Thursday, December 25, 2014

Have you fallen short?

Will you greet New Year's Eve with regret this year? Despite your best efforts, did you fail to reach some of the goals you set for 2014? Maybe you just ran out of time? If so, consider the Way of St. James, an important pilgrimage during the Middle Ages which many still take today. Pilgrims seeking forgiveness walk nine hundred miles from Paris to the magnificent Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where legend says the remains of St. James are buried. They give their best effort, hiking across mountains, swamps and acrid plains, hoping to gain a blessing promised to all who enter the cathedral's richly ornate Door of Pardon. But some pilgrims can't quite make it. They are too weak to survive the journey, or too old. What becomes of them?

With only 75 miles to go, these weary pilgrims arrive at the quaint mountain town of Villafranca del Bierzo, where they find a modest, 12th century chapel called Little Compostela. It's the only church along the pilgrimage which has a Door of Pardon, open only to pilgrims who can't continue farther. As one 20th-century pilgrim described it, "That squat little chapel is the one I remember best. It's plain Door of Pardon tells me, 'You fell short of your ideals, but don't worry. You're on the true path, so I am blessing you right where you are.' What a boon to a life-long journey!"

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