Tuesday, May 28, 2024

A Report from the Chartres Pilgrimage

Our thanks to Mr Charles Bradshaw for sharing with us this write-up of the annual Chartres pilgrimage. The pictures were taken by his father-in-law, Mr Joseph Thurrott, who, due to the crowds, was unable to get near the cathedral on Monday, but still, they provide a glimpse into what the pilgrimage looks like “on the ground” with one of the Chapters.

The recent Chartres pilgrimage reached an important milestone that even the French National secular media were not keen to miss: a month before the pilgrimage even began, bookings were closed due to record numbers, and on Saturday, May 18, some 18 thousand pilgrims (at an average age of 21) set off on the road that separates Paris from Chartres. The Pentecost Sunday Mass in the pre–Tridentine Dominican rite was broadcast live on CNews, the French equivalent of Sky News, whilst BFM TV gave their morning news slot over to the story, to name but a few of the media outlets covering the event.

Yet more importantly than numbers and coverage, is the question that needs to be raised and addressed both on the continent and this side of the Channel. What is it that year after year keeps more young people coming?

Notre Dame de Chrétienté is a lay led organisation that has risen to the challenge of the current times without shying away from the elephant in the room (Traditiones Custodes) or backing down. Rather they’ve chosen to do what the French have always done: carry on and, to make light of the situation by producing a T-shirt with “guardians of tradition” proudly printed on the back. In fact, there are lessons to be learnt: under pressure from the French bishop’s conference to use the reformed missal, rather than keeping the advertised Masses quiet or reserved to a small few, instead of backing down, they have raised their voice louder, and this in no small way explains the success of the pilgrimage. The Traditional Latin Mass is not the preferential option of a small group of people, but the rich heritage of the Universal Church, as Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of 2007 made clear. It wasn’t, isn’t and shall never be the exclusive property of a fee paying few. Furthermore, this Rite of the Church was never abrogated, and if logic is required, then the same must hold true today. If numbers are needed, Chartres provides: the organisers estimate some 60% regular attendees of the Traditional Mass, 30% attending both forms, and 10% not even Christian.
So, what brings that 10%? Nothing other than the power of Truth. This is the second key to the success of the Chartres pilgrimage: sound doctrine and the unashamed preaching thereof. Pick up the pilgrim handbook, and as the pages of the Mass unfold, so does the catechetical teaching that accompanies it, compiled by the monks of Fontgombault, who even teach priests to say it in vast numbers. Doctrine is not just a question of liturgy: it naturally flows from it, but it is a rich whole. As the Chaplain of the Chartres Pilgrimage, Fr de Massia put it, “it is the only reality worth living”.
But there’s another side to this story that keeps getting missed: the French fighting spirit. Integrity and downright brutal honesty are part of the French DNA. Some call it pride, others the sheer determination not to be beaten down. It is the Faith of a people who have taken the Gospel literally, and that means living it to the full. It is that authenticity that the pilgrims sing “chez nous, soyez Reine”, Mary be Queen of our homes! It is belief that is not afraid to upset or challenge. Therein lies the third key to the Chartres success story.
In short, it is none other than living the threefold demand which French writer Jean Madiran addressed to the Pope in those turbulent years after the Council: “give us back the Mass, the Catechism and Scripture”. What lessons must we learn? That it is time to live the Mass, love the Mass, share and defend the Mass, not hide it, lock it up and mute what it stands for. Yes, at whatever cost.
As the 42nd Chartres pilgrimage drew to a close on Pentecost Monday afternoon, before Pontifical Mass began, the President of Notre Dame de Chrétienté addressed the now twenty thousand strong packed Cathedral and square for a brief moment in English, urging the “étrangers” to take Chartres home and in direct partnership with them start such initiatives themselves. Isn’t it about time “Christendom Pilgrimage” was born in England’s land? The 43rd Chartres pilgrimage will take on the challenging theme of “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven” celebrating 100 years since Quas Primas and the social reign of Christ the King. “Regnavit a ligno Deus” is not outmoded, you see, or impossible to realize: it just takes integrity and will power to do so! Chartres t’appelle!

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