Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

The Little Locksmith, a singular and mysterious memoir, was published in 1943 by a woman named Katharine Butler Hathaway.

The New York Times reported, “It is the kind of book that cannot come into being without great living and great suffering and a rare spirit behind it.”

Hathaway herself called the book a “story of the liberation of a human being.”

Born in Baltimore in 1890, she spent the better part of her youth in Salem, Massachusetts. At the age of 5, she developed spinal tuberculosis. In an effort to avert kyphosis (colloquially, hunchback), her doctors strapped her for the next 10 years to a bed pulley-rigged with iron weights. It was here that, unable to move her body or head, she honed the interior life of the imagination that would nourish and validate her later calling to be a writer.

Her family was cultured, loving, and creative (although, typically New England-ish, they were also extremely emotionally closed down, to the point that nobody once, ever, referred to her condition or uttered the word “hunchback”). She developed a deep inner life of the imagination, encompassing both beauty and terror, that paved the way for her slow, painful, yet somehow sublime spiritual awakening.

Upon release from her bed, she was kyphotic anyway, deformed though mobile: deeply sensitive, deeply intelligent. That she could feel passionately about an idea came, at 15, with the force of revelation. “Something had blazed in me, and from the blaze I discovered a new element in myself, a combustible something that would always blaze again in defense of the mystery and sacredness in things, and against the queer, blind, blaspheming streak in human nature which instead of adoring, must vulgarize and exploit and insult life.”



  1. Bill Potts says: Reply

    Dear MS.King, I’m so glad to have discovered you. As a subscriber I look forward to reading your posts. I love to read and books like this are a great education and inspiration. Thank you for continuing to enlighten and brighten my day. I hope that you have a LONG career.
    Sincerely Bill Potts

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thanks, Bill–what a lovely prayer that would be! Lord, let me brighten someone’s day…Thanks for brightening mine and for your readership.

    2. This was a beautiful article; very inspirational. I shared it with my non-Catholic friends who are sometimes wary of my sharing of items of more “religious tones”.
      I truly believe that there are many people, like me, that read your articles, and do not comment here, but comment in our hearts.
      I am not of the generation that grew up texting; FB, etc. I love your articles and pray you keep on writing, and being a witness for Christ.
      Your article on visting Cemeteries (Resurrection Cemetery) was very timely which I had shared with friends as a close friend/coworker had just passed. Some of our coworkers had never been to a cemetery service. Due to Covid-19, it was modified. Your article helped “with the gaps”, why it is important to visit.
      My Family is buried at Calvary Cemetery in ELA. If you have not been there, it is very worth a visit. The beautiful Church, stain glass, Stations of the Cross, mausoleums/tomb statues. A true area of Peace.

      1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

        Thank you–this is lovely to know that perhaps many read and comment in their hearts–which is beautiful and fine! In fact, I hope that’s the case…I have in fact visited Calvary Cemetery in East LA–cemeteries are such a wonderful confluence of the earthly and the divine, esp since they are after all on one level a business…anyway, I had a lovely interlude wandering about there, mostly freely…I’m very touched that you shared my piece with others, including some non-Catholics…this is something I struggle with every day. Looking for the places at which we can all meet as human beings…but without taking Christ out of the equation completely. Which I couldn’t do even if I tried…but yes, there are all kinds of competing fears, partly of being judged and condemned by my secular friends (and sometimes my friends in the Church) but mostly just sorrow that not only can we not be all things to all people, we can hardly be anything, even to a few people! Still and all, how glorious our little connections!

  2. Ronald Lewberg says: Reply

    You certainly do brighten my days with your inspirational writings and those from others that you pass along.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thank you, Ron–entirely my pleasure and I’m so glad you’re enjoying!