Beguines carried forward women's ministry

by Phyllis Zagano

View Author Profile

Book review

Women's ministerial vocations have differed throughout the centuries, but they have existed in every era and in every locale. Benedictine Sr. Laura Swan, former prioress of St. Placid Priory in the state of Washington, adds to her prodigious body of work with this comprehensive investigation into the lives of thousands of celibate women who lived outside the cloister as Beguines.

The list of famous beguines is long. Mechthild of Magdeburg, Beatrijs of Nazareth, Hadewijch, Marguerite Porete and many other well-known spiritual writers and mystics populate Swan's pages. The author moves from their beguinages (often walled-in row houses or single cottages), to their ministries (including preaching and spiritual direction), to their unique spiritualties (often involving mystical events), to their writings, which gave evidence of their outward compassion for the suffering Christ in the world.

Beguines lived lives of prayer and service, and where, when and how they lived these lives depended very much on their personal circumstances and surroundings.

Read and comment on the full story at National Catholic Reporter.