“These are chaotic times,” my friend, Chris, texted the other day. “The COVID surge is affecting friends and families beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. A cloud of doom hovers over us as anxiety, fear, and hopelessness darken daily life. Is there a way to find comfort in this global pandemic?”
I put down my cell phone, closed my eyes, and searched for an answer to Chris’ question.
“Have you heard of Julian of Norwich?” I texted back after several moments. Lady Julian—as she’s often called—was on my mind after an online workshop I’d attended that week.
“Who’s she?” Chris responded.
“I learned about her at a workshop. Some call her the patron saint of pandemics.”
We continued texting, sharing tidbits about Julian’s life and timeless wisdom.
The Patron Saint of Pandemics
Julian of Norwich was an English mystic who lived in the fourteenth century during the time of the bubonic plague—a viral pandemic that killed 50-200 million people. Often called the black plague, the virus wiped out sixty percent of Europe’s population. It’s regarded as the greatest catastrophe in recorded history.
Little is known about Julian’s personal life. Some speculate she was married, and her husband and children died from the virus. At age thirty, Julian also contracted the disease. On her death bed, staring at a crucifix held by the priest giving her last rites, she experienced sixteen spiritual visions.
After a miraculous recovery, Julian moved into a room adjacent to a local church and became a hermit, devoting her life to prayer and spiritual counseling with those who sought her wisdom. Because of her steadfast devotion to God in the midst of unimaginable adversity, many look to Julian as the patron saint of pandemics.
All is Well. All Shall Be Well.
Julian recorded her visions in the book, Revelations of Divine Love. Her most quoted words, I told Chris, spoke powerfully: “All shall be well and all manner of things will be well…for there is a force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.”
“The words are comforting,” Chris texted back. “But, on a practical level, to believe ‘all will be well’ flies in the face of reality, given the devastation and despair all around us.”
“You’re right. Like Julian, we’re in unchartered waters, for sure. I also struggle to keep a positive attitude. But, I wonder if Julian’s words might comfort us in two important ways?”
We’re Loved. We’re Safe.
“From a spiritual perspective, all is well, since we’re in a divine relationship with God, who loves, guides, and protects us. The Creator comforts and walks alongside us through our joys and sorrows. If the worst happens—we contract COVID and die—we’ll journey to the Other Side and spend eternity in heavenly bliss.
“Physically, all is well too—at least in our corner of the world. You and I have enough food, shelter, and people who love us and whom we love. Our basic survival needs are met. We’re safe. And as we move beyond fear and embrace the truth that we are loved unconditionally, we become the compassion of Christ so we can encourage and support others who are suffering and afraid.”
I didn’t hear from Chris for several hours. Later, he texted these words:
“Life’s a mixture of suffering and joy, and everything in between. I can’t deny the suffering of this pandemic, but I refuse to let fear overtake me. Like Julian, who endured horrific loss and pain and turned to God as the source of her strength and hope, I turn to the Source of my Being and proclaim, ‘I am safe. I am loved. All is well. All shall be well.’”
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I read Chris’ words. He and Julian became my teachers with their words of comfort and hope.
There’s no denying these are tough times. But as we lean into God, we discover we’re stronger than we imagined. Our faith and love deepen.
What words from Julian and Chris speak to you? Where do you find hope and comfort in the midst of this pandemic? Can you proclaim, “All is well. All shall be well.”