Sunday 3 June 2012

Chartres 2012 - Part 4

... in which our intrepid pilgrims complete their pilgrimage...

The kind French organisers let us have a lie-in to celebrate the last day of the pilgrimage.  It wasn't until 5.25 that the PA System started playing Handel, and it was 5.30 before we were greeted with 'Bonjour chèrs amis pélerins...'  

This being the last day, the routine was slightly different.  Those of us travelling on the coach back to England had to put our luggage on the coach, rather than on the Etrangers lorry.  The coach was parked just outside the campsite, so that was no great problem.

However, that meant that a number of lazy pilgrims realised that they could wait there to join the procession, which meant that those of us searching the campsite for the English were somewhat bamboozled - not least as the Union flag was also waiting by the bus.

However, a valiant few rallied around St Alban's flag, and managed to cope with the misdirection of the French organisers and find our place in the Normandie chapter.

On this final day, the first Region to march was Paris Nord, followed by the other Paris regions.  Normandie were about 7th again, so we left camp at about 7.45, and picked up the lazybones by the bus on the way out.

I realise that my days are all blurred together.  It was in fact on this day, Monday, the final day, that we passed the cemetery on the way out and sang the Requiem Introit. We were walking along a sunken lane at the time, which made me think of Waterloo, though I didn't mention that to my French friends...

We only had three marches: the first for 90 minutes or so, then 2 hours' march to the lunch field at Oisème, and finally 2 hours into Chartres.  We covered a mere 22.5 km (14 miles) - it was scarcely worth putting our boots on.

However, we sang merrily, prayed our rosaries, had our confessions heard, and chatted animatedly for the whole way.  Over the whole pilgrimage, we had walked 100 km which is about 62 miles.

We got to Chartres and found that we were not going to be in the Cathedral for Mass. I think ours was the first chapter not to make it, so we had good places on the square outside.

This was new for me.  Each of the previous years I've been, I have managed to get in, either because the English were all inside, or by being in a makeshift choir, or (last year) by being with the Americans who were let in as they'd come so far...  However, it was a better experience than I'd imagined.  When inside the Cathedral, I had always ended up at the back, behind a pillar or something, and unable to see anything.  The kids had always fallen asleep for most of the Mass...  The atmosphere and the sound was fantastic, of course.

Whereas out in the square, there was a big screen, so one could see the Mass much more clearly, which was wonderful.  The atmosphere and acoustics were not as good, but on balance it was fine.

The Mass was a High Mass, and finished with the Christus Vincit and the wonderful Marian hymn Chez Nous.

You will notice the huge number of (mainly young) priests who were in choir for the Mass, as well as the wonderful banners representing the various patron saints of the chapters as well as some national flags.

After Mass, we made our way to our hotel for a very welcome bath or shower, followed by a dinner for British and Australian chapters.  Ant and some of the hardier folk went on to the pub after dinner, but I sloped off to bed (to supervise Dominique, you understand).

And so the pilgrimage proper was over, officially, for another year.

But not for us.  Next day, we had a High Mass in the crypt of the Cathedral, sung by Fr Withoos, with an impromptu schola of Joe Shaw, Jamie Bogle and me.  The crypt chapel Notre Dame Sous Terre (Our Lady below the ground) is fascinating as it may be the oldest Marian shrine in Christendom.  Apparently the Druids had had a revelation and had inscribed an altar with the words virgini pariturae: the virgin who will conceive.... This is one of the wonders of Chartres, and we were very blessed to have a Mass there.

The other great sights are the Black Madonna, and Our Lady's Veil.  Unfortunately, due to the (wonderful) work being done inside the cathedral to clean the stonework, the chapel containing Our Lady's Veil was not accessible this time.

After Mass, we returned to the hotel, collected Ant's passport, which had duly arrived, and boarded our coach.

The drive home was fun but relatively uneventful, and we left each other at Westminster Cathedral - all determined to come again next year, if we may...


Richard Collins said...

A great account Ben and very humbling for those unable to undertake the pilgrimage.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks Richard. I am glad you found it interesting. Good to know someone is reading this stuff...

Richard Collins said...

More than interesting, this is Catholic history that will (if preserved) have major importance in 50 or 100 years' time.
All that is happening today regarding the reform of the reform will have profound relevance in the years to come.
Of course, Ben, it was very interesting as well.

Ben Trovato said...

Oh dear, I'd no idea I was writing history. My mendacity and cavalier approach to accuracy and fact-checking make me a poor historian! But perhaps a good source, for at least my biases and inaccuracies are transparent.