Oblates of St. Benedict
The Benedictine Oblate program is an optional opportunity within the Western Rite that some people have found to be very rewarding. It is one of the many options and opportunities that are available for spiritual growth and renewal in the Orthodox Western Rite.
St. Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-550) has been called the Patriarch of Western Monasticism. Little is known of his life other than the fact that he was educated in Rome, where the licentiousness of contemporary society led him to withdraw from the world and retire to a cave to live as a hermit. His spiritual kinship was with the desert fathers of the East and he reflected their asceticism and self discipline throughout his life. A community gradually grew up around him and he established twelve monasteries of twelve monks each, with abbots appointed by himself. Later, local jealousy caused him to move with a small band of monks to Monte Cassino where he remained until his death. It was there that he composed his Rule which laid the foundation for many monastic communities which exist until today. He remained a layman throughout his life and apparently never intended to found an order for clergy.
Sadly, the Great Schism of the Western Church from Orthodoxy in 1054 took with it the great establishments and spirituality of Benedictine monasticism. There are now those within the Orthodox Church who believe that the time has come to restore the Benedictine rule and spirituality to the Church of its origins, by recognizing once again that St. Benedict and the Order which he founded were products of Western Orthodox Christianity. Not many, of course, are able to adopt the full ascetical commitment of St. Benedict and his monks by withdrawing completely from the world. Still, there are those who, while living in the world, wish to identify as much as possible with the Rule of St. Benedict and his spirituality. These individuals, men and women, whom we call Oblates practice prayer and good works but are without lifetime vows, rules of enclosure, celibacy, or surrender of property. Their mission is essentially that of exercising a very active role in the Church’s mission to the world. Spiritually associated with a Benedictine community, they pledge themselves to order their lives in accord with the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict. They are therefore encouraged to be faithful witnesses of Christ by striving to bring the Gospel message and God’s way of holiness to the world around them. This is, in fact, the chief reason for their being Oblates of St. Benedict.
In order that the lives of Oblates may be a true and effective response to the call of God and His Church, these guidelines have been written to help Oblates in their mission as lay apostles, so that they can openly bear witness to Christ and promote the salvation of mankind.
1.Oblates of St. Benedict are Christian men and women who join in spiritual union with the ancient Benedictine tradition of daily prayer and study.
2. Oblates do not live in the monastic house of the community, yet they remain one with Benedictine tradition while they continue faithfully to carry out the duties of their particular state in life and occupation, wherever they may be.
3. Within the framework of their daily lives in the world, Oblates strive to lead full Christian lives enlightened by personal efforts to understand Christ’s teaching in the Scriptures as interpreted by St. Benedict in his Rule for monks. Oblates are guided and inspired by their continued spiritual association with the Benedictine tradition.
4. Oblates are a spiritual arm of the Benedictine tradition, reaching out into all areas of life, seeking to share with others what they themselves gain as Oblates of St. Benedict. Their affiliation with a community of monks or nuns is not therefore for their own personal good alone. It is chiefly by their Christian example, even by their very presence among others, that they hope to bring St. Benedict’s ideal of service to God and man into the world where they live and work.
5. Since Oblates of St. Benedict primarily offer themselves for the service of God and man, they will therefore strive for God’s honor and glory before all else, keeping in mind the Benedictine motto: “That in all things God may be glorified.”
OBLATES STRIVE TO BE MEN AND WOMEN OF PRAYER.
They highly esteem the Divine Liturgy and take an active and intelligent part in the celebration of the sacred mysteries of the altar. They strive each day to pray some part of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours, as the circumstances of their lives permit. They strive to appreciate the beauty and spiritual wealth contained in the Psalms which form the core of the Church’s prayer. They harmonize their private and public prayers and devotions with the liturgical seasons and feasts of the year.
OBLATES STRIVE TO BE MEN AND WOMEN OF CHRISTIAN VIRTUE.
Oblates proclaim and practice the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity, by believing, hoping, and trusting in God, and loving God and man in thought, word, and deed.
Oblates foster a positive Christian attitude toward the many other virtues flowing from the practice of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. They observe Christian prudence, which is true divine wisdom, by directing their lives to the final attainment of God, who is known to them by faith and loved by them through charity. They therefore use the means provided them in prayer and the sacraments. Prudence guides them “in seeking first the kingdom of God and His way of holiness” and teaches them” to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
They exercise the Christian virtue of justice by recognizing their personal and social moral responsibilities toward individual persons, toward their community, city, state, and nation, and toward human society in general, by striving for the common welfare of all.
They foster a deep respect for the God-given rights of others, especially for human life, for the property of others, for freedom of religion, for the privacy of the home, for the right of all to know the truth and to speak the truth, for freedom in the education of one’s children, for the right as well as the duty to work and provide for oneself and one’s dependents.
They pay their laborers a just wage and give their own employers an honest return in labor for the wages they receive.
They protect the rights of the poor and the helpless, the oppressed and the persecuted, and all who are victims of injustice of any kind.
They practice Christian fortitude or courage by seeking to do God’s will at all times without fear of the difficulties and sacrifices involved, bearing the burdens and trials of life with calm trust in God’s mercy and goodness. They practice Christian temperance or moderation by making use of the good things of life in the way God intended them to be used for the good of mankind.
OBLATES FOSTER A SPIRIT OF COMMUNITY.
They love the Benedictine community to which they are affiliated as Oblates. They keep in touch with their community through their Director of Oblates. They let others know about their spiritual community, support its apostolic works, and encourage young men and women in their vocations to the monastic life.
They visit a monastery or convent occasionally, become familiar with the monastic life, and assist at the community Liturgy and community prayer whenever this is possible. They tell others about the Oblates of St. Benedict and encourage them to become Oblates if they seem to be in search of such a special way of life in the world.
They foster the spirit of community in their own family circle, and within the groups and organizations to which they belong.
OBLATES ARE MEN AND WOMEN OF PEACE
They use all rightful means for establishing peace in the world around them, mindful of the centuries old Benedictine watchword: PEACE! They strive to practice the truth of God in love and join all true peacemakers in pleading for peace and working to bring it about.
For more information please contact:
Father Theodore, Abbot of The Benedictine Fellowship of St. Lawrence, in the mountains outside of Canon City, Colorado