Son and grandson of alpine hunters, Father Gaspard Craplet lived in the mountains, on the Assy plateau, facing Mont-Blanc. And his passion for the summits one day met his passion for Heaven! After earning his Arts et Métiers engineering degree, he was ordained a priest in 2006. He is now a member of the Saint-Jean-Marie-Vianney Society (SJMV), based in Ars.
There, a statue particularly inspires him. Not far from the sanctuary, the monument of the Meeting indeed represents the holy priest who points out the heights to the young shepherd who had shown him his way, and who says to him: “You showed me the way to Ars, I will show you the way to heaven.”
Holiness from the heights
“That’s also what I try to do, explains Father Gaspard Craplet, by leading young people to the heights.” Having obtained his mid-mountain guide diploma in 2015, he is now responsible for the SJMV Jeunes branch. In this context, it organizes throughout the year (holidays and weekends) camps for young people in the mountains.
“The mountain, he specifies, is not only made up of geographical summits, which invite you to surpass yourself physically: it also encourages you to grow spiritually and fraternally.” This is summed up in the motto of this youth ministry, “Holiness through the summits!”, which joins that of Blessed Pierre-Georges Frassati (1901-1925): “Verso l’alto”, that is -say “To the heights!”
On the way to WYD!
“For the 2016 WYD which took place in Krakow, continues Father Craplet, we crossed the Tatras, in the Carpathian chain. This year, to get to Lisbon, we will cross the Pyrenees.” The appointment is given on July 23 in Lourdes, where a statue of the Virgin will be blessed, which the young people will then take with them. The walking week will take place from July 23 to 30. “According to an idea dear to Robert Baden-Powell, specifies the priest, the young people will evolve in autonomy in teams of eight. They will be responsible for their stewardship and the bivouacs.”
Father Craplet, accompanied by another priest, will ensure the material but also spiritual supervision: daily mass, teachings, meditations, offices, vigils. Halfway through, after crossing passes exceeding 2,500 m and skirting several lakes, the teams will meet at the Grande Fache, a 3,000 m summit on the border between France and Spain. There, in an empty niche, they will place the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lourdes. “Every year since 1941, on August 5 (the feast of Notre-Dame-des-Neiges), says Father Craplet, the Franco-Spanish association Les Amis de la Fache makes a pilgrimage here in thanksgiving for a young girl who was miraculously saved there.”
The experience of the universal Church
In addition to the spiritual preparation, this week of walking in the mountains will also have the advantage of promoting the cohesion of the group before arriving in Lisbon, which they will join by bus. There, from August 1 to 6, a million young people (including around 30,000 French people) will gather around the pope. “These young people expect a lot from these days, concludes Father Craplet. They need to see that they are not alone. And there, they will experience concretely the universal Church!”