Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oblate Sunday. A Benedictine oblate blog

Recently we attended “Oblate Sunday” at St. Leo Abbey in Florida. Wonderful, spiritual, renewing, but mostly humbling.

Our most recent Oblate Sunday included the once-a-year oblate ceremonies in the church. The first ceremony recognizes new oblate novices and the second ceremony is the final oblation to become oblates by men and women from all Christian backgrounds who have spent at least a year as novices.

The oblate-novice class which is usually held before lunch was not held this time because of the extra oblate ceremonies.

But after lunch we did have the regular oblate session/meeting with the abbot of the monastery — we are pleased that the abbot gives and leads the oblate program — along with a very able Oblate Coordinator and a warm and friendly monk who leads the oblate-novice classes. These are wise and spiritual people.

Oblate meetings are called chapter meetings and are lecture/question/answer meetings in a classroom-type setting — they have an initial Bible-study feel, but often we will come away from the meetings as if we had spent a quiet hour with only God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as our focus.

Oblates can attend the novice classes and novices can attend the oblate chapter meetings. So, on most Oblate Sundays everyone can and does attend both sessions, one with the abbot (the oblate meeting) and one with a monk (the oblate novice meeting). My wife and I always attend both because of the spiritual depth apparent in all actions at the abbey. The most recent example of this also occurred on the most recent Oblate Sunday.

One of the new oblates (having been a novice for a year) is a 13-year-old girl. In modern times, oblates are usually adults, and oblate programs often have a requirement that oblates be adults.

The new 13-year-old oblate illustrates two principles at work. First, that some young people have the maturity and spiritual age that makes them more than “qualified” to be oblates. Second, that those who lead the oblate program at this abbey have the wisdom to know when suspending the literal application of a guideline is actually a more faithfully fulfillment of its purpose.

Everyone in the oblate program has known about this wonderful young girl — and during the past year I have sometimes thought that if the life and spiritual maturity of this 13-year-old had been the standard for admission to the oblate program, I would not be writing this oblate blog.

My blessing is to be associated with a monastery guided by Christ’s love. It was an Oblate Sunday to remember.

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