Sunday, March 18, 2007

Book Review - Holiness for Housewives

Holiness for Housewives (and other working women) by Dom Hubert Van Zeller was originally published in 1951 under the title "Praying while you Work." This is an updated, abridged version, but its message is just as relevant and perhaps even more needed today as it was fifty years ago. It can be hard to find the spirituality in daily life, to find God amidst the dirty dishes and the laundry and the meals to be cooked.

It is important to think of being a wife and mother as a vocation. God has called us to this life and God will give us the strength to carry out our duties. The most important thing to do in life is God's will. "Apart from the accepted will of God, nothing has lasting reality. So if God wills that you should be bowed over the sink instead of over the pew in your favorite church, then washing dishes is for you, now, the most perfect thing you can possibly do."

Van Zeller acknowledges that there will be times when we will want to escape. "There are times in the life of a wife and mother when almost any other setting is felt to be preferable to hers. . . You may come to feel a loathing for your husband, your children, your home, and your society. You may find that your religion has turned sour on you. You may give up hope of ever finding happiness again . . .you are being given the grace to get the best out of the situation."

Van Zeller emphasizes that we must strive to make all our time holy by offering it to God and by stopping throughout the day to offer brief prayers. Even our leisure time must be a gift to God. We must strive to use our time as He wills us to do so.

One brief section of the book deals with obedience to one's husband, an idea no longer emshrined in wedding vows and one which no doubt most modern women would object to vehemently. Van Zeller maintains that a wife must obey her husband in all things unless what he asks contradicts what God asks. That is an important concept even today. Husbands can never make us do what is wrong. We answer first to God.

The conclusion of the book offers "Prayers for Housewives," a reference of both basic prayers and prayers for special needs. Holiness for Housewives is a wonderful little gem of a book, a real reminder that God is in the details of daily living and that if we are living the life God called us to, our sanctity is found there as well.

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