I just finished reading Timothy Egan’s book, A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome In Search of a Faith. Normally I would avoid this sort of book, “in search of faith,” but I’m familiar with Egan’s open-minded approach to things and appreciate his articles in the NYT. He’s also a fellow Pacific Northwest guy, having roots in Washington State as I do.
I’m happy to recommend this book, wherever you land on the path of faith or atheism. If you like to read reasonable people who wrestle with the Big Questions, if you appreciate overviews and “underviews” of History and Religion’s dark side and brighter side, if you love to Travel and feel drawn to odd adventures with a touch of humor, this book satisfies.
Egan was brought up Catholic and educated by Jesuits AND trains a skeptical eye on nearly every aspect of the Church. As he puts it:
“I’m looking for … a stiff shot of no-bullshit spirituality.”
He chooses to walk (and ride) the Via Francigena, an old pilgrim path from England to Italy, through France, Switzerland and down to Rome where he hopes to meet the Pope.
“This adventure is an attempt to find God in Europe before God is gone.”
As a secular person, I can’t agree with every element of the faith he finds along the way, but I think believers of any faith and non-believers as well will enjoy his quest and questions.
As this NYT review of the book states it:
“If this book doesn’t quite settle the question of belief for you, it will at least fortify your faith in scrupulous reporting and captivating storytelling.”
The review ends with a good summary and invitation:
“Reading it, you feel yourself in the presence of goodness — the kind you might simply have to decide to believe in.”
Ultimately, I think that’s the “faith” the pilgrim finds.
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