Julian of Norwich’s popularity has skyrocketed over the past century. Yet she spent most of her life literally entombed in her church-side cell. What has made her so compelling, that nearly every modern contemplative teacher speaks of her?
Julian’s teachings begin and end in joy. She knew that this was our origin, and this was our destiny. Yet she lived in the middle of incredible suffering and instability:
The Black Plague killed 50% of Europe
The Hundred Years War killed even more
Heretics were regularly burned at the stake (and her cell was within smelling distance of her town’s stake!)
The economy was in depression and there were huge labor strikes and riots
Yet unlike many who panicked in her time and either blamed the plague on their sins (and set up flagellation clubs to beat themselves for their sins) or scapegoated the Jews and "heretics," Julian stayed deeply grounded in her intimacy with God.
Rather than a fierce, judgmental God, Julian knew the Divine Mother was tender and loving. (Her theology of the motherhood of God more richly developed than any writer’s up to the late 20th century!) Her spirituality revolved around the concept of one-ing: “Prayer oneth the soul to God,” she said. Rather than needing a fix for every ill (they are too many), Julian invites us to rest in the mystery of life.
Here are her 19 best quotes.
1. “Prayer oneth the soul to God.”
2. "God is all that is good, and God has made all that is made, and God loves all that he has made."
3. "I am Ground of your longing."
4. "God, of your goodness, give me yourself; you are enough for me, and anything less that I could ask for would not do you full honor. And if I ask anything that is less, I shall always lack something, but in you alone I have everything."
5. "For when the soul is tempested, troubled, and left to itself by unrest, then it is time to pray, to make ourselves supple and buxom to God."
6. "If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love."
7. "I saw him and sought him. I had him and lacked him. And this is, and should be, our ordinary undertaking in this life."
8. "Pray inwardly, though you think it does not help you; for it is profitable, though you feel nothing, though you see nothing; indeed, even if you think you cannot. For in dryness and in barrenness, in sickness and in feebleness, then is your prayer well pleasing to Me, though you think it helps you but a little."
9. "God desires not only to be known, but that we be lovingly united to him."
10. "He said not 'Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased'; but he said, 'Thou shalt not be overcome.'"
11. "The Goodness that is Nature is God. He is the ground, He is the substance, He is the same thing that is Naturehood. And He is very Father and very Mother of Nature."
12. "The fruit and the end of our prayers is that we be oned and like to our Lord in all things."
13. "The more the soul sees of God, the more it desires Him."
14. "He draws us unto Himself by love… and then we can do nothing but behold Him, enjoying, with a high, mighty desire to be all oned unto Him—centered to His dwelling—and enjoy His loving and delight in His goodness."
15. "And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’
I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God."
16. "Everything that God inspires us to search for, is God's own eternal desire."
17. "Thus in [our] Very Mother, Jesus, our life is grounded… He feeds us and nurtures us as childhood requires."
18. "The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love."
19. "Do you want to know what your Lord meant? Know well that love was what he meant. Who showed you this? Love. What did he show? Love. Why did he show it to you? For Love. Hold fast to this and you will know and understand more of the same."
And, of course, you cannot forget her most famous:
"All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."
Curious to learn more about this wildly popular woman? Join us for our Women Mystics School, where Matthew Fox leads us in a 90-minute masterclass on Julian!
Kelly Deutsch specializes in audacity. Big dreams, fierce desires, restless hearts. When seekers are hungry for unspeakably more, she offers the space to explore contemplative depths and figure out where they fit in the vast spiritual landscape. She speaks and writes about divine intimacy, emotional intelligence, John of the Cross, trauma-informed spiritual practice, and neuropsychology. Kelly offers spiritual direction, coaching, contemplative cohorts, and retreats. She is the bestselling author of Spiritual Wanderlust: The Field Guide to Deep Desire. When she isn’t exploring the interior life, you might find her wandering under Oregonian skies or devouring red curry.