CHRISTENDOM ON THE MARCH
Chartres is at the centre of the religious history of France. Since Roman times, when the "Virgo Paritura" was venerated here, to the present day, the shrine has not ceased to attract pilgrims from the most distinguished (all the kings of France) to the most humble.
The Chartres pilgrimage is a very old tradition in France, and has been given new vigour by the association Notre-Dame de Chrétienté‚ which has organised it for over 30 years. The president of the Association is Jean de Tauriers and the General Chaplain is Abbé Coëffet. The pilgrimage is a walk of prayer and penance, and has both an individual and a social character. Encouraged by the Pope, Benedict XVI, and numerous bishops, over 8,000 pilgrims take part, with about 850 coming from 20 foreign countries. All are united in prayer to Our Lady during a three-day walk of 70 miles, making this the largest pilgrimage of its kind in Western Europe, both in the distance covered and in the number of pilgrims.
The pilgrimage is organised in a dynamic spirit, as a reaction to the materialism of our times. We place ourselves within the traditional doctrine taught by the Church. Wishing to work for the Social Reign of Our Lord, we want our Faith to overflow into our personal lives, our family lives, our working lives, and into the very life of our country. Following Huysmans, Psichari, Peguy and other illustrious converts, the Chartres pilgrims walk for Christendom, "that sunny side of a civilisation where the Kingship of Christ spreads over the lives and works of men, over the families and over the nations, searching obstinately amidst the cultures and earthly battles, for an uncompromising balance between nature and grace, wishing, by heroism and holiness, to trace already on earth the avenues of the Kingdom." A call to conversion, a public act of reparation to the Sacred Heart, this pilgrimage is a homage to Christ the King and to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The pilgrims walk in "chapters" (groups of 20 to 50 people), under the patronage of a saint (Our Lady of Walsingham and St. Alban for the British Chapters), and are led by laymen who, with the help of chaplains (Frs. Martin Edwards, Mark Withoos, Bede Rowe, Alex Redman, Bruno Witchalls and Gerard Byrne), 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 : magnificent instrument of prayer, stressing the universal character of the Mass.
We hope to show our attachment to the tradition of the Church and to the riches it contains, not with the aim of restoring an ancient order, but rather of drawing benefits from the former sources and putting them to work in the world of today.