Friday, April 5, 2013

A Mother's Rule of Life

A Mother's Rule of Life: 
How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul
A presentation based on the book, by Holly Pierlot
 
By Kristen M. Soley

Why a Mother’s Rule of Life?
A Mother’s Rule- as adopted from the vocation of consecrated life, is a set of rules or guidelines by which a group of consecrated (monks, sisters, etc.) agree to live.

“The practical rule is a tool to get you to the heart of your mothering vocation – union with God and your husband and family, in love.”

Like many of us, the reality that incented Holly to get organized was, as she explains…  she was sitting in her living room, “The kids were all around me, each clamoring for my attention:  ‘Mummy, you told me you’d read this story!’ ‘Mummy, can we go visit someone instead?’”  She explains on top of that her house was in disorder “socks, shoes, blankets, toys, books, papers, pillows, and cat fluff graced the living room floor; food, etc.”

She concluded “I might not like schedules… but I certainly can’t stand this either…  Schedules might be limiting… but disorder is more limiting.”

After adding a bit of order and schedule to her day, she realized, “It worked!”  It occurred to her that Jesus was “perfectly willing to bless [her] efforts, but [she] needed efforts to bless.  We have to give Him all of ourselves, to our task and mission, “not haphazardly, but fully, methodically, completely.”  Jesus asks us for dedication of our entire self to our vocation.

Dedication goes beyond our housework and could not be limited to home management.  We need to live out our vocation as Christian, woman, wife, mother, member of Church, and member of society.
Therefore, our rule of life goes far beyond a housekeeping schedule.  It should be a “complete and proper ordering of every aspect of … life.”

What is a rule?
Just like a woman who has been called to become a nun, “in addition to taking vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, she agrees to follow the Rule of the Community.”  This includes chores, meals, recreation, house rules, and dress.  These are all required in order for daily life to run smoothly in the community.    Everybody knows their place, duty, and what is expected of them. 

A rule brings order:  “a happy disposition of things… a multitude reduced in some wise to unity.” 
Thus your rule is “an organization of everything that has to do with your vocation, based on a hierarchy of the priorities that define the vocation and done with the intent to please God.”
“It deals with the essential responsibilities of your state in life, organized to ensure their fulfillment.

Your rule is in essence a schedule, based on our mission.  So what is our mission?

Proverbs 31
Proverbs 31: 10 - 31 helps us to understand how to be the wife and mother that God calls us to be, our mission if you will.

So who is a Proverbs 31 Woman then really?

• She is an excellent wife who is worth more than jewels.
• Her husband trusts her; she does him good all his life.
• She works with her hands, sewing, cooking, etc.
• She wakes early and goes to bed late to keep things in order
• She contributes where she can, is resourceful, prudent and thrifty
• She is generous to the needy and sees her children are dressed appropriately, and presentably
• She dresses herself and her children so her husband can be pleased
• She is hopeful for the future and speaks wisely and teaches kindness
• She is a good manager of her home and idleness is not acceptable
• Because she obeys her duty, her children will bless her
• Her husband believes he has a wife that excels above all others
• Most importantly, she fears the Lord.

Ready for a rule?
Now that we understand our mission, we need to fully grasp the gravity of our role in God’s plan for our salvation; our vocation.

We will need our priorities in order, if we hope to glorify God in our vocation.  We need to take time to evaluate the many activities in our daily schedule.  “When we do, we will soon see there is a hierarchy of importance, and our life can take on a new sense of order.”1  

The Five P’s:
Holly identifies the five priorities of the married vocation (the Five P’s) 
The Five P’s:
1.  First P = Prayer
2.  Second P = Person
3.  Third P = Partner
4.  Fourth P = Parent
5.  Fifth P = Provider

She explains “every woman called to be a wife and mother has certain obligations that can’t be ignored nor neglected.  They are not optional… regardless of other obligations…  Whether or not we knew what we were signing up for when we said ‘I do’, these obligations are ours by virtue of our vocation.” 

Our priorities “must be ranked according to importance.  Many marriages can get “out of order” when a lesser P is given priority over a higher P.”

First P – Prayer
God calls us to get our personal life in order by establishing, as top priority, the care of our soul and body.  The use of Time is to reflect the importance of these activities.  Therefore, God comes first. 
In lieu of never finding enough time for God in the midst of everything else, we have to work everything else around God.  When we put God first, by being available to Him and meeting Him through prayer, we build a strong foundation upon which our home, or Domestic Church. 
We are assured in 1 Corinthians 3:11 -

“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
 
God created us to know, love, and serve Him, and be happy with Him in Heaven.  He has called us to holiness; to be saints.  Rightly so, then, we need to spend time in conversation with Him, allowing Him to lovingly guide us on our steep climb up the mountain of holiness.  This conversation with Him is also knows as prayer. 

As Holly points out, God “reveals himself to us gradually.”  He is a gentleman, and gives us what we need, when we need it.  He does this when we can handle it, or when He is able to give us the strength to endure it, as the case may be.

We are not helpless in this journey to holiness; the spirit of the first P is to look at where we have been, and “learn what we ought to do to make ourselves more available to his direct and personal intervention in our lives.”

As my spiritual director pointed out, we do not need to seek God out, we do not need to go looking for Him.  “He is relentlessly pursuing us.  He is a jealous God, who wants not just parts of our lives, but all of us.”  This means, then, that we need to make ourselves available to Him, always being open to His wisdom and inspiration, recollected, if you will.  This is also a form of prayer.  By following our rule, we remove the noise that would otherwise block out His inspiration, thus enabling this form of openness to Him.

Holly includes in this P, following God’s laws, His Commandments.  “The laws that God imposes on us from the outside are meant to discipline us, to help our hearts grow into the laws of love which motivate us from within…  Law precedes love.”

Early in my faith journey, some of the laws God gave to obey seemed restrictive, but out of obedience I followed them.  In my obedience, over time, I fell madly in love with Him.  He helped me to realize that the laws He gives are not to hold us back, or restrict our enjoyment of this life.  Rather, they free us to love Him fully and live without worry; to live at peace.  Obedience to His laws enables us to live in peace and experience true joy. As F.B. Meyer says “Joy is peace dancing and peace is joy at rest.”  To experience true joy, we must be at peace, and we cannot truly find peace without the obedience to the love and protection that God provided, to keep us safe.  Again, when we obey with trust, we remove more noise from our day. 

For your rule, Holly recommends to keep it simple and not do “too much too soon” as you might get discouraged and be tempted to give up.  Things to consider in your rule are personal prayer time, family prayer time, sacraments, spiritual direction, Eucharistic Adoration, and possibly a Mother’s Sabbath. 

Questions to ask yourself in order to help in creating your rule:
• What types of prayer practices are reasonable for any Christian on a daily basis?
• What limitations or special circumstances do I or my family have? i.e., personality tendencies, are you a morning person or evening?
• How can I find some private time throughout the day?  Can my husband or older children help out?
• What are my natural lulls in the day where I can arrange to have the children occupied in a safe and healthful way so I can pray?
• Decide upon time slots for prayer, no matter how short, to set aside for prayer.
• Which prayer practices do I want to schedule?
• Where can I pray without distraction?  Create a prayer spot with easy access to a rosary, bible, etc.
• How often is it reasonable to get to confession?  When can I do this?
• How often can I attend Mass?
• What about Children’s prayer time, family prayer time?
• What about spiritual direction?

Remember your life has seasons, you may not be able to attend Mass daily, hold a regular Holy Hour, nor be able to attend Stations as often as you’d like.  St. Frances of Rome assures us:
“A married woman must, when called upon, quit her devotions to God at the altar to find him in her household affairs.”

Once you have established these, start right away; as Holly says, “Now, beginning immediately with your next scheduled prayer sessions, drop everything else and start praying!”

Remember the first P is intended to bring you closer to God.  As Holly puts it “whenever you have a spare moment, lift your heart in a little prayer to Him, asking for His blessing to help with the coming hour.  This will super-naturalize your entire day and eventually, when it becomes a habit, it will sanctify your entire life.  And not only that, God will come.”

Second P - Person
We need to care for ourselves, basic physical needs (sleep, exercise, food, vitamins, etc.)    Yes we are called to obey, to humble ourselves, but in order to do this effectively; we will need the graces we receive from time spent with God, a good night’s sleep, and good health.

Holly assures us that God “wants us to be holy, happy, and healthy, and in order to be so, we need to know ourselves – our good points and our bad points, our talents and strengths, our weaknesses and failings. When we truly know ourselves… we can become what God intends us to be.”

In order to fulfill our vocation, we need to take care of ourselves.  In my own experience, I had myself as the last P, not the second.  Consider this, how could we possibly care for and nurture our families, if we are not caring for ourselves first.  We need to be healthy, both spiritually as well as physically. 

The major components to our “self” to consider in a rule are spiritual, psychological and emotional.  Caring for our spiritual health includes following God’s laws and moral norms, the Eucharist which is our spiritual food, regular confession to heal damage we inflict in our lives through sin as well as the grace we receive from this beautiful sacrament, and we also need to study our faith which will help to form our conscience.

Questions to ask yourself in order to help in creating your rule:
1. How much do I sleep every night?  Is it enough?  Can I add, subtract?
2. What are basic hygiene and grooming tasks I must do daily, how often?  Can I do them before or after meals? (repeat this process for the children)
3. How can I get my body moving and in shape?  What forms of exercise would I like to do more?  How, when, where, can I do this?  Can the children do any of this with me?
4. How often do I think is reasonable for me to get out with friends?  Do I prefer socialization to be regular or spontaneous?
5. What hobbies or other forms of recreation do I need to engage in each day to help balance y cay and help relieve stress?
6. When would there be a natural time for me to do these things?  When the kids are in bed? During their nap time?  After supper?
Holly recommends starting a journal to record personal areas you might want to work on.  Maybe spend a half hour daily or even weekly to review spiritual, mental, and emotional health.  You could also incorporate any prayer and meditation thoughts (lectio divina, etc) in this journal.

Third P - Partner
Our husbands come next.  A solid, loving marriage is the bedrock of family life, and so the next allotment of our time should be directed at our partners, our husbands.  We need to be available to them first and foremost, before all other activities.

Marriage is a sacrament, and as a wife, “we have a job to do.” Love is something we are supposed to concern ourselves with, giving not receiving; “giving to my husband the gift of myself.”  Love is a decision, not a feeling.  “It is an act of the will, a giving of ourselves to the other for the other’s good.”

As Fulton Sheen says Christian marriages fail only when spouses fail to be Christian.  We are to treat our husbands with dignity, love, and respect.  We should treat them how we would like to be treated.  It helps to remember that we are all doing the best that we can, with the tools and history God gave us.  It helps to give our spouse the benefit of the doubt, and try to see things from his perspective before assuming anything.  It also helps to pray before speaking, especially in times of disagreement.

Questions to ask yourself in order to help in creating your rule:
1. When can I open up a regular chunk of time just to be available to my husband?  What type of things can I arrange?  Intimacy?  What are his expectations vs. yours?
2. Does my husband need any help from me aside from housework?  Are there any little things he appreciates, ways I could help make his life a little easier? 
3. How can I plan meals that he enjoys?  Meal planning is a great asset in home management.

It would be helpful to know your husband’s love language when creating your rule.  http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

Fourth P - Parent
“Parenting is a call to form persons.”  We need to love our children in a conscious, consistent way. Try to be more available to them throughout the day.  Not just physically, but mentally available to them; laugh, talk and simply be with them.

Questions to ask yourself in order to help in creating your rule:
1. What exactly do your children need to do? For daily hygiene? To deal with their clothing?  Their personal prayer?  Sports and hobbies? Friends?  Catechism and Mass and Confession? Homework or schooling?  Sleep, rest, exercise?
2. What supplies / materials do your children need to do these things?
3. When can our children perform their duties and activities?
4. When can I help my children?

Fifth P - Provider
This constitutes a paycheck for some of us as well as caring for, maintaining, and repairing (as much as possible) our home and our resources, and, if time permits, earning extra income on a causal basis to help out financially (if we do not already work outside the home).

Questions to ask yourself in order to help in creating your rule:
1. How much income do we have coming in on a regular basis?
2. How much are we required to tithe in order to ensure we meet this obligation and experience God’s blessings?
3. What are our basic and necessary monthly expenses?
4. How much money do we owe, aside from car and home payments?  What are payment schedules?
5. What other expenses do we typically incur?
6. What, if anything, can we allot to savings, no matter how small?

When your 5P’s are in order, God always makes things work, the way He intends it.  When they are disordered, however, you will find likely find yourself unsettled, anxious, short tempered and feeling like a failure. 

Wisdom in creating your rule
Holly explains that “a rule of life must be lived as a response to the call of God.”  As a wife and mother, we are called to know, love, and serve Him and to be happy with Him in Heaven; just as He designed it.  Therefore, our obedience to Him, through our vocation is our path to holiness.  Our rule can be a means to our sanctification. 
As Jesus told St. Faustina:
“Yes.. when you are obedient I take away your weakness and replace it with My strength. I am very surprised that souls do not want to make that exchange with Me.” I said to the Lord, “Jesus, enlighten my heart, or else I, too, will not understand much from these words.” (381) 2
  
“My daughter, know that you give Me greater glory by a single act of obedience than by long prayers and mortifications.” (894) 2
 
Holly explains that a rule can be very sanctifying.  If we do our duty, before what we’d prefer, “it becomes a great means of mortification…  Just as a nun vows obedience to her superiors [you will practice] obedience to demands of [your] vocation as reflected in [your] daily duties.”

I read once that a woman looks at each item on her rule as a gift for Jesus. "I am going to iron for you now, my Lord; I will prepare supper for you now, my Lord, I will wipe the poop off the carpet and wash the sheets, my Lord, etc!” 

Holly, before beginning each task in her rule simply says a little prayer and asks God to bless this next allotment of time. This mindset might help you to remain obedient to your own rule.

The spirit of you rule
The spirit of your rule is its “underlying philosophy and goals.”  It will summarize the main points of how you want to live out your vocation, based on the five p’s, as well as the specific virtues you believe most important in your vocation.

The spirit of your rule will include the aim and purpose of your vocation, and the heart of your mother’s rule.  It is your own personal mission statement if you will.  Holly’s looks like this:
“In seeking Christian perfection within the married vocation, as I repeat with the Blessed Mother:
‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Be it done unto me according to thy word.’”

You could also define how you will fulfill the Will of God in your rule, specifically, reevaluating your five p’s, ensuring duties are accounted for, and the reduction of excessive and outside involvements or ministries.

The spirit of your rule will also take into consideration love of God and neighbor.  Love of God might focus on:
• The reasonableness of your rule related to God’s will for you
• Offering up each task for love of Him more frequently
• Performing each task with great care and tenderness as an act of love, for the Love of God
• Openness and receptiveness to the Holy Spirit

Love of neighbor might focus on:
• Being externally and internally available to family
• Attentive to the person I am with
• Accept and encourage each person, looking for the good in all
• Seek to do what is best for others and bring out their best
• Seek to be firm, but gentle, cheerful, kind, and just

Other considerations to the Spirit of your rule might include:
• Bring about and maintain order with time, possessions, and desires
• Focus on simplicity of possessions, activities, and virtue
• Practice moderation in all things
• Attention to detail in all that I do
• Flexibility with schedule

The spirit of your rule related to the five P’s might include:
• Committed time with God every day, throughout the day
• Examine my life and person and seek to bring about personal health, in mind and body
• Actively love my husband
• Actively love my children
• Be a good steward of the possessions and resources of God’s providence

Getting started
Sit down and ask God to bless this effort.  Determine the spirit of your rule.  Then evaluate your own “P’s”, begin to look at your day and the natural rhythm; prayers, meals, snacks, naps, errands, household chores, and other duties related to your vocation. 

Then jot down the things you’d like to get done, that never seem to get done, i.e., cleaning ceiling fan blades, clean out fridge, filing, organizing clothes / closets, modifying your rule, exercise, date nights, designating time to be available to your spouse.  Do you want to do more spiritual reading?

Allow room for emergencies, where your family might need to go into maintenance mode, remembering that your family’s personal needs come before the rule.  In those circumstances, ensure the essentials are addressed (prayer, meals, laundry, tidy-up, and critical schoolwork if children are not sick).  “The schedule is made for the family, not the family for the schedule.”

The key for Holly is to remain flexible but not “so flexible that [you] can reason yourself right out of your schedule again.”

The fruit of a rule is that your mind will be freed from the many cares and concerns, because you know what you should be doing, and when.  Everything has a time.  You will know exactly when every task in your home is going to be done and not worry about them until it is time to do it.

I would spin, I call it, when I had pockets of time… ‘what should I do with this fifteen minutes?’… by the time I figured out what was most important, the time was up.  Now I simply look at my rule and see what I should be doing. 

One tip for cleaning with children, taking advice from Holly she designated fifteen minutes for chore time.  Your children will know there is a limit “to the nasty stuff Mummy is going to assign.” 

In our home we would begin by offering up our cleaning time for a soul, each child calls out the soul they are cleaning for and then we would set the timer for twenty minutes.  We had to try to get all of our individual chores done before the timer would beep. 

For helpful a printable workbook filled with worksheets and information on pulling together your rule, please visit Holly’s website - http://www.mothersruleoflife.com/.

The book, A Mother’s Rule of Life can be purchased from these websites:
• From Amazon.com by clicking this link - A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul
http://shop.sophiainstitute.com/Search.aspx?k=a+mother%27s+rule+of+life&submit=Search
• http://www.catholiccompany.com/mothers-rule-life-p1004316/?

Be sure to ask your husband’s blessing, if there are changes that will impact him in time away from home, or a request for personal time (holy hour, mother’s retreat, daily Mass, etc.)  Also, if you have a spiritual director, ask him to review and bless it.  This will help you to remain obedient to it.

Sources:
1.  A Mothers’ Rule of Life, Holly Pierlot 2004 – Sophia Institute Press
2. Diary of St. Faustina

Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”

2 comments:

  1. Nice presentation of this book! I think it's time for me to read it again. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thx Monica! I love this book and read it at least every-other year! I always learn something new! :)

    ReplyDelete