Thursday, 19 May 2016

Chartres 2016 (3)

I realise that I left out a couple of important moments on Pentecost. After the Mass we marched on, of course, and eventually ascended a hill, covered in barley fields and some light woodland, until, as we rounded a corner, we got our first glimpse on the horizon of the twin, but asymetric, spires of Chartres Cathedral. That is always a moment of special joy, and we always greet it with the Regina Caeli.

And it was not long after that I noticed what the increasingly boisterous chapter of French girl guides were singing: an old French marching song that I had first heard on the train back to Paris last year. The chorus runs as follows:

Buvons un coup, buvons en deux
A la santé des amoureux
A la santé du roi de France
Et merde pour le roi d'Angleterre
Qui nous a déclaré la guerre!

This was sung with such gusto that I was pretty sure that it was being sung in our direction. But this year we ignored it, and pressed on for the campsite at Gas.

On Monday morning we always get a lie-in. It was 5.30 before they woke us up... It was also slightly less cold than it had been the previous morning: no ice on the tents, though still pretty fresh. And the same routine: breakfast, tents packed, luggage onto the lorry... No! Jerk awake. Luggage goes onto our coach, for those staying in the hotel in Chartres. Those unfortunates who forget this have to trek down to the yard the other side of the station, and lug their luggage back up the hill to the hotel at the end of the day.

And then we march. But the end is in site, and today's march is a mere seventeen and a half miles: hardly worth putting your boots on...

By the lunch stop we are getting positively light-headed, as we realise how close we are to Chartres. And then we are singing one last rosary as we enter the city and wend our way through the outskirts. As we ascend the hill we always sing a quick Requiem aeternam at the war memorial, before launching into some serious singing of Jubilate Deo as a canon, which will take us right up to the Cathedral, until we are drowned out by its tolling bells.

This year, as the Cathedral is still full of scaffolding, as they work on the magnificent restoration project, fewer chapters than usual could fit inside. As we were well down the order of march, we were right at the back of the square outside, so could barely even see the screen. However, we got a fantastic view of the procession entering and leaving, including seeing St Joan of Arc's ring proudly carried by, which has only recently returned to France, after being bought at an auction from its previous English owner. 

And then scores of clergy, many very young, and of course the banners of all the chapters; and then a couple of bishops...  And then the High Mass, the culmination of the pilgrimage. And once again, with all the nationalities filling the square, the eminent good sense, and simple Catholicity of having Latin as a common language was apparent.

After Mass, we gathered for the traditional photo, having already said goodbye, unfortunately, to those who had to rush off for trains in order to get back to England that night. 

Then it was back to our hotel for a celebratory dinner and a glass or two of wine, before retiring to bed - bed, I tell you! For the first time since Friday night!

And just before retiring, I looked at the data captured on my iPhone:

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