Making a Monastic Rule of Life
Rule of Life…How? Why? What for?
Every Monastic should create for themselves a Rule of Life, a guide and help, better yet a measuring stick for spiritual growth and practice.
Aquinata Böckman, a Benedictine Nun from Tutzing Germany who is a Doctorate professor at the Pontifical Imstitute of Spirituality in Rome since 1973 says this about our Religious and Spiritual Identity.
“Profession, is not an action completed once and for all; rather it must be appropriated, affirmed, integrated into ones life and deepened. In times of crisis or half heartedness, remembering can be a call to conversion or it can strengthen our trust in God’s guidance. If God, who had plans for me, had not stood by me, I would never have been able to come through the difficulties encountered on the way. God remains faithful to God’s self and will continue to help me.”
P. 103 Perspectives on the Rule of St. Benedict.
What gives us the meaning and significance that we need to continue our energy in life not only in the church but with those with whom we have made commitments; our friends, our families, the people we serve and are responsible to?
As members of a Religious Community we must not forget that our lives are “public” and affect those around us as professed religious.
We have all heard of a RULE of LIFE, and most of us live by some rule whether it is written or just an extension of our core values as we live them.
All of us know about formal Rules that Monastics live under, in order to carry out their duties as Monks within a monastery. As Benedictines our primary Rule of Life is the Rule of St Benedict, every thing else hovers around that central rule. The Rule of Benedict covers and pretty much dictates all of the elements of a monk’s life, prayer, free time, work, community life.
What is a Monastic Rule? Anglican Benedictine Monk from Nashdom Abbey writes.
A Monastic Rule is….
“A resource providing for The individual, a way into the Christian life of the future, through the religious and social turmoil of the present.”
Dom James Leachman
It is a guide, a help, a resource, a means to an end, yet not an end in itself.
Think of your own rule of life as having these goals.
1. An Ordering one’s days to the rhythms of God.
2. Something that includes Patterns of regular practice.
3. Intentionally ordering and attending to your checkpoints in life, something living and flexible.
4. A wholistic, organic design that provides a frame work for a faithful life as a member of The New Benedictine Community.
“In other words, a Rule properly speaking is what Father Pierre the founder of the Jerusalem Community in Paris France that now has some 300 members calls…
“a spiritual outline containing the main orientations of our way of life; sufficiently precise to guide our footsteps and to make our lives one harmonious whole.”
My own journey to living a rule of life, began by reading a book that I ran across in my travels as a priest.
It was entitled,
“Ordinary People As Monks & Mystics: Lifestyles for Spiritual Wholeness.”
It is a book of Stories of ordinary people who choose a solitary lifestyle to find wholeness and self actualization.
After reading this book I realized that I had a deep longing for going deeper in my own spiritual life and that much of what I did daily as a Parish Priest did not fulfill that desire and longing. I needed something for myself. Something for me.
As I decided to go deeper and look deeper I discovered what is known today as “new monasticism”. Small intentional communities all over the world that are seeking a deeper experience of the Divine beyond the ordinary activities and business of parish life. Communities that are seriously interested in not the “social” aspect of religion, (like Christmas Bazaars, fundraisers, committees and vestries) but living into a life of prayer, contemplation and service to the world.
Father Zossima in Dostoecsky’s The Brothers Karamazov speaks……
“a Monastic is not a special sort of person, but simply what every person ought to be. “
With these words begins the preface of the Book Benedict’s Dharma, Buddhists reflections on the Rule of St. Benedict, by patrick Henry.
He goes on to say..” A student of mine once said ‘a monk or a nun lurks inside each of us….'”
One dispersed Monastic speaks of the Religious life as facing ones own longings and dissatisfactions.
“Monasticism begins in longing and dissatisfaction.”
(From the Book Secular Monasticism)
But isn’t that how all of us come to know God in one way or another?
The need for having some Rule that helps us live out our Christian Commitment since our Baptism comes out of these principles…..
• A desire for authentic and true spirituality, beyond the merely formal routine of church.
• • A connectedness with others who share the journey.
• A deep ecumenism, joining with, learning from, and welcoming all.
• A historical perspective, learning from the old paths.
• A heart for the liberation of all sentient life, equality, fairness, and justice for human beings and non-human beings alike.
(Andrew Fitz Gibbon, Secular Monasticism, a journey AFG
Abbot of Lindisfarne Community)
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself as you work on your own Rule.
A Benedictine Living Inventory
Here are some of the major themes of Benedictine life. We reflect on these regularly in our Monthly Chapter meetings. They can help us to format a personal rule as we reflect, discuss, and think upon how we live our lives as Monastics in the world, and Christians in General.
Prayer- What do you seek in your prayer and what is your greatest challenge to a regular prayer life?
Service- whose feet do you wash and do you ever serve someone who cannot repay your kindness?
Community- Who is community for you and How well do you let them know you?
Conversion- What change is needed in your heart and life?
Obedience- To whom do you listen, especially when you have already made up your mind about something?
Stability- what is enduring and constant in your life?
Balance- how is that working out for you?
Hospitality- who is it difficult to accept and embrace?
Study- what are you learning about on a daily basis and are you curious?
Zeal- where is your passion found?
Undivided focus- Is there anything in your life that allows you to dissolve into the moment?
Daily Rhythm- how do you experience the day and the seasons? How are they expressed in your prayer life?
Some Other Benedictine Values for reflection
Modesty….(dress, attitude, talk, laughter)
Gelassenheit/serenity and tranquility. Composure, A monastic composure.
From the Prior of the Jerusalem Community Paris
“The worth of a Rule lies not so much in what it says in words as in the life lived by it. Not lived, a beautiful Rule is merely a dead letter. Well lived, an imperfect Rule becomes spirit and life.”
These thoughts are to get you started as you create your own rule of life. Also read and reflect our constitution as a community which should also be reflected in how we live our our Monastic Vocation specifically in relation to our own community.