All Manner of Things

All shall be well,
and all shall be well, and
all manner of thing shall be well.
—Julian of Norwich

If you have yet to discover the joy of reading the radically hopeful theological writings of the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich, Sheila Upjohn’s Why Julian Now? A Voyage of Discovery is a challenging, yet exciting, place to begin. A warning, however: As the story proceeds, the seas become more vociferous and threatening, especially for an approaching-the-millennium, postmodern Catholic.

Though little is documented about Julian’s life (her books were not widely published until 1902), she lived from 1343 to 1420, spending her later years as an anchoress—a woman who stayed in a cell adjoining a church to live in solitude, to pray, and to counsel parishioners and townspeople (not unlike a modern-day spiritual director). There, Julian received those who would come to her for guidance.

Now, at the close of the millennium, Julian is experiencing an upsurge in popularity. While many argue that Julian’s resurgence is based on her feminist (a term that didn’t exist in the 14th century) view of God, that of God as Mother, Julian is not the first mystic to speak of feminine images of God. And, as Upjohn discovers, Julian’s challenge to the world is not to look merely at God as a Mother figure, as opposed to a Father figure, but to believe that "all shall be well." This hopeful message, Upjohn discovers, takes on unanticipated meanings as to how to live with hope for the future.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1998
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