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