’m hopeful that this is a glitch, as it’s better I think to vote with one’s heart and not with the majority.   That being said, I had thought Olga would do well, given widespread sympathy for the Ukraine, but it appears I was wrong to pick her going forward.   I was right about Florence and Augustine, so I guess I’m two for three so far.  How about you?


Blessings this day.