One of the features of the Chartres pilgrimage is the physical discomfort. The days are long, and the miles longer; the heat and the rain both increase the discomfort in their different ways. People get tired and raw. Camping in a huge site doesn't guarantee a good night's sleep, and as for the portaloos...
It is easy to fantasise how much better the pilgrimage would be if one's feet were not tired and blistered, if the sun did not blaze so, nor the downpours descend, if people didn't barge in front of you in the queue for what the French pretend to be soup, and if only that chap in the next tent didn't snore so loudly, and one had private facilities.
But of course, it wouldn't be.
If one got to the end and it really did feel like a stroll in the park, one would feel cheated.
There is, of course, a long tradition of mortification as part of the spiritual life, and the most obvious reasons are solidarity with Our Lord's suffering, and penance for sins.
But I think there is something else, too. Physical discomfort has some very immediate effects. It is a great leveller, stripping away pride and pretension very effectively; it also keeps us very grounded in the here and now; and it does get you to realise your reliance on grace to take the next step, and the next. It makes thinking simpler, contrition more acute, and resolutions less pretentious and more focused (and indeed memorable).
And the most curious thing is, that it is partly the feeling of having endured that makes one think, even when tired and raw at the end of the pilgrimage, that one must definitely come back next year.
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