Today, July 11, On the Church calendar, we celebrate the memory of St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547), father of Western monasticism. As abbot, St. Benedict wrote a monastic rule known today as the Rule of St. Benedict. Apart from wonder working miracles, the Rule of St. Benedict, has become his greatest legacy due to it becoming the basis was for Western monasticism. During his time it was common for Children to be offered to God at Benedict's monastery as it was a turbulent and very difficult time for the Western Roman Empire, thus, chapter 59 of the Rule of St. Benedict outlines how the Sons of Nobles and of the Poor Who Are Offered:
If anyone of the nobility offers his son to God in the monastery and the boy is very young, let his parents draw up the document which we mentioned above; and at the oblation let them wrap the document itself and the boy's hand in the altar cloth. That is how they offer him. As regards their property, they shall promise in the same petition under oath that they will never of themselves, or through an intermediary, or in any way whatever, give him anything or provide him with the opportunity of owning anything. Or else, if they are unwilling to do this, and if they want to offer something as an alms to the monastery for their advantage, let them make a donation of the property they wish to give to the monastery, reserving the income to themselves if they wish. And in this way let everything be barred,From this practice of Children being an oblation or offering to God grew into the modern pratice within the Benedictine monasteries of having lay persons know as Oblates (offering) that live a life of prayer and service in the tradition of monasticism without leaving the World. This is practiced even within the Western Rite Orthodox parish that have inherited the spirituality of St. Benedict. Oblates are required to follow a rule of life that commits them to following a deep ascetic life within their state in life. All Orthodox can adapt this rule of life to their own situation in order to be come better ascetics, regardless in they follow the Western or Eastern form of Orthodox Sprituality. Here is an outline of this rule of life by Father James Deschene OSB, Hieromonk of Christminster, a Western Rite Monestery of the Russian Orthodox Charch outside of Russia:
so that the boy may have no expectations whereby (which God forbid) he might be deceived and ruined, as we have learned by experience. Let those who are less well-to-do make a similar offering. But those who have nothing at all shall simply draw up the document and offer their son before witnesses at the oblation.
1. Oblates of St. Benedict are Christian men and women who join in spiritual union with the ancient Benedictine tradition of daily prayer and study.
2. Oblates do not live in the monastic house of the community, yet they remain one with Benedictine tradition while they continue faithfully to carry out the duties of their particular state in life and occupation, wherever they may be.
3. Within the framework of their daily lives in the world, Oblates strive to lead full Christian lives enlightened by personal efforts to understand Christ's teaching in the Scriptures as interpreted by St. Benedict in his Rule for monks. Oblates are guided and inspired by their continued spiritual association with the Benedictine tradition.
4. Oblates are a spiritual arm of the Benedictine tradition, reaching out into all areas of life, seeking to share with others what they themselves gain as Oblates of St. Benedict. Their affiliation with a community of monks or nuns is not therefore for their own personal good alone. It is chiefly by their Christian example, even by their very presence among others, that they hope to bring St. Benedict's ideal of service to God and man into the world where they live and work.
5. Since Oblates of St. Benedict primarily offer themselves for the service of God and man, they will therefore strive for God's honor and glory before all else, keeping in mind the Benedictine motto: "That in all things God may be glorified."
GUIDELINES FOR OBLATES
OBLATES STRIVE TO BE LOYAL AND ACTIVE MEMBERS OF CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH.
Oblates involve themselves in the full life of the Church, "sharing in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ...being witnesses to Christ and promoting the salvation of mankind." They foster the ecumenical spirit and meet with those not of the Orthodox Faith, strive to understand the religious beliefs and customs of others, look for teachings on which others agree with them, enter into friendly discussion of teachings on which there is disagreement, put aside all prejudice, and foster the spirit of universal brotherhood in God our Father. They seek to be true lay apostles according to their abilities and the circumstances of their lives, with a spirit of mission, a spirit of vocation from God through the Holy Spirit working in them, eager to help in proclaiming and spreading the Word of God to the ends of the earth. Oblates recognize that their success as lay apostles depends on their living in close union with the Spirit of Christ in the Church, and that this intimate union with the Lord is especially nourished in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Service to others will then be the immediate effect of true union with Christ.
OBLATES STRIVE FOR THEIR OWN CONTINUED CHRISTIAN RENEWAL AND IMPROVEMENT.
As their states in life permit, Oblates make use of various means for improving themselves spiritually, intellectually, culturally, and socially, by making a Retreat, a Day of Recollection or Renewal, attending a Workshop, Seminar, Lecture, or Prayer Meeting, as occasion offers from time to time. They make the study and reading of Holy Scripture an important part of their lives, concentrating especially on the Gospel teachings of Christ. They listen attentively to the public proclamation of the Word of God, and to the homily of the priest as he shows how the Word of God is applied to daily life.
OBLATES STRIVE TO BE MEN AND WOMEN OF PRACTICAL SPIRITUALITY.
They combine prayer and work by living and working in the presence of God, aware of God's presence everywhere, knowing that God is nearer to them than they think.
They are patient and content with their lot in life in so far as they cannot change it for something better, calmly and courageously accepting the sufferings and hardships which sooner or later come to everyone. They practice patience, especially by accepting the daily crosses and burdens of life willingly and bravely, with full trust in God, no matter how heavy these burdens may be, knowing that God can turn sufferings into blessings.
They are generous and warmhearted to the poor, the needy, the unfortunate, the sick, the sad, the afflicted, and the lonely.
They are concerned about the needs of others, regardless of race, nationality, creed, sex, age, occupation, profession, or social status. They give generously of themselves in working for the religious education and Christian formation of youth. They faithfully fulfill the duties of their states in life, especially with regard to the care of their families and dependents.
They practice the spirit of poverty, by not being unduly attached to material things, by thanking God for what they have, and by using God's gifts in a sensible way for the glory of God and the good of mankind. They seek the Christian reformation or constant renewal of their lives by fostering the spirit of obedience, stability and fidelity in accord with the three Benedictine vows or principles of Christian living which St. Benedict asks his followers to practice.
They often read some part of the Rule of St. Benedict and meditate on how it can be applied to their lives. They seek guidance and instruction when they are in doubt or troubled.
OBLATES STRIVE TO BE MEN AND WOMEN OF PRAYER.
They highly esteem the Divine Liturgy and take an active and intelligent part in the celebration of the sacred mysteries of the altar. They strive each day to pray some part of the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours, as the circumstances of their lives permit. They strive to appreciate the beauty and spiritual wealth contained in the Psalms which form the core of the Church's prayer. They harmonize their private and public prayers and devotions with the liturgical seasons and feasts of the year.
OBLATES STRIVE TO BE MEN AND WOMEN OF CHRISTIAN VIRTUE.
Oblates proclaim and practice the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity, by believing, hoping, and trusting in God, and loving God and man in thought, word, and deed.
Oblates foster a positive Christian attitude toward the many other virtues flowing from the practice of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. They observe Christian prudence, which is true divine wisdom, by directing their lives to the final attainment of God, who is known to them by faith and loved by them through charity. They therefore use the means provided them in prayer and the sacraments. Prudence guides them "in seeking first the kingdom of God and His way of holiness" and teaches them" to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
They exercise the Christian virtue of justice by recognizing their personal and social moral responsibilities toward individual persons, toward their community, city, state, and nation, and toward human society in general, by striving for the common welfare of all.
They foster a deep respect for the God-given rights of others, especially for human life, for the property of others, for freedom of religion, for the privacy of the home, for the right of all to know the truth and to speak the truth, for freedom in the education of one's children, for the right as well as the duty to work and provide for oneself and one's dependents.
They pay their laborers a just wage and give their own employers an honest return in labor for the wages they receive.
They protect the rights of the poor and the helpless, the oppressed and the persecuted, and all who are victims of injustice of any kind.
They practice Christian fortitude or courage by seeking to do God's will at all times without fear of the difficulties and sacrifices involved, bearing the burdens and trials of life with calm trust in God's mercy and goodness. They practice Christian temperance or moderation by making use of the good things of life in the way God intended them to be used for the good of mankind.
OBLATES FOSTER A SPIRIT OF COMMUNITY.
They love the Benedictine community to which they are affiliated as Oblates. They keep in touch with their community through their Director of Oblates. They let others know about their spiritual community, support its apostolic works, and encourage young men and women in their vocations to the monastic life.
They visit a monastery or convent occasionally, become familiar with the monastic life, and assist at the community Liturgy and community prayer whenever this is possible. They tell others about the Oblates of St. Benedict and encourage them to become Oblates if they seem to be in search of such a special way of life in the world.
They foster the spirit of community in their own family circle, and within the groups and organizations to which they belong.
OBLATES ARE MEN AND WOMEN OF PEACE.
They use all rightful means for establishing peace in the world around them, mindful of the centuries old Benedictine watchword: PEACE! They strive to practice the truth of God in love and join all true peacemakers in pleading for peace and working to bring it about.