A Mystic for Our Times — Center for Action and Contemplation
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A Mystic for Our Times

All Will Be Well

A Mystic for Our Times
Monday, April 5, 2021

My friend Matthew Fox published a book during the COVID-19 pandemic about Julian of Norwich. I love Julian’s teachings because she focuses on God’s infinite love, goodness, and mercy. Even during the Black Death (bubonic plague) in which perhaps a third of the world’s population died, even during her own near-death experience when she received visions of Jesus’ brutal crucifixion, Julian trusts that “all will be well.” Matthew Fox shows how Julian is a mystic for our own time. He writes:

A time of crisis and chaos, the kind that a pandemic brings, is, among other things, a time to call on our ancestors for their deep wisdom. Not just knowledge but true wisdom is needed in a time of death and profound change, for at such times we are beckoned not simply to return to the immediate past, that which we remember fondly as “the normal,” but to reimagine a new future, a renewed humanity, a more just and therefore sustainable culture, and one even filled with joy.

Julian of Norwich [1343–c. 1416] is one of those ancestors calling to us today. After all, she lived her entire life during a raging pandemic. Julian is a stunning thinker, a profound theologian and mystic, a fully awake woman, and a remarkable guide with a mighty vision to share for twenty-first-century seekers. She is a special chaperone for those navigating a time of pandemic. Julian knew a thing or two about “sheltering in place,” because she was an anchoress—that is, someone who, by definition, is literally walled up inside a small space for life. Julian also knew something about fostering a spirituality that can survive the trauma of a pandemic. While others all about her were freaking out about nature gone awry, Julian kept her spiritual and intellectual composure, staying grounded and true to her belief in the goodness of life, creation, and humanity and, in no uncertain terms, inviting others to do the same. . . .

Julian’s response to the pandemic, as we know it from her two books, [is] amazingly grounded in a love of life and gratitude. Instead of running from death, she actually prayed to enter into it and it is from that experience of death all around her and meditating on the cruel crucifixion of Christ that she interpreted as a communal, not just a personal event, that her visions arrived. . . .

Our sister and ancestor Julian is eager not only to speak to us today but to shout at us—albeit in a gentle way—to wake up and to go deep, to face the darkness and to dig down and find goodness, joy and awe. And to go to work to defend Mother Earth and all her creatures, stripping ourselves of racism, sexism, nationalisms, anthropocentrism, sectarianism—anything that interferes with our greatness as human beings. And to connect anew to the sacredness of life.

Reference:
Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond (iUniverse: 2020), xvii, xix, xxxviii.

Story from Our Community:
I first heard of Richard Rohr in 2018, after having walked the Camino de Santiago. Richard used the religious language of my upbringing, which I walked away from years ago, but I could tell his definitions were what I knew to be true. Fr. Richard has deepened, broadened, and validated my experience by using Christian language and imagery. To quote Julian of Norwich, “All will be well, all will be well, every single thing will be well!” In a real sense, I have come home! —Robin M.

Image credit: Belinda Rain, Nevada — South Lake Tahoe, California (detail), 1972 photograph, public domain, National Archives.
Image inspiration: A butterfly alights on a flower after rain—a hopeful parallel to the delicate, sometimes hesitant, unfolding of the human soul after storms of life.
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