Begin the Beguine: Medieval charity began at home

Dame Aoife starts the holiday season with thoughts of charity, both in the Middle Ages and in the modern world (but with an historical twist).

Greetings, my faithful readers.

This week's Links List was inspired by those persistent bell-ringers now appearing at a mall near you--you know the ones who are hoping to raise money for a certain charity. Those persistent and nagging bells started me thinking about charity in general, and Medieval Charity in particular. While that topic is covered, here, I'd like to share an idea with you before you jump right in the list. The last Link on this list is for a program called Silent Knight. And while the phenomenon is interesting and worthy of your attention, I thought that perhaps we didn't need to buy into a whole program to be a Silent Knight. In fact, we don't really need to be members of the Chivalry at all to be Silent Knights. It takes very little to help someone in need, and the encouragement of others in doing something positive and anonymous is a worthy and noble cause. So please join me in pledging to be a Silent Knight this holiday season to someone in need, whether it's picking the name of an indigent child off the tree at the mall, to provide them with a holiday present, or whether it's providing a hamper of food for the home-bound, or if it's providing a list of paid chores for the kids down the street so they can afford to buy Mom a present this year. I challenge you to be a Silent Knight, and to find ways to help others to do so. The Chivalric Ideals of charity and humility are, after all, a large part of what this Modern Medieval Society is supposed to be about.

Cheers, and Happy Hanukah

Aoife

Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
Riverouge
Endless Hills
Aethelmearc


'Hofjes' remnants of medieval charity Dutch society provided for needy and aged over the centuries
by Tjeerd Hulstra
http://www.godutch.com/inserts/Tollendale/articles/p0809a01.asp
(Site Excerpt) Hofjes were first built in the 14th century. The oldest remaining one from this era is the 'Bakenes-serkamer' in Haarlem, which dates from 1395 and was built in memory of Dirk van Bakenes. Even then hofjes were not totally new. Both the name and the site plan were borrowed from the beguinages, which were first introduced to the Low Countries in the 12th century. Beguines - the Dutch word is begijntjes - were spinsters or widows who lived together. Their way of life was much like that of nuns.

CHARITY AND WELFARE: HOSPITALS AND THE POOR IN MEDIEVAL CATALONIA
JAMES WILLIAM BRODMAN
http://libro.uca.edu/charity/cw1.htm
(Site Excerpt) The beginning point for all studies of medieval hospitals, institutional medical care, and relief starts with the notion of poverty, a complex theme as it pertains to the Middle Ages. For some poverty was an affliction; for others, it was a source of virtue. Poverty was never seen purely in economic terms, but rather viewed as a form of degradation that rendered the individual vulnerable or dependent. Thus the sources speak of the poor man, the poor knight, and the poor cleric.

Conviviality and charity in medieval and early modern England
response to Judith M. Bennett, Past and Present, no. 134, February 1992 by Maria Moisa
http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2279/is_n154/ai_19320244
(Site Excerpt) In `Conviviality and Charity in Medieval and Early Modern England',(1) Judith M. Bennett has examined the practice of the `help-ale' (a drinking party for the organizer's benefit) and concluded that it was a form of charity and poor relief which `celebrated the cohesiveness of the communities'. Such charitable aid was given to the poor but honest, a category which included officers and minstrels, as well as the life-cycle poor, but not `vagrants, beggars and idlers'.

The Medieval Paupers
http://www.ukans.edu/kansas/medieval/108/lectures/paupers.html
(Site Excerpt) About 20% of the medieval population were destitute and homeless, wandering the roads of Europe looking for work or for charity, and climbing beneath a roadside hedge to die. Although they were ubiquitous, they have been neglected by historians because of the lack of sources discussing them directly. One exception was the starving beggars who followed "King" Tafur on the First Crusade.

Beguines and Beghards
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02389c.htm
(Site Excerpt) The etymology of the names Beghard and Beguine can only be conjectured. Most likely they are derived from the old Flemish word beghen, in the sense of "to pray", not "to beg", for neither of these communities were at any time mendicant orders; maybe from Bega, the patron saint of Nivelles, where, according to a doubtful tradition the first Beguinage was established; maybe, again, from Lambert le Bègue, a priest of Liège who died in 1180, after having expended a fortune in founding in his native town a cloister and church for the widows and orphans of crusaders.

Indulgences
http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/GLOSSARY/INDULGE.HTM
(Site Excerpt) The logic of indulgences is hard for moderns to understand, but in reality they make a great deal of sense. The whole concept of an indulgence is based on the medieval Catholic doctrine that sinners must not only repent of sins that they've committed, they must also confess these sins and pay some sort of retribution. You see, the problem with repentance and confession is that the only evidence you have of repentance is the sinner's claim to be repentant.

Medieval hospitals of Bath
http://www.building-history.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Bath/Medieval/Hospitals...
(Site Excerpt) The major source of charity in the Middle Ages was the Church. Matthew chapter 25 tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and take in the stranger. And that is what medieval hospitals were for. Today we would probably call them hostels for the homeless, who might or might not be disabled. Other hospitals took in the stranger - they were hostels for pilgrims and other wayfarers. The leperhouses had their own rationale - segregation of the leper.

Sisters Between Gender and the Medieval Beguines
by Abby Stoner
http://www2.kenyon.edu/Projects/Margin/beguine1.htm
(Site Excerpt) The Beguines of northern Europe have been called the first women's movement in Christian history.[1] This group of religiously dedicated laywomen, who took no permanent vows, followed no prescribed rule, supported themselves by manual labor, interacted with the "world," and remained celibate, flourished in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries--a time when the Church had defined two legitimate roles for pious women: cloistered nun and keeper at home.

The Silent Knight Program
(an anonymous MODERN program to assist others based upon the principles of Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (Knights Templar))
http://www.thesilentknight.com/main.html
(Site Excerpt) Perhaps you can become a SILENT KNIGHT. If you have the desire, passion, caring soul, respect and dignity of character represented by this story, you too can make a difference. Read this book and ask yourself, "WHY NOT?"

If you wish to correspond with Aoife directly, please send mail to: mtnlion at ptd dot net.