Saturday 4 April 2009 at 07:00
Nearly 1000 Parisian students were gathered in the nave of the Cathedral in the early morning for this celebration of the departure of the pilgrimage of the students in Chartres. A similar consignment took place in the other dioceses of Ile-de-France (Meaux, Versailles, Évry, Nanterre, Saint-Denis, Créteil, Pontoise) before all joined on the road to Chartres.
Whoever invites us thus can do so only because he knows that before us there are broader horizons, a life to discover, beings to love.
To believe in this promise, one must open his heart, come out of oneself, be able to think that nothing can limit me, neither my desires, nor my fears, nor my successes, nor my SIN.
But in the beginning, we must resolve to a form of violence: we cannot start without deciding to leave the place where we are leaving and what we were there. While knowing very well that "quit" does not mean "lose" or "erase": the memory of my heart is more powerful than a computer hard drive!
"Advance, hope and take courage" : following Saint Paul and those generations of believers who in two millennia wanted to walk in the aftermath of Christ, let us take the way of Chartres together with all the students of île-de-France.
Father Benoist of Sinety
Delegate to the student Mission for the île-de-France
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The pilgrimage of the students to Chartres
Since 1935, the student pilgrimage of Chartres is one of the most essential events of the academic year for many students in the Paris region.
It takes place every year in the spring, and brings together from 2500 to 3500 walkers (recent years) around a well-developed formula and a renewed theme. These weekend pilgrims come from the Catholic chaplainies of the universities, major schools, movements, parishes of the Ile de France.
Traditionally, and after a Saturday at the auroras in the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, these Pilgrim students walk towards Chartres within a "route" (Group of 150 to 500 young people) on a particular itinerary. Within a "road", each student participates in a "chapister", a more limited reflection and sharing group.
All the roads converge to the Cathedral of Chartres on Sunday afternoon, where a mass of closing and dispatch is celebrated, before the return to Paris.
The story begins on June 14, 1912, when Charles Péguy undertook the pilgrimage of Chartres following a vow made the previous summer at the bedside of his sick son. After the poet's death in 1914, some of his friends borrowed his itinerary to remember.
In 1935, a handful of students from the Sorbonne decided to walk to Chartres as a result of Péguy. The following year, the student pilgrimage was born: more structured, it lasts three days and welcomes a hundred pilgrims. It continues to grow and persists despite the war; in 1945, it gathers 4 000 marchers!
From the liberation in the middle of the years 1960, the student pilgrimage has a solid and regular success: the Chartres Cathedral becoming too small to accommodate all the pilgrims, it comes to split the mass of closing, then the whole pilgrimage. One in four Parisian students participates. At the same time, the pilgrimage retains its original brand: organized primarily by the students, it is the place of a lively liturgical reflection that foreshadowed the evolution of the Council.
With the middle of the years 1960 a period of difficulties opens: between the reception of Vatican Council II and the events of 1968, the atmosphere is often agitated, sometimes tumultuous. In the "mass" universities like Nanterre, Christians have a growing evil to make a place and to find themselves. The number of pilgrims begins a long phase of decline; the two pilgrimages are gathered together.
With the years 1990, the formula is renewed and the whole "student generation" of the Parisian region is invited to participate. In 1996, the presence of the cross of world youth days marks the participants and in 1997, the pilgrimage inaugurates the last straight line to WYD held in Paris. In 2000, it was the first of three stages proposed to the young people of Ile de France for their Jubilee approach. Now bringing together a regular number of pilgrims between 2500 and 3500, it remains the unifying rendezvous of the different Christian student communities.