Zita vs. Julian of Norwich

TGIF! We conclude this week of Saintly Sixteen action with Zita vs. Julian of Norwich for a shot at Joseph of Arimathea in the Elate Eight.

Yesterday, Ambrose of Milan took down Gertrude the Great 64% to 36%. It'll be Ambrose vs. Andrew in the next round.

The Saintly Sixteen will conclude on Monday as Clare of Assisi takes on Henry Whipple. And then it will be on to everyone's favorite (or not) round, the round of Saintly Kitsch. But more about that later.

Vote now! 


Zita tiptoed down the back stairs of the Fatinelli castle in Tuscany in the early hours of the morning.  Her chores awaited and she was afraid of being late.  The lashes to the back of her legs still ached this morning when she had inadvertently angered the master although there were no signs of the beating. As she descended, she breathed deep and whispered to God, “please let the work of my baking help feed those around me.”

Zita entered the kitchen and restocked the fire.  Maria was there glaring at her.  She was sure she would be accused of some wrongdoing as Maria always seemed to be out to get her.  Zita greeted Maria with a “Buongiorno” and headed to the garden to gather flowers for the Nonna down the street who was ill in bed.  She would check on her in her afternoon rounds of delivering food, herbs, parts of her wages, and flowers to those in need.

But until then, Zita had baking and restocking of the pantry to do.  As she entered back into the kitchen, Zita took pause.  Maria had called the master down to complain about her giving to the poor.  Maria opened the door to show the master the pantry, but it remained fully stocked.  But it did not matter, the master had been called, and he was angry.  He grabbed Zita by the arm and began hitting her.  Zita prayed as she was hit.  She prayed for those who were worse off than her.  She prayed for the master that his anger would dissipate.  She prayed that Maria would learn to like her.  She prayed that she could continue to serve the poor, the lonely and the sick and she continued to pray that God would protect her in the Fatinelli household.  She was tired of being hit.  “Please stop,” Zita asked of Master Fatinelli.

Abruptly, the master stopped.  There were no marks on Zita’s skin.  Zita was incorruptible.  Master Fatinelli backed away muttering and crossing himself.  Maria’s eyes were wide and she crossed herself.  Zita gave thanks to God for his presence and protection and left to care for the poor.

*This is an entirely historical-fictionalized account of Zita’s life.  There are no quirks or quotes to pull, but I wanted to put myself into the life of Zita that we know and write from her perspective of faith, grace and service.

Anna Fitch Courie

Julian of Norwich

Julian’s Revelations of Divine Love, is filled with quotes, passages, and images of God that have inspired, challenged, and comforted countless people of faith through the ages. Her text, the earliest known writing by an English woman, reflects a woman with a deep, sensory faith who can communicate the wisdom and insight she experiences in eloquent, poetic, and lyrical words.

Two of her quotes, however, resonate particularly to so many because they remind us of the presence of Christ’s love in the fullness of our lives – the messiness, the hardships, and the suffering as well as the joy – and because they remind us of God’s masculine and feminine qualities – a daring theological writing in her day, definitely.

The best-known quote from Revelations is likely, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” These 17 words, written as part of Julian’s vision, have been quoted throughout centuries, inspiring artists as they continue to share her contemplative astuteness.

They appear in TS Eliot’s 1942 poem Little Gidding, the fourth and final poem of Eliot’s Four Quartets. Eliot wrote the poem during World War II, a time of great suffering, reflecting on how suffering may be redeemed by God’s love.

‘Sin is Behovely, but
All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well.’

Another great Anglican theologian, C. S. Lewis, also quotes Julian in A Grief Observed, where he writes after his wife’s death. Lewis shares of his awareness of the space of grief: “Two widely different convictions press more and more on my mind. One is that the Eternal Vet is even more inexorable and the possible operations even more painful than our severest imaginings can forbode. But the other, that ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well’.”

Julian’s writing of God as our Mother is also part of her spiritual legacy. In a Church that has long eschewed the holy feminine, Julian reminds us that God is not a boy’s name.

She writes: “God is our Mother as truly as he is our Father; and he showed this in everything, and especially, in the sweet words where he says, ‘It is I,’ that is to say, ‘It is I: the power and goodness of fatherhood. It is I: the wisdom of motherhood. It is I: the light and grace which is all blessed love. It is I: the unity. I am the sovereign goodness of all manner of things. It is I that make you love. It is I that make you long. It is I: the eternal fulfilment of all true desires.”

To pick a handful of quotes from the text is almost impossible, given that almost every word carries a substantial weight of holy insight. We give thanks for every word she wrote, that they may continue to call us to contemplate Christ.

Laurie Brock

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56 comments on “Zita vs. Julian of Norwich”

  1. Currently in Norwich, my vote goes to the local girl made good. That her words and profound theological insight survive to this day is an astonishing gift.
    The historicised account of Zita's life is beautiful and moving, thank you Anna.

  2. Both are perfectly wonderful choices. One an everyday common person kind of saint, and the other a world class mystic and live in the wall of the church kind of saint. One sets an example I can strive to attain in my everyday life, and the other a person who has or takes the time to float in God's eternal presence away from common turbulence of everyday life. Once again my vote is for the everywoman working and nurturing kind of saint.
    Zita for inspiration for everyday living and how to be downright neighborly in the socially fragmented post 2020 world.

    1. I enjoyed reading your comment. You expressed each person’s strengths and applied it to the current times. They are both women that lived their life with actions to the glory of God. Thank you!


    2. I voted for her also and would again. She is the millions of women who suffered but still in their own lives but still took time to help and care for others.
      Thank God our country fights this modern slavery.

  3. I voted for Julian of Norwich. I became fascinated with mystics around 2015-2016. I went on a retreat around that time and met Carl McCollum at Holy Cross Monastery. He had just written a trilogy about mystics. I bought one book of the trilogy. A priest from my church, Fr. Burl suggested I learn about Julian. So it began…. and continues. I wish I could visit her at her window… I would make cookies for her and eat heart shaped shortbreads and sip tea and listen to her.

  4. My heart goes to Anna’s imaginative, and beautifully written, expression of the life of Zita.
    My vote goes to Julian because I want her to have a chance at being awarded the Golden Halo

  5. My first-grade teacher was Sister Zita, like her namesake, very Italian. I knew nothing of St. Zita in those days, but her ability and resolve to endure abuse inspires. One wonders if her abusers were frightened by her calm and holiness.

  6. I long for a Julian of Norwich Golden Halo coffee mug to go with my Silver Halo coffee mug. Maybe it could say "I am the sovereign goodness of all manner of things" or "It is I: the light and grace which is all blessed love." There are so many wonderful quotes to choose from. Thank you, Julian of Norwich and Laurie Brock.

  7. Julian’s writings have inspired me for a long time. In this time when the world is fractured, we need to hang to hang on to her words. « All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. »

    1. Amen. So true. Between her and Theresa of Avilas prayer "Let nothing disturb you" we may survive this all

  8. My hardest choice so far. Julian's writings still attest to God's love. Zita's life acted out a call to love others. I voted for Zita.

  9. Cannot vote...three days running...really like Lenten Madness but ...gonna have to quite too frustrating.

  10. Two good women: 1/2 vote to each.
    But here: Zita, who suffered for the sake of the Gospel.

  11. I had to vote for Julian of Norwich because of her saying that All Shall Be Well. My husband is having heart surgery this morning (will be home tonigh!) and I needed to hear that all will be well.

  12. Well, I'm not surprised to see Julian of Norwich so far ahead, even this early in the day (early on the west coast here.) I won't grumble at her winning; her words bring Christ close to us on a regular basis and give comfort. But I generally vote for those who serve the needy, whether by providing food or services. So, Dear Zita, I give you my vote and ask God that you may inspire me and others to give and serve freely.

  13. I made a protest vote for Zita today. I accept the authority of the SEC (appropriate bowing), but I do not think winners of the Silver Halo should have been included, and especially not against each other in the first round so only one would have another chance at the gold. Humph.

  14. Julian has spoken to me through her words that are timeless. Even when we are dead and gone, future generations will still be reading and finding comfort in the words of Julian of Norwich. All shall be well…

  15. “God is not a girls name.”
    The holy feminine is acknowledged
    - and cried out to.
    Her holy arms hold us
    And comfort us,
    Whispering ‘all is well’.
    As we hiccup a last sob,
    We relax into Her breast and
    We let go of….

  16. Two women, both of whom shared the Bread of Heaven in their own way. So hard to choose between them!

  17. Thank you, Anna Courie, for a lovely imaginative account of Zita this morning. I too want her and all the Zitas to stop being hit. I want the migrants to be welcomed and be offered work and lives of dignity. I want all the masters to be rebuked. But my vote went to Julian for her eloquent witness. Thank God her writings were preserved. I hope to see her wearing the Golden Halo.

  18. Zita is a sweet and many of us wish we could be as kind. But Julian is a GREAT! She gets my vote.

  19. I knew it was hopeless for Zita , still I voted for her. Of course no one can "top" Juliam. It almost seems umfair to place anyone in a contest with her. She and Zita are really a tie in my thinking. Remarkable women.

  20. While I voted for Julian, I would love to see Zita in another Lent Madness bracket in the near future. Also Anna Fitch Courie's writing!

  21. Julian is one of the greatest theologians of all time. Her insight into the trinity is something that can give a person pause to realize just how much we are loved and that in the midst of so many trials and tribulations, "All Will Be Well."

  22. Please stop asking me to choose bicycles and motorcycles. It's so opposite of lentmadness, other than the madness part.

  23. Deeply appreciative for the sensitive rendering of a day in the life of Zita and the reminder that God watches over those who care for others. In the end, I must vote for Julian.