THE NEED OF A RULE OF LIFE
One of the resolutions which I suggested in the preceding chapter was fidelity to a rule of life. Have you a rule of life? Do not say that a rule is possible for a religious, but impossible for the mother of a family. This is an error! Every woman, whatever her lot in life, and whatever her obligations, ought to have a rule of life. Of course, the rule of a religious will be less open to modification, and will entail greater precision and severity than yours. Nevertheless, you must have a rule, otherwise your life will be squandered in a thousand follies and futilities.
Need this rule be written? When written, it will have much more precision than if it were only in the memory. But do not imagine that it should cover many sheets of paper. A few simple resolutions, clearly stated, will be entirely sufficient. You need not overburden yourselves in the beginning. Go forward step by step. A rule is not immutable; we can always add to it according as divine grace directs us. Indeed, it is better to add to a rule than to subtract from it. It is better to begin at a moderate pace, than to be obliged to slacken our speed, and perhaps lose heart.
Let me call your attention to the advantages of a rule of life. First, it saves you from yourselves, so to speak; from the spirit of caprice which finds its way so easily into your actions, and robs you of the greater part of your merit. We all are tempted to do only what pleases us, and to avoid sacrifices as much as possible. An act needs but to take on the appearance of duty to become an object of aversion to us. The result is that unless you are bound by a rule, your lives will drift unceasingly; they will float along guided only by caprice, and the sense of duty will be almost entirely lost. In that case it is your own will that you have followed from morning
until evening, and not the will of God.
From the viewpoint of merit, what a sad life is that which is not regulated. It is a life which, from a worldly standpoint, may have a certain respectability, but which, from the supernatural side is a mere farce. Will you tell me what that day weighs, in the divine balance, during which you follow your own will with never a thought for the will of God?
The evil of our century is precisely the absence of the supernatural in life. It is this naturalism, this worldliness, that draws Christian souls back to the ideals which honest Pagans formerly conceived at Rome or at Athens. Do you imagine that you can combat this naturalism by leaving your life unbridled, so to speak, without a bit to restrain it, or a rule to regulate it? I have no hesitancy in saying that a life without a rule, is a life wherein the supernatural, that is, the part of God, has little or no importance.
Here is another advantage of a rule of life: there are many bound by a rule whose lives are very fruitful. She who lives by a rule finds time for everything. Such a life produces its effects much more quickly, and with less fatigue, than life without a rule. Ask any Christian mother who accomplishes an astonishing amount of work, yet never has an air of depression, ask her, I say, the secret of her activity. She will tell you that she works methodically, because she is guided by her rule.
Others, though always occupied, accomplish little because they follow the inspiration of the moment. When perchance they have finished a work, they lose a quarter of an hour asking themselves what to do next. Then they attempt something, leave it unachieved because it has suddenly become distasteful to them, pass to another work, return finally to the first, and, in the end, accomplish nothing. True, they have been occupied continually, but they have been badly occupied, and have succeeded in making every one around them discontented. Now the ridiculous part of it all is this, that instead of laying the fault to themselves, they feign to
be misunderstood, and accuse their husbands of not rendering justice to their tact.
If you desire me to draw up for you the essentials of your rule, I will say that you should first determine the hour of your rising and retiring. Do not remain undecided on this important point. The rule extolled by spiritual writers, as well as by physicians, is to retire early in order to rise early.
Here is another article that ought to find its place in your rule: morning and evening prayers should be said kneeling. Moreover, there is hardly one among you who cannot spend a quarter of an hour each day in spiritual reading. You should have a special article binding you to that. Those of you who have the time, and who are unwilling to be satisfied with merely earthly piety, ought to take measures to make a meditation every morning, and also to attend Holy Mass each day, or at least several times during the week.
Do not forget to receive the sacraments. But of all the articles this will be the one most subject to modification. The more often you communicate, the more ardent will your desire for the Holy Eucharist become. It will be necessary, therefore, to modify your rule more and more frequently in regard to the reception of the sacraments.
I will propose this rule for the distribution of your time. Give your attention, above all to the most important duties. I mean those of your interior, and station in life. Then attend to the less important duties; the remainder of your time may be spent on duties of pure decorum–if any more time remains.
Since your rule has been made for God, it is for God that it should be followed out. This rule is the expression of the will of God in your regard, which must of necessity be very dear to you. Bring, then, to the accomplishment of each of these articles, a true spirit of faith, and a truly supernatural motive, and place yourselves a hundred times daily under the eye of God, saying frequently to Him and love: “All for you, My God.”
Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers
By: Monsignor P. Lejeune