Rule of Life

By RULE OF LIFE we mean a mental, physical, and spiritual discipline. Monks and Nuns live each under the rule of his or her order, and those monastic rules are useful guides for laymen desiring to live under a rule. Each layman, especially those who aspire to Christian leadership, ought to follow a personal rule of life. That rule should be tailored to the individual while also grounded in the two millenia of Christian tradition as contained in the monastic rules.

The most widely known of the moastic rules is that of Saint Benedict of Nursia (480-547). We have put the Rule of Benedict on this website and urge you to read it as you prepare to write your own rule. The goal of Benedict's Rule is to make "Our hearts and our bodies...ready to do battle under the biddings of holy obedience." That military image is one that Benedict returns to in his rule and is good way for you to think of your rule of life -- the rule is a daily, even hourly reminder that you serve as a solder in the army of Christ. Pope Benedict XVI has said /1/ of the Rule of Benedict that it --

...offers useful guidelines not only for monks but for all who seek guidance on their journey toward God. For its moderation, humanity and sober discernment between the essential and the secondary in spiritual life, his Rule has retained its illuminating power even to today. By proclaiming St Benedict Patron of Europe on 24 October 1964, Paul VI intended to recognize the marvellous work the Saint achieved with his Rule for the formation of the civilization and culture of Europe.

At a minimum the rule should include specific obligations with regard to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, for, as the Pope St. Leo the Great (reigned 440-461) wrote: "There are three things which most belong to religious actions, namely prayer, fasting, and almsgiving."

PRAYER includes attendance at the regular worship services of the Church. It also includes our private praises, thanksgivings, and petitions. The rule of life may include specific obligations relating to those public and private prayers, but what we are particularly addressing with the rule is the daily recitation of the official prayers of the Church, known as the Daily Office. The Daily Office, with its order of prayers, praises, and readings proper to each season, day, and time of day serves to sanctify time. When you pray the Office you join the communion of saints who have recited these prayers daily for century upon century. The website www.bookofhours.org offers one version of the Daily Office of the Catholic Church, consisting of daily Morning Prayer, Noontime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline (Bed-time prayer). The prayers vary by season in the Christian year, day of the week, and time of day. Familiarize yourself with our online Daily Office or other version of the Office. Try out reciting one or more of the offices daily to find out what discipline will cause you to put in a bit more effort than you would otherwise without being so great a time commitment as to cause you to fail to do it regularly. After this period of experimentation you should bind yourself with an obligation to say all or parts of certain offices every day without fail.

Regular recitation of the Daily Office will bring you closer to God and help you to keep his commandments.

  1. I am the Lord Thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.
  3. Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath day.
  4. Honor thy father and thy mother.
  5. Thou shalt not kill.
  6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  7. Thou shalt not steal.
  8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
  9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.

FASTING has been practiced in all times and by all religions. For Catholics it is one of the Six Commandments of the Church.

  1. To hear Mass on Sundays and Holydays of Obligation.
  2. To fast and abstain on the days appointed.
  3. To confess at least once a year.
  4. To recieve the Holy Eucharist during Easter time.
  5. To contribute to the support of our Pastors.
  6. Not to marry persons who are not Catholics, or who are related to us within three degrees of kindred, nor privately without witnesses, nor to solemnize marriage at forbidden times.

These Commandments prescribe the minimal obligation of a Catholic; the rule you write for yourself will impose voluntary obligations above the Commandments of the Church.


According the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Any material favour done to assist the needy, and prompted by charity, is almsgiving. It is evident, then, that almsgiving implies much more than the transmission of some temporal commodity to the indigent. According to the creed of political economy, every material deed wrought by man to benefit his needy brother is almsgiving. According to the creed of Christianity, almsgiving implies a material service rendered to the poor for Christ's sake. Materially, there is scarcely any difference between these two views; formally, they are essentially different. This is why the inspired writer says: "Blessed is he that considers the needy and the poor" (Psalm 41:1 / Psalm 40:2) -- not he that gives to the needy and the poor.


/1/ Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 9 April 2008.