An Croí Beguines
Woman’s way of the Heart
Re-visioning an ancient expression of Spirit
The An Croi Beguines, animated by Geraldine Holton and Carmel Boyle, is a contemporary re-visioning of the medieval beguine movement. The inspiration for the revitalization of the An Croi Beguines has grown out of Geraldine and Carmel’s lifelong commitment to a God-centered spiritual life. This same fidelity is reflected in their ministry currently located in Monasterboice, Drogheda. They are the co-founders of An Croi Wisdom Institute originally established in 1995 to foster heart wisdom for personal, professional and spiritual life. It is fitting that the An Croi Beguines are located at the heart of the sacred sites in the Boyne Valley which is steeped in the ancient spiritual heritage of Ireland. The Boyne Valley is a spiritually potent landscape that is a fertile ground for a re-visioning of an ancient expression of Spirit.
Who were the Beguines
The An Croi Beguines are a contemporary re-founding of a medieval beguine movement that emerged between the 13th and 16th century in Northern Europe. The beguines were a religious movement, never a religious order, of Catholic lay women who formed intentional spiritual communities. They did not take vows and lived by themselves or in small communities. Each community was autonomous and self-supporting. What held them together was a rule of life that enabled them to follow more deeply the Christian way. The beguines sought to balance contemplative and apostolic life and met on a regular basis for study, prayer and sharing of their spiritual experience. Historically, they had been suppressed at various points but have barely survived. The An Croi Beguines seek to reconnect with this faith-filled tradition and revision it for the twenty-first century.
Geraldine Holton and Carmel Boyle are inspired by a new energy among some women who seek a common spiritual approach to everyday life that is both meaningful and purposeful. The new An Croí Beguines is a way of responding, just as the original beguines did, to the contemporary spiritual, social and economic landscape. It speaks to those with a strong desire to live a deeper spiritual life that is both inward and outward looking. It speaks to those who hunger for more and who seek a spiritual home in spiritually challenging times. The An Croí Beguines, while inspired by the original beguine movement, find a unique expression in an Irish and contemporary context today. While this new expression emerges from the Catholic foundation of its founders, as did the original beguines, it has a spiritually inclusive perspective that sits more comfortably at the edge of church. The An Croi Beguines hold a vision of a new inclusive expression of church that honours the mystical tradition, gospel values, the contemplative life and the spiritual experience of women.
Spirituality of the An Croí Beguines
The spirituality of the An Croí Beguines is influenced by both Celtic Christian and Franciscan spiritualities. Its founders have adopted Saint Bridget of Ireland and St. Clare of Assisi as their patrons. Carmel’s spirituality has been deeply rooted in an Irish context reflecting her particular interest in Celtic Christianity. Geraldine’s spirituality leans towards a Franciscan expression and in particular a contemplative way, as expressed by St. Clare of Assisi. Together they give expression to a spirituality that is focussed on the mystical life and growing in intimacy with the Divine, a relationship that inspires and fuels their friendship and their ministry. Their theology is grounded in John 10:10 “I came that they may have life and have it to the full”. Their theological anthropology is based on the words of St. Iraneus “The glory of God is the human person fully alive”. Geraldine and Carmel’s sense of church today is in keeping with St. Francis’s vision “rebuild my church” and a vision of the ‘church of God’ (St. Fursey) as an inclusive spiritual community.
Ministry for the An Croí Beguines
Over the centuries the beguines have been involved in various ministries ranging from education, trade, creative arts, healthcare and healing. Since the contemporary beguines, like their predecessors are self –supportive, then their work, whatever it may be, is seen through a lens of ministry which means it flows from a motivating relationship with God. So far those who are attracted to the movement are involved in a variety of life-giving works both in a voluntary and paid capacity.
Carmel and Geraldine’s ministry as An Croí Beguines is expressed through An Croí Wisdom Institute which focusses on empowering and transformative psycho-spiritual training and enrichment programmes. Their programmes have a contemplative and creative approach and they seek to foster heart wisdom for personal, professional and spiritual life. They are also engaged in a healing ministry and spiritual direction. Geraldine has a passion for supervision practice and training and Carmel has a unique music and retreat ministry. They provide spiritual accompaniment and leadership for spiritual seekers, prophets and contemplatives.
While the An Croí Beguines are inspired and animated by Geraldine Holton and Carmel Boyle, the movement has evolved organically into an intentional community. Some graduates from the An Croí programmes have been seeking a deeper commitment to a contemplative life. They desire a connection with others who also seek depth and meaningful spiritual practices and view their particular work or service through a lens of ministry.
The initiation of the movement of the An Croi Beguines is a spirit-led creative and listening response to the expressed inner stirrings of many graduates.
The new movement of the An Croí Beguines initiated by Geraldine and Carmel is a continuation of their life-long commitment to the spiritual life and a response to the movement of the Spirit. Personal and mutual discernment for this new expression has been ongoing for more than a decade and they have engaged in prayer and spiritual direction in their discernment process. They were initially described by others as being ‘like the beguines’ but it was on February 1st 2017 that they took the decision to identify themselves as Beguines and on August 3rd 2017 they settled on the title ‘An Croí Beguines’.
They further engaged in an on-going discerning process with critical friends and in particular with the support of Briege O Hare, a Poor Clare, with whom Geraldine and Carmel have journeyed and collaborated with over the years and with whom they find a resonance of spirit and inspiration. She has agreed to be a spiritual mentor and collaborator in the development of the An Croí Beguines, a venture supported by other members of her community. On the evening of December 8th 2017 the movement was officially launched at An Croí.
An Croí Beguines: A Contemporary Way of Life
The An Croi Beguines, like the original beguines, do not take vows but will be invited to live by suggested guidelines for a common way of life. They will also be offered resources for spiritual practices. In addition, they will be provided with opportunities for An Croi Beguines to gather together in an intentional community. This is made possible either virtually through technology or in person, for the purpose of prayer/ritual, spiritual guidance, study, learning and sharing of spiritual experience.
They are also connected by a set of tenets inspired by themes from Franciscan Incarnational Spirituality and Celtic Christian Spirituality.
While the original beguine moment was for single women, the An Croí Beguines welcome single and partnered women who are supportive of the vision and charism and who seek a commitment to God within an intentional community that they can live out in their daily lives.
An Croí Beguines has been set up as a not-for-profit association with a board of directors and two forms of membership, full membership and advocate membership. Full membership is for women who wish to commit to the criteria as outlined by the association. Advocate membership is open to both women or men who share friendship and partnership with the An Croi Beguines and who support the association and are supported by the movement.
The revival of this spiritual tradition comes at a time when there is evidence of fracturing happening in society and in church, just like when these communities were first birthed. The An Croí Beguines could be a small glimmer of light among other lights in our world today. It embraces a contemporary spirituality that is rooted in the Christian Tradition, that honours its Catholic grounding and seeks to be sensitive to the feminine. It is inspired by perennial spiritual wisdom, the practical empowerment of others and supports spiritual growth and intimacy with the Divine.
If you feel a connection with this expression please contact Carmel or Geraldine at An Croí 0419805050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org