Professor Shares Sights and Sounds from Chartes, France Pilgrimage – Part 3

By: Agnes Berki, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Natural and Physical Sciences

Dr. Berki writes the following to her friend Rose Marie, who is disabled and not able to make the trek from Paris to Chartes.

Have a good pilgrimage, Rose Marie!

On the last day, we had 16 miles remaining to Chartres. Most of the walk was in the countryside again. In the morning I missed the hustle and bustle of the camp: waking up at the crack of dawn to blasting classical music; getting out from the warm sleeping bag into the cold and wet air, forcing my tired limbs to pack quickly and to walk for hot chocolate and rolls, our breakfast.

The Breakfast table.

From the organizers’ picture gallery: “le pélé en un millier de photos”

Somehow we were short a sleeping bag and had to sleep indoors in Versailles. By the time we got back to the campsite that morning, my chapter, now walking with the Versailles group, had already left. They were about an hour into their walk. I asked for what is not usually allowed: to walk on my own until I  could catch up to my chapter. Miracles do happen, especially during a pilgrimage. My request was granted. I could walk alone. I had to walk at a slightly faster pace than the chapters. It was hard to walk at that pace and get past the groups, but the fresh morning air invigorated me. The sky was clear and it meant that the day would be hot again. Dehydration is the number one enemy of a pilgrim. It is almost impossible to notice it until it is too late. The first signs of dehydration are feeling cold and chilly even  if the air is warm. Skin discoloration follows and finally fever and trembling chills. At that point, the pilgrim has to be taken to the emergency room. When we walked with our chapter, we looked out for signs of dehydration in our fellow pilgrims and we encouraged each other to drink often. I had to be mindful of that on my own. So I grabbed a large water bottle and forced myself to drink often.


From the organizers’ picture gallery: “le pélé en un millier de photos”:

I was passing the various chapters, praying alone and encouraging myself to walk faster, drink often and eat frequently. When I was passing by a chapter, I sang with them and prayed with them if I knew the prayer or the hymn. Sometimes I felt lonely, though. But when I was getting truly lonely, God arranged that I would catch up to a chapter with friends. First I caught up with and said hello to the children of my friend Beatrice. Then I passed the Australian chapter we had walked with the day before. Later I found my friend Guillemettewalking with her children. I also caught up to the American chapter, the Our Lady of Guadalupe brigade, led by Michael Matt. I had walked my very first Chartres pilgrimage with them years ago. I said hello and briefly talked with Father Von Der Putten. He is the funniest person I have ever met. Just to illustrate, he  sang Elvis Presley’s“Love Me Tender” during one of his sermons—mind you during a Latin low Mass!In a low Mass, there is no music or singing. This time he was not in a joking mood. His legs were killing him because he was walking in cowboy boots and each foot was one big blister. He did not complain, but I saw the suffering in his eyes and I could imagine the sharp pain he felt at every step!

Passing various chapters to catch up with mine.

From the organizers’ picture gallery: “le pélé en un millier de photos”:

I caught up with my chapter at lunchtime. I thought that I would not find them, asmany of the chapters had stopped and sat down in a large clearing. The banners were downand that reduced my chances of finding them to almost zero percent. I saw in front of me about a thousand pilgrims, sitting and eating. How would I find my chapter? I was tired and lonely. I really wanted to find them. I prayed with all my heart, and suddenly Father Guichard appeared right in front of me. He pointed me to our chapter. I was glad to be with them! I sat down and we shared our lunch. The noon sun was very hot by then.

The walk was easy after lunch although all of us were thirsty and tired. Our Versailles chapter members asked us to teach them English hymns. It was good of them to accommodate us and sing in English. We sang in English, Latin and French. Chartres Cathedral disappeared and reappeared as we walked toward it in the fields. Every time the steeples reappeared, they grew taller. And finally we reached Chartres. The chapters sang with more fervor, louder and louder as we were nearing the cathedral. A strange awe lifted my heart. Joy bubbled up from deep within, washing away my tiredness. A quite gratitude melted my soul. We had arrived! Against all the odds, with God’s grace! The third and probably the last time I would walk the Chartres pilgrimage.

Pilgrims entering Chartres Cathedral.

From the organizers’ picture gallery: “le pélé en un millier de photos”:

Our chapter had the privilege to be inside the cathedral for the closing Mass. We could not sit on chairs, for there were not enough of them, but we did not care about chairs. We were inside and that was what mattered. The Very Rev. John Berg, superior general of the Fraternity of Saint Peter, celebrated the Mass. Father Guichard had to leave us because he had to process in with the other priests and religious who walked the pilgrimage. We sat on the floor inside with many of the pilgrims, while the rest of them were outside and listened to the Mass through loud speakers. We were tired, but happy. The pilgrimshad come from all over the world—Poland, England, Ireland, Germany, Spain and the United States. There were also Eastern Christians and refugees from Iraq and Syria. The Mass was beautiful. With the end of the Mass, the pilgrimage was over: IteMissa est. Deogratias.

Fr. Benoit Guichard, FSSP, and other clergy process in for the closing Mass at Chartres Cathedral

From the organizers’ picture gallery: “le pélé en un millier de photos”:

Father John Berg, FSSP, Delivering the sermon during the closing Mass in Chartres Cathedral.

From the organizers’ picture gallery: “le pélé en un millier de photos”:

I have much to be thankful for. For the opportunity to go on the pilgrimage, thanks goes to Father Guichard, the members of my chapter and my friends in the parish. For the opportunity to share this story, thanks  to my colleagues and to you, dear reader. And for being able to walk the pilgrimage, Deogratias!

My group from Our Lady of Fatima Chapel after the pilgrimage. I took this picture.

Why did I want to share this with you? To tell you that this pilgrimage made me understand better the parallel between a pilgrimage and life. Our life here on earth is a pilgrimage. We are here to walk the walk of life toward a goal. And that goal is heaven. As the members of a chapter, we are placed here to help one another toward that goal. May I do my share in helping you. Let us walk this walk together, my fellow pilgrim. And come what may, have a good pilgrimage, Rose Marie!

Another perspective from a friend from the American Chapter, Dr. John Rao.

Dr. John Rao talks about his pilgrimage to Chartres in 2009