Sisterhood: The Beguines Inspire a Women’s Community for Today

The Visitation 001

The sacred container of sisterhood holds a community in an atmosphere of safety where sisters (members) feel confident to share their stories, embrace silence, pray, create, celebrate beauty, and break bread. It could be said there is a sacrament within the spirit of sisterhood.

The Way of Belle Coeur: A Woman’s Vade Mecum by Sibyl Dana Reynolds

Women have gathered in community throughout the centuries. In the Middle Ages when many  “took the veil” and became nuns, a movement emerged that was independent of the vows and rules of the Church. The Beguines were creative, spiritual, wise women. They were innovative  rule-breakers that formed numerous communities throughout France, Belgium, and The Netherlands during the 13th century.

The Beguines were courageous for their day, when most often the culture gave women two choices…become a nun or a wife. The creative and prayerful Beguines created a third way of being. They took no formal vows. They chose to live a solitary life or become part of a community with other Beguines, in a large home or compound called a Beguinage. Beguines were also free to leave the community or marry if they desired. Their lives were devoted to serving the poor and caring for the sick.

The Sisters of Belle Coeur, the community of women depicted in my historical novel, Ink and Honey, were not unlike the Beguines. They, too, lived by their wits and their prayers during a dark age.

In 2013 I was inspired to found the contemporary Sisterhood of Belle Coeur. Our commonality with our ancestral sisters resides within our inclusive, creative, compassionate, and Christ-centered spirituality. In Autumn 2016, we will welcome nine new sisters or companions of Belle Coeur to our growing community.

In my spiritual guidebook, The Way of Belle Coeur: A Woman’s Vade MecumI invite the reader to contemplate the following question: Inspired by our ancestral sisters, the Beguines, and Belle Coeur spirituality, how do you imagine a covenanted, intentional, spiritual and creative women’s community might benefit your life and today’s global needs?

Time and again, I have witnessed women’s desire to gather, to facilitate healing and transformation in the midst of this chaotic and unsettled era. Perhaps we are being called to serve as catalysts for change. When we come together in our circles to co-create, pray, share our stories, and offer service and outreach, we experience a numinous connection with the sisters that came before us. Perhaps the Beguines’ wisdom is our spiritual feminine heritage and their spirits are visiting us in our dreams with the invitation to rekindle the creative fires of Sisterhood.

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