Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners


The Last of the Beguines (Another Restless Soul) Dies

Marcella Pattyn was “the world’s last Beguine,” as her obituary in The Economist describes her. She died this month at the age of 92.

As you now know, I love reading the obituaries in The Economist. The latest issue features the life of another restless soul: she was the very last “Beguine,” Marcella Pattyn, whose passing wistfully marks the end of a whole way of life.

The Beguines were itinerant communities of women devoted to prayer, work and service that sprang up in Europe during the thirteenth century as an alternative to the two other roles offered women at that time (marriage or a life in orders). Beguines took orders from no one; they were not bound by vows; and their commitment to living a life of freedom in the Spirit was costly, often resulting in persecution and even death. As Pattyn’s obituary puts it, Beguines (unlike nuns) “could leave; they made their own rules, without male guidance; they were encouraged to study and read, and they were expected to earn their keep by working, especially in the booming cloth trade. They existed somewhere between the world and the cloister, in a state of autonomy which was highly unusual for medieval women and highly disturbing to medieval men.”

This idiosyncratic way of life on the margins of society contributed to great works of theology, such as The Mirror of Simple Souls (Marguerite Porete) and The Flowing Light of the Godhead (Mechtild of Magdeburg), which I had the privilege of reading and engaging centuries later in a women’s theology seminar at Emory last spring. So, as I raise my cup of joe this morning to Pattyn, and to Mechtild and Porete before her, I can’t help but feel a little sad to be bidding the Beguines an offiicial “goodbye.” At least some solace comes in knowing that their work will live on.



Previous Posts

The Lie of Invulnerability
This last week has been insane. Family sickness, repairs, car issues, multiple calls from school nurses, including one in which the nurse expressed concern my 7-year-old son had been bitten by a brown recluse spider...and just when I thought it couldn't get worse...viral pinkeye. Two puffy, leaky, r

posted 11:00:49am Sep. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Humor Relief for Religious Extremism
Once again, humor and satire are coming to my aid this morning, this time in response to the twisted and evil extensions of religion that seeks to coerce and control with violence and worldly forms of power (best embodied these days in the form of ISIS and its affiliates). The Palestinian televis

posted 10:36:57am Sep. 03, 2014 | read full post »

"AA" Recovery Groups—Spirituality for the Non-Religious, Hope for the Church?
[caption id="attachment_5326" align="alignleft" width="271"] Bill Wilson co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous with Dr. Bob Smith in 1935. Their affectionately called "Big Book" is one of the best-selling books of all time, having sold more than 30 million copies since its publication. (Photo credit: Haze

posted 11:27:26am Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

Thoughtful Christians—They're Around, Via Fare Forward
The cover story from the latest (July/August) issue of Christianity Today offers a refreshing antidote to all the gloom and doom that often accom

posted 2:39:15am Aug. 27, 2014 | read full post »

New Job, New Book
You may have noticed that I've not shown up at this intersection during the last week or so.  A new job, and, with the new job, the promise of a new book projec

posted 2:49:05am Aug. 25, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.