how can we explain such success?

how can we explain such success?

In ten years, the Traditionalist Pilgrimage has seen its membership double, expanding its audience to a new audience. Against a backdrop of growing spiritual demand from new generations.

This Pentecost weekend, nearly 18,000 pilgrims will walk from Paris to Chartres (Eure-et-Loir) for the 42nd edition of the Pilgrimage of the Notre-Dame de Chrétienté association. That is 12% more than in 2023. This year again, the organization had to limit registrations for logistical reasons. This will be a first participation for Romain Rivière, 39, coached by his 11-year-old daughter, who will cover 50 km, while the older ones will do nearly a hundred. Physical effort, a concrete expression of fervor, contributes to success among young people: half of the pilgrims registered for the only national pilgrimage involving three days of walking are under 20 years old. Many of them discovered on this occasion the mass “of Saint Pius V”, that is to say celebrated according to the rite prior to the reform promulgated by the Second Vatican Council: the priest, alone at the altar, back to the people, most often prays in a low voice, in Latin, almost without dialoguing with the assembly; Communion is given directly into the mouth, and girls are not admitted to altar service.

Attentive, the organizers deploy careful pedagogy to introduce pilgrims to the ancient rite, the only one admitted during the pilgrimage: “As head of chapter (a group of 30 to 50 pilgrims) during five pilgrimages, I explained the meaning gestures and prayers from mass to my groups. You just have to let yourself be carried away,” enthuses Cécile Rose, who is preparing to walk towards Chartres for the twentieth year. The Toulonnaise also practices the ordinary form of the rite (the so-called Mass of Paul VI), while saying she is more nourished by the Latin Mass, “more silent, allowing a greater union with the priest, more “vertical””.

A need for benchmarks

The long processions of young pilgrims in the Beauce plain, the markers of identity – banners printed with fleurs-de-lys, priests in cassocks, scout uniforms – capture the attention of the media. However, the success of the traditionalist pilgrimage is part of a more general dynamic, which sees a growing spiritual demand from younger generations. Father Vincent Breynaert, director of the National Service for Youth Evangelization and Vocations, points to signs of an evolution: “45,000 young people from France participated in WYD in Portugal in 2023, i.e. 50% more than during the previous edition in a European country, in Krakow (Poland), in 2016; the Frat de Jambville – the annual pilgrimage of Île-de-France for 13-15 year olds, at Pentecost – will bring together more than 11,000 young people; the pilgrimages for students to Puy-en-Velay, to Mont-Saint-Michel, the Exodus pilgrimage from the diocese of Toulouse to Lourdes are full. In Lille, this year, the “candle mass”, during the week, regularly brought together 900 students. » The lessons given during the march towards Charters, provided in particular by the chapter leaders (group leaders) based on a booklet, meet the need for reference points of the current generation. “80% of them did not receive a Christian education, after two generations who distanced themselves from the Church,” observes Father Breynaert. But what expression of the Christian tradition is transmitted? In July 2021, a decree from Pope Francis entitled Traditionis Custodes (Guardians of Tradition) strictly regulated the possibility of celebrating the so-called “traditional” Mass (Tridentine), codified at the Council of Trent (16th century). Returning to a choice made by Benedict XVI after a “thorough consultation of the bishops”, the Jesuit pope cast doubt on the acceptance of Vatican II by the proponents of this liturgical form.

Old fractures

Traditions custodes dismayed the traditionalists, without affecting the positive dynamics of the Christian pilgrimage. “Rome did not understand,” cries Cécile Rose. I live a union of faith in the two forms of the rite. It is already complicated to be Christian in France, we are not going to awaken the divisions. » The fervor of the pilgrims indeed covers old fractures in the Church of the 20th century. The first edition of the pilgrimage, in 1983, was launched on the advice of the nationalist activist Bernard Antony, member of the National Front from 1984 to 2008. For Paul Airiau, historian of contemporary Catholicism, “the founders of the Christian pilgrimage and those who organize wish the Christian reconquest of France through the Catholic tradition, therefore in critical relation with Vatican II. Some of the participants adhere to this perspective, while others find an intense spiritual life in a young and dynamic Catholic environment.” Cardinal Müller, a virulent critic of the pope, will celebrate the closing mass of the pilgrimage. Quite a symbol.

18,000 pilgrims will participate in the Pentecost pilgrimage between Paris and Chartres, i.e. 12% more than in 2023.

Similar Posts