Friday, May 26, 2023

Over 16k: “Chartres’ Record Number of Pilgrims Is a ‘Stunning Testimony to the TLM’s Popularity Among Young Catholics’”

Pilgrims walking the final stretch to Chartres (Edward Pentin)

More pilgrims than ever will be participating in the traditional Chartres pilgrimage this year — so many that, despite Traditionis Custodes and Pope Francis’ restrictions on the Traditional Latin Mass, for the first time the organizers had to close registrations ten days early.

Over 16,000 pilgrims will be walking the route from St Sulpice Church in Paris to Notre-Dame Cathedral in Chartres over the Pentecost weekend, May 27-29 — a distance of about 60 miles.

The traditional and deeply historic pilgrimage which dates back to the 12th century was reinvigorated in 1983 by the Notre-Dame de Chrétienté Association, and in recent years, with the exception of the time of Covid, has been continually growing in popularity.

“Having walked the Chartres Pilgrimage every year for 30 years, I can say that there never was an expectation that it would sell out, since the Chartres city center is so large,” said Michael J. Matt, editor of the Remnant Newspaper who leads the American chapter, or group of pilgrims. “The fact that the pilgrimage has reached maximum capacity this year, is nothing less than a stunning testimony to the popularity of the Latin Mass among young Catholics.”

Last year I was grateful for the opportunity to take part in the pilgrimage for the first time (a record crowd of 15,000 also attended that year) and found it to be an enormously uplifting celebration of the faith, a chance to meet a hugely diverse group of mostly young fellow Catholics (the average age is 20.5 years this year), and to walk through the streets of Paris and beautiful French countryside to the picturesque medieval city of Chartres.

As with all pilgrimages, the journey to Chartres is an apt metaphor for life: the weather is changeable with warm, late spring sunshine mixed with clouds and occasional downpours, while the terrain is at times flat and easy, then rocky and demanding. Last year, the heavens opened for the first full day of the pilgrimage, turning much of the route into a muddy swamp but it failed to dampen spirits.

All along the route, one is accompanied by a vibrant and lively spirit of fellowship, and the penitential aspect of the pilgrimage is ever present. Although not far for a pilgrimage, the pace is quick and the distance crammed into a relatively short time, making it at times quite a gruelling experience, at least for us older folk.

Pilgrims from 28 countries but mostly from France will pray along the way this year, reciting the Rosary and singing songs. Last year, behind our chapter, we had a particularly exuberant group from Saint-Tropez in France whose hearty singing could almost be heard in the French Riviera, while in front of us Portuguese pilgrims peacefully sauntered along the route as if enjoying a Sunday afternoon in the Algarve. Perhaps less well known is that not all the pilgrims are Catholics: a small number from other confessions or none at all take part.

Around 300 priests and religious will be walking the route this year and the priests will always be on hand to hear confessions. The Traditional Latin Mass is, of course, widely available. This year, on Pentecost Monday, the former apostolic nuncio to Ukraine and Switzerland, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, will offer the solemn Pontifical Mass in Notre-Dame de Chartres in the presence of the Bishop of Chartres.

“It is our sincere hope,” Michael Matt said, “that the Vatican will see in this event a non-polemical and joyful expression of the youth, vitality, and unitive power of the Latin Mass.”

See Michael’s excellent recent documentary exploring the history, the present, and the future of the pilgrimage:

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