2013 Pentecost pilgrimage from Notre-Dame de Paris to Notre-Dame de Chartres

British chapters leaving Notre-Dame de Paris for the 2013 pilgrimage to Chartres

British chapters leaving Notre-Dame de Paris for the 2013 pilgrimage to Chartres

I have returned from the holy pilgrimage to Chartres! On Tuesday morning, 21st May, after a beautiful Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the two British chapters in the crypt of Chartres cathedral, our coach set off for home. We arrived back beside Westminster Cathedral around 8pm (the point from where we had departed the previous Friday morning), weary, footsore, tired, but very happy, after our more than 100 km. (64 miles) walking pilgrimage between the two Cathedrals of Notre-Dame de Paris to Notre-Dame de Chartres. It had been yet another indescribably moving and spiritually uplifting experience – as Our Blessed Lord had promised that the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost would be. There is no doubt the presence of the Holy Spirit had poured numerous graces down upon us, the over 10.000 pilgrims (mostly male, and almost all of them young), in a most amazing way.

But it was tough, very tough this year, with a lot of rain in the afternoons, some of it heavy, that made plodding through the muddy fields and woods harder than usual; and the nights, camping out in tents in soggy open fields, colder than ever! Spirits never flagged all the same, and the singing and praying continued during the march with the vitality and ‘joie de vivre’ that would be hard to comprehend under any other circumstances.We had been warned that we might come across a spot of trouble from the pro same-sex ‘marriage’ adherents along the way, but except from some distant jeering and shouting as we were marching out of Paris, I never noticed anything. Perhaps these blusterers were unnerved at the sight of streams of so many joyful Catholics!

At the second campsite, whilst kneeling in the rain amongst hundreds of other pilgrims on the sopping wet grass in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the lovely altar erected at the campsite just as night fell, I was struck with a burning love for these wonderful young people kneeling all around me. Many of them, after a 33 day preparation period, were making their Consecration to Our Blessed Lady, filling me with the strong conviction that our Church will weather any storm coming its way with youngsters such as these to take the ‘baton’ onto the next generations.

This year we were lucky: the organisers gave us a position among the beginning chapters on the third day of the walk, so we actually managed to get inside the cathedral, and even to get a seat!! (This is something that rarely happens.) After the magnificent Mass, and whilst the numerous clergy, followed by the banner holders, filed out of the Cathedral in procession, we raised our voices, thousands of them, singing our hearts out the beautiful hymn to Our Lady of Chartres: “Chez nous, soyez Reine” (“Oh Queen of our country”).

The ‘Chartres pilgrimage’ is a very real metaphor for the Church Militant, the Catholic Church on Earth, marching with our fellow pilgrims through the difficulties and challenges of life, its joys and sorrows, towards our goal, the Church Triumphant.

Once one has ‘experienced Chartres’ (an expression we use among ourselves), and in spite of the very real suffering and many discomforts endured, you feel compelled to come back time and time again. The divine graces that enkindle the hearts of the pilgrims with a passion and love for God, the Blessed Virgin, our Holy Catholic Church and one another, are like a magnet that is difficult to resist. The years I have been unable to make the pilgrimage to Chartres, for whatever reason, I now feel bereft!

I have so many pilgrims to thank for their help and fellowship, it is hard to know where to begin, but after heartfelt thanks to my dear friends who organise the British pilgrimage so fantastically well, and all the other priests and helpers, I would like to add my thanks to A and her young grandson C, who helped me search among the piles of luggage for absolute ages in the pouring rain that second evening for my lost bag containing my sleeping-bag and mat (eventually found!); and to J, who became my ‘Simon of Cyrene’ when he gave me his big strong arm to help me (practically carry me actually) up that final long steep hill to the Cathedral of Chartres, just as the last bit of my strength and energy were draining away. May God Bless you all abundantly for your kindness.

"Our Lady of Christendom" statue carried on the Pilgrimage to Chartres

“Our Lady of Christendom” statue carried on the Pilgrimage to Chartres

On the French website, “Notre Dame de Chrétienté” http://www.nd-chretiente.com/index-eng.php/ comes this explanation:

The Association “Notre-Dame de Chrétienté” (“Our Lady of Christendom”) organises every year at Pentecost a pilgrimage from the Cathedral, Notre-Dame de Paris, to the Cathedral, Notre-Dame de Chartres (France): three days to live and build the Christendom of the third millennium. Covering within three days a distance of approximately 60 miles, the pilgrims walk in “chapters” under the patronage of a saint. The pilgrimage has about 150 chapters each comprising around fifty pilgrims from all over France and even abroad (USA, Great Britain, Australia, Poland, Canada, Spain, etc. …). 
The chapters are led by laymen who, with the help of chaplains, organise the chapter hymns, meditations, rosary and prayers. The pilgrims live in a spirit of Christ’s presence: friendship and prayer sustaining each pilgrim on his spiritual journey.
Chaplains, priests and religious from various communities accompany the pilgrims all along the walk, hearing confessions, and teaching the Catholic Faith. 
Each day, Mass is celebrated in the most beautiful way, according to the Roman Missal of Pope John XXIII. The liturgy is the traditional Latin one: a magnificent instrument of prayer, stressing the universal character of the Mass. 
Each year, approximately 8,000 to 10,000 pilgrims, walk to the Marian shrine of Chartres, expressing the condition of Christian life which is to be a long pilgrimage and a long walk to paradise…”

For a well-written and delightful account of this year’s pilgrimage from one of our enthusiastic “Juventutem” members: http://www.offerimustibidomine.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/pelerinage-de-chartres-2013.html

For more information and a link to photos: http://www.chartresuk.blogspot.com/

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27 Responses to 2013 Pentecost pilgrimage from Notre-Dame de Paris to Notre-Dame de Chartres

  1. kathleen says:

    You can spot me in the picture above of the pilgrims leaving Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris: I have fair hair in a ponytail and I’m wearing a purply/lilac coloured jumper and walking beside the man in a blue anorak with a stick.
    How fresh we all look here, and quite different to our aspect when we arrived drenched and exhausted at Chartres!


  2. johnhenrycn says:

    I love these “Where’s Waldo?” puzzles! In that photo, you’re smiling, but the man with the stick is grimacing. No wonder after walking all that way. God bless.


  3. golden chersonnese says:

    Yes lovely, Kathleen.

    I was just wondering whether on these pilgrimages you ever have time to be affected by the countryside; “commune with Mother Nature”, you know, but God’s Mother Nature of course. Does that form a part of it too? I am sure it must on Toad’s camino, where you must be in vast open spaces for a lot the time.

    Ten thousand pilgrims, how wonderful. They struggle to get pilgrims in the hundreds on this one, even after 22 years. One delightful thing, however, they’re mostly young:



  4. Toad says:

    A fine achievement, Kathleen. Like other things, running a marathon, say – it’s not possible to properly appreciate it until you’ve done something similar yourself.

    Funny you should ask about ‘communing with nature,’ Golden. Early this very fine crisp day, a young pilgrimette passed me wearing headphones.
    I gestured for her to take them off.
    “What can you hear?’ I then asked.
    “Nothing, ” she said.
    “Can you hear that cuckoo and those two larks?”
    “Oh,” she said, “Yes.”
    “Can you hear anything else? Any other sounds? Any traffic?”
    “Think about it,” I advised

    (You pompous old bore, Toad. Still, you can do this stuff as a slippered pantaloon.
    No doubt she politely waited ’til the doddering crumbly and his horrible dogs were safely out of sight, then put the headphones back on.)


  5. kathleen says:

    Thank you dear Friends.

    JH, that man in the blue anorak is Richard Kornicki, CBE. http://www.thomasmorelegal.org.uk/about.htm
    He and his delightful wife (who unfortunately could not make the pilgrimage this year) are good friends of ours. He’s a great asset to the group, and I think you confused his expression of determination (we were just starting off here) for a “grimace”!

    Yes Golden, we certainly are aware of the beautiful rolling countryside around us, thanking God for the marvels of His Creation, as we stomp along eating up the miles….. whilst praying, singing, or listening to the lovely meditations that help us forget our aches and pains.
    Headphones? Not on this pilgrimage, not even among the young! 🙂


  6. johnhenrycn says:

    I stand corrected, for the first (or twentieth) time 😉


  7. golden chersonnese says:

    Yes, Toad, the electronic gadgetry is past a joke now. Here now you can go to a social function or a meeting and so many are playing with their jolly iPads, taking dozens of photographs on iPhones or sending text messages instead of sitting down and enjoying a conversation or participating in a good discussion. Nothing crumbly about saying that, it’s just good sense.


  8. Toad says:

    Golden, I just spent 3 days as a regular tourist in Barcelona.
    On the Metro, everyone under 30 (and several considerably older) sitting looking a a little square metal pad, and poking at it.
    Go figure.
    In all museums, churches, cathedrals, ‘places of interest’, hardly anybody looking properly at anything, just taking snaps of one another in front of the exhibits, etc., for later, I suppose.

    I have to admit I carry a little “Moleskin” sketch book and make drawings and notes of things that I like, and can use, and think about, later myself.
    Maybe it’s really no different.
    Just more antiquated.

    (Oh, and a great many beggars.)


  9. Frere Rabit says:

    Good article, Kathleen. I certainly have been compelled to come back to Chartres,time and time again, but not as yet on the Pentecost pilgrimage. One day,maybe.


  10. Toad says:

    I take a keen, near professional, interest in pilgrimages, Kathleen, and would appreciate some more detail regarding yours – perhaps from another website? I looked at the one you posted, but it is rather short on numbers.
    The idea of coping with 10,000 pilgrims is indeed awesome.
    And you slept in tents? How many people in each tent? Ten people per tent makes 1,000 big tents.
    Who put them up? The pilgrims each night? How long did that take? And how did you all get fed? A field kitchen presumably.
    I also couldn’t find any reference to how many people can fit into Chartres at one time.
    Quite a few for sure, as you all clearly did.
    Do you have any idea?


  11. kathleen says:

    Thanks Rabit! Coming from you, I take that as a real compliment. 😉
    It would be great to have you join us one day, and I’m sure you would have a lot to contribute.

    @ Toad,
    The logistics (I have been told) of coping with so many thousands of pilgrims on the march, are something based on army manoeuvres. The French organisers, Notre Dame de Chrétienté, do a really fantastic, efficient job in making sure everything works like clockwork.
    The pilgirmage can take anything up to two hours to pass by (although it’s usually around one and a half hours), so in other words, some pilgrims have arrived at the campsite at the end of the day and are getting themselves sorted out, whilst others at the end of the line of ‘chapters’ are only just leaving the last resting point! As you can imagine, those who are near the front (as we were on the last day) have a long wait at Chartres Cathedral for the poor wet stragglers at the back, who then had to watch the Holy Mass on a screen outside!
    No, fortunately we don’t have to put up the big tents ourselves, although a lot of people bring their own individual tents (carried with our luggage on big lorries) so they have to. In the large communal tents any number up to around 30 people can fit in. The tents are not mixed (unlike the albergues on the Camino!)
    A delicious soup is provided at the campsite by the organisers, together with good French bread and bottles of water. Coffee or hot chocolate is provided in the mornings. One can substitute these basic foods with one’s own supplies carried in our cases. Retrieving our bags at the campsite, even though they are divided up into regions, and in our case “etrangers”, is little less than a nightmare…. as you can imagine!
    I am not sure offhand of the numbers that fit into the Cathedral at Chartres, but even squashed together – and it’s a large Cathedral – many groups have to remain outside. The last time I did the pilgrimage, in 2011, we were the first group that could not get inside, and so we were right by the doors, but outside.


  12. Toad says:

    I since read there were 900 volunteer helpers,
    More than eight pilgrims to deal with at our house throws me into a panic.
    One more thing: How did you divide up the distances each day? How many miles in how many hours each day?


  13. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad, hope I’m not interfering but this has info on the manoeuvres involved in managing the pilgrimage between two cathedral cities in Victoria, Australia each October?November.

    Click to access 2012CRexInformationBooklet1.pdf

    May help you a bit as it explains most of what’s needed for pilgrims to do for themselves and what is provided by the organisers.


  14. golden chersonnese says:

    Kathleen, I was just thinking the photo could be turned into a Bosch painting if you add the jeering gay marriage crowd on the side.


  15. JabbaPapa says:

    Kathleen, my first three days to Santiago from Paris were on that very same pilgrimage route to Chartres, though my own was solitary, and very different as I was still an agnostic when I started it.

    The arrival in Chartres in nevertheless gloriously beautiful, as you well know !!!

    Toad : A fine achievement, Kathleen. Like other things, running a marathon, say

    heh, the Chartres pilgrimage is basically three marathons on three consecutive days 🙂


  16. Frere Rabit says:

    So, after Chartres, Jabba,you must have walked down the Route des Anglais to Tours? A great little route!


  17. kathleen says:

    Dear Jabba, how good to see you here again after so long! (Unless you’ve been looking in whilst I was away.) I really do hope you will write about your experiences on that memorable pilgrimage to Santiago one day. Any chance you might?
    BTW, if you started your pilgrimage to Santiago in Paris you must have covered over 1.500 km.!! That is an amazing feat.

    Yes, even in the rain, the sight of those distinctive steeples of Chartres in the distance as we come over the hump of the hill sends a shout of excitement all along the chapters! It is indeed “gloriously beautiful”, no matter how many times one might have made the pilgrimage.

    And yes, the pace we walk at is so incredibly fast, you could almost believe you are running a marathon…. or three! 😉
    When I begin to see I am falling back from the rest (as sometimes happens, especially near the end of the day) I go into a trot now and then to catch up! It’s a truly strenuous pilgrimage, and I find I need to sleep much more for days afterwards to recover.


  18. kathleen says:

    We start very early every morning, but the time we depart depends on where your chapter is positioned in the pilgrimage line that day. The distances per day (in kilometres) are roughly: 40 + the first day, 35 + the second day, and 25 + the third day. The distance between each lap of the route varies considerably, but the stops (for water, snacking, loos etc) are very very short, and one has to be quick, or you get left behind!
    The first day is the most gruelling, not only because it is the longest, but as we start off with Mass in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the stopover for lunch is shorter than on the second day (when we have a beautiful Mass in a field en route) so one is literally walking all day…. till about 8 to 9:30pm.


  19. kathleen says:

    I don’t think the “gay marriage” crowd are in the photo above…. the volunteers guarding the pilgrims (and supposedly the police) would not have allowed them anywhere near the Cathedral I believe. However we could hear their jeers and whistling at some distance as we marched along the Paris streets! It just made us sing a little louder and with more passion. 😉

    Have you seen the news about yesterday’s fiasco in Paris? Really, France is being divided in two over this issue. I have nothing but admiration for those that protest this outrageous bill, and I wonder what will happen in the UK when we too have it forced upon us!!


  20. JabbaPapa says:

    Dear Jabba, how good to see you here again after so long! (Unless you’ve been looking in whilst I was away.) I really do hope you will write about your experiences on that memorable pilgrimage to Santiago one day. Any chance you might?

    Dear Kathleen, you must be a mind-reader !!!

    (though this was the botched pilgrimage of the year before, starting from Logroño)


    (and yes, I must confess, I *have* been peeping in ..)

    BTW, if you started your pilgrimage to Santiago in Paris you must have covered over 1.500 km.!! That is an amazing feat

    Well, many pilgrims do such things, but my longest pilgrimage so far has been from home to Santiago, and about 2000 KM (77 days).


  21. johnhenrycn says:

    I think Kathleen, Jabba and FR’s pilgrimages may embolden me to try one myself this August from Guelph, Ontario to the Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario (100 miles over 8 days), if I can get away from the office and if my slightly arthritic feet can cope. Kathleen’s recent pilgrimage was more gruelling than that, and if her friend, the gentleman in the photo with a cane, was able to complete his walk, perhaps I will be able to manage as well.


  22. golden chersonnese says:

    Hello Kathleen, the Bosch painting I was referring to is this one, the Fight between Carnival and Lent:

    If you look at that photo you gave us (with you pilgrims turning every which way as in the Bosch painting) you’ll see some similarity. It only needs a crowd of anti-pilgrims (like a big bunch of marriage equality muchachos for instance) to be added and voilà!


  23. kathleen says:

    JH, that pilgrimage sounds lovely, and I’m sure you would enjoy it. Make sure you get some good walking boots well worn in first, or you’ll suffer from some prize blisters…. Ouch!
    Yes, Richard (who is 60 years old) completed the pilgrimage, and even carried the heavy banner of Our Lady of Walsingham for some of the laps.


  24. kathleen says:

    Great painting Golden! And yes, I see your point. 😉

    Also, I seem to remember Brother Burrito wrote a post some time ago and illustrated it with this fascinating painting of Bosch.


  25. kathleen says:

    2000 km. in 77 days is truly heroic! That must have averaged out at 25 or 26 km every day – or more if you occasionally had a day of rest! What makes the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage so tough is the carrying of all one’s belongings on your back. (At least we don’t have to do that on the Chartres pilgrimage!)

    I hope and pray you recover from your knee problem soon so that you will be able to return to your beloved Camino.


  26. Frere Rabit says:

    This may interest you, Kathleen… the photo I took of the plaque on the road outside Chartres Cathedral showing the remaining distance to Compostela (1625 km). My pilgrim staff is placed alongside. I was walking from Worcester. http://www.flickr.com/photos/garethomas/7582587588/in/set-72157630602524204


  27. kathleen says:

    That’s a lovely photo Rabit – very evocative of the ‘spirit’ of the Camino! I looked through loads of your other pics on that flicker page, and really, you are an extremely talented photographer. Loved the one of Tours Cathedral with your strategically placed pilgrim staff…. and the ‘smiling’ donks, Dalie & Rosie.

    The marathon pilgrimages you and Jabba have undertaken put my little efforts to shame, having only walked the Camino as from Astorga (Leon); one day I hope to ‘do it properly’! 😉

    What is important though, is acquiring something I’ve heard called “a pilgrim soul”, a sort of letting go of all worldly worries and trappings, setting off on an unknown journey towards our destiny, with one’s trust put solely in God’s loving hands for sustenance and protection. In this way anyone can be a pilgrim – even those who are unable to physically walk these long distances – for is that not what life is all about? A journey towards God, to Whom we all belong?


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