All mothers have a home life. It can be tempting to see the heavy demands of homemaking as obstacles to holiness. After all, dealing with constant interruptions and crying kids distract you, making devotions short and tempers high. If only there were some way to turn all of this mess into holiness!
In Holiness for Housewives, Dom Hubert van Zeller demonstrates exactly how to turn every mother’s upsets and disappointments into union with God.
About the Author
Dom Hubert van Zeller writes with calm authority and abiding sense of admiration for every vocation. As a Benedictine monk, he knows a thing or two about contemplative life. The motto for the Order of St. Benedict is “Ora et labora”, or prayer and work. Rather than seeing the two as competing for time, the Benedictines base their life on the integration and complementarity of the two. Dom van Zeller brings this cornerstone of Benedictine spirituality to mothers, and shows us how to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus”. (Col. 3:17)
Structure of the book
Holiness for Housewives is tightly written. A lean, quick read for busy mothers. It is concise, with each sentence a developed thought. While short (just over 100 pages), it is intensely affecting. Truth falls like a hammer in every paragraph. There are three sections of deep insight into a mother’s troubles and how to resolve them, and a final chapter of beautiful prayers for a mother’s day.
Religious Living for Lay People
We often think of priests and consecrated religious as having a leg up on the laity. Their job is to pray and minister in His name. The thing is, as mothers, that’s our vocation too. Zeller encourages women to stop ranking vocations, counting others’ blessings, and respect the dignity of all labor.
We have created a false ideal of what seeking God’s kingdom looks like. Instead serve God by aligning your will with His. If he has willed that you have children, a husband, a busy household, He will give you the graces to draw near to Him. Not in spite of your vocation, but through it.
How to Pray
The author’s expertise shines through this section. In addition to being a monk, he led countless retreats and spiritual formations over the years. His insights into growing in prayer are not to be missed!
Dom van Zeller outlines two ways to pray and work. We can pray before each work, and dedicate it to God. Or we can make our work a prayer.
Maybe you can make frequent, conscious recollections toward God in the midst of your daily life. If you currently can’t, the graces received in daily quiet prayer will provide the inspiration for you.
A soul which is frequently in contact with God, no matter how brief or interrupted the connection, will yearn for more Heaven. This interior work means far more to your relationship with God than any regimented prayer schedule, performed of duty not love.
Do not wait for a perfectly peaceful moment to pray. Begin praying, and let Him bring you perfect peace. Prayer life changes over time, and as Martha says, it’s a good thing.
No one starts off a saint, with innate graces and stellar prayer habits. Rather, orienting yourself towards God’s grace, and forming habits of prayer, will make you a saint.
Growing In Holiness
This section begins with a brief primer on religious devotion.
Religion is not:
-a consolation for earthly troubles
-a cure for loneliness
-an aesthetic entertainment
-an intellectual summit
-an endless wellspring of lovey-dovey feelings
Your relationship with God may deliver the above and more, but dependency on them leads to loss of faith if and when you encounter a period of dryness.
The true basis for religion is an act of will. A balance of subjective passion and objective theology. Will yourself to pray, and you will learn how to pray.
Dom van Zeller asks if we stop our recreation when we’re sufficient rested, or if we let it carry us away and lose all our time? Anything that monopolizes our attention like that has got to go. But there is also no point in living nose to the grindstone, 16 hours a day. Recreation and work complement each other, when neither is allowed a monopoly.
Why this book?
Dom van Zeller described his own writing as using “the idiom of every day to urge people of every day to embarke on the spirituality of every day.” He truly understands mothers. Holiness for Housewives is theologically rich, to challenge the mind and soul. It is also brief, because you don’t have time to read the Summa. The central message is this: raising little souls is hard, it is valuable, and it will sanctify you, if you let it.