Prayer Adventure Week Four: Holy Women and Wholly Saints

This week, I am doing something a little different. We’re going on an adventure here, after all. I’ve spent some time this week reading about the lives of various female saints (and women who maybe should be saints), and I’ve realised that all of them have had quite difficult lives. They lived through wars, pandemics, physical and mental illness, and personal tragedy. So, this week I’m taking inspiration from the prayers of women who found God in difficulty and were often a bit difficult themselves. 

This week got away from me a little bit and I ended up writing way too much for one blog, so the second half of this blog will come out next week!

Day One—St Clare of Assisi

My prayer from St Clare comes from a story from her childhood, where she used stones to help her remember her prayers. The idea is to assign a prayer for a person or situation to each stone and when you finish your prayer, to place the stone in front of a candle or icon to symbolise your prayer being heard.


I don’t know if it was just because this has been a nightmare of a week, but St Clare’s prayer stones were just what I needed. I love candles but rarely allow myself to use them. The smell of a just-blown-out candle is one of my favourite smells in the world. And the stones were just the right amount of tactile fidgety-ness. I felt held. I felt cradled and loved and I am thankful that I have stuck with this, and that I had this idea for this week.

Day Two—St Julian of Norwich

She’s an Anglican saint and not a Catholic one, but I’m Lutheran so for me we’re all wholly sinner and wholly saint, and I like Julian, so I’m including her. (This mentality also applies to some other women I’ve included; I’ve inherited Lutheranism’s very lax approach to saints and I’m quite happy for other people to have more circumscribed meanings of the word).

The prayer I used is written by Julian, and is the origin of her most famous (and most frequently decontextualised quote) The prayer can be found here: Julian of Norwich (


The prayer I used is so well written, and so full of imagery and yet so simple. One of the things she’s known for is her use of maternal imagery, not only for God but also for Jesus. There’s some in this prayer as well, which is a lovely touch. However, the most remarkable thing about this prayer for me is the ending. It’s usually quoted as ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’ To me, this implies a level of serenity with the situation that the actual prayer does not convey. The full line is ‘teach us to believe that by your grace, all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’ It’s a prayer for strength, and for faith, asking for an understanding she is struggling to reach on her own. To me, this is far more powerful than a bland statement that ‘everything’s going to be okay’.

I tried to imagine her in her cell as I prayed, to imagine her praying these same words. God, tell me that everything will be okay. It’s really rough out there right now, help me to believe that you are here for us and that all will be well. I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but you’ve said it’s there so I’m waiting to see it. That is a level of faith that helps me to believe that all really shall be well.

I’m so glad I chose these prayers for this week! This was a good idea, so good I’m beginning to suspect it wasn’t mine.

Day Three—St Teresa of Avila

St Teresa of Avila was a complicated person. However, she did write some very good prayers that I feel express some excellent theology. The prayer in question is the ‘Christ has no body but yours’ prayer, which you can find here. St. Teresa of Ávila – Who St. Teresa of Ávila Was, Her Feast Day, Carmelite Spirituality, Prayers & Quotes – Hallow


I really like this prayer. I think it articulates a concept that is very central to my faith: the idea that we are the way that God’s work gets done. Both that we have the duty to ‘do the work’ to help build the kingdom of God, and that God can work through us in ways we would be unable to do on our own. I was really surprised and pleased to see this sort of thing articulated so elegantly by someone who is pretty far removed from my own tradition. This project over all really changed my perception of historical female saints. I think often they’re celebrated for founding an order or helping out a famous male saint, which is really shameful when their theological writings are so deep and interesting.

To read the rest of the blog, come back next week!