Letter to a Novice Oblate (IV)

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St Benedict receives the habit.jpg

This fresco in Monte Oliveto Maggiore depicts a youthful Saint Benedict receiving the monastic habit from the monk Romanus.

My very dear Novice Oblate,

Questions and Answers

I am writing to you again. You have a lot of questions, all of them interesting and good. I will do my best to provide you with satisfactory answers.

After Your Year of Noviceship

At the end of your year of noviceship, you may ask to be allowed to make your Oblation at the Monastery or, if this is not possible -- given the distance that may separate us -- in another church, during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I, as your Father Prior, or a priest whom I have delegated to represent me will preside at the Oblation.

The Rite of Oblation

The text for the rite and the form of Oblation is in the Ritual for Oblates that the Monastery will provide. The rite of Oblation mirrors that of monastic profession (RB 58:17). It takes place before the altar of the monastery, or of another church, and the relics of the saints (cf. RB 57:17-20). It includes a promise of conversion of manners according to the Rule of Saint Benedict and one's state of life, and, with uplifted hands, the moving chant of the Suscipe (Ps 118:116): "Receive me, O Lord, according to thy word and I shall live, let me not be disappointed in my hope." Beforehand, you will write out a Chart of Oblation and, then, sign it. Your Chart of Oblation will be preserved in the monastery's archive.

Some Conditions

In order to make a valid Oblation, one must be at least eighteen years old, and may not be a member of a Third Order nor of an ecclesial movement or other association whose spiritual thrust is not in harmony with the means proposed by the Rule of Saint Benedict and by the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle.

Light from the East

It is normally assumed that Oblates will be Roman Catholics who have received the sacrament of Confirmation. Nevertheless, at the discretion of the Father Prior, members of the venerable Eastern Orthodox Churches may also be received as Oblates; this, because monasticism is a treasure, originating in the East, that belongs to the Undivided Church.

In the Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen (2 May 1995) Blessed John Paul II wrote:

Monasticism has always been the very soul of the Eastern Churches: the first Christian monks were born in the East and the monastic life was an integral part of the Eastern lumen passed on to the West by the great Fathers of the undivided Church.
The strong common traits uniting the monastic experience of the East and the West make it a wonderful bridge of fellowship, where unity as it is lived shines even more brightly than may appear in the dialogue between the Churches.

Wholehearted and Firm

The act of Oblation is a wholehearted and firm promise to God, although it is not in the nature of a vow. It is not intended to be a burdensome obligation, but rather a stimulus and a help to the Oblate in "reaching that charity of God which, being perfect, drives out all fear" (RB 7:67).

Reciprocal Bonds

The act of Oblation establishes reciprocal bonds between the Oblate and the Monastery. For sufficiently grave reasons, an Oblate can sever these bonds by requesting in writing to withdraw from the Oblateship. Also, for sufficiently grave reasons, the Prior can dismiss one from the Oblateship, should an Oblate persistently, and in defiance of repeated invitations to conversion of heart, give evidence of having forsaken the inward spirit of Oblation and its outward obligations.

Sickness and Health

Should it happen that for reasons of health or other particular circumstances an Oblate becomes unable to carry out the practices and disciplines recommended for Oblates, so long as the desire for conversion of life and communion with the Monastery remains, the Oblation can still be fulfilled by "never despairing of the mercy of God" (RB 4:74).

Oblates suffering from chronic illness or another infirmity are truly offerings, worthy of being presented to the praise of the Father's glory, in the hands of Jesus Christ, our Eternal High Priest. The Oblate marked by suffering "makes up in his own flesh those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of His Body, which is the Church" (Colossians 1:24).

The Oblate who accepts, and then offers his weakness, incapacities, or limitations for priests in need, can obtain many graces for them. By uniting his offering to that of Our Lord, renewed in every Mass, the Oblate can obtain strength for priests discouraged by their weaknesses; humility and courage for priests who are incapacitated; and an increase of charity and of zeal for priests grown lukewarm.

Stability

Benedictines take a vow of stability or, if you will, of lifetime belonging to a particular monastic family. In the same spirit, the bond of Oblation anchors the Oblate spiritually to one particular monastery. If for good reason an Oblate wishes to transfer his Oblation to another Benedictine monastery, it is not necessary to make a new act of Oblation. With the consent of the Father Prior and the Abbot of the receiving monastery, the name of the Oblate can be removed from the register of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle and inscribed in that of another monastery.

Similarly, if for a good reason an Oblate attached to another Benedictine community wishes to transfer his Oblation to the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle, this can be done with the consent of the Abbot of the Oblate's original community and of the Father Prior.

Oblation is made with the intention that it should be for life. Consequently, it is made once and for all. Nevertheless, Oblates can express their "perseverance in stability" (RB 58:9) by renewing their Oblation in their hearts, especially on the anniversary date of one's Oblation.

I will write again soon. In the meantime, I send you my affection and my blessing.

In lumine vultu Iesu,

Father Prior

1 Comments

The more I read these letters to the Oblate Novices, the more I find that they resonate with me.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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