A Rule of Life for Congregations

I read St. Benedict’s Rule not too long ago and something this morning made old residual questions from that reading resurface. For starters, the concept of developing a Rule for Life that’s loosely influenced by Benedict’s sketch is a great idea.

This is my question:

What if congregations developed a Rule of Life and filtered all the things they did, say, and planned through that same rule. What if being a “member” wasn’t just relegated to having heard some chief parts of doctrine at some previous part of your life. What if being a “member” was living in a community of people who lived a common life that was guided by a Rule of some kind (which would be obviously influenced by the life of Christ)?

Here’s an excellent example of a Rule from The Third Order, Society of St. Francis:

The Holy Eucharist.

Since we see the Eucharist as the heart of our prayer, our personal rule would call us to frequent participation in this Sacrament.

Penitence.

Regular examination of our obedience to Christ is necessary. To be reconcilers we must first be deeply reconciled to God. We practice daily self-examination and regular use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Personal Prayer.

We set aside a definite time for prayer each day to spend time with God, to pray for others, to meditate and to express our thankfulness. Prayer is the root from which our lives and ministries grow and are nourished.

Self-Denial.

This is the discipline of saying “No” to oneself by putting God first. We are often aware of the places in our lives where additional self- discipline is needed, but our Spiritual Directors should be asked to help in this area. We also focus on eliminating the ways we may manipulate others to our own ends.

Retreat.

Silent retreats and quiet days provide an opportunity to rest and grow physically, mentally and spiritually. At least once a year, we participate in organized or private retreats.

Study.

We all need to learn more about God and His will for us. Study of the Scriptures and of Franciscan spirituality is important to our Christian growth.

Simplicity of Living.

Simplicity calls us to examine our giving of self as well as the material things over which we have control. Our cluttered lives, our preoccupations with “belonging”, can interfere in our relationships with God and our brothers and sisters. We are called to a life of simplicity, eliminating those aspects of ourselves and our lives which prevent our full expression of God’s love.

Work.

Service has always been an important part of the Franciscan vocation. Daily work is one way in which Tertiaries serve God and others; we are often also called to serve God and our brothers and sisters in individual ministries, ranging from prayer to social activism.

Obedience.

All Tertiaries are obedient to the decisions of Third Order Chapter. We say the Daily Offices, we support each other by prayer, attendance at Fellowship meetings and a pledge of financial support to the Third Order. We report regularly to the Order on the keeping of our Rule. We have Spiritual Directors whom we see a minimum of twice a year.

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