This month’s reflection comes to us compliments of Carolyn Kennedy. Carolyn is a practising psychotherapist and full time mom. She lives in Whitby, Ontario with her husband Stephen, 3 young sons, and an assortment of animals.
It's been close to three years since I stood in front of Father Laurence and took my novitiate vows at St. Basils in Toronto. Four years since I first laid my tired eyes upon this beautiful Rule and began my daily reflections on its ageless wisdom. Little did I know at the time what this would bring into my life, nor imagine what it would mean to the evolution of my soul.
The first, opening word of the Rule is "Listen" - a simple verb that has caused this oblate an undesirable amount of suffering to be sure!! Not that I suffer from deafness nor from an inability to focus, but more precisely because many of the authority figures I have had in my life could not be trusted to have my best interests at heart.
Once again we are into the season of summer with its long warm days. And again we are brought to the realization that we really are part of the natural world - even for those of us who are urban types! Summer brings with it a certain lightness of spirit that flows into most aspects of life and draws us like some magnetic force to spend time in the great outdoors. Summer affects our attitudes, it affects our lifestyle. There are weekends at the cottage, summer vacations, visits to out-of-town family and the receiving of guests. We dress lighter, go for walks in the park after supper, perhaps even bicycle to work.
It is easy during times like this to get side tracked from spiritual practice, and if we are particularly busy we may even rationalize that after all, we can always take up where we left off in the fall. During times like this it is perhaps a good idea to remind ourselves why we are on the journey in the first place.
It was in 2002 that Trish Panton gave me information about Benedictine Oblates, when she became Coordinator of Australian Oblates. After also asking Fr Laurence about it, I become a Benedictine Postulant in September 2002. Then as time approached for the Silent Retreat to be held in Ballarat Victoria in February 2003, I hoped and prayed that despite my mutiple chronic health problems, I would be able to attend.
How well I remember, the extremely kind and efficient manner, in which Trish Panton did everything possible to help my wish reach fruition. However as the time of the Retreat drew near, it became increasingly obvious to both myself and Trish, that it would not be wise for me to attempt to attend. From the silence of my home in Western Australia, I entered into the spirit of the retreat. Then on 6th February 2003, Fr Laurence received me as a Benedictine Oblate. Vesta Gamalatge kindly stood in for me, bringing home my Certficate and beautiful Medal of St Benedict.
Since this year we are celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of John Main's death I thought that rather than reflect on a specific passage of the Rule we should perhaps take a look at his approach to it, in particular as it applies to the oblate community. I hope I'm not being to presumptuous by expounding on what I feel is his understanding of the Rule, however he did leave behind quite a body of writing, and on top of that his life itself during his monastic days and his relationship to the oblate community have been well documented.
Father John of course was both the founder and teacher of our community but it is the integrated vision he wished to share with all of us that makes taking a closer look at it from time to time important. Father John saw the oblates as an integral part of the monastic community. And although it is part of the oblate commitment to share in the work of the community, our real job is to participate and be faithful to the prayer life of the community and in doing so being part of what Father Laurence has so aptly dubbed the "monastery without walls".
When asked to contribute this piece about what being an oblate means to me, I sat down and wrote a long account, which would have bored everyone. Now, after several tries, I find I can write in fewer words about my desire to join this Benedictine community. Quite simply, I want to be in a community of shared values where I am accepted and encouraged to grow in truth and love. In addition, I want to contribute to the work of helping others find Christian meditation, as I believe that meditation has the power to change lives and the world. I believe that being part of this Community will help me to do that.
The foundation of the Community’s shared values is rooted in the teachings of Christ, as presented in the sacred text of the Bible. For me, the primary teaching, the commandment above all others, is to love God and our neighbours. Another goodly part of those shared values is encapsulated in The Rule of St Benedict. The primacy of knowing where one stands; of having some reasonable perspective of where one fits into the grand scheme of things; of keeping that root of all evil, pride, at bay; and, of course, the silence, are all fundamental to my understanding of the Benedictine way of life.
Via Vitae is the newsletter of the Benedictine Oblate Community of the World Community. It contains articles and news by and about the oblates. It is edited by Stefan Reynolds and if you would like to submit a contribution or register to receive it, please contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to explore this Benedictine path as a way of life growing out of your meditation we will be happy to help you understand what it involves. You will find basic vision by reading John Main’s Community of Love.
The article ‘Monastics in the World” below is also important to reflect on.
The first step in seeing if the WCCM Oblate Community is for you is to contact your National Oblate Co-ordinator. If there is not a coordinator in your country you can contact Trish Panton, the International Coordinator. They will be happy to answer your questions about the oblate path within the World Community. They will be in touch with you and send you information that clearly sets out the steps in the process of becoming an oblate and discuss what it means.
Since John Main, OSB received the first oblates into our community thirty years ago there has been a steady increase in the number of meditators who have experienced meditation drawing them to the twin forms of monastic life, solitude and community, in their “single-minded search for God”. From the beginning of the wider Christian Meditation Community, Fr. John gave equal value to the forms of commitment made by monks or oblates. Oblates in his vision were not merely “attached” to a monastic family; they were fully participatory and contributing members, which they indeed are. This represented both a return to an ancient tradition and an important new development.