Friday, March 27, 2009

Just What Is an Oblate?

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: 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.


John said...


Congratulations on your new blog. And congratulations on your journey to become an oblate. I agree with David that the Benedictine way consecrates all our activities — even those thought to be ordinary or secular — to our gracious God.

St. Benedict was one of the best at identifying and then writing a Rule to move individual lives into what might be called the monastic spirit.

St. Benedict balanced the monastic practices of asceticism and separateness with active aid to the wider community. As a result, during the Benedictine centuries 650 - 1250 AD civilization and Christianity was preserved and then actively spread to a warring, chaotic, pagan Europe. No mean trick for a group whose common reputation today is “those silent monks locked away from the real world.”

But in addition and equally amazing is that the Benedictine monastic way is perhaps the most ancient well of deep Catholic spirituality.

To become associated with such a group — even as lay people — must be one of the most worthwhile services of our lives. And to be able to sit at our computers and share that with people across the globe — I think St. Benedict would be pleased.

The long historic record and deep spirituality of the Benedictines should cause you to come to at least one conclusion: your oblate voice should be heard on this blog. I look forward to each post.

Ron said...


Thank you too for stopping by. It's funny that you should mention it, but I've been thinking recently about just how ancient both the Church and monasticism really is. St. Benedict goes nearly back to the founding of the Church. Yet, it has lasted all this time, and shows no signs of fading away.

I'll have to say though, that I feel my association with a community to be very one sided -- with all the gain being to me. I hope, in some way, I can be of service helping others re-learn about this treasure of the Church.

Thank you again,