Search for Books by:  


contact us | home


Join Our E-Mail Announcement List!

Caryll Houselander

''When I was a small child," writes Caryll Houselander in her book The Reed of God, "someone for whom I had a great respect told me never to do anything that Our Lady would not do; for, she said, if I did, the angels in heaven would blush. For a short time this advice 'took' in me like an inoculation causing a positive paralysis of piety. It was clear to me that all those things which spelt joy to me were from henceforward taboo ­ blacking my face with burnt cork, turning somersaults between props against the garden wall, putting two bull's-eyes into my mouth at the same time-all that was over! But even if I faced a blank future shackled with respectability, it was still impossible to imagine Our lady doing anything that I would do, for the very simple reason that I simply could not imagine her doing anything at all.

''The inoculation of piety wore off quickly, and so completely that when the sunset warmed the sky over our tangled garden with a pink glow, I thought that it must be the faint reflection of the rosy blush that suffused all heaven!

"This would not be worth recording but for one thing, namely, that the wrong conception of Our Lady which I had is one that a great many other people have, too; a very great many people still think of Our Lady as someone who would never do anything that we do." Hence The Reed of God, 1944 was written to contemplate the Blessed Virgin Mary that we may imitate her.

In her book The Flowering Tree (1945), the theme is the flowering of Christ in man. "The idea that I have in mind," Miss Houselander says "is that we are really part, as it were, of a vast rhythm and that when we become more recollected we become more and more conscious of it. It (tits two ways. We can, I think, cultivate recollection by deliberately saying rhythms or poetry; and when we do this, those thoughts expressed within us rhythmically are heard by our minds in everything round us, even in the traffic in the street.''

Strange to say it was the agnostic George Spencer Bower, a barrister, who led her into the Catholic faith. Anent this she wrote to Sister M. Angeline, S.S.N.D., "As a small child I used to stay with him for weeks on end at his house in London, and during the law vacations he always came to stay with his family in our house in Brighton. He was a magnificent classical scholar, and lie made its children (I have one sister) familiar with the ideas of Plato long before we ever heard the word philosophy. He used to read Shakespeare to me and then I had to act it to him! His ways were unconventional. He took us to the theatres, and when he was pleading in a big case he took me, if I was in town, to the courts with him. I sat at the back making dreadful drawings of the judge, and in court I wrote the first poem that I ever wrote with my hand-a eulogy to him. Incidentally, or perhaps I should say above all I owe the fact that I am a Catholic to him. He was an agnostic and though he so admired the Catholic Church that he longed to be a Catholic, he never did in fact receive the gift of faith, But he influenced my mother to have us brought up as Catholics We were received into the Church as small children, and for some time remained the only Catholics in the family. Though later my mother became one, no other members of the family ever did. I think the fact that I owe my own faith to an agnostic and learned to love it very largely from him in early childhood, has given mime a respect, even reverence for the spiritual experience of people outside of the Church, and I am always ready to he grateful for the grace of their good example.

Miss Houselander was educated at the French Convent of Out Lady of Compassion in Olton, Warwickshire, England. Her two last years at school were spent at the English Convent of the Holy Child, St. Leonard's Sussex. During 1945 she worked in an advertising office, and did layout for advertisements, being skillful with her hands. She likes to draw with pencil and chalk. Her illustrations appear in many books, her latest being Joan Vindlsani's New Six O'Clock Saints. In 1936 she drew the pictures for the book A Retreat with St. Ignatius in Pictures for Children by Reverend Goeffrey Bliss, S.J.

She prefers carving to painting and is planning to carve crucifixes for a Belgian firm.

Much of her spare time was devoted to occupational therapy for the benefit both of child refugees from the Continent, whose nerves had been jarred, and shell-shocked soldiers, in the war.

She is the author of This War is the Passion (1943), and is co-author
with Maisie Ward of This Burning Heat (1941).

Originally published by St. Mary's Abbey in Catholic Authors 1947. Written by Matthew Hohen.

contact us | home


copyright 2002-2005 Catholic Authors