Monday, 28 May 2018

A few reflections on this year's Chartres pilgrimage

I have blogged extensively about the Chartres pilgrimage in previous years. For those who wish to know more about the three days of walking, praying, penance and conviviality, I suggest you read this, this, this, and this...

So in this post, I will confine myself to what was different or particularly striking this year.  One thing was the mileage: I don't know why, but we covered many more miles on day one (over 30), despite starting at Notre Dame de Paris, and ending at the usual campsite at Choisel.

We also had a change of chaplains. Fr Mark Withoos, a stalwart or many years' standing, has now been clothed as a Benedictine monk, Brother Augustine Mary, and is helping establish a new monastery in Tasmania; so he was unable to join us. Fr Alex Redman was marching with the Chavagne chapter. So we were blessed to have Fr Zgorecki Przemyslaw, who walked with us full of energy, chatted amiably, heard our confessions and read some of the meditations. We were also joined by the excellent  Fr de Malleray FSSP for part of the walk.

Another change this year was that we (the foreigners, that is) were not allowed to bring our own tents, but had to sleep in the large communal ones provided. I was not looking forward to this: the last time I had done so, I had been very grumpy, due to people deciding that 5.00 am wasn't nearly early enough to get up, and setting their alarms for 4.00, then spending the next half hour packing their bags very noisily...  Luckily, this time no such antisocial behaviour was indulged in; and the communal tents made things faster and easier.  I gather the reason for the change is the huge growth in numbers marching the pilgrimage: certainly they had opened new areas of the campsites. At Choisel, the Etrangers were treated to a very pitted part of the field; at Gas we were in a clay pigeon shooting area: there were empty cartridges and broken clays everywhere!  Our chapter was certainly large this year: 50 or so marching under the banner of St Alban (as well as 35-odd under the banner of Our Lady of Walsingham).

In addition to the meditations provided by the organisers (translations of which I am posting more or less on a daily basis to this blog) we had some additional talks.  

One was by Clare, who works as an Education Officer for Life. She was particularly keen to encourage people to attend the forthcoming Connect Conference, jointly organised by Life and the Alliance of Pro-Life Students. This promises to be excellent: it is aimed at young adults who don't know where they stand on pro-life issues, but are open to thinking seriously about them; and also those who do know where they stand, but are not (yet) active and are open to considering what (more) they might do.  Please book it in your diary if you are a young adult; bring your friends; tell others...

The second was by a seminarian - an old friend and veteran of the pilgrimage - Gwilym.  He talked about vocations, taking his own experience as a starting point, but reflecting on the different vocations to which people may be called: priesthood; the religious life; marriage; or celibacy. A number of people told me afterwards how helpful they had found this particular talk.

The third was by Jamie Bogle. He told us about the life and legacy of Blessed Charles, the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary, about whom he has co-written (with his wife Joanna) a book. This was a topic I had previously known nothing about, and Jamie's erudite and engaging talk was completely fascinating: so now I'll have to buy the book...

Other unique highlights of this year's pilgrimage included the final High Mass in Chartres Cathedral.  This was celebrated by the wonderful Cardinal Sarah, (about whose book I have enthused here and in the following posts). His homily was excellent, and may be read in translation here.  The final Mass may be seen here.  In addition, we were honoured to have a relic of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) to venerate. 

Finally, we were blessed by a new pilgrim, Jamie, who not only sings chant well, but also plays the organ. So our final Mass for the English pilgrims on Tuesday morning, was excellent musically. Our scratch Schola numbered five (and we had found a few times to practice, so apart from a complete lapse of attention by me at the very end of the last piece of chant, we did well) and the organ really lifted the congregational singing: not least a fine celebratory rendition of Chez Nous, which everyone sung with great gusto.

St Denis
The final difference was that I did not travel home with the Chapter. My daughter (no 2 was with me this year) and I both had the opportunity to take a few days holiday, so we stayed with some friends in Paris, and enjoyed visiting various Churches and religious sites (including the wonderful St Denis, which I had never seen before, as well as old favourites like the Rue du Bac, where Our Lady appeared to St Catherine Labouré, resulting in the miraculous medal) and also payed due homage to Monet and the rest at the Orsay and the Orangerie...  (cue the joke about the love of Monet being the root of all evil...).


And then home, and waking next day to the results of the Irish referendum.  About which I may post in due course.

No comments: