An offering of life

Sister Judith Sutera | May 4, 2017

This Saturday evening, we will welcome nine new oblates to our community. We’ve mentioned oblates a few times before in this column and we’ve even had columns written by some of them. They are lay women and men, attracted to Benedictine spirituality and to this particular community, who want to symbolically unite their lives to ours.

You will note that there are two distinct elements of their commitment. The first is Benedictine spirituality. Each one of these new oblates has a unique story of how he or she first encountered the Rule of St. Benedict and its wisdom. The nine include men and women, business professionals, retirees, divorcees, busy parents, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, a delightful variety of people. But each has come to some appreciation of what Benedictine values bring to their lives.

They join more than 200 other, current living oblates of this monastery. Many of them attend monthly meetings in St. Joseph, Atchison, Topeka, Oklahoma City or one of several groups in Kansas City. Others must maintain a more distant relationship to their group as they have moved to other parts of the country or become unable to attend the meetings.

The second element is the commitment to this particular community. Almost every Benedictine monastery has an oblate group. These people have not only found a guide for their lives, but a group of people to anchor them. All of our oblates have gotten to know the sisters of Mount St. Scholastica and how the Benedictine way is lived in this specific time and place.

Oblation is not a generic commitment to a spirituality, but a declaration that one wants to be united spiritually with these people and what they do. The monastery becomes a significant stable place in their lives. Hence, they make a formal declaration in the chapel, in the presence of the sisters, family and other oblates in which they promise: “I offer myself to Almighty God, in the way of Benedict and Scholastica, as an oblate of Mount St. Scholastica. I promise, before God and this community, the conversion of my life according to the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict, and I dedicate myself to the service of God and of God’s people.”

What is it that is attracting so many to this association? First of all, they cite the way it keeps them on the path to holiness. By committing themselves to daily prayer, there are pivotal points in their daily lives. They talk about how a spirituality of doing all the daily things and encountering all people with a spirit of reverence brings them to new peace and balance. In a world of competition and chaos, they have found a community of mutual support.

While so few people talk about their faith or take group opportunities to enhance it, they come together with people very different from themselves and, encouraged by their common desire, seek to form deep relationships. It is unlikely that some of them would have ever even met each other in the context of their ordinary lives, but here they have found real spiritual friendship.

Benedictine oblation has been around for hundreds of years, but has boomed around the world in recent decades. The world is hungry for such spiritual relationships, and the rapid growth of the oblate movement certainly affirms that.

In a time when fewer people are choosing to join religious communities, our prayers for vocations to our community are being answered in a new and different way as these oblates fan out across the world and extend our Benedictine life in so many places we could never reach.