Oblates

Benedictine Oblates
of the World Community for Christian Meditation
in the United States

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Monastics have organized their lives with an utterly clear priority. In their conversion they turn from themselves to their brethren in the community, to Christ in prayer and to God in Christ. This is the clear Benedictine tradition and when it is fully alive in the hearts of men and women, it has the power to convert, to turn to Christ, all who come under its influence.
(John Main, OSB, Letters from the Heart)

What is an Oblate?

Historically, Oblates have been around since the time of St. Benedict, in the sixth century. The term “oblate” comes from Latin, meaning, simply, “to offer”. In the beginning, Oblates were children offered to the monastery by their parents. Over time, the term “Oblate” came to mean lay people outside the monastic enclosure who were connected with a particular monastery, and deeply informed by the monastic way of life.

What is special about Oblation within WCCM?

WCCM forms a “monastery without walls”, so our Oblation is not to a particular physical monastery, but is a unique form of participation in the community that is formed by the practice of Christian Meditation. This participation takes as its guide the Rule of Benedict, the oldest monastic rule, and the tradition of our founder, John Main, OSB. Since the days of our founding, Oblates have offered within the larger WCCM community, a witness to WCCM’s place in the Benedictine universe.

Oblates of WCCM continue their twice-daily commitment to Christian meditation, as well as practice lectio divina, read the Rule of Benedict, and say some part of the Divine Office as their circumstances permit. Becoming familiar with the writings of John Main, OSB, and Laurence Freeman, OSB, is also central to the path.

Experience of community characterizes the Oblate life. First, we experience how the practice of meditation creates community. Secondly, Oblates experience a sense of calling towards their monastically-inspired community-within-community, sharing mutual support, encouragement and spiritual friendship with others on the Oblate path. Thirdly, Oblates give back to WCCM by serving its mission to teach Christian Meditation in the spirit of unity of all.

Oblation within WCCM is a commitment to ever-deepening discernment of life in Christ — through the practice of Christian Meditation as taught by John Main, OSB, and guided by the Benedictine wisdom tradition. The Oblate path is not highly programmatic, but an enhancement of the contemplative and creative rhythms which meditation fosters

How are US Oblates organized?

Internationally, we’re part of the global community of Oblates of WCCM, directed today by Laurence Freeman, OSB. And, in the United States, we’re also a small community of Oblates spread out across the nation. Some of our US Oblates are fortunate to live in one of two areas (Houston or Jacksonville), close enough to each other to come together monthly, for prayer and mutual support. These regular Oblate gatherings are called local cell meetings. However, most US Oblates are spread throughout the country, and are more or less solitary.

Members of the US Oblate community are reaching out to create stronger ties of community among those of us who are solitary, in ways are that are regional and virtual.

In the way of regional growth, we’ve organized two regional cells for Oblates who don’t live close to each other, but do live within a few hours’ drive, and are able to come together for a regional cell meeting a few times a year. Currently, we have regional cells in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

In the way of virtual growth, we use the internet to connect via meditation groups, cell meetings, and mentoring, expanding into what Laurence Freeman, OSB, calls “the sacramental use of the internet”.

What is a cell meeting like?

Cell meeting formats can vary, but a typical cell meeting puts at its heart a period of meditation, and includes saying a part of the Divine Office, reading a portion of the Rule of Benedict, and the practice of lectio divina.

Periods of “sharing”, in the spirit of lectio, are extremely important. This reflective sharing of each Oblate’s attentive response to the Rule, or to Scripture, allows Oblates to experience the power of wisdom in community. This experience is fostered by speaking authentically and being deeply and fully listened to. Thus, this sharing, which is actually a kind of mutual self-giving, is both supportive and transformative. This experience is something that those of us who are Oblates have to offer each other — this kind of sharing is, in fact, an oblation to each other.

What does a mentor do?

Each newcomer to the Oblate path is paired with an experienced Oblate called a mentor, to assist in the process of discernment that is central to our character. This can foster a mutual spiritual friendship, as well as the greater dissemination of wisdom in our community.

What are the first steps to Oblation within WCCM?

1. Be committed as a twice-daily Christian meditator as taught by John Main. Consider if you discern the personal transformation begun by this practice, and a call to deepening that process through the Benedictine wisdom tradition.

2. Speak to any WCCM Oblates that you know, and visit a WCCM Oblate cell meeting if there is one nearby. Also, get in touch with the US National Coordinator, and make an expression of your interest in the Oblate path.

3. After an initial encouraging conversation, expect to take about six weeks to consider if this path if for you. During this time, read “Monastics in the World”, by Laurence Freeman, OSB, and Community of Love, by John Main, OSB. (This will be the beginning of an ongoing engagement with these and other writings, if you continue on the Oblate path.)

What are the stages on the Oblate path?

1. Postulancy: During this period, which lasts at least six months, you’ll be paired with a mentor. You’ll meet with or talk with your mentor every six to eight weeks as you and your mentor mutually discern your readiness for the next stage of the Oblate path.

2 . Novitiate: During this period, which lasts at least a year, you’ll become familiar with the ancient monastic practice of lectio divina, the Rule of Benedict and the precepts of stability, obedience, and conversatio morum, as well as using the Breviary to say some part of the Divine Office. You’ll continue to speak with your mentor every six to eight weeks, in an experience of deepening spiritual friendship, and to discern your readiness for final Oblation.

3. Final Oblation: As part of your permanent commitment to the community, you’ll discern how you can be of service to the community, especially to pass on the work of Christian Meditation. If you don’t already have a Christian Meditation group in your area, this would be a good time to start one. You’ll also continue to explore expressions of community with other Oblates as they arise and you are able, whether with a local or regional cell, or virtually.

Where do I get more information?

Click on the “Oblate” tab on the International WCCM website: www.wccm.org . Here you’ll find a copy of “Monastics in the World” by Laurence Freeman, OSB.

Contact the WCCM-US Oblate Coordinator: Mary Kelly Robison at wccm.us.oblates@gmail.com

May 2013: http://wccm-usa.org/about-meditation/deepening-your-call/oblates/