St Edmund's Episcopal Church San Marino

Canterbury Tales

This article was originally published in the San Marino Tribune on July 9th, 2016.

‘The Canterbury Tales,’ written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th Century, tells the story of thirty pilgrims on their way to Canterbury Cathedral. The travelers are from many backgrounds and social classes: merchants, nuns, a physician, knight, lawyer, cook and yeoman. They are united in their quest to make votive offerings at Canterbury Cathedral, and to draw near to a holy place mediating the presence of God.

Summer is a time for travel, and all travel, even if not to a shrine or pilgrimage site, contains an element of quest. We seek adventure, renewal; a quickening that will reanimate us for the regular commitments of work-a-day life. Our ventures rouse our curiosity, and we return with deepened understanding and fresh perspective. The inconvenience of travel and the disruption of routine are necessary features of any journey, and bring a sense of relief at homecoming.

In ‘The Canterbury Tales,’ each of Chaucer’s pilgrims share stories on the path to the Cathedral, and on the journey home again. In like manner, we swap tales with friends of travels made, insight gained, and foibles surmounted.

Twenty-two parishioners from St. Edmund’s have just returned from an Edmund Pilgrimage to sacred sites in England. Anglican Cathedrals and Abbeys figured large on our itinerary, including Canterbury Cathedral, where the clergy of St. Edmund’s celebrated Holy Eucharist, and where Dean Willis hosted us for dinner in his home, and for a subsequent candle-light walk through the dark Cathedral to the throne of St. Augustine and the shrine-site of Thomas a Becket.

In this 78th anniversary year, we paid homage to Edmund our patron at St. Edmundsbury Cathedral, visiting the ruins of the great abbey of St. Edmund, once a larger pilgrim site than Canterbury. We lunched with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and engaged in conversation with English-folk about the then still pending BREXIT vote. We ventured more than a few pubs, took in some Shakespeare, and wandered medieval streets. The joys and rigor of shared travel strengthened our personal bonds, and we have a deepened understanding of our heritage and the duties of our Faith.

We pray, at St. Edmund’s, San Marino, for you as you weave your own summer tales, that occasions of gladness and moments of insight will rattle your complacencies, bring insight, and make you ready to re-engage the obligations and tasks ahead. For those soon hitting the road, here is a Collect For Travelers from the Book of Common Prayer to tuck into your pocket!

“O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger, and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”