Seeking his workman in a multitude of people, the Lord calls out to him and lifts his voice again: “is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?” (Ps 33:13). If you hear this and your answer is “I do,” God then directs these words to you: If you desire true and eternal life, “keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim” (Ps 33:14-15). Once you have done this, my “eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say to you: ‘Here I am’” (Isa 58:9). What, dear brothers, is more delightful that this voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life. Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on the way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see him “who has called us to his kingdom” (1 Thess 2:12).
– RB Prologue 14-21
On 7 October 2013, I stood before the ambo of the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln and was invested as a oblate novice of St. Benedict. This investiture consisted of being clothed with the Benedictine scapular and given a copy of the holy Rule of St. Benedict. As the Rule was placed in my hands by the Fr. Meinrad, the Oblate Director, said:
Andy, accept this “little rule for beginners” and “listen carefully to the master’s instructions.”
At that moment, I become an Oblate novice of St. Benedict, but what does that mean, and how does it impact my life?
The term oblate comes from the latin oblatus, which means “one offered up,” and it is used by laity and clergy who desire to be associated with a particular Benedictine abbey. Oblates are simple people who desire to follow Christ according to the conditions he himself gave for discipleship:
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…. None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
We are called to make him our first priority (stability of heart), accept the situations in which we find ourselves as opportunities to encounter him (obedience to the will of God), and change our attitudes about everything around us (fidelity to the spirit of monastic life). Benedictine oblates consider the Rule of St. Benedict the most comprehensive guide we have to living out the Gospel, and these former mandates in particular, in our daily lives.
As an oblate, I am challenged to focus on three values: stability, obedience, and conversion of life. These particular disciplines help reorient my life, placing my focus back on God and living the God-life, thus reforging me into a more effective disciple of Christ. Both “disciple” and “discipline” are from the latin word meaning “pupil,” one who learns or studies. It is no coincidence that holy father Benedict called the monastery “a school for the Lord’s service” (RB Prologue 45), a place to sit at the feet at the Master and listen carefully (like Mary), then (like Martha) rise and put his words into action. Fr. Meinrad’s words to me at my investiture were not a “walking shadow….full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”(Macbeth 5.5.23,26-7). Instead, they were a rallying cry, telling me exactly what attitude I am to have while journeying down the Way.
Since Advent is going to start this Sunday, I have decided to go back to the ancient roots of the liturgical season and focus on being a pupil of Christ. I am going to dedicate my final blog posts for this year to these three values, beginning with stability during the first week of Advent. Obedience will be covered during the second week of Advent, conversion the third week, and a final reflection on the foundation of Benedictine life during the final week of the Advent season. My hope is to offer both myself and my readers an overview of how Benedictine spirituality can help one on the road to becoming a more authentic disciple of Christ.
Until next week!