Catholic Christians who wish to follow the Rule of St. Benedict in the midst of the world have the possibility of binding themselves to a monastery or convent as a Benedictine Oblate. As a basic requirement it is expected that an Oblate be prepared “to truly seek God in all things” (RB 58,7). He or she should feel a longing to become a listener, in order to become capable of perceive the invitation and calling Word of God through the events and encounters of daily life.
The name “Oblate” derives from Latin “oblates”, meaning an offering or sacrifice, someone consecrated to or presented to God. Thus the very name indicates a basic Christian program. Such a Christian is called to live out his or her baptismal vow consciously as a Disciple of Christ, in order to become more and more one with God, in order that all may be one in Him.
Benedictine Oblates pursue the path of discipleship in intentional association with a particular monastery or convent and, in turn, do their part to carry out the mission of that monastery in the world. In an official act of the Church, the Oblate enters into a bond with the chosen monastery and from then on takes part in their life of prayer and action. According to their conditions of life, they practice part of the ecclesiastical or monastic Divine Office (liturgy of the hours). The monastery, in turn, offers Oblate retreats, regular contact through form letters and spiritual direction and benefits from the association with its Oblates in many and various ways.
Oblation is a personal life decision and means more than merely being accepted into the friendship of the monastic community. Being associated with the monastery and its service to God provides a foundation and source of strength for the engagement of the Oblate in family, work and parish life.
Who can become a Benedictine Oblate?
Basically this opportunity is available to all Catholic Christians, men and women, married and single, priest or deacon.
How does one become a Benedictine Oblate?
The Oblation (the formal vow ceremony through which one becomes a permanent Oblate) is preceded by a year of probation. During this year the candidates become familiar with the Benedictine Rule and Benedictine spirituality. The reception as a Candidate involves a brief ceremony during the mass. Where Oblate names are used, the candidates will also devote themselves to study of their Patron Saint.
After absolving the probation period, the Oblates dedicate themselves to God (where possible in a celebration of the Eucharist with the monastic community) and promise to live as Christians in the world “under the guidance of the Gospels” and in the spirit of the Benedictine Rule.
Regular or Cloistered Oblates
In addition to Oblates who live in the world, there are those who live the cloistered life together with the monks or nuns of the Order. In place of monastic vows they undergo the Oblation, a decision which places them in a different legal situation.
Legal Situation of Oblates
In Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church there is no explicit ruling for Oblates. Their position can be seen as parallel to that of the Third Order (for example, those of the Franciscans and the Dominicans). Legally they remain part of their diocese and their parish.