Caryll's "divinely eccentric" life was principally a devotion to contemplating Christ in all and men and women and in all life circumstances.Maisie Ward (a friend of Caryll and author of her principal biography, Caryll Houselander;That Divine Eccentric (Sheed & Ward, 1962), states, "Her message can be summed in a single sentence; we must learn to see Christ in everyone."Msgr. Ronald Knox was quoted as saying about Caryll's writing style, " . . . she seemed to see everything for the first time and the driest of doctrinal considerations shone out like a restored picture when she finished it."
Maisie Ward's biography is a highly recommended introduction to the person of Caryll Houselander.In this work we meet Caryll as a woman of complexity.She has extraordinary faith, a visionary and healer, and is also a woman of great vivacity and humanity.Caryllprovided friends with moments of dry wit (which she sometimes later regretted) and was an inveterate chain smoker.Though she remained a single woman throughout her life, Caryll was engaged for a time to Sidney Reilly, who was the model for Ian Fleming's character, "James Bond."
A concise sampling of Caryll Houselander's writing is found in the book, Caryll Houselander; Essential Writings by Wendy M. Wright (Orbis, 2005).
Let us not underestimate the weight and influence of Caryll Houselander as a modern Catholic woman and religious writer.Her writings, at times penned while bombs dropped upon London, touched the very heart of the twentieth century.Her ability to identify with suffering, especially those in psychological suffering, gave her a remarkable gift of emotional healing.Beginning in 1942, doctors began sending her patients despite her lack of formal education in psychology.Chiefly, these patients were sent by Dr. Strauss, later President of the British Psychological Society.Dr. Strauss said of Caryll, "She loved them back to life."Her genius was in her interactions with others, in her ability to reach out and heal.
Caryll Houselander has been described as being a mystic in the tradition of Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Siena, and Teresa of Avila.She is best known for her works such as A Rocking Horse Catholic, The Reed of God, The Way of the Cross, This War is the Passion, and her book of poetry The Flowering Tree.
Caryll died of cancer on October 12th, 1954. Her bibliography consists of more than seven hundred written works including poems, short stories and articles, articles for juvenile publications and children's books (for some of these she did artwork for as well), articles for various Catholic publications, and, of course, her own books.
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