The regula vitae, or rule of life, was a key concept in the origins and development of early monastic culture. In the sayings of the desert Fathers, the abbas in the desert are constantly being asked about the details of their way of life by the constant flow of visitors from “the world.” What do they do all day in the desert? As the desert monks gradually began to create formal monastic communities, they needed a community rule to govern their life. The Rule of St. Benedict is perhaps one of the most famous of these rules, and has had a profound influence on my own non-cloistered life.
The regula vitae is rooted in the regula fide. One’s rule of life presupposed a rule of faith that both informs and inspires it. It is both communal (regula fide) and personal.
A regula vitae needs to be detailed and specific, but it also needs to be realistic and manageble.