Tuesday 2 June 2015

Chartres Pilgrimage

It's Traddy Tuesday, the day I natter on about olde tyme 19th century style Catholicism such as would-be converts read about and get excited by only to discover a bunch of raddled Baby Boomers singing a new church into being, as the bad song goes.

Yes, I am sure I will eventually become raddled  myself although perhaps my lifelong use of sunscreen will delay that evil day as long as possible. 

Anyway, although I believe in ONE holy Catholic and apostolic church, I note that there are different groups of people in it, and nothing makes us squabble so much as our liturgical preferences. There are some things that just cannot be argued about, for if a Catholic who thinks there should be women priests tells a Catholic who doesn't, that Catholic just can't think what to say. She stares at her shoes, or changes the subject. The same goes for moral issues. If a Catholic brightly volunteers that she thinks premarital sex is okay as long as the two people love each other, the well-catechized Catholic generally does not snarl, "What if they're not two? What if they're THREE people who love each other, eh?"

Such arguments are just too horrible to contemplate, so we generally (or I generally, let's be honest here) stick to passive-aggressive carping on liturgical matters. However, traddery is not just about orthodox belief and reverent liturgies in which we look like we're praying to the same God the priest is praying to, not, you know, to the priest himself. It's also about devotional practices, like praying the rosary and going on pilgrimage. 

(Quick repetition of amusing story of how, when asked to draw God [here Calvinist Cath shudders, as Free Presbyterians simply do not do that], the infant Seraphic drew Him with spectacles. Parental questioning turned up Seraphic's heretical belief that the priest was himself God. When the infant Nulli Secundus drew Almighty God, however, it was discovered he believed that not the priest but the male cantor was God. Somehow not even Cardinal Ottaviani foresaw these potential problems with the New Mass.)

Nowadays pilgrimages can be super-easy. You just get on a bus with a priest and a gang of folks from your parish and go to some interesting church or village burned down by the Iroquois and hear Mass and buy postcards and yummy things to eat.  Or you can shell out thousands of dollars and take a plane to Israel with a priest and a gang of folks from your parish and have the devotional holiday of a lifetime. I have not been on such a pilgrimage for some time which is just as well for, as you might suspect from this paragraph, I did not in my youth approach them in the proper devotional spirit. 

However, now that I am married to a fervently devotional man, I have pulled up my socks and when I go on pilgrimage, I expect it to hurt. I expect real physical suffering through which spiritual benefits may come although I am not really sure how that works. I think it is the effort, and feeling the burn, but doing it anyway. For example, when B.A. and I went to visit Our Lady of Częstochowa we were so afraid that we might not get to the basilica in time to see her, we suffered great agonies of mind. There were also the linguistic challenges involved in buying the bus tickets, and there was a terrible traffic jam just outside the town, and I discovered only when the bus arrived at the station that there was no bus back to Krakow, and the walk from the bus station to the actual basilica was seemingly endless, and B.A. had to cope with my sulks. But we did get there on time, and we did see the icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa.  We were so happy and relieved, I can barely describe it. (I do not remember eating anything yummy, but we certainly bought a lot of stuff in the one local gift shop still open. N.B. Bring cash.) 

Meanwhile, we were lightweights compared to (Polish Catholicism Alert!) my friend in Kielce, for people in Kielce actually WALK the whole way to Częstochowa when they want to visit the shrine. Of course, this does do away with the Polish traffic jam problem.

The biggest traddy pilgrimage is the annual Pentecost Chartres Pilgrimage, approved by Ecclesia Dei. The distance is 70 miles, I believe, and the walk takes three days. It begins with Mass at Notre Dame de Paris and it ends with Mass at Chartres Cathedral. 

The tragicomic aspect of the pilgrimage is that the SSPX have THEIR pilgrimage at the same time, only they BEGIN at Chartres and END in Paris. I discovered that online yesterday, and I don't know what to say, other than that the roads must get really crowded.  

I supposed this is as good a time as any to explain that there are three distinct kind of traddery:

A. There is traddery that has the Vatican seal of approval. This covers such groups as the Fraternity of Priests of Saint Peter (FSSP),  the Institute of Christ the King, and the rather more established Congregation of  the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri.  This last group also offers the Ordinary Form of the Mass.

B. There is the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), with which the Vatican is not very happy, and their self-selecting flock. 

C. There are breakaway sects, like the Society of  Saint Pius V, who think they are the REAL Catholic Church and either don't believe there has been a real pope since John XXIII or have set up their own pope. 

In my experience, many of the totally licit and officially okay traditional Catholics (A) feel a sense of fraternity with the SSPX  (B) while absolutely everyone avoids the breakaway sects (C). 

This may be because we are sometimes mistaken for followers of the SSPX, which itself is often mistaken for a breakaway sect. 

(The details and arguments around the SSPX are too much for this blogpost. When I can't get to Edinburgh's FSSP Mass, I go to the Ordinary Form at the university or the Cathedral, and never darken the doors of the SSPX church. I understand that their Masses are valid, but Saint John Paul II asked us not to go to them, so I don't.) 

But back to the Chartres Pilgrimage. Traditionalist Catholics (A) from all over the world go to it every year, and the numbers have increased. Among the 80 of the British contingent were people from my FSSP (see A) community. (The Girl Scouts joined the French, I believe.) B.A. and I did not go, alas. However, I was asked to consider going next time, so as to provide a new voice to the megaphone. Apparently one does not wander along telling stories, as in the Canterbury Tales, or in peaceful silence, but praying and singing along with whoever has the megaphone. My fellow parishioner led the rosary, and thought it would be nice if I would give talks through the megaphone next year, as her contingent doesn't have the priest whose job it would more properly be to do that. 

It's an intriguing idea. Naturally my first thought was that I would write my own version of the  Canterbury Tales, but I suppose that really would not be helpful. However, writing a series of stories about (real) French saints would be both pleasant for me and edifying for the people. Of course, my conscience might still besmite me because although I love the story of Saint Martha and the Dragon, I am not sure that it is actually (cough) true

UPDATE: If you yourself went on the Chartres Pilgrimage this year, please tell us all about it in the combox, or send me an email so I can post it. Incidentally, if anyone met their husband or discovered a vocation to religious/monastic life on this pilgrimage, this will be of great interest to your fellow readers. 


  1. I thought sspx are schismatic? That's what my Latin mass friends here say- but maybe that's because the bishop asked all the sspx people at the private chapel to go to a fssp parish and said the chapel is not part of the diocese. So maybe that chapel group is but not all?

    1. You know, I always thought so too, Anamaria! But Seraphic is right. Here's a helpful article I found by Father Z on the subject: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2015/03/sspx-schism-or-not/

    2. Oh, but looking at the comments, it looks like they lack ordinary jurisdiction and faculties. Doesn't lacking faculties mean that they shouldn't be administering the sacraments? Would that mean that the SSPX masses are valid but illicit? (And hence, shouldn't be attended?)

  2. Booklover, my understanding is that SSPX masses are valid but illicit and thus should not be attended UNLESS there is no other mass around.

    However, the SSPX believes that the Bishop of Rome is the earthly head of the Church and that the local bishops are indeed bishops and as far as I know they accept the 99% of the contents of the documents of Vatican II with what they (and probably most traditionalists) would read as an orthodox interpretation. There are, I believe, a few points of hot debate. I read an interesting speech by Archbishop Lefebvre about the implications of changing the ends of marriage from procreative and unitive to unitive and procreative. It seems very prophetic, especially now.

    So the SSPX are not the baddies they are often made out to be. Their priests are real Catholic priests (who have not been given faculties by the local ordinary), and the people who go to their masses and lectures are just ordinary (if disobedient to the local ordinary) Catholics. They toddle along being ordinary but disobedient, and there are certainly a lot of SSPX priests, nuns and followers in the world, although not so many that certain conspiracy theories that wouldn't get much of a hearing in the wider Catholic world aren't sustained. Usually that's what they get beaten up in the press for.

    So the SSPX are not schismatics, they are just disobedient, which is inevitable for just by existing as the SSPX they are disobedient. When Saint John Paul II excommunicated Archbishop LeFebvre--who was a very good man who did a very foolish thing out of a very great fear--he asked the SSPX priests to come to Rome and he would give them a new community. This is how the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter came about, and ultimately how the Extraordinary Form of the Mass was introduced to thousands and thousands of Catholics who were born or converted to Catholicism after 1970. The original idea was that they were to attract those Catholics who would otherwise be going to the SSPX for mass. Thus we have much to thank Archbishop LeFebvre for, poor man.

    I go to Edinburgh's FSSP Masses, and our archbishop and the Bishop of Dunkeld (especially) are quite friendly to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. As far as I know, none of us feel a particular need to condemn SSPX people as "schismatics", probably because a good chunk of our community used to go to SSPX masses and sometimes SSPX followers turn up for our mass. I think they have to share their priest with Glasgow, and I believe all their masses are low masses, which means our Sunday Missa Cantata must be a nice treat for them.

    1. Oh heavens. And having said all that, because I write for a diocesan newspaper and other legitimate Catholic media, I should perhaps state that I myself have never been to an SSPX mass. I have not even been tempted to go to an SSPX mass because I have a very strong sense that I must be obedient to the local ordinary.

    2. Oh and yes, Anamaria, all those people who were told to go to the FSSP instead and didn't are being disobedient to their bishop. But, er, I don't think that makes them schismatic, per se. They're not even skipping mass. They're, uh, just disobedient. And I don't see why they want to be. The SSPX priest can just carry on saying Mass by himself, and if they want to send him money so he can eat, that would be kindly and filial. They'll find the Traditional Latin Mass and strictly orthodox homilies in the FSSP parish.

      Of course, people are not terrifically happy with bishops as a class these days, but that is not (in my opinion) a very good excuse. However, I am sure everyone who habitually goes to an SSPX mass has their story.

    3. That is so interesting!! Thank you, Auntie Seraphic! We had a few SSPX people at the college I attended, but I didn't know them that well.

    4. Thanks! Very interesting. I think one fssp friend (who calls those at the chapel schismatic) is very quick to do do, generally, so the lack of distinction makes sense.

  3. How odd that you and your brother thought that the priest/cantor were God. I go to the Novus Ordo almost exclusively and that never even crossed my mind, not even as a child.


  4. I would not even remember this were it not for the paintings and the discussions afterwards, so you never know! Perhaps when you were three...? ;-)

    1. I thought it was adorable!! It's so funny the things that we think as kids. I remember firmly believing that I would have to become whatever my patron saint (from Confirmation) was (nun. married, etc.). So, I chose mine based entirely on the fact that she was both married, and then later, a nun, because I wasn't sure what I wanted to be. Lol! I have no idea why I thought that, but I did.

  5. I went a couple years back, and had a great time with Juventutem London crowd. Although I'm American, I actually signed up with their group, due to a friend of the family who is involved with it. What a great group of fun-loving traddies!


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