Thursday 17 April 2008

Fire in Darkness: the 26th Whitsun Pilgrimage to Chartres, 9-13 May 2008

Chez Nous Soyez Reine! - In our hearth be Queen!

So sing the pilgrims at the end of a magnificent Solemn High sung Mass in the Cathedral of ND de Chartres after their great 117 kilometre, 2 1/2 day trek from ND de Paris to ND de Chartres.

And they practically lift the roof off the Cathedral, too!

It is an extraordinary sensation to be in a Cathedral of this size and antiquity with 20,000 other pilgrims, in and out, singing so enthusiastically to our Lady after a magnificent mass in the traditional rite.

You cannot even begin to understand it unless you have personally experienced it. There is simply nothing else quite like seeing 20,000 tired but exhilarated pilgrims walking into Chartres and its the Cathedral square as the reverberating sound of the massive Cathedral bell tolls out from its belfry to welcome the faithful to the West port.

However, here is a video clip which gives you a tiny flavour of it:

The pilgrims are singing the pilgrimage song Chez Nous and the chorus runs thus:

Chez nous soyez Reine, nous sommes à vous;
Régnez en souveraine, chez nous, chez nous !
Soyez la Madonne qu'on prie à genoux,
Qui sourit et pardonne chez nous, chez nous !

(In our hearths be Queen, we are thine;
Reign sovereign, in our hearths, in our homes!
Be the Madonna to whom we pray on bended knee,
Who smiles and forgives, in our hearths, in our homes!)

The Chartres pilgrimage is an ancient tradition in France which has been given new vigour by the association Notre-Dame de Chrétienté (Our Lady of Christendom) which has organised it for the last 25 years. It is a walk of prayer and penance to the glory of God and our Blessed Lady.

Encouraged by the Pope, and numerous bishops, 15-20,000 pilgrims (including 850 from outside France) take part in a three-day walk of 70 miles, making this the largest pilgrimage of its kind in Western Europe, both in the distance covered and in the number of pilgrims.

What happens?

It begins on the day before Pentecost when thousands of Catholics from 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 the dust-covered pilgrims 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.

The British Group over the last few years has contained several musicians, lawyers, doctors, army officers, students, civil servants, computer specialists, physiotherapists, teachers, builders, postmen, engineers, a retired famous footballer, the young and the old.....the pilgrimage is for everyone.

For three days, France can’t ignore this strange and wonderful pilgrim parade, flanked by countless priests in muddied cassocks and purple stoles. Throngs of scouts carry statues of our Lady on their shoulders; banners of the saints are raised high for all to see; pilgrims sing ancient hymns, renew broken vows, and celebrate mass in the ancient rite of their forefathers, saints and martyrs.

80% of the pilgrims are under 30.

These pilgrims see a Faith which is dynamic, solid and comprehensive; they see hope for the future in the enthusiastic unashamed desire to be truly zealous of their fellow young pilgrims; and they see charity alive and on fire. It is Christianity without compromise.

The Pilgrimage to Chartres is fire in the darkness that covers modern Europe.

Here is another clip that gives you a taste of the pilgrim spirit:

An underlying theme of the pilgrimage is the memory of the holy martyrs of the Vendee region of France and of Brittany, where, during the violence and terror of the French Revolution, the Catholics of these regions, lay and clerical, peasant and noble, stood firm for Faith against the most savage persecution.

These areas had been missionized by St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort in the previous century and were thoroughly Catholic, devoted to the Sacred Heart, to our Lady and to the Pope. Unlike much of the rest of France, in these areas the clergy and nobility were faithful and devout and cared for their flocks, an equally devout peasantry. Indeed, it was the peasants themselves who rose up first against the depredations of the Revolution.

St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, whose statue (above) stands in St Peter's Basilica, was an heroically devout and holy young man, son of a notary, who dedicated his life to the missions and whose example and preaching in the West of France helped preserve its people from the corrosive spirit of the age that was leading the rest of France to religious indifference and bloody revolution. He was author of The Secret of the Rosary and True Devotion to Mary.

The Vendeans rose to protect the holy Catholic Religion and their right to attend its services, for the restoration of the Catholic monarchy of France, and refusing to be drafted into the revolutionary militia. Although they were massacred and their lands, homes and livestock burnt, these incredibly courageous Christians did not ever give up and eventually succeeded in all their aims once Bonaparte realised that it was the only way to pacify them and, after his fall, even the monarchy returned. Indeed, Boney had to send 2 Divisions to quell a yet further uprising in the Vendee and Brittany during the "Hundred Days" when they heard that Bonaparte had returned from exile. With those 2 Divisions Boney would almost certainly have won at Waterloo!

The symbol of the Vendee: the cross-surmounted Sacred Heart of Christ the King

The symbol of the Vendeans and the Breton "Chouans" (as they were called) was, and remains, the cross-surmounted symbol of the Sacred Heart, the devotion to the heart of Jesus, a devotion beloved of the Carthusians but revived in France by St Margaret-Mary Alacoque in the 17the Century after her visions of Christ in the Convent of the Visitation in Paray-le-Monial, and thereafter spread by the Jesuits, particularly her confessor, St Claude de la Colombiere SJ, partly in antidote against the coldness of the Jansenists.

There is even a new order of traditional nuns who wear it emblazoned on their habits - and they are wonderful!

How does it work?

The pilgrims walk in "chapters" (groups of 20 to 50 people), under the patronage of a saint and are led by a leader who, with the help of chaplains, organises the chapter hymns, meditations, rosary and prayers.

Each day, mass is celebrated in the most beautiful way, in accordance with the Motu Proprio of the Pope, Summorum Pontificum. Two masses in the “Cathedral of the Trees” in the open air, and the last in one of the most beautiful medieval Cathedrals in the world.

Each evening a tent city is created by the Scouts to house the many pilgrims. A hearty soup is served to all and a great bonfire and historical pageant is performed on Saturday night by some of the organisers and Scouts.

Sunday night is for our Lord, with all night adoration in the open air ensuring a night of prayer and silence.

Come and see...


“… the most important annual event happening anywhere in the world today”

Chartres 2008

9th to 13th May 2008.

For further information contact:

TELEPHONE: 01494 729 223

Our Lady of Christendom, pray for us!


1 comment:

Walter said...

Truly beautiful and fills my heart with joy.