Above: Silverstream Priory from the website.
This past fall I’ve enjoyed reading two little books published by the good monks of Silverstream Priory.
The first, Letters to a Soul, consists of fifty-five short letters of spiritual direction written by Dom Hubert van Zeller to an anonymous directee. Written in the social and ecclesiastical upheaval of the mid-1970s, the letters seem particularly relevant for our own times of similar distress.
The soul to whom van Zeller writes was a somewhat volatile fellow: converting to the Faith; entering a monastery; leaving the monastery; struggling with attraction to a married woman; grappling with artistic yearnings and discontent; abhorring the results of the Second Vatican Council; and finally, demanding instruction in prayer.
Even when I did not particularly sympathize with this wild directee (indeed, I often felt quite irritated with him!), I found van Zeller’s wisdom and fatherly kindness deeply consoling. His direction, given in that wonderful no-nonsense British prose (à la Waugh and Knox), bears profound points for reflection and solid practical advice.
And for anyone who has grappled with questions of vocational discernment and the proper role of artistic talent in the spiritual life, his insights are invaluable. In discussing these questions, he shows himself a true reader of souls.
This book, just 114 pages, can stand as a trusty guide to souls—a friend in moments of dryness, confusion, or desolation. It might also assist priests seeking to become better spiritual directors.
The second book was one I picked up in desperation during a day of recollection when I found it simply impossible to meditate. Dawn Tears, Spring Light, Rood Peace is a collection of poems written by the monks of Silverstream Priory. A mere two poems in, the dry tinder of my heart and mind suddenly ignited. I enjoyed rich prayer for the rest of the day and ruminated on the spiritual insights of the poetry long after I returned to the workaday world. This is the power of good poetry, and it is heartening to see that even in her present desolation, the Church, via her contemplatives, can still yield this great fruit.
So, for anyone looking for some refreshing spiritual reading for Lent, or perhaps affordable but meaningful gifts for family and friends, I highly recommend these two gems from Cenacle Press.
Miss Anna Kalinowska is a Catholic writer and artist from Saint Louis, Missouri. She writes on topics of art, culture, and liturgy for various publications and has given talks on the art of dress to local and international audiences. Miss Kalinowska hopes to inspire Catholics to strive for beauty in everyday life.
Her preferred title is “Miss.” Please never call her “Ms.”!