Middle Ages created new communities of spiritual companionship and service at a
time when the only options for women were marriage or taking vows to the
church. Their movement flourished for
hundreds of years and inspired an intimate love for the Divine that was
expressed in their relationships, writing and service. How can the Beguine movement
inspire our own
spiritual companionship and communities?
What can we learn from their courage, innovation and commitment?
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18, 2015 Depart from your
home destination for arrival in Brussels, Belgium by 9:00AM on Saturday, September
Day 1: Saturday,
September 19th, Be greeted
retreat personnel at the Brussel
Airport (if applicable) and travel by bus to Hotel Novotel Brugge
lunch and introductions before stretching your legs and beginning our immersion
into Beguine spirituality with a six minute walk to the Brugge Begijnhof
. At the Begijnhof
we will explore the peaceful
grounds, visit the museum and meet with one of the Benedictine nuns. Return to
the hotel for dinner and optional Evening Song* before turning in for a good
Day 2: Sunday,
September 20th, Experience the
beauty and energy of this city by walking to a nearby church for services. We
suggest a fifteen minute walk to the Basilica of the Holy Blood
but you might enjoy returning to the Begijnhof for their intimate service. Enjoy
lunch on your own before returning to
the hotel for our retreat time and dinner, included in your retreat fee. During
our retreat time we will explore our own yearnings for community and spiritual
and two are intentionally planned to help
participants experience the environment that influenced the Beguines. While
those traveling from abroad get their ground-feet and recuperate from jetlag we
engage physically in our environment and allow cobblestone roads, the
cloistered dwellings, canals and medieval architecture nourish us.
Day 3: Monday,
September 21st, We will spend the morning with the leadership
of Rev. Matthew Fox as he highlights the impact that the Beguines had on
individuals, communities and the culture and how their creativity, courage and
mystical spirituality might support our own desires. After lunch we will engage
in creative writing practices led by Stephanie Raffelock that shine light on
the gifts, voice and beauty of each participant. Lastly, before dinner we gather
first with a dialogue between Matthew Fox and Susan Coppage Evans and then with
open dialogue and sharing within the group.
Dinner will be on your own
with options of staying at the hotel or venturing out in the beautiful town of Brugge
with its canals reflecting the evening life and light.
Day 4: Tuesday,
September 22nd We hope you got to bed early because
a full day and is rich in experiencing the lives of the Beguines. After
breakfast we put our luggage and ourselves on our private bus and head off to
Ghent, Belgium approximately one hour away.
We will visit two Beguinages, one of which is the “The
St. Elisabeth Béguinage and the Experience Centre. The 'béguinage' phenomenon
has been interpreted afresh with a mixture of authentic heritage and modern
media techniques. It looks beyond the traditional image of the beguines and
instead depicts one of an autonomous community of strong, independent women,
who balanced on the edge of the worldy and the divine” The second is the Small
Beguinage Our Lady of Ter Hoyen founded in 1235. Today, it is one of the best
preserved and most attractive beguinages from before the French Revolution. The
last beguine that lived here passed away in 2005. Now the houses are leased and
the larger buildings have become artists' workshops. Both of these Beguinages
are listed as Unesco World Heritage sites.
We will also visit the most famous site in Ghent, the
Altarpiece - Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, “considered one of Northern European
art's masterpieces and one of the world's treasures.”
And to complete our journey into the culture
and experience of the Middle Ages, we will visit a textile museum - The
Texture, and learn about the use of flax to make beautiful textiles and lace.
This will help us imagine the work that supported so many Beguines: making
lace, weaving and working with textiles. It was this work that helped the
Beguines be financially independent and offered hours of “art as
meditation”. After a full day, including
a stop for lunch, we will board the bus and head for the Begijnhof Congres Hotel in Leuven Belgium,
just one hour away. After we check into
this lovely hotel, we will enjoy a three-course meal with a taste of a local
wine at The Faculty Club which is adjacent to the hotel and housed in part of
the Grand Beguinage of Leuven. Included in retreat
5: Wednesday, September
After a leisurely breakfast, we take a stroll through the Groot Begijnhof of
Leuven. It was on one of these cobblestone roads, in April 2013 that Susan
looked up, saw the adjacent hotel and dreamt of this retreat. Only later did
she learn that in that very month the very last Beguine of this Medieval European
movement died. Was there a baton being passed?
Could a retreat inspire the next iteration of innovative lay
communities? Might there be someone, or
many, who attend the retreat and imagine different ways to engage in meaningful
companionship and service? After our
tour we will spend the afternoon in retreat at the Faculty Club with Rev.
Matthew Fox and guest lecturer, Dr. Rob Faesen, SJ. Dr Faesen is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Theology and
Religious Studies, The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU), and Lecturer
at the University of Antwerp. His
research focuses on the history of the Middle Dutch mystical literature.
Once again we will engage in writing as our own art as meditation and share our
voices on paper and in community. Lunch
and dinner at the Faculty Club
included in retreat fee.
6: Thursday, September
A day of retreat at The Faulty Club,
sinking into the Beguine movement (which is at times called “the first women’s
movement”) and their mystical, inspired and down-to-earth teaching. Today
we take time to rest, to read, to walk
and write, and to engage in spiritual intimacy and contemplation. Lunch
provided at the Faculty Club, dinner is on your own - perhaps to discover a
brew-pub in this city that hosts some of the largest and oldest breweries in
the world or enjoy a quiet dinner at the hotel followed by time in the sauna.
Day 7: Friday, September 25th, If
we lived in Europe during the Middle Ages, we would likely participate in a
pilgrimage; walking to sites such as the Aachen Cathedral. During the Middle
Ages, Aachen (the oldest
cathedral in Northern Europe) became one of Christendom’s most important places
of pilgrimage. The Aachen pilgrimage, which has been taking place every seven
years ever since 1349, is devoted to worshipping the four Holy Relics collected
We will participate in this pilgrimage within a pilgrimage
take a bus to Aachen Germany to visit the cathedral and city. On the way there,
we will stop at another
holy site in the town of Verviers, Belgium and visit the miraculous Black
Madonna at Eglise Notre-Dame des Récollets. We will have lunch together in the
quaint town of Verviers and visit a textile museum that highlights the region’s
special production of wool. After our
tour of the Cathedral in Aachen, enjoy dinner on your own at one of the little cafés
nearby. Everyone is one the bus at 7:00PM, returning to our hotel in Leuven at
8: Saturday, September 26th, Our last retreat
day at the Faculty Club in Leuven, we
finish up our retreat together with a focus on inspired integration. How do we
“Take it to the streets”? What bubbled up during our retreat and pilgrimage
that is asking something of you? Little
or big, personal or global, action or non-action: what did the lives of the
Beguines inspire in you? We will share
our intentions with one another and identify the tender and bold ways in
which we can take our own delicate handiwork back into our communities.
We will conclude our retreat time by 3:00PM and leave
6:00PM for a special farewell dinner at Het Anker Brewery, a Flemish brewery in
Mechelen (30 minutes away), originally founded in 1471 by the Grand Beguinage
of Mechelen where it still resides.
Day 9: Sunday, September 27th, Check
out of the hotel in time for your
flight from Brussels. See details HERE. Enjoy a day of travel and transition to
* Evening Song: In
keeping with community life, early each morning and in the evening after dinner
there will be an option to join others for a time of prayer, meditation, and song.
subject to change as needed
according to the leadership of the facilitators and local leaders/vendors.
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