Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich

‘Set all your trust in God,

and do not be afraid of what people say.’

        Julian of Norwich- to Margery Kempe

When compared with Julian of Norwich, Margery has frequently been cast as disappointing.

The reasons for this are complex.

Not least the kind of images and texts of Christian female spirituality and piety that have been traditionally authorised as acceptable.

Julian is an Anchorite and enclosed.

Margery does not conform to these images. A monk in Canterbury says to Margery, ‘I wish you were enclosed in a house of stone so that no one should speak to you’. !

One of the startling things that mark Margery out as different from the more usual models of female spirituality and piety is her ordinariness, her earthiness and her candour.

And perhaps, just as this was a very real question and problem in Margery’s own time, it still presents questions for us today.

For Margery is just as at home talking passionately to God, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, as she is wringing out her husband’s washing, travelling a country road with her husband and a bottle of beer, or finding swaddling clothes for the Virgin Mary.

Margery’s life is a life ‘lived in the world’, with all its difficulties, uncertainty, questions, struggle and messiness.

And she certainly knew all of these.

And she is a woman insisting on a direct relationship with God, prior to priests and men, at this time a dangerous idea, especially for a woman.

Margery Kempe was a woman who truly and passionately showed a profound love for God.

Her book does not give an ‘ending’, how could it? Margery finally entrusts that to the God who begun it.