We are excited to embark on our 9th Youth Pilgrimage! This year we will tour the Vendée region of France, epicenter of the largest Catholic uprising against the French Revolution. At the end of the 18th century, the people of this area rose up against the Republic and its anti-clerical laws, to protect their priests and defend their Faith. Men, women, and children – peasants and nobles – suffered martyrdom, and they are not forgotten. Their heroism, along with several other periods of French Catholic history, are vividly portrayed today in Puy du Fou, an amazing historical theme park located in the heart of the Vendée,
Follow the pilgrims as they spend two full days at Puy du Fou, and then continue to visit Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, Angers, Tours, Paris, and Chartres, before joining thousands of SSPX pilgrims on the 3-day, 65-mile walk from Chartres to Paris over Pentecost weekend.
Please pray for us, as we will pray for you!
Day 1: Thursday, May 30, 2019. Transatlantic flight to Paris
Pilgrims from around the country meet up at JFK airport for their much anticipated flight to Paris. We are excited to embark on this year’s Youth Pilgrimage and have a very nice group of travelers. We have been preparing to walk the annual 65-mile SSPX pilgrimage from Chartres to France, and this will be the grand finale of our trip! We carry our intentions and those of our loved ones with us, and pray for a most fruitful and memorable pilgrimage.
Day 2: Friday, May 31, 2019. Paris – Cholet
After the long transatlantic flight, we landed in Charles de Gaulle airport and found our way to our private bus. From there, we drove all afternoon and finally reached Cholet, capital of military Vendée, where we will spend the next four nights. During the early years of the French Revolution, Cholet found itself at the heart of the counter-revolutionary struggle in the Vendée, culminating in October 1793 with the Battle of Cholet which was won by the republicans and followed by a period of brutal government repression. After Holy Mass and a nice French meal, we retired to gear up for the next day’s visit to Puy du Fou park.
Day 3: Saturday, June 1, 2019 – Puy du Fou
The Catholic history of France was vividly portrayed before our eyes today as we watched the magnificent performances at world-famous Puy du Fou Park. Founded in 1977, it has become a multi-attraction theme park and today is the second most popular park in France after Disneyland Paris. What makes it so special is that the many of the spectacular re-enactments are about the Catholic history of France. We began our visit to the park with a show about the Vendée martyrs during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. It was the story of the “king of the Vendée”, François Athanase de Charette, who bravely led the Vendéens in battle against the Republican army. In the afternoon, we sat in an enormous Roman stadium, and watched how early Christians in France were persecuted during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. We even saw a chariot race! At night, we enjoyed the beautiful show “The Organs of Fire”, which was a magnificent combination of fountains, lights, music, and dancing – all elegantly choreographed together and performed on a lake. After a full, sunny day at the park, we returned late to our hotel. What an incredible day!
Day 4: Sunday, June 2, 2019 – Puy du Fou
After an early Mass at the SSPX chapel at nearby Chemillé, we excitedly returned to Puy du Fou for another full day at the park. In the medieval castle on the grounds, there was a temporary display of the actual ring of St. Joan of Arc. This ring was given to her by her parents, with the engraved words “Jesus et Maria”, and St. Joan was wearing this ring when she touched St. Catherine during one of her apparitions. Currently, there is a reliquary-chapel being built to house this precious relic. A page in the story of St. Joan of Arc’s life was told in a jaw-dropping show, featuring knights in shining armor, acrobatic horse riders, celestial knights, and an invading English army. Later in the day, we gazed up in awe as we watched the “Phantom Birds Dance”, where nearly 200 birds flew over our heads in a choreographed and one-of-a-kind show that made us come back a second time! We walked through vivid representations of the First World War in France, the 18th-century expedition by sea of French explorer La Perouse, the conversion of Clovis, king of the Franks, and much more. Everyone absolutely loved our visit to Puy du Fou, and we all hope to come back soon!
Day 5: Monday, June 3, 2019. Excursion to Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre and Angers
Our third day started out with light rain, which reminded us how lucky we were to have enjoyed two sunny days at Puy du Fou! Fortunately, by the time we reached our first stop, the rain had stopped. Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre is the resting place of St. Louis Grignion de Montfort. There, in the beautiful Basilica housing his tomb and that of Blessed Marie Louise Trichet, co-founder of the Daughters of Wisdom, we all made our total consecration to Mary according St. Louis de Montfort. After a 33-day preparation, with trembling voices and open hearts, we gave our complete selves to our Blessed Mother. Afterwards, we went next door to visit the Convent and magnificent Chapel of the Daughters of Wisdom. The breathtaking complex reflects the interior peace and generosity of the followers of St. Louis de Montfort. After another short ride, we arrived at Angers, the third largest city in western France and residence of the Dukes of Anjou, for Mass at the SSPX chapel there. We made a visit to the 11th-century Cathedral of Angers: a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. Dedicated to St. Maurice and his companions, it is the seat of the Bishops of Angers. We continued to the astounding Chateau d’Angers. Founded in the 9th century by the Dukes of Anjou, it was expanded to its current size in the 13th century by order of King St. Louis IX. We were amazed at the size and grandeur of the walls, towers and buildings, and our amazement only grew when we saw the display of the 14th-century “Apocalypse Tapestry”, the largest tapestry in the world, commissioned by Louis I, Duke of Anjou. Up on the castle walls, as we oversaw the city of Angers, with churches and abbeys dotting the view, we could imagine what life may have been like in the Middle Ages. As we spend our last night in the Vendée region, we ask St. Louis de Montfort to help us truly live his motto, “totus tuus ” (“all yours”), every day of our lives.
Day 6: Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Tours
We left the Vendée region and headed northeast to the city of Tours. There, in the Basilica are the relics of St. Martin of Tours, bishop of this city in the 4th century. The Basilica was destroyed during the French Revolution and all that remains are two of its Towers. A new basilica was built in the 19th century, after the relics of St. Martin were rediscovered. There in the crypt, we placed our petitions before the skull of St. Martin. We also visited the Cathedral, dedicated to St. Gatien, first bishop of Tours, and which was built between the 12th and 15th centuries. Just a few steps from the Cathedral, is the Oratory of the Holy Face. Mostly unknown, even to the people of Tours, the Oratory is located in what used to be the home of Venerable Leo Dupont, who was known as “The Holy Man of Tours,” or the “Apostle of the Holy Face” since he was an indefatigable apostle of the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus and all-night Eucharistic Adoration. It was he who helped rekindle the devotion to St. Martin and helped find his relics after the French Revolution. After praying at his tomb, the Dominican priest in charge of the oratory gave us holy oil from the oil lamp, which has cured many people since the days of Leo Dupont. Mass was celebrated in the beautiful SSPX chapel in Tours. It was built in the 17th century and was a Minims convent chapel. After Mass, the prior kindly took our group photo and wished us a “bon pelerinage”. We had a lovely day in Tours and look forward to our transfer to Paris tomorrow!
Day 7: Wednesday, June 5, 2019. Tours – Paris
This morning, we left Tours and headed for Paris, where our first stop was Mass at St. Nicolas du Chardonnet, the beautiful SSPX church in Paris. We ate a quick lunch before heading to the Chapel of St. Vincent de Paul, which houses a wax figure containing the saints’ relics. Just around the corner was the Seminary of Foreign Missions, offering a display of articles owned by the missionary Fathers, instruments used for their martyrdom, and relics of these holy men who traveled to the Far East bringing the word of God. Afterwards, only a few steps away was the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, where in 1830 the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Labouré and gave her the miraculous medal. We prayed before the incorrupt bodies of St. Catherine Labouré and St. Louise de Marillac, a reliquary containing the heart of St. Vincent de Paul, and we saw the chair on which Our Lady sat on during one of her apparitions to St. Catherine. We had time to purchase medals, rosaries, and holy cards before boarding the motor coach and heading to our boat ride on the Seine River. Unfortunately, the pouring rain dampened the beautiful scenery, but it did not dampen our spirits, since we were so excited to be in this breathtaking city and enjoy the colossal buildings along the River. After battling with heavy rush-hour traffic, we are arrived at our hotel and enjoyed a delicious dinner!
Day 8. Thursday, June 6th, 2019 – Paris
Our day in Paris began with a visit to the Sacred Heart Basilica at Montmartre, or Mount of the Martyr, where Saint Denis, first Bishop of Paris, was beheaded. There has been an interrupted perpetual adoration in this church since 1885. We continued for a visit to the oldest surviving church in Paris, the church of Saint Peter of Montmartre. It was in this church that the Jesuits first took their vows in 1534. Then, we prayed before the relics of Saint Genevieve, patroness of Paris, at Saint-Etienne-du-Mont Church. Afterwards, pilgrims enjoyed a free afternoon in this beautiful city. Some went to the Louvre Museum, others to the Sainte Chapelle, and others simply walked around and enjoyed the sights and shops. After our rendezvous at a metro station to get back to our hotel, we experienced first-hand what riding the Parisian metro at rush hour feels like!
Day 9. Friday, June 7. Paris – Chartres
We said goodbye to Paris and journeyed on to Chartres, boasting a magnificent 11th-century Gothic Cathedral, with a glorious collection of over 150 stained glass windows. We visited the crypt, which dates back to the 9th century, we admired the many beautiful statues, marveled at the magnificent stained glass windows, and most importantly, we prayed before the Cathedral’s most precious relic: the veil of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The rain, the cool weather, and the 30mph winds did not afford a pleasant atmosphere for gazing at the Cathedral from the outside! Afterwards, we went grocery shopping for our 3-day walk from Chartres to Paris. We arrived at our hotel for a nice dinner, after which Father Haynos blessed rosaries and medals we had purchased during the trip. We will do our best to get a good night’s sleep so as to gear up for our 65-mile pilgrimage!
Day 10. Saturday, June 8. Pilgrimage Chartres to Paris
After a hearty breakfast at our hotel, we attended a High Mass behind Chartres Cathedral before beginning our three-day walk. We joined thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, ready to take on this pilgrimage. There are pilgrims from France, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, England, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and more! We took our intentions and those of our loved ones with us, offering up the next days’ sacrifices in reparation and supplication. Rain threatened all morning, but in end, we had the most beautiful weather. After walking, praying, and singing for 26 miles, we finally made it to our camp late at night, in time for some French soup and bread. We took care of blisters and sore muscles before heading off to bed in our tents! We pray for the grace and strength to walk another 25 miles tomorrow.
Day 11. Sunday, June 9. Pilgrimage Chartres to Paris
After a chilly night in our tents, we rose at 5:15am despite our aching bones and blistered feet, had some coffee and baguettes, and resumed our 3-day pilgrimage! The second day is always the hardest, being as long as the first day but enduring it with the soreness of 25 miles walked. Nevertheless, our spirits and hopes were high! We sang the rosary, some hymns and rounds, all which kept our minds off of our feet and on our intentions. At lunch break, many took a quick nap to regain some strength. In the afternoon, the steep hills and muddy paths were a huge challenge, but we finally made it to the campsite, where a Pontifical High Mass followed. Bishop Tissier de Mallerais celebrated the Mass in the presence of thousands of pilgrims. Afterwards, we limped to our tents and enjoyed soup, baguettes, and french fries together. One of our pilgrims mustered the energy to dance an Irish jig, while another pilgrim played her Irish flute!
Day 12. Monday, June 10. Pilgrimage Chartres to Paris
We had been spared from rain during our 65-mile walk, up until last night, when at 3:00am we woke up to torrential rain and raging gusts of wind. We quickly gathered our things so as to keep them away from getting wet, since water was leaking from different parts of the tent. It was hard to go back to sleep, and at 5:40am we rose to begin the third and last day of the pilgrimage. Luckily, the rain had stopped by the time we had to get up, but the campsite was a muddy mess! This time, our USA chapter was at the end of the pilgrimage line, walking together with the other foreign (non-French) chapters: Ireland, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, and more! The morning was overcast and it drizzled for a bit; but the afternoon offered ideal walking weather and encouraged us to finish the last leg of the walk. We marched into Paris singing “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!” along with thousands of pilgrims. It was an amazing public profession of our Catholic Faith and our hearts were bursting. We finally arrived at Place Vauban, behind the Church of the Invalids, in Paris, where we attended a beautiful outdoor Mass.
Day 13. Tuesday, June 11. Return to the USA
So many wonderful graces from this Youth Pilgrimage! We are so grateful and pray that all the blessings received will be fruitful and lasting. Thank you for all your prayers; no doubt they helped us take advantage of all the graces available, for us and for our intentions. We look forward to next year’s Youth Pilgrimage, this time to the Holy Land!
Deo gratias! Ad Jesum per Mariam!