A monastic rule1 is simply a set of guidelines for a particular community of monks or individual hermits, which can also apply to lay people who live in the world.
All Christians are bound to obey the commandments of God, the precepts of the Gospel and Epistles, and to follow the spirit of the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, and obedience) with a fervor like that of the first Christians, which will enable them to free themselves from attachment to earthly things in order to set their affections on God and the things of heaven.
Therefore, living the Gospel according to a monastic rule makes the Christian’s quest for God and eternal salvation both possible and probable.2
THE REGULA FIDEI
(“RULE OF FAITH”)
We, the Oblates of the Last Martyrdom, do not wish to follow a monastic rule because it instructs us to do more or to do something different than what the commandments of God, the Gospel and the Epistles already require of us in the Regula Fidei (“Rule of Faith”). We wish to follow a monastic rule because it instructs us to follow the commandments of God, the Gospel and the Epistles with greater zeal and efficacy where we, without one, would be lacking and failing.
We do not wish to follow a monastic rule because we are in any way better than those who do not follow one. No! We are the lesser ones, the weaker ones – the spiritually poorest of the poor. It is only in following a monastic rule that we will be as great, strong and rich as those who do not need one. We simply ask for the privilege of this poverty of spirit that will provide for us the humility, charity and conformity of will necessary to acquire the immeasurable riches of the kingdom of God according to the allotted graces given to us by the Holy Spirit.
We are like little children, and we want to grow in becoming more like little children. In fact, we want to remain like little children because we fear that unless we do so, we will not inherit the kingdom of God (cf. Mt. 18:3) – a kingdom established, governed and judged by a divine infant king. We know the door to eternal life is a narrow gate so that only those few who make themselves small enough can pass through it and reach its end.
“I leave to great souls and lofty minds the beautiful books I cannot understand, much less put into practice and I rejoice that I am little because children alone and those who resemble them will be admitted to the heavenly banquet. I am glad that there are many mansions in the Kingdom of God, because if there were only those whose description and whose road seem to me incomprehensible, I could never enter there.” (St. Therese of Lisieux)
Therefore we only ask that no stumbling block be placed in our “little way”, depriving us the right to preserve our purity and simplicity of mind, heart, body, soul and life from the vanities of the great many who choose the broad road that leads to destruction (cf. Mt. 7:13) and from the scandals of scoffers (cf. Ps. 1:1) who linger near the narrow way but who have made themselves enemies of the cross. (Cf. Phil. 3:18)
OUR “LIVING RULE”
The Rule is the community’s standard of life and living by which everyone and everything we do is judged. It is the ideal by which all activity is measured, the reason by which all thoughts are discerned, the reality by which all decisions are made.
The Rule is the law that leads its members into Truth, and obedience to the law is the community’s Love that leads its members into Life. The Rule is to be written upon our hearts, studied in our minds, and shared through the living of our lives. The Rule is the spirit by which we form and are formed, by which we govern and are governed, by which we minister and are ministered, by which we love and are loved.
The Rule daily confronts us for our soul’s sake not only to evaluate our membership within the community but also our relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church. (Cf. Lk. 10:16) The Rule daily reminds us that the Gospel is the absolute and supreme rule, and that our brothers and sisters, our neighbor, the stranger and even our enemies are our “living rule”. (Cf. Rom. 2:13; Jas. 1:22-23)
The Rule is not intended to be a source of division and condemnation but rather an instrument of communion and salvation. It is not intended to be an end in itself but a temporal means toward our eternal beatitude. Members bind themselves to the Rule, for the Rule defines who we are and what we are for. The community is simply its Rule in practice, and its members are simply those who practice it.
“Therefore, we must establish a school of the Lord’s service. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if, for good reason, for the amendment of evil habit or the preservation of charity, there be some strictness of discipline, do not be at once dismayed and run away from the way of salvation, of which the entrance must be narrow (cf. Mt. 7:14). But, as we progress in our monastic life and in faith, our hearts will be enlarged, and we shall run with unspeakable sweetness of love in the way of God’s commandments. Thus, never departing from his school nor abandoning his rule, but persevering in it according to his teaching, we may be partakers also in his kingdom. Amen.” (The Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue)
“May whoever observes all this be filled in heaven with the blessing of the Most High Father, and on earth with that of his beloved Son, together with the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.” (Blessing of St. Francis of Assisi, Testament)
1 A rule is a system of fundamental laws and principles that define the structure and operation of a particular society. It is the customary and expected course of action by which members of the society exercise direction and dominion over their behavior in conformity to the society’s nature and purpose, as well as the standard by which their activity and productivity within the society is measured.
2 Anthony C. Meisel and M.L. del Mastro, The Rule of St. Benedict, Introduction, p. 11