19: Marguerite Porete

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the ELCA, the 40th anniversary of women of color, and the 10th anniversary of LGBTQ+ siblings.

It’s an incredibly important marker for the ELCA, though it is only the beginning for the Church, as women are still denied ordination across the denominations and hold less than 15% of the leadership positions in the worldwide church! Therefore, in 2020, we in the Oregon Synod will highlight one woman from Christian history every week. Some you may know, others you may not, but all worthy of our respect and gratitude.

#19 Marguerite Porete

Marguerite Porete was a Beguine—part of a community of 13th-century holy women who lived together in semi-monastic communities. They were not nuns; they didn’t take formal vows— could leave at any point, and were therefore not governed by any ecclesiastical authorities. They lived lives of spiritual intention and practice. Marguerite Porete was one of their leading figures, particularly popular because she wrote her book, “The Mirror of Simple Souls,” in vernacular French, rather than in Latin. The reach of her teachings extended outside of France—German mystic Meister Eckhart was a fan of her work, but this acclaim brought her to the attention of the Inquisition. She was arrested for refusing to stop proclaiming that God is Love and circulating her book. So what is this heretical book about? It is a story of the spiritual development of the Soul which culminates in union with God. Why was this condemned by church authorities of the time? Because she states that the relationship between the soul and God does not rely on the church. Because she refused to recant, she was imprisoned for over a year and finally burned at the stake on June 1, 1310. Her book remains in circulation, though her authorship was only restored in 1965. Though the ending of her story is tragic, Marguerite’s mystical wisdom, the culmination of her years of spiritual practice, live on.