Ellen’s Pick of the Week: A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith by Timothy Egan

The silence, the distance and space, is everything that the clutter of cities below are not.

Tim Egan, A Pilgrimage to Eternity

After a patron highly recommended it,  I picked up a copy of Timothy Egan’s A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith and listened to it. It was everything great about taking the pilgrimage, but without the blisters and bad weather. Egan grew up in a large Catholic family in Seattle and as an adult had fallen away from the Church and his faith. He documented his hike along the Via Francigena, the ancient path medieval pilgrims had walked from Canterbury to Rome, as well as his thoughts about his family, his past and his struggles with his faith. As he walked along the 1000-mile trail from England, through France, Switzerland and finally to Rome, Egan visited cathedrals, shrines, monasteries, and some great restaurants as he contemplated the church’s history and his own skepticism in an engaging and often humorous travelogue. Along the way, he was joined individually for a bit by other pilgrims as well as his son, his daughter and wife, each of whom added depth and new perspectives to his own musings. 

I thoroughly enjoyed taking this walk across Christianity’s history in Europe with Timothy—after all this time, we must be on a first-name basis, right?! He was a thoughtful companion, and I suspect that we would have had a lot to talk about as we visited the relics of saints and the storied sites of some of the minor as well as the major events in European and Christian history. Egan doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of the Church’s history, but he is optimistic about the continuing changes being made by Pope Francis, who he hopes to meet at the end of his long hike. Although I can’t say that I’d like to walk these 1000 miles myself, I feel like I was there thanks to Egan’s vivid writing and his ability to tell a great tale. Highly recommended.

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