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Friday, June 25, 2004

The Chartres Pilgrimage

Pentecost is long over, but I just found another great cache of photos from the Chartres Pilgrimage.

It's supposed to be incredibly grueling, but how often do you get to be a part of something like this?

The pilgrimage is not merely an epic walk. It is many things, described
in many ways: As "a difficult happiness"; "physically the hardest thing
I've ever done"; by a former NFL player as being "like six weeks of
training camp rolled into three days." At times it is almost
ridiculously romantic; at others it is most certainly pure misery. It is
truly and wonderfully medieval, not in a costumed, play-acting sense,
but in its essence as a visceral action, a three-day living of the
Catholic faith, as concrete an expression of our love for Our Lady as
the two cathedrals which bookend the pilgrimage.

-Notes on the 16th Pilgrimage

Crowds of French youths were already gathering outside the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris before 5am.... We would not have gained admittance to the Cathedral but for the fact we accompanied Father Michael Cahill, who was to say his private Mass before the 18th traditional Paris-Chartres pilgrimage began with Mass on the High Altar of Notre-Dame. I found myself among the Ukrainian Chapter, identifying themselves by crossing themselves from the right shoulder to the left in the Greek manner, rather than from left to right. Aside from this, there was no mistaking the fact we were in a distinctly western environment. Again Latin chant arose around the Gothic stones.......

Druids worshipped here once, then Franks built a church. The Frankish church decayed and the cathedral was built and became a great shrine to Our Lady. The revolutionaries tried to eradicate Catholicism here, but did not succeed. Napoleon famously remarked that Chartres was no place for an atheist. Indeed it is not. Today the Latin chants of the thousands of pilgrims assert the creed of resurrection at the Mass that refuses to die.

-Chartres and the Mass: the Heart of Christendom

An article on this pilgrimage was the key that unlocked the world of traditional Catholicism for me. During an HLI conference at my parish, my mom picked up a copy of Latin Mass Magazine that was lying on one of the display tables, and it contained a story on the pilgrimage. I was fascinated, and I started searching Google for more information. I immediately turned up this site, which proved to be the loose end of Ariadne's thread, leading me through the whole online labyrinth of trad sites, not to mention St. Blog's! Whether it led me in or out I am not quite sure. Documents like this blew my mind, and I began to piece together an idea of the last fifty years of Church history, an area in which my knowledge was hopelessly vague. Things became (at least superficially) more complicated. But I was so relieved to be rid of the "splinter in my mind," so to speak; the maddening intimation that something was seriously wrong, that there was a gap or rift in my understanding of the Church that I just couldn't bridge. Before I started reading about the Chartres Pilgrimage, I didn't know that the text of the Mass had essentially been scrapped and re-written, then subjected to the depredations of ICEL to produce the version we use today. In my innocence, I thought that it had been translated lovingly, word by word from the old rite, into faithful English. Sigh.

Although it has been three years since it discovered it, the idea of the Chartres Pilgrimage has not faded in my mind. It's the largest traditionalist event, of course, but it's more than numbers. It's like a fountain in the desert, like green shoots growing after fire. Radiant with hope.

Someday I will make it. Maybe a year from now, maybe five years. Maybe ten; life is uncertain. I would drink from that well of grace, though, the mere idea of which refreshed my faith and opened my eyes.

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