Friday, December 11, 2009

Review: Prayer and the Will of God by Dom Hubert Van Zeller

Each major liturgical season, I like to read an inspirational book, a personal read that will help me live my life more in accord with God's wishes rather than my own ... a case of my decreasing, while He increases.

With this in mind, I jumped at the chance to review Prayer and the Will of God by Benedictine writer, Dom Hubert Van Zeller.  I've read a couple of Van Zeller's books:  Holiness for Housewives and Holiness: A Guide for Beginners and have found him to be quite readable but also highly inspirational and spiritual.  I was thrilled the Catholic Company had a Van Zeller book on their "review shelf".

Van Zeller (1905-1984) was considered a great spiritual director for Catholics and non-Catholics alike during his prolific vocation as a Benedictine retreat master and inspirational writer.  Van Zeller's writings are just as appropriate for today's world as when he originally put pen to paper.  He wrote Prayer and the Will of God as two separate volumes in 1963 and 1964 with the intent to teach people of that time how to turn to God in their worries about war, racial issues and the explosive generation gap which led to the "sexual revolution".  I'm so glad Sophia Institute has decided to republish this particular volume for today's faithful.

The first part of the work, Prayer, clearly and concisely explains why we must pray (not can or should, but MUST) as often as possible to God.  Then Van Zeller discusses how to pray, gives examples of prayer from the Gospels and the Gospel writers, and details the beauty and depth of the Our Father, the consumate prayer.  Van Zeller understands that we all have problems with prayers and the last couple of chapters of this first part delve into "distracted prayer" (how to combat it and how to turn it to the good), dealing with seemingly unanswered prayers and concludes with "fruitful prayer" -- what it is and how to do it. 

Part two than discusses the foundation of prayer -- seeking the will of God, always.  Van Zeller's take is that until we seek God's will, prayer and life will be hopeless.  He discusses understanding and responding to God's will and follows this with an illustrative chapter of how various saints consistently lived joyfully by doing God's will.  The book than turns to the practical issues of discovering, embracing and accepting God's will.  The book has a full chapter using Christ as an example of absolute acceptance of the Father's will -- from the seemingly haphazard way of His birth (which in fact is shown completely intertwined with the prophetic statements in the Old Testament) to his Passion and Death.  Nothing is haphazard where God is concerned. The book concludes with how we can each be an apostle of God's will and help others to follow the Way.

I really, really liked this book.  For this review, I read it cover-to-cover but this is one of those books to which I will constantly refer.  Each chapter is a week's worth (or more) of meditation on it's own while read as a whole the book is extremely powerful!  Van Zeller had a gift for writing deep, spiritual concepts in simple, easily understood words.  I will use this book for the rest of Advent and into the Christmas season; I will read bits and pieces and re-read and pray and meditate and generally let these words of wisdom slowly soak into my heart and soul.  I know I will be a better person with each read. 

I also wanted to mention that I love the cover of this book -- an image of the Ravensburger Shutzmantelmadonna (c. 1480) from the Church of Our Lady in Ravensburg, Germany.  What a lovely image to link to Van Zeller's amazing work on God's mercy and love for us all.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Prayer and the Will of God and to purchase your own copy of this inspirational work.

Van Zeller, Dom Hubert – Prayer and the Will of God – Sophia Institute Press (Manchester, NH). 2009. ISBN: 978-1-933184-59-3 (paperback, 156 pgs).

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