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Caitrin Bennett reviews a new book by Scott Hahn and Brandon McGinley focused on our earthly life as an exile from and pilgrimage toward heaven. 

Think of a moment when you felt totally at peace and truly joyful, maybe a memory from a special vacation or surrounded by loved ones on Christmas Eve. In such a moment, you likely thought to yourself, “This. This is what it’s meant to be like all the time. I can’t wait until we do it again next year.” That feeling is called prolepsis, and it is a sign that we are not of this world. As Christians, we are called to journey constantly towards our true home in heaven, and our moments of prolepsis are little glimpses of what is to come.  

In Catholics in Exile: Biblical Wisdom for the Journey Home, Scott Hahn and Brandon McGinley work through Scripture to help the reader understand the strange homesickness humans often feel here on earth. The Old Testament is full of exiles and pilgrims, starting with Adam and Eve being banished from their perfect home in the Garden of Eden. Abraham left his homeland to follow where God led, and his descendants—God’s people—spent most of the rest of the Old Testament trying to get to (or get back to) the promised land.  





The Israelites didn’t belong in Egypt, or Babylon, or out in the wilderness, wandering and waiting. They longed for Jerusalem, just as we long now for the heavenly Jerusalem. But God used the exile of His people for their good in the Old Testament, and He is still at work today in our homesickness. Identifying as pilgrims helps us keep some distance from the comforts and pleasures of this world that might snare us. The journey gives meaning and dignity to our labor, as we work to put one foot in front of the other. It forces us to keep moving, always growing in faith and love, and it bonds us with our fellow Christian pilgrims. 

The last few chapters of the book focus on Jesus’ promise of rest to those who follow Him. This may seem out of place in a book focused on the constant forward motion of pilgrimage, but the authors show how God actually intended rest to be part of that forward motion. Our destination is God, and we approach Him by imitating Him. Part of this imitation is entering into the rest of the God who rested on the seventh day. 

Catholics in Exile is a slightly academic work, not so much a practical guide or devotional, but more the kind of writing that will get you thinking in new ways. The authors helped me reframe the entire Bible, as well as my own spiritual walk, as a pilgrimage. I would especially recommend this book to anyone who feels hopeless when considering the state of their country, the world, or even the modern Church. It is a great reminder that we were never meant to feel too comfortable here, and an encouragement to each of us to take up our crosses once again and follow Jesus home. 

Ask for Catholics in Exile at your local Catholic bookseller, or order online from Amazon.com or the publisher, Emmaus Road Publishing.



Copyright 2024 Caitrin Bennett
Images: Canva