Brother Hugo, Hermit of Our Lady of the Enclosed Garden

“The Roman Catholic hermitage of Our Lady of the Enclosed Garden is situated in the former parish church of Warfhuizen, a village in the extreme north of the Netherlands. It is the only Dutch hermitage currently inhabited by a hermit. The name draws upon the traditional epithet for the Virgin Mary (“Our Lady”) of hortus conclusus or enclosed garden, a reference to the Song of Songs that indicates the Virgin’s “perpetual virginity and at the same time her fruitful maternity”.
The hermitage was founded in 2001 as the dwelling of a Roman Catholic consecrated hermit. As is typical of Dutch hermitages, it includes a public chapel that has a distinct role in popular devotions, here to the Virgin Mary, also known as “Our Lady”. It is the northernmost Marian shrine in the Netherlands.
The hermitage in Warfhuizen is a continuation of the tradition of hermits which arose in Limburg and North Brabant following the Counter Reformation. The last brother of that tradition died in 1930 in de Schaelsberg hermitage in Valkenburg aan de Geul. Contrary to most hermitages abroad, these hermitages featured a public chapel which often played a part in local devotions.
After a slow decline since the 1880s the number of Roman Catholic hermits in Europe started to increase again towards the end of the 20th century, although the Netherlands did initially lag in this development. There have always been members of religious orders who lived as hermits, but the ‘true hermits’ became extinct after 1930. The old hermitages were left empty and mostly disappeared. This bothered some of the faithful. In 2001 the empty church of the village of Warfhuizen was acquired by Catholics and a simple hermit’s dwelling was realised in the bay adjacent to the tower, which since then has been inhabited by a hermit (Brother Hugo). The rest of the building serves as a chapel. The hermit is part of the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden and has made his religious oaths to the bishop of that diocese.
Since the Second Vatican Council revitalised the hermetic ideal, a small amount of new legislation has been created. The Code of Canon Law (Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 603) requires hermits to be more secluded than was the custom in the Netherlands. As a result, there is an enclosed area in Warfhuizen in which the hermit lives and works. In the chapel this is created by the large rood screen which separates the choir from the nave.”
sorrowful mother
The Sorrowful Mother of Warfhuizen is the name most often used for Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed, the statue that is kept in the hermitage of Warfhuizen. Since 2003 it has been drawing many pilgrims to the village in the north of Groningen. It is also popularly called Our Lady of Warfhuizen or Mary of Warfhuizen.

In gratitude – Brother Hugo makes his perpetual vows
November 19, 2012
brother hugo
“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.
Postbus 70116    9704  AC  Groningen telefoon:  050-4032204 mobiel  06-22234558 e-mail:
Broeder Hugo, Netherlands hermit
Brother (Broeder) Hugo is a Dutch Catholic hermit, born in Drendts, Netherlands, in 1976, a convert. He lives in the vault of an old church in Warfhuizen, in northeastern Netherlands. The church itself is open to the public, attracted by Broeder Hugo’s Marian devotion. His growing popularity is due in part to his embrace of social media (using a web site, Facebook page, and Twitter) for spiritual counseling, his practical advice and recommended readings, and his youthful and friendly manner.
The website (titled “Kluizenarij OLV van de Besloten Tuin” or Hermit of Our Lady’s Enclosed Garden”) is all in Dutch. Includes a video (“Kluizenaar de Film” – “The Hermit on Film”) that follows Broeder Hugo on a typical day.

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