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Gloire et Honneur Au Christ-Roi!

Two French Pilgrimages, One Thriving Catholic Restoration Movement

Michael J. Matt POSTED: 6/15/12
Editor, The Remnant  

( The thirtieth anniversary of the Notre-Dame de Chrétienté Pentecost Pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres offered many happy firsts to the more than 10,000 pilgrims on hand this year, beginning with the location of the opening Solemn High Mass in Paris.  Thirty years ago our friends at Notre-Dame de Chrétienté revived the ancient 3-day, 2-night, 70-mile walking pilgrimage to Chartres, France. Twenty-one years ago The Remnant organized the very first U.S. Chapter on that pilgrimage. I don’t believe any of us ever imagined that a day was coming when the Pilgrimage would kick off with the celebration of a Traditional Mass in the most important cathedral in France—the iconic Notre-Dame de Paris in the very heart of France’s capital city. But that’s precisely what happened on Saturday May 26, 2012, and all of Paris was on hand to witness this signature moment in the history of Catholic restoration.

The Cardinal-Archbishop of Paris not only granted permission for the celebration of the ancient Roman Rite at Notre-Dame but also sent his auxiliary, Bishop Jean-Yves André Michel Nahmias, to preside, preach and offer the papal blessing to the pilgrims.  His Excellency seemed genuinely moved by the impressive column of some 10,000 pilgrims hearing Mass, kneeling on the stone floor, singing their hearts out and finally making their way out of the Cathedral, past Charlemagne himself and onto the Rue Saint-Jacques in the direction of Notre-Dame de Chartres, some 70 miles away.  The Bishop blessed the pilgrims as they stepped onto the road to Chartres, organized in the familiar groups of 20-60 people, referred to as “chapters” and coming from all over Europe, the Americas, Iraq, and even Australia. The Pilgrimage makes its way through the streets of Paris and then out into the countryside.  The pilgrims sleep on the ground and eat meager meals of hard bread, soup and water. The road can be muddy, rocky, and demanding, and each chapter is accompanied by at least one chaplain who hears confessions along the way and gives spiritual direction.

The Pilgrimage to Chartres, which is the French leg of the great “Camino” or “way” of the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, originated in the 12th century and continued each year without interruption, except perhaps during the various wars, until the time of Vatican II, after which it would have disappeared altogether were it not for a small group of traditional Catholics who revived it in 1982.  Since then it has grown into a major force for Catholic revival in Europe.

After 1988 the usual split among traditionalists had its familiar effect on the Chartres Pilgrimage, inducing a certain percentage of the pilgrims to break off and walk under the banner of the Society of St. Pius X from Chartres to Paris. This year the SSPX pilgrimage followed the footsteps of St. Joan of Arc from Chartres to Orleans, with Bishop Bernard Fellay leading the way.

“Les pèlerinages de la Pentecôte: L’extraordinaire vitalité du catholicisme traditionnel” screamed the June 2nd headline in France’s premier Catholic magazine, Présent—“Pentecost Pilgrimages: The Extraordinary Vitality of Traditional Catholicism”. Note the use of the plural “pilgrimages”. Indeed, over Pentecost weekend some 20,000 traditional Catholics staged a two-front, massive demonstration of faith in the streets of Paris, Chartres, Orleans and the villages and countryside in between. This year is the 600th anniversary of the birth of France’s revered patron saint—St. Joan of Arc, and France’s traditional Catholic community made the most of it. The Family, Cradle of Christendom was the theme of this year’s Notre-Dame de Chrétienté Pilgrimage. Under attack in Catholic France as everywhere else in Europe, the family’s best defenders in the world are fast emerging from the ranks of the promoters of the traditional Catholic Faith and the Latin Mass. In a staggering display of traditional Catholic identity, tens of thousands of young people marched to and from Chartres in defense of Faith and Family—statues of our Lady carried aloft, banners of saints snapping in the breeze, hundreds of priests in cassock, surplice and stole, and not one but two miles-long columns of pilgrims stretching out across France as far as the eye could see.

A sense of unity among the two pilgrimages is nothing new.  Each year the lay leaders of the two pilgrimages—brothers in the old Faith—meet briefly at the halfway point in order to raise a glass to the Catholic Cause they all attempt to serve. But this year, an even stronger sense that Tradition is rising and Traditionalists are uniting prevailed throughout Pentecost weekend in France.  Bishop Fellay preached  a sermon to the SSPX pilgrims, for example, in which he recalled the example of St. Joan of Arc and the apparent hopelessness of the situation in her time, just before God Himself raised up a champion, The Maid. “Do we have the right to stay where we are?” asked Bishop Fellay. We do not have the final say “yes” or “no” for “he who wants to recognize our Fraternity is the Pope himself.”  Whatever one thinks of the situation between the SSPX and the Vatican, it cannot be denied that we’re all witnessing history in the making.

No one knows what will happen, surely, but along the road to Chartres I saw such joy in the eyes of our French brothers at the thought of one pilgrimage next year—one massive column of 20 or 25 thousand Catholics standing together for Tradition, the Mass and the Family—that I couldn’t help but hold in reserve my own misgivings about the imminent agreement between Rome and the SSPX.  In God’s Providence what is the best course of action? God alone knows the answer.  All we know for certain is that the world is dead set against it, Modernist bishops and priests are resisting it with everything they have, and the Pope is personally under fire on all sides for reaching out to Bishop Fellay.  After all, the SSPX is “anti-Semitic”, “triumphalist,” opposed to Vatican II!  And yet the Holy Father moves ahead. Why?  Is it a trap? It certainly could be.  Perhaps it is.  But, perhaps not.  Obviously, Bishop Fellay is trying to discern God’s will in all of this and his job is not an easy one. Consider how the French journal Présent views the situation:

Here in France we see this. Over 10,000 people attended the close of the pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres, the “Pilgrimage of Christendom” Whit Monday, at the feet of the Virgin of Chartres. 7000 pilgrims massed at the same time in “Charlemagne Island”, near the south of the city of Orleans, to mark with the Society of St. Pius X the 600th anniversary of the birth of Saint Joan of Arc.  Many of these pilgrims have completed a 110-km  pilgrimage, with the sun burning overhead and making their cross heavy to bear and increasing the fatigue of walking. Who cares! They have given three days to God, three days of sacrifice and great joys, three days to meditate and pray for France and the Christian family and, with respect to the others—three  days to meditate  on Joan of Arc and her example, and to pray for France as they walk in the direction of Orleans. France and the family are experiencing an emergency. This is the reality we face in the sudden attacks of hell against family and country. Supported by the Church’s traditional liturgy – all Masses were said according to Traditional Roman Rite – the Pilgrims of both pilgrimages stay focused on the essentials: God who calls us to be happy with Him in the other world and the road map He has given us through His Church. They stand their ground.  This necessarily involves defending the land of our fathers and the Catholic family united in a blood relationship, respect and friendship. For Catholics united in this “Cradle of Christendom” there is definitely more that unites the two pilgrimages than divides them. . .It is the missionary dimension, reaffirmed each year and manifested in strong faith, conversions, and large families. Thirty years of this! Thirty years at Pentecost the roads from Paris to Chartres become Christian roads once again, with banners flapping in the wind, the songs resonating in the countryside and in the small churches dating back to the time of kings ... Countless rosaries honoring the Virgin, as both pilgrim columns walk behind statues of Our Lady. The pilgrims are moved through humility to seek the path to Christ, and deep is their pride in Jesus Christ. Here in France this is what we see. Here in France tens of thousands of Catholics gather in two pilgrimages but under one sign of the traditional liturgy as they walk towards God...

I don’t have a crystal ball.  I don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s a great deal of opposition to rapprochement between the SSPX and Rome, especially within the SSPX in France. This opposition is not difficult to understand, and in my opinion does not in any way suggest a schismatic or sedevacantist mentality.  After all, how many of our good priests have been forced to concelebrate the New Mass, lay down meaningful opposition to the Spirit of Vatican II, and otherwise be persecuted by Modernist bishops once they’ve “signed a deal” with Rome?  I spoke to many of them on the road to Chartres this year, in fact. They’re still being treated like pariahs by their Modernist overlords.  On the other hand, how many advances for Tradition have been gained by the sons of Archbishop Lefebvre operating just on the peripheral—just out of the reach of churchmen who would like nothing better than to crush Catholic Tradition to death. Let us recall, as we’ve argued for the past two decades, the SSPX was never in schism and never questioned a single doctrine of the Church…including the Primacy of Peter!  Who are the loyal ones, then, and who are the traitors?  Isn’t it obvious?

These are dangerous times for all those who would dare follow Jesus Christ. Consider the new president of France, for example—Francois Hollande.  Some of our French friends describe him as a Communist; others, an atheist; but all agree he’s certainly a militant Socialist with a virulently anti-Christian agenda. Think of it: The Eldest Daughter of the Church in the hands of one who hates Christ!

In his own urgent message to the Chartres pilgrims this year the President of Notre-Dame de Chrétiente, our friend and ally, Herve Rolland, spoke passionately in defense of the Christian family and marriage as always and forever between one man and one woman, necessarily wide open to life. As he spoke, a French pilgrim leaned over to me and whispered: “With Francois Hollande in charge of my county now it will be illegal for us to say these things next year. They will put us in jail.”

Walter Matt (carrying banner)

JR. Caranto (carrying U.S. flag)

And perhaps this is the bottom line. Perhaps it is time for what’s left of Christendom to unite against the new Reign of Terror that threatens the whole of the Christian world.  Perhaps this Christophobic menace is in the mind of both the Holy Father and Bishop Fellay as the Catholic world grows closer to bloody persecution than most of us care to consider. Perhaps it really is time to prepare for a new crusade.


For the first time I was able to bring my own son to Chartres this year.  Walter walked, sang and prayed at my side all three days.  He carried the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe most of the 70 miles from Paris to Chartres. He’s just fourteen and, God willing, will one day head up the American chapter himself. Again, only God knows what the future holds but we must prepare our children for whatever comes next.

The cold hard reality is this: Pilgrims no longer walk the road to Chartres merely for the restoration of the old Mass and Sacraments. Now they storm heaven’s gates for divine intervention against the advance of outright evil against all things Christian.  For three days they took the road to Chartres, begging God and His Blessed Mother to save the family itself from destruction—the very nucleus of our civilization.

With this intention in mind, thousands of traditional Catholics packed Notre-Dame de Chartres, with many more overflowing into the vast square behind the Cathedral. Pilgrims from Poland, England, Ireland, Germany, Spain, and Eastern Christians; refugees from Iraq and Syria who marched with converts from Islam—men and women who face death threats every day because of their newly founded mission to convert Muslims in France to the Catholic Faith. They are literally on the frontline of defense and they, along with the Iraqi refugees, were the first pilgrims to enter the Cathedral, after the children who always enter first so that they will never forget what it means to find sanctuary in Christ’s Church during a time of world war against Christ’s Church.

A young priest ascended the altar of God to celebrate the old Mass in that venerable building in which kings have been crowned, saints canonized and revolutionaries tried and failed to stomp out the fires of the old Faith—the same fires which now burn bright in the hearts of tens of thousands of pilgrims who will die for it again if it comes to that.  We can know with certainty that the revolution has failed when the new martyrs prepare themselves to lead the world out of darkness all over again.

Introibo ad altare Dei, whispered the priest as he began offering traditional Latin Mass in absolutely glorious perfection that day.  What a moment for him! There in the presence of bishops, abbots, priests, nuns and thousands of pilgrims—the very remnant of holy Christendom—he stands vested as a priest in the same Cathedral in which he’d prayed some twenty years ago as a dust-covered Chartres pilgrim from America who’d only recently discovered the Traditional Latin Mass.  His name is Father John Berg, Superior General of the Fraternity of St. Peter—an American priest celebrating the closing Mass and sending a small army of pilgrim emissaries for the old Faith back out into the world.  “Dear pilgrims,” Father Berg concluded:

Father John Berg

in view of everything that is threatening the family in our times, it would be easy to let ourselves fall into despair. But, courage! “Christ has conquered the world”. And whether in the dark nights or in the days of joy, we walk with Christ and we understand with him that those nights are necessary and good, for they are there to purify us.  Let us not be afraid. After this pilgrimage, we will return to our normal activities. We have had three days to build up our strength. Now we must bring to fruition the graces received on the road to Chartres. Our families must be missionaries, remaining ever in the vanguard of the Church militant which bears within her the Truth. Let us be counted amongst those friends on whom the Church may rely in the immense spiritual challenges before her. Let us bring Christendom to life in the service of the True, the Good and the Beautiful. And may Our Lady be always with us on the way.

An American at the altar in Chartres. Yet another happy first. One more sign that God is still in His Heaven, that all is not lost, and that His Church is rising again. All glory and honor to Christ the King!


Next Year

Many thanks to our chaplains, Father Michael Rodriguez and Father Angelo Vanderputten; our guides Dr. John Rao, James Bogle, Chris Ferrara; and the 40 American pilgrims who made up this year's U.S. Chapter of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Please see the next issue of The Remnant for a complete photo story on this year's Pilgrimage to Chartres as well as day pilgrimages to Fatima, Pontmain, St. Jacut de la Mer, St. Malo, Mont Saint-Michel, Rouen and Versailles. And please consider joining us again next year for the 2013 Notre-Dame de Chretiente Pentecost Pilgrimage to Chartres.  The dates will be May 15 thru May 27, 2013.

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