Yesterday I was honoured to be present at the ordination to the priesthood of Father Hugo (until today know here on the blog and elsewhere as Brother Hugo). The two-hour ordination Mass, celebrated by Bishop Gerard de Korte in concelebration with members of the diocesan curia, two visiting bishops, the Altvater of the hermits’ association of Frauenbründl, the cathedral administrator and personal priest friends of Fr. Hugo, was attended by, at rough estimate, some 400 people. It was a celebration befitting the contemplative life that Fr. Hugo exemplifies as a hermit, with musical accompaniment from a four-man schola, who sung the set parts of the Mass in Latin, as well as the Veni Sancti Spiritus, a long Litany of the Saints (with many local saints and holy hermits asked for their intercession) and Deus ibi est. The readings were Isaiah 61:1-3a, 6a; Hebrews 5:1-10; and Matthew 20:25-28.
Bishop de Korte spoke in his homily about the three elements of Father Hugo’s pastoral care. As a hermit, Fr. Hugo will not be assigned to a parish, but remain (according to the bishop, because of his young age, for many more years to come) at the shrine of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed. The three elements (perhaps inspired by Pope Francis’ tendency to highlight three main points in his homilies?) are prayer, comfort and mercy.
Fr. Hugo’s life is marked by prayer, and he prays for and on behalf of all those who can’t pray, don’t know how to pray, don’t make the time to pray.
The shrine draws many people who have experienced sorrow, or continue to do so. In his pastoral care, Fr,. Hugo offers the comfort that the Lord also offers, not least through Our Lady, who has known sorrow in her own life.
As a priest, Fr. Hugo can now offer the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation in addition to the pastoral conversation he already has with many people, faithful and otherwise. In this way, God is merciful and always gives us the chance to start anew.
Following the ordination Mass there was a reception in a nearby hotel, at which Father Hugo (a name more thana few, including the new priest himself, will have to get used to) spent most of his time shaking hands and receiving well-wishes and gifts.
On my part, I am curious to see what the future holds for Fr. Hugo and the shrine of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed. If the past is any indication, any guess is bound to be overtaken by reality pretty soon.
Lastly then, some photos:
^His hands in the hands of the bishop, then-Brother Hugo promises his respect and obedience to the bishop and his successors.
^During the Litany of the Saints (long enough to take up four pages in the liturgy booklet), Brother Hugo lies flat before the sanctuary as bishops, priests and faithful pray on his behalf.
^First step of the actual ordination, the bishop lies his hands on Brother Hugo. This is followed by the other bishops and priests present doing the same, and the bishop praying the prayer of ordination.
^One of the two bishops present was Bishop Hans van den Hende of Rotterdam, himself born and raised in Groningen.
^Father Johannes Schuster leads the hermits’ association of Frauenbründl in Bavaria, of which Warfhuizen is the most distant outpost. As such, he presented Fr. Hugo for ordination and clothed him in stole and chasuble, the signs of his priesthood.
Photo credit: [1-4] Marjo Antonissen Steenvoorde, [5-6] Marlies Bosch