Prior Brother John’s Opening Remarks, Oblate Retreat
Mount Saviour Monastery
October 12 – 14 2018
Drawn from Oblates reflections who were at the fourth world Congress of Oblates at Rome, November 2017
What is the future of Benedictine life? It is a question that many people seem to be asking with fear and trepidation. At a time when there are fewer traditional vocations to Benedictine monasteries many people seem to fear that many monasteries will close, and this ancient way of life is in jeopardy. The reality is that this is a time of tremendous change and transition, but also of great hope. Benedictines have always responded to the deep, underlying needs of the times. Throughout the centuries we have been models of prayer, community and service. Today Benedictines are still responding to the needs of the times, but the difference is that many of these Benedictines are oblates. Oblates are increasingly the face of Benedictine life in this new century. Oblates can become the people who take our mission and charism to places we no longer go. Oblates are often the “public face” of the monastery as they share their connection to the monastery of their oblation and their commitment to Benedictine spirituality and life. I repeat Fr. Damasus’ thinking when he spoke about the oblates in 1962, saying that the secret of any monastery’s success is the degree to which it projects the face of Christ to the world around it and that Oblates are the best means of showing the loving face outside the cloister.
If the nearly 1,600-year-old Benedictine tradition of ora et labora – work and prayer, contemplation and action – is to survive, lay associations of monasteries will need to play an increasingly critical role in transmitting that tradition. Joan Chittister mentions that oblates “are not meant to simply be consumers of the Benedictine tradition. You are meant to be carriers of that tradition. You are the future of the order.” Oblates are required to become not only witnesses to the values espoused in the Rule of St. Benedict, but to be the active bearers of those values. Oblates must now become spiritual directors to the world at large. Oblates need to continue to seek to model the Benedictine values of community, consensus, peace balance hospitality, simplicity and care of the planet in their daily lives. Chittister reminded oblates that in every age, there is a dream that is dying and a new dream emerging. Today’s oblates must forge a new dream where their passion for the Rule and Benedictine values becomes a flame through which the rest of the world can see a better way to love and live.
An Oblate’s reflection:
When one finds a treasure, it is a pity to keep it for oneself. It would be lost.
A Monastery is a well
The oblate comes to draw water
To quench thirst and carry it to the world.
The oblate waters the earth
And returns to the monastery
Carrying the fruit.
May the fruit that each of you bring to this retreat multiply through mutual sharing and may it help nourish and nurture other spiritual pilgrims in their journeys as well. When you return to your homes may you go and bear fruit. Fruit that will last. Bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.