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We Die Standing Up


On re-reading this book, Dom Hubert confessed “to being surprised at the tone of attack which runs through a lot of it.” But he continues, “I would like to say in this connexion that any blows which are met with in these pages are primarily aimed at myself. All the more combative passages were occasioned by my saying to myself: ‘This won’t do—it’s a misconception (or a mood or a willy) and must be exploded at once.’ Then I have sat down and written my piece.” Such a candid effort on the author’s part results in short and powerful reflections on a variety of topics. Reflecting on the whole human person, body and soul, Dom Hubert highlights such issues as:

  • The emotions, and how two doctors of the church disagree on them
  • Selfish and unselfish rest
  • How everybody’s vocation is to try to understand those things that really and supremely are
  • How changes in the dynamics of friendship can lead to deeper love
  • Death: our own and other people’s
  • How to guard and cultivate friendships without being selfish and possessive.

Summing up, Dom Hubert writes: “If the foregoing pages have any message at all it is an invitation to face the facts and not to lie down under modern pressures or ancient prejudices. There is such a lot that we take for granted and never for a moment question….If you watch and pray you won’t have the face to say you’ve never really seen the issues in their true terms. You won’t have the face to plead the easy way out. Erecti moriamur. We have got to die, so let us die standing up.”

Born in British-controlled Egypt, Dom Hubert van Zeller (1905–1984) was a Benedictine monk of Downside Abbey in Bath, England, where he was educated. Of his scholastic career he said that he “passed no examinations—merely by-passed them.” The author of numerous books ranging from scriptural commentary to fiction and biography, he was also renowned as a minimalist sculptor and cartoonist. He was a friend of Ronald Knox and of Evelyn Waugh, who described Dom Hubert’s writings as “characterized by vitality and elegance.”




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We Die Standing Up