A rule of life is a discerned commitment to the Lord, specifying the “tools” one will use to grow closer to Him. The first rule of life was set forth in the monasteries as groups of men and women joined in community to love and serve the Lord: they knew when they would wake, eat, pray, study, and work throughout the day. Religious congregations (including third order members and lay members of movements) still have specified obligations that orient them to the Lord according to their specific charism and mission. However, all lay people are encouraged to pray about and utilize a rule of life … according to their state in life and personal spirituality. For Catholics, the Church provides a “skeletal” rule of life via its precepts: Sunday Mass, annual confession, reception of Eucharist during the Easter season, days of fast/abstinence, and tithing (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 241-243). Yet, anyone who desires to grow in holiness should do more than the bare minimum, just as a marathon aspirant will need to do more than walk a mile a day.
Growth in holiness occurs with regular correspondence to the Lord’s desire to be with us and for us. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3: 20). The rule of life makes the spiritual life fruitful because one is intentional about opening the door to the Lord.
Humanly, a rule of life deters “flaking out” when one “doesn’t feel like it” or mysteriously “changed one's mind.” That’s not to say that there may be times, such as when the baby is sick or relatives appear unexpectedly or the boss drops a project due tomorrow, that flexibility or amendment is in order. Spiritually, the rule of life is important because there are rhythms to the spiritual life, some of which require more “grit” than others. The stages of the spiritual life might be likened to marriage where “highs” and “lows” are experienced cyclically, and yet, it is only by working through the “lows” that the “highs” are possible.
A good place to work on a rule of life would be in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, if possible. Maybe take a pen and paper and write down your rule of life as you edit it. What attracts you or draws you to the Lord? What can you actually commit to? Is there anything that God is pointing out to you right now? How are your key relationships? These are some “tools” (that is, means to the end of the intimacy with the Lord now and in eternity) that you may want to consider: rosary, Jesus in others, daily Mass, liturgy of the hours, discernment, examen, meditation/contemplation, dream work, music, gratitude, journaling, art, lectio divina, honoring God in work, Eucharistic adoration, stations of the cross, chaplet of Divine Mercy, Mary’s fiat, physical exercise, spiritual reading, nature, Scripture, God within, taking experiences to God, present moment/Catholic mindfulness, healing prayer, recreation, silence, faith support groups, ministry, humble service, daily duties, fasting / penance, simplicity, devotionals, annual / monthly retreat, charity and truth in relationships, Other_________.
Perhaps pick your top 3 to 5 and specify a what, a when, and a why for each one. A rule of life should also be:
Sample Rule of Life 1: A Spin Off Lent - for a young mother of two
Sample Rule of Life 2: Using The Great Commandment – for a husband/dad
Sample Rule of Life 3: Target of Needs– for a single professional
by Rachel Gehring