The Promise of Pilgrimage
The Remnant Returns to Chartres for Seventeenth Time

Michael J. Matt
Editor, The Remnant

(Posted June 18, 2009

It doesn’t take much of a prophet these days to read the handwriting on the wall: Life as we know it is coming to an end. As the cost of oil and food rises to meet the demands of lunatical environmental sanctions as well as democracy’s war machine, an economic collapse seems unavoidable. It’s as if America is being systematically deconstructed, with legalized gay marriage its death knell. But, as long as there’s a platinum TV to watch and more video games to play, what difference does it make. Right?

In a single generation we’ve become veritable paragons of self-indulgence. Think about this: Among the issues influencing the electorate in 2008, safeguarding the right of homosexuals to get married and a woman’s right to “legally” abort her baby top the list for roughly half the country.  And we needed to invade Iraq to teach them our values?

What has happened to us?

And it’s not just the loony Left! Even “conservatives” have become so brainwashed that they think nothing of launching into impassioned defenses not of pro-family and pro-life activists, but of US-led invasions of sovereign nations around the world, simply because our precious safety might be compromised if Big Brother doesn't "protect" us. After all, somewhere, somebody might be out to get us; so let’s bomb everybody who doesn’t like us—that’s what Jesus would do!

As the economy slides into a repeat performance  of 1929 with people losing their jobs and even their homes, it's just so astonishing to hear war drums still beating at Fox News for U.S. military intervention in Iran! Did they learn nothing from the Iraq debacle?  Years ago, I remember hearing a housewife from Des Moines on talk radio demanding the execution of Saddam Hussein. By the end of the call she was practically hysterical. It was chilling. Ironically enough, with Iranian cities still standing, the poor woman likely feels no safer now than then. Clearly, the Department of Homeland Security is doing its job. 

Our national paranoia is government issued. We can’t drive past an airport or open a newspaper without Big Brother alerting us of the terror threat.  Why it’s even been specially color coded just so we don't get confused!   Is it orange?  Blue?  Please God, don’t let it be red!  Not today!

This stuff is ripped right from the pages of 1984. So pernicious is it, in fact, that true patriotism in America has come to include denying prisoners the right to a fair trial and advocating the use of torture! Again, what has happened to us?  Imagine what’s in store for pro-life “terrorists” when Barrack Obama gets his hands on the wheel. If you’re pro-life and Obama wins the White House in November, you’d better get ready to be “liberated”.  Christianity is on the fast track to becoming another form of terrorism.

They’re already starving the lions. And while the “conservatives” busy themselves working out a timeline for the invasion of Iran, our own government is moving into position to silence Christians, legalize gay marriage, and declare the Bible hate literature.  But, bomb Iran? Now that’s what we need to do! Again, it's what Jesus would do! 

It’s sheer insanity!

But this will pass. They can carry on with their neo-fascist agenda till doomsday if they like but in the end, doomsday is what they’ll get. For the enemies of Christianity death is the end of everything, which I suspect is the real source of their irrational hatred of all things Christian. Even in death Christ wins!  He is Life which is why they offer the world nothing but the opposite.

Through abortion, drug addition, suicide, euthanasia, and endless war, they’re already exterminating the citizens of the “global community” by the millions. Dead people don't ask obvious questions, such as: Why is there such hatred against a God that doesn’t exist? What are the "Tolerance Police" so afraid of?

The banning of everything Christian is nothing but a confirmation of everything Christian, and we really should take  solace in the effort to silence us. Obviously, as Truth incarnate, Christianity is so much stronger than their lies, and will survive any hate crime legislation they can concoct.  After all, the New World Disorder is already imploding, and it hasn't even gotten out of the gate yet. And when the bombs grow silent and the gunfire ceases and the dust settles, guess what will still be standing—the Catholic Church, of course.  Even the gates of hell can’t change that!

I was reminded of this happy reality in France this past Pentecost when with thousands of the un-brainwashed I walked the road to Chartres, praying, singing and falling in love with everything Catholic again. After all the abortion, sex-indoctrination, war against the old Faith, public schools, Hollywood, rock ‘n’ roll— hundreds of thousands have managed to survive.  And now even the old Mass is storming back.  Obviously and despite their best efforts, the Faith will never die.

It reminds me of the interesting preoccupation toy companies have with all things royal. After centuries of the Enlightenment’s trashing of Catholic monarchy, little girls all over the world still want nothing more than to play princess in a castle. The success of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, etc., prove that knights and derring-do still capture the imagination of children more than anything science can offer.  Princess stickers, princess dresses, crowns, scepters, you name it—royalty rocks! After all this time, young ladies the world over still dream of being daughters of kings. I’ve not noticed a big demand for Amy Carter stickers or Chelsea Clinton dresses, have you? The cold, Masonic presidency can no sooner measure up to Camelot than a white house can to a castle. The Catholic thing is impossible to kill.  

Thus, as the Parisians watched the pilgrimage pass through their fair city this year, I felt something for them I’d not noticed before—I think it was pity. In the name of “progress,” they’ve been  “liberated” from their way of life, their God, their Church—and the sadness in their eyes is unmistakable. The heirs of the Enlightenment have been robbed of everything that matters, everything beautiful, everything good. And that which made them strong enough to survive as a proud people for a thousand years has been torn away, which is why Islam has no trouble taking over their cities today. “Sophisticated”, empty and conquered, imagine what they thought when  ten thousand Catholics walked by, shouting love songs to Our Lady. Please God, let it be a wake-up call!  The Catholic thing in France is not dead.  It will rise again.

I’ve tried to describe the Chartres Pilgrimage in this June issue of The Remnant for the past 17 years. Readers may recall various accounts of blisters, exhaustion, bread and water, days walking, sleeping on the ground, praying all night, etc., that were also penned by Michael Davies (RIP), Dr. Rao, Anthony Fraser and others over the years. The majesty of the Pilgrimage never fades, however, and the magnificent Tridentine Mass in the presence of thousands  in the old gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres still manages to defy description.

On my return home this year a telephone call from an exuberant stranger drove this point home once again. He is an American tourist who happened to be in Chartres the day 15,000 Catholic traditionalists came to town. From a sidewalk café he’d looked on as the pilgrim parade, comprised of young people covered in dust and clutching  rosaries, entered the old city and fell to its knees in adoration of God and love for His mother.

By his own admission, that sight had literally overwhelmed him. He “Googled” the pilgrimage when he returned home and found The Remnant Tours’ telephone number. Now he wanted information: Who were those pilgrims? Where did they come from? Is the Latin Mass available anywhere else?  Is there a CD of the hymns he’d heard in Chartres and remembered well from his childhood? 

I believe grace touched his soul that day, as the sight of a traditional Catholic pilgrimage transformed the tourist into the pilgrim. “I’ve never seen anything like it, not since I was a kid. It brought everything back to me. I was speechless at the sight of all those young priests dressed like they used to when I was in Catholic school…before I’d left the Church.”

Why do so many return to Chartres every year? Isn’t it obvious? To find Mother Church again—to listen to her voice, to see her face, to feel her embrace, to pledge allegiance to her sacred Cause.

Elsewhere in this issue, the newest generation of American Chartres pilgrims shares the same story this writer told in these columns seventeen years ago. Their enthusiasm for all things Catholic seems to be a clear sign that all is not lost and the Church will rise again.

For me it was an honor to walk with those young survivors of Modernism. With rosaries in their hands, scapulars around their necks and a thousand Aves on their lips, they are walking, talking proof that the revolution failed. Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam, sang the fifteen thousand beneath the same buttresses and gargoyles Joan of Arc saw—the same stones that St. Louis, Mary Queen of Scots, Hilaire Belloc, St. Therese and a thousand saints have kissed. Do tears come to Catholic eyes at that realization? One would have to be made of that same stone if they didn’t.

For seventeen years I’ve walked through those cathedral doors after three days on pilgrimage with  Catholics from the various camps of Tradition all over the world. In that time, I’ve seen souls rejuvenated, eyes filled with tears of love, and grown men weep over what we’ve lost. Souls thirsting for grace drink deeply along the road to Chartres, and hundreds of priests in cassock, surplice and stole administer to the spiritually malnourished.

For many of us, the Pilgrimage this year took on a sense of urgency. Many of the Chartres veterans, reading the handwriting already mentioned, commented on a nagging sense that there might not be a Pilgrimage next year. Persecution seems so imminent now, and the economy may well ground American pilgrims for years to come. Like a Catholic army, then, the Chartres pilgrims seemed to prepare for war.

This year (as every year) young traditional Catholics from FSSP parishes, SSPX chapels, diocesan “indult” centers walked together behind the American banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas. We walked and prayed for our families and our country; we laughed together and sang our hearts out; we ate together, and, at the end of the day, slept on the hard ground together. We were allies, brothers, family and friends!

Surely there are differences between tradition-minded Catholics today—strategic and philosophic differences that are in no sense insignificant. But on the Pilgrimage it becomes crystal clear that our objective in this life is the same—to know, love and serve God; to keep the old Faith; to finish the pilgrimage; to fight the good fight, to help one another make it through this valley of tears. When it comes to everything that matters, we are united and prepared to face whatever is coming in the months and years ahead. And the enemy recognizes no difference between us. We were and we are brothers in arms, and I think an unspoken pact between all the pilgrims this year recognized that as Christ is under universal attack, it’s time to “unite the clans”! That’s what we did and that’s what we must continue to do.  The Pilgrimage makes it so easy to see what must be done.


I’m truly delighted to report that the young pilgrims from The Remnant chapter were, without exception, worthy ambassadors for the American traditional Catholic movement. I’m so proud of every one of them, and congratulate their parents on a job well done. I will write more about them in the July Remnant, with special emphasis on what we discovered while on pilgrimage to the Catholic country of Malta.  

I pray that God will bless The Remnant’s efforts to continue this apostolate of bringing American young people “back in time” to a world that is still Catholic. To our sponsors, then, let me say this:  If you trust us to dedicate every energy we have to this effort to recruit young Catholics for the Cause, please support The Remnant Tours’ Youth Fund. We’re already accepting tax-deductible donations for next year’s Pilgrimage.

Those who contributed to the Youth Fund this year were, as promised, prayed for by name throughout the pilgrimage and at the Masses offered by our indefatigable chaplain, Father Paul McDonald, who managed to return the venerable Roman Rite to the altars of the Basilica of Sacre Coeur (high atop the famous Montmartre in Paris), the famous Cathedral of St. Paul’s Shipwreck (Valetta, Malta), the flourishing Ursaline convent in Malta, the grand Cathedral of the Assumption on the island of Gozo (an amazing story which will be written up in the next Remnant) and the Church of St. Anthony in Taormina, Sicily.  Many thanks to Father McDonald for his inspired spiritual direction, his Masses, confessions, and his holy mission to restore the old Mass to churches all over Europe!

Hearty thanks also to Dr. John Rao, Christopher Ferrara and James Bogle who gave so generously of themselves to try to instill in this year’s pilgrims some idea of where we have come from, why we continue the fight, and where we still need to go. 

Thanks also to our old friend and guide, Michael Siuta, chaperone Natalie Zivnuska, youth liaisons Albert Patterson and Tess Mullins, and our indefatigable ‘house mother’, Mrs. Joanie Mahar, whose invaluable assistance and generosity on the pilgrims’ behalf proved absolutely essential to a safe and wholesome experience for all.

It goes without saying that, once again, we congratulate our noble French allies on the Notre-Dame de Chrétienté team whose organization was flawless, security was impeccable, devotions sublime, and Masses more glorious than ever. It is an honor and a privilege to walk the Notre-Dame de Chrétienté pilgrimage every year, and we pray that God blesses that most vital apostolate with continued success for many years to come.

Looking Ahead to Next Year

If God wills it, we will repeat our post-Chartres Catholic immersion program next year, perhaps at Lourdes; we’ve not yet decided on the post-Chartres itinerary. The plan is to combine daily Tridentine Mass (as well as visits to the holy places) with wholesome, Catholic recreation, interspersed with outstanding lectures on history and Catholic culture. It is also our intention to bring together another good mix of Catholics from different age groups—25 young people and 25 folks of more substantial age and wisdom. 

The Remnant Tours Registration and Youth Fund are open already, and all donations are tax deductible. Those who decide to help sponsor young traditional Catholics will in effect be sending a personal representative on pilgrimage who will pray for them and carry their intentions to the holy places. In addition, sponsors will be prayed for by name during the Pilgrimage and be remembered in the official Masses throughout.

If, God willing, there is another pilgrimage next year, I invite Remnant readers to seriously consider joining us. The dates are yet to be announced but will run from the Wednesday before Pentecost through the second Monday after Pentecost. The full price will also be announced soon but, if the US Dollar doesn’t completely collapse, will be near $2500, which includes airfare, hotels and two meals per day. To join us, please send a nonrefundable down payment of $400 to:

The Remnant Tours

PO Box 1117

Forest Lake, MN 55025

I hope to see you on the road to Chartres!