Oblates and AssociatesSt Benedict lists among the tools of good works "To prefer nothing to the love of Christ". Many men and women try to live out this ideal in their homes and workplaces. Traditionally, association with a particular monastery provides some help and guidance and gives a sense of being supported in the spiritual life. We are happy to be able to associate others with us in the quest for God and count ourselves blessed that our Oblates and Associates contribute so much to the spiritual and material well-being of the community.
We want to make sure that every Oblate and Associate feels a real bond with the community and therefore do not admit more people to the oblateship than we feel we can get to know properly. We have developed a number of ways of keeping in touch, including web conferences which enable us to meet online in a way that would not otherwise be possible. We also have a private Community Forum, open only to Oblates and Associates of the monastery, and a dedicated video chat room. Oblates are also loyal supporters of our online Virtual Chapters which are open to all.
The Stages of AssociationJust as there are several stages between entering the monastery and making final profession as a nun, so there is a period of preparation and testing of vocation before becoming an Oblate. (The Latin from which the word "oblate" derives means "offered": the Oblate or Associate is "offered" to God.)
The first stage, affiliation as an Associate, lasts at least a year. During that time we will try to introduce the candidate to the Rule of St Benedict and encourage him or her to grow in love of prayer and the scriptures. After this 'oblate novitiate', the Associate makes a promise to follow the Rule of St Benedict and serve God and neighbour, insofar as his/her circumstances in life allow, and is admitted as an Oblate of the community.
A Reciprocal RelationshipOblates and Associates are united with us in spiritual communion, so we take the duty of prayer for their welfare and that of their families very seriously. Some visit the monastery regularly to join us in prayer, others are prevented from doing so by distance but keep in touch and take as full a part as they can. Every year, on the feast of All Benedictine Saints, we hold an Oblate Day at the monastery when the Oblates and Associates renew their oblate promise and have a day of fraternal sharing.
Open to allAssociation is open to all Trinitarian Christians, irrespective of denomination, for St Benedict affirms that 'we are all one in Christ and serve alike under the standard of the same Lord.' Members of other Churches are encouraged to take an active part in the life of their own Communion. Distance is no barrier to association because the internet makes it possible to remain close without being physically present. In March 2010 we welcomed our first American Associate: the ceremony of affiliation took place "in real time" by means of an online conference call, and we have subsequently admitted two other Associates in the same way via video link.
Some of our Oblates and Associates