This week Joel Osteen’s message, “Trust God’s Timing,” was focused on the attitude that we display while we are waiting for God to answer a prayer. Joel used the examples of someone praying for healing, praying to find a spouse, praying for the return of a wayward child, or praying for promotion at work. Joel said that God has a “set time” for answering these prayers, and that once we have prayed about them we should feel confident that our prayers will be answered in God’s time and while we are waiting, we should concentrate on honoring God with our lives.
It is certainly the case that we must wait patiently upon the Lord and that what we consider to be perfect timing often does not match God’s plan for us. We really can trust our Heavenly Father to provide for us — with perfect timing!
But we Catholics might ask whether our Catholic faith offers us any more concrete advice than merely to trust God and wait patiently. It certainly does!
Catholic spirituality gives us many ways to go beyond mere passive waiting to actively participating with God’s project in our lives. This is what is meant by having a “rule of life.” This expression is found on the Catechism in this context:
Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called “mystical” because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments — “the holy mysteries” — and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all.
The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus. Keeping the same rule of life, believers share the “blessed hope” of those whom the divine mercy gathers into the “holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (214, 216, emphasis mine).
That is a lot to unpack but let’s look briefly at just a couple of points. First the extraordinary signs of the mystical life that are manifest in many of the Saints have the purpose of showing all of us God’s desire that we share in mystical union with him and are meant to be tokens of our heavenly hope. Second a rule of life is the common need of all Christians and is essential for spiritual progress.
But what do we mean by a rule of life? The CS Lewis Institute offers this helpful definition:
A Rule of Life is an intentional pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness. A Rule establishes a rhythm for life in which is helpful for being formed by the Spirit, a rhythm that reflects a love for God and respect for how he has made us.
Through her precepts enjoining us to attend Mass every Sunday and holy days of obligation and to receive the Sacrament of Penance at certain times, the Church gives us the most basic requirements of a Christian rule of life. Beyond that, a wealth of spiritual resources is available to us as Catholics. Many of us make a habit of the Morning Offering and other daily prayers, while millions of Catholics commit themselves to a daily Rosary, to joining in with the Liturgy of the Hours, to assisting at weekday Masses, or to some regular combination of these practices.
The various religious communities all have their own rules, and many make provision for the attachment of lay members to some modified rule in accord with their spirituality. A list of these lay associations and third orders can be found here Instructions for Catholics in forming a personal or family rule of life can be found here. Randy Hain offers tips for a basic yet very effective rule of life for working Catholics — especially those in the business world — in his book The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work. While Holly Pierlot answers the same need for stay-at-home and homeschooling moms in A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul.
Be encouraged to know that while we wait on God’s time, we can order the use of our own time to advance our spiritual progress!