We Work While the Light Lasts


“If my correspondence is anything to go by,” writes Benedictine artist and author Dom Hubert Van Zeller, “the problem which men and women living in the world most want to discuss is that of how to handle the affections.” The fruit of Dom Hubert’s experience as a spiritual director, these 42 short reflections are culled from his correspondence, and engage with questions surrounding the cultural upheaval which followed World War II, the first stages of the sexual revolution, and the modern world’s apathy towards God. Dom Hubert’s witty and incisive reflections draw on a varied and colourful array of sources, including Tacitus, Milton, Evelyn Waugh, and Saint Benedict, and address such topics as:

  • The almost-but-not-quite saint
  • Purity, chastity, and understanding the opposite sex 
  • Perseverance in prayer, faith, and work
  • The point of Sacramental Marriage
  • Simplicity in art, prayer, and “everything”
  • Two mistakes people make about sin (other than committing it)
  • Why contemplative vocations are more frequent among women.

With insights that remain relevant today, Dom Hubert provides advice helpful for young and old, for the spiritually motivated and listless alike, in a short book which clearly presents the universal call to holiness.

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.”

This book, first published in 1950, here presented in an entirely re-typeset edition, is republished with the kind permission of Downside Abbey.




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We Work While the Light Lasts