Simple Lives


Recent news stories highlighting a growing trend among single women to form intentional communities along spiritual or religious lines make one wonder: Are we seeing the rise of a third wave of the Beguines, a Catholic women’s movement that started in the late twelfth century?

“There [are] many parallels between the Beguines then and women now—women building safety nets to assist each other, living lives that made sense with less economic burden on the individual, a common spiritual approach to everyday life, and the need for meaningful, purposeful work,” says Morgana Morgaine, a nurse in Asheville, North Carolina, who has studied the Beguines for the past twenty-five years and, with five other women, plans to create a Beguine-inspired community.

Morgaine is not alone. She hopes to tour medieval beguinages in Europe and to meet modern-day Beguines in Germany, who live in an estimated twenty-five communities accommodating retirees, widows, divorcees, and single mothers. Many of the women work outside the community at day jobs, share housekeeping duties, and perform charitable works such as volunteering in hospices, tutoring children, and sheltering victims of domestic violence. Like their medieval counterparts, they agree to live simply, and this includes not only curbing consumption but choosing “green” and fair-trade products.

Morgaine first heard about the...

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About the Author

Jean Hughes Raber teaches journalism at Michigan State University.