By Graham Moorhouse
“AIMER, C’EST TOUT DONNER” – St Therese
Not everyone is aware that there are not one but two traditional pilgrimages taking place at Pentecost in France, the other one organised by the SSPX. This year the SSPX pilgrimage followed the footsteps of St. Joan of Arc from Chartres to Orleans, with Bishop Bernard Fellay leading the way. Between the two over 20,000 traditionalists march. Few traditionalists have any stomach for the legalistic nitpicking of neo-Catholics vis-à-vis the SSPX, and each year the lay leaders of the two pilgrimages - brothers in the old Faith - meet at the halfway point and raise a glass to the Catholic cause they both serve. This year, an even stronger awareness that Tradition is rising and Traditionalists are uniting permeated our weekend. We must all renew our prayer that next year we shall march as one: one massive column of 20,000 or 25,000 Catholics marching shoulder-to-shoulder for Tradition, the Mass and the Family.
The restoration of tradition scored another first this year: the celebration of the Traditional Mass in Notre-Dame de Paris in the very heart of France’s capital. The Cardinal-Archbishop of Paris not only granted permission for the celebration of the ancient Roman Rite at Notre-Dame but also sent his auxiliary, Bishop Jean-Yves André Michel Nahmias, to preside, preach and offer the papal blessing to the pilgrims. Another first, as far as I’m aware, was a chapter from Iraq.
One short phrase has always summed up the spirit of Chartres for me: “Aimer, c’est tout donner” (To love is to give all). In that one short sentence of St Teresa one finds the God who chose to endure unimaginable suffering for his creatures, St Thomas Moor cheerfully mounting the scaffold to die for truth, the Carmelites going to the guillotine to end the Terror, St Kolbe volunteering to be starved to death by Nazi New Age Pagans for love of a family he had never even met, the young priest embracing celibacy for love of God and souls, the Catholic mother exhausted in the care of a large family and the Crusader laying down his life for the faith, his homeland and his comrades in arms. What separates the gold standard of genuine Catholic love from the world’s love is one word, “sacrifice”; and not just any sacrifice, total sacrifice.
The world, and that sadly these days includes worldly clerics, neither understands that sort of love, nor desires it. Pop singers may warble on endlessly about love, condom manufacturers abuse the word and worldlings prostitute it for their own self-serving ends, but what they mean is a sentiment, a feeling, even mere lust. The world always wants to see the price tag and does not want any commitment which does not come with a get-out-of-jail-free card … preferably several. That is why the world wants divorce, contraception, abortion, government approved sodomy, pre-nuptial contracts, living wills and euthanasia. Even its children are no longer entitled to unconditional love, for unless they pass some pre-birth fitness test, they will be killed by abortion rather than offered unconditionally love.
The Catholic gold standard is not a feeling but a conscious, courageous, even audacious, act of a generous will that accepts no going back and no limits on the sacrifice necessary. For such a love death is sweeter, far sweeter, than betrayal.
It is the young people at Chartres who time and again leave the deepest and most lasting impression upon one. Eighty percent of the pilgrims are between the ages of fifteen and twenty five and one will seldom witnessed such manifest faith and devotion. These young traditionalists fill one with hope and joy for the Church of tomorrow. On the Sunday night, after benediction, thousands of them take part in an all night vigil before the Blessed Sacrament. These youngsters had walked twenty six miles that day and have a further fourteen miles to complete the following day before reaching Chartres. Pure grace alone can explain the existence of these young people, for certainly nothing in contemporary culture nor the emasculated post-Conciliar Church can explain their existence.
The memories of Mass in a forest - the cathedral of the trees as the late, great Michael Davies described it - always stay with me, and stretching away as far as one could see young people kneeling on the hard ground silently waiting for a priest to bring Our Lord to them - and with what manifest and profound reverence was the Lord of Time received … and not one “special Eucharistic minister” in sight.!
The two youngest British pilgrims, Cameron Clegg, my grandson, and Dominic Di Falco walked practically the whole seventy miles! - an amazing achievement for a nine and ten year old; clearly tomorrow’s solders of Christ in the making. Even when I wanted, and planned, to drop out, I couldn’t because Cameron insisted on keeping going! Cameron never fails to entertain me: a priest had just given a pep-talk on the value of confession. Cameron dropped back and enquired, “Do you thing I should go to confession Grandad? I only went a couple of days ago.” “Well, have you committed any sins?” I enquired. “Well,” he ventured, “I did tell someone what merde meant.”
The next time a bishop or priest tells you that we have a vocation crisis, just smile benignly and pass on. We marched with hundreds of young priests, seminarians, tonsured monks, young nuns and brothers, clearly all deliriously happy and head over heels in love with the Church. As old orders lose their way and implode, new vibrant orders are springing up to accommodate vocations. To be surrounded for three days by Catholics who genuinely and joyously embraced the old faith is pure joy. Given such ardent love of Our Lord in the Eucharist, such filial and tender devotion to the Mother of God, such real loyalty to the Holy Father and fidelity to the Mass of our forefathers, saints and martyrs, God is raising up sons of Abraham from the very stones!