WHAT IS AN OBLATE OF SAINT BENEDICT?
Oblates of St. Benedict are Christian people who have associated themselves with a Benedictine Community in order to enrich their Christian way of life. Oblates shape their lives by living the wisdom of Christ as interpreted by St. Benedict. Oblates seek God by serving him in their chosen way of life. By integrating their prayer and work, they endeavour to show Christ's presence clearly in society.
St. Paul tells us that each member of the body of Christ, the Church, has a special function to perform. Many are called to the married state and the raising of a family. Some are called to the single life in the world and others to the single life in Monastic or Religious Communities of men and women. The role of Oblates is to live in the world, to seek God=s holiness in the world, to do what they can to bring the world to God by being witnesses of Christ by word and example to those around them.
Oblates concern themselves with striving to be what they are, people of God and temples of the Holy Spirit. Their prayer life will flow from this awareness, as will their willingness to offer themselves (that is the meaning of the word oblate) for the service of God and neighbour to the best of their ability.
Benedictine Oblates seek God in association with a monastic community: as individuals and as members of a body, they grow in love of God, neighbour, and self. With the RULE as their guide, Oblates adopt values that are part of the very fabric of Christian spirituality, such as spending time daily in reflecting on the Sacred Scriptures (Lectio Divina), cultivating an awareness of the presence of God in silence, devoting time to the praise of God (Opus Dei - Divine Office), helping to spread the Gospel through their works (Opus Manum), and so on. An acquaintance with these and other Christian values presented in the Rule of St. Benedict will enable Oblates to attain that special peace and joy that Christ came to bring and promised to all who follow Him.
In the spirit of obedience, Oblates strive to discover and maintain their proper relationship towards God, their family, and the civil and religious society in which they live. Before God, Oblates must come to recognise themselves as creatures dependent on their Creator and as sinners before their Redeemer. Aware of their own spiritual poverty and need of God, Oblates come to realise that they have no other reason for being, except to be loved by God as Creator and Redeemer and to love and seek Him in return.
In loving obedience to God=s plan, Oblates will develop a deep reverence for life. They will respect it as a precious gift from God and defend those groups which because of age, health or race are defenceless and most open to attack. Seeking harmony and integrity of life, they perpetuate and enhance the traditional Benedictine motto: PEACE. Personally and together with other Christians, Oblates work to promote Christian family living. They take care to seek out opportunities for the practice of charity and warm hospitality to those around them.
ST. BENEDICT AND OBLATES
Saint Benedict lived in the sixth century. He was born in a small town north of Rome and came to Rome for his education. Before long he abandoned his studies and lived as a hermit for several years at a place called Subiaco, where in time he acquired a reputation for holiness and miracles. Attracting many followers, Benedict established monastic communities and wrote a Rule which combined moderation with faithfulness to the best traditions in Christian monasticism. During the following centuries, his monastic way of life spread throughout Europe, and Benedictine monasteries became the principle centres of prayer, culture, education and learning.
In the course of time, lay people asked to be associated with the work of the monks and nuns, without however leaving their homes, families and occupations. These were received, offered themselves to God, became Oblates of a monastery, and promised to regulate their lives according to the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict. They applied the teaching of the Holy Rule to their lives in the world, their family circles, their places of work, and their civic and social activities. Today, throughout the world, there are thousands of Oblates praying and working in spiritual union with Benedictine men and women of various communities and receiving spiritual strength and inspiration from their association as Oblates.
ANGLICANISM AND ST. BENEDICT
The Anglican Church owes much to Benedict. Anglicanism, by its very nature, is very ABenedictine@ with its emphasis on corporate worship, the ongoing recitation of the psalter in the services of Morning and Evening Prayer, the prayerful and reflective reading of Holy Scripture, and the necessity of personal prayer and discipline. Our parish system evolved from the monastic community which gathered tenant farmers around it.
AAnglicans understand their church to be rooted in the early centuries of English Christianity, which were characteristically monastic. The first chapters of any Anglican history of the English Church are filled with towering monastic figures: Ninian, who brought a missionary form of monasticism to England before the end of the fourth century, Germanus, Patrick, Columba, Augustine and so on.
Monasticism was not just eliminated by the Reform. Rather, the essentials of the Benedictine spirit were rendered immediately accessible to the entire church through the key and characteristic work of the Anglican Reform, the Book of Common Prayer. It is extremely important to note this decisive fact about Anglican reform: at its centre and guaranteeing its spirit stand not a towering reformer (a Luther or a Calvin), not a theological doctrine or a moral code, but a book of liturgical prayer. In this fundamental respect alone, the Anglican Reformation has a clearly Benedictine spirit to it. (Dom Robert Hale, O.S.B. Cam.)
THE RULE: A GUIDE FOR OBLATES
Oblates promise to lead an enriched Christian life according to the Gospel as reflected in the Rule. In this they share with the many hundreds of women and men who are influence by Benedict and his Rule.
After a time of preparation, the candidates become Oblates of St. Benedict. This promise affiliates them with a Benedictine community and commits them to apply to their lives the characteristic Benedictine principles.
Oblates strive after stability and fidelity in their lives by regular worship with other Christians and by the support they give to the social and educational outreach of their local parish as well as that of the wider Church.
In accord with the teaching of Benedict, Oblates practice moderation. This moderation manifests itself in the use of the goods of this world, an increasing concern for their neighbour, and in the way they temper and direct their desires.
In the spirit of the Gospel, Oblates commit themselves to a continual conversion to Christ. They see sin and any attachment to it as basically incompatible with a serious following of Christ. Through this deepening of the baptismal promise, Oblates are free to put on Christ and to allow Him to permeate their whole being. In this way Oblates will come to recognise that in all the events of their lives, in their joys and successes as well as in their sorrows and disappointments, they are in close union with Christ and participate in His death and resurrection. This putting on of Christ is the goal Oblates pursue in their conversion of life.
For further information write to:
The Director of Oblates,
P.O. Box 111,
Telephone (03) 5593 2348