"Our Blessed Lady is the dispenser of all the favours which the goodness of God grants to the sons of Adam" - St Philip Neri

What is the Chartres Pilgrimage?

Chartres is at the centre of the religious history of France. Since Roman times, when the Virgo Partitura was venerated there, to the present day, the shrine has not ceased to attract pilgrims from the most distinguished (including every King 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 the last 17 years. The association president is a layman, Mr Vaquié, and its chaplain is Father Pozzetto of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. The pilgrimage is a walk of prayer and penance, and has an individual and a social character. Encouraged by Pope John Paul II and numerous bishops, more than 15,000 pilgrims take part, with about 850 coming from twenty foreign countries. All are united in prayer to Our Lady during a three-day walk of 105 kilometres, making this the largest pilgrimage of its kind in Western Europe, both in the distance covered and the number of pilgrims.

The spirit of the Pentecost Pilgrimage.

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. It lies fully within the scope of the "new evangelisation" called for by Pope John Paul II, particularly at this moment, at the dawn of a new millennium, when moral values and respect for life are ridiculed daily.

Prayer during the Pilgrimage.

The pilgrims walk in "chapters" (groups of 20 to 50 people), under the patronage of a saint, and are led by a layman who, with the help of a chaplain, organises 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 1962 Ordo, with the consent of the local bishops (fulfilling the Pope's instruction Ecclesia Dei). The liturgy is in Latin: a magnificent instrument of prayer, stressing the universal character of the Mass. This point is of particular importance in France, where excesses following the liturgical reforms have caused great damage. We hope in this way 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.

THEME FOR THE YEAR 2000: "The Holy Mass, Heart of Christendom"

"The year 2000 will be an intensely Eucharistic year. In the sacrament of the Eucharist, Our Saviour, God made Man, born of Mary 20 centuries ago, continues to offer Himself to mankind as a source of divine life" (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente)

Christendom is the temporal realisation of the Gospel in our societies, in which institutions and lifestyles, far from being obstacles to man's fulfilment, should be aids to that fulfilment, in harmony with God's Order.

The Holy Mass is the expression of our Faith, of our adoration of God - Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It is the Sacrament of our salvation, the food of our souls, the aid to our hope and to our love for one another.

It is thus that we march this year, soldiers for Christ, Christians resolved that the social reign of Our Lord shall become reality, as only His reign can take us out of the culture of death that is menacing all our societies, only His reign can give us full life in the Third Millennium.

It is the Mass that is the source of our strength. The venerable traditional Roman liturgy, this liturgy that spans the millenniums, is the perfect prayer. Its beauty fills us with the sense of the sacred, it fortifies our faith and inspires our adoration. Our three-day march, of feet and souls, is accompanied by the rhythm of the Mass. It is from the Mass that we draw our love of the Church, our faithfulness to the Magisterium and to its teachings. It is the Mass that enkindles in us the fire to give to the world what we have received ourselves.

Material Aspects. Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris to Notre-Dame Cathedral, Chartres: The pilgrims walk the full distance between the two cathedrals, approximately 105 kilometres (70 miles) in three days. This involves considerable effort, long hours of walking, early mornings; excellent physical fitness is therefore necessary.

Food during the pilgrimage. Notre-Dame de Chrétienté supplies bread, red wine, water and sugar at each halt throughout the walk and at the evening camp site. At the camp site, hot soup is available in the evenings and breakfast (tea, coffee, hot chocolate and rolls with jam) is available in the mornings. Pilgrims should, however, bring with them their own food, enough for five cold picnic meals.

Pilgrims' equipment.

Pilgrims should bring suitable clothing for walking, particularly boots or good walking shoes (synthetic fibre socks are not advised). Here is the list of essentials:

a small backpack to carry throughout, containing :

     lunch for the day
     energy-giving snacks (dried fruit, chocolate bars, etc.)
     light anorak
     water bottle
     cup for tea/coffee/soup
     hat, to protect against the sun
     pilgrim's booklet (supplied, containing all the Mass texts, hymns and other prayers)
     plasters and general simple medication for blisters, headaches and muscular pain

a larger bag, which will be taken in the special pilgrimage lorries and which is retrieved each evening, containing :

     food reserves (remaining meals)
     warm garment (for cold early mornings)
     change of clothing (pullover, shirts, trousers, pants, vests, socks)
     light shoes for the evening
     toiletries and toilet paper
     warm sleeping bag and thick ground-sheet
     personal tent if you have one.

Luggage transportation. Pilgrims may leave their heavy luggage with the special pilgrimage lorries' teams as soon as they arrive at Notre-Dame in Paris on the Saturday morning. The luggage will be transported by these special lorries to the evening campsite where they can be retrieved under a large black sign marked ÉTRANGERS (foreigners). Pilgrims should not forget to label their bags with their names and to attach a black ribbon to them to identify them as "étrangers" (ribbons are available in the lorries). They are also advised to label all belongings. Pilgrims coming to France for a longer stay are asked not to bring all their bags with them to Chartres but to leave them in their coaches, as the logistics teams cannot take charge of too much cumbersome luggage.

Assistance during the walk. Permanent medical assistance is assured by the doctors and hospitallers of the Order of Malta, who have an outdoor hospital at each campsite. All along the walk, shuttle buses provide transport for pilgrims who can no longer walk or, in case of emergency, to take them to hospital.

Evening bivouacs. Notre-Dame de Chrétienté supplies a campsite equipped with wash-basins (cold running water only), toilets, electricity supply and some collective tents. On arrival at the campsite, pilgrims retrieve their large bags, and go to the area that has been reserved for them to set up their tents. Pilgrims who do not have a personal tent should make their way to the tent marked with their national flag. There are separate tents for men and women, and pilgrims are asked to respect this.

Latest news.

A website at www.nd-chretiente.com has recently opened. Although it is not yet complete, it already provides some very important and helpful news.

Rendezvous: Pilgrims should rendezvous at 6 a.m. on Saturday 6th May in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris. There, pilgrims should take their large bag to the lorry marked ÉTRANGERS, and keep their little backpack with them. Then they should join the chapter of their country, grouped under their banners in front of the Cathedral. Their chapter leader will give final instructions, and will signal when to enter the Cathedral: departure point for three days of a great spiritual adventure !

Irish co-ordinators:
Transport and lodging can be organised in France before and after the pilgrimage. For further information, please do not hesitate to contact:

Eamonn Gaines
27 Monaloe Avenue
Blackrock, Co. Dublin
Tel: 01 289-6792

Nick Lowry
14 Villarea Park
Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
Tel: 01 280-3540

Ciarán Mac Guill
40 rue Gaston Paymal
92110 Clichy
Tel: 33 1 47 31 08 39

Welcome, and have a good and holy pilgrimage !