Reviewed by: Eric Postma

Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim by Tim Bete is a collection of poems written at various points in his life, on the way to a pilgrimage, waiting in an airport or just wherever he happened to be when inspiration struck. These poems are most especially the fruit of a lifelong search to grow in faith and build a better relationship with Jesus. Full disclosure, I don’t generally read poetry but at various points while working my way through this small collection, I found myself pausing to think more deeply about what I had just read or laugh out loud or stop to absorb a fresh outlook on a passage of Scripture.

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I especially enjoyed his take on the tale of the Prodigal Son. Bete takes us first inside the mind of the son, broken and beaten by the world but still focused on himself as he plays out possible scenarios for his return. Meanwhile, the father is at home, praying for his son’s return concerned only that he comes home before it’s too late. That brief glimpse in the minds of the father and son in the parable will provide fresh grist for the contemplative mill for some time to come.

With the poem, Lost Things the author broadens the reader’s appreciation of St. Anthony. Generally thought of has the saint who helps you find your lost wallet, Bete broadens that understanding to include lost patience, dignity, and youth. The answers to those prayers are humbling, encouraging a genuine reflection on how we all indeed fall short of the glory of God. As always, you’ll get an answer to your prayer, but it might not be the one you want to hear.

Divine Office of the Shovel particularly resonated with me. With this poem the simple act of shoveling the driveway in the winter is transformed into a nearly spiritual experience. The sound of the shovel scrapping against the snow, the repetitive motion, and the solitude of the early morning before the sun comes up create a quieting effect on the soul, even through the written word. As someone who prefers to rely on my own hands and back rather than a machine, I can definitely relate.

Finally, Over My Shoulder conveys the humbling realization that at the end of the day we can never know all of God. In fact, the more we know of Him, the clearer it is how much we don’t know and can never understand.

There are many others in this work that are sure to move your soul or provoke reflection. The poems are simple but in that simplicity, they are accessible enough for anyone. It’s in that accessibility that Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim has its true strength. In being accessible to all, all are invited to a deeper contemplation of their relationship with Christ.

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Genre: Poetry

Themes: Pilgrimage, knowing Christ, simplicity

Author’s Worldview: Catholic  

Audience:  Teens and up.

Year Published: 2019