Saturday, 30 April 2016

Welborn Barton Griffith and Chartres

Col. Welborn Griffith
This is a name that should be known by every lover of Christian art, for this American saved Chartres Cathedral. Sadly, the abbey of Monte Cassino (since repaired) was shelled to smithereens. The cost of the war against Hitler and his ideologies was very high, not only in terms of human lives, but in terms of art and architecture. I am not thinking so much of what the Axis Powers did but of what the Allies did (and so don't care to discuss). Occasionally there are stories, on both sides, of this officer or that saving sacred spaces. Valentine Mueller of the Wehrmacht saved Assisi.

My preparations for the Chartres Pilgrimage continue apace. There is still a big blister on my left heel thanks to this week's canal walk. Nevertheless, I will be hiking around Edinburgh's Holyrood Park and up and down Arthur's Seat with B.A. this afternoon.

This morning I made a bowl of muesli according the recipe I think will be useful on the Pilgrimage. Generally I have a bowl of hot oatmeal porridge in the morning, but there will be no fires, no private cooking, and no refridgeration on this journey. Pilgrims are fed delicious French bread with jam, which is what the French generally eat for breakfast, but alas I am off wheat bread until late June. I have also found tiny boxes of almond milk that don't need refrigeration until they are opened; unfortunately they are sweetened with agave. Still a little bit of agave over 3 or 4 days shouldn't undo my efforts.

Apparently some pilgrims eat sugar in massive quantities along the route, which I thought very funny. So far I've been regaled of stories of who fainted when reaching the first camp, and who came down with scarlet fever, etc., and I wonder how much sugar contributes to the sufferings of the pilgrims. In the late Nineties, when I was on a permanent low-fat diet, I came up with opprobrious names for anything full of fat. Ice-cream, for example, was "Frozen Death." Now I think of refined sugar as "Death Powder." I am convinced that I can march down Northern France without consuming the stuff. As a treat in Chartres on the morning after the Pilgrimage is completed, I shall have a croissant.

Another preparation for the journey will be getting my spoken French in order. Wah. I have a mental block against French, possibly because at least one of my younger brothers and one of my younger sisters speaks it much better than me. In fact, Nulli Secundus and Tertia have a high degree of fluency. Also, it is impossible for someone like me to speak French to a francophone in French Canada without the francophone switching to English. No matter what their true intentions, it always feels like a put-down. Yes, I have cultural baggage.  However, contemporary French Catholics in France are innocent of late-twentieth century Canadian politics, and some are going to walk with the Scots, so I shall do some serious revision. (When I graduated from high school, I was capable of expressing my opinions on Anhouil's Antigone.) I am cheered by the memory that my hearing is so much better now, thanks to four years of listening intently to Polish, and by the fact that continental Europeans speak so much more clearly than North Americans. I'll never forget the moment I first heard Florentines speaking Italian. So beautiful, so clear. I think tears of joy actually sprang to my eyes.

Naturally I must work on some spiritual preparation, too. However, I grew up in a  moderately spirit-of-Vatican II community, so I am not really sure how to go about that. Thus, if anyone has "how to prepare yourself spiritually for a 100 km traditional pilgrimage across northern France" advice, I would be happy to read it. I suppose I should go to confession beforehand, and be particularly careful about saying the rosary in the month of May. Maybe going to Daily Mass every day from now until then would be a good move, too, and much more feasible now that the dawn light comes so much earlier.

Advice, please!


  1. The best advice I was given is "A pilgrimage is not a retreat" There will be lots of time to just THINK and having an intention, (or the intentions of others) helped me a lot along the way.
    Take lots of snacks, and lots of water! Will be praying for you all.

    1. Oh, and get someone to teach you the 'Hail Mary' in French, if they know it, for singing the Rosary along the way!

    2. Okay, that much French I do know. In Canada by law all us anglo kids have to study French, and my class got the three basic prayers and the French version of the national anthem!

    3. Thanks for the advice! At first I thought, hey, what a great opportunity to make up and tell stories, just like in the Canterbury Tales, but I think in those days pilgrimages were everyone's idea of a countryside holiday.

  2. do you know Counter Cultural Father blog? (, i think, or something similar) he's anonymous but appears to be a stalwart of the pilgrimage, and posts a lot every year in the run up to it, with plenty of practical advice as well as edification and lots of plainchant, traditional french hymns etc.

    ps. I have not forgotten that I owe you an email, but am trying to be *intentional* (as the evangelical women bloggers love to say) about my computer tapping, and there's one paragraph i'm having trouble with, but i will send it soon.