The horarium and how it shaped daily life for sisters in the past

Blog Published: October 21, 2010
By Sister Maxine

How times change! I found it interesting to read through the “horarium” (the hourly schedule for sisters) that was used early in IHM religious life.

The horarium reflects a time in history when the main purpose of all religious life around the world was to develop personal holiness. Service to others was a “secondary” purpose. But times—and theology—change. In the 1950s and 1960s, service to others was understood as not being somehow separate from holiness, but a path for holiness.

If you were a novice with the IHMs in 1902, here’s what your day would look like!

1902 IHM Novitiate Directory

[Sisters arose to the sound of the bell at 5:00 a.m.]

As good order is the life of a well regulated Institute, the Sisters shall make it their duty to observe most strictly the following regulations. They shall rise in the morning at the first sound of the bell, without in the least giving way to sloth, thinking that it is God who calls them. Entertaining themselves with holy thoughts, they shall dress with greatest modesty. Afterwards, make the sign of the cross, and recite the usual morning prayers, offering to God all the actions of the day. Then, prostrate, they shall say three Aves and ask her blessing while in spirit kissing her hand. And having kissed the floor, before and after the three Aves, they shall kneel and with arms extended, say one Pater and Ave in honor of their yearly Patron.

Assemble in the chapel for meditation
Assist at Holy Mass
Manual work/study until 11:45
Particular examen [of conscience]
12:00 (in silence) go to dinner
Te Deum in Chapel after dinner
After Chapel, repair to refectory, kitchen, or other departments for charges [daily chores]
After these charges, recreation
Study/manual labor from 1:30-3:00
3:00 Spiritual reading (from a book selected by the Novice Mistress)
3:30 One-third of the rosary
4:00 Free time
4:30 Visit to the Blessed Sacrament and the BVM
5:00 Study or instructions
6:00 Supper, followed by recreation
8:00 Silence
8:30 Night prayers
9:30 Last signal shall be given, when all unnecessary lights shall be extinguished and each Sister is strictly commanded to be in bed.

Source: Building Sisterhood: A Feminist History of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, published by Syracuse University Press, 1997. Photo: page 192.

Archived Comments

Sister Julie October 21, 2010 at 8:48 am

I think my favorite part is “repair to refectory.” It has such an elegant ring to it. I shall now use “Let us repair to the refectory” instead of “I’m hungry, let’s eat.”

Joel Schorn October 21, 2010 at 9:03 am

And I shall remember every morning to entertain holy thoughts while dressing with great modesty.

Sister Maxine October 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Sounds like you’ve found your inner nun, Joel! 

Sister Gayle OSF October 21, 2010 at 11:02 am

I give in to sloth every morning…sigh. 

Sister Maxine October 21, 2010 at 1:53 pm

And I, every evening!

Sue October 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Yikes!! Makes the few,the proud,the Marines look easy!! When did they finish the other 2/3 or the rosary?? Or did they only get to say 1/3??

Sister Maxine October 21, 2010 at 1:53 pm

According to the Rule, IHMs were to pray 1/3 of the rosary every day for private prayer. So over the course of three days, they did the whole thing. I’m guessing the Marines never did that!

Another Sister Julie, CSSF October 21, 2010 at 3:10 pm

My eyes went first to the sisters’ veils. I’m sure it helped to keep “custody of the eyes,” but didn’t your sisters have a hard time crossing a busy street??? Next, I saw that little bed tray/table. I rescued one from our storage room. It is so nifty! Unfortunately, someone painted with it ivory semi-gloss, but I like how I can raise, lower, tilt and *move* this table to suit my needs. As for the schedule, I think all communities had something similar. I know it sounds like my schedule as a novice in the late 70s. But I shouldn’t complain. When my congregation first started, the only rule available to us was the Poor Clare Rule–despite the fact that we were an active order!> So not only did the sisters have a full day of caring for the sick and elderly in their homes, then catechizing the latch-key kids after school and also catechizing their parents after a meager supper, they also had to get up in the middle of the night for prayer like the cloistered nuns. It was no wonder they were dropping dead at a young age from exhaustion!

Heather H. October 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm

wow … well i give into sloth most mornings … choosing to go back to sleep when the alarm goes off for mass and prayer realizing that i can always go to mass in the evening with one of the sisters who goes to school all day and leaves before mass…. maybe i should try waking up to that alarm as if it was God calling me… maybe only then will i actually role out of bed … i think i might try it … tomorrow or sunday (cause on sunday i can sleep til 8:45 anyway) 

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