An Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich is the second Explorer’s Guide release from InterVarsity Press (the first being for Karl Barth. It is written by Veronica Mary Rolf, who is a self claimed academic of Julian of Norwich for several decades. According to her biography at the end of the books, after a long career as a Broadway actress, she is now a lecturer on “history and theology of Christian mysticism and leads contemplative retreats throughout the San Francisco Bay area.” She is also affiliated with the [World Community for Christian Meditation](https://www.wccm.org), manages a Facebook group for Julian of Norwich, and writes on her own websites: www.juliansvoice.com and www.veronicamaryrolf.com.
“People of all ages and cultural backgrounds feel encouraged to look to Julian for guidance in their daily struggles, consult Julian’s Revelations with their questions and doubts, and seek guidance from Julian in their spiritual crises.”
Rolf chooses to separate her text into two parts. The first part is called Getting to Know Julian of Norwich. In this segment Rolf does the work of putting Julian into her context. Julian is from a world that we do not fully understand today. Julian lived from 1342 till 1430. Her world was before the Reformation, ravaged by plagues, and in a time where women could be no more than wives and mothers. So Rolf seeks to gives us a firm understanding of what this looks like, while also providing some peculiarities to the life and writing of Julian of Norwich.
“all Julian’s references are to common, ordinary things that a merchant-class working woman would be more likely to notice than an aristocratic noblewoman”
The second part of this book focuses solely on Julian of Norwich’s /The Revelations of Divine Love/, with chapter 6 being an overview of the entire text. In this chapter Rolf discusses each of Julian’s revelations and what she learned from them. Rolf also points to ways that Julian’s work is different from others of her time. The reason for this is that Julian was a member of the common laity, not an academic or a cloistered nun. She then finishes the book by discussing the major themes of the text and providing guidelines for how to lead a retreat with Julian’s Revelations.
“But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that I needed, answered by this word and said: ‘Sinne is behovely, but alle shalle be wele, and alle shalle be wele, and alle manner of thing shalle be wele.'”
— Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
The thing that I believe is evident from this book is the amount of knowledge Rolf has of Julian of Norwich’s /The Revelations of Divine Love/. To be a person that is not classically trained in this subject, and yet can still hold her own in writing with people who are, is a testament to her. The way she writes bout Julian makes her very approachable and alive, despite having died almost 600 years ago. Because of this knowledge, she is also able to provide a good understanding of Christian mysticism. This topic seems to be a practice that the Church wants to forget, as I had not heard of it until I started my academic career. Anytime I mention it to others, Christian mysticism is looked upon as something to be skeptical of. I find the mystics interesting and Rolf does a good job explaining Julian’s mystical theology. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to learn about Christian mysticism or any professor seeking to teach spiritual formation.