Updated: Sep 26, 2019
Routine is really important, not just when caring for littles, but also when trying to grow in holiness. Just as monastics have a certain Rule of Life specific to their order and apostolate, mothers can create their own as well. In this post we'll talk about why a rule of life is important and how to make one, and I'll give you mine as a sample.
Why a Rule of Life?
To answer this question, I'll let Fr. Ripperger do most of the talking in this wonderful video:
I highly recommend watching the whole thing if you can. Essentially, having a routine (something we do every day at a certain time, etc.) helps us to grow in virtue, primarily because it doesn't allow us to make decisions guided by our passions or appetites, i.e., doing something because we feel like it.
For me, it also helps me to make sure I am doing all of the spiritual things I need to do, instead of wandering aimlessly. It also helps me to make sure I am accomplishing my duties according to my state in life, something without which holiness is impossible. The little things really do matter!
How Do I Make One?
The structure I have found the most helpful is dividing your Rule of Life into tiers. I use four tiers:
Tier 1: Bare Minimum. These are the things where I absolutely cannot go to sleep until they are done, no matter where I am or how crazy the day is. For example, these are the things you still need to accomplish on vacation or when giving birth in the hospital. Make this one realistic, because it needs to be non-negotiable.
Tier 2: Normal Day. These are the things I really should be doing every day, that I want to make a consistent part of my routine.
Tier 3: Ideal. These are the things that, on a perfect day, I will accomplish. This tier is the goal for every day.
Tier 4: Perfection. These are the things that I will incorporate into my day if I find myself with extra time, since idleness is a breeding ground for sin. These things are above and beyond and not things I'm aiming to make daily occurrences, just things to do if I find myself with some free time on my hands, or stuck nursing a baby with my phone and books out of reach.
Now, every Rule of Life will look differently for every person. A good way to create it is to write out the duties for your state in life, divide them into daily and weekly tasks, and then divide them into the four tiers.
Next, do the same with your spiritual life. If you have a spiritual director, this part is easy, because he can tell you what you need to be doing. If not, look at your goals: in what areas do you need to be advancing? Are you in the active purgative phase or passive? Or none? If you have no idea where to begin, here are a few points to consider:
Our obligation to God, out of justice, is to pray a minimum of 15 minutes a day. Our obligation to God out of charity requires more.
Our Lady has been insistent on praying a daily rosary, and the Church has reinforced this with the many indulgences it attaches to rosaries.
All of the saints have been clear that mental prayer is a necessity in the spiritual life (not just vocal prayer!).
Penances, mortifications, and fasting are essential to rooting out vices and attachments.
Use prudence when adding things to your prayer life. If you attempt too much at once (e.g., going from not praying to an hour of mental prayer a day), you will burn out pretty fast. Look at Tier 1 as something that should really never change, but the other tiers as pretty malleable as you grow in the spiritual life. A trial period when starting out a Rule is a good idea.
Sample Rule of Life
Without further ado, here is my current rule of life. Feel free to use this as a jumping off point, but remember to customize it for you. I might have a little more time for prayer than you since I don't have an office job and I have a lot of nursing sessions in a day.
1/3 Rosary (i.e., 5 mysteries) (daily)
15 minutes of mental prayer (daily)
3 Hail Marys when I wake up (daily)
3 Haily Marys when I go to sleep (daily)
Morning Offering (daily)
Evening Examination of Conscience/Act of Contrition (daily)
Mass on Sundays and other Holy Days of Obligation (weekly)
Wake up at 5:30 a.m. (daily)
Get dressed in real clothes (i.e., no pajamas, t-shirts, or sweatpants) (daily)
Make up the bed (daily)
1 full Rosary (i.e., 15 decades) (daily)
15 minutes of spiritual reading (daily)
2 Confessions (monthly)
Daily Mass or Adoration (weekly)
Have all dishes put away (daily)
Listen to one sermon, Catholic podcast, or Sensus Fidelium talk (daily)
2 to 3 Daily Masses or Adoration (weekly)
Fast or mortification (daily)
Vaccuum three times (weekly)
Put up all clothes (daily)
Tidy house before bed (daily)
Pray hourly indulgenced prayers (more information here; opens in a new tab) (daily)
Noon Angelus (daily)
Afternoon mental prayer (daily)
More spiritual reading (daily)
7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Angelus (daily)
Extra corporal work of mercy (weekly)
Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (daily)
And that's mine! Note, if there is something you do as a habit (say, brushing your teeth or showering), you don't have to include it. For you, that might be vaccuming or putting away clothes, but I tend towards laziness and leaving piles of clothes unfolded for days. Remember, this needs to strike the balance between things that challenge you and things that are enforceable. If they are too extreme, it's easy to make excuses for them and not enforce them. If they are too easy, or you are doing only Tier 1 daily (when it's really meant more for vacation or abnormal days), you won't see much benefit.
Do you have a Rule of Life? I'd love to read about it in the comments!