Julian of Norwich vs. Andrew the Fisherman

Who will face Albert Schweitzer for the Golden Halo? Well, after he swept past Henry Whipple in yesterday’s contest 67% to 33%, it will either be Julian of Norwich or Andrew the Fisherman.

To get here, Julian defeated Brigid of Kildare, Zita, and Joseph of Arimathea. While Andrew made it past Polycarp, Hyacinth, and Andrew of Milan.

Obviously you didn't miss the final in-season episode of Monday Madness. But just in case here it is.

Vote now!

Julian of Norwich

Life was hard.

Wars. Crushing poverty. Unfair work conditions. Prejudice based on religion, gender, ethnicity, and economic status. Pandemics that killed millions. Social upheaval. Society’s foundations were shifting rapidly politically, religiously, and economically.

These were realities for Julian, anchoress in Norwich, England. During her lifetime in the late Middle Ages, England experienced the ravages of the Black Death. Socio-economic upheavals caused a Peasants’ Revolt. Religious dissenters were burned at the stake. Wars were upending the geo-political landscape of Europe.

Amid this cataclysmic world, Julian suffered a serious illness – serious enough for her to receive last rites. As she gazed on a crucifix during her illness, she had a series of visions. After recovering, Julian wrote down her visions of Christ, and later wrote a longer text.

Showings or Revelations of Divine Love, as these texts are generally called, remain one of the most important writings of Christian Mysticism written by any gender. Her words are such perfect inscriptions of love that reducing them to highlights is impossible. Every word she writes carries momentous truth, which is why my well-worn text of Showings is filled with highlights and underlines and notes written in the margins.

I love that she reflects on Christ’s deep fatherly and motherly love for us. Her visions speak of the holy masculine and feminine of Christ. She gives that vision embodiment in Sacrament of Holy Communion, reminding us, “Our beloved Mother Jesus can feed us with himself. This is what he does when he tenderly and graciously offers us the blessed sacrament, which is the precious food of true life.” We hold the body of Christ in the fullness of genders when we receive the Host.

I love that she addresses humanity’s sinful nature not as a condemnation of our bad-ness, but as a reminder that God seeks us when we make a mess of things, loves us, and redeems us. Too much of religion has shamed us when we fail. Julian counters, “Sin is inevitable, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Even in our worst moments, Julian reminds us that we are called to the deep well of God’s ove.

I love that Julian doesn’t write her visions from a place of comfort. Her world and her life were hard, uncertain, and even scary. Our world and our lives are hard, uncertain, and scary. Perhaps that is why her writings continue to resonate over the centuries. She gives voice to our worry, our doubt, our anxiety over a world that is overrun with heartbreak. She doesn’t tell us that life will be fine. She knows all too well that life is hard. She does tell us, “He did not say: You will not be assailed, you will not be belabored, you will not be disquieted, but he did said: You will not be overcome.”

Life is hard.

Wars. Crushing poverty. Unfair work conditions. Prejudice based on religion, gender, ethnicity, and economic status. Pandemics that kill millions. Social upheaval. Society’s foundations are shifting rapidly politically, religiously, and economically.

In the midst of this, Julian speaks to us in her steady, gentle voice, reminding us across the ages that God loves us and because of that love, we will not be overcome.

Laurie Brock

Andrew the Fisherman

In every church, there are those in the front—the clergy, the readers, the choir, the wardens.  Those who give the speeches and those who make the decisions and those whose names adorn the plaques of memorial to be remembered.

And then there are those who show up and do the quiet, unseen work.  The sextons, the altar guild, the flower guild, the brass polishers, the bulletin fold-ers, the set up volunteers, the people who make the coffee.  St. Andrew is the patron saint of these.

He isn’t his brother—Simon Peter—who he invites to follow Jesus, and who becomes THE Peter, the Rock upon whom the church is built. Unlike Peter, we have no recorded speeches of Andrew’s from the Jerusalem Council or in the marketplaces of Roman cities.  We have no scripture that flowed from his dictated letters, like Paul.  We don’t even have fascinating tales of his miracles.

Instead, what we have is the spread of the church, due to Andrew’s tireless, unheralded proclamation of the Gospel.  Places as disparate as Scotland to Russia to Ukraine to Greece all trace their Christian roots to this one figure, making his way across the known world, proclaiming the Good News wherever he went. He didn’t seek his own fame or glory or legacy—he sought only to tell the good news of God come among us in Jesus Christ.

Today, the global church is held together by witness such as Andrew’s—by the quiet faith of the unheralded millions who seek to magnify God in their own lives, and share the Good News in the ways they can, where they can.  Andrew is a reminder that this sort of daily dedication to the Gospel can transform the world in ways that we cannot predict or control.  When Andrew looked up from his nets that day, and caught sight of the new rabbi in town, he could not have imagined the global impact he would one day have.  He could not have imagined the way his ministry would unite the world, or guide him into new paths.  But he was faithful enough to take the next step.

May we all be so faithful.

Megan Castellan

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66 comments on “Julian of Norwich vs. Andrew the Fisherman”

  1. As a backstage volunteer, I appreciate Andrew (and this blogger's several posts about him).

  2. Both descriptions were beautifully written. Thank you, Laurie and Megan, for your inspiring words.

  3. Both of the bloggers did a fantastic write up for today. I initially thought I’d vote for Julian, and I do love her and I know her writings have inspired and comforted countless people throughout the ages. But Megan swayed me with her description of Andrew’s work in bringing Jesus to so many in those crucial early years. And it wasn’t a small matter that I was influenced by being an online friend with the director of the Brotherhood of St Andrew.

  4. Oh what a tough choice (as many this Lent have been). Perhaps this is a year for a Silver Halo mug to go with the Golden one. I dearly love St. Andrew, but always Julian for this priest. Blessed Holy Week to everyone.

  5. Both write ups today are masterful, and make today’s decision so difficult. I’ll have to ponder and vote later in the day. Thanks, Laurie and Megan, for presenting your person so well!

  6. I wanted to vote for both, but since I cannot and Julian had a cat, that tipped the scales in her favor.

    Should Julian make it to the Golden Halo, maybe we will see a Lent Madness themed cat food bowl in the Lentorium. Such a thing would be the purr-fect gift for every meow-volus Cathedral Cat.

    1. My church has had resident cats for 20+ years, so I would be all for cat-accented Golden Halo swag!

  7. I had planned to just vote for Julian, but Megan Castellan’s words gave me pause. A wonderful reminder of all the unsung people who work tirelessly to build and maintain our communities.
    But I return to Julian whose words of witness have inspired and encouraged seekers through the years and resonate so powerfully today.
    (With a note of thanks for the podcast that introduced me to Julian: “Love Was His Meaning - Reading and Praying with Julian of Norwich”)

  8. Oh no!!!!! Julian becomes the voice of God to encourage us and refocus us when the horrors of the world and man's inhumanity to man overwhelms us, and then there is blessed Andrew who becomes the hands and feet of Christ in communion with us showing us where to go next to further His Kingdom on earth. I am tempted sorely to vote twice, once for each and take the chance of being cast into outer darkness by the council of TWO!!!!

  9. I expected Julian to be a shoo-in... but the writeups on both are so good today... I'll give myself a little time today to make a choice.

  10. A very tough choice: my parish is St. Andrew's-in-the-Valley; and at Christmastide, we sing a song of Julian:
    Loud are the Bells of Norwich
    And the People come and go.
    Here by the Tower of Julian
    I tell them what I know.
    Ring out Bells of Norwich and
    Let the Winter come and go.
    All shall be well again, I know.
    All shall be well I'm telling you.
    Let the Winter come and go.
    All shall be well again, I know.

    Both are worthy; but I'm voting for the hope of Julian.

    Blessings always

  11. While the bloggers did a superb job in these write ups, a coffee mug reminding us that indeed All shall be well, is really what one needs on their desk and to share with multiple friends who are stressed out about all the upheaval of today's world

  12. When my friend Megan speaks/writes, I nearly always follow. But I have loved the Lady Julian for half a century and will not turn away. She reminds me, through all the vicissitudes Laurie so well named, that “Love was [our Lord’s] meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you. Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For love. Remain in this, and you will know more of the same. But you will never know different, without end.”

    Love reigns, even as we approach the Cross.

  13. All of the descriptions this year have been very well written, but should current prose influence our votes? I think not. Say what you will, today's contest is between the foundation of faith, and political correctness. Sadly, so far, it looks like PC is winning.

    1. I disagree. Christ was totally political in his day. He spoke truth to power, with Authority! So there.

    2. You are of course welcome to vote according to whatever criteria you like--better write-ups, longer traditions, personal connections, etc--but it's good to be wary of reducing any holy figure to "political correctness" when we know their lives and legacy have impacted Christians across many centuries. Those who followed Andrew's example in Galilee and those who consulted Julian in her anchoress's cell in fourteenth-century Norwich--and all those who have continued to follow their examples in centuries since--saw the "foundation of faith" in each of them. Say what you will.

    3. And here I thought we might get through one year of Lent Madness without someone proclaiming that the voters are biased because the matchup is male-female and the woman is winning. Guess I was wrong.

      1. Just for the record, for 2024, there were two male-female pairs in the first round: Kassia beat Casimir and Hyacinth beat Rose. One all.
        Second round, four male-female pairs. Men won three, a woman one.
        Third round, two male-female, again one all.
        I fail to see how this bears out a theory that "political correctness" sways the voters.
        There is a discernible lean towards more recent saints. Martha of Bethany was the last figure from the Gospels, and the only other Golden Halo winner from Christ's time was Mary Magdalene. Francis of Assisi is the next oldest, and most of those voted as Golden Halo winners have been from the nineteenth or twentieth centuries.

  14. Both are well written, thanks. However, it is Julian’s words that I and many others have turned to, repeatedly, over the years. My vote is hers.

  15. Let us not forget that without Andrew (and others like him), there would be no Julian of Norwich.

  16. Such beautifully written tributes for both Julian & Andrew......hardest choice yet! I almost flipped a coin, but decided to vote for Andrew, as he represents all the unsung heroes of the church & the world.

    1. I agree. That's one of the reasons that I voted for Saint Andrew too. Also, he is the patron saint of Scotland and singers and l really appreciate all the beautiful music sung by church choirs, especially this week.

  17. Having gone through a lot of difficulties health-wise, Julian’s words “all will be well…all matter of things will be well” kept me going and gave me hope. Her words helped me cope. And after a long time, things are well.

  18. Another TOUGH decision. I do love Julian, however, being an Altar Guild member, I had to go with Andrew.
    Sometimes, it is the "Quiet" faithful that draw many closer to Christ.

  19. As director of the altar guild and one who has helped hold our small parish together during our search for a new rector, I was sorely tempted to vote for Andrew. However, Julian has always had my heart, and today she has my vote.

  20. Both writings were thoughtfully and well done, but Laurie's writing on Julian spoke to me enough that I'm going to get a copy of Revelations of Divine Love and read it. Go Julian! Besides, I still have the soup mug from when Julian came in second. 🙂 Have a wonderful Tuesday, everyone!

  21. Really torn today. I love both of these saints. In the end, I voted for Julian because of the beauty and compassion of her words. "He did not say: You will not be assailed, you will not be belabored, you will not be disquieted, but he did said: You will not be overcome.” But without Andrew there would be no Julian.

  22. The people of St Andrew's Episcopal Church in Rapid City SD continually show up and do the work God has called them to do throughout our community. They are the ones who saw something in me and loved me up into ordained ministry.

  23. As many others have said, both posts are fabulous and I'm grateful to and for our bloggers. But Julian's witness to divine love in a world where life is indeed hard is what I need to hear and want to hold up today.

  24. Again, a tough choice, but I voted for Andrew who represents those quiet,”hidden” ones. Also, for letting God lead him to far places to tell of Good News! It takes great courage to leave our homes, to actually let God lead us in our lives wherever that may be.

  25. My brackets busted a few rounds ago - so today, though I love Julian and voted for her when she won the Silver Halo, today I vote for Andrew. He might not have been eloquent - though who knows? - but he spread the word of God. Megan's write-up was all I needed to tip my vote to Andrew.

  26. This is the toughest choice yet. (I'm not looking forward to tomorrow.) Today's vote, however, went to Andrew--as a choir member, and head of the flower guild, and a vestry member, I have both voice and vote; but in many ways, there are 1,000 other little things I do that go unheralded. (Like picking up a small nip of rum that someone left of the lawn of the church on my way inside last night for a hearing of the entire Gospel of Mark, our Holy Monday tradition). Nobody saw me except God, tidying up the house. So, Andrew gets my vote today. Let's hear it for the underdogs.