Statutes of the Benedictine Oblates
of Mount Angel Abbey
Chapter I: The Oblate
1. Oblation is a free act of self-offering to God, recognized by the Church (cf. the Code of Canon Law, can. 303; 677 §2) whereby individual Christians establish a bond of intimate union with a particular Benedictine community. The act of oblation is a true offering, and brings about a true belonging, though it is different in nature from that bond which unites a monk to his community, and it does not bring about a change in the individual's status in the Church.
2. Oblates are Christians, lay or ordained, who, committed to the living of their faith and while continuing to live their own state in life, desire to make their own the values expressed by Benedictine monastic life. With the monks, they therefore look to the Holy Rule of St. Benedict as a pattern for their living of the Gospel message. They undertake to pursue the path of Benedictine spirituality, through the guidance of the Holy Rule (RB 3:7) and in the spirit of the community of Mount Angel, so as constantly to renew their baptismal consecration.
Chapter II: Oblation
1. If a candidate for oblation is not already known to our community, he or she is normally asked to spend some months as an “inquirer.” This time is provided so that the necessary affinity shared between monastery and oblate candidate may mature, in keeping with the serious step that is being proposed.
2. Once the application for oblation has been accepted, there follows a period of formation (the novitiate) in order that candidates might gain a clear understanding of the commitment they are preparing to make (RB 58:12). This oblate “novitiate” is to last for a full year. It begins with a ceremony, normally conducted by the Director of Oblates, during which the candidate is presented with a copy of the Holy Rule and receives a blessing. By way of exception, and with specific permission, others may be permitted to receive candidates into the oblate novitiate for grave reason. If it is deemed necessary, the period of formation may be extended, though it should normally not exceed two years. Novice oblates are asked to read through the Holy Rule at least three times. They are to be encouraged to establish a habit of daily liturgical prayer, lectio divina, and reflection upon the Holy Rule.
3. At the end of their period of formation, novice oblates come to the Abbey to make their final oblation. Only in exceptional circumstances may the reception of oblation be delegated to a priest or monk outside the monastery of Mount Angel.
4. The text for the rite and the form of oblation is to be found in the Oblate Ritual. For purposes of study and reflection the form of oblation is also found in the Novice Resource Guide. The Rite of Oblation ordinarily takes place at the conventual Mass of the Abbey. The form of oblation is essentially a reflection of the monastic vows (RB 58:17), being a promise of “the reformation of my life according to the spirit of the Rule of St. Benedict, in so far as my state in life permits.” At the ceremony of final oblation, an oblate name is taken. The oblate completes and signs an oblation scroll, which in turn, is signed by Father Abbot, or his designate, and placed on the altar. The original is given to the oblate, while a copy is then preserved in the monastery's archive. Father Abbot blesses St. Benedict medals as part of the Rite and invests the new oblates with them.
5. In order to make a valid oblation, the candidate must be at least eighteen years old, and may not be a member of a Third Order, or be a member of another Religious Institute.
6. It is normally assumed that Mount Angel oblates, like Mount Angel monks, will be Roman Catholics, or Catholics of other rites, who have received the sacrament of confirmation. Nevertheless, members of other Churches and ecclesial communions may be received as oblates. They must, however, accept the discipline of the Catholic Church regarding sacramental communion. However, because we share a real, if limited communion in virtue of our shared baptism, non-Catholic oblates should be encouraged in the practice of spiritual communion so that they might authentically participate in the Church’s sacred liturgy.
7. The act of oblation has the character of a solemn 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 help to the oblate in his or her following of Christ. Should it happen that for some serious reason an oblate becomes unable to fulfill the exterior practices recommended for oblates, the oblate promise can still be kept so long as the desire for conversion of life and spiritual union with the monastic community of Mount Angel remains.
8. Benedictines take a vow of stability. In accordance with this element of Benedictine life, oblates are affiliated to one particular monastery and not directly to the Order (the Benedictine Confederation) as a whole. However, if for good reason an oblate wishes to transfer to the lists of another Benedictine house, it is not necessary to make a new act of oblation. When the consent of the Abbots or Oblate Directors of both houses has been obtained, the name of the oblate can be removed from the lists of the one community and registered in the lists of the other.
9. The act of oblation establishes reciprocal bonds between the oblate and the monastery. Either party can break these bonds by giving notification in writing.
10. Oblation is made with the intention that it should be for life. Consequently, it is made once and for all. Nevertheless, oblates can laudably express their “perseverance in stability” (RB 58:9) by frequently renewing their commitment in their hearts. In addition, just as monks formally make an annual renewal of their vows, so oblates are encouraged formally to renew their oblation annually, either as a group or privately, and so strengthen their sense of dedication. This may be done on a Benedictine Oblate retreat at the Abbey, or on July 11, the Solemnity of our Blessed Father, Saint Benedict, on the anniversary of one’s final oblation, or on any day of personal significance to the individual oblate.
11. Oblates of Mount Angel Abbey do not use a post-nominal designation (OSB, OblSB, OSBObl), or wear any form of monastic habit apart from the Benedictine medal itself.
12. According to a decree of the Sacred Penitentiary, dated 5 May 1975, a plenary indulgence may be obtained by Catholic Benedictine Oblates, provided that fulfilling the usual conditions (confession, communion, prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions), they pronounce or renew, even privately, the oblate promise:
1. On the day of enrollment as a novice oblate, and the day of final oblation;
2. On the feast days of St. Benedict (March 21 and July 11); SS. Maurus and
Placid (January 15); St. Scholastica (February 10) and St. Frances of Rome
(March 9). Also on Mount Angel’s patronal feast: the Solemnity of the Saints
Michael, Gabriel and Raphael: Archangels, and all Holy Angels (September 29);
and the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), the patroness of
the Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation.
3. On the 25th and 50th anniversaries of oblation.
Chapter III: Oblates & The Monastery
1. Our oblates are accepted as members of the wider family of the Mount Angel community of Benedictines. They rightly regard the monastery as their spiritual home. While remaining faithful to its identity as a contemplative community, the monastery for its part desires, through appropriate means, to assist the oblates in their spiritual, doctrinal and liturgical development.
2. Oblates share in the life of the monastic family first of all through union of prayer with the community. When possible, they visit the Abbey in order to participate in the Holy Eucharist and the celebration of the Divine Office with the monks. Oblates are also encouraged to stay at the Abbey for periods of retreat. They may also offer practical assistance and advice, as lies within their competence.
3. Oblates are committed to pray for the community's needs. This support in prayer and love is what the community most values in its oblates. Oblation does not bring with it any financial obligation to the monastery. Oblates of Mount Angel Abbey are invited annually, as part of their bona opera, to make a contribution toward the sustenance of the oblate association. Oblates may choose to support the good works of the monks of their own free will, as act of Christian charity.
4. The formal participation of oblates in the prayer of the monastery is expressed by their inclusion in the commemoration of absent brethren at the end of every office. In addition, our oblates are considered friends and benefactors of the community, and as such, are included in the intention of the daily conventual Mass of the monastery. A Mass is said at the abbey for a deceased oblate on notification of death, with an annual remembrance thereafter on All Souls’ Day.
5. The Abbot has charge of the oblates, either personally or through a delegated monk called the Director of Oblates.
6. The primary motive guiding candidates for oblation should be a sense of spiritual affinity with the community at Mount Angel. Geographical distance can present difficulties in maintaining a close bond between an oblate and the monastery, indicating that particular care should be exercised in accepting oblates who reside at a great distance. Nevertheless, the monastic community values the connection with oblates who reside in distant places, even overseas, and with those who, perhaps because of age, are no longer able to make regular visits to the monastery.
7. Oblates are encouraged, though not obliged, to meet together in a spirit of friendship and common belonging and to share in prayer. Although oblate groups have no apostolates in and of themselves, like all Christians it is fitting that oblates share in the charitable works of the Church. This they may wish to do as a group. Oblate groups vary in type, some being primarily prayer groups, while others are study or even social groups. Reading of the Holy Rule and praying some part of the Liturgy of the Hours appropriate to the time of meeting will typically characterize any meeting of Benedictine oblates.