Youth Pilgrimage: days 8-9
days 6-7 | day
If there was any
doubt in the youths’ minds that a pilgrimage requires pushing
through adversity, this years’ three-day walk would remove those
doubts altogether. Nothing but rain, mud and cold were our
companions for the march from Chartres to Paris, but they did not
snuff out our spirit of pilgrimage. The chaplain had mentioned in
his fervourino in Lourdes that sometimes the greatest cross
is the fear of crosses, using the example of worrying about the
coming rain for the Chartres pilgrimage. While it is true that it
was much better to embrace the rain than worrying about it, it is
also true that the crosses themselves were quite repugnant to our
fallen human nature, especially when extended for three days.
The first half of
the first day started out with quite pleasant weather, but after
lunch that all changed. The temperature dropped, the skies
threatened and then came the rain that swept at the marching
column from the side. Out came the ponchos and clothes, shoes and
socks started soaking. Being so far away from Paris and with two
nights of camping still to come, the end to our soggy
circumstances threatened our hope a bit.
The group kept their spirits up,
nonetheless, and kept praying and following the meditations that
were allotted this year. As we walked, we heard various
meditations read within the chapter about this year’s theme – St.
Joseph. Day one was dedicated to St. Joseph, a Just Man, while day
two focused on him as Head of the Holy Family, and finally, day
three concluded with St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church.
These considerations came at an important time for the SSPX,
having just consecrated our order to St. Joseph. They were also
very pertinent since the French government just recently passed
laws allowing for homosexual marriage, against which 1,000,000
French rose in demonstrative opposition. This was no less
pertinent for the American youth as the same defense of these same
sins against nature is being touted in our own country. At least
three more states will "legalize" such abominations this year,
bringing the total to twelve. What a breath of fresh air it was to
hear about the virginal but real marriage between St. Joseph and
Our Lady, which fostered and nurtured the Son of God.
As we walked along, the stars and
stripes flew at the head of the chapter as a representation of
our country. It always makes us proud to be American when we
come on this pilgrimage, not because of the false principles
on which our country was built, but for what our country could
be. We represent a small Catholic contingent that carries our
country’s flag in a holy pursuit to make it a truly great
nation, that is, not one that polices the world to the
overturning of monarchies for the installment of liberal
democracy, but one that could heavily influence the countries
of the world to accept Christ the King.
Also, as a remembrance and an encouragement, we hung the
nametag of one of last year’s pilgrims on the flagpole. Beth
Gerads was one of the youth who enjoyed this trip last year
and who made this same walk, but unfortunately she passed away
on February 6 of this year. Her nametag hung in memory of her
and a reminder to our youth that they are all on borrowed
time, but it was also put there as an encouragement to have
the same zeal for the Catholic faith and for life as Beth had.
Last year’s trip was one item on her life’s agenda and we pray
that it helped her to prepare for eternity. The group also
said some prayers for Beth’s soul.
As you will see in
the pictures, there is another flag flying beside the American
flag this year. Some young people, whom the chaplain had met in
Estonia, bravely made a long journey to come take part in this
pilgrimage. They braved a forty-four hour bus ride from Tallinn,
walked the entire pilgrimage, and then with soaked clothes and
luggage finished the pilgrimage by immediately getting back on the
bus for their return trip home. Their silent perseverance during
the trip was a good example for our American youth who were happy
to have their hotel and shower as soon as the pilgrimage ended.
Day two gave us
cloudy skies and then rain in the afternoon. The normal place
where the pilgrimage camped that night was unavailable this year
since the previous owner had passed away, and the family who
currently own it were not as obliging as before. It was clear
that, as St. Joseph trying to seek shelter in Bethlehem for Our
Lady, the pilgrimage company had to find a place for everyone to
spend the night. Our stable came in the form of an extremely muddy
field for Mass and an even muddier bivouac for camping. During
Mass, the paramedics came in four times with a stretcher to remove
pilgrims who had passed out or collapsed from cold or from the
elements. At the bivouac, one could hardly find a tuft of grass in
order to help keep him from sliding and sinking in the mud. Again
soaked shoes and feet caked with mud pushed on to find the best
spots to set up a tent for sleeping. Just as a child who goes to
bed early on Christmas Eve in hopes that Christmas will come
sooner, so we tried to get to sleep in hopes that day three would
come sooner and we could retire from this mud hole.
Our muddy luggage was placed on the buses again in the morning
and we set out in song to complete the march to Paris. Just to
make sure that we did not get too comfortable, though, a
regular rain fell all day as we approached the city. Cold,
weary, soaking and with sore feet, we nibbled our lunches in
the Bois de Boulogne, the forest just outside Paris.
As the column merged
into one large group, we entered the city singing altogether as
usual and with passers-by wondering what planet we had come from
with our muddy clothes and gaunt faces.
arrived at the place of Mass where more pilgrims were removed by
the medics in emergency. Also during the Mass the District of
France was consecrated to St. Joseph completing the difficult but
rewarding walk in his honor.
Having finished and
located our luggage amidst the horde of other pilgrims doing the
same in a very confined area, we made our way back to the hotel
wondering why we willingly undertook this. There are only
supernatural reasons because otherwise to do what we did would be
irrational. We made this pilgrimage to understand what St. Joseph
understood, namely, how to trust in Divine Providence and how to
persevere in the night of faith. There were certainly times during
the walk that pilgrims, worn out and uncomfortable, would have
given anything for a warm shower and square meal. But with St.
Joseph as our companion, we followed him to the Egypt of Paris, as
strangers in a foreign land and embracing the discomforts that a
Christian life promises. It tested our wills in a way that will
certainly not soon be forgotten. May it help us all to realize the
littleness of the other crosses we have to deal with and to push
through them all the way to heaven.
Finally, we want to thank again all of
the benefactors who made this trip possible for the youth. They
appreciated it and there is no doubt that they benefited from it.
May this apostolate continue to bear fruit in future years with
your continued help.
days 6-7 | day