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In Dutch, for a change: comments on Pope Benedict’s abdication from Father Rolf Wagenaar, administrator of the cathedral of St. Joseph, Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, and parish priest of yours truly:
“The Pope’s retiring? That’s impossible. It hasn’t let go of me since then, of course. A shock, not only for me, but for everyone, I think, and certainly for all the Catholics in the world.”
Congratulations, prayers, best wishes, but above all gratitude to Brother Hugo, who yesterday made his perpetual vows as a hermit to our bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte.
A very well-attended Mass at the cathedral of St. Joseph in Groningen was the setting for this very unique occasion. Unique, since Brother Hugo is the sole contemplative religious within the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. Invited guests – priests, religious and laity - from both the north and the south of the country, both areas being places where major parts of Brother Hugo’s recent history took place, filled the pews, while the diocesan curia (Bishop de Korte, vicar general Msgr. Peter Wellen, diocesan vicar Fr. Arjen Bultsma and cathedral administrator F. Rolf Wagenaar concelebrated, with many priests attending in choir.
Brother Hugo resides as a hermit in the tiny countryside hamlet of Warfhuizen, where he lives in and maintains the shrine of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed, housed in the village church. He has done so for the past 11 years.
In Canon 603 of the Code of Canon Law we read the following about hermits:
§1 Besides institutes of consecrated life, the Church recognises the life of hermits or anchorites, in which Christ’s faithful withdraw further from the world and devote their lives to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through the silence of solitude and through constant prayer and penance.
§2 Hermits are recognised by law as dedicated to God in consecrated life if, in the hands of the diocesan Bishop, they publicly profess, by a vow or some other sacred bond, the three evangelical counsels, and then lead their particular form of life under the guidance of the diocesan Bishop .
What’s described in Paragraph 2 is what the Church, through the diocesan bishop, has now done. In essence, Brother Hugo is now fully a part of the assets of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, not only because he lives his life of prayer and penance under the direction of the diocesan bishop, but also because his prayer and life as a hermit is specifically geared towards the benefit of the diocese and the Church in the entire Netherlands.
And as such, we can be nothing but grateful. Grateful that Brother Hugo has been willing and able to answer God’s call so radically, and for us as members of the Church in the north of the Netherlands.
Photo credit:  O.L.V. van de Besloten Tuin,  Jan Willem van Vliet/DVHN
“Instead of a vaccine that numbs, we must be a medicine that heals.”
Words from Archbishop André Dupuy, Apostolic Nuncio to the Netherlands, at the Mass he concelebrated at our cathedral on Pentecost Sunday. The nuncio made the closing remarks in rather decent Dutch, considering that he has only been here since December. I imagine it’s due to his being part of the Holy See’s diplomatic mission here before.
The Mass itself was the main closing event of the week which marked the 125th anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral church of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden. As such, the nuncio, concelebrated not only with our current bishop, Msgr. Gerard de Korte, who also gave the homily, but also with cathedral administrator, Father Rolf Wagenaar and Father Marius Kuipers, who works in the parish as emeritus priest.
In his homoiy, Bishop de Korte looked back on the events of the week, ads ahead to the future. He outlined some of his wishes for the church to be a learning and teaching community, where the faith is lived and communicated, not only in the liturgy (for which he explicitly noted Fr. Wagenaar’s contributions over the past thirteen years), but also in our service to the world beyond the cathedral walls.
After the Mass, the bishop and the cathedral administrator returned to the sanctuary to receive the first copies of the memorial book about the cathedral. Titled Van Volkskerk tot Kathedraal, de St.-Jozefkerk in Groningen (From people’s church to cathedral, the St. Joseph’s church in Groningen), the book looks chiefly at the building and everything in it. As Fr. Wagenaar writes in his foreword:
“Several studies have already appeared about this church, but never a true monograph, and this church does deserve one, because she provides such a complete program of what a Catholic church wants to be. A church is a meeting place [...] but a Catholic church means so much more. “Awe-inspiring is this place, abode of God, the gate of heaven,” the introit of the Holy Mass of dedication of a church says, taken from the book of Genesis 28:17.”
The book, the end product of two years of work by a team of historians, looks in detail at several aspects of the Gothic Revival church: history, construction, architecture, furnishings, symbolism, vestments and liturgical vessels, organs, clocks and the liturgical disposition. For me as a parishioner it offers a new look at things I’ve often looked at – providing a sense of history and context beyond the building and into the larger community of faithful that is the Church.
The cathedral has known its ups and downs, as the book makes clear. From the threat of closure and demolition in the early 80s, it is now the home of a faith community with members of all ages, with an adequate liturgy and catechesis, and a large team of volunteers. With the bishop, I sincerely hope that the future is one of growth and development and these and other aspects.
Looking back at last Saturday’s pilgrimage to Warfhuizen - a visit to our heavenly Mother before visiting our biological mothers for Mother’s Day – I can safely affirm that it was once more a day of unexpected moments. Aside from the personal element which I will keep to myself, there was the wind preventing the use of banners in the procession, for example. First time that happened.
Before we processed to the hermitage and shrine of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed, cathedral administrator Father Rolf Wagenaar offered Mass in concelebration with Father Maurits Damsté at the church of St. Boniface in Wehe-den Hoorn, some two kilometers away. The procession had, as always, a very physical element: the distance is not long, but the wind made us put in some effort indeed. Personally, I find it a welcome element, although the prayers were all blown away from my ears. As we came closer to the hermitage, the church bells were victorious over the wind and welcomed us as we entered the village of Warfhuizen.
We spent about half an hour in Adoration and communal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Many candles were lit for all kinds of intentions. The afternoon’s devotions will, I expect, have its long-term effects over the coming days and weeks. I welcome those effects…
A few photos I snapped:
In the latest parish bulletin, Father Rolf Wagenaar announces that Mass according to the missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII, what is now commonly known as the Extraordinary Form or the Tridentine Mass, will be celebrated once a month in the cathedral of St. Joseph, starting on 10 April.
Father Wagenaar writes:
“The diocese received the request [for Mass in the Extraordinary Form] and the bishop has asked me if I would be willing to offer this Mass at certain specific times, or permit that another priest would offer Mass according to the aforementioned missal in the cathedral of St. Joseph.
“After some deliberations and consultations I agreed to give a priest the opportunity to do so.
“For the time being this will happen once a month. The first time will be the second Sunday of April, 10 April, at 18:00 hours at the cathedral of St. Joseph. We will see how much interest there is.”
Other sources inform us that the celebrating priest will be Father Dr. Gero P. Weishaupt, German-born priest of the Diocese of Roermond, Church lawyer and one-time private secretary to now-Cardinal Mauro Piacenza when the latter was President of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church.
This is the current high point of a development that goes back more than three years. The discussions have been acknowledged by the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden last year, when the vicar-general, Msgr. Leo van Ulden, called for people who desired a Mass in the Extraordinary Form to contact him. He then also said that Bishop Gerard de Korte had pointed out two churches that he deemed suitable for this Mass, among them the cathedral.
Last Wednesday I joined the annual pilgrimage of our parish to the Marian shrine at Kevelaer. I’d never been there but I had heard good stories, so once the opportunity presented itself, I went. There was a full busload, almost 60 people, who went to the popular German town, where Dutch merchant Hendrik Busman built a small chapel in 1641. A prayer card of Our Lady of Luxembourg was later bought by his wife and is now the centre of the devotion at Kevelaer. Both the construction of the chapel and the purchase of the card were instigated by the couple hearing the voice of the Blessed Virgin.
Nowadays, the town is centered around the old chapel with the prayer card, two churches, one of them a basilica, a sacrament chapel and a rectory. Many thousands of pilgrims visit Mary at Kevelaer every year.
Our one-day pilgrimage was started with a Mass offered in concelebration by Bishop de Korte and Father Wagenaar. I was initially supposed to have served, but there were no cassocks in my size, sadly. German men are generally a bit shorter than me, it seems. Instead, I took care of the collection. There was time to look around in the various churches as well as the many shops selling devotionals, before we had a warm lunch at the rectory. In the afternoon we prayed the Stations of the Cross in the park devoted to that exact purpose.
I left Kevelaer with a very positive impression. The atmosphere is very warm in a generally spiritual way and once you immerse yourself in it really feels blessed. I also bought two small medals of St. Joseph, my baptismal saint, who has been a great help recently, even without my initial knowing. I now wear one around my neck, on a silver chain that Brother Hugo was kind enough to give me. The other is worn by my girlfriend, who is responsible for asking St. Joseph for some assistance in the first place.
Usually parishes never close for business, but if it is a parish which specifically caters to students the summer is a very quiet time indeed. That is why St. Augustine’s, in which I am involved as a member of the PR/organisation committee, marks the end of the academic year with some sort of event, restarting operations again in August. This year our plan was to host a barbecue, but the weather forecasts being less than positive, we decided to turn it into a pizza dinner at the last minute (read: a day before).
We started with Mass at 6, as usual on a Sunday, and then we relocated to the parish hall. Drinks were drunk, conversation started to flow and pizzas were ordered. The turn-up was larger than I had expected, and I was quite optimistic. It struck more than one of us that one of the things that could attract students to our activities is our international flavour. Six nationalities – Dutch, German, Austrian, Italian, Polish and Ugandan – were represented last night. Luckily, that international flavour has slowly come to the fore more often now that we have begun working closer towards the people attending the Saturday evening vigil Mass, which is in English.
Once the pizzas had arrived (with 17 pizzas it was, I fear, a bit of a tall order for the pizzeria we chose, so we had to wait about an hour), Father Wagenaar opened with a short prayer and then pizzas were tucked into. The wine and beer flowed freely and the atmosphere was very good. Some people already knew us and each other, but others were new, but no one was left out, as far as I could see.
By the time the dishes were put in the dishwasher and the parish hall returned to semblance of normality, it was close to 11, but I cycled home feeling very content. We had worked quite hard in the last days to make it a success and it worked.
Now that I am writing about St. Augustine’s, I might as well include a link to the parish’s website, which is available in both English and Dutch.
And for the committee that runs to practical side of parish events, it is now time to start working towards the period between summer and Christmas. Lots of plans, and hopefully also lots of new people to get to know us.
And in the meantime, I’m grateful for last night.
Below is a translation of the homily that Fr. Rolf Wagenaar, cathedral administrator of the St. Joseph cathedral in Groningen, gave at the Mass before the procession to the shrine of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed in Warfhuizen, last Saturday.
The original text is in Brother Hugo’s blog here.
Our Lady of the garden enclosed. THat is the chapel, the small shrine of Mary in Warfhuizen to which, after this Holy Mass, we will go in procession.
Our Lady of the garden enclosed. In Latin: hortus conclusus, a favourite topic in the late Middle Ages, in painting and on tapestries. We see Mary – because it always refers to her – in a walled garden with many flowers and near here usually stands a unicorn. Source is the Old Testament Song of Songs, where we read: “She is a garden enclosed, my sister, my promised bride; a garden enclosed, a sealed fountain” (4: 12).
That garden enclosed has always been connected to the Immaculate Conception of Mary which, as you know, means that Mary has been free of sin since her conception in the womb of her mother Anna; a premature redemption because she would , after all, carry God Himself in her womb. Spotless she had to be, a garden enclosed, a sealed fountain. Similar is an invocation in a litany of Mary from Loreto, the so-called Lauretan litany, which has been taken complete from Scripture.
Hortus conclusus – garden enclosed
Fons signatus - sealed fountain
The unicorn which is often depicted near Mary in the garden enclosed is also taken from Scripture and is mentioned in various place in the Old Testament. It seeks refuge in the lap of the Virgin and has the power to purify poisoned wells with its horn. It is connected to Christ, of course – the purity is central. Tota pulchra - o most beautiful, that is how we may understand it.
The image also has something poetic and we may emphasise that in this time: the beauty of our faith, because God is the most beautiful and that has always inspired so many artists. But poetry is not only sweet, like in the diaries of my sisters when we were children. Today too, in this lovely, blooming month of May, we may go to Mary in her enclosed garden, probably through rain and at least under dark and threatening clouds.
A sad, crying Mary she is here, for what her Son had to go through – didn’t old Simeon already foretell it to her? -, also for the many sins and the suffering in the world that is not only great elsewhere, but also when it hits us ourselves here. Who better to go to that to you Mother, our heavenly Mother, who is, unlike any other, so near to the Lord, to God Himself.
The Father also did not take away the suffering of the Son. So we must carry or cross, but with the Lord who said Himself: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest”, and with His Mother Mary on our side the burden will be lighter, we can handle it and we can look up to the brightly shining crown, image of the Resurrection, of victory. That is why the crying Mary is also a happy one because the joy is ultimate!
We may gather under Mary’s protection like this, now in this Mass, in a joyful walk towards her, image of the pilgrimage that is our life.
We seek refuge under your protection, Our Holy Mother of God.