Oblates of Saint Benedict
at Prinknash Abbey
Along with many Benedictine monasteries, Prinknash enjoys the privilege of accepting external oblates, that is to say, men and women, married or single, living outside the monastery, who wish to offer themselves to God in the Benedictine way, and conform their lives to the spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict as lived at Prinknash, insofar as it is possible for them to do so in their circumstances. If you are interested in becoming an oblate, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of our Oblates are Roman Catholics, but baptised Christians of any denomination, in good standing, are welcome to apply to become Oblates. The decision about whether to accept or not a certain person rests with the Abbot and the monastic community.
Chapter 59 of the Rule of Saint Benedict speaks of the offering of the sons of the rich and poor, who become monks in the monastery right from their infant years, and seemingly without having any choice in the matter. The parents are to offer the child cum oblatione – with the oblation or offering, that is, at the Offertory or Preparation of the bread and wine to be consecrated for the Eucharist. It is thought that the word “oblate” derives from this Latin phrase. There have been Benedictine external oblates for centuries.
Once a person has been accepted to begin probation as an Oblate, he or she should consider it a serious obligation to try to attend the monthly meetings at the monastery, and especially the July meeting. After at least a year of probation as a novice oblate, all being well and with the assent of the Oblate Master, the oblate makes his or her oblation, that is, they offer themselves to God and to the monastery of Prinknash, in the spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict. This very often takes place at the summer meeting on a Sunday in early July each year, in the presence of the Abbot and community. The Abbot then assures them that henceforth they will have a share in the spiritual goods of the monastery. They are usually given some sign of their oblation, such as a small scapular or piece of cloth over the shoulders, a medal of Saint Benedict, or a copy of his Rule.
Oblates have a spiritual father or guide in the Oblate Master and his assistants, who offer them advice as to how they are to live the spirit of the Rule in their daily life, about times of retreat (in the monastery when possible, or elsewhere), prayer, and spiritual reading, and about any other matters about which the Oblate may require help. Most oblates try to say some part at least of the Divine Office, that is, the Church’s official daily prayer, but this is not an obligation. But contact with the sacred scriptures and other spiritual authors is essential if the life of Christ, given to us by our Baptism, is to deepen and fructify in our hearts.
Many Paths to God
Many oblates are busy in their own home parishes, helping out in the pastoral work or in administration. Others are involved in careers such as academia, teaching, law, medicine, and the nursing profession. A few oblates are in the ordained ministry.
Keeping in Touch
Oblates, from the time of their becoming novices, receive the community’s review, PAX, through the post. There is also a regular letter from the Oblate Master giving news, spiritual advice, and reporting any changes in the oblate community, such as clothings, oblations, illnesses and death.
Both the monks themselves and the oblates often have difficulty in expressing exactly why they chose Prinknash, rather than any other Benedictine monastery. There is a certain “something”, an attraction that cannot be put into words. One simply knows that “this is the right place for me”. Oblates enter into a relationship with the monastery that lasts for the rest of their lives, often through many decades.
All enquiries should be directed to the Oblate Team, headed up by our Father Abbot, Martin, on email@example.com
Please click the following link to download Is the Oblate Way for Me? Or read more about the oblates below.
Oblates of Saint Benedict- Further Information
It seems that the origin of Benedictine Oblates can be traced to chapter 59 of the Rule of St Benedict which speaks of the offering of the sons of the rich and poor. This chapter follows immediately after the one on the order for the reception of monks. The difference between the two chapters is that the sons of the rich and poor are offered to the monastery by their parents and have no choice, it seems, in the matter, whereas the monks being received into the community in chapter 58 do so as adults and freely.
It is the word “offering” in chapter 59 which is apt for Oblates because the word oblate is from the Latin “oblatus” meaning one who is offered. The children of chapter 59 are offered by others, modern Benedictine Oblates offer themselves.
A Benedictine Oblate today offer themselves to God in association with a particular monastery with the intention of directing their lives by the spirit of the Rule of St Benedict. At the ceremony of their oblation (offering) they are told that they will henceforth share the spiritual goods of the monastery. This phrase contrasts with what is said to monks on the day of their solemn profession, namely, that they will henceforth share in the material goods of the monastery.
At the oblation ceremony it is customary to receive a token symbolising what is taking place in the life of the Oblate. The symbol may be one or more of the following: a monastic habit or part of a habit such as the scapular (oblates would normally only wear this when visiting or staying at the monastery, in some cases oblates choose to be buried in their habit when they die.), a patch of material to be hung around the neck symbolising a habit, a medal of St Benedict to be hung around the neck and the Rule of St Benedict. All of these symbols are meant to support the promise to offer themselves to God as oblates of St Benedict in association with the monks (or nuns) of a particular monastery. Henceforth they will live their lives as best they can in conformity with the spirit of the Rule of St Benedict. The words ‘spirit of the Rule’ are important because it is difficult even for full-time monks and nuns to live the Rule to the letter.
The oblate is then to discern, with the help of the monk Oblate Master, what for him or her are the essential elements of the spirit of the Rule. Generally these essentials include the following: prayer, spiritual reading and an annual retreat at the monastery.
By prayer is meant both an attempt to structure the day with at least morning and evening prayer. Some oblates like to say the divine office from the three-volume “Divine Office” used by priests and others as the official Catholic prayer book. (there is also a one-volume version called “Daily Prayer”). Private prayer is also included in the concept of living by the spirit of the Rule.
By spiritual reading is meant regular reading of the bible and other Christian literature in a prayerful and quiet manner.
By annual retreat is intended a period preferably at least once a year when the Oblates can return to the monastery of their oblation and renew their resolve and commitment.
Someone who becomes an Oblate of St Benedict will have been searching inwardly for a deeper relationship with God and will most probably have been attracted to the life of a particular group of monks or nuns. The Oblate may not be able to articulate exactly what the attraction is, but it will be felt deep within. In reality the oblate is developing and deepening the offering of him/herself which was made at baptism and has grown and matured. Oblates who are married or who are ordained priests will be deepening the sacraments they have received because there is no conflict between the Oblation as Benedictines and the married state or that of the priesthood. The commitment in all three areas is to Christ.
Oblates share too in the one single offering of Christ to his Father which was performed for our salvation on Calvary. In this sense the Oblate is walking a mystical path, chosen and called by Christ to share in his work of salvation.
Many oblates live busy lives in the world and are involved in their own parishes. What is required of an Oblate is always, for these and other reasons, a matter of discretion and discernment. Some Oblates can enter into the spirit of the Rule with more time and energy than others. The Oblate Master is always happy to help in this discernment process.
There is usually a period of about one year in which people who have expressed the wish to become oblates can discern, with the help of the Oblate Master, whether or not it is right for them. The first stage on the way to becoming an oblate is to contact the Oblate Master.