The Book of Margery Kempe Summary
First, a friendly warning: this book is not constructed chronologically. What follows here is a re-constructed version of the plot timeline, just so your head won't explode. However, you shouldn't expect things to happen in the order that they do in the following short summary.
Margery Kempe begins her story with her marriage to John and her first childbirth, which is painful and leaves her doubting that she'll survive. She pitches into a wicked bad episode of post-partum depression when her confessor is a jerk to her and doesn't give her the chance to confess a terrible sin. She later thinks demons want to devour her, she struggles to resist suicide, and she's finally rescued by the appearance of a surprisingly hot Jesus at her bedside.
But she doesn't get the message. When she recovers, she's still vain and money-grubbing, so she starts a brewing business. It fails. She starts up a mill. The horses won't work for her. People say she's cursed.
Kempe realizes that she's a great big sinner and needs to do penance. She fasts, prays and weeps ALL. THE. TIME. Kempe has her first direct experience of heaven now, when she hears a pleasing song in her ears and understands that it's the angels and saints partying in heaven. She can't stop talking about it, and the townspeople don't like it very much.
Yeah, well, Kempe is pretty pleased with herself. She's good at self-denial and thinks that her newfound awesomeness is totally due to her personal strength. At this time, she also tries to make her husband give up sex. It doesn't work. Things otherwise go well for Kempe for about two years, but then God gets tired of her conceited ways. He sends her three horrible years of temptations (we're talking sexual temptations). Kempe is utterly humiliated when a local man propositions her and then tells her he was only joking after she consents.
Kempe finally gets it: she needs help from the big J. C. J. C. tells her that contemplation is way better for her spiritual life than formulaic prayers, and he encourages her to lie still and think. She eventually has her first mystical vision. In it, she participates in the birth and childhood of Mary, Jesus's mother. Her emotional involvement in this type of meditation increases the frequency of her weeping in public places, which becomes more problematic as time goes on.
She seeks the opinion of as many holy and learned people as possible to determine whether her visions are truly from God. In this process, she speaks with local clerics, as well as with the holy Richard of Caister and the great female mystic Julian of Norwich. They all assure her that she's on the right track.
Jesus tells Kempe that he wants her to go on pilgrimage to the Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago de Compostela in Spain. But before she leaves, there's an important score to settle: she has to get her husband to agree to let her go alone and to take a vow of chastity for the rest of their lives. After some serious financial bargaining, Kempe gets her wishes. Her husband John goes with her on several local pilgrimages and finally takes a vow of chastity in front of the Bishop of Lincoln.
To make her pilgrimage easier, Jesus forgives all of Kempe's sins before she leaves and tells her that she will make a safe journey. He also tells her that she will have friends and good help on the way. But it doesn't start out like that. The other pilgrims on the ship do not like Kempe's screaming during meditation, and they begin to persecute her. There is one English priest who is particularly awful to her.
By the time they get to Venice, Kempe finds herself without good companionship and without most of her money. But all of this is redeemed when she reaches Jerusalem. It's a mystic's wonderland, and Kempe spends most of her time there "ravished" into the spiritual realm every time she visits a place where Christ walked. And now, she not only weeps but "cries" or screams when she has visions.
On the return trip, Kempe stays in Italy for many weeks. During this time, she has a hard time with her fellow Englishmen, but she bonds with the Italians. She visits holy places and finds an awesome German confessor named Wenslawe, who can, by miracle, only understand English when it is spoken by Kempe. Jesus commands her to give away all her money while she's in Rome and live as a pauper, which she does. She grows spiritually, and God the Father shows his approval by marrying her in a bizarre wedding ceremony in her soul.
Our girl makes it back to England only with the help of God and a nice English priest. She stays in Lynn only long enough to display her new habit of screaming during visions, and then she's off again on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Nothing much happens until the return journey, when she is arrested multiple times on suspicion of Lollardy, a heresy and a burnable offense.
Brought before Church officials, Kempe's all like, "Lollardy? LOL. I may be doing my own thing, but let me tell you: my own thing is totally orthodox." She answers well in all inquiries and ultimately makes it back home—but she has to go off to London to get a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury saying that she is not a Lollard and that everyone should step off. Back in Bishop's Lynn, Kempe pursues her spiritual life, makes lots of enemies and a few friends, and through prayer prevents a fire from consuming the parish church.
Towards the end of his life, John Kempe—who is living alone since his wife has chosen to pursue a solitary contemplative life—falls down the stairs in his home and splits his head open. Kempe has to come to his side to nurse him. She detests doing it, because he is troublesome and detracts from her prayers, but she does it for God's love.
Kempe tells the story of her son and his conversion experience. After he becomes a sober husband and father, she tells her own story to him. It's possible that he writes it down and is her first scribe. The son brings his wife to visit with Kempe and John, but he falls ill immediately and eventually dies. John dies soon after.
Kempe's son's widow stays on with her mother-in-law for eighteen months in England, but she's eager to get back to her home in Prussia. All the screaming will get to you after a while. Though Kempe only intends to accompany her daughter-in-law to the ship, Jesus intervenes and tells her to go all the way to Germany with her.
She does so, and it's a horrible experience. It turns out that the daughter-in-law doesn't like Kempe very much. On top of hat, the territories Kempe has to traverse are ravaged by war, and she can't find proper company to make the journey safely. Eventually, she gets together with a penniless friar and makes it back to England. Her confessor is totally peeved that she left England without his permission, but Kempe is able to patch things up and get on with her contemplative life—and, we imagine, with the writing of her book.
- Margery Kempe explains what is to follow in the book and why it was written. It's the life of a sinful person who hits rock bottom, learns humility, and strikes up a relationship with the big J. C. (That's Jesus Christ, ladies and gents.)
- Kempe wants to talk about her experiences to show how merciful God is—not to praise herself. She clues us in to an important piece of logic that appears in this work: Christ shows her favor by destroying her life.
- Kempe loses health, wealth, and the respect of her neighbors—but it's a good thing. This makes her humble and helps her seek a more spiritual existence.
- Note: Kempe refers to herself at this point (and will throughout the work) in the third-person as "this creature."
- Kempe's spirituality manifests itself in a pretty irritating way: she cries a lot and shrieks out when she has her visions. We mean, we've all been there, but still…
- The rebukes Kempe gets from her neighbors only encourage her. If she suffers for her love of Christ, it's a good thing, and she's not going to keep it quiet just to please the Joneses.
- Kempe says that she converses with God in her soul. (Remember that when she speaks of Christ or the Holy Spirit, she's talking about members of the Trinity, which make up one God).
- Kempe says that Christ is "at home" in her soul, an image that she shares in common with another, greater female mystic, Julian of Norwich.
- Though she feels like God is truly part of her when they speak, the convos are also kind of above Kempe's head, so much so that she can't really relate the substance of what the big guy actually says to her.
- At some point, Kempe got worried about these visions and chats. Were they really from God, or were there darker forces at work? She asks clerics to help her determine this, and the response from them all is positive: the weeping and the visions are truly from God. She is encouraged.
- The clerics also urge Kempe to have her experiences written down in a book (like most women at the time, Kempe is illiterate and can't do it for herself).
- But Kempe feels that it's not the right time to write this stuff down, and she waits more than twenty years to record her experiences, when God tells her to.
- Problems arise immediately. Kempe has no writer until a "man out of Germany" comes to England with his family and offers his help. He dies after writing the bulk of her spiritual memoirs.
- When Kempe shows the man's efforts to a priest friend, he can't read the manuscript. The German-influenced dude's English wasn't so good.
- Also, the priest is a little freaked out by the slanders being spoken against Kempe by her neighbors. He's not sure he's doing the right thing by helping her out, so he abandons the project.
- The priest suggests that Kempe work with the friend of the first scribe to figure out what the text says.
- Kempe tries, but Scribe #1's friend doesn't get very far and gives up. She returns to her priest friend, who decides to give it another go.
- It's an auspicious start: the priest finds the text easier to read now. He reads what he can understand out loud, and Kempe corrects him when necessary by dictation.
- Kempe tells us that the book is not written in chronological order, because she is working from memory and is recalling only that which is true and important.
- The transcription of the book goes well, until the priest suddenly has a problem with his vision. He can see everything else just fine, but the manuscript has suddenly become illegible to him.
- Kempe thinks this is because of an enemy's jealousy and begs the priest to persevere. He does, and soon all is well.
- Kempe explains that the priest added this proem to more fully explain the "publication history" of the book. The other preface (which appears next), is the one written earlier by the German scribe.
- The proem closes with a confirmation of the date: 1436 C.E.
- Kempe explains in the Proem that this Preface was written earlier by Scribe #1, who so illegibly wrote the first draft.
- Kempe explains that her pride was broken through sickness and poverty, and her newfound humility drew her closer to God.
- Kempe also suffers from the ridicule of people in many countries for her "spiritual behaviors"—which she promises to show us in the body of the book.
- Kempe says that she will not relate the stories in chronological order, but rather as she remembers them, since she is writing more than twenty years after the fact.
- Again, Kempe wants to explain why she took so long to write. She had offers of help to write her book, but she was warned "in spirit" not to do so.
- Kempe relates the difficulty she had with her first scribe, who wrote so badly that no one could transcribe his work—and how she suffered from it.
- Finally, the good priest appears and, after many trials, begins work on Kempe's book.
- We get a specific date here: the priest begins his work on July 23, 1436.
Book I, Chapters 1-5
- Kempe opens her story with her marriage at age 20 to a dude named John. She becomes pregnant immediately—and is very, very sick throughout the entire pregnancy.
- Soon after childbirth, Kempe fears that she will die. She has a sin on her conscience and asks for a priest to come to her so that she can confess.
- The priest appears, but he really does no good for Kempe. The moment she begins to loosen up and tell of her big sin, he rebukes her—and she clams up.
- So much for that. Now Kempe, ill and falling prey to postpartum depression, feels that she will die and go straight to hell because she has a mortal sin on her soul.
- As a result, Kempe "went out of her mind" and is tortured by spirits for about six months.
- Kempe describes these torments in detail: there are devils threatening her, pawing her, calling for her to renounce Christ—which she does.
- Kempe rages against her husband and friends and wants to be as wicked as possible during this time.
- The climax of this madness comes when Kempe bites her own hand to keep from killing herself, leaving a lifelong mark there. She has to be forcibly restrained by her keepers.
- Christ appears to Kempe as a handsome gentleman in purple robes and has a good chat with her.
- Kempe then returns to herself and takes up her responsibilities as wife and mother, much to the chagrin of her household help.
- Kempe does mention that her husband is a good fellow through all of this, and he immediately trusts her with her old duties again when she becomes well.
- From that time on, Kempe is a capable person—but she doesn't yet comprehend the effect that her conversation with Christ will have.
- So Kempe has been saved by Christ, but she doesn't get it yet. She still suffers from pride.
- In particular, Kempe's a clothes snob. She likes to be dressed in the height of late medieval fashion, and she gets peeved if the other ladies of the 'burgh look better than she does.
- Kempe's husband tells her to chill out, but she cuts him down by saying that she came from a better family than he did. Burn.
- Kempe's worried a lot about outward appearances and having enough moolah to keep up her habits, so she takes up brewing to earn more.
- Things don't go so well. The beer always falls flat, and then Kempe's workers are ashamed of her bad luck. They pack up and leave, and the business folds.
- Kempe starts to understand: God had punished her before with illness, and now he's punishing her with the loss of her "goods." Maybe he's trying to tell her something.
- So Kempe apologizes to her husband for not following his advice and vows to be a more humble, less greedy person.
- But Kempe does decide to give business one more try. This time, she buys a mill and hires a miller to drive the horses and grind people's grains into flour.
- Guess what happens next? Yup. The horses refuse to turn the mill. The miller loses interest and leaves his post, so Kempe has now achieved failed business #2.
- Rumors begin to fly that Kempe is being punished by God. No one will serve her, so her enterprises don't succeed.
- Spiritual men say that Kempe is being called from the pursuits of the world to focus on Christ. She finally takes the hint and physically punishes herself for her disobedience to God's call.
- Now Kempe's encounters with the divine start for real. She hears beautiful music as she lies in bed with her husband, and she realizes that it is the sound of heaven. It sounds like a party up there.
- This makes Kempe weep with longing whenever she hears music—because she cannot take her mind off the joy that is in heaven.
- Kempe also can't stop talking about how great it is in heaven. Combined with her tears and sobbing, she becomes pretty unpopular. Her neighbors tell her to stop talking about things she can't know about.
- Another problem? After her conversion experience, Kempe no longer wants to have sex with her husband. She knows she kinda has to "pay the debt of matrimony," but the thought of it disgusts her.
- Yeah, well, John won't have any of that. He figures that Kempe is right that it would be good to punish themselves for love of God—just not quite yet.
- So things, uh, resume for a while. John is waiting for a "sign."
- Three or four years later, Kempe tells us, John makes a vow of chastity. She also promises to tell us more about this later.
- Kempe talks about the other "bodily penances" she does to please God, including fasting, going to confession several times a day, and going to church at all hours of the night.
- Kempe also wears a hair shirt under her clothes, even while she's pregnant, to atone for her sins. She weeps and sobs a whole lot—so much so that people say she's faking it.
- But Kempe has a single-minded goal: to get to that sweet music and happiness in heaven.
- Remember that Kempe is not able to tell her story in chronological order: she's telling us what is most important thematically.
- So now we're back to the beginning of Kempe's penitential life, when she was living in a period of peace for about two years.
- Things go so well for Kempe that she begins to think she's pretty awesome: good at fasting, doing penance, etc. She feels like Christ should really love her a lot for her efforts.
- But Christ has other ideas. Kempe begins to feel tempted by "lechery," or lust.
- And not for her husband, either. Right on cue, a male friend of Kempe's tells her that he will have his way with her, whether she likes it or not.
- Kempe thinks this friend is for real, so she shows up at the time and place he designated. She pretty much resigns herself to this infidelity, because she thinks he will take what he wants at some point, anyway, so why not now?
- When Kempe and this dude meet, the dude acts like he never propositioned her at all. Kempe is perplexed and in despair. Now she is burning with desire for this guy—against her will and against her spiritual goals.
- Sure, Kempe could "satisfy her lust" by having sex with her husband, but the idea sickens her. So she goes back to the man and asks if he will have her. He refuses her outright. Apparently, he was just trying to test her. Whatever, dude.
- Kempe hits rock bottom. She is humiliated and feels that she has failed in her penitential life. She despairs of God's love and grace.
- But Kempe picks herself up by her bootstraps and goes to confession. A lot. And she cries. A lot.
- Still, Kempe feels really far away from God's love and can't figure out why he would let such a thing happen to her.
- Things can't continue like this for Kempe. Just before Christmas Day, she has a conversation with J. C. himself.
- J. C. gives Kempe a valuable gift: reassurance that she will come to heaven one day, and that he will never abandon her in her trials on earth.
- Christ also gives Kempe some very specific directions on how to proceed in her spiritual life. First, she has to take off the hair shirt; he will give her a "hair shirt on her heart." Ew.
- And here's the part Kempe really won't like: she has to give up eating meat. The only meat she gets from now on is Christ's body, in the form of the Eucharist.
- Jesus also directs Kempe's prayers. Kempe is allowed to pray (formal prayers) for part of the day, but she must now devote herself to contemplation: lying still and communing with God.
- Kempe is to take the insights she gains from such direct conversations to a Dominican anchorite in Lynn, who will discuss her revelations with her.
- Kempe makes a visit to this anchorite immediately and tells him all about her conversation with Christ.
- The anchorite is mighty impressed and tells Kempe that she is "sucking from Christ's breast"—an image used by another mystic, Julian of Norwich.
- The anchorite promises to help Kempe figure out if her revelations are from God or the devil.
Book I, Chapters 6-10
- Kempe shares the first of her contemplative visions in this chapter.
- Kempe is following Christ's instructions to lie still and think about holy things—but she's at a loss for topics to think about. So Christ tells her to think about his mother, Mary.
- Kempe does Christ one better: she immediately sees a vision of a pregnant St. Anne, the mother of Mary. She begs to be Anne's servant and is taken on.
- Kempe attends the birth of Mary, raises her until she is twelve (the age that she is supposed to have become pregnant with Jesus), and tells her that she will be the Mother of God.
- When Mary gets pregnant with Jesus in this vision, Kempe begs to be her servant.
- So Kempe follows Mary and experiences intimately those moments from Scripture that figure in the birth narrative: the visit to St. Elizabeth, the journey to Bethlehem, and the birth of Jesus.
- Kempe imagines herself being incredibly domestic and useful so that she can witness the miraculous beginnings of Christianity.
- When Jesus is born, Kempe tends to him and feels pity because she knows how much pain he will suffer. She promises to treat him gently, spoiling him a little because of her empathy.
- Kempe continues in her visionary journey with the Holy Family. She attends them when the Three Kings come to call and then when God sends Mary and Joseph are sent into Egypt.
- Kempe also begins to weep again. It happens for a variety of reasons: contrition for her own sins, sadness for what will happen to baby Jesus, anxiety for those who suffer or for souls in purgatory.
- And it's not just any kind of crying: it's violent weeping. Kempe wants to leave the troubles of the world and go to heaven.
- But God has other plans for Kempe—big plans. He tells her that she's meant to stay on earth and pray for everyone. She's going to save the souls of thousands.
- Then God gives Kempe an even bigger gift: she can have whatever she asks for.
- Kempe asks God to spare the souls of everyone on earth from damnation. Whoa.
- Kempe's new prayer style must be working out for her, because she has another very profitable session of contemplation, this time with Mary.
- Mary tells Kempe that there is already a place for her in heaven, at the very knee of Jesus Christ. Who would she like to be there with her as her companion?
- Kempe names her confessor, Robert Spryngolde. Jesus is a little surprised by this (he's joined the convo at this point). Why not name her husband?
- Kempe says that Master R has gone through a lot of trouble with her and deserves something for it. Jesus says that he will save her husband, anyway. And all her children.
- Kempe does something very clever here: she asks Jesus to be the "executor" of all her spiritual good deeds. She wants to bequeath any merit she may have earned to various people. Half goes to Master R., and half she gives to Christ, to dispose of as he wishes.
- Jesus is impressed by this and agrees to be Kempe's executor. She also gets double bonus points in heaven because she is so generous with her merit.
- Kempe has some domestic triumphs in this chapter.
- First, God promises to kill off all sexual desire in Kempe's husband, as she had wanted.
- Then, while Kempe is praying in church before Easter, a huge stone and beam from the roof fall onto her—but she is perfectly fine.
- A Carmelite friar named Master Aleyn inquires into the situation and deems it a true miracle.
- We are told that many people glorified God because Kempe was saved—but equally many believed that she was punished by God for something.
- Kempe feels that she should travel for the benefit of her soul (we're talking pilgrimages, visiting holy men, watching religious plays).
- Kempe asks her husband for permission to travel, and he grants it, thinking that God has motivated her.
- Kempe does well abroad: people welcome her and fuss over her. Now she's worried that she'll get conceited again, but Christ tells her that he won't let that happen.
- Christ also reassures Kempe that he is fully part of her, and she is a part of him (check out our "Shout Outs" section for more on this reference to the Gospel of John).
- Here's one of the most astonishing things: Christ says that if the people Kempe advises will give up their sins, then he will guarantee whatever grace Kempe promises them.
- That's a pretty big deal, since this is awfully close to what a priest does at confession. Kempe's spirituality is getting stronger.
- Kempe travels with her husband to York (probably to see the York Corpus Christi plays) and other places.
Book I, Chapters 11-15
- As they leave York, Kempe's husband puts a bizarre question to her: if someone threatened to behead him if he didn't have sex with her again, would she allow him to be killed?
- Kempe is pretty clear: of course she'd let him die. John is not amused.
- But it does re-open the conversation that Kempe began with her husband three years earlier about staying chaste in marriage.
- In fact, John and Kempe have not had sex in eight weeks. Kempe asks him why he hasn't been trying to put the moves on her.
- John tells Kempe that he's been afraid to touch her. Perhaps he's expecting a divine lightning bolt if he does.
- Kempe is satisfied: she told him that his sexual desire would be killed off, and it has.
- But John isn't giving up so easily. He won't let Kempe take a vow of chastity before a bishop unless she agrees to his terms: 1) they will sleep still in one bed; 2) she will pay off his remaining debts before she goes to Jerusalem; 3) she will give up her fasting on Fridays.
- Kempe really, really wants to remain chaste, but she doesn't like the idea of giving up her Friday fasts, since Christ himself ordered them. She goes off to pray about it.
- And Christ speaks on cue. He tells Kempe it's okay to give up the Friday fasts—he had ordered them so that she would have just such a bargaining chip later on. Turns out Christ is really into interpersonal strategizing. Kempe is thrilled.
- Kempe makes the bargain with her husband, and they are friends again. They continue their journey to visit holy people, to make sure her visions and chats with God are on the up and up.
- In her travels, Kempe comes to a monastery. For the most part, she gets a warm welcome, but there's this one monk who hates on her. Her reputation as a holy woman with a direct line to God has preceded her.
- The monk decides to challenge Kempe in order to see if she's the real thing. He wants her to tell him what his sins are and if he'll be saved from damnation.
- So Kempe tells him to go to mass, and she'll weep for his sins. Which she does, but she also has a little chat with God, who reveals just what naughtiness the monk has done.
- The monk apparently likes married women, falls into despair a lot, and hordes up "worldly goods." All this embarrasses Kempe.
- When Kempe meets up with the monk, she reports her findings and tells him that he will be saved if he follows her advice (i.e., repent, change his wicked ways, and go to confession).
- The monk is pretty impressed and does all that she tells him. Pretty soon, he's a good guy again. When Kempe returns some time later, she finds the monk totally reformed and with a promotion in his station at the monastery. Win.
- Kempe now has a series of harrowing encounters with both clergy and laypeople at Canterbury. And it's all because of her excessive weeping.
- Kempe's really stirring up the visitors to Canterbury Cathedral with her commotion. Even her husband is ashamed, and he leaves her by herself.
- Kempe is confronted by John Kynton, an important monk of Christ Church. He tells her she ought to be shut away from the world.
- A young monk recognizes that something is definitely going on with Kempe, since she is speaking about Scripture—and she clearly can't have read that herself.
- Kempe then tells a story about a man who is told by God to pay people to mock him for his sins.
- The man one day goes out among great men, who openly hate on him and verbally abuse him. But the man is pretty happy about the whole situation.
- The men mocking the man ask why he's smiling, and the man tells them how pleased he is to get abused for free for once.
- Kempe makes the parallel with her own situation, saying that she hadn't been getting mocked nearly enough for her liking back home. She thanks these dudes for humbling her and leaves.
- But outside the church, people begin to accuse of being a Lollard—a burnable offense in the Catholic world.
- Now, standing outside the gates of the city of Canterbury with no one to defend her, Kempe realizes she's in a pickle. But two men come to her rescue and bring her back to her lodgings. She's pretty steamed at her husband for leaving her alone.
- Although many people back home mock her in her absence, Kempe says that she is at rest in her soul for a long time. Jesus tells her he's got her back, and she's okay with that.
- Kempe really likes getting abused for her love of God. She feels it will bring her to heaven in the end.
- Kempe fantasizes about becoming a martyr for God, and she thinks about how she would like best to die. She decides that beheading is where it's at. (This is a common choice for mystics—check out the autobiography of Teresa of Avila, for example).
- But Christ tells Kempe there's no need to go so far. Her general suffering will be her martyrdom.
- Then Christ makes the best love speech to Kempe, ever: he says he would gladly suffer all his pains again, even if it were just to save her soul alone. Whoa, this is getting intense, J. C.!
- Christ tells Kempe not to worry if her tears should dry up for a while. It doesn't mean she's not his girl any more. She will always have God hidden inside her.
- Christ also confirms for Kempe what Julian of Norwich will tell her later: tears of "compunction" are a great gift.
- Then Christ promises that he should be like a meek child to a father to her. Yes, you heard right: he will be the child, and she will be the daddy.
- The point here is to say that Christ will do everything he can to help Kempe's soul to happiness. Now, there's a lot of role reversal and gender bending in spiritual works, so hang in there.
- Christ also uses the simile of the sun: sometimes it's hidden, but it's always there, and it's always the sun. He's kind of like that, too.
- Christ explains how Kempe is mother, sister, daughter, and spouse to him—all at the same time.
- Kempe tells us the Christ wishes her to visit some major holy places: Santiago de Compostela, Rome, and Jerusalem.
- But Kempe doesn't really have the moolah to fund these road trips. Christ tells her not to worry—he'll send her good friends and will make sure he's with her on her travels. She'll have enough.
- There's one more hitch: Christ wants her to wear all white clothing. Kempe is displeased with this, since people already make fun of her.
- Christ tells Kempe that her misery pleases him. She's going to have to suck it up.
- And Kempe does have a hard time. Though her husband is a good standby for her, pretty much all her other companions abandon her when people start to bully her.
- Kempe goes with her husband to see Philip Repyngdon, Bishop of Lincoln. She wants to speak with him about her spiritual life, of course.
- Repyngdon treats Kempe handsomely—until she asks him to let her take a vow of chastity. He gently refuses her, telling her to go ask permission from the Archbishop of Canterbury first. (He's resident in London—131 miles away.)
- Kempe is annoyed, but Christ gives her words to rebuke him.
- Repyngdon is impressed with Kempe and gives her 26 pence to buy her white clothes—but he probably still remembers being excommunicated the last time he stood against the Church. He won't budge.
Book I, Chapters 16-20
- Kempe moves on to London with her husband, where the two of them find the Archbishop of Canterbury in residence at Lambeth Palace.
- While Kempe waits for an audience with the archbishop, she hears many members of his household cursing. She schools them about the evils of cursing (because it often involved blasphemy). As you can imagine, her words are not received well.
- When Kempe speaks with the archbishop himself, things go well.
- Kempe asks for permission to choose her own confessor and to take communion every Sunday (this practice was rare at the time). The archbishop agrees.
- The archbishop also approves of Kempe's conversations with God, her tears, and her way of living. Win!
- Kempe feels comfortable enough to tell the archbishop about the cussing members of his household, and she tells him that he really should fix that.
- Back in London proper, Kempe and her husband are welcomed by "worthy men" and are treated well.
- When Kempe returns to Lynn, she visits an anchorite there to check in. He tells her that people have been dissing her in her absence. He also says that they asked him to break off his acquaintance with Kempe, but he refuses to do so.
- Our editor steps in here to tell us that we should read Chapter 21 and then this chapter again. Try it.
- Kempe skips back in time to the birth of her last child. Christ chats with her and tells her that she will have no more children. This is #14, so whew!
- Christ also tells Kempe to get straight up and go to the Vicar of St. Stephen's (that's Richard of Caister) in Norwich, about 40 miles away from Kempe's home in King's Lynn.
- Though she's weak from childbirth, Kempe gets herself up and out to Norwich, where she meets with Richard of Caister.
- Kempe asks to speak with Richard for an hour or two about the love of God, and he's kind of freaked out that an unlearned woman could talk so long on that subject.
- While Kempe's chatting with Richard, she hears the melody of Paradise in her ears and can't stand it (it's too overwhelming for her). She falls to the ground. But somehow this gives her more courage to speak to the vicar about her experiences.
- Kempe explains the kinds of conversations she has with God: friendly, "homely," like one friend to another.
- Kempe also emphasizes that she speaks with all persons of the Trinity in her soul—not just Christ.
- Kempe compares her direct spiritual experiences with God to the second-hand accounts she has had read to her (some very heavy stuff—check out our "Shout Outs" section for details).
- We also learn that Kempe has conversations with some of the biggest names in Christianity: St. Catherine, St. Paul, and St. Peter.
- Unfortunately for Kempe, such conversations often leave her writhing on the ground or behaving bizarrely. Her neighbors are not sympathetic, and they speak badly of her.
- But Richard of Caister always takes her side. Kempe reminds us of that he was an extremely holy person who worked many miracles in later days, after his death.
- Richard becomes Kempe's confessor and gives her Communion himself.
- When Kempe is called before the bishop to answer for her behavior, way of life, and beliefs, Richard appears with her to be her support.
- Kempe continues to seek out learned clerics so that she can prove that her supernatural experiences are not evil. This time, she seeks out William Southfield—a friar who also has visions.
- Southfield is very pleased with Kempe and tells her not to fear her experiences. He says Kempe must remain meek and free of sin, though, because God only dwells where there is purity.
- Kempe is also commanded by God to seek out "Dame Julian" while she is in Norwich.
- When she meets Julian, Kempe finds another source of encouragement. Julian tells Kempe that the Holy Spirit only moves in charity and would never ask her to do anything evil.
- Julian tells Kempe that tears and weeping are gifts of the Holy Spirit, since God would not give the feeling of compunction to someone who was hardhearted.
- Julian knows that Kempe will need a lot of courage and perseverance to deal with the slander and persecution she will face because of that gift, and she spends days speaking with her.
- Kempe plows ahead, speaking with many learned religious people and telling them about her life and experiences. She receives encouragement from most of them.
- But others are not so nice. They speak badly of Kempe and make her life hell.
- Kempe's confessor back home prophesies that she will have all kinds of trouble on her trip to Jerusalem but says that she must persevere.
- Kempe is not happy about this—after all, she has to go in white clothes already, which will automatically make her the target of evil tongues.
- But Kempe's confessor tells her that the Lord will comfort her on her journey.
- While Kempe is in a complaining mood, she tells her confessor of another confessor who is not kind to her. But the current confessor doesn't care: he says she just has to suck it up for the good of her soul.
- Red alert! There is an episode in Chapter 18 that really belongs at the end of Chapter 19. It's the story of an encounter with a widow that begins in the middle and continues. This is likely a mistake in the only copy of the manuscript, so you'll have to read around it and double back after you read the beginning of the episode in Chapter 19. Sorry.
- This chapter is a bit odd, so hang in there. Kempe wants to tell us about her interactions with the general public.
- Before she hits the road for Jerusalem, Kempe gets a request from a local lady to meet with her and the lady's confessor.
- Kempe agrees. She has a message for the lady from Christ: the soul of the lady's dead husband is stuck in purgatory and needs the efforts of his wife to move on to heaven.
- The lady doesn't respond well. Her husband was a good man, and she doesn't believe Kempe.
- In fact, the lady is so displeased with Kempe that she sends word to Kempe's confessor that he ought to part ways with the crazy visionary.
- But Kempe's confessor will not "break up" with Kempe. He encourages Kempe by telling her that God will always love her, even if she doesn't have the gift of tears in the future.
- Kempe now moves on to the story of the widow (the one that began in the middle back in Chapter 18).
- The widow asks Kempe to tell her about the state of her dead husband's soul (sound familiar?).
- Kempe tells it like it is: the husband's soul will be in purgatory for 30 years, unless the widow offers up some prayers and masses to spring him out.
- But after going to her own confessor, the widow decides to do nothing. Kempe asks her own confessor to speak to the widow, to encourage her.
- Kempe later finds out, in one of her chats with Christ, that the widow never did anything for her husband's soul. Her confessor confirms the truth of this.
- Kempe recalls a miracle of the sacrament that she witnessed one day. When the host and chalice were raised at the moment of consecration, Kempe perceived them shaking as though they would fall out of the priest's hands.
- Kempe's hoping to see such a thing happen again, so she attends a lot of Masses—but no such luck.
- Christ tells Kempe that she will observe this strange stuff happening again, and that it was meant as a sign of vengeance. He says that there will be an earthquake soon, and that she should tell people.
- Christ then goes on to say that his love for Kempe is complete and that he speaks to her in the same way he spoke to St. Bridget of Sweden. That's a pretty big deal for Kempe.
- Christ encourages Kempe by saying that he knows her better than anyone—and that she's pretty amazing spiritually.
- Kempe wants to know what she can do to help the people—supposedly so that they won't have to suffer divine vengeance.
- Christ says Kempe already does enough, but if she really wants to know: pray for them, have compassion, and don't let them die in sin.
- In the end, Christ says, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. People have all the resources to live good lives, but they persist in their wicked ways.
Book I, Chapters 21-25
- Skipping back in time—to before Kempe's vow of chastity—Christ tells her that she is pregnant, again.
- Kempe kind of despairs: how is she to live the contemplative life if she's got to take care of a crying baby?
- Christ says that he will work it out for her, so she shouldn't worry. Kempe laments her married life the loss of her virginity.
- Kempe's worried. She can't live a perfect life if she has lost her virginity; she can't dedicate her purest self to God.
- Christ comforts Kempe by saying that he "loves wives too." He's really interested in the gift of love, and so he encourages Kempe to think about his love for her and vice-versa.
- Christ tells Kempe that the best way to love him is to think about how wicked she is and how great he is.
- Kempe is down with that. She already thinks she's the most horrible creature in the world, after all, so this shouldn't be too hard.
- But Christ doesn't want Kempe to despair. It's a fine line. He tells her that he doesn't think about how bad a person has been, but about how good that person will be in the future.
- Christ tells Kempe to remember the stories of St. Paul, St. Mary of Egypt, and Mary Magdalene. They all had huge conversions from previous, wicked lives.
- Christ also promises Kempe that she may converse with any saint in heaven that she chooses. This is because he loves her with all his heart.
- Naturally, this reduces Kempe to tears. Mary then speaks to her and says she will teach Kempe how to please God.
- Kempe speaks with Mary for a long time and is so embarrassed by the favor she is shown that she doesn't want to tell anybody else but her confessor.
- Kempe has a vision of maidens dancing in heaven—and it makes her cry.
- Kempe complains to Christ that she will never be part of that group, because she is a wife with fourteen children.
- But Christ promises that he loves Kempe best, and that when she dies, he will appear himself to take her before his father for judgment. His mother, the apostles, angels, and several saints will also appear.
- Christ tells Kempe not to worry about the devil: he's more afraid of her than she is of him.
- Christ explains that Kempe will be welcome in heaven because she has given the saints drink through all the tears she's shed.
- Christ will favor Kempe as he did with saints Barbara, Catherine, Margaret, and Paul (all virgin martyrs): anything people ask in her name until the end of time will be granted.
- Christ calls Kempe a "maiden in her soul" and tells her that she will be given the same joy in heaven as actual virgins.
- Kempe gives examples of her revelations concerning the souls and lives of the people around her.
- First, there is a vicar who comes to Kempe for professional advice, and she learns from God that he is to continue in his course of work. He does as advised and prospers.
- Kempe is one day in the presence of a corpse in the church of St. Margaret. The husband is there to offer prayers, and Christ tells her that he will also soon be dead—and it happens.
- There follow several similar stories of people on the verge of death. Each time, Christ reveals to Kempe the state of these people's souls, and he says whether they will live or die.
- Kempe prays for those in need and helps save many from damnation.
- Finally, Kempe's special friend falls ill, and everyone thinks that she will die, but Christ tells Kempe that her friend will recover, and they will continue their friendship.
- Kempe says that these revelations are exquisitely painful to her. She is especially upset when what God tells her seems to be at odds with what she knows—but she gets over it when the truth comes out.
- This chapter has less to do with revelation and more to do with Kempe's good judgment—though she would never let us believe she had common sense without God's help.
- These stories concern the priest who was writing down Kempe's narrative. He was often skeptical enough to question Kempe about her revelations, but he was less skeptical when dealing with men.
- Kempe recalls a time when a handsome, well-spoken young man came into the parish with a serious backstory: he was a priest who got caught up in a fight and killed one or two men.
- The guy asks the priest to help him by finding "support" for him in the area. The priest likes the guy and promises to help, so he goes to a prominent citizen of the city.
- But Kempe distrusts the story of the handsome stranger. She tells the prominent citizen that he should spend his charitable money on the people of the city instead.
- The priest is annoyed that Kempe has interfered and ruined his chances of helping the stranger. She tells him that her "feelings" tell her the man is a scoundrel.
- In the end, the handsome man bilks the priest out of some silver with the promise of repaying him. He never returns and never pays back.
- On another occasion, a shady old man tries to sell the priest a breviary. The priest is a little bit of a simpleton and would like to buy it, but he consults with Kempe first.
- Kempe tells the priest to take a pass on it, because she "feels" that there's something wrong with the old man.
- The priest takes Kempe's advice and asks the old man some pointed questions about where he'd gotten such a nice book (books in this day were wicked expensive).
- The old man gives the priest his best story and tells him that the owner wanted him to sell it to a young priest, and for a good price. Whatevs.
- The old man promises to bring the priest the breviary in the morning—but he vanishes and is never seen again.
- Kempe never uses the word "revelation" in this chapter: she's telling us about her common sense or "sixth sense" and her discretion in worldly matters.
- Kempe here remembers an extraordinary instance in which her "feeling" predicted the right outcome of a tricky situation.
- Kempe's town of Bishop's Lynn had a parish church (St. Margaret's) and two smaller chapels.
- The chapels were under the control of the prior of St. Margaret's and could administer all sacraments except baptism and purification.
- The parishioners of these chapels wanted to press for a papal bull to grant the chapels the right to perform these other two sacraments.
- Since the parishioners who wanted the change for the chapels were wealthy men and had many lords on their side, everyone considered it a done deal.
- What's the big deal, you say? Well, if the chapels could administer all the sacraments, it would take away from the dignity and income of the main parish church, St. Margaret's.
- The Bishop of Norwich sided with the parishioners of the larger of the two chapels and gave them the right to perform the other sacraments, as long as it didn't detract from the main church.
- So the young priest who is writing down Kempe's story comes to her to ask advice. Does she think that the wealthy parishioners will get their way and take away from St. Margaret's?
- Against all appearances, Kempe says no. Her feeling is that the parishioners will not accept the conditions set out by the bishop.
- Kempe prays to God that his will be done in the matter… but could he please come out on the side of St. Margaret's?
- Sure enough, Kempe tells us, the wealthy parishioners are too proud to take the conditions of the bishop, so they get nothing.
- St. Margaret's retains all its power, and the little chapels stay small.
Book I, Chapters 26-30
- And so Kempe finally sets out on her journey for Jerusalem. First, she clears her family debts before leaving with the inheritance from her father, as per the agreement with her husband.
- It isn't long before Kempe's constant weeping and speaking of the love of God completely annoy the company with which she is traveling. They mock her and treat her badly. Kempe is devastated, because she really wants them to like her.
- Finally, Kempe's traveling companions tell her that they are taking her maidservant and parting ways.
- Kempe takes up with another party but finds herself treated even worse by them. They cut up her gown to make her look like a fool and seat her by herself at dinner.
- Kempe has a bad time of it, but in the end, she still prays for the safety of the group when it looks like they might be compromised.
- In the end, she safely completes part of her journey (to Constance, on the Rhine River in Germany), though she's miserable.
- Kempe finds a sympathetic English friar who is legate to the pope to undertake her cause in Constance. He listens to her life story and promises to help her.
- The friar is a very prominent figure, so the wretched company with which Kempe is traveling naturally wants to invite him to dinner.
- The friar asks Kempe to act just in the way she normally does during dinner so that he can see for himself how she is being treated.
- When the friar gets there, he sees how things are. He brings it up during dinner, and the company complains to him of Kempe's tears and refusal to eat meat. Can't he fix her, they wonder?
- The friar flatly refuses to order Kempe to stop her behavior, since her tears are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and those who can abstain from meat should.
- But the friar does tell Kempe to stop talking about God until she gets into more appreciative company.
- The wicked company of people is outraged by the friar's words, and they kick Kempe out of their group. They keep her maidservant and some of her money, however.
- But the English friar treats Kempe well and arranges everything for her travel on to Bologna and Venice.
- Kempe prays for good help on her journey, and when she leaves the church, an old man named William Wever offers his company to her. Remember Christ's promise that a broken-backed old man would help her?
- Wever is afraid that they will be mugged on the journey. Kempe keeps in mind the biblical story of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11) and prays to God to be protected from enemies.
- But Kempe and Wever make it to Bologna without any unpleasantness, and Kempe finds good company there.
- Until, that is, Kempe meets up with her old, wicked companions she had left in Constance. They are amazed that she got to Bologna before them, and they want her to rejoin the company.
- For some reason, Kempe does. Her companions tell her that she can't talk about God anymore—she can only party with them. She agrees.
- The group makes it to Venice. They hang out there for thirteen weeks waiting for a ship to take them to Jaffa.
- But of course, Kempe can't keep her promise not to speak of God. Pretty soon, she's exiled to her room for six weeks, during which time she nearly dies. But then she doesn't.
- Once again, Kempe's companions isolate her and take away her maidservant.
- Kempe's "companions" arrange, as a group, everything they need for the passage from Venice to Jerusalem—but they do nothing for her.
- Kempe's feelings are hurt, but she pulls herself together and makes the arrangements on her own. Then she goes back to the group and tells them that she did it all for herself.
- But God speaks to Kempe's mind and tells her not to take passage in the same ship as her company. He gives her the name of a better, safer ship to take.
- And for some reason, Kempe tells her company about the message from God. They can't stand her, but they're also superstitious, so they change ships as well and follow Kempe.
- Do they treat her better after that? Of course not. Kempe tells us about the abuses she suffers at the hands of her fellow travelers, including the outrageous behavior of a priest.
- But when she gets to Jerusalem, Kempe apologizes for her annoying behavior and freely forgives all the jerks she's been traveling with. We are impressed.
- As Kempe approaches Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, she is overcome with emotion to be in the place where Jesus lived and died.
- Kempe tells us that she nearly "falls off her ass." We kid you not.
- While in Jerusalem, Kempe's tears increase, and a new dimension is added to her expressions: screaming (which she calls "crying" or "crying out").
- It happens a lot, and pretty much everywhere Kempe goes, because she is feeling great sorrow at the suffering and death of Christ.
- People are overwhelmed by Kempe's loud and frightening behavior, and they say terrible things about her. She understands and tries to control it, but she can't.
- Kempe digresses a little to tell us that her "cryings" continue when she gets back to England and become a huge problem for her.
- In Jerusalem, Kempe's crying actually exhausts her physically. When she comes to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christ was crucified, she can't contain her response.
- Kempe explains that she is actually seeing Christ in front of her, suffering in real time. This causes her to scream, fall, and writhe on the ground.
- Kempe also sees Christ in other people who are suffering: children and dogs being beaten in the street, people with wounds, and so on.
- Kempe's been pretty good about taking criticism for her weeping, but now she gets a little mad.
- People have compassion when someone is mourning a lost love or friend, she says. If they wouldn't stop a grieving friend from crying and yelling, why do they bother her?
- Kempe feels she has much more reason for sorrow, since she can see her Savior being torn to bits before her eyes.
- Kempe thinks that people have their priorities wrong, and she takes the opportunity to wag her finger at them.
- More weeping in the Holy Land.
- When Kempe approaches the sepulcher of Christ, she falls down. She also has a revelation of Mary's sorrow at the death of her son and feels her pain.
- Kempe visits Calvary and sees the Stone of Anointing, where she continues to weep. And not just weep: she screams out "amazingly." Kempe is still re-living Christ's experiences in these places—and she is having deep conversations with God all the while.
- Kempe tells us that the subjects of these conversations were so high and divine that she can't even describe the content of them to us. She just doesn't have the words to translate the emotions.
- The Franciscan friars are leading Kempe's group around Jerusalem and take them along the Via Dolorosa to experience the steps of Jesus's passion and death.
- Kempe visits the Franciscan convent on Mount Zion, which was supposed to house the place where Jesus and his disciples ate the Last Supper.
- Kempe especially wants to take Communion in this place, because this is where Jesus instituted the sacrament itself. Of course, there's a lot of weeping and screaming.
- Kempe also visits the Church of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. She chats with both Mary and Jesus here.
- Jesus tells Kempe that she doesn't have to travel to Rome or Santiago de Compostela to clear away her sins (he's already forgiven her), but he wants her to, anyway.
- Mary once again tells Kempe not to be ashamed of weeping. Everybody cries with grief, she says. Even herself and Mary Magdalene.
- The chapter ends with Kempe visiting Bethlehem, the place of Jesus's birth. She weeps more.
- Kempe's traveling companions are so, so done with her. They make her eat by herself, but the Franciscan friars/tour guides take pity on her and let her join their table.
- One of the friars asks her traveling companions if Kempe is the holy Englishwoman they'd all heard about.
- This encourages Kempe, because Jesus had promised her that the whole world would marvel at her.
- Kempe has to deal with more bullying nonsense in this chapter. This time, her companions don't want her to accompany them on a side-trip to the Jordan River.
- Kempe's feelings are hurt—and she super wants to go. So she puts on her big girl pants and decides not to ask their permission for once. She goes and burns up in the heat.
- Kempe travels also to Mt. Quarentyne, where it is believed that Christ fasted for forty days and was tempted by Satan.
- Naturally, Kempe's traveling companions won't help her up the mountain, so she pays a "Saracen man" (i.e. a Muslim man) to help her reach the top.
- The Muslim man is good-looking and nice, so Kempe wins. She travels to St. John the Baptist's birthplace, Bethany (home of Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus).
- Kempe visits the Chapel of the Apparition at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (on a second visit), and lots of other places.
- Kempe tells us that she gets on well with the Franciscans at the Holy Sepulchre and with the Muslim escorts throughout the city. Only her English companions loathe her.
- Finally, Christ speaks to Kempe and tells her it's time to hit the road. She's bound for Rome and then home again to England.
- Once Kempe gets to Venice again, her English companions flatly refuse to travel with her. She's on her own.
- But do you remember Kempe's confessor's prophecy back in England? That she would meet a broken-backed man to help her? Well, that happens now.
- His name is Richard, and like William Wever on the way out, he's afraid that he's too frail to protect Kempe from thieves and rapists. Kempe tells him it's all good, and they set out.
- Soon, Kempe and Richard meet up with some Franciscan friars and a woman, and they make up a party to Rome.
- The woman traveling with the group has a picture of Christ with her, and when they stop, she takes it out for people to venerate. Kempe loves them all the more for their devotion. She weeps.
- Kempe soon realizes that the Franciscans and Italians really get her. Whenever she weeps out of devotion, they sense she is holy and take care of her.
Book I, Chapters 31-35
- Kempe talks about a harrowing moment when she lost her special "wedding ring to Christ" in a boarding house in Rome.
- Kempe hints that the woman who runs the house had a guilty eye about her—and then the woman finds her ring and asks Kempe to pray for her soul.
- Kempe then goes off to the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi (about 98 miles northeast of Rome) on a mini-pilgrimage.
- Kempe meets an English Franciscan friar there who is very impressed with her "homely" or intimate experiences of God.
- Kempe meets a gentlewoman named Margaret Florentyne who is on her way back to Rome. Margaret travels with Knights of Rhodes (the former Knights Hospitaller) and several other gentlewomen, so Kempe has Richard ask her if they might join the group. You know, for safety.
- Thankfully, Margaret is kindhearted and lets Kempe join the group. When they get to Rome, Kempe's original traveling companions see her enter with pomp and are jealous. Burn.
- Kempe now clothes herself in white and goes to an English hospice in Rome to take Communion.
- Kempe screams and weeps a lot, but somehow, the master of the hospital loves her, anyway.
- But that doesn't last for long. As usual, Kempe has haters, and pretty soon she's cast out of the hospital and has to find someplace else to take Communion.
- Kempe doesn't let bullies get her down, so she hops over to the Italian church across the street to see if she can receive Communion there.
- The parson does not speak English, so he and Kempe communicate in the few ecclesiastical Latin words they need for confession and Communion.
- Then Kempe does something pretty amazing. Hindered by the language barrier, she decides to have confession in her soul with none other than St. John the Evangelist (apparently, he speaks English).
- When she's not chatting up St. John, Kempe talks with Jesus. She asks him to keep the tears coming so that she can show her devotion to him.
- Jesus tells Kempe that she can best show her devotion by believing that he loves her.
- Kempe meets a priest of the church of St. John Lateran in Rome. She takes a liking to him, but he also can't speak English. They speak through an interpreter, and Kempe tells him to pray that they may understand each other.
- After thirteen days of this, Kempe and the priest meet again and can understand each other with no help. She confesses to him and does a lot of screaming and crying in the church.
- People don't like this, and they say that the devil is working through Kempe—but the priest believes she is holy. At least, mostly.
- When the priest has doubts, Kempe learns about his wicked ways from God and tells the priest that she knows what he's been up to. Yeah, it's spiritual blackmail, but it works.
- The priest gives all his time to supporting Kempe against those who speak evil of her. But he still makes one more trial of her sincerity, to make sure she's not just showboating.
- The priest takes Kempe into another church, one that is empty after Mass, to give her Communion. He figures that if she's screaming to show off, she won't do it without an audience.
- But Kempe screams and weeps, anyway. The priest is satisfied that the tears are from the Holy Spirit.
- Not everyone is so pleased with Kempe—especially other English people in Rome. She tells us that her arch-nemesis is a priest who hates her. He tries to make her change out of her white clothes.
- Unfortunately, Kempe's foreign priest-friend from St. John Lateran is affected by the smack that the wicked English priest has been talking.
- The Italian priest also asks if Kempe will drop the white clothing and dress like a regular woman again.
- Since Kempe promises obedience, she does it. But it's okay, since she realizes that God is pleased with her obedience.
- Kempe has a run-in with the angry English priest, who accuses her again of having a devil in her. Kempe tells him that she would be angry with him if she did—and she's not.
- That really gets the English priest's goat. God tells her not to listen to him, because he has no love for this priest.
- God does, however, declare his love for Kempe again, and tells her that he is crucified again every time she endures sharp words from anyone.
- The friendly priest then tells Kempe that she needs to serve a poor woman for six weeks in penance.
- Kempe has a hard time of it, but she completes her service with flair.
- Kempe continues church-hopping in Rome and finds herself at the Church of the Apostles around November 9, 1414.
- Kempe has her first conversation with God the Father (as opposed to his son, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity).
- God tells Kempe that they are to be married. It freaks her out.
- Kempe explains that she is very devoted to the humanity of Jesus and is unfamiliar with "the Godhead" (i.e. God the Father).
- Kempe feels so much love for Christ that if she sees boy babies or handsome men in Rome, she bursts into tears thinking they are images of him.
- Jesus chimes into the conversation and asks what Kempe thinks about this whole wedding thing. She's totally upset: she doesn't want to be parted from Jesus in any way.
- Jesus apologizes to his father for Kempe's hesitation. She really doesn't understand, he says.
- God is down with it and takes Kempe's "spiritual hand" to marry her (um, keep in mind that this is a mystical marriage, not a bodily one).
- Many saints and angels are present as God speaks his vow to Kempe—a pretty ordinary vow, to be totally honest.
- Kempe comes around a little bit after the "ceremony," when everyone in heaven is celebrating. She thanks God for the favor he has shown but is subdued.
- After this, Kempe tells us that she had many signs of favor: sweet smells, music in her ears, sparkly white dots in the air, and a burning fire of love in her heart.
- At first, Kempe's pretty freaked out by these sensations. But Jesus explains that they are all marks of favor to her, to reassure her of the presence of God.
- Jesus also tells Kempe that she pleases him most when she is silent and allows him to speak to her, rather than when she says prayers or does penance.
Book I, Chapters 36-40
- Jesus tells Kempe how best to please God. It's not through penance or prayers; it's through the contemplative life (in this case, that pretty much means weeping and thinking on God).
- But Jesus gives Kempe the power to choose how she enacts her devotion: prayers, or fasting, or other forms of penance. It's all good.
- Jesus tells Kempe that if he were on earth again in his body, everybody would know how much he loved her. And this is where things get a little... odd.
- Jesus tells Kempe that it is appropriate for a wife to be on intimate or "homely" terms with her husband, and so he will lie in bed with her. Kempe, he says, is to touch him as a wife does a husband. Uh, girl, this is J. C. himself…
- To put the awkward cherry on top of this pile of awkwardness, Jesus refers to himself as Kempe's lover, son, and father—followed by the request again to take him into the "arms of her soul" and kiss him.
- Joking aside, Jesus is actually not being a creeper here. Kempe experiences him in very orthodox terms: Christ as bridegroom, as Son of God the Father, and as Lord or Father/Mother of all.
- This is all very confusing if you're not in on the terminology, but just know that Jesus isn't actually asking Kempe to get it on with him: he's talking metaphorically about being one with God. This is all about mystical marriage, the kind of thing we saw back in Chapter 35.
- All of this is done so that Kempe can understand one thing: that she is to love God as he loves her.
- Jesus gives Kempe different signs that his love for her is true. She says she hears a bellows blowing in her ear (it's actually the Holy Spirit), which turns into birdsong in time.
- Jesus says that Kempe has been a good mother to him—and to all the world—because she has a great deal of charity in her.
- Jesus continues to praise Kempe with an unusual simile: she sticks to him like the skin of a boiled stockfish sticks to a man's hand. Yum.
- Jesus is also impressed because Kempe has said that she would love him even if he hated her and made her spend all of eternity in hell. But he won't let that happen.
- Kempe now recalls how Wenslawe, her confessor in Rome, let her wear white clothes again. God wanted it, and you can't say no to that.
- Kempe now also quits going to the poor woman she had been serving as part of her penance.
- Now God tells Kempe that she has to give all her money away and be poor for his sake. She also gives away all the money that her broken-backed servant, Richard, loaned her.
- Richard's pretty peeved by this, but Kempe promises to pay him back when they get home.
- Now that she's penniless, Kempe is worried about how to feed herself till she gets home. Jesus tells her to concentrate on their conversations instead—he'll sort out all matters of moolah.
- Jesus assures Kempe that he'll send enough friends along the way to keep her comfortable.
- Sure enough, Kempe immediately meets a good man who admires her holiness and gives her money.
- Kempe has a vision of the Virgin Mary asking people for food for her (Kempe).
- Kempe is comforted and soon meets up with the wealthy Margaret Florentyne (from Chapter 31), who provides her with Sunday dinner and food for several days in the week.
- Two other spiritual admirers provide food on other days, and then Kempe begs for the rest.
- Kempe sees the poverty of Rome through her begging. She is given wine by a poor woman with a baby, and she sees the infant Christ in the woman's child. Jesus tells her that the house is holy.
- Kempe is thankful for the poverty she is in, because it places her in solidarity with the poor of Rome.
- It turns out that Kempe has a lot of friends in Rome. The Master of the Hospital of St. Thomas—the hospice that she'd been exiled from—renews their friendship.
- While there, Kempe runs into one of her former maidservants. The girl is doing well and will not serve Kempe again—but she gives her former employer food and money.
- Kempe continues visiting holy places. She speaks with St. Bridget of Sweden's former maidservant and visits the place where the holy woman died.
- Kempe learns that St. Bridget was actually popular and laughed a lot (quite a contrast from Kempe herself).
- During this time, Kempe is saved from natural disasters by direct warnings from God.
- Kempe gets to enjoy her reputation as a "servant of God" now, because her frightened companions beg her to pray for their safety.
- Jesus reassures Kempe that the storms will never harm her, and everybody makes it through just fine.
- Kempe meets a priest from England who has heard of her spirituality and wants to meet her. He's like her first roadie, bringing extra money with him to help her on her journey.
- The priest calls Kempe "mother" and won't allow her to go begging for her food anymore. He also gives her money to return to England.
- But Kempe's adversaries are never far behind. Remember that troop from Jerusalem? They show up and complain that Kempe confesses to a priest who doesn't speak her language.
- The good priest decides to put the situation to the test. He invites the foreign priest to dinner and tries to speak with him in English. Of course, he doesn't understand a word.
- But then Kempe speaks with the foreign priest—and he understands everything.
- Kempe takes the opportunity to emphasize that she doesn't cry by choice: the tears only come when God wills it. But when they come, she can do nothing about it.
Book I, Chapters 41-45
- Kempe describes her frustration at being an unlearned Englishwoman in a foreign land. Sometimes she can't understand the speech of the foreign priests, and it frustrates her.
- Jesus tells Kempe to chill: he'll instruct her himself in her soul.
- Of course, this is so great and overwhelming to Kempe that she just has to weep. The fire of love in her heart is too strong, yo.
- Kempe tells concerned passersby that Christ's Passion just kills her with grief. Italian women totally get her and do what they can to comfort her.
- And so she enjoys a good reputation among some people in Rome, who report her goodness to friendly English priests.
- When she visits the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Kempe has a vision of St. Jerome (who is supposedly buried in the Nativity Crypt there).
- St. Jerome tells her that her tears will benefit many people (remember that she's weeping for her sins and the sins of others)—and that they are a gift from God.
- After Easter (in 1415), Kempe and her companions decide to head on home to England. But there are rumors of thieves and murderers along the way.
- Kempe prays, and Jesus tells her that she and her companions will arrive home safely.
- So Kempe says an unhappy goodbye to her confessor and all her friends in Rome and takes off for England with the English priest who calls her "mother."
- The priest afraid of being murdered by robbers, but Kempe reassures him. The rest of the party takes ship for England once they reach an island off Denmark, but they hang out a while.
- While there, God warns Kempe of a terrible storm, and she takes cover. She finally learns that God is on her side, and she doesn't have to be afraid.
- Kempe also loses it when she hears an Englishman curse. She weeps uncontrollably because the man didn't understand how much he had offended God.
- Kempe and the good priest get in a small boat for England. When they reach English soil safely, Kempe falls to her knees and kisses the ground.
- Kempe earns some money from other pilgrims by telling holy stories. She gives the money as an offering when she gets to Norwich, where she visits her favorite confessor, Richard of Caister.
- Richard is amazed that Kempe is so happy after traveling so far. She tells him it's because God helped her so much on the trip.
- Kempe goes on to visit another religious man called Thomas Brakelyn. But Thomas has turned against her and accuses her of having a baby out of wedlock while abroad.
- God tells Kempe not to put herself under Thomas's power and to get herself home.
- Once again, Kempe asks God if she has to wear white clothes. She needs a sign from heaven.
- So God sends a terrific storm. Kempe gets the message, but she has no money for new white clothes.
- When Kempe talks with a "worthy man" of Norwich, God tells her to ask him for the white clothes. The man has the clothes made for her.
- But of course, parading about in white clothes makes Kempe a target for ridicule. As usual.
- Kempe's husband then travels to Norwich to check on her. She gets really sick and is "anointed"—she thinks she will die.
- But God has other plans and tells Kempe that she will not die at this time.
- Even though she recovers, Kempe suffers from poverty (she's in debt from all that traveling) and from the abuse of others (for the white clothes and for screaming in public).
- People speculate that Kempe has epilepsy, based on the evidence of her writhing on the floor and screeching. So they spit on her, because that makes it better, right?
- Things aren't going well, but Kempe's about to make another pilgrimage, this time to Santiago de Compostela.
- Kempe's having money problems and can't fund the trip. God tells her not to worry—he'll arrange things.
- As before, benefactors pop up everywhere. Pretty soon, Kempe has what she needs. So, off she goes on the pilgrimage road again.
- Kempe's first stop is in Bristol so that she can pay broken-backed Richard, her servant from the Holy Land trip, all the money of his that she gave away.
- But Kempe has a hard time taking ship from Bristol to Spain, since Henry V had requisitioned most ships for his war efforts in France.
- While Kempe waits it out in Bristol, she does her thing: takes Communion and weeps and shrieks. People don't much like her.
- Kempe forgives their hatred and prays to God to forgive her sins, too.
- Kempe has a particularly spectacular episode during the Corpus Christi processions in Bristol. She has to be taken to a house nearby to calm down.
- But Kempe somehow still has friends and admirers. She mentions Thomas Marchale, who is so moved by her sadness for his own sins that he, too, starts walking about and weeping.
- Marchale gives Kempe money to continue her journey and promises to give to the poor in her name.
- Before she can get going, Kempe is summoned by the Bishop of Worcester. She is annoyed by the fashionable dress of the bishop's men, and she tells them so.
- But when Kempe comes before the bishop, he swears that he never summoned her. Still, he gives her hospitality until her ship is ready to sail.
- The bishop knows that he will die within two years (another holy man prophesied it), and he asks Kempe to pray for his soul.
- When Kempe gets onboard the ship, she prays that they have good weather. The other passengers have already told her that they will pitch her in the sea if things go badly.
- The ships get to Santiago quickly, Kempe cries a lot, and then they return in perfect safety.
- Kempe goes on to Hailes Abbey, where she rebukes the religious men for cursing. She's just a bundle of fun.
Book I, Chapters 46-50
- Kempe makes her way to Leicester (about 70 miles northeast of Hailes Abbey). She makes the journey with Thomas Marchale's protection.
- When Kempe enters the church there, the "fire of love" consumes her. There is much weeping and screaming.
- This time, Kempe runs into some serious trouble. She is called before John Arnesby, Mayor of Leicester, to account for her strange behavior.
- Arnesby has no good opinion of Kempe and sends for the jailer to take her away. But the jailer explains that he has no separate holding cell for women.
- Kempe begs not to be jailed with the men (she fears being raped), so the jailer takes her home to his wife and vouches for her.
- The jailer locks Kempe into a nice room, lets her eat with his own family, and permits her to go to church whenever she wants.
- Now the Steward of Leicester visits Kempe at the jailer's house and speaks Latin to her. Kempe sensibly tells him to speak English to her.
- The steward has no good opinion of Kempe and questions her, hoping to catch her in heresy—or at least a lie. But it doesn't work, and the steward gets pretty hot. He curses at her and threatens to rape her.
- The steward says that Kempe must tell him whether her talk is divinely inspired or from Satan.
- Now things get really tense.
- The steward "struggles with" Kempe, making lewd "signs" to her.
- Kempe, frightened out of her mind, tells the steward that her speech comes from the Holy Spirit. The steward immediately stops his advances and hands her back to the kind jailer. Whew.
- Now Kempe's friend Thomas Marchale and other fellow pilgrims are thrown in prison because of their acquaintance with Kempe.
- Christ tells Kempe not to worry: they won't be in jail for long. The next day, there are terrible storms. The people in the town say that God is unhappy about the jailed pilgrims.
- The pilgrims are immediately taken out of jail and brought before the mayor to be questioned about Kempe. They say she is a "chaste" woman, and the mayor frees them.
- The storm stops. The pilgrims high-tail it out of Leicester and hole up ten miles from there so that they can still hear news of Kempe, who they fear will be burned.
- It's Kempe's turn to undergo examination by the Abbot, Dean, and many other Notable Men of Leicester. This happens at All Saints' Church in the High Street, not far from the Guild Hall, where she was already questioned by the mayor.
- The dudes ask Kempe what she believes about the Eucharist (they're checking to see if she is a Lollard). Her answer is a good one.
- The mayor behaves badly, even though he's in a church. Kempe takes his lewd language as an insult against her chastity. She schools him hard and tells him he isn't worthy to be mayor.
- The mayor asks Kempe about her white clothes. Kempe tells him to step off: she'll only speak to religious men about this.
- In the end, the horrid mayor refuses to let Kempe off the hook unless she goes back to the Bishop of Lincoln for a letter saying that she's legit.
- Now Kempe is pleased, since she and the Bishop of Lincoln are BFFs (see Chapter 15). Win.
- Somehow, Kempe leaves the place "in charity" with the mayor—meaning that she bears him no ill will. He pretends to be nice to her in return.
- So off Kempe pops to Leicester Abbey to pray.
- When the good abbot and his men greet her, Kempe sees them as Christ and his Apostles coming to welcome her. She cries. A lot.
- The abbot and his men give Kempe food and drink and, most importantly, a letter from the abbot to the Bishop of Lincoln summing up Kempe's current difficulties.
- We find out that the Dean of Leicester is willing to vouch for Kempe because he thinks that God loves her. Score one for Kempe.
- Kempe's friend and traveling companion Thomas Marchale (see Chapter 45) sends a man called Patrick to get news about Kempe. (He fears that she has been burned at the stake.)
- Patrick accompanies Kempe to Lincoln. But Kempe forgets her bag and a souvenir from her pilgrimage to the Holy Land back in Leicester, so Patrick goes back to retrieve it.
- Patrick's confronted by the horrid mayor, who wants to put him in prison. Patrick barely escapes, so Kempe's stuff has to stay where it is.
- Kempe tells Patrick that God will reward him for his heroic efforts. He brings her to his own house, reuniting her with Thomas Marchale—who is glad to see she is unburned.
- Kempe makes her way to Lincoln, where she runs into a man she doesn't recognize. He's a bit upset, because he had once been nice to her. Awkward.
- Kempe tells the man that he should do nice things for God's love. She never remembers men's faces, anyway.
- In the end, Kempe gets her letter from the bishop to the Mayor of Leicester. The bishop tells the mayor to step off and leave Kempe alone from now on.
- There are heavy storms in the area, which the people interpret as divine vengeance over the treatment of Kempe. They want her to leave, but she wants her bag back.
- The mayor wants Kempe gone, so he sends her the bag. Patrick accompanies her to York (about 112 miles north of Leicester).
- In York, Kempe goes to visit an anchoress she had befriended before her trip to Jerusalem.
- But this anchoress heard so many bad things about Kempe that she no longer wants to speak with her.
- Christ warns Kempe that rough times are ahead.
- Kempe says that she is ready and willing to suffer it for his love.
- Kempe tells a cleric that she intends to stay in York for fourteen days. During this time, she finds many friends who welcome her.
- But there's also a lot of slander going around. Kempe gets manhandled by a priest for wearing white clothes. She calls him out for cursing, and they argue.
Book I, Chapters 51-55
- Kempe explains to a cleric what the phrase "Be fruitful and multiply" (from Genesis 1:22) means.
- Kempe receives Communion every Sunday in the minster and weeps and screams a lot. People are freaked out.
- A priest reminds Kempe that she meant to leave after fourteen days, and time is getting on.
- Kempe tells the priest that she means to stay fourteen days—more or less. Once again, she gets in trouble and has to report to the Chapterhouse to answer more questions.
- Friends appear to support Kempe; things get tense.
- Kempe is asked if she has a letter of permission from her husband to be on pilgrimage to St. William Fitzherbert's shrine.
- Kempe says that she has her husband's verbal permission and asks if other women have to have a letter of permission from their husbands to move about. Zing.
- Kempe gets as huffy as you will ever see her in this text: why can't she be left in peace?
- Once again, the clerics examine Kempe's religious ideas and find that she isn't a heretic. In the end, she is summoned to appear before the Archbishop of York and is sent to prison till then.
- But Kempe's friends speak up and take responsibility for her so that she doesn't have to go to jail.
- A cleric who had sided against Kempe asks her forgiveness. He wasn't really against her, but he was afraid to stand up for her.
- A monk comes to York to preach and decides to make Kempe the butt of his sermons.
- Kempe decides to be glad that God has sent her more trials, because suffering=love of God.
- Kempe is escorted to the Archbishop of York by sympathetic people who vouch for her.
- When Kempe gets to the Archbishop's house, people hate on her in a big way. They want her burned. Kempe tells them to watch their mouths: cursing will be their damnation.
- The archbishop has already determined that Kempe is a heretic, without speaking to her. He has the wicked preacher monk and another doctor of divinity with him.
- Things don't look good for Kempe. It doesn't help that her prayers have left her in a puddle of tears and sobbing loudly. But she answers the archbishop's questions about religion well.
- The archbishop still accuses Kempe of being a "wicked woman," based on the rumors he's heard. She says that there are rumors about his reputation as well. Ouch.
- The archbishop just can't even with Kempe anymore. He wants her to swear on the Bible that she will get out of town.
- But Kempe won't leave until she can say goodbye to her friends and go to confession. Go, Kempe.
- The archbishop tries to make Kempe swear that she won't teach people or call them out on their sins.
- That's also a no go. Kempe can't promise that she won't speak of God or spirituality.
- There's a bit of kerfuffle about what St. Paul said about women preachers—but Kempe will have none of it. She doesn't preach.
- A doctor of divinity accuses Kempe of telling a horrid tale about a priest. The archbishop demands that she tell the tale.
- The tale involves a priest and a bear that devours pear-tree blossoms and then poops them out. The archbishop actually likes the story a lot.
- Another cleric feels guilty when the tale is told, because he's a lot like the bad priest in it. He later begs Kempe for forgiveness.
- The archbishop wants to pay someone to escort Kempe outta there. Young men jump at the chance, but the archbishop won't have it. A man from his household gets the job.
- Kempe kneels before the archbishop and asks his blessing. Amazingly, he gives it—and asks her to pray for him.
- Kempe goes back to York, where she wows people with her wisdom, despite her lack of education.
- After visiting with friends and her confessor, Kempe makes her way to Hessle to cross the Humber (about 37 miles southeast of York). But she gets arrested.
- This time, it's the Duke of Bedford's men. Apparently, Kempe's a wanted woman (Lollardy again).
- People are actually gathering in the streets to scream for Kempe to be burned. Not good.
- Men tell Kempe that she should go home and act like a real woman, rather than keep up wandering this life of hers.
- Kempe keeps her chin up and tells "good stories" to the men who escort her. When they arrive, one of them regrets harassing her because she speaks "good words."
- This guy asks Kempe to pray for him if she is ever a saint in heaven; Kempe says that she hopes he will be a saint in heaven himself.
- Once again, Kempe is given good lodgings in the house of one of her jailers. This time, they lock her up and take away her purse and ring. They also arrest the Archbishop of York's man (who was with Kempe) and throw him in prison. This is not a wise political move.
- Kempe may be locked up, but she has a window. Women gather outside, and she tells them good stories.
- When the wife of the household isn't able to give Kempe drink, the women get a ladder and bring refreshment to her.
- Kempe hears (with her "bodily ears") Christ calling to her. He tells her that humiliation is a good thing. It's even better than having her head cut off three times.
- Christ promises that Kempe's sorrows will be turned to joy.
- Now Kempe is brought to another chapterhouse—this time at Beverley Minster. The Archbishop of York is there, and he is not pleased.
- The Archbishop of York tells the assembly that Kempe is all right. What's the problem now?
- Again, Kempe is accused Lollardy, but there is something more political behind the accusation this time.
- The Duke of Bedford has a personal problem with Kempe. The archbishop has her held again.
- The accusation is that Kempe encouraged the Duke of Bedford's daughter to leave her husband.
- Kempe denies it and promises that she will go to the mother and get a letter saying that she had no part in such a plan.
- People clamor for Kempe's imprisonment, but the archbishop asks her about her conversation with the Duke of Bedford's wife. It includes another tale, which Kempe tells.
- The archbishop approves of the tale and can't understand why Kempe has so many haters.
- Kempe asks the archbishop for his letter and seal to prove that she has been exonerated from all charges of heresy. She would just like to get back home.
- The archbishop does this, and he also gives Kempe back her possessions. She finally gets an escort back to the Humber, which she can finally cross.
- So Kempe crosses the Humber on her journey south—and is promptly arrested as a Lollard. Again.
- Things are easier this time, because Kempe has witnesses and the letter from the Archbishop of York.
- Kempe hitches a ride with a man and his wife who are from London and gets as far as Lincoln. Again, she is tormented and questioned by authorities. She tells them that she gets her wise words from the Holy Spirit. That shuts them up right quick.
- Kempe is also taunted by "gentlemen" who want her to tell them if they will be damned or saved in the afterlife. Kempe tells them that if they don't stop cursing, they will be damned.
- Kempe finally makes it to West Lynn, just outside of her hometown of Lynn. She sends for her husband, her confessor, and a doctor of divinity. She describes all her trials.
- Now, Kempe feels she must go to the Archbishop of Canterbury for another letter and seal so that she might be at peace in her own town.
- So Kempe travels to London to meet with the Archbishop at Lambeth Palace. She gets her letter.
- On their way home, Kempe and company are once again arrested. But they have the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter now, so they are instantly released, and they finish their journey.
- Home is not a comforting place for Kempe. There's lots of slander, ugly deeds, and humiliation. People really hate her there.
Book I, Chapters 56-60
- Kempe's suffering now takes a turn and gets physical. She gets dysentery and is at the point of death.
- Then the illness travels: first to Kempe's head and then to her back. It settles in her right side and is so excruciating that she's sure she's going to lose her mind.
- At first, Kempe is like, "Why can't I suffer these little pains when you, Christ, suffered so much for me?" Then she's like, "I can't take this anymore! Physical pain is too much!"
- Kempe decides that "cutting words" are a way better way to suffer for Christ.
- Kempe finds herself re-dedicated to the Passion (that is, the suffering and death) of Jesus Christ. It's so strong in her soul that she sees the events of Christ's suffering and death before her "bodily" and "spiritual" eyes.
- After eight years (!), Kempe gets better and goes back to her crying and screaming during Communion at church.
- Kempe's so disruptive that the priest has to take her to a smaller chapel to give her Communion. She has to be held up by two men because she is so consumed by the fire o' love.
- Taking Communion privately in the chapel at Lynn does not last long for Kempe. A new monk has come to town, and he despises her. He won't allow her to commune in "his" chapel.
- Kempe's confessor, Robert Spryngolde, reminds everyone that they can't deny her Communion outright, because she has the seal of approval from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
- So back Kempe goes to the main church (St. Margaret's). The priest has to wait until she stops crying to give her Communion.
- It turns out that Good Friday is totally unbearable for Kempe, since it really helps her to envision the suffering and death of Christ.
- Kempe tells us that she sobs and screams for five or six hours on this holy day—and then she tells us exactly what she's crying for.
- Jesus speaks to Kempe's soul and tells her to "ask and you shall receive". Kempe says that she wants God not to punish people by damning them to hell.
- Kempe promises that she won't stop praying and crying until all the people of the world are saved from damnation. That's a pretty tall order.
- Kempe ends by telling Christ that she would just love to be chopped up into mincemeat if it would glorify the name of God.
- Kempe has a new problem: her anchorite friend who used to read religious works to her is now gone out of her life. She hungers for good words and has no one.
- So Jesus tells Kempe to be patient, and he will send someone to take the anchorite's place.
- Sure enough, a new priest moves to Lynn with his old mother. They both like Kempe very much, and pretty soon, he is reading to her often.
- Kempe cries out very loudly in front of both mother and son. They don't know what the heck is going on, but they assume that Kempe is very holy.
- It turns out to be a mutually beneficial situation. The priest has to look up and read many religious works that he'd never seen before in order to keep up with Kempe.
- Kempe gives a listing of the works that the new priest reads to her, and it is impressive. Although she's illiterate, she now has access to the most respected mystics and theologians of her day.
- We learn that these reading sessions go on for seven or eight years. At the end of them, the priest gets a large benefice and is forever thankful that Kempe made him do all that reading.
- Kempe becomes more learned and thoughtful in her religious devotion after listening to mystical and theological works being read to her by her priest friend.
- Kempe's revelations become "higher"—though she doesn't reveal specifically what they are. She does learn who will be saved and who will be damned, and this is a heavy psychological burden to her.
- Kempe can't believe that God would tell her such things, since she feels that God is all-merciful and wouldn't damn anyone to hell. She's basically having a crisis of faith.
- Kempe's way of coping is to think that these revelations are from the devil. She simply won't listen to the voice of God on this topic.
- So God decides to teach Kempe a lesson. He stops speaking to her and sending her good thoughts. Instead, he allows the devil to fill her head with ugly (er, sexual) thoughts and images.
- Kempe sees visions of male genitalia and has fantasies of being prostituted to holy men. These visions torment her, mostly because she no longer speaks with God.
- God tells Kempe that she will have to suffer this kind of diabolical communication for twelve days. Then he'll speak to her again. That's harsh, dude.
- After her punishment is over, God tells Kempe that she must believe the things he tells her. Otherwise, she will suffer true evil.
- Kempe has learned her lesson and promises to be obedient forever after.
- Kempe skips back in time to show us a moment when her priest friend (the one who read to her) became seriously ill.
- Christ tells Kempe that he will not die, and she decides to make a journey to Norwich to say a prayer of thanks at the tomb of her holy friend, Richard of Caister.
- When Kempe gets to the tomb, she weeps and writhes on the ground so much that the people around her are annoyed. Again.
- But the clergy know Kempe and take her for a drink at the tavern to calm her down.
- Kempe also has the good luck to run into a sympathetic lady who invites her to dine. This lady witnesses Kempe's cryings firsthand.
- The lady's priest, however, is freaked out and tells Kempe that she doesn't need to cry so much: Christ died a long time ago, after all, so what's with the waterworks?
- Kempe tells this priest that it feels like it was just yesterday that Christ died—and that all good Christians should feel that way about it.
- The lady thinks Kempe is very holy and keeps her as long as she wants to stay.
- When Kempe returns home to Lynn, she finds that her priest-reader-friend has recovered from his illness.
Book I, Chapters 61-65
- Kempe is very excited to hear sermons from a new rock star of a friar who has come to her hometown of Lynn.
- The parish priest warns the new friar about Kempe's cryings and begs him to be patient with her, since she is holy.
- So Kempe goes with the crowds of people to hear the friar speak—and she does her crying thing. The friar puts up with it well enough the first time.
- But the second time round, the friar can't take it. He publicly shames Kempe for it and stirs up the people in the area to hate her.
- Several of Kempe's clerical friends visit with the new friar to convince him that Kempe is really quite holy and that her screaming is a gift from God.
- But the friar isn't biting, and he promises all these emissaries that he will continue to speak against Kempe if she shows up at his sermons.
- Then Kempe's friends advise her not to go to the friar's little talks. She feels horribly excluded, but she attends the sermons of others and gets along.
- Kempe mentions that although she has many detractors, there are also many people who champion her cause and are happy to have her around.
- Kempe's nemesis, the "good friar," preaches another sermon that disrespects her. Only this time, Kempe has more supporters, and they begin to complain.
- The friar puts his foot down and tells Kempe's supporters that any more unrest will cause him to persecute Kempe more directly.
- The priest who eventually writes down Kempe's book (possibly her confessor, Robert Spryngolde) starts to doubt his belief in Kempe. But after reading the life of Mary of Oignies (also a champion crybaby), he comes back to Kempe's side.
- The priest also starts crying when he conducts Mass, and he gets it: Kempe is not faking. She really feels the presence of God.
- The priest suddenly sees accounts of tears and crying in other devotional works and feels justified in supporting Kempe.
- Kempe says that other people have started to see that she's the real thing and begun supporting her. But she still has her haters, who say that she is possessed by the devil. They want the "good friar" to drive the demons from her.
- Kempe emphasizes that her tears are not hers by choice: they are imposed on her from above.
- Kempe refuses to leave town, as some of her friends suggest. She thinks it's appropriate to do her penance (by being slandered) in the town where she sinned the most.
- Things are bad for Kempe. Her confessor points out that almost everyone except him is against her. She tells him to cheer up, because all will end well.
- Jesus reminds Kempe that those who don't believe in her spirituality are cursed—especially if they are clerics. He also tells her that HE is in control of her crying: it's not a choice that she gets to make.
- Kempe tries to leave church when her crying becomes uncontrollable, but Jesus orders her back in. He also promises that she will not cry so much for a while, until things calm down.
- This happens, but people say it is because Kempe is afraid of the "good friar" who preaches against her.
- Jesus further comforts Kempe by reminding her that she's on the path to heaven, since she is being bullied for his sake. He tells her not to reveal her visions to the friar, because the friar isn't worthy to hear of them.
- Jesus promises that the friar will be punished. He reminds Kempe that she has to put aside everything she wants for herself and listen only to what he wants of her. If she does this, she'll have what she wants: eternity in heaven, with no punishment in the afterlife.
- Jesus remembers that Kempe made him "steward of [her] household and executor of all [her] good works" (see Chapter 8). He promises to do right by her in time.
- Kempe is still trying to find the best way to show her love for Christ. He tells her that she can't understand yet how much he loves her. She'll figure it out in the afterlife, though, and be very happy because of all the good thoughts and deeds she had on earth.
- Jesus also tells Kempe that she doesn't need clerics to approve her way of life. He will teach her, and he will approve of her actions.
- Jesus explains that he will be obedient to Kempe's desires if she is obedient to him. It's kind of like a marriage vow.
- Kempe thinks it would be a good idea if Jesus would show clerics how to live the kind of life that she is living—but Jesus thinks this is a bad idea. He says that only the truly humble can live her kind of life, since she is not afraid of being hated and shunned. Clerics live for praise.
- Jesus also says that there is a lot of evil hidden under the holiness of the religious life, and so men of the cloth cannot possibly be given the grace that Kempe has.
- Jesus can only restrain his vengeance on such people because Kempe has prayed for them all. Jesus gives her props for such good spiritual works.
- Kempe asks Jesus not to punish anyone on her account. She wants everyone to be saved from the fires of hell. She promises to weep for them so that they have a better chance in the afterlife.
- Jesus tries to comfort Kempe by saying that he only damns those to hell who really, really deserve it.
- Jesus tells Kempe that she should thank God for her weeping, since she suffers on earth for her sins (rather than in the afterlife, where things would be much worse).
- But Jesus doesn't want Kempe to get a big head about all her good behavior: he reminds her that she is like this because God wants her to be. It's God who is giving her the initiative to do good works and penance.
- Still, God's pretty pleased with Kempe. Jesus thanks her for sticking to her way of life and for taking his side whenever others behave badly.
- Jesus ends by encouraging Kempe and reminding her that she has all the angels and saints in heaven to comfort her if she needs it. He also tells her that she can say "Jesus is my love," because they are on such intimate terms.
- Jesus says that Kempe's had many other signs that he loves her (i.e. she's allowed to live chaste though married, she now loves him with all her heart though she didn't think she could, etc.).
Book I, Chapters 66-70
- Jesus tells Kempe that it's time to start eating meat again. She'd given it up early in her devotional life, before she was able to live chastely with her husband.
- Kempe doesn't really like this command. She thinks that the people who hate her will call her a hypocrite if she starts eating meat again.
- Jesus tells Kempe not to worry about the haters. She really only has to be concerned with what he says.
- Of course, people make fun of Kempe for eating meat again. She decides that she will fast one day in the week to honor the Virgin Mary. She does this for many years.
- But Mary tells Kempe that she needs to quit that, since she needs her strength for all her weeping and screaming.
- So Kempe stops fasting.
- Things get exciting in Bishop's Lynn in this chapter: the Guildhall of the Trinity burns down in a fire.
- The Church of St. Margaret is next to burn, and the townspeople who normally hate Kempe for her weeping won't stop her now. They think she might be able to put in a good word with God.
- Kempe advises her confessor to take the consecrated host outside the church (in a monstrance, like this one held by Pope Francis I) and walk with it toward the fire.
- Kempe follows and prays for a storm of some kind to keep the flames from spreading.
- As she sits in St. Margaret's, Kempe sees the flames sparking there. A man comes to tell her that it has started snowing, and the fire is under control.
- Still, some people think Kempe's faking her holiness. Really, they are annoyed that she keeps crying and screaming in public places.
- Even when she is by herself in the chapel, Kempe has such an intense experience of Christ's suffering and death (and his mother's suffering, too) that she can't control the screaming and crying.
- But there are people who get it, and who see that Kempe has been given a great gift from God. One such person is a cleric who sees her weeping and brings her to a tavern for a drink.
- There is also a parson who comes to town to preach and witnesses Kempe's cryings for himself. He notices that the people are irritated by her noise, and he warns them to chill out.
- Kempe, he says, has a gift. But the friar still thinks that Kempe is evil, despite the good that others see in her.
- Kempe is encouraged in her weeping by a Master Constance, a doctor of divinity who comes to Lynn for a meeting of Preaching Friars (that would be the Dominicans).
- Master Constance also kindly warns the other friar about Kempe's habits, so that when she begins to cry out during his sermon, he is able to be patient with her.
- This other preacher invites Kempe to Norwich. He becomes one of her patrons and supporters.
- An Augustinian friar also comes to preach—this time about Christ's suffering—and witnesses Kempe's "fits" in church.
- The Augustinian tells those who grumble to chill, since they don't know how Kempe feels when she hears about the Passion.
- Hearing about Christ's suffering is the hardest thing for Kempe, because she can actually see it happening before her eyes. Good Friday is the worst time for her because of this.
- One Good Friday, Kempe really tears things up with her cryings. But the clerics deal with her well and don't shame her.
- Kempe tells of others who put up with her behavior, and she reminds us that the only one who didn't put up with her was the "Grey Friar" (that's a Franciscan), who spoke openly against her.
- Kempe speaks of a time when her very favorite religious friend and doctor of divinity, Master Aleyn, was forbidden to speak with her, because they were together too much.
- Kempe is inconsolable, since Master Aleyn was always a strong supporter of her way of life.
- Kempe's confessor (Robert Spryngolde) warns her not to speak with Master Aleyn, since he was commanded through his vow of obedience not to see her.
- Kempe sees Master Aleyn in the street, but they do not greet each other. It's too much for Kempe, who cries out to God that she has been left by all her clerical friends.
- Jesus speaks to Kempe and says that he himself will be her friend, and that she will be allowed to speak with Master Aleyn again in the future.
- In the meantime, a new priest comes to town and acts as a confessor and confidant to Kempe.
- Master Aleyn falls gravely ill, and everyone thinks he will die. Kempe runs to the church to pray that he doesn't die before she gets to speak to him again.
- Jesus tells Kempe that he won't die before she gets to chat with him again like in the old days. Master Aleyn recovers and is allowed to speak with Kempe again. She meets him again at a dinner with a newly-minted nun, and there is much rejoicing.
Book I, Chapters 71-75
- Kempe has revelations concerning who should be the Prior of Lynn. Her peculiar understanding of the situation turns out to be accurate.
- When the matter of the new prior is finally settled, the dude is called away to France to serve King Henry V. But King Henry dies (in 1422), and the prior gets to stay in Lynn, just as he wishes, and just as Kempe had predicted.
- Kempe is also given foreknowledge about the Bishop of Winchester, who everyone thought was dead. Kempe, however, knows accurately that he is alive.
- Kempe has many such insights into happenings that affect the lives of the people in Lynn.
- Kempe discusses how she becomes more perfect in her spiritual life. It includes feeling sadness for her sins, being humble, and fearing the Lord. And crying. Lots of crying.
- Kempe can't bear to see another person being punished for anything, since it reminds her of her own unworthiness in the eyes of God.
- Kempe also has "alternative experiences" in other life situations. If she sees a prince, she thinks of Christ; if she sees the consecrated host, she weeps and sobs.
- Kempe attends the dying and sees a suffering Christ in each of her "patients."
- Kempe still attracts the notice of people with power and is invited to chat with a lady. The lady's priest dislikes her (all that sobbing), but the lady sees that Kempe is holy.
- Kempe can't return the compliment: the lady's household is full of inappropriately dressed, ill-behaved people.
- Kempe describes her experiences on a Holy Thursday, when she has visions of Christ saying goodbye to his mother, Mary Magdalene, and his apostles.
- Of course, this is overwhelming for Kempe, and she cries out as usual. People are annoyed and don't know what to think.
- Kempe describes a similar moment, when she witnesses the death of the Virgin Mary. She wants us to understand that these moments in salvation history feel personal, as if she were there.
- Mary promises Kempe that all her sorrow will be replaced with joy when she gets to heaven—which will not be soon.
- However, Mary does promise Kempe, again, that she will get there eventually.
- Kempe has just about had enough of crying and sadness in her life. She asks Christ how long it will be before she can join him in heaven.
- Christ tells Kempe that she has to hang in there for fifteen more years. He explains that in this she is no different than St. John the Evangelist or Mary Magdalene, who also had to live on after his death.
- Kempe now turns her attention to the sick in her town—especially the lepers. She sees the suffering Christ in each of these people.
- Although she hated the thought of touching a leper when she was worldly and prosperous, Kempe now feels the urge to kiss them—on the mouth.
- Kempe helps a woman who has many "temptations" (yup: sexual thoughts) and who feels that the devil is out to get her.
- The woman gets better.
- A man whose wife is suffering from Postpartum Psychosis tells Kempe about his problems. Kempe knows a thing or two about this, so she promises the man that she will attend to his wife.
- Although the lady is uncontrollable around other people, she is quiet around Kempe. In fact, she sees angels surrounding Kempe when Kempe enters the room.
- Kempe prays for the woman, and Jesus tells her that the woman will get better in time. And so she does.
- People consider the lady's recovery a miracle.
Book I, Chapters 76-80
- Kempe's husband takes a fall down the stairs and gets a pretty serious head wound.
- Kempe's not happy, for two reasons: 1) she has to interrupt her prayers to take care of him; and 2) people say that she should be hanged if he dies, since she should have been there to prevent it.
- Kempe explains that she and her husband had been living apart, since keeping their vow of chastity was too hard when they lived under the same roof.
- Although Kempe doesn't want to take care of her husband, Jesus orders her to do so. He tells her that caring for her sick husband pleases him as much as her prayers.
- Kempe does as she's told, but it's clear that she doesn't love it. John has become "childish" and incapable of taking care of his basic needs.
- Kempe's kind of disgusted by the whole episode. However, she decides that this is her punishment for lusting after John's hot young bod in the old days.
- Kempe remembers when she first started "crying," or screaming out in public. People told her that she would cause men to sin by drawing attention to herself.
- Kempe immediately asks Jesus to take the screaming away from her. He will have none of it.
- In fact, he tells her that she must obey his will so that she learns her place. As in, everything she does will be for Christ, not for herself.
- On the other hand, Jesus promises to be "hers." Kempe will get her ultimate desire—to be with him in heaven for eternity.
- Jesus likens his power to a force of nature (a thunderstorm). Like the wind that can't be seen but can be felt, so God's power moves in certain people and sets their hearts on fire.
- Jesus also explains that he has to "break" spiritual beginners by making them submit to his will in a merciless way. But Kempe is no beginner, and he promises to deal with her more gently.
- Jesus tells Kempe that she can be sure of his love by a number of "tokens" or signs.
- In short, Jesus tells Kempe to pay no mind to those who grumble about her screamings. She will not cause others to sin because of it.
- Kempe is forever grateful for this and worries that she doesn't deserve his love, because she is a miserable sinner.
- Jesus tells Kempe that she does penance best when she shows her love for him.
- In the end, Kempe hopes that people pick on her screaming every day of her life, because it will help to show her love for God even more.
- Kempe recollects her experiences on many Palm Sundays over the years. She describes her spiritual revelations during the processions and other ecclesiastical celebrations of the day.
- In her spiritual sight, Kempe sees Jesus enter Jerusalem and cries out in her devotion. She seizes on the phrase "The Lord Jesus languishes for love"—spoken during the sermon—and is consumed by the fire of love in her heart. It is emotionally overwhelming for her.
- Kempe's crying is so loud and energetic that she's actually embarrassed by her behavior. Jesus tells her not to worry: the more ridicule she gets from the world, the better he loves her.
- Jesus also foretells an episode of plague that will hit Kempe's town. It happens, and Kempe feels more secure in the revelations she has after this.
- Jesus also tells Kempe that he wants her to be an example to others so that they repent of their sins and become more perfect.
- When the priest strikes the church door on Palm Sunday, Kempe thinks she sees the gates of hell opening and Jesus saving the souls there.
- As the crucifix used in procession is revealed to the crowd, Kempe is entirely swept up into spiritual sights. Everything around her melts away, and she sees Christ standing before her.
- Kempe's vision of Christ going to his crucifixion continues. This time, she sees an exchange between him and his mother. Mary doesn't think she can live without her son.
- Jesus comforts Mary by saying that she will have much greater joy and honor if he goes through with his death and resurrection. He tells her that she has to stay behind him and become an example for all the church. He also promises to come for her personally when she dies and make her Queen of Heaven.
- Kempe sees Mary give Jesus her blessing and then fall to the ground in agony. Kempe grabs at Jesus's clothes and sobs.
- Jesus tells Kempe to chill out—he'll be back to comfort both his mother and her.
- In her mind, Kempe follows Jesus in his suffering through to his resurrection. She sees him betrayed by Judas and then scourged by his enemies.
- Kempe tells us that though these are "spiritual sights," she sees them as clearly as if they are happening before her bodily eyes.
- These revelations occurred to Kempe every Palm Sunday and Good Friday for many years.
- Jesus tells Kempe that he loves her very much for suffering with him in this way.
- Kempe wants to tell us more about her spiritual revelations. She sees Jesus as she had seen him on the Despenser Retable in Norwich Cathedral, with his hands bound above his head.
- These visions are meant to increase Kempe's devotion, which shows itself in her weeping and screaming.
- Kempe also sees Christ's mother, Mary, meeting him as he carries his cross.
- Kempe describes how she takes the journey to his crucifixion spiritually, noting specific details from the crucifixion story.
- Kempe focuses on her hatred of the Jews for their role in the death of Christ. In her vision, she hears Mary rebuking the Jews for their role in the crucifixion, specifically.
- Kempe describes a very gory scene, as Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies there. She sees Mary fall to the ground in a faint.
- Kempe continues her vision and sees Jesus's body taken down from the cross to be anointed with oils by Joseph of Arimathea. (Remember that she had seen the Stone of Anointing in Chapter 29, when she was in Jerusalem).
- Kempe imagines herself as a madwoman, wishing she could get the body of Christ to herself so that she can adore him alone.
- Kempe sees Mary attempting to keep her son's body with her, rather than sending it off for burial.
Book I, Chapters 81-85
- We have a continuation of Kempe's spiritual vision of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.
- Kempe opens with Christ's burial and her desire to remain by the graveside to mourn. Meanwhile, in real time, people in Lynn are trying to figure out why Kempe is so distraught.
- In spirit, Kempe follows Christ's mother, Mary, as she leaves the tomb.
- Kempe's visions are very "homely," meaning that they have a familiar, everyday style to them. For instance, she hears women telling Mary how sorry they are for her son's death.
- Kempe now sees things that are not in the scriptural accounts of the time after Christ's death. She imagines the first meeting of Mary and St. Peter, who denied knowing Jesus when he was arrested. That's awkward.
- Kempe sees Jesus appear before Mary in the Chapel of the Apparition, which she saw with her own eyes when she was in Jerusalem.
- When Jesus visits Mary Magdalene, Kempe feels that fire of love is in her heart again—most likely because she identifies herself with the sinful Mary, who is redeemed by Christ.
- When Jesus tells Mary Magdalene not to touch him ("Noli me tangere"), Kempe is kind of devastated. It means that Jesus doesn't want to be as "familiar" with her as he once was.
- More revelations, this time on Candlemas Day.
- Kempe sees the moment when Mary brings her son to the temple, and God's promise to the priest Simeon is fulfilled (Luke 2:22).
- This experience is so intense for Kempe that she can't participate properly in the Mass and rituals.
- This kind of thing happens to Kempe continually, for example whenever she sees a mother being purified after childbirth.
- Kempe relates everything in daily life to an episode in Christ's life. So when she sees a wedding, she calls to mind the joining of Mary and Joseph, and she thinks about how Christ is the "bridegroom" of each soul.
- All such revelations come with lots of tears and screaming, of course. When she doesn't have them, Kempe feels lost.
- Kempe's authenticity is tested by two priests who normally put great faith in her tears. They take her to a church way out of town to see if she will still cry without an audience. She does.
- This time, Kempe sees children and is immediately taken up with holy thoughts about Christ's infancy.
- Kempe explains that it doesn't matter if she is in town, or in the fields, or if it is day or night. Christ gives her tears whenever it suits him best.
- Whenever Kempe doubts that her tears are divine gifts, she feels less "grace" and devotion. But when she finally accepts that they are from God, she has many holy thoughts.
- Sometimes, Kempe's revelations are so divine and wonderful that she couldn't relate them in words, and she often forgets the substance of them entirely in a short period of time.
- The Abbess of Denny calls for Kempe to come and visit with the nuns, but Kempe doesn't really want to go, because the Plague is making a visit in Lynn.
- Also, an important man in Lynn is on the verge of dying, and his wife really wants Kempe to stay around. But Jesus tells Kempe that the man won't die while she's gone, so off Kempe goes.
- On her way there, Kempe imagines that she is a servant to Jesus's mother, Mary. Jesus tells Kempe that even though she only imagined it, he will reward her for her good thoughts in heaven.
- In fact, Jesus tells Kempe that all her good thoughts, even if they haven't been put into action, will be rewarded as if they were deeds.
- Jesus praises for Kempe her actual good deeds, saying that her behavior "magnifies" his name and is an example to everyone. However, he doesn't want Kempe to get a big head. All this good stuff, he says, is his doing. He's the one putting the desire to do good things into her head.
- Jesus reassures Kempe that her crying and devotion are not hypocrisy and that he loves her very much for those efforts of the spirit.
- Jesus also tells Kempe that he loves her a lot, that he will never stop loving her, and that she is an example to all sinners that Jesus's love is always there if they want it.
- Now Kempe shares some of the revelations she has had while nearly asleep. Even a truly devout person can't help feeling sleepy while praying sometimes, it seems.
- In the first instance, Kempe sees a little angel carrying the Book of Life. Kempe asks him to point out her name (remember that she can't read).
- The angel explains that Kempe's name is written at the foot of the Trinity, which Kempe describes as being "all in gold" (check out Masaccio's painting to see what Kempe might have been seeing in this revelation).
- Kempe also sees Christ suffering on the cross, and it is so real to her mind that she feels she can reach out and touch his wounds.
- The suffering feels so intense that Kempe wonders why Christ would ever have become human.
- Jesus takes the opportunity to remind Kempe how much he loves her—but also to make sure she keeps her own sinfulness and his goodness in mind.
- In another sleepy moment, Kempe sees the body of Christ lying before her. Someone approaches and slices him across the chest—and Kempe is inconsolable.
- The next sleep-induced revelation brings Jesus even closer to Kempe physically. He stands above her (she is kneeling on the ground at his feet), and Kempe grabs at his toes.
- The point here: Kempe feels that Jesus is flesh and blood; he's not just her spiritual companion. This helps her focus on Jesus as man and on how much he suffered when he was crucified.
- Kempe clarifies that these visions came to her after she had dedicated her life to contemplation, but before she went to Jerusalem.
- Kempe was still a spiritual newbie at this time and needed the physicality of God to keep her on the right track.
- After she returns from pilgrimage, Kempe tells us that she was attracted more to the Godhead—that is, to the more spiritual, unseen, divine aspect of the Christian Trinity.
- Kempe ends with another sleepy-time revelation: Mary asks her if she would like to see her infant son. Kempe tells us that this gave her great comfort.
Book I, Chapters 86-89
- Jesus reminds Kempe that she will be rewarded in heaven for both her holy deeds and her holy thoughts. It's a pretty sweet deal.
- Jesus thanks Kempe for allowing him into those thoughts and into her soul—not just anyone would do such a thing.
- Jesus says that whenever Kempe calls a holy person into her soul—like Mary Magdalene or St. Catherine—those saints prepare her soul to receive him there.
- Jesus acknowledges some of Kempe's meditative practices, like imagining that she has three cushions in her soul to welcome each person of the Trinity, and he also acknowledges her thoughts.
- In the next passage, Jesus basically confirms that Kempe's religious beliefs are totally orthodox—there's no heretical hocus-pocus going on in her soul.
- Jesus assures Kempe that he hears her prayers and sees her good works, and he tells her that she is right to pray to him with confidence.
- Kempe should, Jesus says, be happy to receive his grace (i.e., all those tears and all that sobbing), because he is proud of her. He thinks of Kempe as his own spouse.
- Jesus ends by telling Kempe that whatever good she has done to any person on earth she has done for him. She will be rewarded in heaven.
- Kempe tells us that these spiritual visitations and revelations have been going on for 25 years (by the time she starts "writing" her book), with very few interruptions.
- Whenever Kempe fell ill, she had visits from the saints to cheer her in her recovery.
- Kempe tells us a little about her contemplative method: she prays for five or six hours together, without even noticing that time has been passing. And she loves every minute of it—even her weeping.
- In fact, Kempe prays to God that she never stop mourning while she's on earth, because she knows her joy will be sweeter in heaven for all her tears.
- Kempe shares a little bit about the "publication history" of her book. She drops her prayers for a bit to speed up the writing of the book, working very closely with the man writing it down.
- God tells Kempe it's okay to skip out of praying for a while, since the writing of the book is important prayerful work itself.
- God tells Kempe that the best prayers are the ones said in the heart or in thoughts, rather than the more formal prayers said in church.
- God renews his promise to Kempe that she will have her confessor, Robert Spryngolde, in heaven with her in the end.
- God emphasizes that Kempe does best when she sits still and thinks rather than when she is busy and more engaged with the world. But it's all good, he says: prayer is prayer.
- It's really important to God that Kempe understand the love he has for her. He tells her that she pleases him when she believes in his love.
- God's especially happy when Kempe holds nothing of her heart back from him. When she does that, he's ready to give all of himself to her as well.
- You've finally made it—the end of the book.
- Okay, it's the end of Book I. Only ten more chapters to go, though.
- Kempe wraps it up by reminding us that she cried A LOT during the writing of this bit of the book, because she had so many holy thoughts in the process.
- And Kempe's crying was contagious: the man writing down her life couldn't keep himself from weeping sometimes as well.
- There were other obstacles to the writing, including illness. Kempe also explains that she was often afraid of telling or recording her revelations, because they were often hard to interpret.
- And interpretation was tricky, because Kempe feared the Devil was misleading her (through delusions), and because sometimes she tried to understand her visions too literally.
- In the end, Kempe tells us that the man who wrote the first version of this book (as it finishes at this point) has died.
- Kempe also explains that the guy didn't do a great job of it—his spelling and way of writing were atrocious—but that he got enough of the truth down for a good copy to be made.
Book II, Chapters 1-5
- We are told that the first scribe (the one who wrote badly) has died, and that a new scribe has stepped in to add the second book.
- Kempe finally gives us a story about one of her fourteen children. This one is a tall young man who goes into the business world.
- Kempe's not crazy about her son's chosen profession, and she doesn't like how much he follows fashion and other worldly things.
- Kempe encourages her son to dedicate his life to God. They argue.
- Kempe lowers the stakes and simply asks her son to remain celibate until he marries—or God will punish him.
- The son appeases his mother ("Yeah, Mom, sure, sure..."), but he goes overseas for business and can't resist the women.
- Sure enough, the young man breaks out with a horrendous skin condition all over his face. His employer fires him when he returns home, for fear that the young man has contracted leprosy.
- Pretty soon, the people in Lynn believe that the young man is suffering because Kempe cursed him. They take a dim view of this.
- But the son has no intention of begging for mercy from his mother. That is, until he can't stand the pustules on his face anymore. He confesses to her, and she gives him her blessing.
- Kempe spends a long time praying for her son to be healed, and eventually he gets better.
- The son then mends his ways, meets a nice German girl, gets married in Prussia, and has a daughter.
- Kempe is filled with joy when Jesus tells her in her soul that she will live to see her grandchildren.
- This same son comes back to visit his parents after his marriage, and Kempe finds him a changed young man. He is very serious and devout.
- Kempe tells her son all about her revelations and way of life, and the son is much impressed. He goes on pilgrimages to Rome to atone for his sins.
- When he gets home, the son tells his wife all about his mother's way of life. She wants to meet her mama-in-law very much, so they make the journey (without their child) to Kempe and husband.
- Although they get there safely, the son soon becomes ill and never recovers. Kempe tells us that her own husband died soon after.
- Now Kempe is left alone with her daughter-in-law, who must return home to the friends who are keeping her child for her.
- Kempe tells her confessor that she will accompany her daughter-in-law to the ship so that the young lady doesn't have to go by herself.
- On the way, Kempe is told by God to accompany her daughter-in-law overseas, all the way back home. Kempe is not excited by this idea, since she is by now old and lame.
- Also, Kempe's pretty sure that her daughter-in-law doesn't want her tagging along—and her confessor hadn't given her permission to travel so far (she'd promised obedience to him).
- But God has given Kempe her orders, so she sends her excuses back to Lynn and boards the ship for Prussia.
- Kempe and daughter-in-law do not have a pleasant sea voyage. Kempe asks God why he's going back on his promise to keep her safe on the sea. God tells her to chill out and have faith.
- After the great storm, Kempe and her daughter-in-law land in Norway, where they celebrate Easter. And yes, Kempe does her crying and sobbing here as well.
- Kempe and her daughter-in-law have good weather for the rest of the trip and make it to Germany safely.
- Kempe tells us that the master of the ship treats her as his mother and provides her with the clothing and food necessary for the journey.
- Kempe hangs out in Danzig for about six weeks, during which time she is welcomed by everyone but her daughter-in-law.
- God tells Kempe it's time to leave, but her daughter-in-law will not help her prepare for the journey. Kempe decides to travel by land, because she is so over sea travel.
- Problem? There's lots of war going on. When Kempe finally finds someone to escort her, she can't get permission to leave town.
- When Kempe finally gets permission to leave, she has to take a side-pilgrimage to Wilsnack to keep the protection of her escort. And she has to get on another boat, anyway.
- The road to Wilsnack is perilous because of fighting and lots of armed men roaming about the countryside. On top of it, Kempe's escort really wants to ditch her.
- God tells Kempe to calm down: he promised her safety, so she should have more faith.
- But Kempe weeps anyway, and her escort is not amused.
- Kempe's major enemy is old age; she's about sixty at this point. She can't keep pace with her younger escort. She quickly becomes ill and can hardly keep up.
- Kempe and her escort make it to Wilsnack in a wagon and pay their respects at the shrine.
Book II, Chapters 6-10
- Kempe and her escort now make for Aachen, Germany (about 363 miles from Wilsnack) on their way to Calais, on the coast of France.
- Kempe has a bad time with her escort and a bunch of wicked men, including a monk, who are very rude to her.
- Kempe and her escort stop at a monastery to pray, and of course, Kempe starts weeping and wailing. People don't understand it, and she has to defend her behavior.
- But the men abandon Kempe, anyway. She is verbally abused by wicked priests until she finds a "good wife" who takes care of her.
- God tells Kempe to head on over to the church in the morning, where she finds a group of poor people who will let her travel with them. Problem? They have "vermin."
- Kempe quickly finds herself infested and bitten from head to toe. Something's gotta give.
- Kempe and her lice (or are they fleas?) arrive in Aachen, where she meets up with a "worthy woman" who feeds her and appears to like her.
- But just when Kempe thinks she has an escort to Calais, and perhaps England, the lady takes off in a hurry with her retinue.
- Kempe has to settle for travelling with an unfortunate set of Londoners who have been robbed of most of their money. They have to travel quickly, before they run out of coin.
- Kempe befriends the most miserable of this group—a friar who lost all his money—and pays him to keep her company, since she can't walk very quickly.
- Kempe and the friar have a rough time of it, since they can't find places to eat or sleep on the way.
- Soon, Kempe ditches the friar for pilgrims riding in a wagon. She gets along well until she catches up with the "worthy woman" who ditched her back in Aachen.
- Thinking it was all a mistake, and the woman will now welcome her back, Kempe presents herself to her old "friend."
- The woman wants nothing to do with Kempe and promptly abandons her. Happily, the friar catches up to her and escorts her all the way to Calais.
- Kempe tells us that she is in constant fear of being raped or violated by every man she meets and can hardly sleep at night because of it. (She leaves the friar out of this, since he is so kind).
- Kempe receives a good welcome in Calais. She is well fed and cleaned up, given clothes by kind people.
- Yet when it's time to arrange a ship to take her over the English Channel and back to Dover, Kempe finds that her companions want nothing to do with her (remember this from her Jerusalem trip?).
- So Kempe uses her wits, finds out what ship her companions will sail on, and books her passage on that ship. But the group pulls a fast one and gets on another ship at the last moment. They really don't want to be stuck on a boat with her.
- For some reason, Kempe just can't let it go. Though she is already on the first ship, she decides to leave all her belongings and follow the group to the new ship.
- Her companions are dismayed to see her, but Kempe decides she will be the bigger person. She prays to God that she won't vomit in front of them, because she doesn't want to annoy them more.
- But karma comes into play here. Kempe remains perfectly well on the waves, but her companions puke their guts up.
- Kempe takes it like a boss: she cares for her miserable companions, just to show how charitable her heart really is.
- But the gesture is lost on these ingrates. When they land, they leave Kempe in the lurch. She finds a poor man to take her to Canterbury on his horse.
- By the time she gets to London, Kempe is a wreck. She has nothing good to wear, and she really doesn't want anyone to recognize her there.
- But they do. They actually recall a very embarrassing little proverb about her that has been passed around since Kempe "came out" as a woman of religion.
- Kempe is mortified by this, but she gets on just fine. She finds friends to feed, clothe, and shelter her, and she has a chance to get a little of her own back on the people who've been slandering her.
- Kempe tells us that she spends her time in London correcting people who are living wicked lives. And she spends a lot of time sobbing and weeping because she has wonderful, direct conversations with God.
- The curates of the London churches won't have any of this, so Kempe is tossed from most houses of worship.
- Kempe bumps into the hermit who was supposed to take her to see her daughter-in-law off at the ship and then see her back to Lynn again. He is not pleased to see Kempe.
- Because Kempe had disobeyed her confessor's instructions and gone all the way to Danzig, everyone is angry with her.
- The hermit will not accompany Kempe to Lynn, because he wants no more trouble. That is, until she offers him money to do the job.
- When she gets home, Kempe has some work to do to make people like her again, including her confessor. But it all works out, and the resilient mystic gets back on track.
- Kempe ends the book with an extensive prayer. She wants to instruct us on how to pray by giving an example of how she did it when she began to live a spiritual life.