Rorate Caeli

The Chartres Pilgrimage: Despite pressures, we will always keep the Traditional Mass, it is our raison d’être

 Notre-Dame de Chrétienté will walk this year meditating on the theme of the Eucharist for its Pentecost pilgrimage. Explanations with Jean de Tauriers, president of Notre-Dame de Chrétienté.

L’Homme Nouveau
May 4, 2023


For the 41st time, Notre-Dame de Chrétienté pilgrims will travel from Paris to Chartres on May 27, 28 and 29. Why did you choose the theme "The Eucharist, salvation of souls"? 

The particularity of our pilgrimage is our attachment to the traditional Mass, to the Tridentine rite. It seemed interesting to us, in these times when we are under attack, and spiritually precious for pilgrims, to meditate on the Eucharist, the real presence, which is at the heart of our attachment to the traditional Mass. We do not compare Masses; we simply choose the Extraordinary Form, and this for a reason of Faith.

I see the number of registrations for the pilgrimage increasing every day; we should certainly exceed 15,000 this year. These young people (because half of them are under 20 years old) come to seek a teaching of Faith and see in this Mass the affirmation of the sacredness, the transcendence of God, the certainty of the real presence. This should be an incentive for the Church to reflect: to see how much the fervent Catholic practitioners (our pilgrims are essentially practicing, and two thirds of them are in the extraordinary form) demand this teaching of the Church that they obtain through our priests.

Did the ban on public masses in 2020 [in France, due to pandemic restrictions] play a role in this choice?

Yes, it was a real shock for us. Notre Dame de Chrétienté is a crossroads: you find the Ecclesia Dei world there, but also non-traditional communities, many diocesan priests who follow their parishioners and who are very happy to come. The conservative fringe, even if I don't like that word, goes far beyond the ex-Ecclesia Dei: many of us have had the same misunderstanding of the ban on public Mass.

Notre-Dame de Chrétienté joined in a referendum to have the ban reversed, and we were vindicated. Banning mass when you can go shopping is secularism, the exaggerated secularism of our republic. It is not even neutrality or ignorance; it is hostility. But this episode has earned us a communion, a union in a kind of reaction: this need for the Mass, for confession, because we live from the Eucharist.

Notre-Dame de Chrétienté is certainly a traditional movement, but it brings together many people who have this same conviction. This pilgrimage, which dates back to the beginning, is very fervent and young, and welcomes everyone. I am sure that this year, as usual, we will be obliged to close certain categories because there will be too many people registered, especially since we are seeing the return of foreigners.

A certain number of pilgrimages have been created abroad, such as in the USA and Australia, where they are even taking on the name of “Our Lady of Chartres”!

We support these pilgrimages which take up our pillars: tradition, Christianity and mission, and we are very happy to see them develop.

You spoke of attacks... What are the pressures on [the Pilgrimage]?

Everything came with Traditionis Custodes in 2021. We should not generalize; some bishops are very friendly and hold the same positions as we do. But it is true that we are under episcopal pressure: we are asked to normalize ourselves, to use the modern liturgy.

But the traditional liturgy is part of our raison d'être, of our vocation. A whole pedagogy is inscribed around this liturgy alone, as we are showing this year with our theme, by relying on the elements that characterize the traditional Mass: the propitiatory sacrifice, the priesthood of the priest... We insist on these points of the catechism and we use the traditional Mass to shed light on everything that characterizes the Catholic Mass.

To want to change the liturgy is to eliminate one of the charisms of the Christian pilgrimage. However, there are other pilgrimages, there is no need to change what works. We can see it in the number of vocations that flourish each year, it is very unwise to want to put such pressure. All the more so as it annoys the unfortunate organizers...

Is this friendship of certain bishops taking shape this year? 

Yes, we have obtained the authorization of Archbishop Ulrich of Paris for Father Durodié, pastor of Saint-Eugène in Paris, to say Mass at Saint-Sulpice on Saturday at 6:05 a.m. The pilgrims meet at 6 a.m.

Bishop Christory of Chartres will attend the Mass celebrated in his cathedral on Monday by Bishop Gullickson, former U.S. apostolic nuncio to Ukraine and Switzerland.

Bishop Rougé will welcome the pilgrims as he does every year on Saturday in his diocese of Hauts-de-Seine. He is the one who celebrated the mass in preparation for the pilgrimage.

These are very friendly gestures.

How is the pilgrimage chaplaincy organized? Who prepares the meditations?

Our general chaplain is Father de Massia, of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. He oversees a network of regional chaplains who correspond to the regions of Notre-Dame de Chrétienté. It is a sort of binomial between the temporal and the spiritual: the head of the region and the head chaplain of the region. NDC is an association of lay people, with a chaplaincy. In this way we make a distinction, like the relationship between church and state: neither separation nor fusion. It is an organization that works well. Many priests accompany us.

For the meditations, it is the ex-Ecclesia Dei communities that follow us and accompany us spiritually, under the guidance of Father de Massia. The themes and contributions are distributed more than a year in advance: we have already asked the communities for next year.

Then there is a lot of rewriting to adapt the meditation to the situation of the pilgrimage. The chapter leaders must make the meditations their own, they can read them in a tone adapted to the walk: we are there to work, physically and intellectually. The texts are alternated with times of silence, songs and times of friendship. To prepare the chapter leaders for this mission, we organize recollections at the beginning of the year in order to present the theme and to train them.

The year of the pilgrim even begins in October at Fontgombault, then we have a day of Christian friendship (this year the colloquium on the traditional mass on September 24), and finally the recollections of preparation for the theme.

It is a whole curriculum that allows the chapter to remain mobilized all year long, like that of Saint-Lazare, Missio, Sainte Madeleine and so many others (there are more than 300 chapters!) This is how we keep the rhythm of the pilgrim's walk all year long.

Some chapters of Our Lady of Christendom are specific... How is everyone called to live the theme of this year?

We have indeed the chapter of Guardian Angels who are united to the pilgrimage. These are people who cannot walk with us, the sick, prisoners, who form a great chain of prayer during the pilgrimage all over the world (we even have a chapter in Mauritius!) They have exactly the same meditations as the walkers.

Another chapter that has a special vocation and that I hold dear is that of the Emmaus pilgrims. They are about thirty people, and their role is to go to the people who see us passing through their towns and villages in order to evangelize, to explain to them what we are doing, to pray with them, to invite them to walk with us... They leave the pilgrimage to form a bubble around the column, and to go to see the people, especially during the mass in Chartres.

These pilgrims of the Emmaus chapter have been trained on the theme of the pilgrimage, but their particular exercise obliges them to address with the people they meet the main questions that the latter ask: the existence of God, the mysteries of the Holy Trinity, of the Incarnation... They have a special chaplain for them, they are well prepared, pampered and encouraged.

I find this chapter very important to talk about the Good God to those who see us walking, and I think that all NDC executives should be able to do a stint at Emmaus and have this difficult experience of going to people. This missionary training is at the heart of NDC's great purpose.

Notre Dame de Chrétienté has produced a video to explain the specificity of the traditional Mass. Is the pilgrimage an opportunity for some to discover it?

We have a team of ambassadors who represent us in the media, who like to talk about their history at the pilgrimage. They are about 20 years old and they explain why they are there. That's the best way to present what we do: these pilgrims talk about it in their own words. It's very interesting, and very representative!

Thanks to them, we have about a third of the pilgrims who come to discover, and who come back the following years. Many of them are recent converts, or returners to the Church. Our 300 chapters represent a very wide variety of profiles.