As those of you have read the Summas for any length of time know, I am a Thomas Howard fan. Well, to be more accurate, I am a Thomas Howard fanatic. His books, Evangelical Is Not Enough and On Being Catholic, were instrumental in my journey to the Church and to the understanding (what little I have) of what it means to be Catholic. I have heard him speak several times, and have gotten to shake his hand, though he would not remember me. (Which is fine by me. I stand tongue-tied before those I admire most, anyway.)
The Night Is Far Spent is, as subtitled, a "treasury of Thomas Howard". It is a collection of his essays, separated into three parts. The first part is titled "Things Literary and Literary Men" and there are essays on, of course, C. S. Lewis. But there are also essays on Charles Williams, Brideshead Revisited, T. S. Eliot, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Dietrich von Hidebrand.
The second section of the book is entitled "Things Sacred". It has essays, taken from talks given at various venues, on sacraments, the marks of the Church, ascension, Joseph, and Catholic spirituality.
The third section is called "Existing Things: Self, Society, God". These are more personal essays dealing with gender, fatherhood, music, and self. The essay "Who Am I? Who Am I?" should be required reading for anyone who thinks their lives are much worth examining. And the final essay "On Being Forgotten" is a winsome and haunting look at a life (his own) in which he grapples with the lack of fame and its meaning. It makes me weep to read it, though it is funny at the same time. Though he would argue the point, I am sure, true humility shines through the words on the page.
Anyway, get the book. Then, I promise, you will want others.
A snippet from "Who Am I? Who Am I?" to whet your appetite:
If we look through ancient history, we find that the question "Who art Thou?" is much more lively than the question "Who am I?" Men seem to be troubled by the gods, who keep addressing them and presenting themselves to them and asking things of them. The Old Testament bears witness to this, too. Who art Thou, Lord? Alas, I am undone, I have seen the Lord. Where shall I hide from Thy Presence? I will not let thee go except thou bless me. The main thing seems to be to come to terms, not with oneself, but with what is required of one. There is, before very long, a whole Law, imposed by fiat from outside, describing in effect exactly how things will be, and demanding acquiescence on pain of death. Here is what we are to give our attention to. No one is asked for input. No one's convenience or comfort is considered. And there is not a syllable's worth of recognition given to any problems someone might have over discovering who he is.
Howard goes on to write, then, about the coming of Christ, and how it might change the above. Or not!
Ah. Now there is relief. The picture, surely, has changed. The demands will be relaxed. He knows our frame. He was in all points tempted as we are. He is afflicted in all our afflictions. Perhaps he will help us out of our dilemma. Perhaps, being the Word of God, he will speak comfort to us and affirm us in our sorrowful quest for ourselves. What does he say?
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Deny yourself. Follow me. Be kind. Be faithful. Blessed are the pure in heart, and the merciful, and those who mourn, and the peacemakers . . .
Yes. Yes of course. All that. But is there a word about my self-image? Can you tell me how to come to terms with myself? After all, I must find out who I am before I can do anything else.
Must you? To him that overcometh will I give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. Your identity, perhaps, is a great treasure, precious beyond your wildest imaginings, kept for you by the great Custodian of souls to be given to you at the Last Day when all things are made whole.