The Burdens of Sister Margaret

Craig E. Harline, Author
Craig E. Harline, Author Doubleday Books $24 (359p) ISBN 978-0-385-47395-8
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 07/01/1994
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-300-08120-6
Paperback - 271 pages - 978-0-300-08121-3
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The lives of ordinary nuns, priests and monks who didn't climb the peaks of ecclesial celebrity remain obscure. Luckily, Craig Harline, associate professor of history at Brigham Young University, discovered a trove of manuscripts in the Archive of the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels. What he found illuminates in considerable detail the private lives of the Nuns of the Grey Sisters of Leuven in the 17th-century Spanish Netherlands. A portrait emerges of Sister Margaret Smulders as a woman uncomfortable with the compromises made by a convent in which not all the residents were nuns (some having chosen a life of simplicity and worldly renunciation, but not holy orders per se). Harline thoughtfully delineates the tensions and conflicts, including the sexual harassment charges brought by Sister Margaret against the convent's Father Confessor, showing that some of Sister Margaret's burdens were startlingly modern ones. (Aug.)
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