The feast of Saint Julian finds me during a time when I need her. We get to know her mostly through her book The Revelations of Divine Love, which tells of the visions she received from God when she was on what she thought was her death bed. Right now, I encounter a world that is full of hardship. Even if we are sheltered with our families, our friends or our pets, we seem to still know that the world is anxious, the world is hurting. She offers me amazing hope as a person who sat on a deathbed that was not only not the place of her death, but instead the place where she received visions from God. Her death was not death, but a renewed friendship with God. When she prayed to God from that anxious place, that hurting place, God not only heard her—God replied.
Julian’s deepest wisdom comes from seeing Christ before her, bleeding. She believed that this vision signified God’s proximity to her in her suffering. In these times, Julian reminds us that God is also close to us. When we are sad or struggling, we can remember that we worship a God who has been sad and has struggled. We worship a God who sits beside us when we think we will face the worst and hardest trials, because Jesus has faced the worst and hardest trials, not only for himself, but also for us.
Julian’s message is a message of hope and trust, but it is not a shallow hope or a shallow trust. Her hope and trust come out of a time when she might have felt like that was literally all she had. In a time of uncertainty and scarcity, we might be buoyed by this hope and trust, remembering thanks to her visions that no matter what, we always have the chance to hope and trust in Christ, who knows our worst and hardest trials.
I love that we are celebrating Saint Julian in this specific time of the greater span of life, because I need a vision of the loving, caring God in whom I can put my hope and trust. I need a vision of the God who, when I cry out in my hardest trials, not only hears me, but replies. Saint Julian serves as an image of what it means to receive the vision of a loving God and share it, so we can point to her in this uncertain time, knowing that her life gives us a reminder of hope. Christians are “little Christs,” and we always try to point to Jesus, so I don’t say this to say that we should point to Julian instead of Jesus. I mean this to say that Julian can teach us how to point during a time when even pointing requires an energy we can’t gather. She is someone like us: someone lying in weakness, asking us to wonder how we could be people who point to God in our weakness.
We know so little about Julian, but oddly we know that she was a spiritual counselor for others; people came to her for guidance. I am inspired by her life of not only being honest with God and speaking to God out of her great pain, but then also being a Christian who received the stories of others who were hurting. She loved the hurting when they needed to be loved, pointing to God when saddened people had forgotten how to point to Jesus themselves.
Right now, Julian sits beside the beds we can’t access, bringing with her a story of hope in a time of sadness, a story of visions in a time when she couldn’t imagine the next day, a story of God as her friend and companion when she might have doubted that she had anyone sitting beside her at all.
[Image Credit: Antiquary / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]