Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed is a Roman Catholic Hermitage; a little dwelling adjoining a chapel, in which a hermit (a solitary monk) lives. Since 2001, this hermitage has been located in the old heart of the Groninger village of Warfhuizen, in the far north of the Province of Groningen.
Prayer and Spiritual Life
Daily life in the hermitage is in many ways similar to that of monks and sisters (‘nuns’) in monasteries. Such a life always consists of alternating work and prayer. Multiple set prayer times dictate the rhythm of the day. Often there are eight of these: Matins at night, Lauds and Prime in the morning, Terce, Sext and None during the day, Vespers in the early evening and Compline before bedtime. In Warfhuizen the somewhat older format of St. John Cassian is used. There are long vigils in the morning and evening, and the other hours are prayed in silence by the brother and concluded with a sung prayer (a so-called ‘litany’). The purpose if these prayer hours is to consecrate the various times or hours of the day to God. That is why it is called the Liturgy of the Hours.
Such a religious existence of prayer and reflection is also called contemplative, in contrast to religious who have the primary duty of pastoral care, care for the sick or education, who are called active religious.
Read more about spirituality here
Silence and Seclusion
The word ‘hermit’ derives from the Greek word ἔρημος, which means solitude, desert and alone. A male or female hermit is therefore a monk or monastic who lives alone, outside of a monastery. The first hermits found that silence, solitude and moderation in food and drink formed a good basis for prayer. By distancing themselves from the affairs of every day they were able to better direct themselves to God.
Unlike a standard Catholic church building the chapel of the hermitage is divided in two by a so-called cloister fence. This fence divides the space of the church in a public part, the chapel, and a separate section, the actual hermitage, Behind this fence the hermit leads a sequestered life of prayer, study and manual work.
Read more about the history of hermits here
Since a hermitage is also a place in the world, but at the same time somewhat outside it, people have been going to these places since the very first hermitages appeared. That is why pilgrimage sites developed near many hermitages, although the ideal of a life in a solitude got watered down a bit because of it. Since the 17th century, hermits often take care of remote chapels which attract pilgrimages. A similar situation has developed around the hermitage of Warfhuizen and the statue of the weeping Mary is at the heart of it. “Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed” is a typical Baroque processional statue from Seville. In the south of Spain it is usual to carry such statues through the street in the week before Easter. In Warfhuizen the statue found a place above the left side altar in 2003. Since that time an increasing number of people from far and near come to Warfhuizen to pray. For one reason or another they feel comforted in their own concerns and sorrows by the image of Mary’s compassion. The so-called ‘miracle of Warfhuizen’ refers to the coming of these people, especially without any apparitions of miraculous events having taken place.
Read more about the ‘Sorrowful Mother’ and the hermitage as a pilgrimage site here