Monday, May 28, 2012

Whit Monday Update

(I'm struggling with a French keyboard layout thqt seems to have put some letters in the wrong places - above all, swapping 'q' with 'a', but also ',' with 'm', and 'z' with 'w'; so I won't write much...)

To cut a long story short, I arrived in Chqrtres yester-day, Sunday, hqving been so exhausted by the first 40 km all-day hike on the pilgrimage on Saturday that I decided to give it up as beyond my ability; for the pace was such that I was always falling behind, the heat such that I was dripping with sweat and felt my head ache, and my pack was weighing me down so much that, were it not for another who helped me by carrying it for some hours after lunch, I couldn't have done even whqt I did.  As it was, I didn't walk the final one and a half hour stretch up the Hill of Deqth, where a great cross marks where a pilgrim died en route not very many years ago! 

Therefore, after a short sleep at the bivouac (for the scouts didn't stop singing till eleven o'clock, and the loudspeakers woke us at five a.m. with Rameau and other French Baroque music), while the other 15,000 pilgrims marched off singing, 'bright as an army in battle array', banners flying, flags and crosses held high - their departure began at 6:10 am and the last left at 7:30 am - I was kindly given a lift to the nearest train station because, as best I could say in my appalling French, "Je suis tres fatigué". Getting to Chartres several changes of train later, I booked in at the hotel a day early and slept for five hours, before waking up, and then going back to bed for a further eight: "tres fatigué" indeed.

As usual; St Philip Neri thus most evidently arranged special jokes and humiliations for me on his feast, Saturday the 26th, for he thus assists his clients to destroy their pride (so humble himself, he would hqve been delighted that the liturgy was instead that of the Vigil of Pentecost, he being infinitely devoted to and enraptured by the Holy Ghost); but also obtained for me many graces withal, such as serving Fr Rowe's private Masses at about 5:30 am on Saturday morning at a side altar at Notre-Dame de Paris, and again yester-day, Sunday morning, at the same hour, in a tent in a field somewhere in the Ile-de-France, with eleven other priests around us at temporary altars, Low Masses going on without interruption - one priest entering to begin as soon as another finished and left!  It made kneeling on the wet grass quite special, an amazing way to celebrate Pentecost: for it is now 25 years since I entered the Church on this feast, made a Catholic Christian by Baptism, Confirmation and Communion.

If I can hobble out to meet the incoming column of triumphant pilgrims after noon, and join with the other Australians in the grand Mass at Notre-Dame de Chartres, then all will be well indeed.  Our Lady of Chartres, pray for us.

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