Anchors Aweigh

Julian of Norwich was a fourteenth century English mystic. One of the first female authors in English, she was an anchoress in a little church in the cathedral city of Norwich. She lived enclosed in her cell attached to the church where she received visitors, prayed and worshipped at Mass constantly.

Her book Revelations of Divine Love is a wonderful classic of spiritual writing. In it she recounts her vision of Christ’s suffering and meditates on the ultimate meaning of sin, redemption and the human condition. Her writing is full of confidence in God’s fatherly care and final forgiveness.

So much of modern American Catholicism is political and argumentative. Liberals and Conservatives fight back and forth and we all seem so busy promoting good causes and fighting the good fight that I sometimes think we don’t take time to pray. We don’t take time for spiritual reading.

Why not stop and look again at the classics of our spirituality? Norwich is a good place to start, and Julian is a good spirital director.

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  • Anonymous

    Julian’s “Shewings” are some of my favorite mystical writings. She has such a sense of optimism about the human condition and God’s love that is lacking in some mystics. I wish we knew where her body was, because I don’t doubt it would be a pilgrimage site.

  • I’ve been shying away from Julian’s writings because I first heard about her as a Protestant through the writings of Brennan Manning (who quoted her alongside others like Hans Kung). I looked into Julian at the time and her writings seemed to lean in the direction of universalism. What has the Church said about her writings? I do find them terribly encouraging…if only I felt safe believing them to be orthodox.

  • Jack, we don’t know where her body was, buy you can visit St Julian’s church in Norwich. After the war they discovered the foundations of her cell and they have rebuilt it as it would have been. It makes an excellent side trip if you ever get to England.

  • Keith, I think we can read Julian with benefit. She wrote from a time when the church was orthodox in her teachings, and Julian writes from a spirituality that is intelligent and well informed. I think some commentators take her in a liberal direction, the feminists like to claim her as speaking of a feminine deity etc, but these are abuse. Take as she is i don’t think she says anything unorthodox. We can all hope for universal salvation, even though we know some people will reject God forever.

  • I first heard of Julian while reading something by Merton. One reading was all it took for me to fall in love with her. Seems most Catholics have never heard of her though and this is sad.