As a high school senior, I was required to read The Canterbury Tales. I didn’t want to. I didn’t enjoy it then. And it wasn’t until my own son read it in high school that I understood much of its humor and lessons.
If you’ve never read the book, or if it’s been a while since you have, each “tale” is told by one of Chaucer’s feisty cast of 24 characters who meet at an inn just south of London. Though each is very different, the characters share a common goal – pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Thomas à Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in his own cathedral.
The storytellers include knights, nuns, paupers, and priests. If not for their pilgrimage, many of them would never have met, as the feudal system of the Middle Ages separated the working class from clergy and nobility.
I often hear about lifelong friendships forged on pilgrimage. Sometimes with folks from different countries, others with people who attended the same church for years but had never met. I recently heard a touching story about a mother and son who never deeply connected until their pilgrimage.
Though pilgrimage is designed to draw us closer to Christ, I love hearing stories about how it brings all kinds of people together. After all, we are meant to be Christ to one another.
The 24th of the Canterbury tales was never finished. Perhaps Chaucer was leaving room for us to write our own pilgrimage stories and encounter our own feisty cast of characters along the way.