Some days are filled with surprises: today it was a real, modern-day Beguine. I frankly thought there were no more Beguines—ones who were alive. I had heard of some new Beguine communities in Germany and the Nederlands but I certainly never expected to actually meet one and definitely not right here in my Begijnhof. This Beguine and oblate of the Begijnhof is older, 93 to be exact, and arrived with her son and her motorized wheel chair from Germany, making what is an annual pilgrimage. She did not come last year so I had not met her. She is in our guest house and was very interested in my home community as she has founded several ecumenical Beguine communities in Germany. She was a teacher like me and worked in a hospital. Years ago, maybe before I was born, she worked in a Catholic hospital in America for 3 years but assured me she only could understand English and not speak it any more. We communicated in a tangle of English, French and Nederlands. Another sister, more than occasionally, graciously translated her German into French or Nederlands for me. But…the love and mercy of Jesus is understandable in any language and that came through in her dancing eyes and gestures. The Beguine movement began in the 1100s as groups of Holy women caring for and tending the poor and sick as well as teaching.This modern day Beguine has had a blessed and useful life caring for others. None of her several children are Beguines; but all are involved in serving others, caregiving or teaching. The Beguine legacy lives on not only here at my Beguinnage.
(Image credit: Engraving of a beguine from the Mansell Collection. Source: Wade Labarge, Margaret, Small Sound of the Trumpet, Women in Medieval Life, Boston, Beacon Press, p. 118)