Julian was born in England in 1342 during the time of the Black Death. This was a very difficult time throughout England. The plague led to very bad social conditions and the oppression of the poor. There was a shortage of labor, high taxes and poor harvests, prices were soaring and unrest ruled the land. The climax of this unrest was the Peasants Revolt in 1381. The church of the time was also in a sorry state: religious persecution was rampant and may were individuals were put to their death because their religious beliefs. It is into this situation that Julian come. Nobody really knows who she was: she calls herself a simple, uneducated creature.
Julian was an ANCHORESS. It is fairly certain that she was not a nun. An anchoress was a person called to a solitary life, but one that was not cut-off from the world, but one anchored in it. She anchored the Light of God at that spot on the earth amidst the darkness of life around her.
Her life was one of prayer and contemplation, a life highly thought of by people of the time. Her home was a small room, or cell, attached to the Church of S. Julian, Bishop of Le Mans, just off one of the main streets of Norwich. She probably took her name Julian from the Saint of the Church.'
There was a `Rule of Life` associated with this order drawn up in the 13th century, which stated that the cell should have 3 windows that opened; one into the Church, so she could hear Mass and receive the Blessed Sacrament; one to communicate with her servant, who would have lived close at hand; one to give advice to those who sought it.
Julian never left her cell. She had a servant who brought her meals and she kept a small garden with high wall that insulated her from the ordinary life of the time. She listened through a curtained window to those passersby who needed counsel. The only other living soul who entered her space was her cat. She was allowed a cat for purely practical reasons. To keep the rat population at bay. Unbeknownst to the outside world she grew in intimate relationship with her beloved cat. They would sit for hours in Julian's garden in contemplation and prayer. Julian and her cat together anchored the Light during one of the darkest periods of history.
Like Julian and her cat we and our animal companions can anchor the light of Love during dark times.