I wrote in my introductory post that one thing I will probably focus on is monastic spirituality. I really mean by that, this is likely to be an oblate blog. One reason that I qualified my statement in my first post is that, when I think about it, it seems impossible to write anything new on the topic. There has already been a huge amount written, and there are several fine blogs devoted to the subject, Ivar’s Voice, Oblate Spring and Oblate Offerings, just to mention three. Yet, if you visit those sites, you’ll notice that while both seem to be on the same subject, they are quite different from each other. Perhaps, if I simply try to capture my own take on the oblate life, I won’t have to worry about the originality problem.
You might be wondering just what an “oblate” is. Simply put, it is someone who is not a “religious” who has chosen to pattern his or her life after the Rule of St. Benedict. It is someone who is trying to be a monastic in the secular world. These people, and there are tens of thousands of them, come from most Christian denominations, they are not just Catholics, they try to follow a monastic routine in their daily lives. They try to pray the “hours’, particularly Lauds, or morning prayer, vespers, or evening prayer, and they try to spend regular time in the practice of prayerful reading, or lectio, among other things.
You might be thinking to yourself, “well anyone could do these things”, and that’s true, but the additional thing that oblates do is associate themselves with a particular monastic community. They have taken a somewhat formal step of promising stability, a key element of Benedictine spirituality, to one community, in order to immerse themselves more deeply in the monastic lifestyle. This means that their community becomes their spiritual home. They attend retreats there as often as possible and do what they can to help support the community. I expect to write a lot about this in the future since it is one of the things I find most attractive about the monastic life.
I might add that most Benedictine abbeys have an oblate “program”, as do Cistercian and Trappist monasteries, although they call them “associates”. There is a list of abbeys that have programs listed on the Benedictine website: www.osb.org. I might also add that it is not necessary to live in the same town as the monastery in order to be part of their oblate life. Ivar of Ivar’s Voice lives probably two hundred miles or more from Blue Cloud Abbey, where he is an oblate. On the other hand, John Cassian lives within 45 minutes of St. Leo’s Abbey. I am currently beginning a program at Prince of Peace Abbey in San Diego, a two day drive but only a 3 hour flight.