A few days ago, the fourth year resident members of the Community of St Anselm departed Lambeth Palace, London. I remember July 4th, 2016 when it was time for my husband and I to leave. It had been an incredible year of formation but there was much excitement in the air as we departed Heathrow Airport for our home city of Melbourne.
Early on in our year, we heard Archbishop Justin Welby set out the vision for the community. One of his aims was for us to find stability.
“Stability is about being stable in Jesus… the sense of whatever happens around you, you don’t rock around, you’re not knocked off your feet.”Archbishop Justin Welby
The last few years has been an amazing time of growth for my husband and I, in our individual callings, for us spiritually and in the addition of a baby to our family. But we also had to weather quite a few storms, and I definitely found our Year in God’s Time prepared us for that. Part of the stability is found in having a Rule of Life.
What is a Rule of Life?
Many might imagine a Rule of Life to be a list of dos and don’ts. I really love how Thomas Moore explains it in the introduction to The Rule of St Benedict.
“The very word “rule” is connected to many terms that appear contrary to freedom: regulation, ruler (both leader and straight edge), king (rex), correct, rectangle, rectitude, and rectum. At first glance, following a rule doesn’t appear to be a desirable alternative to a materialistic world. But regular, Latin for rule, even in the time of the ancient Romans, also referred to a pattern or a model. The very straight edged rule that keeps things in line can also design a house. From the creative point of view, the monastic rule is an instrument for shaping a particular kind of life for which a person has deep and genuine desire.”Thomas Moore
Historically, monastic communities developed a Rule of Life which emphasised their charism (or, special gift). It provided shape to how they lived, and used as a guide in making decisions. The Community of St Anselm’s Rule of Life is quite broad as it draws inspiration from St Francis, St Ignatius and St Benedict – there are 15 in total and you can read it all here.
Living it out today
One of the questions I’ve been asking since returning home is, how do I live this out as part of a dispersed community? Is the Community of St Anselm Rule of Life still relevant to me, now I’m living roughly 16,893 km from Lambeth Palace?
In my mini-review of The Year of Small Things I mentioned about Sarah (one of the authors) and her husband Tom who lived in a radical community for a time before moving to the suburbs and having kids. The book is about Sarah (and Erin’s) journey to live a radical existence amidst the chaotic life of parenthood in the burbs.
Inspired by The Year of Small Things, from this month I am planning to focus on one aspect of the Community of St Anselm Rule of Life each month. I’ll begin by reflecting on how we lived out this Rule in Community and then choose some small ways I can implement it in my life today. I’ll begin by looking at Rule #1 in August: Learning from Jesus.