A Rocking-Horse Catholic


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By Caryll Houselander

Caryll Houselander was nothing if not unconventional. In the estimation of Maisie Ward, her biographer and friend, it was this trait in particular, “the lack of plaster in her sainthood,” which so appealed to those who knew her or read her books. Published shortly after Houselander’s death at the age of fifty-three, A Rocking-Horse Catholic is a charming, at times disarming, exercise in autobio-graphy. With humility and humor, Houselander describes her childhood, its illnesses, and its earliest influences on her imagination, intellect, and awareness of God; her adolescent absence from the Church; the spiritual and material poverty of her early adulthood; and then her reconversion moments: a miraculous vision of the Mystical Body of Christ and an encounter with the Catholic Evidence Guild. Concluding the volume is “The Birth,” a poetic summary of her very life, whose ultimate task was “to see and to love Christ in man.”

I was received into the Church when I was six years old. Strictly speaking, therefore, I am not a “cradle” Catholic but a “rocking-horse” Catholic. (Caryll Houselander)

Roundly regarded in her own time as the genuine article in literary talent, Caryll Houselander remains deserving of an audience. As support of such an observation, the testimony of one Monsignor Ronald Knox more than suffices: “In all she wrote, there was a candour as of childhood: she seemed to see everything for the first time, and the driest or doctrinal considerations shone out like a restored picture when she had finished with it.”


Caryll Houselander (1901–1954) was an English Catholic artist, author, poet, and mystic. In addition to her artistic and literary endeavors, she dedicated her relatively brief life to caring for the material and spiritual needs of the poor and desolate. Her works include The Dry Wood, The Flowering Tree, and Guilt.

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Paperback: 176pp.

ISBN: 978-1685953270