Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed – Homily

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.

The clouds that Fr. Wagenaar refers to in the homily were indeed hard to miss


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.


Charges against Mixa dropped, but his resignation already accepted

Shortly before his trip to Portugal*, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg. The reason being, as far as can be reconstructed by someone outside the entire process, the accusation of physical and sexual abuse made against Bishop Mixa, as well as his ‘creative’ use of the truth. Accusations of Mixa having hit children in his time as a priest have been around for longer. I’ve written about it before. And initially the bishop denied ever having laid hands on anyone, something which he later came back on. In my opinion, it is that which led to his resignation: not the slaps he may have handed out in the past (something which was much more socially accepted at the time – teachers and parents would be able to use a slap as a corrective measure without any uproar), but the fact that he lied.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention the accusation of sexual abuse. That’s because that accusation was false. Even worse, it was engineered. A man was identified as a victim of Mixa’s, something the man in question then denied.

The above is a very serious risk. If, for whatever reason, someone bears a grudge against a priest or bishop, they can do serious damage by accusing him of sexual abuse. Even if Bishop Mixa had been honest from the very start and the pope would not have accepted his resignation, how could he have continued in his function as bishop? Sexual abuse is such a serious crime that it forever taints him who is guilty of it, or even accused of it. We see it when convicted offenders, after their punishment, return to society: the distrust always remains.

That is why, in the attempts to find out the truth, we must be really careful. There is a risk, I would say, a certainty, that some of the thousands of accusations made against priests and bishops now are false. They could have been engineered by people bearing a grudge, or simply by people who are after the money to be one in a settlement.

Finding out the truth, both of what happened and of the motivation of the claimant, takes time. That is contrary to the wishes of the victims, and understandably so. Many feel they have been waiting too long already. But the only answer that is satisfactory in the long term, for everyone involved, is the full truth, however hidden and buried it may be.

*More about that tomorrow.