By Mother Laura Howell
Rector, Trinity Bethlehem
On Sunday, April 17, at 1:30, twelve years after I became an Oblate of St. Benedict, Trinity Bethlehem (44 E. Market St.) will host the organizational meeting of the Diocese of Bethlehem’s new Benedictine Oblate Chapter. Bishop Sean has blessed our new undertaking.
An oblate is a lay monastic who offers his or her life to God. To quote St. Paul in Romans 12: oblates “present <their> bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” Oblates promise to live a Benedictine life in the world, while maintaining a spiritual connection to a monastery. We are male/female, young/old, married/single, of all races and ethnic groups, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, other denominations, and from countries all around the world. We make promises of obedience, stability and conversion of life, to be lived while continuing in the station of life God has called us to. For me, that’s being a priest at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem, PA. Each oblate has a different path. But we all promise obedience to the will of God; stability in continuing in the Way God has called us to; and continuous and daily conversion of life, trying always to become more the person God wants us to be. You can also see these promises as distilled and focused versions of some of our baptismal promises.
Part of the promise of stability is that each Benedictine monk or nun plans to spend the rest of their lives in a single monastic community. Oblates are not monks or nuns, and therefore, most don’t live in monastic communities, although we are part of the international Benedictine family. However, we all do have an affiliation with a monastery. Oblates live out their promises of stability by being part of their home monasteries at the spiritual level, rather than at the residential level.
My home monastery is Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton, South Dakota, and I have received the great honor of starting a new chapter here in Pennsylvania. You can visit their website by going to http://yanktonbenedictines.org. They operate both a hospital and a college, and pioneered the first Online Oblate Chapter, so it should be no surprise that we feel an affinity. We are also members of the North American Association of Benedictine Oblate Directors (http://naabod.org).
You are all welcome to attend our first meeting to find out more about the course of study and faith formation that is involved in becoming an oblate. Or have a chat with me. Or send me a note at email@example.com. Read more about Benedictine oblates at http://osb.org/obl/index.html .
Benedictine blessings to all,
Mo. Laura Thomas, Obl.S.B.