Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Plan of Life

I've always been meaning to craft a way of life that centers around the liturgical calendar, however I always find silly reasons not to follow through. I get these daily emails from Opus Dei that contain wisdom from St. Josemaria Escriva and yesterday's was all about establishing a plan of life. Now, as a Benedictine Oblate candidate, that is sort of my plan of life; Father Benedict, in his wisdom and moved by the Holy Spirit, made his Rule in a way that gave guidelines so that there could be a bit of wiggle room, depending on time, space, conditions, etc. So, I plan on continuing to integrate the Rule into my daily life, but seeing as how so much of the Rule is dedicated to how to run a monastery and how to pray the Office, I need to find other ways to fine tune what I'm learning through the Rule. In steps St. Josemaria Escriva; let's hear what he has to say...

The first danger is that following a Rule or a plan of life seems so...routine, which sucks, I know. And St. Josemaria councils us by saying, "This tying of one's life to a plan, to a timetable, you tell me, is so monotonous! And I answer: there is monotony because there is little Love." This is true; like with anything you do for the religious life, if you do it just to do it, as a form of discipline for instance, than it's destined to fail because it's not done out of love for Christ. Love has to be the main reason for any of this, if not the only reason for any of this.

"You should not let them become rigid rules, or water‑tight compartments. They should be flexible, to help you on your journey you who live in the middle of the world, with a life of hard professional work and social ties and obligations which you should not neglect, because in them your conversation with God still continues. Your plan of life ought to be like a rubber glove which fits the hand perfectly." The problem I've always gotten myself into is that I make things too strict, like a military order, and then I spend more time trying to track the way I live instead of just living my life. I do this very often with diets, for instance, where I make things so restrictive (no carbs, for instance, or counting points) and then I wind up spending most of my time policing myself instead of learning how to live within a boundary. It's as if instead of just playing in the backyard, I spend the whole time measuring the property line to make sure I don't venture out too far.

"Please don’t forget that the important thing does not lie in doing many things; limit yourself, generously, to those you can fulfill each day, whether or not you happen to feel like doing them. These pious practices will lead you, almost without your realizing it, to contemplative prayer. Your soul will pour forth more acts of love, aspirations, acts of thanksgiving, acts of atonement, spiritual communions. And this will happen while you go about your ordinary duties, when you answer the telephone, get on to a bus, open or close a door, pass in front of a church, when you begin a new task, during it and when you have finished it: you will find yourself referring everything you do to your Father God." Another mistake I always make, filling my day with way too many activities and prayers, which is always destined to fail. I need to be flexible, try my best, and not overload my day. But, as he explains, even the mundane things of our day - inspecting parts at work, the commute, trying to get 10,000 steps for exercise - all of that can be offered to God as prayer. Every aspect of our life can be liturgical, an offering to God, and not just those moments when we pray or sit in adoration (important as those things are).

So, here's a new attempt at having a plan of life:

Meals and snacks: As I've mentioned before, these will be the least processed as possible - organic, natural, real food. That shouldn't be that hard - basically most things in life are on my "to eat" list, with only some things being off limits - anything I buy in a box must also be organic, if a version is available (like organic mac and cheese, for instance). In keeping with the liturgical calendar, and trying to reduce my impact on the environment (and my wallet), I will stick with vegetarian meals throughout the week (except for fish in three meals a week, more than likely just adding tuna fish to my salads); the only exception is on a Solemnity or major feast day (like St. Benedict's) - because it is a special day, it calls for a special celebration, so that's when I'll enjoy some meat or poultry (although I won't go out of my way - perhaps I'll "celebrate" by going out for a meal instead of cooking something). Lent and Advent will be times of penance, so maybe the meals will get very simple or just be salads, with Sundays being very subdued (perhaps just a fish meal on Sundays and no meats). I'll figure that out as I go along. Either way, I'll use the liturgical calendar to assist me in crafting my meal plans and moderating my consumption of luxuries that I often take for granted.

Fasting: In keeping with the practice of my monastery, I will continue to improve my fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays and follow according to the law of the Church, with one full meal and two smaller meals as a way to fast. For these meals, I will, of course, abstain from meat. Obviously, I'll make changes when a Solemnity falls on a Wednesday or a Friday, as well as when Lent begins.

Drinking: I love a good beer. Or five. Again, I will do my best to save my drinking for Solemnities and major feast days, with the rest of the week enjoying water, tea, juice, and healthier stuff like that; although, as is recommended by many doctors, I will try to have a glass of organic red wine every day, if possible. This won't be that hard, due to the fact that these days I prefer to drink in public, so beer usually winds up sitting in my fridge for weeks on end. As for harder stuff, I will try to drink that even less (no more than one drink of any particular spirit in a couple days' time), only because it can't be that healthy for you.

Smoking: I still don't want to turn this occasional pleasure into a bad habit, so I continue to limit myself to just one day a week (tops) to enjoy a cigar or pipe.

Prayer: In keeping with my practice as an Oblate (and perhaps one day as a deacon), I will do my best to pray the Daily Office in the Morning and Evening; because Sundays are Solemnities, I will try to also pray Compline on Sundays and other Solemnities and major feast days. I also do my best (but don't obsess) to pray the rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet daily.

Mass: I've always wanted to attend daily Mass and, due to my new work schedule, I've lost all the flexibility I once had; basically, my best shot at going to daily Mass is at a little parish a few towns over, every night at 7pm. I will do my best to start this next week, but again, I'll be flexible about it. I still do my best to attend my Ordinariate parish at least two Sundays a month.

Adoration: Countless saints, popes, and theologians have written volumes about the benefits of spending time with the Lord, especially when he's exposed for Adoration in the Blessed Sacrament. Life is very busy and although I've always wanted to adore him for an hour daily, that just can't happen right now (perhaps later on in life, especially if I become a deacon). For now, I've had an inspiration to adore him on Thursdays, since we believe it was on Holy Thursday when our Lord asked his disciples, "Could you not spend one hour with me?" So, for now, I will do my best starting next week to spend one hour adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Exercise: I'm horribly out of shape and need to lose the weight. I'm limited, though, and can only do so much now due to terrible foot pain and body aches. So, I got a Fitbit and have tried to get through 10,000 steps a day, which is what is recommended as a minimum by the American Heart Association. I've nearly always failed, though, getting just around 4-5,000 steps a day during the weekdays and not even 2,000 steps a day on the weekends. So, I will do better and will start today, actually, to go out when it's not 10 billion degrees and humid and try to get 10,000 steps. Every day.

I think that's it. That's liveable. It's a routine, it's a plan of life, it's following the Rule, and it's not very overwhelming or restrictive - it is however a boundary I'm trying to draw around my life. Every step on my walk, every time I choose vegetables over meat, every time I pray the Office, every time I inspect a part at work, each moment is an offering to God, a prayer of the body. My meal plan, my exercise, my school work, my commute in horrible traffic - all an offering to God, all a prayer, to God through Mary. Holy Mary, Mother of God; St. Benedict; St. Josemaria Escriva: please guide me on this plan of life and the Rule of St. Benedict, that I may learn moderation and how to offer my life - my work and my prayer - to God with steadfast love and devotion. All this I pray in Jesus Christ's most glorious and holy name. Amen.