Virgin Trails: A Secular Pilgrimage Hardcover – Apr 27 2002
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As an examination of the many European manifestations--and locations--of the "cult" of the Virgin Mary, journalist Robert Ward's Virgin Trails is less about the Catholic religion than it is about the devotees who undertake pilgrimages to the various holy sites of France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Ward, a self-described atheist, is unafraid to cast a critical eye on the subject, though mostly his observations are those of a man trying to, in his own words, "catch a glimpse of what's going on inside." To do so, he becomes something of a pilgrim himself. His goal is not the same as the Mary worshippers he follows, who are usually looking for a cure or some other miracle, but he nonetheless learns that "a pilgrim's journey is a distillation of the journey of life, with all its riddles, doubts, hardships and temptations."
Ward's strength as a writer is his religious knowledge, and some of the book's most enthralling sections are the historical contexts and backgrounds he provides for the various places he observes the pilgrims--from Paris, France, to Fatima, Portugal. He examines faith and belief with both respect and wide-eyed curiosity, yet never without his own brand of levity. Virgin Trails is an absorbing, well-researched travelogue that takes a modern look at a very old and complex subject. --Adem Tepedelen
" One pilgrim's wonderful and keenly observed walk..." -- Dennis Bock
"...hilarious, moving, thoughtful, and delightful." -- The Georgia Straight
"Ward is an able communicator of the political, religious, and human histories of the places through which he walks on the pilgrim's way ..." -- The United Church Observer
"Ward's examination of the Marian phenomenon ... is open-minded, thought provoking, and best of all, highly entertaining." -- The Globe and Mail
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