Dorothy Day was an Oblate of St. Benedict. So was the French poet and playwright, Paul Claudel. The German commander at the Battle of Monte Cassino during World War II was an oblate. And so were St. Thomas More and St. Thomas Becket. And Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman in Europe to be granted a Ph.D.
But one needn’t be well-known to become an Oblate of St. Benedict. Many men and women who will never have any claim to fame have been and are oblates. Most oblates are ordinary lay people. But diocesan clergy may also adapt The Rule of St. Benedict to their way of life. An oblate is someone who wants to practice what St. Benedict taught. Although his Rule was written for monks, its Christian principles can be applied by everyone else. An Oblate of St. Benedict is associated with a particular Benedictine community.
The Oblate Director keeps in touch with oblates by sending them instructional letters and by meetings at the monastery. Ideally, one might like to live close enough to the monastery to be able to attend meetings. This is not necessary, however. What is more important is for one to live in the spirit of St. Benedict. Oblates are encouraged (but are not morally bound) to pray at least part of the Divine Office in union with the monks or nuns of the communities with which they are affiliated.
Who are the Oblates?
Updated by Fr. Paul Paproski OSB on Wednesday July 4 2018
Oblates of Saint Benedict are Christian men and women who associate themselves with a Benedictine religious community to strengthen their baptism and enrich their Christian way of life. Oblates do not take vows or live in a monastery. They make promises to live the Rule of St. Benedict which immerses them in the Gospel.
The word “Oblate” comes from the Latin offero (to offer). Families once offered their sons to monasteries for religious education and vocational training. These children were called Oblates. They lived in Benedictine monasteries and followed daily schedules of prayer and work. Adults eventually expressed the desire to live the spirituality of the Rule of St. Benedict outside monasteries. They, too, became Oblates as adults in their own homes and communities.
Oblates of St. Benedict make promises to follow the Rule of St. Benedict “in the world”. Each Oblate is spiritually affiliated with a particular abbey and its ministries. An Oblate may support a monastic community through prayer, public witness, volunteer work or financial contributions.
Oblates, like Benedictine monks, seek a balance of prayer and work in their lives. They strive to live by the Benedictine motto: Ora et Labora – Prayer and Work. They follow the Benedictine motto: Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus — That in all things may God be glorified. (1 Peter 4:11)
Some famous Oblates are St. Bede (637-735), St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), St. Gertrude the Great of Helfta (1256-1302) and St. Thomas More (1478-1535). St. Frances of Rome (1384-1440) and Holy Roman Emperor St. Henry II (973-1024) are honoured as universal patrons of all Oblates. Oblates of recent fame are Dorothy Day (1897-1980) and spiritual author Kathleen Norris.
The international congress of Benedictine abbots, in 1984, declared that Oblates are persons who have responded to a vocation, a call. Oblates are reciprocal blessings to monastic communities. They carry monastic values into the world in their daily witness.
The Rule of St. Benedict was written 1,500 years ago “to establish a school for the Lord’s service” where “nothing would be preferred to the love of Christ.” The Rule is designed to enable monks to spend their lives seeking God in an atmosphere of mutual respect, obedience, love and service for one another. Monks take vows of stability, obedience and conversion of life to enable them to become fully alive in Christ so they may grow into the Image that God intends them to be. They work together in a spirit of: moderation, balance, stability, mutuality, prayer, work and service.