Rorate Caeli

Concluding Sermon of the 2016 Paris-Chartres Pilgrimage, by the Father Abbot of Fontgombault
-The True Meaning of Pilgrimage

Whitsun Monday
Notre-Dame de Chrétienté (Notre-Dame de Paris to Notre-Dame de Chartres) Pilgrimage

Dom Pateau in Notre-Dame de Chartres, Whitsun Monday

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral, May 16, 2016)

For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son.
(Jn 3:16)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The bodily assessment of these few days is pitiful... Painful muscles, feet reddened with blisters, perhaps the secret desire to catch up right now a few minutes’ slumber, thus anticipating a still faraway refreshing night...

At the end of this pilgrimage, Our Lady hails us from her house: “My dear child, why have you come here?” Is it for the sake of sport performance? Is it to meet friends?

The grace of God has given us during these days to discover again the road that leads to our hearts, the location where a great mystery takes place: the encounter with God.

During adoration, on June 8, 2014, Fr. Coiffet [1952-2015, former almoner of the pilgrimage] prayed thus:

Allow me to enter this silence full of God, full of the Holy Trinity, where I shall discover that because Thou hast loved us first, we have become able to love Thee and to love our neighbours...

And he continued:

Dear children, the pilgrimage has not ended... Tomorrow, it will keep on and on, as the road towards Heaven and saintliness... in your homes, families, schools...

I would add in our nations, in the Church.

“God paves the way for me”: such was the assertion of Joan, the Maid of Orleans, to her comrades-in-arms. A way has been paved for us, and we have walked it. What will happen tomorrow, when we are plunged back in daily routine? A wreck that keeps bobbing up and down in the waves, and is the prey of currents, has nothing to do with an arrow that flies straight towards its target.

To keep the spirit of pilgrimage means to accept suffering and efforts of a never-completed, and yet enduring conversion, it means to open up fearlessly and ceaselessly to God’s mercy, the inexhaustible viaticum of the pilgrim, who keeps falling, but also starting again on the road.

To keep the spirit of pilgrimage means to foster one’s faith, by appropriating the teachings of Christ and His Church, and acquiring a deeper knowledge of them. It means to remain in hope, because evil and the Evil One have already been overcome. 

Last, but not least, it means to put charity in practice, through the works of mercy towards our neighbours, first towards those who are closest to us, but without forgetting those who suffer persecution for the sake of the Name of Jesus, or those who ignore this Name.

To keep the spirit of pilgrimage means to be missionaries, to live the Gospel and to bear witness to it unto the peripheries. For some of us, it means a calling to take a generous and disinterested participation in politics, which is an eminent service of charity. More than ever, our disorientated world has a vague quest for a Saviour, more than ever, our confused world is calling for the makers of a Christendom. How much longer will the night last? How much longer will the swagger of those who claim to be able to go without God, make an alliance with the lack of faith and dedication, and even sometimes the stooping to compromise, of Christ’s witnesses? Do we really believe that it is incumbent upon us to proclaim the Gospel’s beauty, youth, and freshness to a world grown old?

There is still a great sorrow in the land of France. Pope Pius XII said, almost 60 years ago:

Do raise your eyes, beloved sons, you worthy members of a nation that glories in the title of Eldest Daughter of the Church, and consider the great examples that came before you... Down on your knees before the God Who is expecting you in His Tabernacle, renew your profession of faith, promise Him anew your most perfect faithfulness, and be assured that in so doing, you will answer your calling of men, of Christians, of Frenchmen... And if, for one moment, you might deem that iniquity, mendacity, and corruption reign supreme, you will but need to keep silent for a split-second and raise your eyes towards Heaven, to imagine that the legions of Joan of Arc are coming back with unfurled standards tosave your homeland and to save the faith. (Radio-message for the 500th anniversary of the rehabilitation of St. Joan of Arc, June 25, 1956)

How can we today correspond to these words of the holy Pontiff?

Joan’s ring, which was credited by some with magical powers, is among us. It is but the humble witness of the adamant faithfulness of the Maid of Orleans to her Lord.

To keep the spirit of pilgrimage, means to slip Joan’s ring on one’s finger, and hear her say:

I commend myself to God my Maker, I love Him with all my heart.

 Dieu premier servi (“Our Lord God must be first served”), such is our motto.

Then the Maid will tell us the words that her Voices had told her:

Grieve not for thy martyrdom (we might say, for the pains that your testimony, your conversion, will cost you). Be grateful for everything, and God will help thee. Thou shalt be delivered by a great victory, and go into Paradise.

This pilgrimage is finishing, the road is beginning:

“Come, Lord Jesus... Come, Holy Spirit...”

Amen, Alleluia.