St. Procopius Abbey - Sponsoring Benedictine University

Abbey statueSt. Procopius Abbey is a Benedictine monastic community, founded in 1885 and located in Lisle, Illinois, nearly 30 miles southwest of Chicago. Numbering 50 men, they strive to come closer to God through prayer and service to the Church, especially in educational apostolates at Benet Academy (a college-preparatory high school) and Benedictine University.

www.procopius.org (will open in a new window)

The Oblates of St. Procopius Abbey

Who is an Oblate?

oblatesOblates of St. Benedict are Christian individuals or families who have associated themselves with a Benedictine community in order to enrich their Christian way of life. Oblates shape their lives by living the wisdom of Christ as interpreted by St. Benedict in the Rule he wrote for monks.

Oblates seek God by striving to become holy in their chosen way of life. By integrating their prayer and work, they manifest Christ's presence in society. The role of oblates is to live in the world, to become holy in the world, to do what they can to bring the world to God by being witnesses of Christ by word and example to those around them.

Oblates concern themselves with striving to be what they are, people of God and temples of the Holy Spirit. Their prayer life will flow from this awareness, and from their willingness to offer themselves (that is the meaning of the word oblate) for the service of God and neighbor to the best of their ability.

Oblates do not take on a new set of religious practices and are not required to say a certain number of prayers or engage in special devotions. They do not live in a religious community or take vows. The obligations assumed by the oblate do not bind under any pain of sin whatever, for St. Benedict prefers that his children serve God with love rather than with fear.


History

In the early part of the sixth century when St. Benedict wrote his Rule and gathered disciples into small communities called monasteries, parents brought their sons as "oblates," or gifts of God to the monks. The boy oblates lived the monastic life in much the same fashion as their elders, and many became full-fledged monks as adults. They received an exceptional education in the monastic school, which was one of the few ways one could get a formal education. Professor Patricia Quinn described this educational program in her book Better than the Sons of Kings.

In addition to the boy oblates, others also lived near the Benedictine monasteries. These were generally older men who did not wish to be monks, yet had a desire to be connected in some way with the community life. They were also called oblates.

In the course of time, men and women outside the monasteries wanted to be affiliated in some way with the work and prayer of the monks or nuns. But these individuals were married and had family obligations and employment. They lived in the secular world, but offered themselves to God, dedicating their lives to be lived following the guidance of the Rule of St. Benedict. True, the Rule and the teachings of Christ, as found in the Rule, were adapted to family, work, social and civil responsibilities. Still, the oblates tried to do what St. Benedict made so basic in his Rule: to seek God daily.

Over the years, as society continued to change and progress, one thing didn't change: the value and wisdom found in Benedict's Rule. Thousands of oblates worldwide continue to find inspiration and spiritual fulfillment when they follow the treasure of and the guidance in the Rule of St. Benedict

Oblate Candidacy

The Oblate Candidacy Outline is intended as a guide for men and women preparing for the Act of Final Oblation as Oblates of St. Benedict who are affiliated with Saint Procopius Abbey. In keeping with the “Guidelines for Oblates of St. Benedict,” these twelve topics cover what might be considered the basics that make up the Benedictine charism. Each religious order, society, or congregation was encouraged by Vatican council II to examine seriously and try to recapture the charism of the founder. In our case, this means what can capture from St. Benedict’s Rule as he left us no other document.

Before the regular meeting held monthly at St. Procopius Abbey those in formation gather (along with others who may be interested) to receive a short instruction. The more important element of the time spent together is attempting to develop a reality-based application of the individual value being studied and discussed.

Important to remember in this approach is that as the cycle repeats itself there will be times when someone who has attended a previous discussion of the topic admit that hearing the material a second time brought new insights. Invariably this is much like hearing the same Gospel every three years on Sundays. There is always a new insight, a new challenge to the Christian who desires to live the Gospel.

What is given in the Outline are brief thoughts only that are ‘filled in” by the Director of Oblates and others who may comment on the issue being considered. We hope that this outline will be of help to all our Oblates of St. Benedict at they seek to incorporate the focused virtues found in the St. Benedict’s Rule.

Duties of an Oblate

Perhaps the most frequently asked question regarding oblate life is what is expected of the oblate. The duties are not difficult or overwhelming. If these duties of prayer and work are faithfully carried out, the oblate will become a spiritual person whose life is truly caught up in Benedictine spirituality. The duties offer a wonderful opportunity for turning the ordinary Christian life into something more spiritually satisfying.

The following are duties expected of each oblate:

  1. Oblates are committed to their monastery, its values and culture and its prayer.
  2. Oblates are expected to keep the spirit of St. Benedict alive by the way in which they live:
    • Keep faithful to their promises made at oblation
    • Annually renew their oblation
    • Pray some part of the Liturgy of the Hours
    • Do Lectio Divina regularly
    • Attend retreats
    • Maintain fidelity to one's Christian tradition
  3. Oblates are persons whose lives are shaped by Benedictine spirituality. They follow the Rule of St. Benedict in their daily lives as far as their station in life permits.
  4. Oblates are representatives of the monastery "in the world."

The oblates pray for the members of their monastic community and for other oblates.

The purpose of the oblate program is to assist and support the oblate in living the Christian way of life. This is done in prayer and periodically gathering together as an oblate community.

Oblate Life

Oblates bind themselves by an act of oblation, or "gift" to God. This oblation is a promise, not a vow, to live according to the Rule St. Benedict wrote in the 6th century. Oblates have a strong desire to find God and experience a fuller Christian life by living according to the spirit of the Rule. The oblation is a free gift to God made through the monastery with which the are affiliated. The oblates are responsible for their own Christian and spiritual life and receive periodic guidance by attending monthly meetings which include spiritual instruction.

Benedictine oblate life is primarily a spiritual life. The Rule of St. Benedict  provides the guide for oblate life. The key to this life is found in Benedict's advice, "That God may be glorified in all things" (RB 57:9). For the oblate, all things really means all things: Prayer, work, studies, church, recreation, family, friends, and even enemies. The oblate truly seeks God in every aspect of everyday life. Oblate life is centered on a reverance for prayer. Oblates practice prayer both publicly with the Liturgy of the Hours and privately. 

Oblates also have a love for holy reading, or lectio divina. Part of oblate life is the desire to be obedient to the will of God. Oblates fulfill this desire with humility, by patiently bearing the everyday trials of life, by appreciating silence, by keeping one's speech under control, and by viewing all work as holy.

Oblate life is formed in and around a Benedictine community. The St. Procopius oblate is affiliated spiritually with this monastery and thus shares in the prayer, work, love and commitment of the community. The oblates also form community in chapters and among their family, friends and church. By being part of the Benedictine community, the oblate is supported to live more fully the Christian life.

Liturgy of the Hours

One pillar of Benedictine life is prayer in common, and that is the Work of God. Throughout the day, Benedictines from around the world stop their normal, daily activity to take time to praise God and to pray for the world. This gathering for communal prayer is known as the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Morning prayer was formally known as Lauds from its Latin name, laus or laudare, "praise" or "to praise." Lauds should be the initial prayer of the day for the oblate. It should be offered as soon after rising from sleep as possible. Sunrise has a special importance as one of the hinges of the day; this light of the rising sun brings to life all that was quiet in sleep. The dawn is a vivid image of the rising of the Sun of Justice, Jesus Christ. And so we praise the new light, the new day, Christ's coming again--Lauds.

The second hinge of the day is sunset. The descent of darkness hints at the coming of the evening star--Vespers. Vespers is the term used for evening prayer. We look back during the evening prayer and give thanks for the day we have just lived, and we look forward to welcome, even beyond the veil of sleep and death, the morning's promised light--Jesus Christ--who is the light no darkness can extinguish. Vespers--evening prayer--should be prayed before or after the evening meal.

Compline is the night prayer offered before we retire to the bed. This prayer brings the day to a close. It gives us an opportunity to repent for our sins and failures and still it renews our trust in the victory of the light--Jesus Christ--over sin and death.

(The Saint Procopius monastic community also celebrates Noon Prayer at the middle of the day.)

CMI_LogoCENTER FOR
MISSION AND IDENTITY
BENEDICTINE UNIVERSITY

Alicia Cordoba Tait, D.M.A
Assistant to the President
for Mission Integration
Director, Center for Mission and Identity

Phone: (630) 829-6324
e-mail: atait@ben.edu
5700 College Road Lisle IL, 60532