Abbot James of Christminster and Abbot David of Holy Rood announce that, until further notice, there will be a moratorium on accepting oblates. Inquiries, however, are still welcome. (June 2013)
From time immemorial, men and women have sought to affiliate themselves with the work and prayer of monasteries. In the west, these have generally been known as Oblates, from the Latin word oblatus, meaning “the one offered.” An Oblate wishes to offer himself to God, seeking and serving God in the spirit of the ancient Rule of Saint Benedict, within the context (for an extern Oblate) of his or her secular life and occupation. An intern, or conventual, Oblate lives within the monastic community, following the Rule and observance of the monastery, but without monastic vows. In each case one becomes in a true sense a member of the monastic community, with obligations and privileges that arise from such membership.
Among the privileges of an Oblate are the following: a share in the spiritual life and good works of the Monastery; the guidance and direction of one’s Oblate Master; wearing while within the monastic community the Oblate habit and being buried in it in the monastic cemetery; a remembrance in each conventual Mass offered at the Monastery; and after death, a remembrance among those commemorated as deceased members of the monastic community. Among the obligations assumed by an Oblate is the duty to offer spiritual and material support to the monastic family which one has joined; to observe the rule of life as established between the Oblate and the Oblate Master; to offer daily those parts of the Liturgy of the Hours as determined by one’s rule; and to follow all as set forth in these Oblate Observances. These Observances, along with the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict, comprise the rule of Oblate life.
Observances of Oblates
1. The act of Oblation is a public act whereby an Orthodox Christian man or woman freely chooses to become a member of a particular monastic family, while living one’s secular life in the spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict as determined by these Observances and by the rule of life as established by the Oblate and the Oblate Master (or Abbot), and promoting, as much as possible, the good of the monastery of one’s affiliation. The vocation of the Oblate is to seek God above all things and to live one’s life wholly for God and in the monastic spirit.
2. The act of Oblation is not a monastic vow, and is not irrevocable. It is a free and deliberate choice, publicly affirmed within the context of a sacred rite, to live one’s life by the high spiritual standards of monastic observance. While one’s Oblation endures, one remains a member of the particular monastic family, and is expected to maintain appropriate contact with the monastery. An Oblate is free at any time, upon the advice and consent of the Oblate Master, to revoke his membership and Oblation. If an Oblate, by his inactivity or indifference to the fact of his Oblation and its prerogatives, should indicate an unwillingness to continue as an Oblate, the Abbot or Oblate Master may discreetly terminate the Oblate’s membership.
3. Oblate membership is open to all Orthodox Christian men and women. While it is highly desirable that spouses seek Oblate status together, as strengthening the family bond, membership is not conditional upon this, so long as the membership of one spouse is acceptable to the other. The isolation of any individual, or his physical distance from the monastery, in no way should diminish his full status as an Oblate member of the monastic family.
4. The duty of Oblates is to strive with perseverance in seeking God and living a more holy life. Thus only those should be received as Oblates who are commendable for their moral life and good reputation. Understandably, Oblates may discreetly encourage others in examining, and perhaps choosing, the Oblate life. In any case, no one under the age of sixteen will be accepted as an Oblate Novice. Oblate status is open only to faithful and observant Orthodox Christians.
5. After a postulancy of a minimum of three months, or sooner if, in the judgement of the Oblate Master or Abbot, the perseverance of a candidate may be relied upon, the candidate may be invested with the medal and scapular of Saint Benedict, and, from this time on, the scapular and medal are always to be worn under the ordinary clothing. During the postulancy, the candidate is instructed in the Oblate life as it will be lived in his circumstances.
6. One year after this investiture as an Oblate Novice, the Oblate shall be allowed to make his formal and final Act of Oblation in the presence of the Abbot in the monastery Chapel, or in the presence of any Orthodox priest specifically designated by the Abbot to do so. The names of all Oblates shall be preserved in the archives of the monastery and shall be commemorated in all prayers of the monastic community.
7. Called, as is every Orthodox Christian, to a life observant of the Gospel, grounded in faith, hope, and charity, the Oblate should further renounce the earthly vanities and empty values of the world and strive to live according to a spiritual and heavenly standard, and in a spirit of monastic simplicity.
8. Oblates shall especially devote themselves to works of prayer and penance, and to observance of the appointed fasts and abstinence.
9. In a spirit of poverty and detachment from worldly goods, Oblates should cultivate a warm-hearted generosity toward the poor and unfortunate, and be liberal in their almsgiving. Those Oblates who are in a position to do so should set apart a fixed amount of their income for God, and make a statement to that effect in their Oblate Rule. Usually, their parish church will have first claim on their almsgiving; then whatever support may be given to the monastery and other charities.
10. In a spirit of obedience they shall submit in humility and respect to all lawful authority, whether ecclesiastical or civil.
11. They shall daily read a portion of the Rule of our holy Father Benedict and seek always to live by its spirit, and, wherever possible, by its prescriptions, as adapted to their state in life.
12. Oblates should readily and with perfect submission to the will of God fulfil the duties of their state in life, knowing that one must not neglect what is necessary in order to take on extraordinary obligations. Above all they must not neglect those family duties on which the Holy Apostle Paul so strongly insists: “But if any provide not for his own and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” (I Timothy 5:8)
13. Oblates should highly esteem those religious practices incumbent upon all faithful Orthodox Christians, among these being morning and evening prayers, reverent assistance at Mass and sacred services on Sundays and holy days, grace before and after meals, and other acts of worship and devotion.
14. Remembering the words of our holy Father Benedict – “Let nothing be preferred to the Work of God” – Oblates should cultivate a special love for the sacred Liturgy, taking an active concern for all that relates to the beauty and adornment of churches and altars, especially their parish church and the chapel of the monastery of their affiliation, doing all they can to preserve and foster the splendor of divine worship.
15. Priest-Oblates will offer the Holy Sacrifice with the utmost care and reverence, and dutifully pray the Hours with piety and devotion. Lay Oblates will assist as often as they can at Mass and the Hours sung by the monks in Choir (or, where distance prohibits this, in their parish churches). When it is not possible to be in church, they will at least pray with their monastic brethren in spirit. The recitation of the Hours is the ideal way for an Oblate to participate in the prayers of the Monastery, though its recitation in full each day is not obligatory. Each Oblate, with the Oblate Master, will establish which of the Hours he will recite each day. Prominence and priority should be given to the Hours of Lauds and Vespers, and then to Prime and Compline.
16. Oblates should cultivate a genuine devotion to the Mother of God, to the holy archangel Michael, Saint Joseph, our holy father Saint Benedict, and Saint John Maximovitch, all of whom are special patrons of this Monastery. Oblates should pray fervently for the triumph of holy Orthodoxy and for peace among all the Churches, for the overcoming of all heresies and schisms, and for the souls of the faithful departed, especially those for whom no one ever prays.
17. Each day Oblates should carefully examine their conscience and cultivate a genuine repentance for their sins, availing themselves often of the holy Sacrament of Confession.
18. Each day Oblates should devote some time to the prayerful reading (lectio divina) of Holy Scripture. Likewise, some time each day should be given to the works of the Fathers and of the Saints and their lives.
19. Tuesdays, and especially the first Tuesday of each month, are particularly devoted to honor our holy Father Saint Benedict, by attending Mass, or, if unable to do so, by performing some special devotion or good work in his honor.
20. Oblates should avail themselves often of the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion.
21. Oblates should renew their Oblation each year on the feast of the Presentation of the Mother of God (21 November). They should observe in a special way the feasts of our holy Father Saint Benedict (21 March, 11 July).
22. Oblates have the right and privilege of being buried in the full Oblate habit, and to be buried within the monastic cemetery.
23. Under appropriate circumstances, to be determined by the monastic Superior, unmarried or widowed Oblates may be admitted to live within the monastic community as Choir Oblates, living as far as possible the full monastic observance, but without specific monastic vows.
24. Both Extern and Choir Oblates may choose, with the approval of the Oblate Master, the name of any Orthodox Saint as their new name in Oblation, and will be known within the Monastery as Brother Name. If a priest, he shall be known as Father Name. By this name each Oblate will be remembered in prayers and commemorations at the Monastery.
25. Each Oblate’s baptismal, family, and Oblate name will be recorded in the monastic archives, along with the date of Investiture and Oblation, as well as the date of repose.
26. Oblates should take as their guiding maxims the two traditional Benedictine mottoes: Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus (That in all things God may be glorified), and Pax (Peace).
27. Oblates shall attend the monthly meetings of Oblates, unless their distance from the Monastery prevents this. In any case, some monthly and regular contact should be maintained between each Oblate and the Oblate Master.
28. Each Oblate, before the beginning of his novitiate year, and after conferring with the Abbot or Oblate Master, should commit to writing those specific details of the application of these Observances and of the Holy Rule of Saint Benedict to his own life. A copy of this, his Oblate Rule of Life, should be deposited in the monastic archives.