February 17 – THE RULE OF LIFE


The main objective of the 24th General Chapter which ended on 17 February 1971 was the preparation of the Rule of Life. It was a vast enterprise which required a first 47-day session in -1969, committee work by four Brothers in October and November 1969, and a second 43-day session in 1971. During the latter session each text – was discussed in groups then in plenary meetings and amendments were made by –     secret ballot. All together 581 votes took place. The end result was the Rule of Life, which was a Copernican revolution. The spiritual prevailed over the legal, which was emphasised ever since Fr. Deshayes’ rules – except in Br. Eugene-Marie’s draft. The Rule of Life found again the mystical inspiration of the Montfortian trilogy (See 24 March).

Although a few Brothers objected to the novel character of the Rule and called it a betrayal, most of them found it a springboard for a more personal and more committed religious and apostolic life. Afterwards it was studied and deepened during GeneraL Chapters, and in circulars, sessions. and meetings.

The 1971 texts were ad experimentum and therefore had not been officially approved by the Church. In order to obtain the approbation the 26th General Chapter, during its second session (22 July-10 August 1983) added some slight amendments which took account in particular of the new Code of Canon Law published on 25 January 1983. The modified text was sent to.the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes (CRIS) in October 1983. It took three years before the official approbation came; the delay was due to the fact that the text went back and forth between the CRIS and the Central Administration of our Congregation until some disputed points (e.g. the possibility to appoint some ordained Brothers as Provincial Superiors) had been cleared. The decree of approbation was dated 28 April 1986 but did not reach Br. Jean Bulteau, Superior General until 14 June 1986.

The Rule was immediately published in French, English and Spanish. Later on it was also published in Flemish, Italian and Portuguese. It is a small book of a hundred or so pages containing the same illustrations as in 1971: on the front cover, a reproduction of the Teaching Christ, from Chartres Cathedral, and in the middle, details of the Annunciation by Fra Angelico. When the communities received it, many of them held sessions and celebrations.