Constance vs. Julian of Norwich

112671-glowing-purple-neon-icon-alphanumeric-m04-clearWelcome to the Faithful Four. After weeks of learning and deliberating and voting and eschewing chocolate, we have whittled the field of 32 saintly souls down to four spiritual heroes: Constance, Julian of Norwich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Sojourner Truth. All are worthy of the coveted Golden Halo, yet only one will end up with his or her mug on a mug.

Today Constance (Anna Courie) takes on Julian of Norwich (Amber Belldene); tomorrow Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Beth Lewis) battles Sojourner Truth (Megan Castellan). And on Spy Wednesday the championship round will take place with the Golden Halo announced at 8:00 am EST on Maundy Thursday.

In this round, we let our four remaining Celebrity Bloggers loose as they answer the question “Why should Saint XX win the Golden Halo?” In other words, they’ve been charged with letting us know why their particular saint is so awesome. We have also invited them to share their two favorite images of their saints.

To make it to the Faithful Four, Constance dispatched Dominic, Helena, and Vida Dutton Scudder with relative ease. Julian snuck past William Wilberforce, before defeating Roch and Albert Schweitzer.

Maybe one of these remaining four will end up on a future Pocket Lent card. What's that? Well the SEC released two new ones yesterday for your cutting and pasting pleasure.

Let the voting (once) begin!


Saint-Constance-WebInside everyone is a secret desire to be a superhero at a time when the world needs heroes. We want to stand up and be more than we think we are capable. We want to have the passion for great deeds. We want to be the change we want to see in the world. I think this is what St. Paul calls the "Holy Spirit within us." This spirit-spark calls us all to greater things.

Constance and her Companions had this God-spark within them. They were called as educators, but took on the role as nurses and caregivers during the epidemic of yellow fever that destroyed Memphis, Tennessee in 1878. They took action when great deeds were needed in the town where God planted them. Constance and Her Companions stayed to make a difference. As one avid reader noted in response to my coined term, "Constance would Go," the appropriate tag-line should be "Constance Would Stay."

God calls us to stay through many difficult times. We all have the opportunity to bear witness to Christ's love to others in disease, infirmity, poverty, social ills, and wrongs, during times when humanity seems to bear down on us as a disease rather than a gift. God calls all of us.

Sure, voting for Constance and her Companions is a vote recognizing the wonder of a giving soul during a horrific disease. She not only gave of herimages time, her energy and her passion, but in the end, she also gave of her life. With her last words, she continued to honor her love of God with a joyful, "Alleluia, Hosanna." Constance understood that even in death, we have the joy of the resurrection. Constance understood at her death that God was there, was a part of her, and a part of both life and death. God was a part of all of Constance.

A vote for Constance is a vote recognizing the God-spark in us all. It is a vote that acknowledges each of us in our own individual ways are saints that are called to honor God with our actions, deeds, words, writings, and lives. "Constance Would Go" may ring a bell with you, but you could easily replace it with your own name: "Anna Would Go;" "Tim Would Go;" "Scott Would Go;" "Joe Would Go;" "Jane Would Go." We all should Go (or stay) as God calls us. "A faith without works is no faith."

To "go" means to bear witness to all the actions of the saints. Therefore, whether you are called to the social activism of your saints, or the liturgical writings, or the creative songs, or passionate political stances, remember, a vote with "Constance would Go" is a vote for all the actions of all the saints.

Constance watercolor by Bill Branch. You can see more of his art online at his website,

-- Anna Fitch Courie

Julian of Norwich

julianIt astonishes me as both a priest and a parent how quickly, even in the twenty-first century children come to think of God as male. I strive to use inclusive language in liturgy, preaching, teaching and our household God talk, and yet all it takes is the occasional male pronoun slipping in for children to make the leap.

Therefore, Julian’s feminist Trinitarian theology born in the fourteenth century is utterly astonishing. She sees Christ in the role of mother alongside God the father. God incarnate is best imagined via the physical nurture and love of a mother—birth, breastfeeding, and boo-boo tending.

And how does she know? Not by rigorous scholarship and systematic inquiry, but divine revelation—God showed her! I am immensely grateful for the education that allowed her to write down these showings, making her the first female author of a book in English.

Though her contributions are not only intellectual or theological, but pastoral. I know of countless people who have taken comfort in her optimistic vision of God, humanity, and eschatology. Many people have a favorite quote or passage they can reference—being clothed in God’s love, or the assurance that all will be well.

Personally, her vision of the hazelnut has brought me great comfort. Years ago, before becoming a mother of twins, I experienced years of Julian-of-Norwich-&-hazelnut-798183infertility, culminating in a miscarriage. My wonderful spiritual director pointed me toward Julian, and I remembered the Bridge Building Images Icon of her that sat in the chapel at CDSP when I was in seminary.

"And in this Christ showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, 'What may this be?' And it was answered generally thus, 'It is all that is made.' I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God."

When I thought of the pregnancy I had lost, an embryo about the size of a hazelnut, I was deeply comforted by the idea that it had begun by God’s love and in some mysterious way would always have life in that love. Since that time, I have shared the quote with other grieving women in my pastoral care, and it always brings comfort.

Courageous, compassionate and ahead of her time, Julian is an inspiration and comfort to the modern Christian. She most assuredly deserves the Golden Halo.

-- Amber Belldene

NOTE: At about 3 p.m. EDT, we blocked an address in Towson, MD. While there were some legitimate votes from this address, there was also a concerted effort to cast extra votes for Constance. We are removing 500 votes for Constance, which is a very conservative number. More that 800 votes were cast for Constance, and we suspect that some of these votes are legitimate votes.

Reminder: Vote once only per person. Lobbying others to vote is fair game. Voting hundreds of times is not.

Constance vs. Julian of Norwich

  • Julian of Norwich (55%, 3,932 Votes)
  • Constance (45%, 3,240 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,172

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Constance: Window at All Saints' Church, Duncan, OK
Julian: Statue of Julian of Norwich, Norwich Cathedral, by David Holgate FSDC


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229 comments on “Constance vs. Julian of Norwich”

  1. I vote for Julian of Norwich because she meant Margera Kemper and they wrote books in English by women.

    1. Oliver, I'm glad you mentioned Margery Kempe. She is one of my favourite historical people. She used to get embarrassingly loud and passionate about her faith, with lots of tears and fainting. I like to imagine Julian trying to calm her down.

      1. Oliver will love this description. I will share it when he gets home from school. Thanks for posting.

    2. I'm voting for Julian today too! I even had some hazelnut spread on my waffles this morning in honor of her.

  2. Julian went to the "restaurant at the end of time" (Hitchhikers' guide to the Galaxy) and brought us back a report. Thanks to both the celebrity bloggers for their wonderful write-ups.

  3. What beautiful essays today. What difficult choices this week. How glad I am for this devotion and its devotees.

    1. I agree, Ms. Courie and Ms. Belldene outdid themselves today. HOw glorious.
      I too would like to express my joy and gratitude for this wonderful ministry.
      THANK YOU SEC! And to all my fellow players, May the Peace of the Lord always be with you.
      And may Gods Spark always shine bright.❤️

    1. Same! I thought that was an incredibly powerful connection to both the readers, the greater Christian community, and all the other saints in Heaven.

  4. Could this round have been any tougher? Hoo boy, talk about wanting to vote for both! Big kudos to the Celebrity Bloggers on a job well done. I ultimately voted for Julian as I know a few folks whose experience makes them swear God is female. But if Constance wins, I may have to get a mug!

    1. I'm a long-time Julian fan for so many reasons but I agree, if Constance wins, I can die happily without fear that my favorite has been dissed. And, yes, I will get a cup.

  5. I voted for Constance. Reason: I believe that (in this sad century) we need to have role models of people who put others' needs first. Constance didn't just "talk the talk," she walked the walk -- even to her own death. Constance is a saint for us and for our own time. #Constancewouldgo

    1. Ann, you have captured my thoughts exactly! I deeply appreciate today's wonderful write-ups by the celebrity bloggers, and I had to chuckle at the image of Julian trying to calm down Margery Kempe offered in today's comments. Lady Julian is truly one of God's saints, but my heart today is called to Constance and her companions for their "walking the walk". A vote for her is a vote for all the saints, past and present, who answer the call of the God-spark. Constance would go!

        1. I figured something (shady) was going on when I saw Constance's vote count growing rapidly. Too bad. 🙁

          1. Very much too bad. Constance is a wonderful Saint. I take comfort in thinking that Constance herself would have subtracted those unfair votes. Constance was/is fair....

  6. Very hard choice, both of them are winners in my book, but I went with Julian in the end. But I love Constance too!!!!

  7. Today's vote has been especially tough. Julian has always been a favorite because I have read deeper into her writings that "All shall be well..." I recommend to all her "Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love". Although written in the late 14th century I find that it is very relevant to today with her reference to the divine as a mother. On the other hand I really had not know much of Constance, until Lent Madness. The example of her life is astounding and I find the tag line "Constance would go" to be invigorating and pertinent to today. So, I'm going with Constance today, in the spirit of Lent Madness, -to help us learn more of all the saints, who in their labor rest.

    1. It was a hard choice. I was going to vote for Constance because of her willingness to stay where God put her, even at risk of her life. However, you reminded me of the quote from Julian, "All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well." This succinct statement of faith brings peace in the midst of all that is wrong with our world. I suspect that it was only because Constance understood that "All shall be well," even if she had never read Julian's writings, that she was able to remain strong in her faith and continue in her ministry even unto death. Good theology explained so that the faithful can hold onto it matters!

  8. Lent is going by quicker than it seemed to in the past......soon i will have to count down the days to LM again.

  9. Thought from the beginning of Lent that I would vote all the way for Julian, her impact on my life and faith has been profound. Yet, when it came to choosing which button to click, I chose Constance. Must be that divine spark reaching out to me, igniting a new fire in my journey. I love Julian, but am thrilled that I made Constance's acquaintance this Lent. Thanks to the CBs! On to the Golden Halo!

  10. Before reading the blogs, I was sure I was voting for Constance, but the blogger's connecting the similarity between the hazelnut and the miscarried embryo being so tenderly regarded by God changed my mind. My mother lost four babies after me and I was old enough to mourn "Little Rufus" with her. We believed that little wisp flew back to a loving Father.

    1. I disagree. This is the first time I have ever participated and I have learned something about a large number of saints I knew nothing about and received additional information about saints with whom I was familiar. I plan to read more about some of the saints I found the most compelling. The competition is for us to enjoy and learn from. It doesn't touch the saints, who have already completed their race and enjoy God's presence forever. As long as we who are voting avoid harboring ill will towards those who vote differently or whose comments we disagree with, I see no harm.

  11. I don't know why but I usually vote for the saint who is an underdog. Before Lent Madness I am sure I never heard of Constance. Jillian gets a lot of press and accolades. Constance , not so much. However, she and her companions put their lives on the line to care for the sick. Thus, I vote for faith in action, Constance.

  12. Wow, tough choice! It's nice when you can feel good about either contender advancing to that #2 or #1 place (so do we have a silver halo??). But the powerful words of Amber Beldane about her very personal experience with Julian tipped the scales for me. Constance, bless her, is also an example to is all.

    1. Last year, when the Golden Halo went to Francis by a razor-thin margin, the SEC did award the Silver Halo to St. Rigid, whose image graces a pint (beer) glass, still available in the Lentorium!

      1. I think spell-check has struck again, but St. Rigid is definitely a concept . . . .

  13. Not just the hazelnut and the mothering God,but Julian's visions of God and the saints all partaking of a heavenly feast and welcoming new arrivals to join them, makes her a special messenger of the joy of Heaven and helps us to look forward to death with excitement rather than fear. Constance is a wonderful role model, Julian gives me the thrill of the future.

  14. Are there any other alums or students of St Mary's Epis. in Memphis (the school Constance founded) who are playing this game.? I'm voting for her because I am eternally grateful for the Christian formation I received there, but I love Julian too and voted for her in earlier rounds. Thanks be to God for both women.

    1. Not a student of St. Mary's but an associate with the Order of St. Mary's for
      30 years. #ConstanceWouldGo speaks to me, as does #ConstanceWouldStay!

  15. Both of these essays are beautiful, as is the faith of each of these saints. A truly difficult choice. In the end I stuck with my earlier decision to support Julian and her vision of our loving God despite my desire to follow Constance's example and go meet the needs of my world.

    1. Ahh..but they were both...both...Constance revealed mystical qualities in hearing her call and in her dying words. Writing is one of the things Julian DID that qualifies her as a doer. So in the end it was a hazelnut that, "is all that is made". Everything is related.

  16. Definitely influenced by Tom's comments. This was really tough because Julian has always been a favorite of mine.

  17. If Julian advances, may I suggest her stained glass window in St. George's in Dayton, OH for your graphics.

  18. Today's vote was made difficult indeed by the loving gifts given to us by the CB's essays. Thank you Anna and Amber.

    I voted for Julian because with her writings she passed on her revelations. The meaning of all that IS is contained in a humble hazelnut is the foundation upon which Constance and her Companions stood when they stayed - and upon which all who give of themselves stand, or go, when they choose to be God's hands and feet in our world.

  19. The writings today where so wonderful. So nice after the commercialism of last week. " A faith without works is no faith." and "Being clothed in God's love". I chose Constance but I will be happy with whomever wins.

  20. Yes, a tough choice today. I voted for Constance because I was reminded that I want to be a giving soul. In the "busy" of preparing for Easter with hands I was reminded to prepare for Easter with my soul.

  21. Faith without works is dead. Constance is admirable. So are all the doctors, nurses and other health care providers who put their lives on the line caring for contagious patients. I hope and fear that my daughter in med school will someday do the same. However, I find Julian's showings deeply moving. She also ministered to people during times of plague by talking to them through her window. Her mystical visions appeal to the eye of the mind that opens when we are still, and know that God is God. Her showings are fuel to go out and do works, even at the risk of death. All manner of thing shall be well, in this life and the next. Julian gets my vote.