The only thing I knew about Julian of Norwich before reading Amy Frykholm's excellent new "contemplative biography"
of her was that she was the saint who said "All shall be well, and all
shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." My friend Kelly
likes to quote that when I'm particularly stressed out, and I find it
It turns out that I'm not the only one in the dark about this medieval saint. In this interview, Christian Century correspondent Amy Frykholm explodes some of the pervasive myths about Julian and helps us to understand Julian's theology and visions.
Sainthood: I don't know much about Julian, but I had always heard she
was an aristocratic nun. You say that might not have been the case at
Frykholm: Right. In fact, I think the evidence points away
from it. No one knows for sure, but there was an enormous explosion of
lay writing in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Lay people were
taking on greater roles in the church and claiming their own
spirituality. So there's no reason to presume she was a nun. But there's
also the fact that Julian never mentions a convent, a religious order,
or anything monastic in her book. Another reason was that she wrote this
book for laypeople. Most books written by women in this period were for
sisters or make a great deal of mention of convent life. She's very
clear that she's writing for laypeople.
FS: So she probably wasn't a nun, but you're saying she was not gentility either?
This morning I logged into my email to find a whole host of messages announcing new followers on Twitter. The source of all this largesse? Blogger/novelist/religion scholar Donna Freitas has written a lovely entry called "Oh, the Bible Bores Me So" for Religion Dispatches. She talks about how she is bored to tears by the Bible but is loving the daily Twible. Thanks, Donna, for helping to spread the word!
And speaking of blogging, I've been AWOL from this personal blog partly because I am gearing up to blog for Beliefnet at least five times a week starting June 15. The blog is called "Flunking Sainthood," which is the title of my next book. It will explore spirituality and culture in a broad-ranging way, with an emphasis on ordinary people trying to live out their faith and sometimes -- OK, often -- falling short. It's about the lighter side of spiritual failure, and will feature interviews, book reviews, commentary on films & television, updates on the Twible project, and a weekly column about Mormon life. Hope to see you there! The new blog will happen here. I'll be sure to cross-post any reviews here on The Review Revolution.