An Croí Beguine Option Ireland

An Croí Beguines

Re-Visioning and Ancient Expression of Spirit

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 nurturing a spiritual life and supporting others on their spiritual path. They are the co-founders of An Croi Wisdom Institute in Monasterboice, Co. Louth which was originally established in 1995 to foster heart wisdom for personal, professional and spiritual life. It is fitting that An Croi Beguines are located at the heart of the sacred landscape of the Boyne Valley area 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

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 might be considered the first women’s spiritual movement and they formed intentional spiritual communities. They did not take vows but were bonded together by common values with a common purpose. Some lived alone, others in pairs or in small communities. In many cities they created Beguinages, ‘a city within a city’, where these women lived in what were described as ‘cities of peace’. Each community was autonomous and self-supporting. What held them together was a supportive way of life that enabled them to live lives more deeply led by the gospel in companionship with other women. The beguines sought to balance contemplative and apostolic life and also met on a regular basis for study, prayer and to share their spiritual and mystical experience. Historically, they had been suppressed at various points and have barely survived but there is a revival of their spirit today. An Croi Beguines seek to reconnect with this faith-filled tradition and revision it for the twenty-first century.

Why now?

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. An Croí Beguines, while inspired by the original beguine movement, finds a unique expression of in an Irish context and has now broadened to include members from around the world. While this new expression emerges from the Catholic foundations, as did the original beguines, it has a spiritually inclusive perspective that sits more comfortable at an ecumenical edge space. An Croí Beguines holds a vision of a new inclusive expression of church that honours the mystical tradition, living gospel values and nurturing a contemplative and creative life. While An Croí Beguines has evolved to include some men, an emphasis on the spiritual experience of women remains central.

Spirituality of the An Croí Beguines

The spirituality of An Croí Beguines gives expression to a spirituality that is focused on the mystical life and growing in intimacy with the Divine, a relationship that inspires and fuels their friendships and their ministry. It involves a commitment to a contemplative ‘flowing in’ through contemplative prayer and practices that energises a ‘flowing out’ into the world in compassion.

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 the Divine. Those who are attracted to the movement are involved in a variety of life-giving ministries both in a voluntary and paid capacity.

Carmel and Geraldine’s ministry as An Croí Beguines is expressed through their work at 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 provide spiritual accompaniment, retreats 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. Members are drawn for the most part from graduates from the An Croí programmes who seek a deeper commitment to a contemplative life in a supportive circle. 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 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 around the initiation of this new expression has been ongoing, beginning more than a decade before the official establishing of An Croí Beguines 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 2016 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. Briege agreed to be a spiritual mentor and collaborator in the development of 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 Wisdom Institute when Carmel and Geraldine made public their promise to live a more consciously a contemporary beguine way of life.

An Croí Beguines: A Contemporary Way of Life

While the original beguine moment was for single women, An Croí Beguines welcome single and partnered women who are supportive of the vision and charism and who seek a commitment to God with the support of belonging to an intentional community. Since establishing An Croi Beguines in 2017 the group has grown in number to almost thirty members and continues to grow. It now includes both women and a few men who have chosen to live a life inspired by the lives of the original beguines in intentional community. The group in now an international, thanks to zoom, with members from the North America and South America.

Their spirituality is very much influenced by Christian mystics including the beguine women Mechtild of Magdeburg and Hadewijch of Brabant. The group have chosen Mechtilde of Magdaburg as their patron and on the Sunday closest to her Feastday November 19th the group gather both online and in person to make a promise of belonging. Like the original beguines, they do not take vows but have chosen to name their connection as a Promise of Belonging. This is a three fold promise of belonging to God, to others and creation and to the beguine group.

An Croí Beguines meet monthly on the third Sunday of each month and with the gift of technology can connect in a hybrid online and in-person gathering. The group has found other ways to support one another with regular retreats, study, social media and a weekly gathering online for quiet contemplative prayer. There is a commitment to soulfriendship and since many of the group are trained spiritual directors and guides, they are encouraged to support one another in anamchara soulfriendships within the group.

An Croí Beguines is not-for-profit but not a charity and this is in keeping with the original beguines who paid taxes and sought to be independent of both church and state.

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. 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 Christian grounding, seeks to be sensitive to the feminine 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

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