~ Earl Nightingale
Dear Saint Joan: I humbly ask you to help me to live as God wants me to. I would be happy if I had only a fraction of the love and kindness you had for your enemies as well as your friends. But most of all, I implore you to help me to obtain from God a spark of your great and endless love and faith so that I may truly love, serve and obey Him with my whole heart as you did to the very end of your holy life. May you always protect me and help me to stay pure in mind, body and spirit forever and ever. Amen.
(Composed by Virginia Lindsley, when she was in the 7th grade.)
To begin and end this month (like bookends) two women were remembered and celebrated throughout most of the Christian tradition, Julian of Norwich and Joan of Arc. Both lived their lives with conviction and strength having encountered God at young ages. Neither would live in comfort or safety but both lived knowing they had responded to God’s revelation and direction.
In the Book of Acts we read:’Your young men and women will prophesy, your old men will have visions and sons will dream dreams.’ Julian of Norwich and Joan of Arc experienced holy vision and stepped out to proclaim God’s word through prayer and action.
May we pay close attention for the time of dreams and visions is near, once again.
Today — I celebrate twenty years as an ordained priest. Reflecting on one’s experience in ministry can be a risky endeavor. I share these thoughts inviting the wisdom and insight of those who read this blog.
My life as a priest has been unique and filled with surprising moments. On a day such as this, many of these memories greet me for celebration and reflection.
We planned my ordination for May the 8th to correlate with the feast day for Dame Julian of Norwich. A holy woman – devoted and faith-filled, Julian lived in the middle ages during a time of plagues and war. While struggling with a life–threatening illness she experienced a compelling and personal encounter with God. Surviving – she knew the gift of health and life and vowed to live a mystic’s life. Most of her adult life was spent living in a small room connected to a church in Norwich, England. Like an anchor to a boat, Julian anchored herself to the church. From her room, through a small window, she met and counseled people who came to her, offering comfort and holy wisdom to the village of Norwich and beyond. Within one room, she counseled those in need, spent hours in prayer and put into words her insights about God’s love and mercy. These writings would come to be known as: Showings – The Revelations of Dame Julian of Norwich. It is believed that she was the first woman to have her writings published in English.
We planned my ordination for May the 8th and welcomed the communion of the saints led by Dame Julian. Twenty years later I find myself curious about the connection between my ordination and Julian’s feast day. Being a woman and a person with a disability, living my life as a priest would present unknown challenges for me and others. As time has passed I know my ministry has been filled with courage and grace. Courage–unashamed of my differences, I have entered doorways into churches and homes that had previously not been opened either to women or people with disabilities . Grace- all has been possible through a vision beyond me.
Anchored in her one-room home, Julian of Norwich shared her wisdom and faith with confidence and compassion. Her story has been encouragement and inspiration for me. I know something of being held in one place–anchored if you will. From this wheelchair I have been present to people in their joy and sorrow, prayerfully spreading God’s good news.
In many ways twenty years is just the beginning! What have I learned up to now? I have learned there are many more questions than there are answers and much of our time is spent learning to live with the questions. I have learned that while we live in a world wrought with anxiety, people long for the presence of peace–not a lot of words just peace. I have learned that miracles do not always manifest as we might have envisioned but miracles they remain. I have learned to be grateful for hope and honesty in moments of despair.
Most important, I continue to reflect on the wisest words ever shared from Dame Julian. “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” We do not get to know how life’s story ends. Carrying these gentle words along the way has brought light for the journey.
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