A Pilgrimage to Eternity by Timothy Egan
Penguin Random House: 10/15/19
eBook review copy; 384 pages
A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith by Timothy Egan is a very highly recommended spiritual, historical, and physical travelogue.
Timothy Egan was raised Catholic but has experienced over time a
lapse of faith and disillusionment with the Church, especially after the
sexual abuse scandal. Egan has decided that, "It’s time to force the
issue, to decide what I believe or admit what I
don’t." He embarks on a pilgrimage, visiting historical sites along the
1,000-mile journey from Canterbury to
Rome following the Via Francigena. "One reason I want to follow the Via
Francigena is to experience layers of time on consecrated ground."
As he travels, Egan shares the historical and religious significance
of the sites he visits and the events that occurred there. He walks
where significant Christian figures and saints once traveled, meeting
other pilgrims along the way. He starts in Canterbury, visiting the chapel where Queen Bertha introduced Christianity
to pagan Britain, and makes his way along the major medieval trail leading the devout to
Rome. He travels through France, Switzerland and Italy, discussing the
monasteries, cathedrals, shrines, sites of miracles, and various relics
along the way, while sharing the history of many of the important figures in the church who once walked in the same areas. Egan's pilgrimage ends in Rome at St.
Peter's Square in the Vatican City.
The writing is excellent in this fascinating, interesting, and
personal account of Egan's travels as he shares his circumspect thoughts
on his journey and the history of the church. I was engrossed in
following Egan's pilgrimage from start to finish. This will likely be
much more interesting to those who are or were raised Catholic, but the
rest of us can also find much to appreciate in Egan's historical details
and following him along his journey. But this is much more than just a
travelogue, it is also a memoir. Raised Catholic, and having a Jesuit
education, Egan has many personal memories tied to the historical sites
he visits. He openly and honestly shares his doubts, struggles, and
sometimes failures when dealing with questions of faith. I really
appreciated his candid honesty and regret for not raising his children
in a faith.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.