Wednesday, December 21, 2016


This week's arts and culture column is on one of my favorite spiritual writers.

It begins like this:

Caryll Houselander (1901-1954) was a British mystic, poet and spiritual teacher who wore a pair of big round tortoiseshell glasses, lived in London during the Blitz and, until she died at 53 from breast cancer, apparently barely slept or ate. A friend observed: “She used to cover her face with some abominable chalky-white substance which gave it quite often the tragic look one associates with clowns and great comedians.”

“That Divine Eccentric,” Maisie Ward’s fine biography, charts Houselander’s difficult childhood, her reversion to the Church in 1925 and her unrequited love for a British spy who would be the model for Ian Fleming’s “James Bond.” She had an eclectic coterie of friends. She never married. And she was utterly devoted to Christ.

Ward writes, “The sure cure for bitterness, Caryll comments, is to pray and do penance for the person: love will grow in proportion. ‘It is not according to how much penance I do or how many prayers I say, but how much love I put into it.’”

She became a prolific and popular author. Her works include “The Reed of God,” “A Rocking-Horse Catholic” and “The Risen Christ.”

“Guilt” (1951) contains passages on the mental suffering, among others, of serial killer Peter Kürten (“The Monster of Düsseldorf”), Hans Christian Andersen, Arthur Rimbaud and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.



  1. Just love your column, Heather.
    God bless you & look forward to many more encounters with you. My own spiritual journey is greatly enriched by your insightful writing.
    Blessed Christmas �� & peace always.

  2. I really love some of the poetry I have read of hers. I'm curious to read her biography. I'm wondering why the chalky face and lack of eating and sleeping? Seems a bit unbalanced and I'm curious if that is something that changed with her as she grew in her faith.
    Also the book "Guilt" has me fascinated. Seems weird to put a serial killer in with St. Therese but obviously I can'y judge what I haven't read.


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