Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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Despite French govt’s COVID crackdown, historic Chartres pilgrimage lives on

Six groups of ten pilgrims 'relayed' from Paris to Chartres from the Vigil of Pentecost to Pentecost Monday, with virtual 'pilgrims' joining them from online.
Fri Jun 5, 2020 - 8:58 pm EST
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Thomas Dutour / Shutterstock.com

June 5, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — For the first time since 1983, when a group of militants of the cultural Centre Henri et André Charlier revived poet Charles Péguy’s walking pilgrimage from the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris to another Marian shrine, the cathedral of Chartres, the flags and banners of traditional Catholicism did not give vibrant color to the rolling green French countryside of the Beauce. For the first time in 38 years, the hymns and the chants, the seemingly endless column of weary but smiling and open-faced pilgrims, young and old (mostly young!), did not claim back for a moment the soil of France, walking and suffering there so “France and Christendom may continue.” Even as COVID-19 was used to close churches and prevent public worship, so did the aftermath of confinement serve to prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people (except demonstrations in Paris and elsewhere in the wake of the George Floyd affair) in the public domain. The pilgrimage that now brings together up to 20,000 people every year, hailing from many countries of the world, had to be canceled.

But does this mean that this year, Pentecost was celebrated without “Chartres”? No!

Thanks to deconfinement on May 11 and the combined efforts of traditional Catholics who obtained recognition for freedom of worship (that was being denied despite the end of lockdown) from the Council of State, Masses could again be celebrated in public in time for Pentecost. The organizers of the Paris-Chartres pilgrimage decided to do what they could to make more than a symbolic online pilgrimage — although that too was done, as we shall see, as well as a myriad of local pilgrimages all over France.

Six groups of ten pilgrims “relayed” from Paris to Chartres from the Vigil of Pentecost to Pentecost Monday, in turn carrying the statue of “Notre Dame de Chrétienté” (Our Lady of Christendom) from Paris to Chartres so that the Virgin Mary might be honored there, as she is every year, and protect her children in these troubled times.

A solemn Mass in the Tridentine rite took place on Saturday morning in Saint Sulpice, Paris, because the cathedral of Notre Dame is still closed to the public since the terrible fire that destroyed its roof last year. Three hundred fifty faithful were able to join in the immense nave of the classic church.

Holy Communion was not distributed due to guidelines of the Archdiocese of Paris, which allow Communion only in the hand because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mass, which was broadcast online, was celebrated by the chaplain of the firefighters of Paris, Canon Jean-Marc Fournier, who played a heroic role during the fire of Notre Dame supporting the firemen and going into the burning cathedral to save the Eucharist and the relics of the Passion of Our Lord (including the Holy Crown of Thorns) that were kept there.

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In his homily, he recalled that although man is wounded by Original Sin, he is saved by God and can accept (or reject) salvation, which is freely given by God alone but with which we human beings must collaborate.

“With the talents we have received, it is our intelligence and our will that are called to collaborate so that the kingdom of God may spread. Sound doctrine and upright action will be our best allies in helping to restore the order which sin never ceases to disturb. But we have other allies in this struggle, the good angels and especially our guardian angels,” said Canon Fournier.

The Holy Angels were the theme chosen for the 2020 Chartres pilgrimage.

The first small group of pilgrims, including the organization’s president, Jean des Tauriers, set off on foot and was welcomed and blessed at the gates of Paris by Bishop Matthieu Rougé of the diocese of Nanterre (photos here).

From then on, the many faithful who joined the online pilgrimage of Chartres 2020 were able to follow prayerfully, having been provided with special booklets as well as with filmed meditations led by “chapter leaders” who spoke about the angels, the rosary, penance, the traditional Mass, and more. All can be found on the Facebook page of Notre Dame de Chrétienté. They include three English-language meditations here. Jean des Tauriers also recorded a special message for English-speaking pilgrims, available here.

“We do not want the spiritual confinement of neutrality, the entombment of Catholics in secularist society — our pilgrimage is quite the opposite and makes it clear that we want God in our FAMILIES, our SCHOOLS and our INSTITUTIONS,” he proclaimed.

“Online” pilgrims were treated to a special version of the dreaded early morning appeal that would have pulled them out of their sleeping bags and tents at 5 o’clock in the morning.

While the small groups of flesh-and-blood pilgrims continued their route to Chartres, the Sunday Mass of Pentecost was celebrated and broadcast from the Dominican convent of Chéméré-le-Roi in the West of France. The Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given and filmed from the seminary of the Good Pastor.

Exceptionally, the closing Mass on Pentecost Monday was celebrated at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and also broadcast online, in the physical presence of a handful of faithful and a choir.

In the afternoon, the group of pilgrims who had walked the last installment of the route from Paris to Chartres brought the statue of Our Lady into the Cathedral. Photos here.

Meanwhile, all over France, families, young people, pilgrims of all ages set off on the roads in cities and in the countryside with the banners that should have gone to Chartres. Each mini-pilgrimage had organized Masses, spiritual accompaniment, and meditations. There were “hundreds” of these events, according to Notre Dame de Chrétienté.

One pilgrimage went from Orléans — the city liberated by Saint Joan of Arc on May 8, 1429 — to Chartres, where it received the blessing of Bishop Christory.

An impressive range of photos of all these initiatives — and of the beautiful, age-old churches that welcomed the groups of pilgrims — can be found here. A large number of children joined, as can be seen on several other series of photos on Notre Dame de Chrétienté’s Facebook page.

From the vineyards of Bordeaux to the suburbs of Paris, from the foot of the Alps and the rocky mountains of Provence to the tomb of Bonchamps near Angers — the heroic general of the Catholic and Royal Army of the Vendée — in forests and fields, churches and gardens, pilgrims walked, prayed, meditated, sang, confessed, heard Mass.

And, with the friendly spirit that is part of “Paris-Chartres,” they picnicked in the glorious June weather, shared bread and wine, and sang around bonfires, reclaiming their Christian heritage.

Far from stifling the voice and the vitality of Christendom, anti-religious measures have made them blossom in other ways, dotting the whole country with open-air celebrations of the traditional liturgy.

“They” should have known. From the beginning, the Chartres pilgrimage was placed under the patronage of “Notre Dame de la Sainte Espérance,” Our Lady of Blessed Hope, to which all pilgrims know the reply: “Convert us!”


  catholic, chartres, coronavirus, france, pilgrimage

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