Monks and nuns make a public commitment to seek God by living their lives in a monastery and following a monastic rule, such as the Rule of St Benedict. This requires giving up a career, committing to not marrying and submitting the will to the abbot or abbess.
Not everyone is free to make such a commitment, yet many people still desire to seek God by following the Rule of St Benedict as far as is possible in their own particular circumstances. The Association of the Oblates consists of lay people and clergy who desire to seek God with all their heart while still living in the world. Canonically approved by the Vatican, it is the way that lay men and women to participate fruitfully and harmoniously in the life and work of the monks and to share the spirit, ideals, and practice of the Benedictine way of life.
What is an Oblate?
Oblates make a public Promise to live according to the values of Benedictine monastic life, while still living and working ‘in the world’. In making the promise, oblates associate themselves with the monastery. Unlike the monastic vows, the Oblate Promise does not bind under pain of sin.
The Oblate Master is a monk appointed by the Abbot to oversee the spiritual formation of the oblates. He arranges six meetings a year, including a weekend retreat. The retreat is held in Lent, around the time of the Feast of St Frances of Rome (March 9th). Each month, the Oblate Master offers Mass for the Association of the Oblates. He also assists in individual spiritual guidance for the oblates.
In the early summer, the oblates visit a site of monastic interest. Recent visits have included Barking, Chertsey, Hertford and St Albans, Hurley, and Reading, with Bermondsey planned for 2023. These visits offer a chance to find out about some of the monasteries that used to exist in this country and how the monastery related to the community, as well as providing a chance to socialise with the other oblates.
Becoming an Oblate
To become an oblate, a candidate spends at least one year as a probationer. During this year, candidates have a sponsor who helps them aquaint themselves with the Rule of St Benedict. Candidates consider how the Rule can be applied to their own lives, bearing in mind their family and work commitments. Each candidate then has to draw up his or her own rule of life, modelled on the Rule of St Benedict, and submit it to the Oblate Master for approval. Oblates conscientiously strive to live by their individual rules.
Most people’s circumstances change during the course of their lives. Sometimes this makes it impractical to continue living according to the rule. When this happens, an oblate should discuss the situation with the Oblate Master, who will advise on redrafting the rule.