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What Is Observance of a Religious Rule?

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Dear Tradition in Action,

Thank you for creating such a good collection of traditional Catholic articles. These articles do not just discuss what’s wrong with today’s Conciliar Church but also gives one hope, and guidelines on what one should do. I especially enjoy reading, studying, meditating and then practicing what you've written on Catholic manners and customs.

I've been re-reading "Stories and Miracles of Our Lady of Good Success" Book Two by Marian Therese Horvat, Ph.D. and on page 64 at the bottom, it says "Mother Mariana often instructed her daughters, was the practice of humility, regular observance of the Rule, and secret sacrifices and penances."

I ask this to you in all sincerity, I'm a revert to the faith, and the Catholic faith I drifted away from the early 1970s is completely different than practiced today, so I do not know. What is Mother Mariana referring to when she says, "regular observance of the Rule?"

And can you explain how a lay-man Catholic can observe the Rule?


     R.T, M.D.

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TIA responds::

Dear Dr. R.T.,

Welcome back to our Holy Faith! The ensemble of truths we profess in the Creed is the best reflection of Eternal Wisdom, which is, as you know, the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son. By contemplating and professing those truths even without understanding them completely, we can glimpse the divine Soul of Our Lord, whose Human Face was imprinted on the Sacred Shroud of Turin. Without the ensemble of truths of the Catholic Faith, no one can know Our Lord, and love and serve Him. For this reason we fraternally welcome you back to the Faith and hope that, with the help of Our Lady, you will never stray from it again.

Your question requires a bit of explanation about what a religious order and its rule are, and why the latter should be faithful observed by its members.

When a founder establishes a religious order, his aim is to give glory to God through a specific means to attain a specific goal. For example, St. Benedict established his order first to glorify God - Deus Optimus Maximus D.O.M. [God the Best and Greatest] - by means of continuous prayer: The divine office is prayed day and night by his monks. With the aim of giving the fullest glory to God and to have his monks completely turned toward that laus perennis [perpetual praise], he established a second goal: to have no dependence whatsoever on temporal society. So, the monks planted, raised and produced everything they needed. This complete independence made them a closed religious society. The name Order means exactly this - a closed and completely independent society.

In passing, let us clarify that, properly speaking, there are only two orders in the Church: the Benedictine Order and the Carmelite Order. They live their lives entirely independent from the world. The Franciscan and Dominican are called Minor Orders, which means they are Orders in a secondary sense, because they have a certain vital dependence on the world - the Franciscans to beg their subsistence from it, the Dominicans to preach to it to prevent the spread of heresies. The Jesuits, founded much later by St. Ignatius as an army to defend the Church and the Pope, received the title of Order honorifically, as a kind of concession. The term does not properly apply to them because their missionary work and the education of youth - the essence of their vocation - are actions exercised fully in the temporal world.

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Branches on the tree of St. Dominic
With these distinctions, these are the five Orders in the Church. The branches of those Orders are also called Orders, as, for instance, the Cistercian Order is a branch of the Benedictine Order or the Capuchin Order is a branch of the Franciscan Order.

Other religious institutions founded afterwards are called Religious Congregations, because they are dependent in one way or another on the world. More recently the Church has allowed multiple other names for newly founded institutions, but we do not need to enter into these details. For our explanation, it suffices to point out the fundamental distinction between a religious order and a religious congregation.

Most of the founders of these institutions left as legacies to their spiritual families a code of concrete norms to orient their daily life. Along with some generic spiritual precepts, it establishes a strict horarium [schedule] for every hour, assigning an activity - prayer, study, work, meals, recreation, rest, etc. - for every hour of the day. Each of these codes directed to a particular spiritual family is called a Rule. St. Benedict left a Rule for the Benedictines, St. Francis left a Rule for the Franciscans, St. Ignatius, one for the Jesuits also, and so on. The fundamental purpose of a rule is to maintain the original aims and spirit of the Founder of that specific religious family and prevent the institution’s decay.

For example, to keep the spirit of poverty and humility St. Francis was called to represent in the Church, he forbade his spiritual sons from becoming Bishops. At the moment the Franciscans broke that norm, one may surmise that the spirit of the Founder was partially abandoned.

As time passes, almost inevitably a tendency to slacken the original Rules appears in the religious institutions, and consequently the spirit of their Founders is diminished. To oppose this harmful tendency, those who are faithful struggle to maintain the observance of the original Rule and the spirit of their Founder.

The Order of the Conceptionists to which Mother Mariana belonged is a branch of the Franciscan Order for women, the Order of Saint Clare. It was founded in 1484 by Mother Beatriz da Silva, who established a Rule for the Order. This original Rule was carefully observed by the Spanish Mothers who founded the Conceptionist Convent of Quito. To prevent the decay of her Convent, Mother Mariana counseled her nuns to follow the points you mention, which includes the perfect and constant observance of the Rule (Admirable Life of Mother Mariana, Vol. 2, p. 275).

We hope this general explanation will be of some help for you.


     TIA correspondence desk

Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted February 15, 2011

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