MARGERY - MAD OR MYSTIC?
MARGERY KEMPE, whom we celebrate today, was a contemporary of Julian of Norwich. She was the daughter of a respected merchant, born in (Kings) Lynn, of a wealthy family, but never educated.
She married merchant John Kempe in the year of 1393, with whom she had fourteen children. When Margery was in her twenties, she began to have visions in which she talked to Jesus, Mary, and the Saints. In one vision, Jesus told her to go deeper in her religious practices. Margery Kempe dedicated her life in an unusual state by weeping, screaming and praying aloud during religious services. She became so involved that she detached her daily life from her husband and children. Her autobiography, The Book of Margery Kempe is the earliest known in English. Margery's message is taken from her direct relationship with Jesus, based on unconditional faith and love.
She received many visions, several of them of the Holy Family, but one of the most regular being of the crucifixion. She also had conversations with the saints. She was much sought after as a visionary, was endlessly in trouble with the Church, rebuked by the Archbishop and was more than once imprisoned. Following the messages in her visions, she undertook pilgrimages to many holy places, including Walsingham, Canterbury, Compostela, Rome and Jerusalem, often setting out penniless. She was “blessed” with the gift of tears and seems to have been favoured with singular signs of Christ's love, whereby for long periods she developed a strong sense of compassion for the world.
She lived out her concept of holiness in the ordinary things of life: to love Christ and others in Him, to be truly contrite for the sins which crucified Him, and to share His suffering in this world by doing His will; these were the only things of importance to Margery.
Kempe's behaviour has been dismissed by many modern critics as hysterical, but her book is not random ramblings. She patterned her Life on the legend of Mary Magdalene, whose transformation from sinner to the beloved of Christ, was closely linked in Margery’s view with the sacrament of penance.
Margery could readily identify with Mary Magdalene as she waited outside the tomb of the Resurrection, weeping - as she too waited for the Lord, weeping.
God our Father, your servant Margery Kempe was moved to shed tears of compassion for a fallen world; grant us the help of your Holy Spirit that we, with her, may come to a full knowledge of your purposes revealed in your Son Jesus Christ, our wisdom and our life; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Heavenly Father, accompany those living with depression and mental illness. Give them loving, supportive families and friends, and bless their caregivers with wisdom and compassion. Restore them to strength of mind and cheerfulness of spirit, and give them health and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.