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The Catholic Remnant to Rendezvous in France

The Remnant Returns to Chartres for the 23rd Time

Michael J. Matt POSTED: 5/14/13
Editor, The Remnant  















(Remnant TV to post regular updates from France Here and on Facebook)

For the past 23 years The Remnant has been organizing the U.S. chapter on the Pilgrimage to Chartres, France. In a couple of days, we’ll be heading back to France to walk the old pilgrimage road and, please God, rendezvous one more time with 10,000 Catholics from all over the world.  I used to dread the 70-mile, 3-day walk; now I long for it, because it is the only thing that seems to make sense anymore.  I’m weary of pointless elections. I’m tired of constitutional amendments that mean nothing. I’m sick to death of politicians whose only purpose seems to be to fool good people into believing there’s something other than Christ the King that can save us now.

France, the eldest daughter of the Church, legalized homosexual “marriage” since last I visited her shores. God help us, what can one say about that!  Gee, that’s too bad? Well, we’ll get ‘em next time?  No, it’s over.  The moment has come.  The abomination of desolation is here.  Humanly speaking there is no hope except in the name of the Lord. Prayer, penance, pilgrimage, family, God—these are the only realities that matter anymore.  Everything else is sheer folly.

The readers of The Remnant will be remembered in prayer and in a special way when once again 65 American traditional Catholics will join their French brothers under the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Please pray for us as we will pray for you, for America and for poor raped and besieged Catholic France.

What follows is something I wrote a few years ago after returning home from Chartres.  It’s not very long, and it answers the question many readers put to us: Why does The Remnant return to Chartres every year, now for nearly a quarter century?

Here’s why….

The Pilgrimage to Chartres begins on the day before Pentecost when thousands of traditional Catholics from countries all around the world join their French brothers and sisters at sunrise beneath the spires of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Three days later it concludes in the city of Chartres, as over ten thousand blistered and dust-covered traditionalists complete the grueling march and finally kiss the stones of Notre Dame de Chartres. Much of what happens in between defies description.

It is a living, breathing act of Faith, augmented by Catholic militancy and old-world simplicity. There are no “big shots” on the road to Chartres; no minutes recorded, no self-serving monologues, no elections, no meetings, no Q&A sessions, no blah, blah, blah. It is for God that the pilgrims march-- and for His mother.

The road to Chartres exists in the real world, where the pilgrim remembers what it is like to feel completely alive, both in body and soul. Three days without the din of the modern world, technology and all the sex and sewage that expertly insulates modern men from any serious contemplation of the four last things.

Why do Catholics from all over the world make the arduous journey back to France every spring? Because their hearts are heavy, their families are divided, their countries are dying, their Faith is under relentless siege, and the Pilgrimage provides healing for wounded souls and hope for lost sheep.

Yes, Europe is in the process of banishing the old Faith from her shores. She’s legalizing every manner of vice, killing her babies, euthanizing her elderly, sounding the death knell over the Christian family and the sacrament of matrimony. And in the midst of all that, along comes a jubilant band of Catholic pilgrims, thousands strong, six abreast, stretching for miles across France, announcing to the whole world that the old Faith will never die.

For three days along that wooded path to Chartres, the past lives large in the present as even secular France can’t ignore this strange and wonderful pilgrim parade, flanked as it is by countless priests in muddied cassocks and purple stoles—the all but forgotten keepers of Europe’s broken altars.

Throngs of scouts lovingly bear statues of Our Lady on their shoulders; banners of the saints are raised high for all to see; pilgrims sing forgotten hymns, renew broken vows, and worship at old-world Latin Masses. The Pilgrimage to Chartres is fire in the darkness that covers modern Europe.

I remember some years back when the French scouts had organized a passion play of sorts in the bivouac in the evening. I’d missed most of it but eventually limped out of my tent to see what was going on.

The sun had long since set, but a bonfire crackled in the center of the field where hundreds of tents had been pitched for the night. Its flames licked the darkness ten feet in the air, transforming the faces of countless pilgrims in a flickering, reddish glow. Some were in costume; all were in the old-world garb of the Christian pilgrim. Their boots were caked with dried mud; white bandages identified the walking wounded who’d been to the hospital tent. They wore traditional scout scarves around their necks; their flags and banners, emblazoned with images of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady, snapped in the breeze and darkness overhead.

 “Je vous salue, Marie” (“Hail Mary…”) the rugged company sang in stirring harmony, over and over again there in the firelight. A couple of monks in the traditional habit of the Benedictines led the pilgrim chorus. Suspended high on a wooden cross a young scout played the part of the Crucified in a sublimely Catholic pageant. The medieval character of it all sent chills up my spine. What I saw was a raw manifestation of faith and tradition that was Catholic to the core.

Standing silent witness to it, I thanked God for yet another reminder of exactly what we’ve lost and what we are fighting to restore. This is what the Revolution has labored 500 years to obliterate from the face of the earth. It’s not just the Mass—it’s the Faith, whole and entire, which includes the music, traditions, and hallowed customs of the most transcendent cultural heritage the world has ever known.

I hope an American pilgrim can be forgiven at such a moment for experiencing an ardent desire to make all this his own. Why has he been so deprived? Why did he never know any of this as a child? How could MTV, Hollywood and McDonalds replace this!  He joins his voice to theirs, hoping against hope that in so doing his lost innocence might be restored and a keenly-felt cultural emptiness which is all he’s ever known, might be replenished with something real: Je vous salue, Marie. Je vous salue!

Then the pilgrim voices grew silent, as that band of thousands stood in absolute silence, waiting for something else to happen—some final act to this Catholic pageant. But what?

Suddenly, silently they turned as one towards the opposite side of the field and knelt down.

The drama has ended, the time for sleep draws near, but one epilogue is yet to be played out. Nearby, there is a small chapel tent that is lit from within by a single candle—yes, a sanctuary lamp.

God Himself has been waiting in the wings.

Absolute silence reigns as a priest emerges from that makeshift Holy of Holies. Without a word, he raises the Blessed Sacrament and traces the Sign of the Cross over a sea of kneeling pilgrims.

I steal a glance around me just then; all eyes are locked on the monstrance in humble worship. A mass Sign of the Cross is made in the windblown silence. I’m struck by one thought: I can see no face that appears to be over twenty years old. This is a children’s crusade, only without the folly. The future belongs to them. The Revolution has failed.

It was no use trying to hide the tears that burned in my eyes at that happy realization. This was one of the most sublime manifestations of Christian Faith I’d ever seen. I don’t remember being more proud to be Catholic than just then, kneeling in wet grass and shivering in the night on the Plain de Beauce, somewhere in central France.

Why do we go back? Because our souls and every fiber of our beings long to go back—not just to go back… but to go back! On the road to Chartres the idea is not so farfetched. On the road to Chartres it is precisely through a commitment to go back that the pilgrim makes his progress. There is no other way.

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