The last time I blogged about our Family’s Rule of Life, I shared our schedules in the hopes that they would somehow help you in putting together your own Family Rule of Life. Just like New Year’s Resolutions, the easy part is getting it all written down on paper. The hard part is actually making those things we write down happen. Today, I’m going to share Holly Pierlot’s tips on how to stick with your Rule of Life. I revised our Family Rule of Life in November, and it is becoming second nature. After reading through how to put our life in order, Holly gives some fantastic advice on how to make sure it continues happening on a regular basis. Below are my summaries of her main points:
Do Everything All of the Other Books Say
- Declutter and lighten your load
- Limit activities
- Keep a balance of work & play
Conquer Sloth, The Disease of the Will
- Strengthen your prayer life (Revisit my section on Prayer)
- Frequent the sacraments to strengthen your will
- Study and read about your vocation to answer this question to strengthen your commitment: Why bother with the 5 P’s or the duties of a wife and mother?
- Train your will (Revisit my section on Person)
- Start with little decisions like getting up for morning prayer or declining dessert. As Holly Pierlot says, “Every little thing counts every single time.”
- Choose to be true to your vocation. “What God wants from us is the determination of our wills,” said St. Teresa de Ávila.
Engage Your Reason
- Continually revise and improve your Rule to your family’s needs (chore charts, schedules, etc.)
- Continue to “put out into the deep water” when you are discouraged just as Peter did to reap the rewards of following your Rule
Obedience Brings Strength
- Share your Rule of Life with a spiritual director
- Ask for his feedback on the reasonableness of the Rule
- Follow your Rule under obedience to your spiritual director and your vocation
“Supernaturalizing Your Rule”
Every time you glance at the next task to be accomplished, offer it to God–give Him your efforts, ask Him for help and graces to do the job well, and do it all in joyful obedience. Every time we begin a new task is an opportunity for prayer–yes, even if it’s scrubbing a toilet! Holly Pierlot says,
“Tackle every task as a direct response to God, just as if He were asking you, ‘Will you go do your laundry now?’
Just say, ‘Yes, I will.’ And smile at Him. Then you’ll be moving ever closer to the heart of your Mother’s Rule.”
Do every little thing for love of our Lord, and invite Him to come into your everyday moments–folding laundry, washing dishes, bathing children.
Developing a Life of Active Contemplation
I used to think only cloistered nuns could achieve contemplation during the day, but A Mother’s Rule of Life taught me that I am called to active contemplation as a wife and mother. Holly Pierlot quoted Adolphe Tanquerey,
“[S]ince the will alone is held captive [by God], the other faculties are free to attend to things relating to God’s service; and this they do with far greater energy. Then, when the soul is engaged in exterior works, it continues to love God ardently; this is the union of action and contemplation, of the service of Martha and the love of Mary.”
When I read those words, I felt so validated. At last, I was hearing the words that God wants and needs me to be both a Mary and a Martha in my daily life. In my vocation as a wife and mother, God knows I can’t spend my whole day in prayer. While prayer remains a large part of my day, I am also called to actively serve my loved ones. When I am going about my everyday duties (those “exterior works”) for love of God, I am uniting the best of Martha and Mary. In training my will to do this, I grow closer to God.
As St. Teresa of Ávila told her order,
“Let us understand, my daughters, that true perfection consists in love of God and neighbor…All that is in our Rule…serves for nothing else than to be a means toward keeping these commandments with greater perfection.”
Getting Bored Enough to Be Free
I’m just on the cusp of having things going smoothly enough around here with our Rule that it has become second nature. I don’t think I would say that I’m bored like Holly Pierlot was after establishing her Rule, but it’s not as challenging as it was in the beginning to keep the house and our days in order. Getting to the point where managing the house is second nature is key to gaining interior freedom. Holly Pierlot put it this way:
“But it was only when I reached the point of getting bored, after my Rule was established, that I was free enough to open my mind and heart to God; to be internally attentive to him and to be conscious of doing all for the love of him. It was then that I experienced his profound presence, which, in turn, inspired a new love for my family. So a Mother’s Rule leads to recollection: that deep calm and quiet of the interior life of our souls. Freed from outside concerns, we become more peaceful, more in touch with our inner nature, and we discover our hearts. There we encounter an entirely new possibility of frequent conversation with God and a deeper communion with him.”
Before getting our new home and our days in order, I felt scatterbrained. I would look from one mess to another, thinking, “What should I tackle first? How am I going to find the time to do this?” I was so busy taking in the visual chaos around me that I didn’t allow myself to be quiet enough to hear God. With our home and our days in order, it is much easier to remain focused on the task at hand, clearing space in my mind for prayer.
Embracing the Flames of God’s Love – In Consolation and Purgation
Depending on what’s happening in my life, I’ll experience God’s Love differently. Holly Pierlot describes our subjective responses to God’s Love beautifully.
“For God comes to enkindle us with fire–the fire of love and the fire of purification, and both are the same fire of God.”
While it won’t always feel good, God will strengthen and challenge me when He asks me to take up the cross and follow Him. In those times, He’s purifying me of my sinful tendencies and asking me to make room for Him in my heart. When I choose to love Him, even when it hurts, we are imitating the blessed Mother’s, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word.” When I choose to put my crosses to work instead of wasting little sufferings, I am contributing to the salvation of the world.
Spirit of Your Rule
Ultimately, a Rule of Life is more than a schedule or way to organize our lives. Holly Pierlot suggests writing out a Spirit of your Rule of Life. She describes a Spirit of your Rule of Life as a summary of the “main points of how you want to live out your vocation, based on the five Ps, the specific virtues you believe most important to your vocation and unique circumstances, and the particular goals, attitudes, and frames of mind and heart you believe God is calling you to.” With your “Spirit” as your written guide, you will be encouraged to regularly reexamine how well you’re living out your Rule. Decide how often you’d like to reexamine your Rule of Life and commit to revising what’s not working. (I plan to revise our Family Rule again in the fall as the new school year rolls around.) Between now and this fall, when I find myself disillusioned with my vocation or lacking motivation, I’ll reread my “Spirit” to get back on track and more some encouragement.
Holly Pierlot shared her Spirit of her Rule as a guide. I am still writing the Spirit of my Rule, and I am modeling it after Holly’s using her headings:
- The Will of God (Listing what God desires for my life)
- The Love of God (What my life will look like because of my love of God)
- The Love of Neighbor (What my life will look like because of my love of neighbor)
- Key Aspects of My Mother’s Rule (Main points such as order, simplicity, moderation, flexibility, reflection)
- The Five Ps (Examining key points from each of the 5 Ps – Prayer, Person, Partner, Parent, Provider)
- Dedication to the Rule (How I will make sure my Rule continues to be lived out – spiritual direction, renewal/reexamination, etc.)
I recommend reading through Holly’s entire Spirit to get a better sense of what a Spirit of your Rule might look like.
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Questions for You:
- Do you have any tips or tricks for conquering sloth in your everyday life?
- Have you ever experienced a period of spiritual dryness or a Dark Night of the Soul? What helped you to endure without the feelings of consolation?
- Do you identify more with Martha or Mary? Do you allow a life of service to be an excuse to neglect your prayer (or vice versa)? What practical things can you do to achieve a better balance of the best of both women?
This concludes my series on our Family’s Rule of Life. I hope it has been helpful for you! If you haven’t already, get yourself a copy of Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life to read more about all of the topics I explored in greater detail.