Going on a pilgrimage

“Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
So priketh hem Nature in hir corages-
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages”

… as old Master Chaucer put it in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. And while it is May, and not Aprille, I will go and visit a shrine this afternoon, and with me a fair number of other people of the Guild of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed. We will start with Mass in the parish church of St. Boniface in Wehe Den Hoorn and then will process to the shrine, which is also the hermitage of Brother Hugo. It’s a procession of only two kilometers and today it looks to be a slightly rainy one too. It’s a contrast to last year’s pilgrimage, of which you see photo above: it was a warm day, us acolytes wore cassocks and surplices and took turns carrying the cast iron processional cross on its three-meter pole. A rather top-heavy thing. Taking turns was a necessity.

Anyway, once at the shrine, we will celebrate Holy Hour with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. That will then be concluded with coffee and sandwiches. A simple yet devotional practice, I always find. This will be the fourth time I’m participating.

What is the Guild of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed? Quoting from the new website, linked above:

“The Guild […] is a so-called devotional guild [, …] a company of faithful who share a certain preference for a specific saint or a certain aspect of the faith. In the case of the guild of Warfhuizen [the village where the shrine is located] they are Catholics who are especially touched by Mary, the mother of Jesus. [They]  specifically venerate her as Mother of Sorrows. They are touched by Mary’s sorrow as she experienced the suffering and death of her Son.

“The guild was established following the development of pilgrimages to Warfhuizen, [which] started spontaneously in 2003.

“[…] the guild is primarily a community of prayer. We strongly believe in its power and daily pray for the wellbeing of the Church and the world. There is a special guild prayer that many of us pray daily, but it is also possible to do so in our own words, or in silence. The guild does require that we always specifically pray for our own diocese and bishop.”

It sounds very pious and serious, and it is, but at the same time it is not. It’s hard to characterise the guild and its members, but the aforementioned website calls it “familiar, informal”, and that’s true. Case in point: I’m meeting with about a dozen guild members who are first and foremost friends. The atmosphere is perhaps best characterised by the familiarity between friends and their familiarity with the Blessed Virgin and so also Christ.

“Mother of Sorrow, thou knowest what sadness is. Pray for us to your Son Jesus: for faith for those who do not believe. For comfort and relief of those who are ill, and, if it is God’s will, healing. For trust and peace for those who are afraid or lonely. For passionate faithful, for holy priests and religious. That God may keep the Church from any danger and bless our diocese. Mary, Garden Enclosed, pray for us.”