Root Somewhere

Today the church remembers a recent spiritual hero, Saint Evelyn Underhill, teacher of mysticism within the church.

Born in England and taught at King’s College in London, she was already a promising writer when she underwent a spiritual conversion. Initially drawn to Roman Catholicism, she eventually was unable to make the Catechumenate oath due to the church’s rejection of modernism.

Instead, she turned to the mystics, of all denominations, for spiritual guidance.

She devoted her time to compiling and anthologizing the writings and lives of saints and mystics, resulting in her tome Mysticism (1911). She then came under the influence of Baron Friedrich von Hugel, a spiritual director who led her to her own mystical experiences. This led to her second major work, Concerning the Inner Life, which incorporated the the life of the saints with her own reflections, ponderings, and insights.

She eventually joined the Anglican church, and led retreats for spiritual seekers. After her death various letters of hers were published, indicating that she cared for her retreat attendees long past their individual retreats.

A lovely quote she’s known for is, “A certain wise Prioress said, ‘Most books on religion have thousands of words–we need only one word, GOD–and that surrounded not by many words but by silence.'”

Saint Underhill is a reminder for the church, and for me, that the spiritual quest need not be found in one doctrine or under one umbrella but a seeker, in the end, should at least anchor themselves to one as a way of rooting and grounding. That rooting and grounding doesn’t prohibit you from exploring, but rather keeps you solid as you spiritually stretch.

-historical notes from Pfatteicher’s “New Book of Festivals & Commemorations”

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