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Julian of Norwich: her walls cannot stop her inspiring others

By Sarah Meyrick

Church Times

The city of Norwich, England, will be hosting a series of events this year to explore and celebrate the legacy of the mystic and anchoress (religious recluse) Mother Julian. Retreats, talks, discussions, and services will be held to mark her life throughout 2023, but especially focused around her feast day in May.

“Julian of Norwich’s legacy has made a significant contribution to English spirituality, and she is revered not only in this city and diocese, but across the world,” wrote the Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, in the introduction to the festival booklet of “Julian at 650” commemorative events.

“We find deep wells of consolation and hope in her writing, as she seems to have an uncanny knack to speak directly to us, 650 years after her “shewings,” or revelations, in May 1373. Perhaps that is because we remain a people who are, at our core, afraid. Afraid of conflict, pandemic, illness, ecological crises, and death … Julian helps us to knit together our lives so that we live with less dis-ease,” he wrote

Julian had been on Claire Gilbert’s mind for many years — long before she was aware of this year’s anniversary celebrations. Julian was “the bright star in a really dry Oxford theology degree, 30, nearly 40 years ago,” Gilbert said. She wrote her doctoral thesis on Julian, in relation to ecological consciousness.

“But then I got cancer. And she moved from being the subject of my academic study to a companion; a spiritual companion on this long journey of gruelling cancer treatment, because of the way she comes at things. That is to say, she responds porously.”

She continues: “She helped me respond to the cancer: not to battle it, not to deny it, not to wish it wasn’t there, but to walk towards it with lipstick on and brightly colored clothes.”

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