Author: Nathaniel Slattery
Posted: Month of Mary, 22nd Day, Year of Our Lord 2023
Disclaimer: The tone of this article is authoritative and instructive. Please forgive me for that, since it is how I have learned to express myself, but understand that I have no authority nor am I a good instructor. Rather, take this as a story about myself, and do not take anything to heart as if it were important for you. I am obligated to write four articles a month currently, and that is the reason I say many things on here at the risk of modest speech.
St Paschal Baylon
I have been given some good criticism from a pious soul after the disappointing quality of my last article, which was to be more focused. That in mind, I hope to speak about creating an ordered life.
My background in this is sorely lacking. I was married before I was Catholic, and so I was subject to that American and Protestant error described below:
“Now our hero, despite all his many longings for truth and even his earnest seeking for it, had been allowed by God for the sins of his fathers to have only one lit path before him to virtue. This was in flaming opposition to all tradition of every people but that novel people of which he found himself the heir, for the path was that of matrimony, or more rightly called to this people, marriage. For he had studied those books which begin with such on the sixth day, and been rightly impressed by it. And even though he was naturally a man independent of sensuous desires— of specific requirements and standards for eye color, hair color, etcetera, his soul being lofty and detached— he had studied the world about him and the example of certain men until he had made a list, thinking it would help him attract that necessary which had been presented to him as the requirement before the very beginning of the development of virtue. For the singled life he had been taught was a sort of primordial ooze which had no value in and of itself, but the married life, that was the valuable thing: one was the sexual component, the other the fertilized egg.”
This caused me never to consider the possibility of monastic life, which is simply the pure manifestation of the sort of life which is the basis of Catholicism. It is to be subject to a rule of life, which is an ordered progression of activity, labors, prayers, penances, and practices, to which the whole of every day is modeled. Because of my background, I find myself organizing into this in what is commonly understood as the most chaotic stage of life: raising small children. My children are one and two.
Thankfully, this preserves me from some dangers, such as scrupulosity, but it does not protect me from anxiety, which Francis de Sales calls the greatest enemy to the soul next to sin.
The main reason for a rule of life is to develop the virtue of simplicity. For this, I am indebted to the wonderful book Strength in Simplicity by Emmanuel de Gibuerges and published by Sophia Press. For whatever reason, Sophia decided to give the book an overly modern exterior which caused me barely to read it (for instance, the subtitle is “The busy Catholic’s guide to growing closer to God”), but it was lent to me by a dear friend and virtuous soul, and so out of piety I conceived an obligation to try it. His thesis is the definition of simplicity, and his style approaches Thomas Kempis. Simplicity he defines as the union of one objective in every action, and this can only appropriately be the pleasure of God. The largest obstacle to this is the plethora of necessary activities, and a rule of life allows you to place the vast majority of these (the rest is provided for in twice daily examinations in the morning and evening) under the resolution and intention of pleasing God. This is our goal then: to make a rule of life that facilitates the intention of every small or large action, word, or thought to be for God’s pleasure alone.
It is important to remember that God acts prior to the devil in addition to during and after him. Therefore, this goal of ours will be followed by the temptation which corrupts upon the top of the goal, which God allows for the purity and perfection of the intention, hence for greater simplicity. The temptation is to act or think as if this rule of life is about our controlling our lives in order to accomplish more and greater things. This is the self-help error, to which many of us are prone and subject, and which is dealt most ably by an author named Roy Metter, and I will tell you when the book becomes available. This temptation to act as if we were made for temporal instead of internal accomplishment, has the power to corrupt and waste all our efforts, turn us to the dust of the Earth, fill us with anxiety, and pervert our rule of life from a tool of God’s glory to a tool of our own damnation. But to know the temptation is to be equipped against it; to resist it continually is to do the work of God; and to see it is to know that there is a good thing which it is trying to ruin. Therefore, it is good to have a rule of life.
Now I have accomplished what I said I would, hopefully with some focus, but enough for my obligations. Let me say that I know nearly all people (with the exception of retirees who generally display an amazing amount of sloth and self-indulgence for the gift which God has given them) are subject to employment. Employment in the American culture is an evil thing. It is described by the prophet Jeremias: “So I will cast you forth out of this land, into a land which you know not, nor you fathers: and there you shall serve strange gods day and night, which shall not give you any rest.” It removes all ability to follow the Catholic rhythm. I am writing three books which describe it, and I shall follow up this article with an excerpt chapter from one to more plentifully show you what I mean, since none of these will be finished any time soon. God willing they will be finished before Judgment, at which time we all shall see everything which I have ever thought about any book, and I shall see what you have thought, and so what does it matter if anything is finished? It only matters if it is to God’s good pleasure.
But for now, I would say that you should not be discouraged if your rule of life is subject to employment. Rather, accept this curse as God-given for your chastisement, pray to St Julia, and adapt your rule to it, being always subject to your master as God Himself. Pray in the morning, the middle of the day, and the end. Prepare for temptation in the morning. Examine your conscience in the evening. Then strive to maintain pious meditations during your labors, beginning first with frequent ejaculatory prayer. Be prudent, but do not fear to be known as a pious Catholic.
Now, pray for me, forgive me, and I conclude this article.