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Thousands of pilgrims at 2024 ChartresNotre-Dame de Chrétienté / X)

(LifeSiteNews) — The 2024 Pentecost pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres was marked by a historic attendance and maximum visibility, welcoming over 18,000 pilgrims from day one for a grueling but spiritually enriching 100 kilometer-long march.

It rained on Saturday, but the two following days were unexpectedly clement as forecast thunderstorms failed to materialize, and the logistic difficulties linked to the unprecedented numbers of walkers were all solved, including the clearing of one of the large luggage trucks that got bogged down on the Sunday evening bivouac. 

Moving so many pilgrims, including large numbers of children, on a three-day march, with everyone’s safety to ensure and so many details to see to, is truly a feat. It is like shifting a town while retaining the necessary calm for what is also a spiritual adventure centered on God, with all the necessary beauty and solemnity of the traditional liturgy in outdoor Mass and Eucharistic adoration on altars set up in the fields. All this cannot function without charity: a charity that expresses itself through the hundreds of volunteers who turn the challenge into reality with the mutual assistance the pilgrims give each other. 

Thousands of pilgrims at 2024 Chartres (Notre-Dame de Chrétienté / X)

This year, political commentator Candace Owens, who recently converted to the Catholic faith, joined the pilgrimage of Christendom and rejoiced in the traditional liturgy she found there. “Sunday Mass. 20,000 people united in pilgrimage from all over the world. We are so back. Christus Rex est,” she wrote on X. 

Clearly, God attracts. He attracts young people who are thirsting for the sacred, who have found meaning in their lives or who are looking for it. Over 18,000 people – average age 23 – took part in the Chrétienté pilgrimage over the Whitsun weekend. For the 42nd time, the route from Paris to Chartres was long and demanding, a “metaphor for life” that ended at the foot of the cathedral, a jewel of Gothic architecture and the majestic fruit of Christian civilization, with a foretaste of heaven. Never has the event been so visibly missionary: in view of the historic turnout, several national media turned up, offering the whole of France the images of these thousands of young people who reject relativism and hedonism. 

A photo taken at 2024 Chartres pilgrimage (Credit: Notre-Dame de Chrétienté / X)

Meanwhile, more than 6,000 people took to the roads from Chartres to Paris for the pilgrimage of Tradition with the Society of Saint Pius X, on the theme, “Seeking God with Saint Thomas Aquinas.” 

Notre-Dame de Chrétienté welcomed more pilgrims than ever – so many that registrations had to be closed almost a month before Pentecost, an unprecedented event – even though the theme of the pilgrimage was tougher than usual. “The Four Last Things” is a serious reflection on the fate that awaits each and every one of us: death, judgement, heaven… or hell. The grace of redemption is offered, and it’s up to Christians to respond and live up to it. For the general chaplain of Notre Dame de Chrétienté, Father Jean de Massia, “the abandonment, since the 1960s, of preaching on the Four Last Things is undeniably one of the major symptoms of the crisis of Faith. (…) We need to return to the mission of the Gospel: to teach Jesus Christ, and all of Jesus Christ. This is the greatest of charities. To speak of the Last Things is to practise a pastoral ministry of truth,” he explains on the pilgrimage website. That is why all this was associated, in this year’s pilgrimage theme, with the cry of Saint Teresa of Avila when she was still a child: “I want to see God!” 

The Chartres 2024 pilgrimage was a record-breaker 

When Father de Massia gave the opening and closing remarks of this 100-kilometer walk, he recalled its expiatory dimension: “Don’t shy away from the demands of penance or from physical pain, they are the gift of the road that will purify your soul and atone for your sins. Those who have come to spend three days of physical well-being have come to the wrong place! For it must be said again, it is above all because we are sinners that we go on pilgrimage. Come rain or shine, this year our pilgrimage will be tailor-made by God for the conversion of our souls, and if it is more gruelling than last year, it will be all the more fruitful for it.” 

Before setting off, proudly carrying hundreds of Christian banners flapping in the wind, the pilgrims gathered in the early hours of Saturday morning at Saint-Sulpice, also hearing these words: “My pilgrim friend, the purpose of this theme is not to frighten us with the torments of Hell, which are very real, even if this fear can be the beginning of true wisdom for many of us. No, the objective is to leave Chartres on Monday with a raging desire to be saints, and a thirst to communicate to the men and women of this world, so devoid of hope, the fire of Pentecost that drives us. For all the acrobatics of modern theology cannot take away the force and the simple, clear truth of Christ’s last words, which we heard on Ascension Day: ‘Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.’” 

Young man holding flag of Our Lady and Our Lord at the 2024 Chartres pilgrimage (Credit: Olivier Figueras)

The many young people who are not accustomed to traditional liturgies or sermons, and who discover them on the roads to Chartres, hardly hear this language during the year – as was shown by the less vigorous words addressed to them by clerics who do not belong to this traditional “family” in the Church. 

Christendom is on a pilgrimage to heaven 

At the end of their walk, which duly concluded with the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the “wedding feast of the Lamb,” Father de Massia once again called up the thousands of young and old who will have to remain pilgrims to heaven in their everyday lives:  

Accept to receive, to be perched like a child on the shoulders of our elders to let yourself be taught, accept to be a link in this unbroken chain of fiery witnesses who, since Jesus Christ, have faithfully received and then repeated in their entirety to the following generations the same saving truth. They catechize the children, make them love Heaven but also fear Hell, they radiate around them and bear witness to the fact that all this is true, that it is not a fable, that it is real and even the most essential of things, since it is about eternal salvation… 

Indeed, since Pentecost, Christ has raised up fiery witnesses, so that the truths of the Gospel do not fall into oblivion, so that people know the splendor of the destiny that God has prepared for those he loves, because yes, he loves them and paid for that love with his life; but also courageous witnesses who in the face of contemporary atheism dare to say that life involves a real risk, that these two paths depicted in the tympanum of the south porch really do exist, that sin is serious and can lead to Hell, and that there are crimes today that disguise themselves as good and whose insult cries out to Heaven; and that God, in the end, will judge, reward the good and punish the unrepentantly wicked who have resisted his love to the end. ‘This is the truth, all the rest is a fraud.’

Having seen them arriving in Chartres, tired but rejoicing in the effort they had chosen, accepted and accomplished, smiling and full of energy in spite of everything, I can say that these lessons in truth did not leave them traumatized. They had recharged their batteries by putting God at the centre, and as always, when asked about their attachment to the traditional Mass or their discovery of it, they marvelled at its transcendence and its sacred nature. 

Radio shows and a live broadcast of the traditional Pentecost Mass 

Even a well-known radio comedian Gaspard Proust managed to slip this in during his light-heartedly serious segment on one of France’s major radio stations, Europe 1, on Tuesday morning. Explaining that he had attended Saturday morning Mass at Saint-Sulpice where the pilgrimage starts off, he mocked the “two or three progressives who talk about a Mass where priests turn their backs to the people” as “not very sympathetic to the faithful.” He retorted: “There was a traditional Mass in Latin, it was extraordinary… You feel like telling them: ‘It’s not because he’s turning his back on the faithful, you moron, on the contrary, he’s in line with the faithful, they’re all looking in the same direction!’” 

Traditional Mass being offered at 2024 Chartres pilgrimage (Credit: Notre-Dame de Chrétienté / X)

For Europe 1’s morning show to draw listeners’ attention to the beauty of the traditional Mass in this way, something really has to be going on. For nationwide television news stations, CNews and BFM to have reported fairly, repeatedly, sympathetically and respectfully on the Chartres pilgrims means that some kind of miracle has occurred. The number of pilgrims in 2023 drew the attention of the media, which had previously been virtually blind to the pilgrimage; the 2024 edition can be said to have went one step further.

The highlight of this media attention was the Sunday Mass broadcast live by CNews, which can be seen in full here, with insightful commentary from Aymeric Pourbaix of France catholique and doctrinal and liturgical explanations from Father de Massia on the celebration of Pentecost Mass in the Dominican rite by Father Augustin Aubry of the Fraternité Saint-Vincent-Ferrier. How many years has it been since nationwide television viewers have seen a traditional Mass? Fifty, at least. The ratings were good: the program drew hundreds of thousands of people, both the faithful and the simply curious, CNews being the second most-watched news channel at the time. From the outset, Fr. Aubry emphasised that the Mass is “the renewal of the sacrifice of the Cross.” The sermon was demanding and inspiring, hiding nothing of the “eternal fire” and the effect of sin, which “tramples on mystery, cancels out desire, drives out the Holy Spirit received at baptism”… “If your life is for creatures, then your eternity will be without the Creator,” he said. “Chartres pilgrim, be worthy of your destiny!” 

In 2024, as always, Christianity requires conversion 

Indeed, this dignity cannot be taken for granted, and the 18,000 pilgrims were told it, but not only they, since thanks to television the message entered thousands upon thousands of homes, carried by these young Catholics’ enthusiasm and gravity, as well as by their joy. In fact, the pilgrimage’s own invocation to “Our Lady of Holy Hope” sums it all up in the rest of the invocation: “Convert us!” 

The high profile of the pilgrimage was also reflected in the personalities who took part, often walking the 100 kilometers: the Duke of Anjou, Louis de Bourbon, “legitimist” pretendant to the throne of France, whose presence was specially acknowledged in Chartres cathedral during the address by the President of Notre-Dame de Chrétienté, Jean de Tauriers. But also Marion Maréchal Le Pen, leader of the “Reconquête” party list in the upcoming European elections; and also Candace Owens, as commented before, who walked at least part of the pilgrimage in the chapter of Americans led by Michael Matt, which with 110 pilgrims had never been so large. 

The Duke of Anjou, Louis de Bourbon (left of center) with other pilgrims at 2024 Chartres (Credit: La Légitimité / X)

The closing Mass was celebrated according to the traditional rite, “the sole Mass of the pilgrimage,” by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. During his homily, recalling that the Church of Christ has always been persecuted and that “today, Christians are still the most persecuted religious community in the human history,” the cardinal proclaimed: “The de-Christianisation of Europe is the present agenda of those who want to rob it of its soul and have it fall victim to their post-humanist atheism.” 

Cardinal Müller during Mass at the 2024 Chartres pilgrimage (Credit: Olivier Figueras)

In conclusion, he added: “Oftentimes, the Church of Christ is but a small flock, a persecuted and misunderstood minority. But in reality, in Jesus Christ, she is the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the pioneer of all humanity on its way to its goal. This should not be confused with all the horribly failed experiments in building a man-made paradise. The goal of history is ‘a new heaven and a new earth – the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven’ (Rev 21:1f). Temporal well-being and eternal salvation come from God, who by His grace saved us from the destructive power of evil. God has called us in the Holy Spirit and made us capable of helping to build the kingdom of justice, love and peace. At his invitation, the whole cathedral – where there was only room for children, everyone else was outside – rang out with the words: ‘Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!’

Sadly, not all humanity achieves the goal, and this was the lesson of Chartres this year, with its urgent call to all to be saints. Next year, pilgrims will be invited to meditate on Christ the King: “That he may reign, on earth as in heaven!” 

Notre-Dame de Chrétienté’s Facebook page offers many pictures and videos of the 2024 pilgrimage, including the complete procession of banners and flags – 11 minutes long – before the Mass in Chartres.