Statutes of the Benedictine Oblates

                      of Mount Angel Abbey

 

Chapter IV: Oblate Spirituality


1. “The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of perfection, preached holiness of life to each and every one of His disciples, regardless of their situation” (LG 40). Oblates wish to respond to this universal call to holiness. They also wish their response to be identified with that of the monastic community. They share the aspiration of the monks to live the Paschal Mystery by death to sin and rebirth to new life in Christ.


2. The monks of Mount Angel and their oblates are “Benedictines” because they accept the Rule of St. Benedict as their guide (RB 3:7). This Rule, firmly rooted in scripture and tradition, had a formative influence in the history of the Western Church. Although written in the sixth century for a community of Italian monks, it manifests a practical wisdom that has value for any Christian in any age. Lay people today can find in it, and in the rich tradition it has engendered, a source of inspiration which will help them to “put the love of Christ before all else” (RB 4:21); to see their Christian life as a harmonious whole; and to make the Gospel a reality in the midst of the world in which they live.

3. Following the teaching of St. Benedict, monks and oblates alike “seek God” by way of a “conversion of life” (cf. RB 58:7 & 17). No less than professed monks, oblates are called to conversion to Christ, though in a way adapted to their own vocation and state in life.


4. The oblate promise of “reformation of my life” is a ratification of baptismal consecration. It is also a statement that the oblate wishes, by entering St. Benedict’s “school of the Lord's service” (RB, Prol. 45), to make progress in the Christian life, especially through prayer, lectio divina, work, and the practice of the virtues.

Prayer


1. The Benedictine way is a life of prayer. St. Benedict urges that we “give ourselves frequently to prayer” (RB 4:56). He calls the public prayer of the monks “the work of God” (opus Dei) to which “nothing is to be preferred” (RB 43:3). A primary reason for becoming an oblate is the desire to deepen, strengthen and intensify one’s life of prayer.


2. In accordance with the Holy Rule, Benedictine oblates will seek to nourish their prayer from the most authentic spiritual sources: the liturgy, the sacraments, and meditation on the Word of God. They should seek intimacy with God also through regular private prayer.


3. Daily Mass and communion is the center and heart of the monastic community’s life of prayer. Oblates also find in the Mass the “source and summit” of their Christian life (cf. LG 11). Through the Eucharistic Sacrifice, monks and oblates alike unite their self-offering with the sacrificial offering of Christ (cf. SC 48).


4. The life of the monk revolves around the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, which, as the prayer of the Church, is also truly a participation in the prayer of Christ. Through the divine office, time is sanctified. When mind and voice are in harmony (RB 19:7), the baptized in this way also exercise their royal priesthood. While there is no juridical obligation, our oblates are expected to celebrate at least part of the Liturgy of the Hours each day, conscious that Lauds and Vespers are the “two hinges on which the daily Office turns” (SC 89). When they offer this sacrifice of praise, our oblates express and strengthen their bond of unity with the monastic community.


5. The monks of Mount Angel sing the Marian antiphon each evening as an expression of their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our oblates also should not neglect devotion to the Mother of God. Their spiritual union with the community can be expressed also through the prayer of the Rosary.

Spiritual Reading


1. “Lectio divina” helps to form the mind, and gives it food for prayer. It is a fundamental element of monastic spirituality and should be embraced by oblates. By this term is meant a serious, ruminative, and well-ordered reading that instructs and deepens the spirit. It implies, above all, regular reading of Sacred Scripture. But lectio can be extended also to include the writings of the Fathers, the Saints, and other authors who reflect faithfully the teachings of the Church (cf. RB 9:8; 73:2-5). The aim is to achieve not the erudition that comes from much study, but an attentive listening to the Word of God in a climate of silence and recollection (cf. DV 25). The monastery desires to help oblates in this, by making good spiritual books readily available in the Abbey library and through the guesthouse bookstore. Upon entering the oblate novitiate, one is invited to obtain a complimentary library card.

Work


1. After prayer and lectio divina, the third essential element of monastic life according to the Holy Rule is ordinary work. St. Benedict teaches that “idleness is the enemy of the soul” (RB 48:1) and that “in all things God may be glorified” (RB 57:9). Benedictine life has traditionally been summarized with the motto “Ora et Labora” (“Pray and work”). Oblates therefore live according to the spirit of the Rule not just when engaged formally in prayer, but in all their daily activities, especially their work. They should strive to serve God in all that they do, putting the whole of their life at His service.


2. The monastery does not impose any task on oblates under obedience. They nevertheless gain the blessing of obedience (RB 71:1) whenever they perform their work in response to duty (cf. RB 5:14-19).


3. Oblates should seek to do their work as well as they can. In this way they can make of it an act of worship of God. They will use their gifts and abilities, according to their opportunities and circumstances, for the service of others and the building up of the Kingdom. They should, however, remember that work is a means, not an end in itself, and that St. Benedict takes great care to guard his monks from excessive work (cf. e.g. RB 31:17-19; 35:3-5; 48:9).

The exercise of virtue


1. Oblates look to the Holy Rule not only as a major reference point in their spiritual formation and development, but also for guidance in the practical application of their faith.


2. In practical matters, oblates will usually have to interpret the text of the Rule, to a greater or lesser extent, in order to apply its teaching to their own particular circumstances. One long chapter, however, may be regarded as in a special way directly applicable to oblates. This is Chapter Four, on the Tools of Good Works. Some of the works of mercy commanded there, such as visiting the sick, may even be more easily performed by oblates than by individual monks who are restricted by enclosure. Oblates who are able should actively seek ways of carrying out the various Good Works listed in this Chapter.


3. St. Benedict gives great emphasis to the Christ-like virtues of obedience and humility, which he describes particularly in Chapters Five and Seven of his Rule. Linked to them also is the virtue of patience, through which we “participate in the sufferings of Christ in order that we may deserve also to share in his Kingdom” (RB Prol. 50. cf. also Col 1:24, Phil 2:8). Oblates exercise these virtues above all by generously accepting their necessary duties and sufferings.


4. Each of us is called to combat the evil that lies within and all around us (cf. DG II chapters 2 and 8). In their personal life, therefore, oblates should strive to develop a spirit of simplicity and detachment from the materialism of the secular world (cf. RB 33 etc.). In its place they will cultivate a certain austerity and penance in personal life (cf. RB 4:10-21). Such a spirit will enable the oblate to see Christ in others (cf. RB 53:1) and to treat all with reverence – especially those who are burdened with difficulties and trials (cf. RB 72:4-5).


5. The virtue for which the Holy Rule is praised above all in the Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great is discretion, called by St. Benedict himself “the mother of virtues” (RB 64:19). As shepherd of the souls entrusted to him, he wanted “the strong to have something to yearn for,” but was careful that “the weak have nothing to flee from” (ibid.). Oblates will, therefore, strive to follow the Benedictine ideal of sanctified common sense, marked by a warm humanity. They will not expect to be changed into saints at once, but will climb perseveringly the steps marked out by the Rule, until they arrive at that perfect love which casts out fear (RB 7:67).

Oblates in the World


1. The Holy Rule prescribes the way of life for a Christian community. Oblates belong to many different forms of community, both within and beyond the community of the Church: the Parish, the Diocese, the community of marriage and family life, the workplace, the street in which they live, the nation of which they are a part. In all these circumstances, they will draw inspiration from the Holy Rule, and from its embodiment in the community of Mount Angel Abbey, in order that they might contribute to the establishment of Christ’s Kingdom in their daily life and in the lives of others.


2. Animated by the “good zeal” to which St. Benedict exhorts us (RB 72), oblates will cultivate a spirit of caring, understanding, patience, self-forgetfulness, availability and service. Preferring nothing whatever to Christ, and intent on the goal of everlasting life (RB 72:11-12), they will be a leaven at the heart of the wider society, enriching it by a life lived according to the values of the Gospel.

Chapter V: Conclusion


1. All those who are called to faith through Baptism have a responsibility to bear witness in all things and at all times to Christ and his Gospel. Those called to monastic life proclaim the Kingdom through their vows, lived in community. Monks recognize that Christ calls them to “faithfully observe his teaching in the monastery until death” (RB Prol. 50). Oblates also, intimately united to the monastic family, respond wholeheartedly to Christ's call, following the “guidance of the Gospel” (Prol. 21). Supported and encouraged by the monastic community, they also bear steadfast witness to their faith. Then, with the monks and other oblates, they “hasten to reach the heavenly homeland,” conscious always that they are among the “beginners” (RB 73:8) whom St. Benedict addresses as a “loving father” (Prol. 1). Confident in the sureness of his teaching, which over so many centuries has led so many people to God, they determine to “make progress in this way of life and in faith, running on the path of God’s commandments with hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” (Prol. 49).

Abbreviations


DV     Dei Verbum
SC     Sacrosanctum Concilium
LG      Lumen Gentium
RB      Rule of Benedict
DG II  Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great, Book II

                                          Chapters 1 - 3