Before we formally introduce you to the life of an Oblate, it is pertinent that we give a short introduction of the man whose virtue and devotion to the way of Christ continues to attract many to this particular lifestyle.
Benedict –or “blessed” as Pope Gregory the Great describes him in his Second book of “The Dialogues”- was born around the year 480, in the midst of a very turbulent and controversial era of our history. Losing attraction to all the prevailing vanity and perversion of his time, he abandoned his studies in Rome and took shelter in a cave near Subiaco (Italy) and became a hermit under the guidance of an anchorite monk called Romanus. It was through a dedicated life of discipline, study and constant prayer that his vocation flourished and brought the attention of many people in the area. After a failed attempt to guide some unruly monks who invited him to be their Abbot, he decided to build a “cenobitic” monastery (meaning one house under an Abbot and a Rule) where many joined him through the years. Instructing them in what he considered “the school of the Lord’s service” (prologue of his Rule), his community grew in a life of work and prayer and the meditation of the Holy Scriptures (Lectio Divina) as a way to grow in the ascetical life. Time and experience helped him to receive the illumination necessary to compile his “Rule for Monasteries”, which became one of the most prominent outlines of Monastic discipline through Europe and later throughout the rest of the Christian world.
Benedict is known to be the “father of western monasticism” and the Patron Saint of Europe. He is also known for his motto of “Ora et Labora” (Latin phrase which means, “work and prayer”) and “PAX” (which meaning: “Peace”).
His feast, celebrated annually on July 11th, in 1980 marked the release of the famous “Medal of St. Benedict” which today has become a sacramental for blessings and exorcisms for the whole Church.
Oblation as an “Offering to God”
The reception of Oblates into the Order of Saint Benedict began as children used to be brought to the doors of the Monastery by their parents, who wanted them to be taught and raised by the Abbot and the monks in the spiritual life. The word “Oblate” comes from the Latin word Oblatio, which implies -according to Benedict’s Rule- that people were “offered” to God in a special ceremony, with the signing of a document that was placed on the Altar, certifying that the person would live according to the life of the Monastery and the direction and instruction of the Abbot. It became a common practice in those days both for rich and poor alike.
In the course of time, adult people of many different backgrounds began to do the same as a way to adopt some of the Monastic practices, but keeping their own state in life, uniting themselves to the life of the monastic community while growing personally in Benedictine spirituality.
In recent years, after many reflections about the importance of Monastic life and its impact in the life of the Church, the Confederation of Benedictine Monasteries established as a norm that Lay and Ordained people alike can participate in the benefits of Benedictine spirituality. Currently, there are many Abbeys and Monasteries throughout the world that offer an “Oblate Program” through which they make available the Rule and discipline of St. Benedict available to all who desire it as another “tool” that can help them in their Christian growth and vocation. They join in the mission and the life of the Monastery to which they affiliate with prayers, encouragement and support as they themselves are supported and aided by the Community and those aspects of the monastic life to which they commit themselves.
The Oblation Ceremony still keeps its basic historical principles; the person makes “promises” (*different from the monastic vows) and states his/her desire to follow the directives and life of an Oblate, sharing the life and ministry of that particular Monastery/Abbey which receives them. These are promises, not vows, and therefore do not incur major moral obligations if broken.
Our Oblates and the Abbey
In this same spirit of reconciliation and unity, our oblates participate of our life and mission and are witnesses of Christ and of the values of the kingdom in their respective faith communities. The oblate candidates and oblates of our community receive continued formation with the purpose of helping them in the following of Christ, to understand the mission of the Abbey and commit to it and to be agents of reconciliation and unity in the world around us.