What is an Oblate?
Shameless re-run, here! Jan, an Oblate of St. Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, asked me for a link to this post, which was later kindly printed in St. John's newsletter The Oblate, by Keith Homstad. Had to hunt a bit for the link, but when I found it I thought the article was good enough to pass on again, to newbies who have joined us since it first appeared. Hope you like it! Love and prayers, JL
Jeane Moore wrote:
"When I became an oblate, I was delighted, and then I went home and thought, "Now what do I do?" So maybe I could get some musings from the group? Now what do I do? What is an oblate, anyway?"
Br. Jerome Leo Hughes replied,
An Oblate is a Benedictine, as much or as little as one wants to be. You will meet, as I have, much to my chagrin, some professed who will make it less, take a reductionist approach or stress its lay character so heavily that its monastic character is lost. Do not listen to them. You are not a wannabe, you are a Benedictine, and ALL Benedictines, from our holy Father Benedict himself to the Abbot Primate down to us are seekers or they are nothing at all.
To search for the God we have found is the Benedictine vocation. It is a never-ending search, life-long. Our Holy Rule encompasses all people at all points on the road of that search, since it requires only that we seek God for entrance. We are, by definition, seekers. Any who fail to seek have left without knowing it. That seeking, however, is incapable of insisting on a certain entry level minimum of holiness, or mysticism, or anything. We seek. Period. Where that takes us and how fast is up to God and God alone. St. Benedict merely asks that we seek God. That is the sole criterion for entry or membership in our Benedictine family.
It's OK to be proud of a great alma mater or a distinguished family and ours is a very distinguished family! Never worry about whether you measure up to it or not, none of us do, anymore than we measure up to Christ Himself. Any who think they have measured up, or are more than you, have missed the boat entirely, so ignore them! Be calm and serene in the fact that our family embraces you.
Our family is so great that our candidate Diane weeps at the prospect of joining it and I have no doubt that I shall weep at the prospect of joining her to it, no doubt at all. She will be the second (and maybe last!) person I get to unite to this Order I love so much. It is, obviously, something I do not get to do very often, since I am neither priest nor superior.
One hesitates to compare us to the Kennedys- perhaps not at all apt for our Republican members- but they say a lot of people get away with a lot because they are Kennedys. Well, so do we. The goodness and holiness of the whole family accrues to us strays and losers. I would much rather face God someday as a Benedictine than just as Jerome: heaven knows what would befall me on my own merits, but I stand in lofty company!
As to what you do, be sure you will do a LOT of it alone. Ask us for guidance anytime, as most of us have had to do it alone, too. Many abbeys and priories have not tapped into the fact that their Oblates REALLY want more. They have given, in many places, a very superficial blanc mange.
You have to supply that lack, but many others here who know that hunger will help you. Just let us know! Because we have been there ourselves, we will be most eager to help you.
Read the Holy Rule and say the psalms or the Office as best and as often as you can. Nothing, nothing, so forms a Benedictine as the psalms. Get familiar with them, let them breathe into your heart and soul, sneak into the marrow of your bones. The ancient monastics, long before our holy Father Benedict esteemed the psalms, prayed them constantly because they thought that that book was a synopsis of all of Scripture, and, in many senses, they were right on the money. Illiterate, the earliest monastics learned all 150 by heart!
That's quite a stretch, but start trying to memorize a few. Then they can be with you anytime, on the subway, on a plane, in the car. Try some of the Compline psalms first. When you can learn to say Compline entirely from memory- and that's not a stretch if you do it every day or even several times a week- you will have gained an inestimable gift. It's always there, no book, no light needed. I often say it while driving to or from Boston.
Get a copy of the "Sayings of the Desert Fathers" and read it every day. As soon as you finish, start over again. Do this for about a year and you'll find that they, too, are becoming bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. It was these Fathers (and Mothers!) of the Desert who formed St. Benedict. After the Holy Rule and the Gospel itself, nothing will make you more Benedictine than this!
There, this was just a beginning and already too long. I surprise myself! But I know that this verbosity came from love. You asked me about the dearest thing to my heart, being an Oblate, the very thing that connects me to this great Order!
Love and prayers,
Jerome Leo, OSB
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