Julian of Norwich
Feast Day: May 13
Venerated: Popular Devotion
In the 14th century, a number of English men and women withdrew from the world. They lived alone as hermits, or anchorites. Their hermitage, or cell, was a small room attached to a local church. Each room had two windows. One pierced the church wall. Through this window, the anchorite received communion. Through the second window, the anchorite received food brought to him or her by village people.
As a young woman, Julian, who was born about 1342, became an anchorite at the Church of St. Edmund and St. Julian in Norwich. Until her death in about 1420, at the age of 78, Julian stayed in her simple room. Like most anchorites, she probably prayed, fasted, did penance, studied, sewed clothing for the poor, and advised the village people.
But, like several other anchorites at that time, Julian also wrote a book, Revelations of Divine Love. In it, she described her 16 visions of Jesus. As she wrote this book about God’s great compassion for us, Julian developed a special vocabulary. She called the Creator our mother and our father. She called Jesus the Redeemer our brother.
At the time of Julian’s death, people from all over Europe traveled to her room, or cell, to ask her advice. Everyone recognized that she was close to God. The Church never formally declared her a saint, but through the ages, people have called her “Blessed.”
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