Good morning. It got down into the single digits last night. When I got off work at midnight, the air was so cold and dry that it instantly froze my nose hairs. Do you know that sensation, that “smell?” It isn’t something I’d want to experience every day, but it definitely placed me at the beginning of an Indiana January night.
You might not know what a rule and regimen are. They’re tools that some people use to track how they’re doing spiritually. It isn’t a panacea, but it can be helpful to quantitatively track how you are doing. Caveat: It isn’t helpful in qualitative measurement. As part of a regimen, you might dedicate certain times of the day to prayer. It won’t guarantee the quality of the prayer. Your heart may be closer or further away from God at a given moment. Keeping the regimen will only ensure that you pray, not how “good” or “bad” your prayer was.
My regimen is broken up each day into the canonical hours. That is, the times when priests, vowed religious, and some parts of the laity gather together for common prayer. This is usually the Divine Office, but may be one of the smaller offices such as the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I strive to pray the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer each day. In the Little Office of the BVM, that would be Matins and Lauds, Vespers and Compline. It requires a short commitment when I wake up (OOR, Morning Prayer), after dinner (Evening Prayer) and before going to bed (Night Prayer). Also, as part of my regimen, I pray five decades of the Rosary for specific intentions, and keep a prayer list of people and their needs. Each time I pray the Rosary, I’m praying for the people on my list. Some days, a particular person may be more at the top of my mind than on other days. The others on the list don’t suffer for that. I prayerfully read through the list often, amending the intentions based on the latest contact I’ve had with them. I keep a list of answered prayers, and when someone dies, I move their name to my “Book of the Dead” and my specific intentions for them are different than they were when they were alive. I try to remember them at Mass, too. Sometimes I’ll have a Mass said for one of them.
Part of the regimen also entails contemplation, or what I describe as “going into the wine cellar” to use the imagery from the Song of Songs. My goal is to shut out all other distractions and simply be with God. And finally, I devote time to spiritual reading. Meditating on the daily Mass readings is one way to stay connected to the Church throughout the week, liturgical seasons, and the whole year. You really don’t have to overdo the spiritual reading part. After all, the faith is meant to be lived out there in the real world full of hurting people, not completely barricaded in one’s prayer cell. (Do you have a prayer cell?)
Unless you’re a cloistered contemplative, your mission as it were, is out there in the ordinary everyday world. You know, the one in which you can most deeply alter the lives of others by your service and presence? All life is local. Needs are local. That is where the majority of our time, efforts, and money should go. The further away you get from “home” the more that a sort of scaled help kicks into gear. Think of crowdfunding. Do you know what that is? Someone posts on GoFundMe or another such site that a little girl is receiving cancer treatments and it has affected the family’s finances in a dramatic way. Any donation is appreciated. If that message went out only to a community of ten thousand, each person who gave would have to give more in order for the gift to have any impact. But zoom the camera out to the whole country. Everybody gets it. Cancer is awful. The family is suffering. 5,000 people give $10. The family now has $50,000 to help cover expenses.
Look at the concept of Peter’s Pence, the annual Vatican appeal for each person in the Catholic Church to give “a penny” toward the pope’s efforts to ameliorate the poor. There are a billion Catholics currently on the planet. If each one gave a penny, there would be $10 million dollars in the Peter’s Pence fund each year. So that is my regimen.