One of the older terms for men and women who have professed the religious vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience is “regulars.” It comes from the Latin word regula which means “a rule”. The name was used because consecrated religious were people who had joined a community with some kind of constitutions or rule of life – some kind of standard or “rule” that described and defined their way of life. Having such a “rule” in your life can be something which seems attractive to some, but oppressive to others.
The Second Vatican Council’s decree on the adaptation and renewal of Religious Life, Perfectae Caritatis, states clearly that:
“…the ultimate norm of the religious life is the following of Christ set forth in the Gospels, let this be held by all institutes as the highest rule.”1
In todays’ Gospel we heard Jesus’ teaching on murder, adultery, and perjury. These were things already forbidden by the Law of Moses. But what Jesus is revealing to us in today’s Gospel is what is at the heart of these issues, and He gives us – His disciples – some basic rules not only to avoid these things, but which get to the heart of the matter.
Discerning a vocation to religious life is not about finding that perfect community with the rules, customs, and lifestyle that appeal to us. At the heart of religious life – as Perfectae Caritatis says – is “the following of Christ set forth in the Gospels”. Disconnected from this, the rules, customs, and lifestyle of any religious community either becomes oppressive, or an exercise in pride. But when they flow from this, they bring that characteristic evangelical freedom of spirit that is so attractive about authentic religious life.
1 Second Vatican Council. “Perfectae Caritatis.” Accessed February 05, 2023 https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19651028_perfectae-caritatis_en.html