Rorate Caeli

Chartres Pilgrimage 2014

Gathering outside Notre Dame in Paris, for Mass and a blessing.
I was on the Chartres Pilgrimage this year; readers can see the official photos here, for this post I'm using my own, which are gathered together here.

Mass in Notre Dame. We were blessed by Bishop Jean-Yves André Michel Nahmias,
auxiliary bishop of the Paris diocese.
For all my aches and pains it was a wonderful pilgrimage. It is not exactly a walk in the park - you walk 28 or so miles each of the first two days, and another 17 on the final day - but the participants are not athletes, it is for everyone. There are special chapters for children and for families with shortened routes, but even the main column includes the very young and the remarkably old, the sedentary as well as the super-fit boy scouts. A pilgrimage is a good (and traditional) metaphor for the Christian life, and the Chartres pilgrims are a good metaphor for the Church.

Setting off.
A pilgrimage always has its difficulties; the discomforts of the Chartres pilgrimage are too obvious (and numerous) to recount. But it is amazingly uplifting. Why? Because we do it for God. What is the point of doing this kind of thing for God? For all the reasons indicated by the intentions of the Pilgrimage, from the official, corporate intention of the conversion of France and Europe, to the numberless private intentions of the pilgrims. It is a gigantic act of thanksgiving, petition, and reparation.

A chapter of Iraqi Catholics, followed by the Lebanese. Spare a prayer for them.
An event like this is more than the sum of its parts. It includes not just the good of the individuals, but the good of the ordering of those individuals into a harmonious whole; it is not just our efforts to get up early and keep going, but our doing so out of fidelity to the good functioning of the pilgrimage as a whole, out of charity to our fellow pilgrims, and out of obedience. Again, the act of witness the pilgrimage represents is not just ten thousand or so individuals doing a pilgrimage, but of a column of ten thousand walking together, mile after mile of them, through the streets of Paris, the villages and the countryside. Finally, it is an opportunity for supporters of the Traditional Mass to come together from all over the world, not just to talk but to participate together in a single spiritual act.

Walking through the woods.

For this reason I urge readers, not just to go on pilgrimage, but specifically to support the magnificent work of Notre Dame de Chrétienté, the French organisers, and the organisers of the chapters from each country and each part of France, as appropriate. Similarly with the walking pilgrimages of other countries, the July St Olaf Pilgrimage in Russia, the August Walsingham pilgrimage organised by the Latin Mass Society in England, the September Auriesville Pilgrimage in the USA, and the October Christus Rex Pilgrimage in Australia. We all pay our respects to the Chartres Pilgrimage, which is the great granddaddy of them all: in England we sing the Hail Mary to the wonderful French tune (and words), as well as in Latin and English, as we learned to do on the road to Chartres; I see the Auriesville Pilgrims carry the ancient French flag emblazoned with the Sacred Heart, which you see so much in Chartres.

Mass in a field on the second day.

It was blazing hot this year, making it tougher than usual - seasoned pilgrims were saying it was one of the very toughest in their experience. We offered it all up. This is a wonderful thing that we can do for the Church. There is no self-indulgence here, no attempt to solve the Church's problems by complaining, no demanding that other people do more for us than they do. This is something we can all do ourselves, or at least support - financial support for cash-strapped pilgrims is very much appreciated, particularly those having to cross the Atlantic. Each year the Chartres Pilgrimage is a great blow struck for the Church, and for the restoration of all things in Christ. Come and strike it with us next year!

Exposition at Gas campsite, the second evening.
I've written some more on the pilgrimage, and the British Chapter, here.

The towers of Notre Dame de Chartres in the distance.

Bishop Aillet of Bayonne celebrated the Mass in
Chartres Cathedral for us; the Bishop of Chartres was in attendance.