The morning of Friday 18th May dawned bright and mild as the twelve members of the Irish chapter for the Chartres pilgrimage boarded their flight to Paris - twelve Irish apostles journeying out to do three days of penance for their country and to save the 8th amendment if God willed it. After disposing of our luggage, the group first took time to enjoy the Luxembourg quarter of Paris and visited the Rue du Bac to ask Our Lady for all the graces we needed in order to make a good pilgrimage.
At the crack of dawn the next day, the three banners were made ready for the march: one dedicated to Our Lady of Knock, another to the Martyrs of Ireland, and of course the Irish flag. Before Mass started, Fr. Bouchacourt, the district superior of France, appealed to all pilgrims to remember the abortion referendum in Ireland. After a beautiful sung Mass at 7.45, the Irish pilgrims set off with 4500 other pilgrims from France and various countries around the world. As the Irish p[ilgrims started out on the road to Paris, they renewed their intentions for the pilgrimage.
Over the next three days and over more than 100km, the rosary was prayed, hymns were sung, and the good ould Irish songs kept the spirits up. One form of penance which was much sought out by everyone in turn, was that of carrying the banners, which seemed to get strangely heavier along the way! Everyone took turns on the megaphone to read out the story of a saint they had prepared, or to sing a song for everyone's encouragement. The nights spent at the campsites brought their own penance; some were without sleeping bags, others with only single layer tents and others camping on hard ground with not much grass cushioning! With everyone bearing the discomforts with a smile, the atmosphere in the Irish chapter was great and helped everyone make a spiritually enriching pilgrimage.
Fr. Robert Brucciani, the superior of England and chaplain to the English chapter, extended a fatherly hand towards the Irish in return for a lend of our megaphone, by hearing the group's confessions. Rev. Mr. Rupert Bevan from Dover, a deacon from St. Pius X Seminary, provided the group with some meditations. Rev. Mr. Thomas O'Hart from Co. Fermanagh and a deacon at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, walked with the group for a good part of the way and led morning prayers, the rosary, and a meditation to remind the p[ilgrims why they were there.
Despite the results of the referendum last week, the pilgrims know that, having completed the pilgrimage, their efforts have not gone to waste. God in His justice knows best how to use of them. As Bishop Fellay reminded the faithful on Pentecost Sunday during the pilgrimage, we must have confidence in the Holy Ghost despite the problems in the Church today and let Our Lord truly live in us. St. Patrick pray for us!