2018 Youth Pilgrimage Reports

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All Photos credit Joseph Lanthier

Day 1: Friday, May 11, 2018. Transatlantic flight to Dublin

Full of excitement and anticipation, we took our transatlantic flight to meet in Dublin, Ireland! As the plane approached, we could see why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle.


Day 2: Saturday, May 12, 2018. Dublin

When we arrived in Dublin, the Irish luck was already shining down upon us as we were greeted by beautiful sunny weather! At the airport, we met Fr. David Gillilan, our motor-coach driver, and the group’s tour escort.

After locating our luggage and taking roll call, we boarded the motor-coach and headed off to Phoenix Park, where we got our first sight of Ireland’s green fields and beautiful mountain views in the distance. We took a group photo from a site where the pope had offered Mass before a crowd of a million people back in 1978. We are 40 in the group and it was nice to get some fresh air and take a look at a herd of deer in the park.

Afterwards, we were off to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, another church taken by the Protestants during the Reformation. Down the street, we toured a museum called Dublinia, which covered the Viking invasion of Ireland by the men of the North, thus giving them the name of “Normans”. One can see that from the earliest centuries, Ireland’s history will be marked with much suffering and tribulation.

At about 4:00pm we made our way to Dun Laoghaire (a suburb of Dublin), where we had Mass at St. John’s Church, a lovely church from the 1800s owned by the priests of the SSPX. On the drive, we were amazed to see the number of signs and posters trying to win the vote of the Irish for the upcoming May 25th Referendum, where Ireland’s anti-abortion law is up for debate. We took the opportunity at Holy Mass to remind ourselves of the true spirit of this pilgrimage, which will be offered up mainly for this intention, that somehow, by the grace of Almighty God and through the intercession of the glorious Irish saints and martyrs, Ireland may not deal itself this mortal blow and persevere in its country’s current law which forbids abortion.

After Mass, we said a quick “hello” to the local priests, including Fr. Francis Gallagher, whom several of the pilgrims remembered from his many years in St. Mary’s, KS.

At 7:00pm we arrived, exhausted and hungry, at our hotel in Dublin. We had a wonderful three-course meal and thus closed the first day of our pilgrimage with cheer and good laughter.

May God bless these young cheerful hearts as we pray for a fruitful and safe pilgrimage.

In Jesus and Mary,
Fr. Patrick Mackin


Day 3: Sunday, May 13, 2018. Excursion to Trim, Tara, Slane, Mellifont Abbey and Drogheda

We began the second day of our trip by first visiting Trim Castle, which is set in a wide picturesque valley. It was here at the city’s castle that several scenes from the movie “Braveheart” were filmed, depicting the Scottish storming a castle of the city of York.

During the visit, our Irish tour guide, Renée, explained to us how the enemy would undermine the castle by selecting the corners of the edifice, which proved to be the weakest spot. There they would stuff pig carcasses in small holes and light them on fire, thus causing the stone and mortar to be compromised and allowing the enemy to penetrate into the basement of the castle. As the tour guide was talking, Fr. Gillilan and I couldn’t help but think in terms of the spiritual analogy which this example provides. So often does the devil try to undermine the castle of our soul, by finding the weakest position and overwhelming it with a particular temptation until finally his victim gives in and falls.

As we were leaving for the next stop, our guide Renée gave us some interesting cultural information about Dublin.  Among the facts we learned, is that the Guinness beer factory, founded around 1750, produces some 4 million pints of beer a day. Someone in the group later on commented how they hoped that even half as many rosaries were offered in a week in all of Ireland! Were it to be true, perhaps Ireland (which is about 87% Catholic today), would not be voting on the 25th of this month for the potential repeal of the 8th amendment of their constitution, forbidding the crime of abortion. Oh how Ireland has lost the Faith!

We soon arrived at the Hill of Slane where the glorious St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, in an act of defiance against the pagan rulers of his time, lit the first paschal fire on the Easter of 433 AD. We offered a humble prayer on this sacred spot, asking for the fortitude and courage to persevere in the Faith for the years ahead.

We also visited the Mellifont Abbey, where the Cistertians offered so many prayers and sacrifices for the souls of Ireland. What a good reminder for us Americans of the true value of the contemplative life, which firstly stresses the passive virtues founded on a profound spiritual life in union with God before the active virtues, which are too often out of order in the apostolates of the Church today!

Finally, on our last stop of the day, we arrived at St. Peter’s Church in Drogheda, which houses the glorious head of St. Oliver Plunkett, the Archbishop of Ireland, who was drawn, hanged, and quartered in 1681 in London. We prayed and sang joyfully before this sacred relic, recalling to mind the fact that the seeds of the Church grew upon the blood of the martyrs. How true this is of Ireland, which is commonly referred to as the Isle of the Saints.

Tired and hungry once again, we returned to our hotel in Dublin where we greeted two more American pilgrims joining the group, bringing the total to 31 pilgrims and 6 total chaperones.

We ended our day with another fabulous three-course meal and with many stories of encounters during the day. As Holy Writ testifies, what a joy it is to walk with God. Everywhere we go, we stand out as Catholics and this is truly an honor for all of us!

Please keep these young men and ladies in your prayers as the seeds of Faith take deeper root in their souls.

In Christ the King,
Fr. Patrick Mackin


Day 4. Monday, May 14: Dublin – Glendalough – Kilkenny

This is the fourth day of our trip and it looks like the weather is once again going to be beautiful. After Holy Mass and breakfast, we boarded the bus and headed off for our first stop of the day in Glendalough in County Wicklow. It was here that St. Kevin himself began a monastery in the 6th century. In the centuries to follow, this sacred land would be invaded by the Vikings, Normans, and Brits. Yet, while those plunderers came and went, these faithful monks remained through the ages. Perhaps it was best said in the short film we watched just before the tour, where Cardinal Newman, on speaking of the contribution of the Irish medieval monastery, said they were “the storehouses of the past and the birthplace of the future.”

Before re-boarding the bus, we enjoyed a quick stretch of the legs to see the original cave of St. Kevin and the two beautiful lakes from which Glenalough derives its name as “the town of two lakes”.

After a short drive, we arrived in the town of Kilkenny. After some time for lunch, we visited the magnificent Kilkenny Castle. Then we stopped in the Cathedral of St. Canice, which, although it belongs to the Church of Ireland, it contains the chair of St. Kieran, an ancient stone chair of the bishop dating back to the 400s.

We climbed the Cathedral’s famous bell tower, 121 stairs, and soaked in the fabulous view of the valleys around the town of Kilkenny. In route back to the bus, we offered a rosary in the Black Abbey, a Dominican priory dedicated to the Holy and Undivided Trinity, for all our dear families and friends back home.

Once again, we arrived at our hotel exhausted from the day of travel and were received with great Irish hospitality.

After dinner, the lads and ladies enjoyed some Irish music at a local restaurant, thus bringing to an end the fourth day of our beautiful pilgrimage.

Fr. Patrick Mackin

Day 5: Tuesday, May 15. Kilkenny – Jerpoint Abbey – Holy Cross Abbey – Cashel – Limerick

Today marks the fifth day of our pilgrimage. It’s beautiful to see the true spirit of Catholic comradery among the youth as the days go on. So many are spread all across our country and have never met before, from California to New York and all throughout the Midwest states, including Kansas and Minnesota. What a wonderful testimony for these young hearts to see others equally engaged in this fight for the true Faith and in the efforts to live a truly virtuous life. Holy Mass is offered every morning as we call down upon the altar the Lord of History for their intentions and for all of the precious youth of the SSPX.

For breakfast, we had a hearty Irish buffet at the hotel, which includes eggs, ham, mushrooms, and beans! A wonderful welcome to the day for our American group.

We departed around 9 am for Jerpoint Abbey, which is a Cistercian Monastery founded in the 12th century. As we toured the ruins of this sacred place, one cannot help but be humbled by the thought of the countless prayers, Masses, and sacrifices offered here for centuries by these holy monks, faithful to the rule of St. Benedict. Often these monks would enter at the tender age of 14 years old and live out their lives in the combination of prayer and work. Even after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537, when King Henry VIII had over 400 monasteries in Ireland destroyed, these houses of prayer would rise again in a sign that the Church and Faith would not be conquered.

Afterwards, we drove for about an hour to see Holy Cross Abbey, which contains the precious relic of the True Cross, brought here from the crusades by Queen Isabella of Angouleme. As we entered, we saw a small group of Irish children preparing for their first Holy Communion. We chanted the Credo in Latin in this magnificent Abbey, which spans ten centuries of history. Seeing the children’s reaction to the beauty of the Gregorian chant, it resounded a joyful note in our hearts as the Faith in these lands seems all but extinct. May God stir in the hearts of these little ones a pure love for the Faith of our Fathers.

After visiting the gift shop, we were off once again this time to the Rock of Cashel in Tipperary. It was here that the great St. Patrick preached and baptized King Angus, the King of Munster. The story is often related of how during the ceremony, St. Patrick accidently pierced the foot of the king which began to bleed. Afterwards St. Patrick asked him why he didn’t say anything during the ceremony, to which the king humbly replied that he thought it was a part of the ceremony.

After soaking in the breathtaking views on top of this famous rock, we hurried to some of the local shops where some of the young men purchased Irish Tweed flat caps and the ladies the traditional heavy wool Aran sweaters so commonly associated with the Irish.

We arrived at our hotel in Limerick, which is a short distance from the bridge where there is marked a monument recalling the treaty of Limerick and the bloody battle between the Catholics of the Jacobites and William of Orange. So much blood was shed here for the true Faith of Ireland. Although the treaty was signed, it was broken only five years later by the Protestants, thus beginning the cruel years of the penal laws of Ireland where Catholicism was totally outlawed and priests were persecuted.

After dinner, many made their way out into the city to enjoy a walk and some laughter and of course a pint of Guinness!

Fr. Patrick Mackin

Day 6. Wednesday, May 16: Limerick – Bunratty – Cliffs of Moher – Croagh Patrick – Knock

Today marks the sixth day of our pilgrimage and all accounts show that once again we will be blessed with a lovely Irish day.

We began our trip by travelling west of the River Shannon with a visit to Bunratty Castle and a folk farm set up for the purpose of showing folks the old style cottages that the Irish lived in. The Bunratty family were descendants of the Kings of Munster. The castle is still perfectly preserved, making it a very popular tourist attraction. Back in more religious days, it was customary for anyone entering a cottage to greet all with the words, “God save all in this house”. What a beautiful custom that we all should adopt.

After this amazing stop, we were off again, this time to one of the most beautiful natural sites on the trip… the Cliffs of Moher.

On the way, we passed through the famous Galway Bay, where we just had to listen to Bing Crosby’s famous version of the iconic song “Galway Bay,” where he bids you to sit and see the sun set, and pray that “God will let me make my heaven in the dear land across the Irish Sea.” We also learned about the famous Claddagh ring which originated from Galway. This ring, which many of the young girls in our group were wearing, symbolizes whether the heart of a young girl has been taken by an earthly love or not, based on the direction of the heart. The point of the heart facing inward indicates the woman is married, and facing away it means that the woman is not married. The hand represents friendship, the heart represents love, and the crown represents loyalty. However, it would be good to quote Daniel O’Connell, the famous Irish Liberator, who in his last request stated, “May my heart be sent to Rome, my body to Ireland, and my soul to God.”

Also along the way, the tour guide reminded us of the absolute devastation in these lands during what is known as the “Black 47”, referring to the potato famine of 1847, where an estimated one million Irish died. We saw a small statue of a boy named Michael Rice who, according to the story, was a small orphan boy, about eight years old, who had lost his father and mother during the famine. He was left in the town square with a note pinned to his shirt begging someone to take him or he would starve. How sad to think that a countryside so beautiful and yet, which saw so much devastation. Ireland, which at the time had about 8 million people, has never fully recovered to this day, as its population is now only about 4 million souls. It was during these years that so many escaped to America with the hope of a future life for their family. In fact, some 75 million Americans can claim some heritage from Ireland. The tour guide jokingly added that if all of us return to Ireland their small country will surely sink to the bottom of the sea!

The Cliffs of Moher were absolutely delightful. We ate lunch overlooking the majestic view of the ocean crashing upon these giant cliffs which rise hundreds of feet into the air. After lunch, we were off to see the famous mountain of Croagh Patrick, where St. Patrick himself fasted for 40 days during Lent, calling down many graces and blessings upon the pagan lands of his time. We read out loud his beautiful prayer called “the Breastplate of St. Patrick” and were in silence as we took in these beautiful words of a man whose heart was on fire for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

Thus ended this sixth day of our travels: exhausted, but full of gratitude for all of God’s beauty in these lands.

In Christ,

Fr. Patrick Mackin

Day 7. Thursday, May 17: Knock – Clonmacnoise – Dublin

As we woke today, one could not help but think immediately upon the fact that this was our last day in Ireland and also the climax to our blessed pilgrimage. For all these days we have been preparing our hearts by prayer and singing for our special visit to Knock in County Mayo. For it was here, on August 21, 1879 that the Holy Mother of God appeared with St. Joseph and St. John standing adjacent to an altar upon which was a young lamb of about eight weeks old. On the way to the shrine, we listened to the firsthand accounts of a few of the 15 visionaries. These men, women, and even children knelt in the pouring rain for about an hour and half and gazed upon these heavenly figures. Not one word was spoken by Our Lady!

When we arrived, the shrine was closed due to construction, but after some pleading, a good Irishman opened the door for us to enter the church where the apparition occurred. Although the grounds and basilica have been corrupted with the designs of the modernists, the shrine at Knock still has a magnificence to it, as it claims a privilege far above all of the sacred places of Ireland.

The Youth Pilgrimage group sang loudly the beautiful hymn to Our Lady of Knock. A few in the group even met a woman who is the great granddaughter of John Byrne, one of the visionaries of the apparition.

We left Knock happy that we had honored Our Lady and left her our petitions, but at the same time a bit sad to see how modern the shrine had become over the years.

Our next stop was for Mass at our lovely SSPX chapel of Corpus Christi in Athlone, where Fr. Leo Boyle is prior. After Mass, the faithful showed true hospitality to us Americans by serving lunch consisting of a hearty Irish stew and Irish soda bread.

Onto the final stop of our stay in Ireland, we traveled to Clonmacnoise to see the ruins of the monastery founded in 545-548 by St. Ciaran. The cathedral (Temple MacDermot) is one of the oldest churches in Ireland, dating back to 909 AD and is the largest pre-Romanesque church in Ireland.

Now comes the hardest time for any trip, and that is to say goodbye to those whom you have grown close to over the days. For the moment we will only have to say so long to our local tour guides and bus driver, both fine men with beautiful families. However, we know that even our days on this trip are numbered. It is a sad thing in this life to depart from those you love, but as we learn in time and often too late, these days are but a prelude to the next life. Tonight we retired at a reasonable hour, for the departure is very early tomorrow morning, off to Chartres, France.

God bless the Irish ☘

Fr. Mackin

Day 8. Friday, May 18: Dublin – Paris – Chartres

Today is Friday, May 18 and we have finally arrived in Paris. At this point, there is only one thing on our minds, the walk! It’s interesting how the anticipation of this Chartres-to-Paris pilgrimage has been weighing on the mind of the pilgrims. With each passing hotel with their showers and hot meals, we knew that we came to our last one for two nights and three days. For the next 72 hours, all we could think of was who would be standing or rather walking into Paris on Pentecost Monday. I’m reminded of the movie that helped put the city of Philadelphia on the map in the 1980s, Rocky! In that movie, all that mattered was “Going the Distance!” Well, now the same applies. However, as St. Paul says, we do not fight for an earthly crown that moth does corrupt, but rather a heavenly one.

We spent our day of training by visiting one of the most famous churches in the world, Chartres Cathedral. It was a fabulous tour and for three dozen youths who got just a few hours of sleep the night before due to an early flight, I must say it was impressive and edifying to see them so alert as they absorbed the stories of the magnificent stained-glass windows of the Mother of God.

The tour guide was from Russia and put a big smile on our faces as she described to us the story of Col. Welborn Griffith of the Texas tank brigade, who single-handedly saved the cathedral from destruction during WWII. On August 16, 1944 he received orders to shell the Cathedral for fear of there being German snipers in the bell towers. However, for some reason he refused orders and personally searched the immense church by himself for 20 long minutes until finally, he made his way to the tower and raised the American flag for the tanks in the distance to see. What a great moment it was, and to think that this beautiful church which contains the priceless veil worn by the Virgin Mary makes it a story that should surge true patriotism in the hearts of American Catholics. But why did the good colonel do it? After all, to refuse direct orders could result in court-martial. Perhaps he was touched by the cathedral’s beauty, as all are who gaze upon its Gothic bell towers and most unique stained glass. Perhaps he had seen so much destruction in this once beautiful country and wanted to save it for posterity’s sake. However, we pilgrims hoped that he knew about the precious relic it contained of the Mother of God and for that reason took a chance with his life. Whatever the reason, the effect was made in our hearts as we were now ready to march with our country’s flag from Chartres to Paris with extra pride. We offered a prayer for the Colonel who was killed later that day in battle.

After seeing the cathedral and having some lunch, we visited a nearby grocery store to purchase food for the next three days of walking. All that would be provided to the pilgrims was some bread and coffee in the morning, and some bread and soup in the evening. We spent an hour carefully packing our baskets with meats and protein to fuel the body as well as some chocolate and wine to gladden the heart! It was a sight to behold as we immersed from the grocery store, more ready than ever for the morn. All that we needed was a good night’s sleep.

Fr. Patrick Mackin

Day 9. Saturday, May 19: Day 1 of the Pilgrimage from Chartres to Paris

Today is Saturday, May 19 and marks the first day of the Chartres Pilgrimage. This 3-day pilgrimage has a rich tradition dating back centuries, where students at the end of the academic year would make their way from Paris to Chartres to thank the Blessed Mother at her Cathedral for all the graces of the year. Since the days of the Episcopal Consecrations in 1988, the SSPX has organized a walk in the opposite direction. This year’s theme is “For the honor of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” This first day will be dedicated to Our Lord’s mission as Priest.

After attending an outdoor High Mass, we began walking around 10:00 am with strong feet and fresh muscles. As the day advanced and the miles accumulated, the smiles remained and were accompanied by so many good songs ranging from sacred polyphony and chant to American folk music and even cadences. One thing we knew is that to sing is to lighten the load of all who walk… even the most shy.

When we pulled into camp around 8:30 pm, After 27 miles, we were exhausted. For some, they knew the days ahead would mean the greatest physical challenge in their life so far as their feet were covered in blisters. For the others who were in better shape, they realized that the challenge would be more mental with the enduring of countless hours of walking with periods of silence and continued mental strain. However, for all of us, we knew this was a spiritual challenge more than an anything else. With several rosaries each day, constant meditations, outdoor Masses… the fight at hand was for the sanctification of our souls.

On this first day, the goal was not to lose our morale. We recalled during the walk the sufferings of the knights of Christendom during the first Crusades, when they took Antioch and while so close to Jerusalem, the men were too exhausted to fight from their wounds and fatigue. When they heard that another Muslim army was advancing on them, many of the men nearly despaired. However, that night God revealed to them that the Holy Lance which pierced the Heart of Christ was buried under the altar of a church. When they men found it, they revived their lost morale and began to surge with courage and emotion for Christ. The rest is history, as the Crusaders would advance on to victory. The outcome for us will be determined in a few days. However, what is obvious is that we will not make it to the end as individuals, but in the company of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Fr. Patrick Mackin

Day 10. Sunday, May 20: Day 2 of the Pilgrimage from Chartres to Paris

Today is May 20th, Pentecost Sunday. We endured the chilly night temperature in our sleeping bags. This was one of the hardest aspects of the pilgrimage, waking up in the freezing cold, at 5:30 am to speakers blaring music. Suddenly, the pain from your blisters on your feet are renewed as you put your shoes on and size up what kind of day it’s going to be. Nevertheless, even with all of this, our pilgrims were amazed to see the smiles and laughs filling the camp as people rushed along dropping off their luggage at the designated truck sites. We grabbed some bread and coffee and began the day’s 25 miles at 6:15 am. Today’s theme is Christ the Prophet. The organization that goes into this pilgrimage is a feat in itself. With over 4,000 people each with their luggage and food being transported to the next camping site; with numerous amounts of French scouts blocking intersections and controlling the route, and with an impressive number of first responders to give medical treatment, hand out water, etc. Also, on hand were the religious, mainly the good Sisters of the SSPX who so humbly tended to the injured feet of pilgrims and gave them much needed relief and comfort. We felt like we were truly the guests of honor in a foreign country as the pilgrimage’s Interpreters befriended our group and even rallied us on with chants of USA…USA…USA…

We arrived at the campsite by 5:30 pm and Holy Mass began at 6:00 pm. Exhausted, thirsty and in need of rest, the pilgrims knelt in an open field, as Bishop Fellay offered a sung Mass for the great feast of Pentecost.

The evening passed so quickly as we took account of our blessings of these past two days. However, foremost, on our minds was the fact that tomorrow we shall be in Paris and tomorrow evening we will once again be in the comfort of a nice hotel. This is our Good Friday… may we persevere to see the finish line.

Fr. Mackin

Day 11. Monday, May 21: Day 3 of the Pilgrimage from Chartres to Paris

Finally, we have come to our last day of this pilgrimage. Today is Pentecost Monday, May 21. We began our walk at 6:40 am and we knew that this would be the easiest of the days, with only 16 miles separating us from Paris. The day seemed to pass so quickly as our level of joy and excitement was at an all-time high. Today’s theme is Christ the King.

It seemed as though our memories of the whole trip were resurfacing. The beauty and history of Ireland, the fun evenings filled with song and laughter, and all the friendships formed by true Christian charity, seemed to be driving the group now like an invisible hand. My words from the megaphone were essential in the first couple of days to keep everyone in pace and good spirits; however, today, periods of silence could be heard among our troops. The purpose of this pilgrimage had been accomplished, by the grace of God; these youths of the USA and one Australian were walking more out of the motive of love of God now than for anything else. As one pilgrim said, “Father, it has never been easier to practice virtue than on this pilgrimage.” Perhaps this will be the greatest lesson learned or reminded of us for the years ahead, to surround ourselves with wholesome friends and to always walk with God in the innocence of truth and the purity of life.

When we arrived in Paris, it was a most triumphant procession. Joined by Bishop Fellay and at least 100 priests, we made our way by the Eiffel Tower to Place Vauban, located in front of the magnificent Cathedral of the Invalides, built by King Louis XIV for the soldiers of France as they returned from battle.

When we finally made it to our hotel around 7:00 pm, we could all take a deep breath of relief. We did it! We walked the Chartres Pilgrimage. For dinner, we had a fabulous plate of food. The starter was a salad of smoked salmon and shrimp. For the main course, we were served roasted duck with orange citrus chutney and roasted potatoes. Dessert was a fruit custard pie. During the meal, the chaplains ordered six fine bottles of champagne for a final toast to commemorate all that we had been through.

The flags that were carried all throughout the trip were cut off their poles and given to those most deserving. The American flag went to Bernadette Dvorak, for her great spirit of happiness, fullness of life, and perseverance, the same stuff that made our country so great. The Papal Colors were given to Gregory Brown, a young man from Minnesota who displayed a beautiful love of the Faith during these days and who intends to enter the seminary this fall. Finally, the Irish Flag was given to Jessica McAtarian, who among all the pilgrims displayed an eagerness to absorb all of the history and culture during the Ireland tour. May God bless all of these fine young men and women as they return to their normal life. May the memory of this pilgrimage push them on to new heights of devotion to the threefold love of our hearts: God, Family, and Country!!!

In Christ the King,

Fr. Patrick Mackin