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Pandemic Wisdom from a Middle Ages Mystic

A pandemic. Outrageous behavior by the One Percent. Social distancing.

These experiences are defining our current moment, but it’s not the first time in our history. The Middle Ages were defined by the Black Plague and the Peasants’ Revolt against exploitation by the rich.

And during that era was an English Christian mystic we know as Julian of Norwich. She lived alone in a monastic cell where she gave spiritual counseling to visitors and wrote the earliest surviving book in the English language to be written by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love. Her spiritual wisdom is relevant to us today.

Julian was troubled by the suffering in the world, the ways that people hurt each other, and even the Church’s teaching about hell. She prayed for compassion, and famously experienced a vision of Jesus telling her, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

She later wrote, “These words were said most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any who shall be saved.” This comforting experience of divine love reminded her of motherly love. Jesus was like a wise, merciful, and loving mother. In fact, Julian thought of God as both Mother and Father.

Can we give ourselves permission to imagine God like a doting parent (maybe like the ones we had, or the ones we wish we’d had)? Can we treat ourselves with the same compassion that God does? If we can, it might just give us what we need to show that same compassion to our families, friends, and neighbors in these uncertain times.

Let’s be rad to each other!

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