Friday, March 16, 2007
Book Review: A Mother's Rule of Life
I actually finished reading Holly Pierlot's "A Mother's Rule of Life" awhile ago, but I put off reviewing it till I'd actually tried some of the author's ideas in real life.
Holly Pierlot is a mother of five who felt like throwing in the towel when it came to housekeeping, homeschooling and generally caring for her large household of children. In praying through her frustration, she realized that "Jesus was asking for the dedication of my entire self to my vocation."
I understood that this dedication went beyond just my housework and could not be limited to home management. What Jesus wanted from me was to pull together all I had learned from him and from my study of what it means to be a Christian and a woman, a wife and a mother, and a member of the Church and society. He wanted me to analyze my vocation, to see what he was calling me to, and then to implement it in my life. He was talking about a Rule of Life that goes far beyond a housekeeping schedule; nothing short of a complete and proper ordering of my life.
The book continues in a discussion of her research into monastic rules of life, and how the lessons found there might be applied to the vocation of a married woman. Unlike most "organize your life" books, A Mother's Rule of Life urges you to begin with an examination of your relationship to God and your duties, and to order your life around that vocation, instead of fitting your vocation in between your appointments. I cannot tell you how very much I appreciate this approach.
For example, Mrs. Pierlot begins with "prayer" as the first duty of any Christian, and asks the question, "What types of prayer practices do I think are reasonable for any Christian to do on a daily basis?" And that, friends, is what she recommends scheduling into your day first.
On a practical level, when she explains how she scheduled her day out, she does something brilliant I've never seen in any other organizational book: she schedules out her children's days too, in relation to her. How often have you wanted to say something along the lines of, "Yep, I'll just do chores for three hours straight and the house will look great!" but realized that if you do that your kids will go nutty? Pierlot wisely advises planning something for your children to do while you're busy, as well as considering what they need to do each day.
(If your kids are under five, like mine are, looking at her Rule might be discouraging. At my house, there's no twelve-year-old to load the dishwasher! Still, I found it helpful to have a column for each of my kids in the day's schedule. Even if most of the items in their column are labeled "play", "eat" and "nap", it's good to not have to wonder what they're going to be doing while I work.)
Holly Pierlot's actual Rule, which she only comes to at the very end of the book (most of the book is dedicated to working your own Rule out), is too long to quote here. But let me quote what she calls "The Spirit of My Mother's Rule of Life":
In seeking Christian perfection
within the married vocation, as I
repeat with the Blessed Mother:
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done to me according to thy word.
Isn't that great?
This book reminded me strongly of Brother Lawrence's Practicing the Presence of God. Especially Pierlot's suggestion of a short prayer, such as "Jesus, I do this for the love of thee", each time we turn from one activity of our day to start another. She talks about how praying through our vocation, and setting a pattern for our daily life provides a great freedom, because we know that at every moment of our day, we are doing what we ought to do. She says:
As I began to live my Rule, I became excited by the very fact that day by day, and moment by moment, I was trying to fulfill God's will in my life. As a nun vows obedience to her superiors, I was practicing obedience to the demands of my vocation as reflected in my daily duties. I was obeying God with each and every action I performed, right down to loading the dishwasher and feeding the cats.
It's been said that the unexamined life is not worth living. This is a book written specifically to help the Christian woman live an examined and holy life. I highly recommend it.
peace of Christ to you,
p.s. Seriously, getting to read good books might be the very best part of writing this blog. :D
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