Wendy M. Wright, a professor of theology at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska and author of many books including Heart Speaks to Heart and Francis de Sales, has selected writings from Caryll Houselander (1901-1954) and provided commentary for them. Houselander, an English Catholic artist and visionary, is known for her books A Rocking Horse Catholic, The Reed of God, and The Way of the Cross.
This volume, which is part of the Modern Spiritual Masters Series, contains material from her writings, poems, children's stories, personal journals, letters, drawings, and woodcuts. Wright says that Houselander has lived "with the intensity of one for whom work was both sustenance and salvation." She offers insight on this Catholic's childhood difficulties, her perception of the world as an artist, her experience of two world wars, her compassion for displaced refugees, her art therapy, and her illnesses. Houselander had mystical visions, respected the Catholic liturgy, was a critic of false religiosity, and was an active practitioner of "Christing the world."
Here is a passage on her empathy and admiration for Jesus, a carpenter who, like her, worked with wood:
"Christ was not an apparition, a spirit clothed as a man. He was a man. His life on earth was made up of ordinary things, made extraordinary by love. He used the common substance, flesh and blood, body and soul. He worked and ate and slept. He earned His living, with the joys, exultations, fatigues of other men. Had you gone to visit Him in His home in Nazareth you would have found Him like other men, but giving a significance to ordinary things that others often fail to do. Imagine such a visit, imagine it without the sentimentality that often treacles over this sort of thinking. It's evening, you have come to supper. He is putting away His tools; unconsciously He smiles at the burnish on them; you see how He loves His tools. On the floor by the bench there are wood shavings, how clean and fine they are, curled like yellow petals, those are the shavings that only the sharpest plane cuts what a craftsman He is!
"What a beautiful thing work is, seen from this man's angle! He sits down in the doorway, you with Him, you notice the signs of the day's fatigue, good fatigue that seeps out of one in the evening. He wipes His face, His eyes are a little tired, they have the intensity of eyes that use the last rays of light. Yes, He works hard, He gives good measure!"
Another passage we cannot resist sharing with you illustrates that only the most serious people are able to be playful at the same time:
"I truly believe that the best way to benefit humanity is to make faces in the bus slightly mad faces, or puttings out of the tongue suddenly at the person opposite. Think of the thrill that gives to countless uneventful lives to whom nothing ever happens. They can tell everyone for weeks that they saw a mad woman on the bus, and they can exaggerate this to almost any extent. This form of charity can be practiced on the way to work."
Not many people know about the life and writings of Caryll Houselander. Certainly this well-done resource will change that for many spiritual seekers.