Friday, November 02, 2018

Dies irae, dies illa.



As is my annual custom, for All Souls' Day I am reposting a translation of the Latin sequence for All Souls that I made a few years ago. Typically attributed to the thirteenth-century Franciscan Thomas of Celano and long prescribed as part of the Latin Requiem Mass, the Dies Irae enjoys a special place in Western musical culture thanks to the memorable settings of the Requiem text by composers ranging from Mozart to Verdi to Britten, among many others. For All Souls, I typically avoid any 'classical' setting of the Dies Irae in favor of the traditional Gregorian setting, because sometimes only Gregorian chant will do.

Below you can find the Latin text of the Dies Irae followed by my own English translation. I decided to translate the text myself out of a sense of dissatisfaction with the various translations that I found online, as a spiritual exercise for All Souls' Day - and, finally, to practice my Latin. The translation was made in haste and could certainly be improved - indeed, I have sometimes thought of starting from scratch and doing a new one - and I welcome comments and criticism; my goal was to convey the meaning of the original faithfully without trying to reproduce the poetic meter of the original. So here goes:

Dies irae! Dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla!

Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando iudex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus!

Tuba mirum spargens sonum
Per sepulchra regionum,
Coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit, et natura,
Cum resurget creatura,
Iudicanti responsura.

Liber scriptus proferetur,
In quo totum continetur,
Unde mundus iudicetur.

Iudex ergo cum sedebit,
Quidquid latet, apparebit:
Nil inultum remanebit.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
Cum vix iustus sit securus?

Rex tremendae maiestatis,
Qui salvandos salvas gratis,
Salva me, fons pietatis.

Recordare, Iesu pie,
Quod sum causa tuae viae:
Ne me perdas illa die.

Quaerens me, sedisti lassus:
Redemisti Crucem passus:
Tantus labor non sit cassus.

Iuste iudex ultionis,
Donum fac remissionis
Ante diem rationis.

Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
Culpa rubet vultus meus:
Supplicanti parce, Deus.

Qui Mariam absolvisti,
Et latronem exaudisti,
Mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Preces meae non sunt dignae:
Sed tu bonus fac benigne,
Ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum praesta,
Et ab haedis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.

Confutatis maledictis,
Flammis acribus addictis:
Voca me cum benedictis.

Oro supplex et acclinis,
Cor contritum quasi cinis:
Gere curam mei finis.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:

Pie Iesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.

---

O day of wrath, that day
when the earth will be reduced to ashes,
as David and the Sibyl both testify!

What great fear there will be,
when the judge comes
to judge all things strictly.

A trumpet casts a wondrous sound
into the realm of the tombs,
calling all [to come] before the throne.

Death and nature will both marvel
as the [human] creature rises
to answer its judge.

A book will be brought forth
in which all things are recorded –
all that for which the world will be judged.

When, therefore, the judge appears,
all that is hidden will appear,
and no ills will remain unavenged.

As miserable as I am, what am I say?
whose protection may I invoke,
when even the just lack security?

O most majestic King,
who freely saves those to be saved,
save me, source of mercy!

Remember, merciful Jesus,
that I am the one for whom you came:
may I not be lost on that day!

Seeking me, you sat down tired:
to redeem me, you suffered the Cross –
may your toil not be in vain!

Just and avenging judge,
may you grant remission [of sins]
before the day of reckoning.

Guilty, now I sigh,
my face red with shame:
save thy petitioner, o God!

Having absolved Mary [Magdalene],
and heard the plea of the thief,
may you give me hope as well.

Though my prayers are not worthy,
be kind to me, o Good One,
that I may be spared the eternal fire!

Place me among the sheep,
and separate me from the goats,
setting me at your right hand.

When the wicked are confounded
and given over to bitter flames:
call me among the blessed.

Meek and humble, I pray,
with a heart contrite as ashes:
Help me reach my final end.

How tearful that day will be,
when from the ashes will arise
the guilty man for judgment.
Therefore spare him, O God!

Merciful Lord Jesus,
grant them rest. Amen.


To some modern ears, some of the above lines may seem a bit harsh; the familiarity of the Latin text and the beauty of its poetic form can easily distract us from the admonitory content of the Dies Irae. As stern as these words may be, though, they also remind us that God is merciful - indeed, the very source of mercy - and they call on us to pray: first for our beloved dead and for our own repentance, but also that we may offer to others the same mercy that we seek for ourselves. May all of us who celebrate this Feast of All Souls take these words in the right way, and take them to heart. AMDG.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

St. Anne's in Fall River set to close.



From time to time, I write here about church happenings in the area where I grew up. Sadly, this often involves news of church closings, like that of New Bedford's St. John the Baptist Church in 2012. As the latest in a sad series, earlier this month the Diocese of Fall River announced the imminent closing of St. Anne's Church in Fall River. Founded in 1869 to serve French Canadian immigrants, St. Anne's is well-known locally thanks to its imposing gray marble Byzantine Revival church building. The last parish in the diocese to offer Sunday Mass in French - which continued until the early 2000s - St. Anne's also drew people from across the SouthCoast with Masses offered three times every weekday in its spacious crypt along with generous confession times. For decades, the parish was staffed by Dominican Friars from Quebec; though the Dominicans formally gave the parish up to the diocese in 1978, the last Dominican at St. Anne's, Father Pierre Lachance, remained in Fall River until his death in 2006 (I remember seeing him, during his final years, sitting in a small office he kept in the crypt of the church).

The closing of the parish is a serious blow not only to parishioners but to many in the city and region; as one Fall River resident wrote in a letter to the local newspaper, "St. Anne's means as much to the people of this city as Notre Dame Cathedral means to the people of Paris." The reasons behind the decision to close the parish are tied to economic realities and changing demographics. The upper church has already been closed for several years due to structural issues that call for costly repairs (the cost and extent of the work needed is a matter of some debate, with an architect involved in assessing the condition of the church disputing figures presented by the diocese). Demographic problems are perhaps more intractable. Father Thomas Kocik, the former administrator of the parish, offered the following comments on the situation:
I was administrator of St Anne's for nearly two years (2012-14). From the perspective of demographics and economics, St Anne's has not been a viable parish for years. It has long relied on non-parishioners for most of the income received from weddings and funerals. The average Sunday Mass count for November 2012 was 511; were it not for the Sunday evening Mass (attended mostly by outsiders) it would have been 143. And while revenue from the votive candles in the shrine kept the parish afloat (utility bills were paid), a great deal of money was owed to the Diocese for insurance and pensions. Even if the parish had all the money needed to repair the upper church, for how much longer could the bishop assign a severely limited number of priests to keep alive old parishes as shrines? The problem is not just lack of funds but lack of people.

I am heartsick over this, and cannot help wondering what could have been had my efforts to attract more souls been given more time to bear fruit. The key to a promising future, I believed (and still believe), has to do with my happiest memory from my time there: the Solemn Mass in the older, traditional Roman Rite which I celebrated one Sunday in October 2013. The event was widely publicized and drew hundreds of people from far and wide (including clergy and seminarians from Boston and Providence). Visitors who "stumbled in" upon the Mass stayed 'til the end. "Can we have this every Sunday?" asked more than a few people who were deeply impressed by the beauty, the mystery, the profound sense of the sacred conveyed by this ancient form of worship (which, thanks to Pope Benedict XVI, has become more widely available). But we weren’t ready to do that on a regular basis, because the traditional Latin Mass in its solemn form requires not only a priest but also a deacon and subdeacon, a choir competent in Gregorian chant, and several well-trained altar servers. "We're not there yet, but give me time," I promised. A few months later, without any advance notice, the bishop (George W. Coleman at the time) ended my charge of the parish.
To Father Kocik's point, some have urged that St. Anne's should be given to a religious community dedicated to the Usus Antiquior, such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter or the Institute of Christ the King, two groups with a track record of saving old and beautiful churches that were menaced by possible closings by giving them a new lease on life as parishes offering the traditional liturgy. If such a solution were in fact proposed, the problem of resources that Father Kocik raises would remain a real one; even with dedicated clergy, finding enough laypeople with the time and talent to support a new apostolate is still a challenge.

I do not know what could have been done (or what, hoping against hope, still could be done) to save St. Anne's. What I do know is that the closing of churches like St. Anne's represents a major loss in cultural terms, a point expressed very well by Fall River Herald News staff writer Marc Munroe Dion in these words penned earlier this year, when the demise of the parish already seemed likely:
No matter how many lights blazed, or how many candles were lit, there was something dark about those old churches, dark laced with the smell of incense and the echoing sound of the door to the confessional closing, and the stares of the calm-eyed statues.

Immigrants built them as big as the mills where the boss couldn't speak your language and called you names.

"Here we are!" those old churches said. "We are poor, but we have made this so we will have something of our own, something everyone can see."

...

The parish churches were the bones of a living thing. Even now, the old Catholic churches, open or closed, are the biggest structures in a lot of neighborhoods, and usually the only really beautiful building in the neighborhood.

Will our monument be the free-standing plaza with a dollar store, a drug store, a laundromat, and a place to buy discount cigarettes? Even in the suburbs, where the people have more money than they do in Fall River, they do not, and cannot, build anything like the huge and beautiful churches that even poor Fall River neighborhoods once took for granted. Will future generations guess what kind of people we were by looking at the ruins of a "fulfillment center," or a marijuana "grow facility"?
As the Anaphora of St. Basil puts it, "preserve this holy house until the end of the world." AMDG.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Dominicans leave San Marco after 582 years.


This week, the New York Times reported on the imminent departure of the Dominican Friars from the Convento San Marco in Florence, a place that has been home to a Dominican priory since 1436. As the NYT's Elisabetta Povoledo writes, San Marco's rich history makes the friars' departure particularly poignant:
For nearly 600 years, Dominican friars in Florence, Italy, have inhabited the Convent of San Marco, one of the city's great spiritual and cultural hubs, renowned for its frescoes by Fra Angelico and once home to the fiery preacher Girolamo Savonarola.

But at the end of September, this storied occupation will end, a victim of the dwindling ranks of the Dominican order. The convent's only remaining residents — four aging friars — have been told to pack their bags and move across town to the convent of Santa Maria Novella.

"The community of San Marco is no more, it is finished," said the Rev. Fausto Sbaffoni, one of the four, who arrived here in 1979 and was present in June when the regional chief of the Dominicans arrived to read the order suppressing, or closing, the convent. "No friar can remain in a suppressed convent," he noted.
The Dominicans' departure from San Marco has been anticipated for several years. Writing in the summer of 2015, Sandro Magister suggested that the decision to vacate what he called "the most famous Dominican convent in the world" was inevitable despite the direct intervention of Dominican Master General Bruno Cadoré, who seemed to urge his Italian confreres to do what they could to avoid shuttering the friary:
What is at stake smacks of the incredible. It is as if the Franciscan friars were to decide to close the convent of Assisi. And yet this is what could happen, at the behest of the order of Saint Dominic itself, if the superior general of the order, Fr. Bruno Cadoré, should put into effect the decision that the chapter of the Dominican province of central Italy, named after Saint Catherine of Siena, made in the autumn of 2013: the decision, that is, to suppress the "house," meaning the convent of San Marco in Florence.

The superior general has taken his time. In March of [2014] he made a visit to the convent about to be suppressed. He then wrote a letter to the Dominicans of the province in question, asking them to re-examine the question from the ground up, with the help of "experts." To no effect. The fathers of the province of St. Catherine of Siena met again in chapter at the end of last June and reiterated to the superior general the request to suppress the convent of San Marco.
Both Magister and Povoledo note the unsuccessful efforts made by various cultural and civil leaders to keep the friary open, and the NYT article quotes a local figure who opined that "[t]o suppress the convent is like dimming the lights on centuries of history." It might fairly be observed that the decision to close the friary doesn't mean the end of the Dominican presence in Florence or the loss of the Fra Angelico frescoes that made San Marco a famous landmark: the remaining members of the community are moving to a nearby friary at Santa Maria Novella, and the rooms of the former convent containing Fra Angelico's frescoes are already part of a state-run museum that is unaffected by the Dominicans' move. Nevertheless, I can't help but agree that something essential is being lost with the end of a living Dominican presence at the site.

Some of the internal Dominican politics involved in the decision to close the friary at San Marco are recounted in two articles by Tommaso Monfeli on the site Corrispondenza Romana. In one article, Monfeli argues that the decision to close San Marco while keeping open the neighboring friary of Santa Maria Novella is related to longstanding divisions that go back to a period when the two friaries belonged to two separate Dominican provinces that have since merged. The other article suggests that the efforts to keep the friary open included serious proposals to repopulate the community at San Marco with friars from other provinces:
Among the hypotheses put forward by [Florence Archbishop] Cardinal [Giuseppe] Betori were the possibility of entrusting San Marco to another Dominican Province with a greater number of friars (for example, the American Province of Saint Joseph, which had expressed interest) or establishing an inter-provincial friary open to all the Dominican provinces of the world. But the Roman Province, through the words of the Provincial, wished to remove the friars residing at San Marco and insisted on the closure of the friary, declaring itself, in the Acts of the Provincial Chapter, willing to hand it over to another Province only after having closed it.
The NYT article ends by quoting an elderly friar preparing to move out of the convent at San Marco, who blames the decision to close the friary on an apparently terminal decline in vocations and states that the Dominicans have reached "the famous point of return" and that it "is no longer possible to reactivate" the founding spirit of the Order. This pessimism seems a bit misplaced, given the notable success of some Dominican provinces in drawing many young vocations. Unfortunately, the Italian Dominicans seem not to have been touched by this renewal. One can only hope that something of the spirit of San Marco will remain, even without a living Dominican presence. AMDG.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The grounds for my hope.


The last few weeks have been difficult ones for the Catholic Church in the United States. The fallout from the Pennsylvania grand jury report implicating hundreds of priests in the sexual abuse of minors evokes memories of the long-drawn-out crisis of 2002, when each new day seemed to bring a wave of new revelations of priestly sins and episcopal inaction. Ongoing revelations regarding the scandalous misbehavior of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick have also raised hard questions about corruption, negligent oversight, and a possible coverup reaching the highest levels of the Church. When times are bad – as they certainly are right now – we need to ask ourselves all the more insistently: what are the grounds for my hope?


I spent the first couple of weeks of August as an auxiliary confessor at the Sanctuary of Lourdes, a place that offers daily lessons in the meaning of Christian hope. Hearing confessions for several hours each day, one is a witness not only to the reality of sin but also to the workings of grace: one sees, again and again, how God penetrates the solitude of the human soul even in the most trying of circumstances. Being at Lourdes as a priest also allows one to observe how the shrine can be transformative not simply for pilgrims seeking healing but also for volunteers serving the sick, for whom the experience of service often represents a (perhaps unexpected) moment of conversion.


Throughout my time at Lourdes, I celebrated a private Mass each morning in one of the small lateral chapels in the crypt of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The walls of the crypt chapels are covered with ex-voto plaques giving thanks for various favors received through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes, some of which are very detailed (e.g.: 'Reconnaissance à N.D.L. et nouvelle protection pour mes frères et neveux aux armées. A.T. Mai 1916'). The most striking of the ex-votos, though, bore a very simple message: Vous m'avez fait croire. Merci. ('You made me believe. Thank you.') In some significant ways, Our Lady of Lourdes also made a deeper believer of me as well: my time at the shrine provided a balm for some of my pessimism about happenings in the Church, offering concrete and specific grounds for hope amid darkness and uncertainty.



Lourdes is a very youthful place. The shrine attracts pilgrims of all ages, but the visible presence of children and youth is a particular source of hope for those of us who wonder what the future holds. On one of my first nights at Lourdes, I came across a group of French schoolchildren singing the Je vous salue, Marie after placing a large candle in one of the bougeoirs near the Grotto. That memory, captured here on video, would be emblematic of the graces I received throughout my time at Lourdes. It also makes me think of the many young volunteers who animate the activities of the shrine, such as the Foulards Blancs, French Catholic scouts and guides who spend a part of the summer serving the sick at Lourdes. One may object that deeply-engaged Catholic youth are but a small minority in a secular society, but they represent a creative minority nevertheless. For my part, I remain deeply encouraged by the faithful witness of the young. As I recall my time at Lourdes, I offer again my prayer of thanksgiving: Vous m'avez fait croire. Merci.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Bonnes vacances !



Lest a month of the calendar go by without adding to the admittedly thin trickle of posts on this blog, I wanted to take a moment to wish passing readers a happy and (hopefully) relaxing summer. You can expect another post, undoubtedly of greater length, sometime in August. AMDG.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Corpus Christi.



In the liturgical calendar of the Latin Church, the Feast of Corpus Christi is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday, though for pastoral reasons it is often transferred to the following Sunday - that is, today. As I did a few years ago, I would like to mark Corpus Christi by posting one of the most important liturgical texts of the day, the sequence Lauda Sion which St. Thomas Aquinas composed for Corpus Christi shortly after Pope Urban IV prescribed the celebration of the feast throughout the Latin Church in 1264. Meant to be chanted immediately before the proclamation of the Gospel, this sequence remains a part of the liturgy to this very day, though I suspect that relatively few Catholics have ever heard it sung.

In posting the sequence Lauda Sion here this year, I have taken a note from my annual custom of posting the Dies Irae on All Souls' Day and have prepared my own original translation of the sequence. This translation was prepared somewhat hastily, and it may still contain some errors as well as stylistic infelicities for which I take full responsibility. That being said, if my translation helps some people to appreciate the sequence better, I will consider my work to have been worthwhile.

---

Lauda Sion Salvatórem
Lauda ducem et pastórem
In hymnis et cánticis.


Praise, O Sion, your savior,
Praise your guide and shepherd
In hymns and in songs.

Quantum potes, tantum aude:
Quia major omni laude,
Nec laudáre súfficis.


As much as you can, and as much as you dare:
For he is greater than all praise,
And you cannot praise him enough.

Laudis thema speciális,
Panis vivus et vitális,
Hódie propónitur.


A theme of particular praise,
That of the living and life-giving bread,
Is today set forth.

Quem in sacræ mensa cœnæ,
Turbæ fratrum duodénæ
Datum non ambígitur.


That [bread] which was, beyond doubt,
Given at the table of the holy supper,
To a group of twelve brothers.

Sit laus plena, sit sonóra,
Sit jucúnda, sit decóra
Mentis jubilátio.


May your praise be full, may it be loud;
May your soul’s rejoicing
Be delightful and pleasant.

Dies enim solémnis ágitur,
In qua mensæ prima recólitur
Hujus institútio.


For the solemn day has come,
In which the origin of this feast
Is called to mind.

In hac mensa novi Regis,
Novum Pascha novæ legis,
Phase vetus términat.


At the table of the new King,
The new Passover of the new law
Brings an end to the old sacrifice.

Vetustátem nóvitas,
Umbram fugat véritas,
Noctem lux elíminat.


Novelty leads antiquity to flight,
Truth drives away the shadows,
[And] the light brings an end to night.

Quod in cœna Christus gessit,
Faciéndum hoc expréssit
In sui memóriam.


What Christ carried out at that supper,
He ordered to be done again
In his memory.

Docti sacris institútis,
Panem, vinum, in salútis
Consecrámus hóstiam.


Having been taught by holy precepts,
We offer bread and wine
As the sacrifice of our salvation.

Dogma datur Christiánis,
Quod in carnem transit panis,
Et vinum in sánguinem.


This teaching is given to Christians:
That the bread changes into flesh,
And the wine into blood.

Quod non capis, quod non vides,
Animósa firmat fides,
Præter rerum ordinem.


What you do not understand, what you do not see,
A bold faith affirms,
Beyond the [visible] order of things.

Sub divérsis speciébus,
Signis tantum, et non rebus,
Latent res exímiæ.


Under separate species,
[Visible only] as signs and not as [real] things,
Priceless realities are concealed.

Caro cibus, sanguis potus:
Manet tamen Christus totus,
Sub utráque spécie.


His flesh is food, his blood is drink:
Still Christ remains entire
Under each species.

A suménte non concísus,
Non confráctus, non divísus:
Integer accípitur.


By those who receive him, he is not cut up,
Or broken into pieces, or divided:
He is received whole and complete.

Sumit unus, sumunt mille:
Quantum isti, tantum ille:
Nec sumptus consúmitur.


As one receives, a thousand receive,
Each one as much as the next,
Without him being wholly consumed.

Sumunt boni, sumunt mali:
Sorte tamen inæquáli,
Vitæ vel intéritus.


Both the good and the wicked receive,
Yet to an unequal end:
Life or destruction.

Mors est malis, vita bonis:
Vide paris sumptiónis
Quam sit dispar éxitus.


Death is the end of the wicked,
And life is the end of the good:
See how, from the same reception,
Comes a different result.

Fracto demum Sacraménto,
Ne vacílles, sed memento,
Tantum esse sub fragménto,
Quantum toto tégitur.


The sacrament at last having been broken,
Do not hesitate, but remember,
That each fragment hides
As much as the whole.

Nulla rei fit scissúra:
Signi tantum fit fractúra:
Qua nec status nec statúra
Signáti minúitur.


There is no division in what is real;
There is rather a breaking of the sign:
While neither the condition nor the stature
Of what is signified is lessened.

Ecce panis Angelórum,
Factus cibus viatórum:
Vere panis filiórum,
Non mitténdus cánibus.


Behold the bread of Angels,
Has become the food of travelers:
Truly the bread of the children,
Which is not to be thrown to the dogs.

In figúris præsignátur,
Cum Isaac immolátur:
Agnus paschæ deputátur
Datur manna pátribus.


It was prefigured in types,
When Isaac was sacrificed,
The Paschal Lamb was selected,
And Manna was given to our Fathers.

Bone pastor, panis vere,
Jesu, nostri miserére:
Tu nos pasce, nos tuére:
Tu nos bona fac vidére
In terra vivéntium.


Good shepherd, true bread,
Jesus, have mercy upon us:
Nourish us and defend us.
Bring it about that we may see
Good things in the land of the living.

Tu, qui cuncta scis et vales:
Qui nos pascis hic mortáles:
Tuos ibi commensáles,
Cohærédes et sodáles,
Fac sanctórum cívium.
Amen. Allelúja.


You, who know and can do all:
You, who sustain us mortals here:
Make us to be your fellows at table,
Coheirs and comrades,
Fellow citizens with the saints.
Amen. Alleluia.

---

Peace to those who read these lines. AMDG.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Chartres and the Spirit of May 1968.



This month, France marks the fiftieth anniversary of May 1968, a month of student protests and labor unrest subsequently regarded as a critical juncture in French history. Mai 68 remains a potent symbol, celebrated by many on the left as a moment when various forces for social change achieved a new measure of visibility and influence and lamented by many on the right on account of its consequences. Now, as the youngest soixante-huitards reach retirement age, the legacy of May 1968 is open to debate. Many former student radicals have long since retreated from the positions that they held dear fifty years ago, while some more recent trends in French politics – such as a pronounced neoliberal turn under François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron – suggest that some of the perceived gains of May 1968 were far from permanent.

In the popular imagination, one of the salient characteristics of May 1968 was the esprit de contestation, understood not simply as a spirit of protest but as a willingness to question received ideas. The spirit of contestation ultimately transcends ideology; indeed, now that members of the 1968 generation have ascended to positions of power and influence, the spirit of contestation is perhaps more in evidence among conservatives. Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising; as my late mentor Father Tom King pointed out, the only revolutionary act possible in a technological society fixated on the ephemeral is fidelity to tradition.

In addition to the fiftieth anniversary of May 1968, this month marked the thirty-sixth installment of the annual pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres organized on the weekend of Pentecost by Notre-Dame de Chrétienté, an association of Catholic laypeople devoted to the Usus Antiquior of the Roman Rite. The Pentecost pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres annually draws over ten thousand participants, mostly but not exclusively French, with notable growth in recent years: estimates of the total number of pilgrims who took part this year range from 12,000 to 15,000, accompanied by over 300 priests and religious who serve as chaplains along the route. Though the celebration of the Usus Antiquior is an important feature of the pilgrimage, not all of the pilgrims are traditionalists: as Father Guilhem Le Coq, a former chaplain of Notre-Dame de Chrétienté, said in a recent interview, "Chartres is a pilgrimage for everyone," and first-time pilgrims are often struck by the warm and fraternal welcome that they receive.

Another notable characteristic of this pilgrimage is the youth of its participants: with an average age of 21, university students and young adults are particularly numerous. In the aforementioned interview, Father Le Coq also notes the relative youth of the priests who take part in the pilgrimage: with an average age of 30, "the clergy are almost the same age as the [lay] pilgrims," and this leaves a powerful impression. The Pentecost pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres is a genuine youth movement, one that reflects a turn to tradition and a desire for more durable markers of Catholic identity that are very much in evidence among young Catholics. One can also find signs here of a very real esprit de contestation, the true 'spirit of May 1968,' even if the revolution sought is ultimately spiritual and not political, pursued through prayer and song rather than confrontation and protest.

Though numerically impressive, the Notre-Dame de Chrétienté pilgrimage remains the work of a committed, energetic minority. In this sense, too, the pilgrims have something in common with the youth of May 1968: those who took to the streets then represented an engaged and vocal minority, even if they would ultimately wield significant influence. This should not be surprising, as small but well-organized groups of people have often played a decisive role in shaping the course of history. In a homily delivered at the close of the Notre-Dame de Chrétienté pilgrimage, Cardinal Robert Sarah noted the role that monasticism played in the development of European culture, urging the pilgrims to "return to the source" by drawing from the spiritual riches of the monastic tradition.

Christian monasticism has always been the task of a small but highly creative minority, even at times when monasteries engaged great prestige and influence. At the same time, it bears remembering that the fuga saeculi that defines organized ascetical life has always sought to influence society beyond the walls of the cloister, providing an impetus for cultural renewal. Picking up on historian Arnold Toynbee's insistence on the importance of "creative minorities" who guide civilizations, Pope Benedict XVI argued that the task of committed Christians in the secular West lies precisely in being such a minority, challenging their fellow citizens to be faithful to the best aspects of their common heritage.

The pilgrims who make the one-hundred-kilometer trek from Paris to Chartres each year on the weekend of Pentecost are just such a creative minority, offering a joyful and faithful witness to the Church and to society more broadly. I've written here before about the Church of the future, about the aspirations of many Millennial Catholics and the various ways in which those aspirations are expressed (including on TV). The pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres thus appears to me as a sign of hope, one that will continue to bear fruit in the lives of its participants and in the communities to which they belong. AMDG.