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A remarkable travel book

By: 'Fr Michael Goonan, The Catholic Weekly' - 31st of August 2008

Most of us love to travel and we do so for all sorts of reasons – to discover something new, to break the routine of our lives, to have fun, perhaps to escape from the troubles that beset us. Surprisingly these outward journeys – even journeys of escape – often trigger another journey we all need to take – the inner journey to greater self-understanding, and to surprise encounters with the God who is the core of our being.


‘The Icon in My Pocket’, by Swedish writer, Owe Wikström, is a remarkable travel book for its focus is not only on the outward journeys we take but on the inner journey that such travel provokes. Rome in late summer stimulates reflections on character-building and ‘deflating the over-confident’; Paris in autumn reveals the pain of beauty; an elderly couple in Les Halles speak with wordless eloquence about lovability.


I highly recommend this book to all who feel the lure of travel and the longing to take the inner journey, a journey for which no road maps can be drawn.


– Excerpt from Fr Michael Goonan, SSP, Review of ‘The Icon in My Pocket’ by Owe Wikström in ‘The Catholic Weekly’, 31 August 2008.

...a timely work

By: 'Br Brian Grenier, CFC, Catholic Leader' - 14th of May 2009

The Cistercian mystic Thomas Merton once wrote: ‘The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out of an inner journey’. Owe Wikström, the Swedish Lutheran pastor and psychotherapist, takes this insight a step further in his delightful book ‘The Icon in My Pocket’ by applying it to travel in general.


Given the popularity of package tours, the omnipresence of backpackers and other tourists and the increased interest in religious pilgrimages (notably the Camino de Santiago de Compostela), it is a timely work.


In keeping with its subtitle, the book is divided into two parts – The Outward Journey and The Inward Journey.


The writer presents a simply written and engagingly original account of journeys he has made to the Canary Islands, to Rome in late summer, to Paris ‘the home of cultural refinement’ in late autumn and to Venice in the winter rain.


In doing so he reveals himself not only as a widely read and cultured spectator of what these places have to offer to a well-educated person but also as a shrewd observer of his fellow travellers and the people he encounters.


It is evident from the serious conversations he has with these casual acquaintances and from his reflections on the reading material he has brought with him that to be far from home is, potentially, to be nearer to oneself.


It is in such circumstances that we may find ourselves challenged to replot our life’s course in response to such basic questions as ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Where am I going?’


Throughout his journeys Owe Wikström carries in his pocket a small Russian icon made of plastic in the form of a triptych depicting in its panels the Virgin Mary and her child, Christ Pantocrator, and St Nicholas.


Folded, it is about the size of a credit card.


It reminds him that he is both the observer and the observed and that God is his constant companion on the walk – both the starting point and journey’s end.


This book would make a good gift to a friend with a philosophical bent, even to one who, though interested in travel, shows little interest in spirituality.


If you take a copy with you on your next vacation, you may return to find both you and your home base changed.


– Br Brian Grenier, CFC, Review of ‘The Icon in My Pocket’ by Owe Wikström in ‘The Catholic Leader’, 14 June 2009.


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