HE CHARTRES PILGRIMAGE. It is much more than you expect. It is penitential, difficult, beautiful and a sacrifice of love that thousands walk each summer over the Pentecost weekend. On this pilgrimage, the dearest intention of all walking is the strengthening of the true Faith, which is found most deeply and sincerely within the Traditional Mass, starting within the Fold, but extending to all nations.
This is a pilgrimage steeped in Tradition—not just cultural, but spiritual—and it is a journey you never forget. When I went on it the first time, I got a glimpse of what Christendom will be. I was able to see part of the majesty and power of Christ the King when over 10,000 pilgrims bent the knee as He was elevated in the Holy Eucharist as the Sovereign and Savior of all. I saw here truly that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow. Even when I knew what to expect (the second time I went) it was still awe-inspiring and a partial picture of Christendom—where nationalities, troubles, and jealousies fade away in the love, devotion, and obedience all Catholics owe to Christ the King.
It was also impressive that we marched so far and sang and prayed the entire way, just as soldiers would have done. It brought to life, for me, the saying that we are all soldiers of Christ. We were marching for the victory of Our King. We ought to walk as soldiers every day, taking up our crosses and following Our King, but for me this was especially moving because we were physically marching with flags waving in the wake of the Cross.
Before going on this pilgrimage there is no way to truly prepare for what will happen to you. It is not meant to be a feat of strength nor a race, and any physical training you do beforehand will still not prepare you for the grueling endurance you must have to finish the pilgrimage. I saw people obviously very fit having to ride the bus service at times; and yet other people who were not fit (such as myself) made it through. It will be different for each person. The pain certainly does exceed expectations and by the end of the pilgrimage, your legs feel as if they will fall off and your feet are on fire. But it is worth every bit!
Spiritual expectations will also be met and exceeded. I didn’t know how much I would be moved by this. I considered myself to be a good Traditional Catholic, and yet I found that when I went I realized how little I really cared for and lived my Faith. That pilgrimage changed me, and it changes everyone who goes on it. There is something so beautiful and gentle, that it captures your heart and lights it on fire with a zeal for the Truth. There is an abundance of grace present there that can seldom be found elsewhere. I was so changed the first time I went back a second time; and hope to return for as long as I am able.
Part of the grace seen is in the conversations you have with the fellow Catholics—seemingly trivial conversations—but underlying is a zeal and love for God that directs all our actions toward Him. At night in the camps, the children (and there are many children) can be seen running around with laughter on their lips. The adults meander around visiting with one another with their piece of bread and cup of weak soup. Everyone has smiles on their faces, even the lame and injured.
The boy scouts are also amazing because they are what boy scouts should be. They help injured people, set up and take down all the tents for the pilgrims, walk the entire way, and attend at Mass as altar servers. Coming from America, I found this truly amazing!
Best of all are the Masses. The first one is on Saturday morning in the great Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of Paris. It is only recently that the pilgrims have been allowed to have the Traditional Mass celebrated in this building that was designed for the reverence and glory the Traditional Mass brings to Christ. Quite an honor. The second Mass is celebrated out in the middle of a field in the blistering heat, or the driving rain. This was the most moving Mass for me, because it showed the true devotion and love people have for Christ when I could see everyone kneeling in reverence even through their discomfort. The Mass in Chartres was glorious and we enter the city with the bells pealing. Such a beautiful ending to a holy pilgrimage where as many as possible try to fit inside the cathedral to attend the last Mass of the walk and the choir singing like angels.
The Chartres Cathedral is often called the playhouse of Our Lady, and it is truly her Church. There, the veil she wore at the Annunciation is kept at the back of the church in view for the public and behind the main altar is a spectacular marble carving of her Assumption into Heaven. There is just something about it that bears the imprint of Mary and it is probably one of the most beautiful churches.
Thus the pilgrimage far exceeds the expectations you will have before you go, both physically and spiritually. This was the best thing I’ve done in my life and I highly encourage you to go, because words cannot do justice to the experience you will have.
Our Lady, Queen of Chartres, pray for us!
We hope you enjoyed this guest article by Margaret Walsh.
The first photograph is courtesy of John Sonnen’s blog. All other photographs were taken by Margaret Walsh.