Archive for the ‘Blessed Julian of Norwich’ Tag

Feast of Margery Kempe (November 9)   3 comments

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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MARGERY BRUNHAM KEMPE (CIRCA 1373-CIRCA 1440)

English Roman Catholic Mystic and Pilgrim

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Well-behaved women seldom make history.

–Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

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The General Convention of The Episcopal Church added Margery Kempe to the side calendar of saints in 2009.  Her feast day, shared with Richard Rolle and Walter Hilton, became September 28.  That feast day from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), carried over into the successor volume, A Great Cloud of Witnesses (2016).  The General Convention of 2018 kept the composite feast yet moved it to January 19, per Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, actually the official calendar of saints for the denomination, and successor to Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006 (2007).  I have, however, been breaking up the composite feast while renovating this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  That process has brought me to this post, in which I have assigned Kempe’s feast to November 9, her feast day in The Church of England.

Margery Kempe, born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England, circa 1373, was devout.  She also proved perplexing to certain ecclesiastical leaders.

Kempe, born Margery Brunham, came from a wealthy family.  Her father, John Brunham, was, at different times, the mayor, a Member of Parliament, a coroner, a justice of the peace, and a chamberlain.

Circa 1393, at the age of 20 years, Margery married John Kempe (d. 1431).  For two decades she bore fourteen children, wore fine clothing, and, for a time, operated a brewery.  Our saint also desired a celibate life and reported visions.  She finally took a vow of chastity at the age of 40 years; her husband was not enthusiastic about her decision.

Kempe, eccentric and devout, violated gender norms.  She sobbed frequently, reported visions of the Passion of Jesus, pondered Heaven nearly continuously, and made pilgrimages.  Our saint confessed her sins going back to childhood.  She also visited various places–Assisi, the Holy Land, Santiago de Compostela, Rome, et cetera.  Most ecclesiastical figures Kempe consulted thought she was out of her mind, but orthodox, at least.  Blessed Julian(a) of Norwich offered encouragement and support to our saint.

Kempe endured official opposition from elements of the Church.  She even received threats of violence sometimes.  Certain bishops questioned her orthodoxy; they accused her of being a Lollard, until clearing her of that alleged offense.  Lollards, who also criticized Kempe, did not mistake her for being one of their tribe.

Kempe died circa 1440.  She was about 67 years old.

Kempe, able neither to read nor write, dictated The Book of Margery Kempe, long at the Carthusian Mount Grace Priory, near Northallerton, Yorkshire.  Later, the book became the possession of the Butler-Bowden family.  Since the book’s rediscovery in 1934, many people have read translations of it.

I remember one particular commentary on the Song of Songs.  The exegete emphasized the presence of God in the details of human lives, especially those details we do not consider holy, but perhaps merely mundane.

We spend our lives in the presence of God, made manifest in ways both mundane and extraordinary.  Much of the time we are oblivious to the presence of God in our lives.

Margery Kempe nourished the awareness of the presence of God in her life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANSKAR AND RIMBERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOPS OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF ALFRED DELP, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SEYMOUR ROBINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS KASATKIN, ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP OF ALL JAPAN

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Gracious God, we give you thanks for the life and work of Margery Kempe,

a mystic, who, passing through the cloud of unknowing, beheld your glory.

Help us, after her example, to see you more clearly and love you more dearly,

in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savior; who with you and the

Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Job 26:1-14

Psalm 63:1-8

Romans 11:33-12:12

Matthew 5:43-48

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 611

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Feast of Blessed Julian(a) of Norwich (May 8)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Blessed Julian(a) of Norwich and Her Cat

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED JULIAN OF NORWICH (LATE 1342-CIRCA 1417/1423)

Mystic and Spiritual Writer

Also known as Blessed Juliana of Norwich

Anglican, Episcopal, and Lutheran feast day = May 8

Roman Catholic feast day = May 13

We know little about Blessed Julian(a) of Norwich.  We do not even know her name.  Much of what we do know about her, however, comes from her book, Revelations of Divine Love (1393), based on twenty-year-old “showings” from God and available as a paperback book in 2017.

Blessed Julian(a) devoted much of her life to God as a recluse.  In May 1373 our saint, thirty and a half years old, was near death at her mother’s house.  A priest even administered the last rites.  Yet our saint recovered and, on May 8, received sixteen revelations–“showings,” which affected her deeply and which she pondered for two decades.  At some point she became a recluse at St. Julian’s Church, Conisford, Norwich, England; she was there by 1400.  Blessed Julian(a) lived with a cat (certainly a fine companion) in a suite at the church, part of the Benedictine Community at Carrow.  Two servants, Sarah and Alice, moved in the outside world on her behalf.  Meanwhile, people sought Blessed Julian(a) out for spiritual counsel.  Among these was the mystic Margery Kempe (d. 1440).  Our saint lived into her seventies–at least into 1416, when she became a beneficiary of a will.

Revelations of Divine Love reveals much about the character and theology of Blessed Julian(a), informally beatified in the Roman Catholic Church.  The book shows her humility, for, despite the evidence of her education and keen intellect in that text, she describes herself as

a simple and uneducated creature

in the second chapter.  The book also reveals Blessed Julian(s) focus on divine kindness and on the Passion of Jesus,

our courteous Lord.

The Holy Trinity is another major topic in the Revelations of Divine Love, as in Chapter 54:

We are to rejoice that God and the soul mutually indwell each other; there is nothing between God and our soul; it is, so to speak, all God; through the work of the Holy Spirit, faith is the foundation of all the soul’s virtues.

And because of his great and everlasting love for mankind, God makes no distinction in the love he has for the blessed soul of Christ and that which he has for the lowliest soul to be saved.  It is easy enough to believe and trust that the blessed soul of Christ is pre-eminent in the glorious Godhead, and indeed, if I understand our Lord aright, where his blessed soul there is too, in substance, are all the souls which will be saved by him.

How greatly should we rejoice that God indwells our soul!  Even more that our soul dwells in God!  Our created soul is to be God’s dwelling place:  and the soul’s dwelling place is to be God, who is uncreated.  It is a great thing to know in our heart that God, our Maker, indwells our soul.  Even greater is to know that our soul, our created soul, dwells in the substance of God.  Of that substance, God, are we what we are!

I could see no difference between God and our substance:  it was all God, so to speak.  Yet my mind understood that our substance was in God.  In other words, God is God, and our substance his creation.  For the almighty truth of the Trinity is our Father:  he makes us and preserves us in himself; the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our Mother, in whom we are enfolded; the great goodness of the Trinity is our Lord, and we are enfolded by him too, and he by us.  We are enfolded alike in the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.  And the Father is enfolded in us, the Son too, and the Holy Spirit as well:  all mightiness, all wisdom, all goodness–one God, one Lord.

The virtue that our faith springs from our basic nature and comes into our soul through the Holy Spirit.  Through this virtue all virtues come into our soul through the Holy Spirit.  Through this virtue all virtues come to us, and without it no one can be virtuous.  Our faith is nothing, else but a right understanding, and true belief, and sure trust, that with regard to our essential being we are in God, and God in us, though we do not see him.  This virtue, and all others which spring from it, through the ordering of God, works great things in us.  For Christ in his mercy works within us, and we graciously co-operate with him through the gift and power of the Holy Spirit.  This makes us Christ’s children, and Christian in our living.

Revelations of Divine Love, translated by Clifton Wolters (1966)

We know little about Blessed Julian(a) of Norwich, but that fact might not matter very much.  We can still read her book, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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Lord God, in your compassion you granted to the Lady Julian

many revelations of your nurturing and sustaining love:

Move our hearts, like hers, to seek you above all things,

for in giving us yourself you give us all;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 46:3-5

Psalm 27:5-11

Hebrews 10:19-24

John 4:23-26

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 363

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