A Plan Of Life: a review

A Plan of Life by Joseph M. Muntadas, Scepter Publishers, 1997

This is a free booklet that can be downloaded from Scepter Publishers as a PDF.

Everyone seeking balance in their lives comes inevitably to the question of “how do I organize my life to bring about balance?”  This booklet has some considerations for creating a balanced life including moments to place some needed focus on God.

To include God in one’s life, not just on Sundays or the occasional moments of panic when we turn to Him for help but to actually make one’s FAITH an element of one’s entire day is certainly easier dreamed about than done.  Mr Muntadas gives a simple plan, one that a busy mother or career woman can adapt to the daily schedule of activities.  This is what attracted me.

I’ve spent years attempting to keep my faith central to my life and most of that time I must say I failed more often than I succeeded.  I’ve tried a lot of different options.  Reading the Rule of St. Benedict every day I tried to figure out how to apply that beautiful way of living to my housewife, grad student, mom life.  Ever tried managing kids, meals, kid activity schedules, laundry, housecleaning, study and praying the Liturgy of the Hours?  It made me stressed out worse than not praying.

So I looked about and found a wonderful Lay Carmelite chapter.  The Rule of St. Albert is much easier to manage and the instruction for a Lay Carmelite takes into consideration the demands of our station in life, but again, even just managing morning and evening offices of the Liturgy of the Hours gave me fits.  It was too monastic and in my family it simply did not work.   A busy mom is not usually going to be able to apply a rule designed for hermits, monks or nuns to her secular life.

I tried, by using the book A Mom’s Rule of Life to create my own rule of life so that God would be incorporated into my day.  This too fell flat.  No two days in my life are enough alike to create a rule that works.

Yesterday, while purchasing a couple of copies of the book our women’s reading group will be doing, I browsed some free downloads from Scepter.  This was the first one I printed out.  This one has a plan of life that is flexible enough for a mom with a household to run, work to do, kids to teach, and the entire busy array to manage.

In the morning, first thing, the moment your eyes open, you make a morning offering.  What this means is that as you are struggling to sit up in bed and get up quick enough to get some clothing on before a kid screams and you must go rushing into mommy mode– you, in your own words, tell God good morning and dedicate the work of your day to Him.  I discovered that I can do this before I finish getting my feet into slippers.

The second thing is equally easy: Mental prayer.  Mental prayer is when you take a moment to go over what is happening in your day and tell God about it.  The ideal seems to be to swing 15 minutes in the morning and again 15 minutes in the afternoon.  Some women have told me they do their prayer over their morning coffee.  This author suggests using a bit of scripture to get your started if you need help.  I just tell Him all about the worries and schedule conflicts and everything.  It does help me to get perspective.  It is also unscheduled, so anytime I get a breather before Lunch is good.

This author’s third point is about managing to get to Daily Mass.  I WISH.  I know people who can do this, but they live nearer to Church.  My schedule is not totally my own to create and my husband likes our time to be in the evening, so making the 7AM Mass is not happening here, and as he likes the evenings as a family, that puts the 6PM mass out too.  Luckily, there is a 12:15 Mass twice a week and today I arrived just a bit early.  My entire list of errands was done on the way home afterwards.  I need to find a mid-morning Mass I can attend on days I am in town, but every day is not likely to be possible.

The next point, Spiritual Reading, will be familiar to most people.  Taking some time to read a part of the gospels and a bit of other Scripture is spiritually uplifting.  This author suggests reading the same passage over and over again to gain new or more complete insights into the passage.  This is very similar to what the Lay Carmelites meant when they said to practice Lectio Divina.  In either case, one reads a scripture passage and prays silently about it, then reads it again, repeating the pattern several times and giving the Holy Spirit your attention so that you can learn to understand and live the scriptures more deeply.

This next point, much like Daily Mass, is going to be easier for those who live in town and near the Church.  The author recommends dropping into the Church briefly to pray before the Tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is kept.  This is a wonderful spiritual practice and when I worked at a place just a few blocks from a Church with Perpetual Adoration I would stop in a pray after work.  The practice left me feeling energized and more able to be present to my children in the evenings.

Devotion to Mary is next.  We are mothers, our Lady was a mother. We work to maintain a home, our Lady worked to maintain a home. We can take Mary as our example. Her focus was on God both in her faith practices as a Jew and in her vocation as the mother of God in the person of her son Jesus. How might we be different as mothers if we are thinking about her? This author recommends the Rosary, a beautiful scriptural prayer in which we walk through the gospels thinking about each scene from the point of view of Mary. Another Marian devotion is the Angelus, a lovely prayer whose words are taken almost verbatim from the gospel account of the visit of the Angel to Mary and the response of Elizabeth when Mary visited her before the birth of John the Baptist. The Angelus is brief and prayed at noon.

Before bed the plan of life includes a brief period of thinking over the day and examining one’s conscience to evaluate if one met one’s goals for the day.  In what ways did I fail to live up to Christ today?  How might have I handled those situations differently? What is my intended game plan if I happen to find myself in that situation again? And asking God for His mercy and forgiveness.

The examination of conscience leads into the practice of frequent confession.  This sacrament fulfills the scriptural obligation to “confess to one another” in a gossip free manner. The priest is not going to blab and serious sin requires that one fulfill the commandment to confess to one another in order to be forgiven serious sin.  How often one avails oneself of this sacrament varies but the advice I recently received was weekly, previous advice urged monthly.  For me, I think weekly is probably a good idea, but monthly is likely good for nearly anyone.

Lastly, the author writes on certain small things that enable us to keep God in mind all day.  Just as a mother is always tuned to sounds from her child, so we might practice the presence of God in the same manner; contemplating our divine filiation which means contemplating that we are children of God, will also influence how we act throughout our day. We can give our Work to God and we can work cheerfully.  These help us to keep God in the plan for the day.

The great thing is most of these elements in this author’s Plan of Life can be done in our minds, while on the run, or while waiting in the car, or in that ten minutes we get to enjoy a cup of coffee before the next major push to get everything in the day done.  It is flexible and yet still effective.

I recommend you take a jaunt over to Scepter Publishers, click on Scepter Booklets and download the PDF of A Plan of Life. It is free and his version is better written and more complete than mine here.  Enjoy!