The Notre-Dame to Chartres Pilgrimage
This is a pilgrimage which has an ancient origin in France since at least the Middle Ages. Chartres Cathedral was the home of one of the greatest relics of Catholicism, that of the Veil of the Blessed Virgin Mary which had come to Constantinople from Jerusalem and then the Empress Irene presented it to the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne whose descendent Charles the Bald brought it to Chartres Cathedral.
Today we walk the 105 km to Chartres starting out at Notre-Dame Cathedral on the Saturday before Pentecost Sunday and finish on Monday in Chartres for a Tridentine High Mass in the cathedral. We are accompanied by Christians from all over the world on this long and hard, but spiritually uplifting walk. It is an opportunity for reflection, penance and spiritual growth, not to mention the making of many friends from all over the world.
What is a Pilgrimage?
From time immemorial people have journeyed to find answers to the spiritual meaning of their lives; thus, a pilgrimage is a type of journey, a traveling of one place or mindset to another. For the ancients it was the pilgrimage to Delphi; in the Middle Ages the big pilgrimages were to the Holy Land, Santiago de Compostela in Spain or to Chartres Cathedral in France. All mankind is on a journey of some sort, one that begins at birth.
So a Pilgrimage is a journey and for the Christian it has even greater meaning since it reminds us that our home is not here on earth in the mortal realm, but in the eternal realm of the beatific Vision of the Blessed Trinity. It is a realm that the very essence of our being longs for with an insatiable appetite. An appetite that can’t be satisfied until it possesses the most intimate lover… God himself for eternity.
We see a glimpse of this pilgrimage when we walk down the aisle at the Holy Mass to receive the Eucharist. We journey to church, leaving the comfort of our home, and then the church pew to embrace and receive God. And unlike when we consume ordinary food where it becomes elevated into our being , when we receive the Eucharist we are elevated to become divinized and like God.(Provided we are properly disposed and cooperate with God’s Grace)
From the first centuries pilgrims traveled to the Holy Land and other sites where God manifested His power in some special way whether through a miracle, saint or the actual places walked by Christ. It was a form of Piety especially popular in the Middle Ages which often involved great hardship and sacrifice much like our Savior whose own pilgrimage began at birth and ended at Calvary, or only seemed to end at Calvary… for the Christian sees hope beyond the toils of this life by Christ’s resurrection. The journey is complete when Christ ascends into heaven where we hope to follow to embrace our heavenly family… Home.
Thus, the Pilgrimage is a means to grow in Holiness which really means growing closer to the Blessed Trinity, becoming Christ-like. It is penitential since without the Cross there is no holiness. To embrace the cross is to embrace Christ, they are inseparable. We sacrifice and travel with others on a like mission to find a deeper meaning of Christ in our lives that we may be transfigured into a more Christ-like person.
What is the Order of Malta?
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta .
The Order of Malta is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilization and is one of the few Orders created in the Middle Ages and still active today. It is also the only one that is at the same time religious and sovereign. This is due to the fact that most of the other Orders of chivalry lacked the hospitaller function which characterises the Order of Malta, so they disappeared as soon as the military purposes that represented the reasons for their existence ceased.
Present in Palestine in around 1050, it is a lay religious Order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. Its 13,500 members include Professed Friars and others who have made the promise of obedience. The other Knights and Dames are lay members, devoted to the exercise of Christian virtue and charity. What distinguishes the Knights and Dames of Malta is their commitment to reaching their spiritual perfection within the Church and to expending their energies serving the poor and the sick.
The Order of Malta remains true to its inspiring principles, summarized in the motto “Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum”, nurturing, witnessing and protecting the Faith and assistance to the poor and the suffering, which become reality through the voluntary work carried out by Dames and Knights in humanitarian assistance and medical and social activities. Today the Order carries out these activities in over 120 countries.