October 26, 2019
By John Stucke
Unsettled by his mother’s deathbed words about her long-held beliefs, Timothy Egan, a New York Times winner of the Pulitzer Prize and bestselling author, packed his own lapsed faith, curiosity and Pacific Northwest travel wear and set out to explore his spirituality in his new book, “A Pilgrimage to Eternity.”
The journey took him from Canterbury to Rome along the Via Francigena (pronounced frahn-chee-jeh-na), a 1,300-mile pilgrimage through the medieval history of Christianity. Along the way, he wondered about our “malnutrition of the soul” and allowed himself to ponder the possibilities of faith that he has spent most of a lifetime neglecting.
“I’m still haunted by the last hours of my mom’s life. She was a well-read, progressive Catholic, a mother of seven. ‘I’m not feeling it, Timmy,’ she said, the color fading from her face, the strangling tendrils of her brain cancer closing in, that lethal glioblastoma. ‘I’m not sure anymore. I don’t know what to believe or what’s ahead. I don’t … know.’ “
Joan Patricia Egan died in 2012 after spending her retirement years with her husband, Harry Egan, in Sequim. Her remains were buried at sea in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Her son’s book shares his hope to find “a stiff shot of no-bullshit spirituality.” What he finds is something else: amazement and surprise in way he’d never allowed before.
Egan confronts the child sex abuse crisis of the Catholic Church. He writes of the rage and its effect on his family. And he celebrates the words, humility and actions of Pope Francis, who is trying to hold together the 1.3 billion-member church.
“I had to open a vein to write this,” Egan says. “My faith is very complicated.”
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