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What Is Not Catholic in the
Chartres Pilgrimage?

Fr. Paul Sretenovic

In the most recent issue of the bi-monthly The Remnant (July 25, 2009), a picture of the 2009 Chartres Pilgrimage was included. The picture showed, among other things, some ladies in pants as they marched along the 72-mile hike.

Members of the Chartres pilgrimage

The road to Chartres in The Remnant July 25, 2009
I have since viewed a 9-minute online video of the Pilgrimage on YouTube produced by PBS and narrated by Dr. John Rao of St. John’s University. Regarding customs and the dress of the participants, the video confirmed what I saw in the picture and more, as it also revealed the sloppiness of attire in many of the young men.

When I say sloppiness, I mean dress that I consider too casual for the dignity of any Catholic gentlemen on any weekday, and not just when he goes to church. I must admit that, unfortunately, I was not surprised by what I saw, since almost everywhere among Catholics the hippy-like sloppiness is taking over the modern customs. But it was disappointing nevertheless.

Outside of the Latin Masses being offered and the Sacred Music in the background – which were the good exceptions that I register with joy - the general ambience of the Pilgrimage could have been a March for Life in Washington, DC, where Catholics and non-Catholics participate without almost any essential difference in appearance. In these pro-life marches, what separates Catholics from the other groups that attend, outside of the Rosary, is normally nothing more than the writing on the banners or placards telling the viewer who the group is. That is, there is nothing in the behavior and attire of those participants that sends a message consistent with Catholic culture and civilization.

The same phenomenon occurred on that Chartres Pilgrimage. This makes me wonder if those involved in the Pilgrimage really understand what it means to be militant Catholics. What good is such a Pilgrimage if - in spite of any sacrifices that were made, and I am sure that there were more than a few - the Catholics participating more closely resemble their sloppy peers in the world than soldiers of Christ? It would be good to remind those youth that each one of them received Confirmation and when they did so, they became knights of Christ. They committed to defend Christ everywhere, including in the cultural sphere that I am dealing with here.

When soldiers are at war, often times they have to travel many miles to their destination, fully clad while carrying heavy and bulky ammunition. Comfort and convenience are not even an option for them. So, how can soldiers of Christ be so very much concerned about their own practical comforts and conveniences and so careless about representing the dignity of Christ? Indeed, it is claimed, women have to wear pants for practical reasons; everyone has to have tennis shoes because it’s the most comfortable walking shoe; almost all have to dress in a T-shirt for analogous reasons; one must drink straight from the bottle in order not to have to carry a glass; one should sit on the ground to avoid carrying a small fold-up chair, etc.

Chartres Pilgrims with their bare legs in the air

Relaxing in very casual clothes

Chartres Pilgrims sitting on the ground

Waiting for Mass to begin

Michael Matt during the Chartres Pilgrimage

Michael Matt, left, leading the American group
Isn’t such a pilgrimage supposed to be a kind of depiction of Catholic knights, representing “the remnant” of the past teaching and culture of the Church? Aren’t they supposed to be symbolically executing a war of restoration during the march? Isn’t this war that Catholics are supposed to take part in even more serious today with much more at stake? For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers in the high places (Eph 6:12).

I do think that the least that could be expected is for Traditionalists who take part in this Pilgrimage to make the sacrifice of dressing as ladies and gentlemen without concessions to the Cultural Revolution, that is, to be clearly recognizable as Catholics.

It does not matter that Catholics are the only ones on this Pilgrimage, except to raise the bar even more. The men should be in slacks (neither jeans nor shorts) with a collared shirt, if possible, in a jacket, and the women should be in dresses, coming to at least a few inches below the knee. They should not be wearing sleeveless, low-necked or tight-fitting tops. If there were some men and women on the Pilgrimage who fulfilled such criteria, then I commend them, but the rest, the majority that appears on the video, falls under my criticism.

As the saying goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” We should find our own Catholic way to dress well on these occasions, avoiding the revolutionary fashions. I am not pretending that we should dress like Catholics did 100 years ago - or 1,000 years ago. But at all times the Catholic way of dressing should show dignity. In these Pilgrimages, however, Catholic dignity disappeared almost completely.

Youth are following in the wake of the World Youth Days, which have been duly called the “Catholic Woodstocks.” They are a way to bless the Cultural Revolution. I believe that if we want to be Traditionalists, to be true Counter-Revolutionaries, we must stop following this path and return to the Catholic way of behaving and presenting ourselves.

A good rule of thumb to follow is always to be dressed in a manner that would at least be sufficient to enter a church. I think this applies especially to something like a Pilgrimage. Speaking of which, how many on the Pilgrimage were dressed appropriately for the Mass? How many young ladies did not even have a veil on when receiving Holy Communion?

For the future, I believe that these and other issues need to be addressed before the Pilgrimage begins as to ensure that Catholic standards are met. Having been very impressed with the recent response of Michael Matt concerning “Amish Catholicism,” in which Mr. Matt eloquently made a defense for the protection of children from the gross influences of the world, I would add something to it. I would say that we see in the most recent Pilgrimage (and I am sure those prior to it, as well) a model of how Catholic parents - some of them were there sitting on the ground - give a bad example to their children by not meeting Catholic standards and therefore do not fulfill their obligations to protect them.


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Posted August 5, 2009

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