Lay oblation means, “offering one’s life to God in association with a monastery.” Many Catholics, men and women, young and old, sense that they would like to become a Benedictine oblate. The commitment in lay oblation is to live in the spirit of St Benedict, while living an ordinary life at home, perhaps in a family.
Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it in abundance.” [John.10:10] and this is what a vocation from God implies; we learn new practical, professional and interpersonal skills in order that we may live to the full.
According to the ‘Statutes and Declarations of the Oblates of St Benedict’, by making an Act of Oblation adult lay persons ‘spiritually affiliate themselves with a Benedictine monastery and its community in order to lead a more perfect Christian life in the world according to the spirit of the Rule of St Benedict’. Candidates enter upon a one year period of noviceship at the time they are enrolled in the Scapular. If they persevere in their desires to live in accordance with the spirit of the Rule they are permitted to make their final act of Oblation. At this time the Oblates fill out a formula of profession which is retained in the archives of the monastery of their choice. They also add to their baptismal name that of a Benedictine saint they wish to have as a special patron.
The Statutes spell out in detail the religious practices expected of an Oblate. Those emphasized today are frequent participation at Mass, daily recitation or attendance at some part of the Divine Office, and spiritual reading. Oblates are under the spiritual guidance of the monastery with which they are affiliated and are expected, when possible, to attend monthly meetings of the Oblates and to make an annual renewal of their Act of Oblation.
Oblates are ordinary lay people who live their daily lives under the influence and inspiration of St Benedict and his Rule, in so far as this is possible. They can live anywhere, and not just close to Ealing.
There is a flourishing group of Oblates at Ealing who meet regularly during the year. If you think that God is calling you to a Benedictine life at home and at work as a Lay Oblate, please write to:
Dom Timothy Gorham,
The Oblate Master
Charlbury Grove, London W5 2DY
(We can be contacted by e-mail but please be sure to include your postal address)
ealingmonks AT aol DOT com
ealingmonk AT ealingabbey.org DOT uk
The School of the Lord’s Service
In the Prologue to his Rule, St Benedict addresses someone thinking of entering the monastery: “Hearken, my child, to the precepts of the master and incline the ear of your heart; freely accept and faithfully fulfil the instructions of a loving father, that by the labour of obedience you may return to him from whom you strayed by the sloth of disobedience. To you are my words now addressed, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to fight for the true King, Christ the Lord”. This perfectly expresses the loving, austere, obedient and humble life of the cloister and, without any compromise, situates the one who lives by the Spirit of St Benedict on the victorious side in the cosmic battle between good and evil. We fight in this spiritual combat “against the spiritual hosts of wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12) as part of an extended community, and our warfare is simply and humbly to live in faith and hope and charity in association with a particular monastery. For the Benedictine oblate, the extended monastic community is the context for spiritual struggle and growth.
The Prologue ends with a magnificent vision of the monastic life: “Therefore we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service; in founding it we hope to set down nothing that is harsh or burdensome. The good of all concerned, however, may prompt us to a little strictness in order to amend faults and to safeguard love. Do not be at once dismayed by fear and run away from the way of salvation, of which the entrance must needs be narrow. But as we progress in our monastic life and in faith, our hearts shall be enlarged and we shall run with inexpressible sweetness of love in the way of God’s commandments; so that, never abandoning his instructions but persevering in his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall share by patience in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom. Amen.”
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© Ealing Abbey, copyright 13 January 2014