Many local initiatives, in various forms, have tried to make up for the absence of the Chartres pilgrimage this year. With enthusiasm, many faithful went in small groups to the shrines in their regions.
On foot, in strollers, or in wheelchairs, we saw them progressing towards Chartres in Beauce, towards Notre-Dame des Anges in Provence, towards Notre-Dame de la Mer at the gates of Ile-de-France, the one that stopped the Viking invaders. Here is the story of one of these Chartres pilgrimages.
On Saturday May 22, the eve of Pentecost, a group of determined pilgrims meets early at St. Nicolas du Chardonnet.
Ages 20 to 65, they were not discouraged either by the alarmist announcements of the weather forecasters, nor, for the youngest, by the proximity of exams. Each has provided himself with a bicycle, some provisions, and waterproof clothing and is preparing his soul to receive a shower of graces.
After Mass and breakfast, they are about to leave, following the guide who has carefully prepared the route, and spiritually assisted by the parish priest who is pedaling with them.
They take care of the intentions of the parish and the departure is given at 8:10 am. Reaching the Montparnasse station in a few pedal strokes, they leave Paris by the green flow of the Bièvre and here they are happily rolling in the direction of Chartres, on stony paths, through soggy fields, in the splendor of wooded landscapes, tasting the joy of effort and the attractions of nature of which they are usually deprived. They could say to Notre Dame, like Charles Péguy:
“We are coming to you from distant Parisis. (…)
We are coming to you from the capital Paris.
This is where we have our government,
And our time lost in the lantern,
And our disappointing and total freedom.”
They pass through the drops, miraculously preserved from the raining rain all around, but they go against the wind, constantly braked by the ruts that the tractors have carved out. Behind them stands the driver of the broom bus, responsible for the luggage, the water supply and ready to rescue the exhausted, but no one will use it.
From time to time, our pilgrims pass through a village. The churches we meet are an opportunity for taking a little rest with God.