“Is there a doctor in the house?” One of the reasons we invited Derek Olsen to join us on this Lenten journey as a Celebrity Blogger, was to be able to answer this question in the affirmative. If the excitement of the saintly smackdown causes you shortness of breath, be sure to call on Dr. Olsen. He’ll leap in to save the day by blogging about obscure liturgical minutia with reckless abandon. We’re glad to have this new life-saver on the Lent Madness team!
Dr. Derek Olsen is a layman within the Episcopal Church with a Ph.D. in New Testament and an interest in most things medieval, monastic, and liturgical. He is the liturgical editor of the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book, and the author of Reading Matthew with Monks, an investigation of early medieval reading and preaching. Forward Movement will be publishing his book on the spirituality of the Book of Common Prayer near the end of 2015. Derek currently serves on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission for Liturgy & Music. An IT professional by day, Derek is also the mastermind behind St Bede Productions which is responsible for the St Bede’s Breviary, Forward Movement’s Daily Prayer site, and the St Bede Blog (formerly haligweorc). He lives in Baltimore with his wife, an Episcopal priest, and their two daughters. He spends most of his spare time driving his daughters to and from ballet.
1. Since being named a Celebrity Blogger is obviously your greatest lifetime achievement, how will you handle the inevitable post-Lenten letdown?
It’s widely acknowledged that being a celebrity blogger is one of the coolest things around. After long consultation with my daughters, we’ve established that the only way to attempt to maintain this level of coolness post-Lent would be for me to adopt “hipster” styles. Because–nothing says awesome like a man past forty dressing in styles intended for guys twenty years younger. Rather than starting with the facial hair, beard baubles, and plaid shirts, though, my girls inform me that the most important look is the “man-bun” and they’ve graciously offered their own hair styling services entirely free of charge. I’m told through gales of laughter that it does indeed make me look “really cool.” (They also clarify that they’re laughing “near me,” not “at me”…)
2. What is the single strangest thing you’ve learned about one of your assigned saints?
John Mason Neale would have been so cyberpunk. If they’d had either “cyber” or “punk” back in the day… I say that because he totally would have gotten on board with the slogan “Information wants to be free!” Neale translated massive numbers of medieval hymns from both the Eastern and Western Church into English and published several hymn collections; in the preface to one of them, he essentially tells his readers that these translations don’t belong to him, they belong to the church, and that neither copyright nor anything else ought to stand in the way of the church having access to its own treasury of devotion.
3. What is your favorite saint-inspired food and why?
One of my areas of study is early medieval monasticism and the spiritualities and practices that go along with it. The medieval monasteries produced a lot of saints…and a lot of beer. Monastic brewing is a traditional aspects of self-sufficiency; one of the best ways to preserve the grain harvest and to prevent it from rotting or spoiling in pre-refrigerator days was to brew it. Not only did you preserve the nutrition, you also created a much safer drink than the water which was often contaminated. As a homebrewer, I’m a big fan of monk-like dark ales with plenty of body to them. Let’s not forget the Lent connection either! Since solid food was greatly reduced around the monasteries during Lent, lots of robust beer was consumed to maintain calories and nutrition. (German Doppelbocks in particular are often connected with Lent for this reason.) Too, this practice leads to one of the most awesome medieval liturgies ever–the blessing to purify beer vats into which weasels or other vermin have fallen.
4. Besides Lent Madness, what do you most look forward to during the season of Lent?
Nothing quite says Lent like the chanting of the Great Litany. I recommend doing it frequently in Lent. Those around you will also appreciate your friendly aural reminder of the season. Hence, it’s the perfect thing to do while standing in the checkout line in the grocery store, when telemarketers call, or if you find yourself in a crowded elevator!