Christian adults who are formally affiliated with the Benedictine monastic family in order to seek God more intentionally.
Women and men, who, in their own way of life, with their ordinary family and social duties, find support and ongoing growth in holiness through association with a particular monastery.
Persons focused on God through prayer, work, relationships, hospitality, study and service in the spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict.
Women and men who intensify their witness to Christ in the world through adapting monastic practices to their needs and abilities. They are strengthened by them in worship, reverence, humility, universal love, stability and more vital membership in their faith community.
What Do Oblates Do?
Oblates shape their lives by living the wisdom of Christ as interpreted by the gospels and by Saint Benedict and his Rule. Oblates are not vowed members of the Benedictine Order, nor do they live communally unless they choose to do so in conjunction with other Oblates. Rather, they seek God in their chosen way of life, becoming holy in the world through the integration of their prayer and work with their awareness that they are temples of the Holy Spirit. As people whose lives are centered on God, manifesting Christ's presence in society by their word and example, they offer themselves (the meaning of the word "oblate") for the service of God and neighbor to the best of their ability.
Saint Benedict (A.C.E. 480-547) and Oblates: A Brief History
Saint Benedict was born in Italy in the region of Nursia of a noble family who sent him to Rome to study. Disillusioned by the decadent lifestyle he saw around him, Benedict abandoned his studies and went to live as a hermit in a cave near Subiaco. In time he acquired such a reputation for holiness and miracles that disciples gathered around him and he founded several monasteries.
Later at the large monastery on Monte Cassino, Benedict wrote his Rule which stressed the spirit of the gospel and moderation while continuing the best Christian monastic tradition. Over succeeding centuries Benedictine monasteries flourished and spread, becoming centers of prayer, culture and education all over the world.
As a man of his times, Benedict recognized that parents—for a variety of reasons, principally economic—would, on occasion, offer one of their children to be raised in the monastery and become monks. These children were known as oblates ("one given" or "made over to God") This practice continued well into the Middle Ages but is, of course, no longer part of the monastic framework. The name Oblate also came to be applied to adult lay persons who looked after the material interests of the monastery in which they lived, though not as vowed monks. These persons were referred to as "claustral" Oblates, i.e., Oblates who live in the cloister.
As time passed, lay persons living in their own homes asked to be more closely associated with the works and prayers of Christians living in monasteries. They learned to apply the principles of the Rule to their life in the world, their families, their work, civic and social interactions. These Oblates extend the spirit of the monastic community into areas where the cloister community cannot be present.
While there are no longer child Oblates, and in most parts of the world no claustral Oblates, the lay movement known as Oblates of Saint Benedict is experiencing new growth. More and more people have come to recognize Benedictinism as a way of life and set of values which nurtures their Christian commitment to God's love, justice and peace in the world.
Can Persons Other than United Methodists be Oblates of Saint Brigid's Monastery?
Monasticism is a way of life in which the desire and search for God is all-important. Its spirituality is a process of transformation into Christ through self-emptying in order to be totally available to God. As such it is not tied to any single Christian denomination or tradition. Since Benedictine monasticism predates the separation of the western Christian churches, monasticism forms an ideal basis for ecumenism in today's world. The main forces transcending all our differences are the love of God, of sacred Scripture, of prayer, and our genuine love and concern for one another. So, yes, all Christians can be Oblates and engage in scripturally based prayer, prayerful reading, contemplative union with God, and the loving gift of self for others. Anyone can practice this way of spirituality that is essentially the same as was taught by Saint Benedict over 1,500 years ago.
How Does One Become An Oblate?
Women and men who would like to explore an Oblate relationship with Saint Brigid of Kildare Monastery begin by having conversation or correspondence with the monastery. If mutual discernment leads to a decision for oblation, then the Oblate candidate enters an initial formation period of study in the values and practices of Saint Benedict under the guidance of someone on the monastery's formation team. When the director and candidate perceive a readiness for final oblation, a ceremony of commitment is conducted, either at the monastery or locally with several witnesses, so that other persons may share in the Oblate's joy. A Certificate of Oblation and an Oblate emblem are given at this time. The oblation is not a vow but a covenant, accepted and confirmed in a sacred ritual.