Letter to a Novice Oblate (I)

| | Comments (3)

This is the first of a series of letters that I will be writing to the Oblates of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. I decided to address myself in these letters to each Oblate individually as well as to the entire growing Oblate family. The aim of these letters is to answer various questions that have arisen, and to offer something in the way of ghostly counsel to those who have a right to expect it from me.


In the Church of San Severo in Perugia: a fresco by Raffaello (1505) depicting the Most Holy Trinity with Saints Maurus, Placid, and Benedict. Sadly, over time, the image of the Eternal Father has disappeared from the fresco.

Oblatus est quia ipse voluit.
"He was offered because it was his own will." Isaiah 53:7

My very dear Novice Oblate,

Turning and Returning to God

As your father in Christ, I am bound to offer you something in the way of instruction and guidance as you undertake the Benedictine journey of return to God. I'm writing to you today on the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul: a feast of turning, and returning to God in Christ, that effectively sums up the vocation of the monk and of the Oblate.

Becoming an Oblate

I wish that I could write to each one of you individually. Please accept instead, from time to time, my reflections on what it means to become -- and to be -- an Oblate of our monastery. I will often allude to the text of the Holy Rule in these reflections. Take the time to open your copy of the Rule and to read the references that I will provide.

Your Oblation

The word Oblate means someone or something offered irrevocably to God. An Oblation is the solemn making-over to God of a person or thing, in such wise that the person or thing, once offered, belongs to God alone. By becoming an Oblation, such a person or thing has passed out of what is ephemeral and corruptible into the heavenly sanctuary beyond the veil "where the forerunner Jesus is entered for us, made a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech."(Hebrews 6:19)

A Little Hand on the Altar

When Roman parents would bring their sons to Saint Benedict, offering them to God, as the child Samuel was offered to the priest Heli for a life of Divine Service in the Temple (cf. 1 Kings3:1-10), they participated in a sacred rite of Oblation at the monastery. The rite took place during Holy Mass. Saint Benedict would wrap the hand of the child being offered in the altar cloth upon which the Body of Christ would rest, signifying the child's identification with Christ Jesus in His perpetual offering to the Father.

An Offering to the Father

In later centuries, when adult Christians began offering themselves to God in a similar way, by attaching themselves to the altar of a particular monastery, the underlying significance of the Oblation remained. Your vocation as an Oblate makes you -- and your entire life -- an offering to the Father in communion with the offering that rises daily from the altar of your monastery: that of Christ, and that of your monastic family.

Your Spiritual Worship

The Benedictine tradition sees Oblation as an act intimately tied to the altar of the monastery and to the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist (cf. RB 58:20-21; 59: 1-2). Oblation is, then, a free act of self-offering to God, patterned after the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim, from the altar of the Cross. One of the key texts for understanding your vocation as an Oblate is what Saint Paul wrote to the Romans: "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).

For the Body of Christ, the Church

The Holy Ghost has, in some way -- through a series of events, personal encounters, and circumstances -- drawn you to the altar of our humble little monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle to make the offering of yourself with Christ. As an Oblate you will begin to live from the altar, in communion with those of us who remain within the monastic enclosure, not for yourself alone in any narrow way, but, rather, for the sake of the whole Body of Christ, that is the Church. "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you," says Saint Paul, "and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the Church " (Colossians 1:24).

Near and Far

The Church will recognize your Oblation as a special bond between you and our monastery (cf. CCL, can. 303; can. 677 §2). Being primarily spiritual, this bond is not dependent upon geographic proximity. Anyone who has discerned a spiritual affinity with the Rule of Saint Benedict and with our monastery's particular charism of Eucharistic adoration, reparation, and supplication for the sanctification of priests can ask to become an Oblate.

The Holy Rule

Begin looking to the Rule of Saint Benedict to guide you in "truly seeking God" (cf. RB 58:7). Saint Benedict will teach you, gently but firmly to "prefer nothing to the love of Christ" (RB 4: 21). He will encourage you to "take your part in the sufferings of Christ through patience, so as to share also in his kingdom" (RB Pro: 50).

From Every Walk of Life

Oblates come from every walk of life: single and married and widowed, young and old. Some are the mothers and fathers of large families of little ones and not-so-little ones. There are farmers and cattle ranchers, housekeepers and cooks, teachers, doctors, lawyers, artists nurses, and photographers. What do you all have in common? You desire, while continuing in your own unique own state in life, to enroll yourself in the "school of the Lord's service" (RB Pro: 45) established 1500 years ago by Saint Benedict, our father and teacher. You desire to "persevere with one mind in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus" (Acts 1:14). You are drawn to the adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, shining more brightly than the sun from the tabernacles of the Church, in this world's dark night of faith.

Diocesan Priests

There will be diocesan priests, deacons, and seminarians among the Oblates of our monastery. Many priests have found in Saint Benedict's "little Rule written for beginners" (RB 73:8) and in our monastery's charism of Eucharistic adoration a strong support for living boldly in the midst of the world as "ministers of Christ and dispensers of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1).

Be Informed, Reformed, and Transformed

Seek to grow into the full stature of your Baptismal consecration by drawing all of the little things that make up daily life into the upward movement of your Oblation to the Father. Every little thing has Eucharistic potential. There is no thing that cannot be brought to the altar and given back to God. Go forward humbly but confidently, letting the Rule of Saint Benedict inform you, reform you, and transform you. The Holy Rule is a humble handbook to holy living, one that the Holy Ghost has used through the ages to form saints ablaze with the love of Christ.

In Spirit and in Truth

In the months that lie ahead I will encourage you to become familiar with some of these saints, and to walk in their company. In the final analysis, there is no saint who was not, in all truth, an Oblate, for an Oblate is one who longs to say with Saint Paul, "I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me. And the life that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20). Just as Christ Jesus gave Himself up to the Father for you, give yourself up to Him, that in His priestly hands you may become an Oblation "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23).

With my affection and my blessing,
In lumine vultu Iesu,

Father Prior


Father, I did not realize that you didn't have to live in the area of the monastery to be an oblate!
I will pray as you relocate. Perhaps after the move, you would be pleased to send me information on discerning being an oblate. - Pam

I also would be grateful if you could send me some information on discerning to be an oblate.

Thank you for these posts. I am an oblate with another community and there is little contact as I am at a distance. I find these posts very helpful and fatherly. Bless you.

Leave a comment

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory