In the early days of my homeschooling, I discovered a little gem that I have read and re-read throughout the last decade. A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot is an interesting book which has proved to be a valuable resource in my homeschool and spiritual life. Understanding that the home is not a monastery, but that it has the power to be a domestic church nonetheless, Pierlot entreats the reader to consider ways in which we can make our homes more hospitable to angels unawares and the many Christ-bearers who cross our threshold. Specifically, she draws our focus onto the necessity of spiritual self-care which helps us to be spiritually supported in our efforts to make the most of our vocation as wives and mothers.
Part of the charm of this book is how much Pierlot uses storytelling to make her point. Her concept is grounded in ancient traditions while her storytelling is friendly, modern, and personal. I think that this is both the strength and the achilles heel of her writing. Holly has an interesting and complicated history. I believe that she invites us into the past so that we can have the requisite perspective to understand her conclusions. Being Catholic, and having had a different but not dissimilar journey, I could appreciate her background information and not be too bogged down by it. I think, however, that the beginning of the book is pretty heavy in personal storytelling and that might alienate a number of readers who could otherwise connect with and appreciate the book. If you find yourself in the latter position, I think that you will be rewarded if you push on. It does get more practical.
In Catholic tradition many religious orders and lay organizations take upon themselves a “Rule” for living. A “Rule” is a very specific way of life that breaks the day into meaningful chunks so that prayer, vocational pursuits, fellowship, and care of the body can remain in a rightly ordered focus and balance. Those who live inside of a Rule of Life submit to an ancient method of ordering the affections so that they can live completely for Christ. In this understanding, a Rule is not a method, it is a promise. It is not a law, it is a commitment to live in love. A Rule of Life is a desire to live not for ourselves but in the will of God for His greater glory.
This book is an acknowledgment that a mother is a creature created by God with a very specific vocation for His glory and her spiritual joy. When a woman undertakes the task of prayerfully discerning her “Rule,” she is considering her vocation, her worldly and spiritual obligations, and inviting the Holy Spirit to inform her schedule so that she can keep the most important parts of her work central to her efforts.
Part of Holly’s mission is to encourage mothers to embrace their vocation and to establish a rhythm for their days that keeps first things first. This book invites mothers to think discerningly about the many hats they wear and the needs that are pressing in on them. After the initial chapters, Holly dedicates one chapter to each of the five primary callings of a mother. In those chapters, Holly challenges the reader to take inventory of the ways in which they are currently living out that particular vocational role, and ways in which the reader can mature in her efforts. Consistent with her style, those chapters are packed with stories and practical advice.
This book is roughly half testimonial and half application. I have seen many reviews of this book which criticize it for too much personal storytelling in the first half and too rigid a system of application in the second half. I understand those reviews but I think they are a little unfair. Specifically, some have called this “Catholic Fly Lady.” I think that that is a sad over generalization of the book and a misunderstanding of what a Rule of Life is.
In the application half of the book, it is important to note that Holly is coming from a “Managers of Their Homes” perspective on scheduling. If the reader understands that that is an established and commonly used scheduling philosophy in homeschooling circles, it can more readily be dismissed as sort of irrelevant for those to whom the style does not appeal.
Regrettably, this book is not one-size-fits-all. Presuming that all those who pick up this book are Christian mothers who desire to bring their life into the kind of balance that has worked for women for centuries, many readers will still get bogged down in the particular nuances of Holly’s Catholicism. While it is true that some of Holly’s suggestions are explicitly Catholic, I think that her principles and ideas can be applied generally to any Christian mother. All of us need time for prayer, exercise, intimacy, and ora et labora.
The gems in this book are real. I highly recommend A Mother’s Rule of Life to any Christian mother who wishes to maximize her vocation through proper balance, healthy prayer, and good self-care. For the mom who is not Catholic or who does not homeschool, I encourage you focus in on the principles and take from it that which will bless you.