She was born in Tinen (Tirlemont) around the year 1200. There is no agreement on the social origin of her parents, but the hypothesis proposed by Roger De Ganck, who has written most about her, considers them from the middle class. Beatrice is the youngest of six children. She receives her first education from her mother, who unfortunately dies when she is only seven years old. This is why the father takes her to the nearby city of Zoutleeuw (Léau) to live with a group of beguines. We do not know much of this period except that it was an intensive period of mutual affection. It is for this “beguinal childhood” that Beatrice has her place in this bibliographic gallery.
When she returned home, she expressed her desire to live a monastic life, like her three other sisters. She was taken to the Cistercian monastery of Bloemendael (or Florival) as an oblate at the age of 10. At the age of 15 she is a novice, although in general 18 years were required. In April 2016, she made her monastic profession and spent her entire life as a nun in the Cistercian community, becoming in 1237 the abbess of the monastery of Nazareth, founded the previous year by his father. She will remain there until her death, which occurred on 29 August 1268.
Beatrice is intellectually brilliant, gifted with an artistic sense and exceptional memory, applied in the study, a scholar of Latin and familiar with theological treatises (from Augustine to her days). Immediately after her monastic profession, she is sent to the convent of Ramée to learn the art of writing and miniature in order to write and illustrate the books necessary for her church. But it is in Nazareth, at the boarders of Lierre, in the abbey of Notre-Dame where she was sent, that she writes her mystical experience in “The Seven Manners of Loving God” (“Seuen manieren van Heilige“), text published in 1926. In this work written in the Brabant dialect, Beatrice relates her experience of God by tracing a path that summarizes the highest form, through love, of union between God and the creature. The seven “manners” constitute, as subsequent steps, a unifying path of the soul, which, through the experience of love, understands at the same time that this can be realized for man only if he recognizes that it comes from God and to Him it is oriented.
Towards the end of 1267, she fell seriously ill, to the point that on 29 August 1268 she received her extreme unction and died after communion. She is buried in Nazareth. It is probably her own community that entrusts the edition of the “Vitae Beatricis” apparently to Guillaume d’Afflighem in 1297, although it refers to an anonymous author. She enjoys the title of Blessed and is remembered on July 29th.
A short story of her is also found in “Lilia”, written by Crisostomo Henriquez (1594-1632), who also relates the life of Ida di Nivelles.
It is at Beatrice that we owe the expression “to act without because“, used by Maister Eckhart and later taken up by Jacopone da Todi and by Santa Caterina da Genova: to love God without why.
Described by Gaspard de Crayer in the seventeenth century as a pretty healthy young girl, she was so “mortified” by herself that she became a wreck as “she had given herself, especially at the beginning of her religious life, extraordinary penances” (Paul De Jaegher SJ, p.43)
Sources: Paul De Jaegher, S.J., Anthologie mystique, Desclée De Brouwer, Paris, 1933,
Franco Paris e Elena Tealdi, I sette modi di amare Dio. Vita di Beatrice, edizioni Paoline,2016
Image from Wikipedia