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Sunday, 10 April 2022

The Way of the Cross - Caryll Houselander

The Way of the Cross
ISBN 9781621386186
eISBN 9780764808531
ASIN B00UCLUMS2


This volume is written and Illustrated by Caryll Houselander. I read the Liguori Publications edition of this back in 2006. It was since lent out and not returned. This year during Lent I went searching for some new editions of Stations of the Cross or Way of the Cross booklets in eBook format. This was one of three I picked up during the first week of Lent, and was the third I read and prayed on the Thursday of the Second Week of Lent. I try and pray a Stations each day during Lent, and at least Fridays throughout the year. I have a few favourite versions that I return to often, and others I have only used once or twice. This one is very different. It is a series of much longer reflections or meditations upon the stations. I do not see this version being used in corporate devotions or even a small group. But it is a wonderful volume for personal reading and reflection. And it can we read in a single sitting.

I believe the first edition of this book was in 1955 and published by Sheed & Ward, Inc. The original Nihil Obstat is Herbertus Richards, S>T.L., L.S.S. and the Imprimatur was E. Morrogh Bernard. Angelico released an eBook, Hardcover and Paperback editions in 2015. Liguori has a paperback and eBook edition listed as 1971 and 2002. And there is a newer paperback from Maritino Fine Books from late in 2021. Because this volume is now in the public domain there are now also a few editions under the title 'The Stations of the Cross', this one from Angelico seems to be the best option.

The Illustrations in the original edition have been restored in this Angelico Press Edition. The Ligouri version crops them to just the circles. The illustrations could easily be stations at a cross or chapel. I much prefer the uncropped versions from Angelico. The description of this edition is:

“In The Way of the Cross, Caryll Houselander accomplishes two things: first, by her imaginative re-creation of the Passion and Death of Our Lord, realized with intensity, detail, and depth, she brings a drama of anguish and tragedy to our immediate awareness; secondly, she shows us the Passion reflected in all human suffering. We can no more be detached spectators of the Passion than we can be detached spectators of the griefs and travails of the contemporary world. As Caryll Houselander writes, the part we are called to play is that of Veronica, coming forward to wipe the tears and sorrows from every stricken face we meet. And each time we have the courage and compassion to do so, we find the same image left on the veil. These profound meditations on the Stations of the Cross allow the reader to walk in the footsteps of Christ on that distant yet ever-present Good Friday.”

These meditations are much deeper, they are long reflections, each ends with a prayer that ties the meditation to our daily lives. Each reflection is between 6 and 8 pages. The book begins with a chapter called Via Crucis, and it begins with:

“Three o’clock on a grey afternoon. Outside, a steady drizzle of rain; inside the church, an odd motley of people.

A smartly dressed woman, side by side with one who is shabby and threadbare. A boy and girl who appear to be in love. A very old man, so bowed that he is permanently in an attitude of adoration. A stalwart young soldier whose polished buttons glitter like gems in the candlelight. A couple of students, shabbily but elegantly dressed in corduroys and bright scarves, rubbing shoulders with a gaunt, round-shouldered man who looks like a tramp. A sprinkle of small children. And behind them all, as if he felt himself to be the modern Publican, though there is no reason why he should, a thickset, square-shouldered business man. And a few seconds before the priest, in come a couple of rather flustered little nuns, like birds shaking the rain off their black feathers.

What a diversity of places these people must have come from—luxury flats, tenements, small boardinghouses, institutions, barracks, studios, colleges, doss houses, schools, offices, convents. What sharp contrast there must be between their different lives and circumstances! But they seem to be strangely at one here, gathered round a crude coloured picture on the wall of the church, “The First Station of the Cross,” and it seems to come naturally to them to join together in the same prayer:

“We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.”
“Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.”

The tender rhythmic prayer that has been on the lips of men all through the ages is repeated fourteen times as they move slowly around the church, following the priest from station to station, until they reach the last of all, “Jesus Laid in the Tomb.””

This version is worth picking up even if just for this first section. It reminds us why we pray the stations and helps us go deeper into them. That chapter ends with:

“Yes, in the Stations of the Cross he who has the eye of faith sees the story of Christ’s historical Passion—His own individual story—and the story of the suffering world, in which Christ’s Passion goes on through time; the way of the cross which, though it leads to the tomb and the dark sleep of death, leads on beyond it to the waking morning of resurrection and the everlasting springtime of life.

For us, here and now, there is a more immediate and more practical meaning in those fourteen incidents on the way to Calvary. It is a showing not simply of the way of sorrows which we are all destined to walk, if we will or not, but of the way of love which heals sorrow, and which we all can take if we walk in the footsteps Christ has marked out for us, and not only imitate Him but identify ourselves with Him. The stations show us how each one can lighten the heavy cross that is laid upon the bent back of the whole human race now, how each one in the power of Christ’s love can sweeten his own suffering and that of those who are dear to him.

This is why the prayer “We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, because by Thy holy cross, Thou hast redeemed the world” echoes down the centuries, not in tones of fear and reluctance but as a cry of welcome, a tender cry, in the tones of a lover’s greeting, to Him whom every man must meet on the way of sorrows, changed for him to the way of love.”

The prayer from the Seventh Station Jesus Falls the Second Time is:

Prayer
Jesus Christ,
exhausted on the long road
to Calvary,
fallen for the second time
under the weight of the cross,
allow me to be among those
who come forward out of the crowd
to heave back the great load
that crushes You
in my even-Christian.
Do not let my hands
or my mind
or my heart
be idle,
or indifferent to
or unaware of
the conditions of life,
the difficulties
and problems,
facing those
who struggle against heavy odds
to live the Christ-life
and to share in the work
of Your love
Grant that I may never
disassociate myself from You
in the Christian
who has fallen under the burden
of Your cross,
who, worn out
by the struggle
against temptation,
against circumstances,
against public opinion
and the opinions of his own people,
is down in the dust,
crushed by the burden
of humiliation,
failure
and shame.
Give me grace
to help to lift You up
in that man,
to set him on his feet,
to help him on his way
on the road You have trodden.
And when I fall,
send me those
who will lend their hands
to lift my burden
and enable me, too,
to follow You
to Calvary.”

This volume ends with a section called About the Book, it states:

“In The Way of the Cross, Caryll Houselander accomplishes two things: first, by her imaginative re-creation of the Passion and Death of Our Lord, realized with intensity, detail, and depth, she brings a drama of anguish and tragedy to our immediate awareness; secondly, she shows us the Passion reflected in all human suffering. We can no more be detached spectators of the Passion than we can be detached spectators of the griefs and travails of the contemporary world. As Caryll Houselander writes, the part we are called to play is that of Veronica, coming forward to wipe the tears and sorrows from every stricken face we meet. And each time we have the courage and compassion to do so, we find the same image left on the veil. These profound meditations on the Stations of the Cross allow the reader to walk in the footsteps of Christ on that distant yet ever-present Good Friday.”

And that truly highlights the value of this Way. This is an excellent read, and a wonderful Lenten resource. I am certain if you pick it up, you will be blessed and challenged by the reading of this volume. The 3 versions available from Angelico Press 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

For all other reviews of Stations of the Cross click here.

Books by Caryll Houselander:
A Child in Winter: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany 
Caryll Houselander: Essential Writings
Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls
Christ in Our Midst
Guilt
Joy of the Rosary
Life Within Us - CTS Onefifties Book 13
Little Way of the Infant Jesus
More Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls
Mother of Christ
Petook: An Easter Story
Petook: The Rooster Who Met Jesus
The Dry Wood
The Essential Rosary
The Flowering Tree
The Letters Of Caryll Houselander
The Passion of the Infant Christ
The Reed of God
The Risen Christ
The Rocking-Horse Catholic
The Splendor of the Rosary
This War Is the Passion
Wood of the Cradle, Wood of the Cross



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