The Night of Mary

Last weekend I took part in the first event by the Guild of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed aimed at young adults: the Night of Mary. We gathered in the small hamlet of Warfhuizen, home of the shrine of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed, for shared lunch and dinner, companionship, an introduction by hermit Brother Hugo on the topic of night, an afternoon walk through the Groninger countryside (below) to stretch the limbs and an evening candlelit procession to Our Lady at the shrine.

About a dozen young people came to spend the afternoon and take part in the procession, which was also open to adult pilgrims. We processed under a starlit sky, around the village cemetery and a field behind it (the only option in the village to walk a circle, unless we took a 15-kilometer detour in order to cross the canal), followed by a couple of very curious horses which managed to disrupt the prayer of Deacon Patrick, Brother Hugo and seminarian Sander leading the procession (the three fell into helpless laughter after a horse nuzzled the back of the deacon’s neck… a bit of a shocker in the dark!). At the shrine, we had exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and a lot of personal prayer intentions. These intentions are not new at Holy Hour at the shrine, but the sheer number of them was.

For something of an impression, Ingrid created this short film:

There are some photos available at the website of the shrine, here.

Photo credit: Mercèdès Terlaak

A hermit in the movies

“A reflective documentary about the human movement between wanting something really bad and stubborn reality”. That is how the short (25 minutes) documentary about Brother Hugo, that was filmed in September, January and March, is described on the official website.

The film, shot in 16mm to enforce a higher level of concentration for the makers, will be shown on three days (28, 29 and 30 June) at the Keep an Eye Filmacademy Festival in Amsterdam. An invitation-only première will take place two days earlier.

Brother Hugo is the only diocesan hermit in our diocese living in a small country church that was converted into a hermitage and shrine of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed. He has been there for over a decade and has since become a fixture of village life in the small hamlet of Warfhuizen. Despite his secluded life, Brother Hugo has been the focus of much media attention over the years, and also contributes himself via blogs and articles he writes on various topics.

I am curious to see the picture this documentary paints of such an unfamiliar life, unfamiliar especially here in the north. I have little doubt that a DVD will be available later via the Guild of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed, or directly at the hermitage.

Joy in photographs

Ordination season seems to be bearing proper fruit worldwide this year, and the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, in its own small way, joyfully participated in that as well. With the ordination of Father Tjitze Tjepkema and Deacons Pascal Huiting and Maurits Damsté our diocese gains three spiritual, intelligent and socially-minded men, if the words of Father Peter Wellen, diocesan vicar, are anything to go by. Bishop Gerard de Korte ordained the three men in a two-hour-plus Mass attended by some 400 people. The two new deacons are transitional deacons, and will be ordained to the priesthood on 29 October. Sadly, it was not allowed to take photos during the Mass, so I didn’t snap any inside the cathedral. Still, the photo to the left may give an indication of the gold-and-white flying against the clear blue sky of a lovely spring morning outside the cathedral of Saint Joseph in Groningen.

Speaking about photos, two galleries have appeared on Flickr of the annual Guild procession to Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed. I participated in that and wrote about it on the blog before. The first gallery, courtesy of Mr. Geert van Duinen, may be viewed here, and the second, by Marjo Antonissen, is here. Images of devotion, prayer, and also hard labour, because those banners don’t get themselves to Warfhuizen, certainly not when the strong wind of the Hogeland does its best to blow them all the other way. Carrying a banner depicting Saint Ludgerus, I can safely admit that I offered up my efforts of pushing the saint to the hermitage.

Showcasing the unique mix of devotion and levity, is below photo of a common sight in Warfhuizen: Brother Hugo when he needs to get somewhere reasonably fast, relying on his trusty scooter.

A prayer answered

The attentive reader will have noticed a small change in the left sidebar of my blog. Directly below the short blurb about yours truly there is now an image of the devotional statue or Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed. This is the name with which the Blessed Virgin is known and venerated in the small chapel and hermitage in the village of Warfhuizen. In the past decade that unassuming site has become the focal point of prayer and pilgrimage. No miracles have happened here, apart from prayers answered (although hermit Brother Hugo calls the fact that so many faithful have come to this far northern location for Our Lady a miracle in itself), but people come to pray from all over the Netherlands and beyond.

Last week, so did I, as part of the Guild of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed’s annual pilgrimage. And I too had reason to come and lay my prayers at the foot of Our Lady. And her intercession paid off. What I prayed for will, God willing, bear fruit tomorrow. To reflect my gratitude I chose to make Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed a permanent fixture of my blog, so that my effort here may, so to speak, continue to fall under her protection.

Sancta Maria, Hortus Conclusus, ora pro nobis!

For more information on the Guild, check their website.

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.”