It is an image of Dame Julian of Norwich, whose memory is kept today in some Anglican and Lutheran churches.
As I mentioned on the blog several years ago, Julian was born in England in 1342 during the time of the Black Death.
An anchoress (men were called anchorites) was a person called to a solitary life, but he or she was not cut-off from the world. The life was one of prayer and contemplation, highly esteemed by people of the time. They thought of such a person as anchoring the presence of God in a particular location.
Dame Julian never left her cell. She had a servant who brought her meals and she kept a small garden with high walls that insulated her from the ordinary life of the time. This was not to prevent her from knowing what was going on, but to make sure that no one intruded to disrupt her life of contemplation and intercession. She listened through a curtained window to those passersby who needed counsel.
The only one who entered her space was her cat, allowed for a practical reason: to keep the rat population at bay. (I think Sundance and Cassidy might want to take this role more seriously!) Unbeknownst to the outside world however, she had a close 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.
Okay, I admit the cat may have been contemplating the birds in the garden, but even so ...
Dame Julian left an account of some of her spiritual experiences. Among the things she said is this hopeful message, which she proclaimed was given to her directly by God:
I think she was taking the very long view, but it is still reassuring.