Lady Julian’s gift

julianThis is not the story of Julian of Norwich. That’s been told, and besides, I don’t do hagiography.

It’s very personal.
I was in my local church last Sunday. My ritual each Sunday at 8 AM is to bring Anglican beads with me and pray not so much for myself as for the people I sense need it. The prayers invariably are for healing. Of course there are the prayers with myself as the object–nobody is that selfless–but I have mostly internalized the lesson of looking outward at others, at a greater world of sadness, trouble, and joy than I can know. Around me people are seeing their livelihoods go away, their homes shaken under them, their nights sleepless from fear. It is there. You can hear it even in the silence of what people will not say to you.
Of course personal pain comes back. Inevitably. The dues-paying, doubts, hurts, angers. I can pray for others but if do not pray for myself–for acceptance and the strength to overcome if it’s possible–then what sort of holy fool am I? Answer: I’m not even close to holy, but the title Fool I was born with.
And then, unbidden and unexpected during tracing the beads, I hear this from within me but not in my voice:
“All shall be well and all things shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”
I recognize the quote from many years ago. It’s part of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love, or The Showings.
First thought: “Julian, get the hell out of my head!”

“All shall be well and all things shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

Okay, she’s persistent, isn’t she?

And then a third time. Nothing to be done except accept what I’m hearing as a promise.

It’s sacred. Three times means that whoever is behind Julian of Norwich is not kidding.

Something will pass. Something.

I am euphoric. The euphoria eases, of course. Nobody can live their life in a total brain-gasm all the time. “Wow, man, what was in that acid?”

Something has changed utterly. Was a terrible beauty born? Maybe, or maybe not. I’ll know when I get to it.

I will settle for calm and Julian’s gift of love. Julian was forced into Hell at an early age. It’s not hard to read the life between the lines. She was born in 1342. In 1348 or ’49 her entire family, excepting her mother, was wiped out by the Black Death. How does a six or seven-year-old girl come to terms with this? For me, Julian of Norwich should be the patron saint of people suffering from PTSD. I have no idea how she became the holy and giving woman she became. In one version of her life, she married and had children, all of whom died before 1381, the same year as the catastrophic Peasant’s Revolt. Another plague, another trauma, this time of losing her family. What would kill many people drove her to the service of God.

Go figure. Whatever happened, she is a consoler of the grieving.

Besides, anyone who loves cats can’t be all bad.


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