Construct Your Rule of Life

Follow the steps below to get started on your Rule of Life. As your circumstances change, you may want to revisit this page to update your structures, or to refresh your commitment.

Three Qualities

To construct your own rule of life, we can draw upon the monastic writings of St. John Cassian. He taught that, to be pure of heart, there are three essential qualities. They are: prayerfulness, spiritual knowledge, and moral virtue (especially charity). 

  1. Prayerfulness describes a continuously prayerful spirit, so that throughout the day one lives in the presence of God and strives to offer all for God's glory. 

  2. Spiritual knowledge means that one's thinking is informed by divine revelation; that is to say, one learns from God to think as God does about things. 

  3. Moral virtue refers to what we have said about virtue here, namely, that a virtue is steadily ready ability to do a particular kind of act that contributes to fulfillment. The previous two qualities are themselves virtues, but here we focus on moral virtues such as patience, humility, faith, hope, prudence, justice, courage, temperance, and most of all charity. 

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Four Structures

To foster these three qualities, we can look at four kinds of structures with which to construct our rule of life.

  1. For prayerfulness, pick a form of praying.

    1. Examples: 20-30 min. of lectio divina each day; a daily Rosary. See here for more ideas.

  2. For spiritual knowledge, choose a practice to keep learning about one's faith.

    1. Examples: 10 min. a day or an hour a week of spiritual reading (of the Bible, official Church teaching, a spiritual classic, or reputable spiritual author); each week listening to a speaker or podcast that presents the faith intelligently and truthfully. See here for more ideas.

  3. For moral virtue, think of a vice, or habitual sin, with which you struggle and choose a structure that helps you to avoid it.

    1. Examples: fasting, so as to curb inordinate desires for comfort; limiting time on internet or mobile devices, to fight dissipation. See here for more on how structures can protect against vices.

  4. Also for moral virtue, think of a virtue that God especially wants you to practice at this point in your life and choose structure that helps you to practice it. 

    1. Examples: volunteering for a charity, so as to practice generosity toward others; following a weekly to do list, so as to be obedient to one's duties. See here for more on how structures can help us to practice virtues.

Write It Down

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Once you have chosen four structures (if not more) in keeping with the above, then do the following.

  1. Write the structures down in a single document as your rule of life. Give enough particulars to each structure, so that you can tell after the fact whether or not you have kept it. 

  2. Review your rule of life at least weekly, to see how well you are keeping it. Keep in mind, as you follow this rule of life, that the point of structures is to grow in the virtues, which bring us closer to God. So, keep the focus on the virtues while you review your rule of life, asking not only whether you have kept the structures, but have you used them to cultivate virtue.

  3. If you have a spiritual director, I recommend that you share your rule of life with that person, to receive possible feedback. Your spiritual director might help you to choose the structures that you follow.

  4. After a while, you may consider modifying your rule of life. You do not want to keep changing your rule of life, for the stability of observing the structures over a period of time is one of the advantages. But at the same time, it is to be expected that now and again a person modifies the structures that he or she is keeping. This, too, can be something to work on with a spiritual director. 

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