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Saints of the Month

8th May        Julian of Norwich – a voice from a distant cell

Many years ago, studying English literature at university, I was intrigued to be introduced to the work of Julian of Norwich. She was writing at the end of the fourteenth century, when our modern English language was slowly emerging from its origins in Anglo-Saxon and Middle English. 

Our lecturer was mainly concerned with her importance in the history of the language (she was the first woman, and the first significant writer, to write in English). But I was more intrigued by the ideas she was expressing. She was an anchoress – someone who had committed herself to a life of solitude, giving herself to prayer and fasting.
St Julian’s, Norwich was the church where she had her ‘cell’. Her masterpiece, “Revelations of Divine Love”, reveals a mystic of such depth and insight that today up and down Britain there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of ‘Julian Groups’ who meet regularly to study her writings and try to put them into practice.

She is honoured this month (8th) in the Lutheran and Anglican Churches, but although she is held in high regard by many Roman Catholics, her own Church has never felt able to recognise her as a ‘saint’. This is probably because – over 600 years ago! – she spoke of God as embracing both male and female qualities. Revelations is an account of the visions she received in her tiny room, which thousands of pilgrims visit every year. 

Her most famous saying, quoted by T S Eliot in one of his poems, is “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” – words that have brought comfort and strength to many a soul in distress.

by Canon David Winter