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de Notre Dame de Paris à Notre Dame de Chartres

The Pilgrimage to Chartres is an ancient tradition, having been walked by popes, kings and queens (including Louis IX and Mary Queen of Scots), great French writers such as Charles Peguy, and Saints such as St. Bernard, St. Joan of Arc, St. Anselm, St. Vincent de Paul, Louis Martin, Francis de Sales and countless others, and last but not least by many members of St Bede’s traditional community.

Vatican ll nearly killed it off, but twenty-five years ago, a small band of French traditionalists re-established the Pilgrimage.  Barred at the doors of Chartres Cathedral, they had to celebrate the traditional Mass in the town square.  Thus began the restoration of what was one of the last annual pilgrimages in Europe.  Much has been written about Chartres, but the Pilgrimage must be experienced to be understood.

It begins on the day before Pentecost when thousands of traditional Catholics from the USA, Russia, Australia, Ireland, Canada, the UK, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Spain and so many other countries join their French brothers and sisters at dawn beneath the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  Three days later it ends in the city of Chartres, as well over ten thousand dust-covered traditionalists complete the challenging march and kiss the stones of the ancient Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres.  Much of what happens in between defies description.

Charttres PilgrimageThe two Pentecost pilgrimages - the one organized by Notre-Dame de Chrétienté and the other organized by the SSPX - are the most important annual events happening anywhere in the world today, but you won’t find a single mention in the secular media.

It is a living, breathing act of Faith, augmented by Catholic militancy and old-world charm.  Just imagine: three days with no talking heads from the Christophobic left, no blah, blah, blah, three days without the sex, sewage and din of the modern world that insulate modern men from any contemplation of the four last things.  The road to Chartres exists in the real world, where the pilgrim remembers what it is like to feel completely alive, both in body and soul.  It is for God that the pilgrims march, for God and Catholic restoration.

Why do thousands of Catholics from all over the world make the journey back to France every spring?  Because their hearts are heavy, their peers have apostatized, their families are divided, their countries are dying and their Faith is under relentless siege ... the Pilgrimage provides salve for their wounded souls.

It rained this year on the road to Chartres; it rained, sleeted and some even saw a snowflake or two.  For hours we walked through a sea of mud ankle deep, yet, incredibly, spirits soared!  Chapters upon chapters of pilgrims passed bustling with song and prayer and happy conversation throughout the three days.

Yes, Europe is in the process of banishing the old Faith from her shores!  She’s busy legalizing every conceivable human depravity, butchering her babies, euthanizing her elderly, destroying the Christian family and the sacrament of matrimony.  And, yet, in the midst of all this putrefaction, over the hill comes a jubilant band of thousands upon thousands of Catholic pilgrims from every corner of the globe, marching six abreast, in a column stretching from horizon to horizon, announcing to the whole world that the old Faith is still alive and in rude and hearty good health.

For three days, even secular France can’t ignore this strange and wonderful pilgrim parade, flanked by countless priests in muddied cassocks and purple stoles, the all but forgotten keepers of Europe’s broken altars.  Throngs of scouts lovingly carry statues of Our Lady on their shoulders; banners of the saints are raised high for all to see; pilgrims sing forgotten hymns, renew broken vows, and celebrate Mass in the Rite of their forefathers, saints and martyrs.  The Pilgrimage to Chartres is a fire in the darkness that covers modern Europe.

Sunday, after the sun had long since set, the fire became literal when a bonfire crackled in the centre of the field where hundreds of tents had been pitched for the night.  Its flames licked the darkness ten feet in the air, transforming the faces of countless pilgrims in a flickering, reddish glow.  Their boots were caked with dried mud; white bandages identified the walking wounded.  They wore traditional scout scarves around their necks; their flags and banners, emblazoned with images of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady, snapped in the breeze overhead.

 “Je vous salue, Marie” (“Hail Mary…”) the rugged company sang in rousing harmony over and over again.  A couple of monks in the traditional habit of the Benedictines led the pilgrim chorus.  Suspended high on a wooden cross a young scout played the part of the Crucified.  What one saw was a raw manifestation of faith and tradition that was so Catholic to the very core that it sent shivers down one’s spine.

Then the pilgrim voices grew silent, as that band of thousands turned towards the opposite side of the field and knelt down.  The drama has ended, but one final act is yet to be played out.  Nearby, there is a small chapel tent that is lit from within by a single candle, a sanctuary lamp.  God Himself has been waiting in the wings.

Absolute silence reigns as a priest emerges from that makeshift Holy of Holies.  Without a word, he raises the Blessed Sacrament and traces the Sign of the Cross over a sea of kneeling pilgrims.  All eyes are locked on the monstrance in humble worship; a mass Sign of the Cross is made in the windblown silence.

This is what the Revolution has labored 500 years to obliterate from the face of the earth.  It’s not just the Mass of Ages … it’s the very Faith itself, whole and entire, which includes the hallowed customs of the most transcendent cultural heritage the world has ever known.

There are few present who appeared to be much over twenty years old..  This is a children’s crusade…only without the folly.  The future belongs to them.  The Revolution has failed.  The promise for the future is breath-taking.

Michael Matt, the American chapter leader, recorded that tears burned in his eyes as he absorbed the full extent of that joyful realization and that he could not remember being more proud to be a Catholic.  “It was” he wrote “one of the most beautiful manifestations of Faith one will ever see.”

One young lady, who had been to World Youth Day, was asked how that compared to Chartres, her response was potent: “Notre-Dame de Chrétienté should organize that, too.  Maybe then it would be as Catholic as this!  It will take time to absorb what I’ve seen here. But I’ll never forget it.”

If you are interested in taking part in this beautiful experience, contact::
 Francis Carey, Chartres 2001, 14 Beryl Road, London,  W6 8JT
 Tel: 020 8741 1316, Fax: 020 8868 7158.
Email: latinmassuk@yahoo.co.uk

Pilgrims from the USA or Canada should contact: Fr John Mole: 175 Main Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K13 1C3, Canada

The pilgrimage also has its own website (but you need to be able to read French).  Click here.


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