2017 Pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres


It is a whole week now since I returned from my tenth pilgrimage to Chartres! (Apologies for the delay of this report, but recent personal and family events have kept me preoccupied elsewhere.) Once again, over three days of the Pentecost weekend, Saturday 3rd to Monday 5th of June, we walked 70 miles between the two magnificent cathedrals dedicated to Our Lady, Notre Dame de Paris and Notre Dame de Chartres, with an estimated 11.000 other Catholics. (Yet over 17.000 pilgrims took part in the last day’s march into Chartres!) “Christendom on the march”, as many call it, is surely one of the most amazing events ever witnessed in its joyful manifestation of our Catholic Faith and traditional Catholic values.

Some members of our British chapters in front of Our Lady of the Pillar in Chartes cathedral

I have often written my own account of the pilgrimage, e.g., see HERE and HERE, but knowing I could never match up to Michael Matt of The Remnant‘s mind-blowing article that he wrote on his return this year, I shall leave to him to describe the 2017 pilgrimage here below.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017
An American Cardinal in Chartres: Pentecost Pilgrimage Huge Success

Record Numbers Walk from Paris to Chartres

This year’s Notre-Dame de Chrétiente Pentecost Pilgrimage to Chartres, France, concluded Monday, June 5 with a magnificent Pontifical High Mass offered by His Eminence Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres.

For 26 years I’ve walked this pilgrimage, and well do I recall my old friend, Arnaud de Lassus (RIP), describing to me how it had been when he and his friends had arrived in the old city some 35 years ago, after having rejuvenated the old pilgrimage after Vatican II. Those first pilgrims were not even allowed into the Cathedral, but were obliged to offer the Traditional Latin Mass outside the locked doors of Notre-Dame de Chartres.

I wonder if any of those first Chartres pilgrims ever imagined that some day high-ranking prelates would celebrate Solemn Pontifical High Masses not only in Chartres at the conclusion of the Pilgrimage, but also at Notre-Dame de Paris at its beginning.

I wonder if they ever could have anticipated that prominent political figures, such as Marion Jeanne Marechal-Le Pen—niece of Marine La Pen, Front National candidate who came in second in this year’s race for the presidency of France—would one day be walking among the pilgrims to Chartres every year.

Standing there locked out of their own Cathedral 35 years ago, could they have imagined pilgrims from all over the world would travel thousands of miles to join the pilgrims on the road to Chartres.

Because of their humble efforts, the Pilgrimage to Chartres would one day blossom into an international event, more than any other, provides living, breathing proof of the youth and vitality of a growing Catholic restoration movement.

The pilgrims to Chartres stand on the shoulders of giants, in other words—men who refused to abandon the Faith of our Fathers.

Cardinal Burke (Chartres pilgrimage 2017)

This year, some seventeen thousand pilgrims arrived in Chartres on Pentecost Monday. The procession into the Cathedral included over one hundred traditionalist priests, monks and a handful of abbots, along with the Bishop of Chartres, Michel Pansard, and, finally, Cardinal Burke himself in full traditional regalia.

Just ahead of the Cardinal was the reliquary containing the glory of Chartres—the Veil of Our Lady, Christendom’s most holy relic, and the reason the Cathedral was built. The Veil was elevated on the shoulders of several scouts, and, some with tears of joy in their eyes, the pilgrims knelt in veneration as it passed. This is the silk garment which Our Lady used to cover the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem’s cave. It was discovered, along with the true Cross, by St. Helena, and was later given to Charlemagne by the Byzantine Empress Irene. Its history is rich and meticulously chronicled, since Charlemagne’s grandson, Charles the Bald, donated the veil to Chartres in the ninth century. Recent carbon 14 analysis of the veil reveal evidence of first century pollen from Palestine in its weave.

It was to venerate this holy veil that the pilgrims of the Middle Ages came; and for the same reason they come today–that and to proclaim the kingship of Christ. And while this holy veil caused Christendom’s gothic jewel in Chartres to become the fourth most popular place of pilgrimage in Christendom, for a time in the last part of the nineteenth century the popularity of the Chartres Pilgrimage began to wane. Its rejuvenation was sparked in the early part of the 20th century when a then-agnostic poet named Charles Péguy took it upon himself to walk from Paris to Chartres in search of the intercession of the Mother of God.

His story is well worth the retelling, as it offers yet another powerful testimonial to the efficacy of Our Lady’s intercession, especially when prayed for at the place Henry Adams describes as “Our Lady’s Playhouse”.

[Read the account of Charles Péguy THERE]

In the Footsteps of Péguy

Twenty-six years ago, The Remnant began organizing the U.S. contingent on the Pilgrimage. In May of 2017, over one hundred Americans again crossed the Atlantic seeking to find what Péguy had found. Like him, they sought to place themselves in the hands of the Mother of God.

Like Péguy’s Marcel, their children are also dying, in the sense that their souls are under constant assault from those who would sooner see them dead than Catholic.

Like Péguy’s, their world is also on the brink of war, perhaps literally, but certainly morally and spiritually.

Like Péguy, the pilgrims are not saints, which is why during this worldwide offensive against marriage and the family, the unborn, the innocence of children and the Church herself—they recognize no better means of surviving the onslaught than falling to their knees before the Mother of God.

The sight of the Cathedral—after walking three days, sleeping on the ground for two nights, eating the meager pilgrim’s fare—offers promise of home. Along the road to Chartres, it’s as if the revolution in the Church never happened.

A Shepherd in the Camp

At the end of the second day, as the American chapter made its way down the steep embankment into the camp, we were surprised to find Cardinal Raymond Burke, greeting each chapter as the miles-long column of pilgrims entered the camp.

After being subject to so much derision for his strong defense of marriage and the family, here in camp the Cardinal was hailed as a hero, as a thousand pilgrims knelt to kiss his ring. He seemed filled with joy, as if here he’d found the Church Militant as it should be— fully and unapologetically Catholic!

It was a beautiful moment, as Cardinal and Pilgrim seem to be reassuring each other that all is not lost and that, together, we will keep the faith.

U.S. Chapter of Guadalupe 2017, with the Bishop of Chartres, Michel Pansard

The Pilgrimage came to an end in Notre-Dame de Chartres on Pentecost Monday. Eight thousand pilgrims packed the cathedral, and another seven thousand filled the square outside. In one voice the massive assembly brought their pilgrimage to a glorious conclusion with the Chez Nous—the love song to Our Lady. And now it’s back to the front—the blisters, rocky ground, damp sleeping bags, meager soup, hard bread and endless walking having once again become the happy memories of the grand Catholic adventure that is the Pilgrimage to Chartres.

The years move along. They young French scouts who dominate the pilgrimage, were not yet born when I made my first walk to Chartres. To them I suppose, if they think of me at all, I’m the old pilgrim from America who walked to Chartres with their mothers and fathers many years ago. But I wonder if they realize how much they mean to me—how much hope the sight of them singing or praying or playing stirs in this old American’s heart. Where did they come from? How did they survive…these beautiful Catholics with their smart-looking blue uniforms, big boots and broad, easy smiles? How is it that they were spared the all-out assault on innocence that is the purview of the modern world?

The answer is obvious: Throughout their new, little lives they’ve been walking to Chartres every Pentecost weekend. They go there to find their Mother, to sing for her and to blithely place themselves under her protection. Chartres is her playhouse, and these are the children with whom she plays—the children she makes her own. They belong to her, safe and protected beneath her veil.

Maybe that’s why we all go back Chartres each year—to be with her, to become Mary’s children again, who trust and hope in her so intuitively and so completely that she can’t refuse to make us her own. At Chartres, Mary makes us hers again, and on this side of heaven’s gate there is no greater feeling than that.

Chez nous soyez Reine, nous sommes a vous. Regnez en souveraine, Chez nous, chez nous.


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19 Responses to 2017 Pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres

  1. geoffkiernan says:

    I suspect this is where Kathleen is at the moment. No wonder that toad is vocalizing so much (Smiling face here)… God bless her

  2. geoffkiernan says:

    PS …. then I saw just who was the author of this report… God bless her again

  3. Declan says:

    Itis good to read of the rise in pilgrimage, yet I shudder at the thought of a crowd of 17,000. This may defeat the value if pilgrimage. It is certainly a nice walk with national flags (on pilgrimage?) a jamboree for those who don’t mind huge crowds. I’m sorry I can’t share the enthusiasm for the Cardinal’s article – too Reader’s Digest for me. I’m sure I’m in a minority of one here.

    I was pleased to see that the stone cleaning work is finished – could our correspondent offer a word on this? Does it change the atmosphere of Chartres? I think it does and is more like Vezelay . Wonderful.

    There are many pilgrimages in France and Spain. I hope our correspondent will walk some, and treat it as she would a cloister. For meditation, prayer and peace.

  4. Mary Salmond says:

    Excellent review of the pilgrimage by Michael Matt, and a testament that the laity will continue to evangelize in Europe. Thanks, Kathleen.

  5. Declan says:

    Mary. Do you feel that the role of pilgrimage is to evangelise? How do you feel about the many references to high rank, about the warm inclusion of Marion Le Pen, Church Militant and so on?

    Perhaps it’s just me who feels that the core of the Church is the people and not ranking clergy or extremist politicians.? In this I admit I think I am swimming against a tide. Yet it is the faith of the people which has sustained the Church when its ranking leaders undermined it.I think you’ll agree.

    May I direct you to Jonathan Sumption’s excellent book ‘Pilgrimage’? This will aid you on the nature of pilgrimage through history.

  6. toadspittle says:

    A 17,000-strong army, headed by flags ( plus drums and fifes?) is not, to my mind, a pilgrimage. Pilgrimages are personal, solitary, internal, affairs. This looks like more of a “demo,” or – as Declan puts it – a jamboree.
    But, as Kathleen will agree, it takes all sorts, dunnit? And maybe I’m wrong, as usual
    Anyway, I doubt if it does any harm.
    If nothing else, a 70-mile hike will get the stink blown off any of us. Which can’t be bad.

  7. Mary Salmond says:

    Pilgrimage is personal, Evangelization is secondary in witnessing of the faith.

  8. Declan says:

    It’s personal, reflective, often solitary. I agree with Mary and Toad on this, and relieved that Mary has dropped evangelisation, which is very Billy Graham.

  9. Mary Salmond says:


  10. Declan says:

    I was quite excited to read in the article ”Recent carbon 14 analysis of the veil reveal evidence of first century pollen from Palestine in its weave.”

    I was disappointed to find no reference to this despite a search. Could be my fault quire easily.

    Has Kathleen a link to share? Anyone? Or must authenticity rest in ambiguity?

  11. toadspittle says:

    Makes you wonder how they can tell 1st Century pollen from, say, 2nd or 3rd Century pollen.
    But that’s science for yer. Always absolutely right, as every Catholic will affirm, at least not when the results suit them. Same as anyone else.
    Isn’t it remarkable that we have all manner of bits and pieces, veils, nails, bits of wood, shrouds thorns from the crown, foreskins, and so on, relating to Christ and His Mother – and we don’t even know during what years any of the events involved supposedly took place?
    No? OK. Maybe not.
    I don’t know.
    Nobody seemed to be paying much attention back then. No big deal.

  12. kathleen says:

    Geoff @ 10:01 & 10:05 yesterday

    Thank you. And well done to you and The Raven for reigning in the toad from going completely berserk while the school marm was absent 😉.

  13. kathleen says:

    Mary @ 12:01 yesterday

    Thanks Mary. You are right – the most perfect form of evangelisation is by giving true witness to the Faith with one’s life. Though we are all sinners, there is such great love among the pilgrims, and such a passionate love for Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Lady, and the One True Church That is how Christianity spread like wildfire in the early centuries of our era by the Apostles and their followers, despite the fierce persecution they had to suffer. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve come across, both young and not-so-young, who have grown in their faith, or have converted to Catholicism, after participating in this amazing pilgrimage to Chartres.

    A little anecdote for you…. having lost my chapter by the end of the second day (which can happen sometimes when you have to stop for a few minutes, or can’t keep up with the relentless pace) I found myself among the friendly Americans as we were walking into camp. A young French scout was standing by the entrance calling out to the arriving pilgrims that Cardinal Raymond Burke had come to the campsite to greet us all. I don’t think many Americans speak French, so I translated this message to those around me, and they were filled with delight.

    It is hugely encouraging in these times of great confusion and widespread dissent in the Church when a high-ranking cardinal or bishop comes to give those who hold to traditional Catholic teaching their blessing and support…. as when two years ago Bishop Scheider joined us!

  14. Mary Salmond says:

    Amen! Very nice anecdote! Glad you’re back!

  15. kathleen says:

    Thank you Mary – how sweet of you!

    Here is a YouTube video of the final Pontificial High Mass that His Eminence, Cardinal Burke, celebrated in beautiful Chartres cathedral at the end of the pilgrimage. It was deeply moving. Over 17.000 people attended, not only the 11.000 pilgrims, but more than 6.000 other Catholics! They were spread over the square in front of the packed cathedral, and all along the surrounding streets. Who ever said that Catholicism was dead in France!?!

  16. kathleen says:

    Toad @ 17:12 yesterday

    Well Toad, the Chartres pilgrimage is indeed “personal, solitary and internal” too at times. But it is also communal, a joyful sharing of our Glorious Faith together in prayer (especially the Holy Rosary), singing, and listening to the wonderful meditations we are blessed with as we march along the seemingly endless miles towards our destination. There is even time for conversation with fellow pilgrims, and this too is important. It all helps distract one from the growing aches and pains, discomfort and fatigue.

    I didn’t see any fifes and drums! Where did you get that from? But there was a man from the Brittany chapter playing the bagpipes – and very well too!

  17. toadspittle says:

    “And well done to you and The Raven for reigning in the toad from going completely berserk while the school marm was absent 😉.”
    Yes, Kathleen they have persecuted me admirably. Holding up my comments long enough to confuse people who are trying to conduct any coherent dialogue.

    …But your achievement of 100k in three days is heroic. I know about these things. “Fifes and drums”? Made it up.

  18. kathleen says:

    Here is an interesting +13 minute summary of the Chartres pilgrimage made by Michael Matt (of The Remnant) at its conclusion. As you can see, figures for the numbers of participants vary, but the main point is that they are on the rise, especially among the young, and bringing much ‘good fruit’ into the Church, Deo gratias.

  19. geoffkiernan says:

    The march back to reverence and awe is clearly in the hands of the young…

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