Today, we will continue learning about our sisters in Christ who had great impact for Jesus and His church during the middle ages. Specifically, we will explore the lives of Julian of Norwich and Catherine of Siena. Both these women wrote influential Christian documents that are still read to this day.
Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich was a Benedictine nun who lived from 1342 to around 1417. She is famous for living a life devoted to faith, contemplation, and prayer. Around the age of thirty, in the midst of a serious illness, Julian received fifteen different visions, or revelations, of Christ. The following night, God confirmed these visions for her. In response to these visions, Julian spent the rest of her life in an enclosed room or cell attached to the St. Julian Church in Norwich, England, meditating upon the Lord and the visions He had given her.
Through this journey, Julian wrote her most famous work, Revelations of Divine Love, which caused her to be considered the “first great female writer in the English language.” These writings are marked by joy—a joy that can only be found in Christ, and a joy that helped her focus on the goodness of God and His immense love during times of darkness such as sickness, social unrest, and the Black Plague. Despite her circumstances, she truly believed in God’s goodness and mercy, and that in the end, all things would be well. Her writings also armed the inherent worth of humankind due to the Biblical truth that humans were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).
Can you imagine this type of devotion? Contemplative life? Deep love for the Lord? Living in a cell most of your life to focus on God’s goodness, to dedicate yourself to prayer, to rest in His mercies, to embrace the joy of your salvation all while inspiring those around you to do the same?
Catherine of Siena
Catherine of Siena
Catherine of Siena was born in Siena, Italy, and lived from 1347 to 1380. She was the twenty-fourth of twenty- five children born to her mother. From a very early age, Catherine was attracted to a life of contemplation upon the Lord and expressed this through meditation, prayer, and fasting.
Not only did Catherine foster her inward relationship with the Lord, she also believed God called her to care for the poor and the sick, even as a horrific plague called the Black Death struck her homeland. In the political sphere, Catherine was highly respected, and leaders valued her opinion and came to her for advice in handling various disagreements. In 1370, she became an active advocate to return the papacy back to Rome from Avignon during the Papal Schism.
In her favorite work, The Dialogue, Catherine wrote about her deep love for God. She focused her attention on Christ as the Redeemer, the one who freely gives, sacrifices, and forgives. Take some time today to meditate on this beautiful imagery God gave Catherine: “My son’s nailed feet are a stair by which you can climb to his side, where you will see revealed his inmost heart. For when the soul has . . . looked with her mind’s eye into my son’s opened heart, she begins to feel the love of her own heart in his consummate and unspeakable love.”