Saturday 2 June 2012

Chartres 2012 - Part 3

5.00 am on Pentecost  morning, and I am awoken by heavenly music.  As I come to, I remember where I am, and realise the music is Handel, being played over the campsite PA to wake us gently.  

But they soon give up on that: ‘Bonjour, chèrs amis pèlerins, il est cinq heures, et il est l'heure de se réveiller,’ blares out an unreasonably cheery French voice.  Within minutes, he is chivvying us further.  “Chèrs pèlerins, il est l'heure de sortir de vos tentes pour les démonter.’  And only seconds after that: “Je vois qu’il y a toujours des tentes qui ne sont pas démontées!’

And so another day begins.

I woke the girls who had managed to sleep through all of that, and was pleased to learn that Ant was fully recovered.  In sluggish fashion, we dressed, got some hot chocolate and bread for breakfast from the indefatigable kitchen teams, and packed the tent away.

Then we lugged our baggage and tent over to the Etrangers lorry, and found the rest of our chapter (by seeking out the Union flag) ready for the day’s walking.  The first Region to walk was Centre, led by the Chapter from St Pétronille, of Le Mans.  Centre also includes the two Chapters from Chartres itself.

Normandie were the seventh Region to leave the camp, so we were off at about 6.45 I think, though to be honest it's a bit of a blur. 

To everyone’s relief, Sunday morning was slightly overcast, so although it was very hot when the sun was out, there was intermittent relief.  Also, the day didn’t start with the gruelling march out of Paris which we had endured yesterday.  In fact all the Sunday marches were under two hours.

Other than that, the pattern was much the same: a morning offering to start the day, and then sung rosaries, meditations, hymns, marching songs and conversation.  However, as we passed the local cemetery on the way out, we also said a prayer for the dead and sang the Introit from the Requiem Mass.

One of the things I particularly enjoy is the variety of music we sing.  Highlights are the great French Marian hymn, Chez Nous, and the various rounds, (Magnificat and Jubilate were always good rousing ones!)  But also many of the secular songs, ranging from the old favourites such as Green Grow the Rushes-O to the Macgregor special: You push the damper in and you pull the damper out... complete with actions and words gradually omitted to trap the unwary.

In the middle of the day, we stopped in a large field at Les Courlis for the Pentecost Mass.  This was a full High Mass, sung at a resplendent field-altar, which would have shamed most permanent altars in English (or French) Churches.

We always particularly love the way in which the banner-bearers incline the banners in salutation at the Consecration.  (Unfortunately they weren't caught in the act, but here you can see some of the banners: you have to imagine the action!)

After Mass, it was lunch time - and then more marching.  By now, we were mainly marching through fields of wheat and barley.  This area is known as the bread basket of France, and one could see why.

The highlight of Pentecost afternoon is always walking up a hill between fields to a summit from which the first glimpse of Chartres Cathedral may be had.  It was faint, as the day was bright and a bit hazy in the distance, but very distinctive with its asymmetrical spires.  A heartening moment, and it is only later, as they appear to get no closer for hour after hour, that the excitement wears off a bit.

The last march into the campsite is up a steep hill, and as one has by now marched about 78 km (48 miles) over two days, it is a tough pull.  However we all made it, and once more, marched into camp singing lustily.

Supper was soup and bread, once again, and the same routine of pitching tents and washing in cattle troughs was followed.

To celebrate the Feast, there is Exposition and all-night adoration.  I have to confess that after fifteen minutes, I retired to my tent...


Dominique tells me my brain is addled, and the steep hill is at the end of the Saturday march not the Sunday one.  She is, of course, quite right.


Idle Rambler said...

You manage to convey both the thrill of being there as a pilgrim plus the physical challenges of the pilgrimage and yet still leave the reader keen to take part.

Your French is very good too! :-)

Ben Trovato said...

I R Thanks - glad it captures something of the spirit of the occasion,

Your kind words about my French made me look at it again - and I spotted two howlers straight away (now corrected - but there may well be others). But I appreciate the kindness behind your sentiment, however inaccurate it may in fact be!

Patricius said...

Thank you very much. I am enjoying this enormously.

Ben Trovato said...

Patricius, thank you. Have you ever done this pilgrimage? WIll you be joining us next year?...