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A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,534 ratings  ·  322 reviews
Moved by his mother's death and his Irish Catholic family's complicated history with the church, Timothy Egan decided to follow in the footsteps of centuries of seekers to force a reckoning with his own beliefs. He embarked on a thousand-mile pilgrimage through the theological cradle of Christianity, exploring one of the biggest stories of our time: the collapse of religio ...more
Hardcover, 367 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by Viking
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In an effort to reconcile his feelings about the Catholic Church, Egan sets out on a 1,200-mile journey, a journey he hopes to accomplish by following the Via Francigena on foot, from Canterbury to Rome. He does allow for some leniency in that goal, allowing himself the use of anything that will get him there, except planes. He wants to stay in touch with this land, to experience the journey and not just the destination. Along the way, at different points in his journey, he is joined by his son, ...more
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Egan’s wonderful account of his pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome along the Via Francigena is part travelogue, part history lesson, and part a religious summation of the state of Christianity in Europe. It is also part a personal journey in honor of his mother and his Irish Catholic background. [Of note, Egan is not a fan of the Catholic church—his own brother’s good friend committed suicide due to the advances of a pedophile priest.]

It is a bit of a puzzle why this non-religious man decided to
Julie Stielstra
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medieval-era
A devout, engaged, educated Irish Catholic woman has given up all her ambitions to stay home and raise a brood of seven. Active in the church her whole life, she lies on her deathbed from a brain tumor, and quietly says to her son: "I'm not feeling it, Timmy... I'm not sure anymore...I don't know what to believe or what's ahead..." It reminded me of my grandmother at the funeral of my grandfather (lifelong staunch Dutch Reformed, both of them) when they closed the lid of the casket. She sobbed a ...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
Thoughts soon.
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
(Note: I received an ARC of this work courtesy of NetGalley)

A Pilgrimage to Eternity has the core essentials for great travel writing - a journey through a region or well-worn trail unfamiliar to most of the intended reader audience, with every stop on the way bringing a wealth of information and insight on every waypoint’s particular history and present condition.

However, although his trip’s focus is supposed to be a deep look into Christianity past, present and possible future, what potential
Julie Christine
To know me is to know that I am fascinated by the history of Europe in the Middle Ages, I love long-distance walking, I have written a novel about the Catholic Church's crusade to rid France of the Cathars, and my bucket list is full of pilgrimages, even though I'm not, nor will ever be, Catholic.

So I couldn't wait to curl up with Timothy Egan's A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith, not only because of its setting and subject matter, but the author himself. A p
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have have read several accounts of journeys across Spain on the better known Camino de Santiago, but Egan’s pilgrimage follows the Via Francigena, another ancient pilgrim route which begins in England then winds its way across France, Switzerland, and Italy, culminating in Rome. Egan is like many modern travelers who have various reasons, not necessarily ones of faith, for their “pilgrimage.” His reasons for making this arduous journey, are ones of questioning.

Raised a Catholic, but no longer
Katie Marquette
Jan 06, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is like a pilgrimage. It starts out all ego, all mistakes, and wrong turns. It is clumsy and searching and not really sure the way. I'll be honest, I really didn't like the book until about halfway through. I found Egan's simplistic dismissals of complicated theological doctrines frustrating. I don't mind searchers - I think most of us are searchers. What I don't like is when people who don't understand something pretend that they do.

But as his journey progresses, so does Egan's humil
Nancy Ellis
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting journal of the author's personal experiences as he walked (for the most part) a 1000-mile pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome, following in the footsteps of pilgrims along the Via Francigena, the course described by Sigeric the Serious, Archbishop of Canterbury, who in 990 walked from Canterbury to Rome to see the Pope. Egan is doing this in an attempt to resolve his issues with his beliefs and his church. This is not a scriptural or spiritual book, it's his commentary on his travel e ...more
Donald Powell
A wonderful book. The writing is honest, precise, from the heart, sometimes tragic and sometimes funny. Mr. Egan is a consummate author. The history of Christianity and Catholicism specifically were moving, detailed and illuminating. The author's mix of his thoughts and opinions made this book a rich discourse on God and Christianity but more importantly, about humanity. A travelogue on some level it was a great read I could not put down. The Notes are filled with a huge volume of source materia ...more
Joseph J.
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those of a religious bent and those seeking meaning; fans of travel
Won in a Goodreads giveaway-with much gratitude. Timothy Egan was born of my generation into a family probably more Catholic than mine (my paternal grandmother was a New York Egan). Now like many of us he is disillusioned with-angry at-the church he was raised in without question. His family touched by the clergy abuse scandal, we journey along with him in a quest for reconciliation and discovery-and rediscovery-along the ancient Christian pilgrim's route, the Via Francigena. His trek through la ...more
Doug Knopp
Nov 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I have read several of Egan's books and enjoyed them all. This one was quite different, by design, but less satisfying to me than the others. Egan was raised a religious Catholic and has that as a foundation, but has grown away from religion over the years. He has the opportunity to take a pilgrimage from Canterbury UK to Rome on the Via Francigena, which he did mostly solo. Another potential title for this book might be "Reflections on Religion on a road to Rome". It is densely packed with Chri ...more
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book was like riding a roller coaster for me. I went from enjoying his descriptions and history of towns along the pilgrimage, being happy he introduced topics like Miracles at Lourdes, incorrupt bodies of saints, etc. to pulling my hair out at some of his other very adolescent and wrong descriptions of saints and the Catholic faith.

Some things seem very well researched but others are most likely not researched at all and presented as fact.
His writings about Catholic beliefs regarding the
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Having read and loved several of Egan's other books, I was quite disappointed in this one. I wasn't sure what it wanted to be. Is it memoir? Family and personal moments are revealed briefly throughout, but not a major focus. Is it travel/pilgrimage? Yes, but I've read at least a couple books about the Compostela pilgrimage in Spain with far more detailed sharing of landscape and emotion. I nearly gave up reading altogether until the love and warm detail picked up as he moved into Italy, but he a ...more
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel, religion
"We are spiritual beings. But for many of us, malnutrition of the soul is a plague of modern life." And so begins Tim Egan's pilgrimage along the Via Francigena, making his trek from Canterbury to Rome. His journey is physically demanding but also spiritually and intellectually challenging as he wrestles with the tension between the values of Christianity and the stark reality of acts carried out in the name of faith that oppose those values - The Crusades, beheadings, sexual abuse within the Ca ...more
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Katherine, Ginger, Patti, James
Recommended to Bob by: Spokane Book Club
As a reader of everything Egan, I had my doubts about reading this memoir of his "pilgrimage" on the Via Francigena as he struggled with his Catholic faith and his sister-in-law's impending death. But Egan is a wonderful and thoughtful writer, and an honest and deep thinker on the (often ugly) history of the Catholic church and its current predicament.

I do wish he had actually walked the entire 1000+ mile trail, rather than traveling by rail and car over much of it to rest his tired body and bl
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Review of the Audiobook

Published by Penguin Audio in 2019.
Read by the author, Timothy Egan.
Duration: 12 hours, 42 minutes.

At the beginning of this pilgrimage, author Timothy Egan describes himself as a lapsed Catholic, perhaps even an agnostic. He was raised Catholic in Washington State and decided to go on a long-established pilgrimage route called the Via Francigena to contemplate his faith and how the church has betrayed its own faithful with the ongoing sexual abuse scandal.

Rachel Doose
This was interesting, but not as powerful as I was expecting it to be. I'm reading this with a friend who did the Camino, and both of us were raised Catholic and are now exploring other options -- she's further along than me, having gotten married in the Episcopal church last year. I guess because of the time in my life that I'm reading this, I thought it would hit me harder.
I didn't particularly like Egan. There was some mild fatphobia, and at time he would use super casual language in the mids
An intriguing read. Timothy Egan, after the death of his mother, decides to walk a less well known “Camino”, the Via Francigena, which follows a one thousand mile route from southern England through France, Switzerland and Italy. While Egan ponders the vestiges of his childhood Catholicism, he also explores the religious and social histories of the places he visits. There is a lot to think about in this insightful book. Highly recommended!
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very enlightening, well written memoir of noted author Egan’s pilgrimage along the Via Francigena, from Canterbury, England to Rome (once the major medieval trail leading the devout to Rome). This excellent memoir of Egan’s trek is an extremely readable and educational discussion of European history from pre-Christian to today, as affected by the Roman Catholic Church; a very interesting discussion of Catholic (and Protestant) history, dogma and canonization facts; and a deeply personal story ab ...more
Barbara Holden
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm feel that I'm on a new "spiritual journey" of my own. This book, along with Rachel Held Evans books, are taking me down new paths of understanding about "religion" and "spirituality" and "faith".
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Since Timothy Egan grow up in Spokane, this book has a lot of Spokane personal family Catholic history interwoven with his travel. I found out lots of things on Catholic and religious history I never knew. There was lots of Luther and Calvin but only one sentence on John Knox and Presbyterian. It was very well written and quite moving. I would like to own my copy. I have some questions for Timothy Egan. Now he seems to be in Seattle. Spokane people will be more interested than usual
Michael Perkins
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book has a great deal of history and observation and descriptions of what he encounters along the trail. But this review captures well the values we has trying to sort out as a result of his quest.
Shari McCullough
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My husband highly recommended the book thinking I would appreciate Egan's writing style and the fact that it was a spiritual journey. And ... I did. But there was so much more ... Egan fleshes out so much of the history of areas the Camino covers, as well as current day conditions. He additionally shares about other pilgrims he meets along the way and about stretches he does with different family members who join up with him. Plus he talks about food and wine. And discomforts and unexpected expe ...more
Joy Matteson
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This could have been another ho-hum religious travel memoir, of which there are many, except for Egan's marvelously irreverent and thoughtful religious and socio-political commentary raising it a notch above most in this genre. Egan takes the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome, to ask the difficult questions in life: Is there a God? Is there a God who cares? What about human suffering? What about the abuses in the Catholic Church? Egan is a life-long lapsed Irish C ...more
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book first because spiritual travel/memoir is a favorite genre, and for the overview of Religious/World History presented in an easy to follow and engaging style, and because Egan's writing is excellent, as usual. He's near the top of my list of nonfiction writers.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This book had too much gruesome detail about the horrors of the early church for me. I was looking for something that would increase my faith but this wasn’t it. It has a lot of historical detail and would be great for history buffs.
Jan Stone
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not just a spiritual journey, but a travelogue and journey through history, as well. I was aware of the Camino in Spain, but not of one in France. Don't pass this up.
Tina Casagrand
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I share many perspectives with Egan on matters of Christianity, so the internal journey was a little more affirming than inspiring. Great travel. Great history overview.
David Doty
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely terrific book. Part travel journey, part history, part current events commentary, and part spiritual quest, it is the account of author Timothy Egan's traverse of the Via Francigena, a 1,000 mile pilgrim trail from Canterbury, England to Rome through the "theological cradle of Christianity." Egan, a New York Times writer, is a compelling storyteller, and I loved the way he weaves his own personal journey of discovery with the historical details of saints, popes, emperors, a ...more
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Timothy Egan is a Pulitzer Prize winning author of nine books, including THE WORST HARD TIME, which won the National Book Award. His latest book, A PILGRIMAGE TO ETERNITY, is a personal story, a journey over an ancient trail, and a history of Christianity. He also writes a biweekly opinion column for The New York Times. HIs book on the photographer Edward Curtis, SHORT NIGHTS OF THE SHADOW CATCHER ...more

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9 likes · 1 comments
“He [i.e., Augustine] asked the right questions. But some of his answers do not fit in a world that is so much more than sorrow and penance, more than denial, more than predestined awfulness or salvation, a world capable of producing joy and wonder in its everyday details. And those joys and wonders are not forbidden fruits— otherwise why would they be so abundant? To reject the "pleasure, beauty, and truth" that can be found in creation, as Augustine said he had to do in order to understand the divine, is not an argument for God. It's an argument against God.” 1 likes
“This paradox—how a belief founded on a gospel of love could cause so much pain—is a big reason why people are leaving the church in droves. And it’s no small part of my struggle as I step into the pilgrim realm.” 1 likes
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