Many of these anchorites became very popular among certain members of the Catholic religion. Pilgrims would come to visit these men living atop poles and columns to witness these powerful expressions of Catholic spirituality. Eventually some of the places where these men lived out their lives removed from the world became the origins of some of the earliest monasteries, where whole communities of believers would seek to remove themselves from the world and all the evils inherent in it.
The history of feminist spirituality within the Catholic Church also begins in many ways with the anchorites. Many of these anchorites were not men at all but women who would completely give up their lives in the real world for a life of meditation and prayer. The anchorites were some of the earliest mystics in the church and their role continued throughout the Middle Ages. The majority of these mystics were in fact women known instead as anchoresses.
One of the most important anchoresses of the Middle Ages and one of the most important early mystics in the history of feminist spirituality was Julian of Norwich. Living in England she renounced the world to go and live a life of asceticism. She also composed one of the first if not the first book composed by a woman in the Middle Ages: Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love. From this text comes one of the most famous lines in Catholic theology and Catholic spirituality: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” reflective of her optimistic ideology and theology that God would take care of all things.
Julian of Norwhich also met with another of the most important female writers of medieval England: Margery Kempe. Kempe went on many pilgrimages in her life and one of these was to Julian of Norwich, who was seen as an important spiritual leader of the time. Their meeting is written of in the Book of Margery Kempe, another of the earliest books written by a woman in the English language.
If you would like to live a life of Catholic spirituality, it does not mean that you must renounce the world and go out to live atop a pole and live the life of the ascetic. Spirituality can take many forms, as it is an individual response to the call of the Lord. Many believe that the greatest form of Catholic spirituality is in fact that which is practiced in one's daily life. At work, at home, at play, at all moments of life being in constant and deeply intimate contact with God is seen as the most powerful expression of spirituality imaginable. This is at the core of a life of Catholic spirituality.