A Benedictine oblate is a lay person, married or single, or a diocesan priest who affiliates himself to a monastery and strives to apply Benedictine principles to his daily life as far as his state of life permits. These lay-Benedictines are an important part of our monastic family and great spiritual benefits accrue to both the monastery and the oblates from their affiliation with us.
Oblation is a free act of self-offering to God, recognized by the Church (cf. the Code of Canon Law, can. 303; 677 §2). The act of oblation is a true offering, and brings about a true belonging, though it is different in nature from that bond which unites a monk to his community, and it does not bring about a change in the individual's status in the Church.
An oblate is not bound to a specific set of practices, but he should be acquainted with the Rule of St. Benedict. Much of Benedictine spirituality taught in the Rule is applicable to people in any walk of life, since much of the Rule is based on the Gospel. Showing hospitality, showing obedience to those in authority, and practicing forgiveness and charity within one’s family or workplace are excellent ways to bring the spirit of St. Benedict into one’s life. Oblates are encouraged to pray some of the Divine Office each day, and nurture their prayer lives with lectio divina. Of course, the oblate should have frequent recourse to prayer. Because there is a real spiritual bond with the monks, they should pray for us as we pray for them.
Because of our special twin-community relationship with St. Scholastica Priory, St. Mary's accepts only men as candidates while St. Scholastica accepts only women. A candidate must be at least eighteen years old, and not be a member of a Third Order or another Religious Institute. Oblates are usually Catholics who have received the sacrament of Confirmation. However, non-Catholics may exceptionally be received as oblates.
Although one is not bound by any specific obligation in becoming an oblate, it is something that does require some discernment. It is a public promise which should be taken seriously. A person will normally be expected to visit the monastery several times and meet with Br. Jerome Leo, our Oblate Master, on these occasions. Then a candidate must undertake a period of probation lasting a year as an “oblate novice” before being approved for final oblation. As a novice, we hope to see a spiritual relationship with the monastery develop, and an appreciation for Benedictine spirituality.
If he perseveres in his desire to make final oblation, he writes out a Chart of Oblation. At the ceremony of his final oblation in church, he reads out his chart and signs it on the altar. The chart remains on the altar for the rest of the day to symbolize his offering of himself to God by striving to live a more perfect Christian life through the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict. The chart is then preserved in the monastery's archive.
Normally each year, oblates of St. Mary's Monastery and St. Scholastica Priory are invited to an “Oblate Day” here in Petersham where they participate in Mass, Divine Office, spiritual conferences, lunch, sometimes scripture sharing, and of course, socializing with their fellow oblates. Attendance is not required but greatly encouraged.