By: Carolyn Berghuis, MS, ND, CTN

If there is one word we can use to describe Julian of Norwich’s message for our hurting world it would be love – God’s love. Through her sixteen Showings (visions Jesus gave her) Julian came to understand the true pathway into full healing. She saw that not only does God desire to heal humanity of all its pain, he is perpetually active in our soul, fulfilling and restoring us in body, heart, and spirit. She beautifully reminds us of this: “Christ will never move from the place he takes in our soul. We are his home of homes, his eternal dwelling place.”[1]

Julian’s Showings have the power to transform the hearts and souls of humanity if we dare listen to her voice. In today’s post I will explore her pathway into healing so we can begin to experience the bliss Julian came to know. Today we will look at the unfolding of Julian’s childhood prayer for:

  • Participation in Jesus’ passion.
  • A life-threatening illness.
  • The grace of the Triple-Wound (contrition, compassion, and unbearable longing for God).

JULIAN OF NORWICH: HER STORY

Julian was no stranger to suffering, and yet, through her suffering she came to know God’s healing love. The Hundred Years’ War, the Papal Schism, numerous scandals surrounding the monarchy, the Peasants Revolt, and three plagues including the Great Pestilence all occurred during Julian’s lifetime. Julian’s day was also a time of superstition and fear. The devil was believed to be at hand causing the plagues and hardships. The Church preached on sin and salvation, coupled with a deep fear of God’s wrath. The idea of Julian’s all-loving God who extends infinite mercy and grace was in short supply. How would today’s modern person fare in the middle of such devastation? I fear I would become a puddle on the ground, almost frozen, and unable to move! Yet, Julian had an inner strength that changed everything for her. She can show us the way into this inner strength, an inner strength that was fostered through suffering and ends in total joy and bliss.

Suddenly it happened, in May 1373, when Julian was only thirty years old. The miracle she had prayed for in her childhood was about to begin unfolding. “I asked for three gifts from God: one, participation in his passion; two, a life-threating illness; and three, the grace of the triple-wound (contrition, compassion, and unbearable longing [for God])”.[2] She became ill, very ill. The illness was causing great pain in her body. On the brink of death, surrounded by her mother, a small group of individuals, and the parish priest last rites were administered. Last rites – this means that everyone, including Julian herself, believed she was going to die. Like a little child, Julian surrendered to God’s will.

Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. – Luke 18:16 (NABRE)

THE CRUCIFIX APPEARS

As Julian lay dying her priest placed a crucifix before her to bring comfort during these last moments of her life. Julian gazed upon the face of her beloved Jesus and as she did everything began to change. The room darkened and only the cross was visible to Julian. Jesus was giving her a gift. The world melted away and she became free, free to only see the one who can free us from all our pain – Jesus Christ.

Suddenly all her pain vanished and she “was whole again.”[3] Julian felt better than she had ever felt before, especially in the center of her body. God was about to increase Julian’s bliss in body, heart, and soul. He promises the same thing for us. God promises to make us whole and healed beyond our wildest imagination.

I will resettle you as in the past, and make you more prosperous than at your beginning; then you shall know that I am the Lord. – Ezekiel 36:11 (NABRE)

JESUS AND THE HOLY TRINITY

Julian suddenly realized that it was Christ himself who was revealing this vision to her! Gazing upon the crucifix Julian witnesses “blood trickling down from under his garland of thorns.”[4] This is significant for Julian’s healing message. All healing begins with Jesus’ suffering, and more specifically, the blood poured out from his crown of thorns. All healing culminates with his glorification. Later in the Showings Jesus will reveal to Julian the true meaning behind the crown of thorns; however, I don’t want to get ahead of myself here! That’s for another blog post. What is important to understand at this point is that all healing begins with the blood of Jesus and it ends in his perfect joy and bliss.

For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2 (NABRE)

Now Julian rests in contemplation. Bathed in perfect love and free of bodily pain she gazes upon her beloved Jesus. Then the Trinity suddenly reveals itself. Be still my heart! First Julian rests in the bliss of Christ, then next, she in immersed in the milieu the blessed Holy Trinity. Let’s take a moment to breath this beauty in….

In all of the Showings that would follow Julian saw both Christ and the Holy Trinity. “Wherever Christ appeared, I seemed to understand the blessed Trinity, as well.”[5]

But wait – it gets better! Julian’s heart overflows with joy as she realizes that this immersion into perfect bliss and joy is meant for all of God’s created beings. Julian’s love and compassion for all spiritual seekers fills her heart to overflowing. I invite you to imagine for a moment a world where all of God’s children celebrate in the joy and bliss of one another – so much beauty! Let’s pray together.

Dear God, Through Christ please bless all of humanity right now and shower each and every one of us with your love, mercy, and grace.

Enjoying this immersion in God’s perfect beauty Julian surrenders to prayer with a fullness of body, heart, and soul. Throughout her Showings Julian frequently surrenders to prayer. Julian’s love for Jesus, the Holy Trinity, and the oneness they share is palpable as you read her words. Julian has now entered into Christ’s passion, she is in the midst of a life-threatening illness, and the triple-wound is on the horizon. The holy stage has been set, the story has begun. Act 1, Scene 1. Jesus, with sacred blood appearing under his crown of thorns, in union with the loving support of the Holy Trinity, is center stage as joy cascades over the set like healing, living waters. This scene is forever on the horizon in all of Julian’s Showings.

THE TRIPLE-WOUND

Throughout the Showings Julian will grow in her love and understanding of the Triple-Wound: contrition, compassion, and unbearable longing for God. Eventually Christ will lead her to understand that the medicine needed for full healing and restoration lies in these three.

“By contrition we are washed clean. By compassion we are made ready. By true longing for God we are rendered worthy. These are three paths guaranteed to lead all souls to heaven, regardless of the mistakes we may have made here on earth. These are the medicines that heal every soul who has missed the mark (who has sinned).”[6]

CONTRITION AND GOD

For Julian contrition begins with God’s desire for us. Yes, God desires us, even with (especially with) all of our messiness. He desires our friendship and our love. God is continually reaching out to us with perfect love, offering an invitation of divine friendship. Nothing pleases God more then when we come running to him like little children with arms wide open seeking nothing less than full union with him. Yet, one thing can stop our movement towards him and cause us to stumble – sin.

Julian reminds us that we will continue to miss the mark – i.e., we will continue to sin. Yet, God keeps us safe. “I saw that God will keep me safe no matter what, and that the same is true to all my spiritual companions.”[7] God even reveals to Julian that yes, we will suffer as the result of sin in this lifetime; however, God promises beautiful blessings in return for our suffering. God calls us to lean into our pain by leaning into Jesus. “He (Christ Jesus) energetically lifts us out of hell, delivers us from the misery of earth, and honorably restores us to our rightful place in paradise, blissfully reuniting us with our own essence (our soul).” [8]

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (NABRE)

HUMILITY OF JESUS

How do we lean into Jesus? Well, the first step is recognizing that sin is the most painful thing our soul can experience. Sin is the one thing that separates us from all the love we could ever desire. This is where the power of contrition heals. By turning to God and offering a true “I’m sorry God” we open the door into a deeper love relationship with him.

Saying I’m sorry is an act of humility, a virtue that isn’t always easy to accept. After all, it’s hard to look at the ugly parts of ourselves – who really wants to do that? Sometimes it feels better to stay stuck in the false “power” of pride and believe we haven’t really caused harm. Yet, we do cause harm, knowingly and unknowingly to others and to ourselves. Pride is rooted in the lie that we haven’t hurt anyone, that we are somehow above this type of behavior. Pride steals life from you and those you love. Don’t believe the lie. Left to ourselves we human beings can be kinda mean… Letting pride in contributes to a mean spirit.

Saying yes to humility unites us with the power of the cross – where Jesus Christ revealed the ultimate power found in humility. Humility is where we find our true strength. Contrition, true sorrow for our sins, is the fruit of humility. Contrition binds us to God. For Catholics, the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) offers healing through contrition. This sacrament unites us with God in a very special and unique way. The door of sanctifying grace swings wide open and we receive spiritual renewal. Personally, I can use all the grace God is offering!

LIFE STRUGGLES

Life will continually present opportunities for us to grow in humility. People will say and do hurtful things to us and we will say and do hurtful things to others. Sadly, the cycle of human insensitivity seems endless. We will continue to fall short of living life as the beautiful person God created us to be – a child created in his triune image. In this lifetime we will continue to miss the mark. On top of that, the truth is, we can never know how far our hurtful behavior extends and who is hurt as a result of our actions. We will even hurt ourselves by speaking internal lies about our worth. Too frequently sin causes us to become stuck and we tell ourselves that we are not worthy of love because we have sinned. We forget that Jesus came to heal the world – not to condemn it, or us.

Instead of surrendering to anger, fear, pride, shame, or unforgiveness, God invites us to choose humility. And yet, humility takes strength. Instead of lashing out at the person who offended or hurt us we are invited to forgive them. Instead of believing the lie that we are not worthy of God’s love we are invited to acknowledge that yes, we have made mistakes; however, there is nothing we could ever say or do that has the power to stop God from loving us. We are not that powerful. The key is finding the strength to accept humility into our human heart. On our own we cannot find this strength, this can only be done with and through Jesus Christ. “God himself fills us with contrition, compassion, and true yearning for him.” [9]

QUENCHING THIRST

Yes, everything begins and ends with God. Christ has a thirst for us that will only be fulfilled when we are fully one-ed with him. And we share this thirst with him! On the cross Jesus spoke the words “I thirst”. We also thirst – we thirst for Christ each and every day. We thirst for the endless bliss and joy promised to us through Jesus Christ. God will give us our fill, a fill the world can never give. Our thirst is our love-longing for God, a longing that can only be quenched with the living waters of Christ.

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” – John 4:13-15 (NABRE)

Growing in the Triple-Wound of contrition, compassion, and love-longing for God is a lifelong journey. A journey our heart yearns follow. Act 1, Scene 1 – Jesus Christ, the Holy Trinity, and the healing, living waters have taken their place. Action: Its time for you to enter onto the stage, a beloved child of God. Now, let the healing to begin…


If you would like to schedule a session with Carolyn or inquire about inviting her to speak at an upcoming event or retreat of yours we invite you to click here: Carolyn Berghuis, MS, ND, CTN


[1] Julian. The Showings of Julian of Norwich: A New Translation, ed. trans. by Mirabai Starr. (Charlottesville: Hampton Roads Publishing, 2013) Ch. 67, p. 184.

[2] Ibid. Ch. 2, p. 6.

[3] Ibid. Ch. 3, p. 9.

[4] Ibid. Ch. 4, p. 11.

[5] Ibid. Ch. 4, p. 11.

[6] Ibid. Ch. 39, p. 95.

[7] Ibid. Ch. 37, p. 90.

[8] Ibid. Ch. 58, p, 162.

[9] Ibid. Ch. 39, p. 95