In addition to the monks and nuns who live their lives according to the Rule of St. Benedict, thousands of laypeople have also sought to apply the wisdom of the Rule to their lives. Many such people have sought out Oblate Formation Programs in order to apply Benedictine principles to their spiritual lives and to develop lasting, formal bonds with a monastic community.
What are Oblates?
The Oblates of the Community of St. Mary, Southern Province, make up an auxiliary body of the Community. Oblates live as lay extensions of the Community. Our Oblates serve the Community by broadening its ministry and representing it in places and ways that the Community desires. They live in the world, following an interpretation of the Benedictine Rule and the values it expresses that is consistent with their life situation.
People (regardless of gender) who feel they may be called to become Oblates of the Community should start the process by speaking with the Prioress, Sr. Hannah.
Benedictine values are often associated with two Benedictine mottos: Deus Solus, “God alone,” and ora et labora, “prayer and work.” God is our aim, and, with St. Benedict and St. Mary as helpful guides, we move toward God along a spiritual path that is very incarnational and practical in theological terms. Our Oblates address the world and grow in their relationship with God and all that God loves through prayer, study of the Benedictine Rule, lectio divina, work, and community. Like the Sisters, Oblates should always “prefer the work of God” by reciting the divine office, communally when possible, and by participating in the Eucharist.
Oblates also bind themselves to the Community by their promises to live out a life of conversion and obedience to the Rule. Their lives should witness to their commitment by maintaining an appropriate love in all their relationships, and by living lifestyles that are characterized by stability, balance, and simplicity. They should also use their skills and interest to perform good works wherever they live, as St. Benedict encouraged us in Chapter 4 of the Rule, the “tools of good works.” In all these ways, Oblates seek to follow and be at one with Christ and their neighbor, thereby participating in Christ’s efforts to reconcile the world to God.
Who can be an Oblate?
Oblates may be baptized members of any Christian denomination who the Chapter of the Community has admitted and approved.
Individuals who would like to test a call to become an Oblate should:
Be 21 years of age or older
Not be an Oblate member of another traditional monastic order or a member of a Christian community
Have an interview with the Prioress to explore their sense of call
Complete an application for membership
This formation program is a means of exploring how Oblates-in-training may discern their calling and apply the wisdom of the Rule to their personal circumstances in a purposeful manner. No decision on candidacy can be made until all of formation requirements are met and a background check has been made on the applicant. (If the applicant has recently had a background check made, a written statement of the result may suffice.) Incomplete applications may be deferred until the next year. The Community of St. Mary, Southern Province, reserves the right to deny admission to any applicant without specific cause.
Overview of The Formation Process
The process for life commitment as an Oblate of the Community of St. Mary, Southern Province, takes at least two years. Candidates accepted into the formation program journey through levels of discernment and training.
Year One: At this stage, new members explore and live into Oblate commitment. The purpose of this period is to help the candidate discern if God is truly calling her/him to this special partnership with the Community. In so doing, they must search the depths of their desire and willingness to live a life in the world that is structured by the values of the Benedictine Rule as mediated through the Community. The Prioress, or her appointee, will help the candidate in that exploration and discernment.
Year Two: The purpose of Year Two is to build and strengthen the member’s sense of vocation and understanding of Benedictine values and the Community’s specific values, history, mission and needs. This formation will better prepare the Oblate-in Training to represent and/or serve the Community in the future. It is also to further test the member’s intentions and capability to live the life of an Oblate in the world. Either the Prioress or her appointee of her choosing shall mentor the Oblate-in-Training through this stage. Oblates-in-Training do not change their names, but they do receive a medal to mark their new commitment at a public service of the Community at which other Oblates can be present.