Julian of Norwich, born in 1342, is considered to be one of the most important Christian (or any tradition) mystics and spiritual mothers.
There’s good reason for that. Read on.
She was an anchoress at St. Julian of Le Mans, connected to the Benedictine Nuns of Carrow Abbey, in Norwich, England.
I’ll be sharing more about Julian of Norwich, and how she ‘came up’ for me, and then ‘up’ again, a few years ago, and why her example is very relevant to us right now in these seemingly harrowing times we live in.
She lived in such harrowing times, too — times filled with plague that reduced the European population by staggering numbers, and the population of of her native Norwich by half. Times of seemingly perpetual war and crushing loss. Times of intrigue and scandal in the Church that she was a part of. Times when long-existing social structures were deconstructing in the chaos. Times when people were afraid, confused, and seeking for touchstones of faith and Wisdom.
More on that in a follow-up post.
For now, here are a few ‘hints’ about this amazing woman, mystic, anchoress, visionary, author of the Revelations of Divine Love, and ‘spiritual mother to all’.
Professor Brian Thorne said in his 2012 Norwich lecture, “It is perhaps fanciful to imagine that Julian, too, feared that the end of the world was nigh but she would certainly have had plenty of reasons to doubt humanity’s ability to survive.”
In his December 2010 address, Pope Benedict XVI said this about Julian and her sister-anchoresses and those whose Wisdom is drawn from the Inner Way and shared as inspiration and wise guidance with others:
“The anchoresses or “recluses,” in their cells, devoted themselves to prayer, meditation and study.
In this way they developed a highly refined human and religious sensitivity which earned them the veneration of the people.
Men and women of every age and condition in need of advice and comfort, would devoutly seek them. It was not, therefore, an individualistic choice; precisely with this closeness to the Lord, Julian developed the ability to be a counsellor to a great many people and to help those who were going through difficulties in this life.
We also know that Julian too received frequent visitors, as is attested by the autobiography of another fervent Christian of her time, Margery Kempe, who went to Norwich in 1413 to receive advice on her spiritual life.
This is why, in her lifetime, Julian was called “Dame Julian”, as is engraved on the funeral monument that contains her remains. She had become a mother to many.
Men and women who withdraw to live in God’s company acquire by making this decision a great sense of compassion for the suffering and weakness of others.
As friends of God, they have at their disposal a wisdom that the world — from which they have distanced themselves — does not possess and they amiably share it with those who knock at their door.” (As shared on Discerning Hearts.)
Julian’s message and ‘Divine shewings’ as she called them in the Old English, and of course her example, is amazing considering the times she lived in.
Then again, it’s just in those — or these — harrowing times that wisdom and spiritual mothers (and fathers, and sisters and brothers, and anam cara and believing mirrors of all sorts!) are perhaps the most vital resource we have, next to our own connection with Divine Wisdom.
May it inspire you, and us all. More on Julian of Norwich (and another inspiring Julian!) coming soon.