Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why "The Loveliest Hour"?

self portrait of Caryll Houselander
A while back, I changed the name of my blog. For some reason, it became very important to me. I'm still not sure why... but I wanted the title to be more specific and meaningful than "greatgulde". At the time, I think I envisioned myself writing great commentaries on life and politics and religion and wanted it to be about more than just family. Now, I'm not so sure. I realized that I rarely have a commentary, and when I do, it always sounds better in my head than it does when I start speaking or writing... so... I still have this new name and I still love it.

Where did it come from? From a quote by Caryll Houselander, my new favorite Catholic. If I were to take up a person's cause for canonization, it would be hers.

Caryll was born in 1901 in England and died at the age of 53 of breast cancer. Her parents were attractive, high-society Londoners who really didn't know what to do with their second daughter who was sickly and just not very attractive. They divorced the day after her 9th birthday. She was in and out of various boarding schools due to various health issues and never completed any sort of formal education.

Caryll attended college on an art scholarship and eventually found her way back to the Church in 1925. She dated Sidney Riley, the famous spy and model for James Bond. He left her to marry someone else and she never married. During the war doctors began sending patients to Houselander for counselling and therapy. Even though she lacked formal education in this area she seemed to have a natural empathy for people in mental anguish and the talent for helping them to rebuild their world. The psychiatrist Dr. Eric Strauss, later President of the British Psychological Society, said of Houslander: "she loved them back to life"...

She was an artist and illustrator. She fed the poor. She was in love with a famous spy. She was immensely shy. She counseled war veterans. She wrote children's stories. People from all over the world wrote her letters seeking her spiritual counsel. She was a woodcarver. She was a recluse.

No wonder Dr. Strauss called her "A Divine Eccentric".

In her book, Rocking Horse Catholic, she writes:
"We must carry Jesus in our hearts to wherever He wants to go, and there are many places to which He may never go unless we take Him to them. None of us knows when the loveliest hour of our life is striking. It may be when we take Christ for the first time to that grey office in the city where we work, to the wretched lodging of that poor man who is an outcast, to the nursery of that pampered child, to that battleship, airfield..."

That's where I got "the loveliest hour". Because, as a mother, a wife, a friend, a Catholic, I never know when the loveliest hour of my life is striking. I may have dozens of such hours. I may have only one. It may have already come... or be 30 years off. But, no matter what, when it is here, I want to be ready for it. And, I think if I live that way... my life will be better. It has to be, right?

Here are some of the books Caryll Houselander wrote. The ones with an asterik are the books I have.
The Reed of God *
Amazing book. This is a moving reflection about Mary. 
Here's a quote: "Most people know the sheer wonder that goes with falling in love, how not only does everything in heaven and earth become new, but the lover himself becomes new. It is literally like the sap rising in the tree, putting forth new green shoots of life."

The Essential Writings: Caryll Houselander*

The Way of the Cross* Amazing book. She wrote a full reflection (chapter length) on each station. Wonderful lenten meditation book. Could use with the family.

The War is the Passion
I really want to read this one. Here's the description from Amazon: Originally published in 1941, this book by the renowned British mystic and spiritual writer Caryll Houselander is once again new as modern readers learn from Houselander's encouragement of her compatriots to view their experience of World War II through the lens of Christ's passion.
Writing with the intensity and immediacy of life in London during the blitz, Houselander's thought-provoking reflections continue to speak to believers today about the complex challenge they face to find Christ in the midst of the War on Terror. Writing in the tradition of Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Siena, and Teresa of Avila, Houselander's words resonate with Christians today regardless of their perspective on theology and the Church.

Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls I & II*
Lovely stories to read to children.

A Rocking-Horse Catholic*
This is about her childhood and conversion at the age of 6.

My Path to Heaven: A Young Person's Guide to the Faith
Illustrated by Caryll Houselander.
Amazingly intricate illustrations to go along with this beautiful reflection on our faith.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, never heard of her, but seems like someone I'd really enjoy reading about. Thanks for sharing!