A rule of life can bring stability and peace
May 1, 2020
No one’s life is normal right now. Kids are home from school. Parents are working from home. Groceries are being delivered, and even public liturgies are canceled. Add to that the underlying stress from the possibility that you or your loved ones might get sick or be laid off, and chaos might be reigning in your family. It’s time for a reset. How? Let me suggest you write a rule of life.
Those in religious life and secular institutes follow a rule. This rule describes the community’s spirituality and purpose. It sets the standards for daily prayer, work and recreation. A rule establishes priorities and routines. It provides a means to measure how well you are living out God’s will. It provides stability.
We can write a simple rule for ourselves as individuals or families. Then, instead of being chaotic, our days will be structured. We will know what to expect and how to fill the hours. I encourage you to bring the family together to write a rule for the household, or to establish some general guidelines for the family, while individual members fill in details.
The first step is to pray. Ask the Holy Spirit what special gifts he has given you. How does he want you to live your faith today? Then create a motto or a mission statement. What is essential to your relationship with God and each other? What do you want to focus on? Is there a particular saint whose vision you want to follow, whom you could choose as a patron?
What are your spiritual goals? Where would you like to be as an individual or a family in five years? What are some concrete ways you could start working towards those goals now? Are there particular virtues you need to grow in? Particular sins you need to overcome? Brainstorm and discuss ideas until you begin to see an underlying theme that pulls them together.
Once you have the goals in mind, it’s time to get really specific. Now we need to talk about schedules. Likely you are already doing something to replace Sunday Mass attendance. Is that working for you? Do you need to find a different option for streaming Mass or participating more fully? How can you pray regularly as a family? Are you praying a family Rosary? If not, this is a good time to start. Do you have a special place for prayer? Can you make one? I recently cleared off my dresser and covered it with icons to help me pray better. Even one small statue or holy picture will help.
Next, set a time for daily mental prayer. To keep with the spirit of the Easter season, try reading and meditating on the daily Gospel. How long will you pray each day? If you are already practicing mental prayer, how can you make it more fruitful? Can each family member have a separate quiet time with God? Can this be done all at once?
Fill in the rest of your rule with norms for work, housework and study; and don’t forget time outside, exercise, playing together and using media.
Creating a rule of life won’t remove all your stress, but it will establish a routine. Making prayer – both individual and communal – a priority will give you strength and relieve anxiety. Being confined to our homes gives us an opportunity to taste what cloistered religious life is like. With few outside distractions except those we choose, we can refocus and bring lasting spiritual fruit from a crisis.
More help in developing a rule of life can be found in Father Roger Landry’s recent book, “Plan of Life,” which was reviewed in the July 6, 2018, edition of the Catholic Voice.
Connie Rossini is a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha. She is the author of “The Q&A Guide to Mental Prayer,” now available at amazon.com, and five other books on Catholic spirituality.