All Shall be Well

Statue of Julian of Norwich, Norwich Cathedral, by David Holgate FSDC

Photo: David Holgate FDSC (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I discovered Julian of Norwich at a mid-week Eucharist in 2001. On this particular Wednesday, my former Episcopal parish was observing the feast of this obscure anchorite from 15th Century England whose legacy is contained in one fascinating volume: Revelations of Divine Love. Because little else is known about Julian, she was never formally canonized, but her feast is kept by the Anglican Communion on May 8 and unofficially by some Catholics in England on May 13.

The most famous quote from Revelations of Divine Love are the words she heard Christ say to her: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” I heard those words for the first time at that mid-week Eucharist in 2001 and they have stayed with me ever since:

“All shall be well.”

I was in an understandably stressful place in my life that Spring of 2001. I was studying for my doctoral exams and the pressure was excruciating. I had coped with depression for years and was falling into another one of my deep dark holes. Despair was a common companion. In the past, nothing would break through, and I would wallow for weeks ignoring everything and everyone around me. But two things had changed in the last year: I had a woman in my life who loved me for me, and a church that kept the door open all the years I was away. So when I heard the words I knew deep down that they were true:

“All shall be well.”

Everything is in God’s hands. I had just journeyed through my first real Lent that Spring. I know how the story ended: death swallowed up in life, light overwhelming the darkness, and the Gates of Hell breaking down before the Lord. All the other trials of life could be over come because the biggest one had already been overcome.

Beginning on that day, I had a special place in my heart for the mysterious Julian. I’ve never been much of a mystic myself. I think the reason why Benedict is my favorite saint (after Our Lady) is because he’s such a practical one. His rule has been a loose guide for me and though I struggle to keep faithful to it my struggle is part of my growth in Christ. But when I find myself overwhelmed by the darkness, when the rhythm of prayer becomes dry and barren, and when I can hardly muster the will to open a prayerbook, Jesus’ sweet words to Lady Julian pull me out of the pit:

“All shall be well.”