The Canterbury Tales


The Ottawa Citizen “Ask the Religion Experts” question this week is “Why do pilgrimages play such an important role in many religions?” Most of the “experts” feel they have to define and explain pilgrimages:

Rabbi Reuven Bulka explains that “Pilgrimages are usually undertaken to places of significance for the particular faith.”

Father John Fletcher’s definition is vague: “A pilgrimage is a special kind of trip that someone takes for special reasons.”

Radhika Sekar feels that “Life is becoming increasingly complex and sometimes even appears meaningless. The pilgrimage experience reconnects you to the Real.”

Kevin Smith describes his experience of a “pilgrimage-lite,” which took place in Molise, Italy.

Finally, according to Reverend Ray Innen Parchelo, “the pilgrimage in of itself has no merit if it isn’t taken as an opportunity to connect with God and focus on spirituality.”

Unfortunately, none of the experts mention the most famous pilgrimage of all: Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.  Of course, The Canterbury Tales are fiction; each pilgrim tells a story/tale in order to win a contest: “The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return.”

The tale told by each religious-religious expert is fiction as well, best described by Shakespeare in Macbeth: “It is a tale . . . Signifying nothing.” Parchelo is correct; religious pilgrimages have “no merit.”

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