Crossroad – Review

Crossroad: A Pilgrimage of Unknowing, by Charles Moseley, March 2022. Darton, Longman and Todd, ISBN 978-1-913657-86-4, 256 pages. RRP £20 (hardback)

Do you ever start a book, attracted by the cover and the blurb inside, but after the first few pages feel tempted to give up on it? To be honest this is how I felt about this one. Initially I was drawn by its theme of pilgrimage, and specifically to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and to the island of Iona, both important places of pilgrimage for me personally. But I was put off by the style in which it was written, which to me read as one man’s rather personal journal, reflecting on six long walks which he had undertaken for reasons of his own. He refers to his religious practice, sometimes noting that he had stopped to sing the Angelus but without explaining what that is. He includes chunks of favourite poetry, some of which I found quite difficult, but without any references to their provenance. His wife pops up at various points, driving out to meet him, providing delicious sandwiches, and she is quaintly referred to as My Lady without being introduced to the reader. Trudging through one village and complaining about its tasteless Victorian villas he admits that he was getting to be a rather grumpy old man. But I had already been thinking that for a while. And then I saw the gold shining and found after all the precious seam that runs throughout this book.

The author, Charles Moseley, is a successful writer and academic. He has achieved Fellowships of Cambridge colleges, the English Association, the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society of Arts. So the book is as beautifully written as one might expect. But in its pages he opens his heart. He lays bare his soul before God. Kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in a Norfolk village church he asks: “How do we learn to love more?” – and then admits to the awful recognition of so much self-love in his life. We cannot undo what we have done, he realises, but goes on to remember a certain wise woman who had once said to him: “Where there can be no cure, let there be healing.”

As he walks through the countryside we can share his sense of the web of life and of being deeply at one with the birds and animals, trees and flowers which he takes the time to stop and contemplate. I found these passages deeply rewarding. But the pages I marked, and will want to return to, are where he faces the suffering in nature and the way this contradicts the goodness of our Creator. He comes across a young foal which had fallen and bounced cruelly down a cliff and lay out of reach but clearly in terrible pain. He remembers other heart-wrenching moments. A sparrowhawk tearing a live blackbird apart. A humpback whale lying on a beach, holding her dead calf, scarcely alive and enduring her eyes being pecked out by gulls. Here is a challenge we must face as Green Christians. Charles Moseley does so with honesty and great spiritual wisdom. It takes him to the Passion of Christ and then finally to realise the hard truth that dying is what we are made for, being necessary for life to flourish. Yet “opposites cleave to each other in a bond of universal love”, he says, in “a cosmic harmony of endless giving and receiving.” His book points to a treasure into which we are invited to dig for ourselves. By its last page I felt completely comfortable with his literary idiosyncrasies – and very glad I had persevered to the end.

Andrew Norman

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Author: Ed Beale | Date: 6 September, 2022 | Category: Book Reviews | Comments: 0


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