A Return to Chartres
Sixty American Traditionalists to Walk French Pilgrimage

Michael J. Matt
Editor, The Remnant


(www.RemnantNewspaper.com) A few hours from now a number of us from The Remnant will board an airplane bound for France. On Pentecost weekend, we will be walking the grand Pilgrimage of Notre Dame de Chrétiente to from Paris to Chartres, France.  I ask readers to please keep John Rao, Christina Matt, Chris Ferrara, Fr. McDonald, myself and a number of fellow Americans in your prayers as we undertake this journey and the difficult 3-day, 70-mile walking Pilgrimage across France.  I will certainly remember all the readers and friends of this apostolate in my prayers during this time.  I also ask readers to be patient as telephone and email orders may also be processed a little less efficiently than usual during this time as our staff here at home will be reduced.

Over the past year, The Remnant has been blessed by so many new subscribers that it occurs to me that many will have little if any idea of, not only what the Pilgrimage is, but also why The Remnant organized the very first American chapter on the Pilgrimage back in 1991 and why we have returned every year since.  It is difficult to explain exactly why, but perhaps the following little snippet from my Pilgrimage report from last year will give some indication.  Michael Davies, who walked with the Pilgrimage with The Remnant’s chapter—Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas—eight times before his death in 2004, called it the most important annual event happening in the Church today.  Obviously, I concur.  And, it is my hope that the following brief reflection will shed some light on why we do this each year. 

Sophistication, arrogance, intellectual pride—all of these things fall away and disappear along the road to Chartres. Dust-covered pilgrims become like children as the days of walking and praying and singing take one back in time for a few breathtaking moments to a better place. There the soul is cleansed and the mind is cleared, and so often one finds his faith renewed and his commitment to the Catholic counterrevolution reinforced a hundredfold. 

Please pray for us as we most assuredly will be praying for you throughout the Pilgrimage.  We’ll be offering it up, in fact, for our fellow traditionalists, for our country and for our Church under siege. May God help us all.

The Road to Chartres

And so it began: the 3-day walk into the past that is the Catholic training ground for the future.  “Why do you go back every year for fourteen years?"  But those who have to ask this question haven’t yet experienced praying the “Credo” with 10,000 Catholics.  They have not yet heard Mass behind walls that are a thousand years old.  They don’t know what it’s like to sing Ave Maria over and over again with the Church Militant, tears of joy and sadness streaming down their faces.  They do not know the Chartres Pilgrimage.

There on that hallowed ground of Catholic France, Americans are removed from the modern world and set down in the heart of a Christendom they thought only existed in the pages of old history books.  At every turn in those woods, at every genuflection in those cathedrals, at every sleepless night in those camps… the baggage of the modern world with all of its noise, consumerism, sex and sewage is purged away and stomped into the ground beneath the feet of 10,000 pilgrims.  At Chartres, the soul is renewed again, not in the modern spirit of phony Renewal, but in that indomitable spirit of sacred, Catholic tradition that is as old as history itself. 

Lying in a damp sleeping bag on the first night of the Pilgrimage and drifting off to sleep despite the throbbing sting of multiple blisters, one can quite easily imagine what it must have been like to be alive in the grand old days of holy Christendom.  Through the walls of the tent, one hears the night sounds of 10,000 preparing for sleep.  The hushed voices, the gentle pounding of tent stakes into the ground, rain drops tapping against tent flaps.  Somewhere across the camp, French scouts sing their evening prayers while, on the other side, Swiss scouts sing themselves to sleep with their nocturnal shepherd song.  With the racket of the modern world having been barred at the gates, a peace fills the soul with inexplicable contentedness. There are no cell phones, no laptops, no TVs, no Blackberries—it’s a night filled with Catholic hope. Blisters notwithstanding, sleep comes easily on the Pilgrimage to Chartres.

On the second night of the Pilgrimage, the camp plays host to a special Guest.  Exposition of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament runs from dusk to dawn, all night, and begins in the usual way—with Benediction.  As one kneels in wet grass, the sun having long since set and the shades of night fast falling, it again becomes a simple thing to return to the days when the old Faith ruled Europe.  Up on top of a little slope and beneath a white canopy, the shadowy figure of a priest, flanked by two candle-bearing altar servers, could be seen raising a golden monstrance over a sea of kneeling, mud-spattered pilgrims.  Except for the lonely sound of a single bell, utter silence reigned over that “cathedral.” 

The King had entered the camp.

A thousand children and young adults, many with feet freshly bandaged after the grueling march, knelt on the ground. The look on their faces was the same from one to the next—serene but deadly serious. It wasn’t difficult to imagine them just then with bloodied swords secured to their belts and soiled red crosses emblazoned across their chests, having just limped in from the battlefield. And why not…these were no less the crusaders than the ones of old about whom we read in history books; they too fight for the survival of the old Faith and for the protection of the holy places, especially those inside their hearts.  They were cross-bearers in every sense of the word and it was a privilege to pray among them!

 Hundreds, perhaps thousands of them, knelt quietly before Our Lord, but they didn’t have to be there. Their tents, comparatively warm and dry, were waiting for them, scattered over the nearby hillside and beyond.  They were wounded and exhausted; no one would have even noticed, let alone blamed them, for staying back and seeing to their blisters.  And, yet, there they were, in the rain and on their knees, consecrating themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

…And you think that there is no hope?  Think again!

“Pardonnez moi, Monsieur.”  I turned to see three jeanettes—little scouts from the famous Catholic village of Riaumont.  They were dressed in the traditional navy blue skirts and berets of their Catholic troop, and they couldn’t have been more than 12 years old.  Two of them were assisting a third, their “fallen comrade,” whose ankle and one knee had been carefully wrapped in a bandage. It was painful to look at the suffering little one as she grimaced with each step she took. They were returning from the medical tent, obviously, and I surmised that they were taking the injured girl back to her tent.  But I was wrong.  In actuality, they were looking for a place to kneel down, and, when one was found, that’s exactly what they did.  The injured girl kept her arm around the neck of her patient friend, and there she remained for the duration of the vigil, her little shoulders shaking in the cold night air.

“I remember these little ones from many years ago,” I thought.  But, no, that’s not true.  The first time I walked this Pilgrimage these hadn’t even been born yet.  The ones I’d first seen years ago are now married and have children of their own—traditional Catholic children.  I know some of them personally.  They make up the families who are the heart and soul of the traditionalist movement in France; they are among those who recently rejected the diabolic Constitution of the European Union.  They are militant Catholic monarchists who have little regard for the EU, thank God.

In other words, what’s been happening each year on the road to Chartres cannot now be undone. I saw proof of that again during Benediction this year—it took the form of a whole new generation of traditional Catholics kneeling in the rain. 

France is not going to lose the Faith. Generations of traditional Catholics are being confirmed in the old Faith each year along the plain of La Beauce between Chartres and Paris.  And it’s not just the Pilgrimage of Notre-Dame de Chrétiente.  Going in the opposite direction at the same time—from Chartres to Sacre Coeur in Paris—is yet another traditionalist throng of thousands making the Pentecost Pilgrimage.  That one is held under the auspices of the Society of St. Pius X.  So, this means that, every spring on Pentecost weekend, over 20,000 traditional Catholics shut down the city of Chartres, Montmartre and a significant portion of Paris over the course of three days in order to bring the old Faith back into the public square.  Does anyone actually believe, then, that all this has nothing to do with the French government’s recent talk of removing Pentecost from the list of France’s national holidays?

Of course it does! 

The theme of this year’s Chartres Pilgrimage was “Our Lady, Rampart of Christendom”, and, indeed, that is precisely what she is—she is the rampart that still stands against the modern world, that still protects the soul of humanity.  She leads us through this “storm” and we follow her, not out of obligation, but out of love…the tender love of a child for his mother—something the Revolution has spent five hundred years trying to destroy.  But in France, happily, the idea is roaring back. 

Let’s face it: the Chastisement is already here.  The powers of hell are directing their energies every day at each and every one of us with one solitary temptation: There is no God, and the Catholic Church is a medieval collection of superstitious myths!   But with God’s good grace this temptation will remain impotent, especially if enough Catholics are made to realize that throughout the whole world the ember of the old Faith continues to burn brightly here and there, even underground—in France, America, Australia, Germany, England, Canada, Spain, Poland, Switzerland, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, and in every other country.  The old Faith is alive and well in the growing world-wide traditionalist movement, a movement which is in love with the Mother of the God they say doesn’t exist. 

We are not alone, and those who bear witness to the Truth—to the Light that the darkness cannot comprehend—will continue to believe and will not cease believing.  At Chartres this reality becomes overwhelmingly obvious, which is why we not only return ourselves, but also bring with us as many young Catholic Americans as possible…so that they might see a physical manifestation of that Truth in all of its glory… so that they will remember the light of pilgrimage even in the dark days to come.

Let the storm hammer against the “rampart of Christendom”, it will have no effect. The Pilgrimage to Chartres, with its emphasis on prayer and penance and the necessity of clinging to the mantle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is larger and more powerful than the storm. By Pentecost Monday this year, the rain had ceased, the skies had cleared, a glorious new day had dawned, and the storm had passed.  And so it will again if we have the courage to stay on the rocky, muddy path that leads to the light of God; if we remain on Catholic pilgrimage no matter how hard the rains fall or how low the darkness descends, in the end a new day will dawn.

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