My journey to the actual realization that a written Rule was a tool that the practicing Christian needed, took several years. I assumed that following various relevant bible verses, the baptismal vows, and adding spiritual practices would be enough for a guide to Christian living and maturity. This was a disastrous assumption! Over time it became easy to edge away from this unwritten guide. I found myself procrastinating, conveniently forgetting, or simply ignoring the guide, since only God and I knew what it looked like. My mental guide was easy to modify with editing out rather than adding to the guide my usual habit.
Through a mentor and a friend, who became my spiritual director, I learned of the Society of St. John the Evangelist and the writings of Irenaeus, Evagrius Ponticus, Benedict, Pseudo-Dionysius, and Edward Schillebeeckx. These authors were clear. A written and accountable Rule of Life is a must for a Christian. A Rule of Life should be written, doable, and revised as the Christian moves from one life phase to another.
I did nothing about writing a Rule until after I attended a meeting sponsored by the SSJE. As a Fellowship member, one needed to prepare a Rule of Life. The Rule would be a written document, read and approved by me as well as others. The Rule’s written standards contained what would hold me personally accountable before my mentor, my spiritual director, and God.
Shortly after writing my Rule of Life, I was once again floundering around convincing myself that I was following my Rule. At this time I became interested in the spiritual direction program, Formation in Direction. As a FIND student, I needed a spiritual director. The first item we discussed was a Rule of Life. Did I have one? Was it written? Did I actually pay any attention to it? I did have a Rule and did, occasionally, refer to its content but slippage had occurred. Since then I have been much more faithful to following my Rule of Life.
When I first wrote my Rule, I was careful to include participating in the sacraments, reading, studying, and meditating on scripture, the Creeds, and other holy writings, contemplation, active charity and church work. Surprise! This version was rejected by my spiritual director. Two important areas were missing: the areas of personal health and wellbeing. These included annual physical and dental checkups, personal wellness programs, recreation, Sabbath and leisure time. I remembered that as Christians we are a triad composed of a physical body, a mind/spirit, and heart/soul. This triad is the whole person of who I am as a child of God made in God’s image. Since these are my personhood, they must all be nourished. No one area is more or less important than another: all must be kept healthy.
To practice daily Christian “life” and mature in Christ, a spiritual director or companion who is a prayerful guide and listener and a written Rule of Life are vital.