Next week will be the first time I fail to write a Monday column since Keeping Kids Catholic started. The reason is that I will be away on pilgrimage, and I have not been sufficiently organised to write an extra column in advance: indeed, I have allowed work to pile up that needs to be done before I leave…

However, it does give me a good theme for this week: for the Pilgrimage I am going on is the annual walk from Notre Dame de Paris to Notre Dame de Chartres. It is a gruelling experience, as we walk more than 30 miles through the French Countryside on each of the first two days: and if the weather is either hot or wet (and in my experience it is always one of the other!) that is tough.

It is also a very moving experience, for many reasons. One is that it is predominantly a youth pilgrimage, and the sight of thousands of teenagers committed to their Faith is a very powerful one. Also, on Saturday and Pentecost Sunday, the Mass is said on an altar set up in the woods. This reminds us of the days after the Revolution when Catholicism was outlawed, and the Catholics used to flee Paris on Sundays to hear Mass hidden in the countryside.

It is also a very spiritually rich occasion. All the liturgies are in the Extraordinary Form; and of course Latin makes perfect sense when there are people of so many nationalities there: a truly Catholic Church. You can have your confession heard by one of the hundreds of priests, as you march along, just out of earshot of the nearest chapter of pilgrims. There are regular meditations in your chapter, as well as rosaries and litanies to be sung, and good sociable Catholic chat.

But what, you may reasonably ask, has all this to do with keeping your kids Catholic? You should really ask my kids that: for they have all been on the pilgrimage, Ant and Bernie several times, Charlie twice and Dominique once.

All of them see it as a highlight of their lives so far. Only Ant is able to come with me this year (the others have exams and things…) and the others are very jealous!

When asked why, there are so many things they reply. Part of it is the realisation that there are hundreds of other young people like them out in the world: young people who take their Faith seriously enough to give up three days, march till exhausted, sleep on the ground in rough communal tents, and kneel in the mud as the Blessed Sacrament passes by…

Part of it is the hardship itself. At the end of the three days’ the common consent is that it has been really tough, blisters and muscles are hurting, heads are aching and bodies tired: and the one thing you resolve is to come back next year if you possibly can!

But of course a large part is the work of Grace. If you give yourself, your time, your energy, your suffering, your intellect (as applied to the meditations), your body in worship at Mass… if you give all this to God for three days, he returns the gift with interest.

So it is not just Bernie, Charlie and Dominique who are sad they can’t be there this year; I am sad for them too; it is an opportunity that only comes around once a year. However, I will be seeking out other occasions of spiritual input for them, in the form of retreats or other pilgrimages they can go on.

So that’s this week’s challenge: what opportunities can you find, or create, for your kids to go on a pilgrimage or retreat that really challenges them – and introduces them to good Catholic friends?

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7 Responses to Keeping Kids Catholic: Off to Chartres!

  1. Pingback: Keeping Kids Catholic: Off to Chartres! « Press Release «

  2. @Aluwir says:

    It's really good to read an upbeat post like this – I hope and pray that your pilgrimage goes well.

    I think your children (child, this year) going to the pilgrimage *with* you is a fine example of 'children don't learn faith – they catch it.' No matter what we say, our kids notice what we actually do. And, I think, often are quite willing to do it with us. It helps to have kids like mine – or yours – I suspect.

  3. Megan says:

    Ben, Hope your pilgrimage went well! It sounded very exciting.
    I am looking for a pilgrimage to do with our children. Would you recommend any avenues to start? Companies to travel with? etc.
    thanks in advance and blessings on your journey!

    • Ben Trovato says:


      Thanks for your comment. I live in England, so am not really in a position to advise you if you live in the States – beyond saying that if you can get to the Chartres pilgrimage, it is a fantastic occasion. It's always over Pentecost weekend, so you know the dates well in advance. There is normally at least one American chapter. The main www site (English version) Next year's details are not yet posted, but I am sure they will be soon. Let me know if I can be of any further help.

    • Ben Trovato says:

      PS Meant to say: it went really well thanks. Ant and I had a great time, both materially and spiritually. Many blessings and much laughter! And then a few days in Paris afterwards, staying with French friends and doing the sights.

  4. Megan says:

    Wanted to subscribe to comments. 🙂

  5. Megan says:

    Thanks Ben!
    How young did you start with your children? I know you have said they have all gone at least once.
    What would be your recommendation? Mine are 4, 8 and 10. 🙂