Oblates and Saint Benedict
Information about the life of Saint Benedict comes from Book II of the Dialogues by Pope Saint Gregory the Great (590-604). Benedict was born about the year 480 A.D. in Nursia, a small town north of Rome, Italy.
Although he was sent to Rome for higher education, the youth soon abandoned his studies because of the atmosphere of moral corruption in the big city. He went to live as a hermit for several years at a place called Subiaco, where in time he acquired a reputation for holiness and miracles.
Attracting many followers, he established monastic communities at Subiaco and then moved on to Monte Cassino about 529 A.D. It was at Monte Cassino that Benedict wrote the Rule, which combined fidelity to the best traditions of Christian monasticism with a spirit of moderation and of remarkable concern for the individual monk. During the following centuries, the monastic way of life outlined in the Rule spread throughout Europe, and Benedictine monasteries became centers of prayer, culture, and education.
The Rule (Chapter 59) mentions that monasteries could accept young boys, who were "offered' to them by their parents for their religious training and education. These boys lived in the community, shared its daily round of religious activities, and became known as "Oblates." In the course of time, adult lay people asked to be associated with the prayer and work of the monks, even while they remained with their homes, families, and secular occupations.
Over the centuries such informal arrangements became more formalized, and these "secular Oblates" were officially received in a ceremony as they offered themselves to God and promised to regulate their lives according to the spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict. These Oblates prayed in union with the monks as best they could and applied the teachings of the Rule to their lives in the world. Today thousands of Oblates throughout the world pray and work in spiritual union with Benedictine men and women of various communities, and they both receive and share spiritual strength and inspiration as a result of their affiliation as Oblates.