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Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Speaking of Chartres...

My friend has a friend who went on the Chartres pilgrimage this year. She just sent her a series of excerpts from her journal, which I thought made for inspiring and delicious reading. There are vignettes of Nevers, Lourdes, La Salette and Laus as well - it's an epic shrine crawl. Hmmmm, more places I have to visit someday...

Sketches from a Pilgrim's Journal
By Marcelle McGuirk

It's really sad to think that the pilgrimage is over. I've recovered from
jet-lag, my blisters are healing, but the memories haven't faded; they won't for
a long time, if ever. But, looking back on the trip and re-reading my extensive
journal makes me sad to think that it went by so quickly, even as I laugh, smile
fondly, and contemplate the story contained within.

It's a story of pain, suffering, tradition, and friendship. I'm sorry if that
sounds like the review off the back of some crazy romance novel, but it's true.
And I'd like to share some of the story with you....

Paris-- Day 3, Friday, May 28, 2004

....At Notre Dame, we [Mr. Matatics, his son Stephen, and myself] met up with
my roommate Teresa Milot, Michael Lohmann and Doug Le Blanc. ....We heard the
organ while we were there, and it was so magnificent. Of course, they had a
front table for the Novus Ordo Masses....

Yes, the table was only the beginning. The confessionals, if you can call them
that, were these glass paneled offices with a large desk and overstuffed leather
furniture. Basically, what one would imagine a typical traditional law office to
look like. There was only one prominent crucifix in the entire church. I do not
mean to disillusion anyone, but frankly, I was greatly disappointed with Notre
Dame. It was nothing more than a tourists' trap that resembled a church. I
couldn't wait until we overran the place the following morning.

So, Notre Dame was disappointing, but Mr. Matatics took us on a quick tour of
the surrounding churches before dinner. One of them happened to be St.
Nicholas', which is the SSPX church in Paris. Their church was gorgeous! Instead
of just wearing my chapel veil out of respect like in the other churches, I felt
a real need to wear it. You could feel the Presence of Our Lord in that church
compared to the emptiness of the others. It was such an overwhelming feeling
that I couldn't bring myself to even take a single photograph. I felt like it
would be sacrilegious to do so. Yes, this was the House of God, and thankfully
remained so despite the obvious godlessness of the rest of the city. It was
truly the calm in the eye of the storm!

Paris to Chartes-- Day 4-6, May 29-31, 2004

....We all arrived in the square at Notre Dame at about 7am. We loaded our
large luggage onto the trucks and then entered the cathedral. We were only
allowed to have a prayer service in Notre Dame, but not Mass...

Yes, we possibly couldn't expose any unsuspecting tourist to the Latin Mass,
or, I gasp at the thought, to Tradition!!! The prayer service is a start,
though, and at least once every year for about 45 minutes, the cathedral is used
once again for it's true purpose. It was really amazing to hear the voices of so
many people singing the traditional hymns of France. It began to stir the embers
of hope in my heart, and I began to realise that we are not alone in this fight.

....On Monday, we crested this hill, and I was able to get a photograph of all
the brigades behind us. It was really amazing, because they went as far as the
eye could see....

There are people out there like us, who hold the same truths and values, and
who are willing to suffer much for the honourable cause of Tradition. The line
of pilgrims reaching beyond the horizon was testimony to that. Many of those
pilgrims were children as well. They might not yet realise it, but they are our
future and we are fighting not only for our sakes but for theirs as well. We're
holding on to Tradition because it is right and true, but also because if we
don't hold on what will be left for our children?

So, we all made it to Monday. Some of us, including myself, did have to take
the bus on occasion. I know that for me, though, it was a needed lesson in
humility. But, despite that, I do not think I heard a single complaint from
anyone. We were all set on just offering up our sufferings for our sponsors or
other intentions joyfully and without complaint. The only comment that I heard,
from an anonymous source, that might have resembled a complaint was that
supposedly, "Mr. Matt snores like a buzz saw all night long." But, I will not
comment on that remark at this time....

....At about 2pm, we got our first full glimpse of Chartres cathedral.... We
finally got to Chartres at about 3pm, and let me tell you, it's larger than
Notre Dame! It was so huge and ornate, and Mass was utterly beautiful....

Chartres was amazing. It truly took my breath away. Even though I was behind a
very large pillar, just finally being in the cathedral brought tears to my eyes.
The splendor and glory of the middle ages being revisited as the Latin Mass was
being offered between its walls once more was overwhelming. And then, at the
end of Mass hearing the triumphant sound of fifteen thousand voices rising to
sing the hymn Chez Nous Soyez Reine was magnificent! Those embers of hope were
now a full fledged blaze, and I intend to keep it that way!

Seventy-eight long and hard miles, half a day of rain, three large blisters,
two pulled arches, and three whole days of sweat, blood, tears, and most of all
good, clean, wholesome fun! Even after all of that, we were all talking about
how to manage coming back again next year over dinner! And the muscle pain
hadn't even subsided yet!! Some would say that we are crazy, but my response is
that being a bit crazy is a prerequisite for being Traditional Catholic!!

Nevers- Day 7, Tuesday, June 1, 2004

....We got to stay in the mother house of the Sisters of Charity. It is the
same convent that St. Bernadette was in, and her body is in the chapel here!....
It was really amazing to see her lying incorrupt. She looked so peaceful and
beautiful.... It truly is an on-going miracle like Father McDonald said....

Saint Bernadette was amazing. She is perfectly incorrupt. Certainly, I have
seen pictures of her before, but there is nothing like seeing her in person. Her
face has a look of perfect serenity, and I can only begin to imagine the glory
that she is enjoying now that makes her look so peaceful. As she lies there in
her casket, it almost reminds you of Snow White, but just a holier and more
beautiful version.

La Salette- Day 8, Wednesday, June 2, 2004

....After breakfast, a few of us went to see the original chapel, which was
up this steep slope. ....It was so incredibly high.... It really was a
breath-taking sight.... After Mass, Mr. Matatics gave us a tour and we were
able to drink out of the spring....

I can see why Our Lady chose to appear on this plateau in the middle of the
Alps. It is utterly gorgeous! It is also a perfect place for meditation. Since
the nearest town is at the bottom of the plateau, the only sound you hear is
that of the wind sweeping the clouds among the mountains. And what a way to
contemplate the glories of God! It puts you in your place to stand atop a
mountain and as far as the eye can see there are more and more larger mountains.
It truly puts into perspective our insignificance and how foolish we are in our

Ah, and then there was the spring. I have never tasted water like it. It was so
pure and refreshing, and seemed to open all of your senses. After you drink, you
simply have to stop to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and just listen. At
that moment it feels as though you can hear the Voice of God in that terrific
wind, in the rustling grass, or in the trickling fountain. How wonderful it is
to know that He is always there speaking to us, despite the fact that so few of
us actually take the time to listen!

Laus- Day 9-10, June 3-4, 2004

....We were given a verbal tour of the shrine. The old French pastor told us
the story of Benoit and her apparitions of Our Lady. ....He seemed to have a
lot of fun acting out the story....

Yes, the French priest, who Father McDonald had to translate for, had a ton of
fun acting out the story of Benoit. It was really quite hilarious as he jumped
and yelled in fright in imitation of Benoit's reaction to seeing Our Lady. Ah,
but sadly he had to chastise all of us.

"You Americans," he said, "you make the Sign of the Cross so hurriedly!" He
demonstrated how we always seem to quickly make the Sign of the Cross. "You act
as though you are embarrassed of it! The Sign of the Cross is a devotion in and
of itself. It should be done slowly and reverently. In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen." I do not think that I have ever
seen it done more reverently. I was ashamed of myself. I could remember
countless times that I would make the Sign of the Cross so hurriedly and without
care. Then it occurred to me that by making that sign we are professing
ourselves to be Christians. We are professing our belief in Christ and His death
for us on the cross. How ashamed I was to have never given it any thought!

Later that day we had the Remnant Forum. Mr. Matt, Mr. Ferrara, Mr. Matatics,
and Fr. McDonald all gave talks. It really was a great experience to hear the
great intellectuals of the Traditional movement speak. But what was funny was to
play charades with them all later that night. I was fairly surprised throughout
the pilgrimage thus far, because they all were great jokers and knew how to have
a great time. I guess I was under the very naive impression that these great
minds only sat around and thought deep thoughts all day long. How wrong I was.
They all did absolutely crazy things all the time, and especially when we played
charades!! I believe that from now on instead of going into revered silence at
the mention of their names, I will probably burst out laughing instead due to
their antics!

Lourdes- Day 11-12, June 5-6, 2004

....At dinner we had a surprise, because Michael Davies joined us.... It
was really cool that he was able to join us at Lourdes....

Ed. note: Please pray for Michael Davies, everyone. He has cancer; it is very
serious and he may not have very much time left. Miserere ei, Domine.

It was an honour to be able to meet Mr. Michael Davies. At first we were told
that he wasn't coming at all, which really disappointed a lot of us. So, it was
a very nice surprise when we were finally able to meet him!

While we were at Lourdes, we went to the baths. When I went in, they had
brought a girl of about 12 years old in on a stretcher. It was very saddening to
see her lying there, barely conscious of what was going on around her. It was
clear that this poor girl, whose name was Julie, had never even walked before.
Her feet were turned in on themselves, and her legs were as thin as rails, the
muscles having never been developed. Ah, and the sisters were so kind and gentle
with her. It was clear to see that they did not view the twisted body of the
girl, but rather her soul. To them she was one of God's Children, and their job
was to help to keep her soul in perfect condition for Him. And even if she was
not cured by Our Lady at Lourdes, it was certain at least that her soul would
receive many graces from Our Lady.

Yes, that poor little girl was truly at God's mercy and accepted it. Unlike so
many of us who turn our backs on Him. At the same time that girl was there, I
saw a woman who clearly needed to be cleansed spiritually. She was in line
behind me, and she used foul language when speaking to her friends. She was
covered in tattoos, had piercings, and was clothed immodestly. How I prayed when
I saw her, that her soul would be open to the graces available to her!! And
then, at the last possible moment she told her friends that she couldn't do it.
She wouldn't bathe in the waters. My soul cried out for that woman. She was
turning her back on Our Lady! How different she was from Julie the little

Later, though, I was reminded of a line from The Sound of Music. "Wherever God
closes a door, He always opens a window," the Mother Superior told Maria at the
abbey. And how true that is! For, walking back towards our hotel from the
basilica, I saw the same woman walking towards the springs with two very large
containers for water! She may just receive those graces yet!!!

....On the last night, after dinner, we all went down to the meeting room for
Fr. McDonald to bless all of our things. After the blessings, Mr. Davies gave a
short talk on apparitions.... When that was over, we had a talent show. ....Mr.
Matt sang a sad western song called "Ringo.".... Then, Mr. Ferrara and Mr.
Matatics did an improv skit, where Mr. Ferrara was a reporter from "Outside the
Vatican" and Mr. Matatics was a Cardinal who was trying to stop the Traditional
movement. Unsuccessfully, of course. .... [Ed.: Bwa ha ha!!!]

The talent show was quite a success. We had some serious skits and then some
that were utterly ridiculous, such as Stephen Matatics' and Tim Strandquist's
performance of "Harvey the Wonder Hamster." Oh boy, I can just hear their
disagreement at that last comment! :-)

Another thing that struck me about our "great intellectuals of the Traditional
movement" is their humility! I'm not even as half as smart as they are and I
still struggle with that virtue! For instance, when I told Mr. Davies that I was
honoured to finally meet him, his response blew me away. He simply said "Oh
nonsense! It's nothing at all, really." with that wonderful British accent. None
of them flaunt the fact that they have published books, are relatively famous,
and have more knowledge crammed into their cranium than most people I know! They
just accept their gift and use it when necessary. They are all truly role models
to look up to.

....After the talent show, we headed for the grotto. The grotto was beautiful
at night. The spring was lit up, as well as the statue of Our Lady, that was in
the spot where the Blessed Mother had appeared. Then, there was this great
pillar of candles that sent flickering light everywhere....

It was absolutely beautiful. It was late so there was hardly any one there. As
I knelt looking up towards Our Lady and prayed, I felt as though I was going
back in time. It was silent except for the river rushing on behind me, and I
could almost imagine kneeling next to St. Bernadette as she received the
visions. My gaze focused on the statue of Our Lady, who stood with her hands
folded and her eyes lifted imploringly towards Heaven. How beautiful the statue
was! But then, I knew that she is a million times more radiant than any statue I
will ever see. Kneeling in that holy spot brought an overwhelming sense of joy
to my heart. How much Our Lady must love us, if she would leave Heaven to speak
to us. She would willingly leave the Beatific Vision, so that she could give her
message to us. And how unworthy we are of that privilege, yet she came!


I am glad that I spent my last night at the grotto. It was a good way to close
an awesome trip. The 2004 Chartres Pilgrimage is certainly an event in my life
that I will never forget. I have made many friends, and seen some of the holiest
places in France. I would like to thank all ten of my sponsors for their kind
support! I never could have done it without them, and I will continue to pray
for them daily! Also, I would like to thank Mr. Matt for his tireless efforts in
putting the trip together, Mr. Davies for his enthusiasm and support, Mr.
Matatics for being a terrific tour guide (even though he walks a bit fast! :-) ),
and Mr. Ferrara for his constant smiles and jokes. Also, a huge thanks to Father
McDonald for his spiritual guidance and daily offering of the Latin Mass.

So, those of you who have yet to go to Chartes, start writing those letters
now! I can't say enough about this trip and I recommend it to all, especially
the young people like me. We all need to be reminded that there are people our
age out there who are fighting for Tradition and who hold the same values. I
know that my heart is full of hope for our future and the future of the
Traditional movement. I don't feel alone in the fight anymore. Besides, with
Christ at our side, the "remnant" will survive!!! Viva Christo Rey!

Ed. Note: My friend tells me that this piece will be published in the Remnant magazine - so I suppose some of you will be reading it twice! Peace out...

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