Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...
Monasticism is a religious way of life characterized by the practice of renouncing worldly pursuits to fully devote one's self to spiritual work...
(especially Roman Catholic, Orthodox
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...
and Anglican) is a person who is specifically dedicated to God or to God's service. Currently, oblate
has two meanings:
- Oblates are laypersons or clerical members of a religious order, not professed
The term religious profession is defined in the 1983 Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church in relation to members of religious institutes as follows:By religious profession members make a public vow to observe the three evangelical counsels...
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...
s or nun
A nun is a woman who has taken vows committing her to live a spiritual life. She may be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live her life in prayer and contemplation in a monastery or convent...
s, who have individually affiliated themselves in prayer with a House of their choice. These make a formal private promise (annually renewable or for life, depending on the house with which they are affiliated) to follow the rule of prayer in their private life as closely as their individual circumstances and prior commitments permit. Such oblates do not constitute a religious order
A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. The order is composed of initiates and, in some...
as such. They are comparable to the Tertiaries
Tertiaries may mean either:* associations of lay Christians connected with the mendicant and other religious Orders, i.e. Third orders* a bird's hand i.e. remiges....
associated with some orders of friars.
- "Oblate" is also used in the official name of some religious orders.
Origins and history
has had various particular uses at different periods in the history of the Church. The children vowed and given by their parents to the monastic life, in houses under the Rule of St. Benedict, were commonly known by the name during the century and a half when the custom was in vogue, and the councils of the Church treated them as monks—that is, until the Council of Toledo (656
Year 656 was a leap year starting on Friday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 656 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.- Asia :* The Battle of Bassorah between Ali and Aisha,...
) forbade their acceptance before the age of ten and granted them free permission to leave the monastery, if they wished, when they reached the age of puberty
Puberty is the process of physical changes by which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of reproduction, as initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the gonads; the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy...
. The term puer oblatus
(used after the Tenth Council of Toledo
The Tenth Council of Toledo was summoned to meet on 1 December 656 by King Reccesuinth. In November 655, the bishops of Carthaginiensis had held a provincial synod in Toledo, the Ninth Council of Toledo...
) is used to describe an oblate
who had not yet reached puberty and thus had a future opportunity to leave the monastery, though puer oblatus
can also refer to someone entering an abbey. At a later date the word "oblate" was used to describe such lay men or women as were pensioned off by royal and other patrons upon monasteries or benefices, where they lived as in an almshouse or homes.
In the eleventh century, Abbot William of Hirschau or Hirsau, in the old Diocese of Spires, introduced lay brethren into the monastery. They were of two kinds: the fratres barbati
, who took vows but were not claustral or enclosed monks, and the oblati
, workmen or servants who voluntarily subjected themselves, whilst in the service of the monastery, to religious obedience and observance.
Afterwards, the different status of the lay brother in the several orders of monks, and the ever-varying regulations concerning him introduced by the many reforms, destroyed the distinction between the conversus and the oblatus.
The Cassinese Benedictines, for instance at first carefully differentiated between conversi
; the nature of the vows and the forms of the habits were in each case specifically distinct. The conversus
, the lay brother properly so called, made solemn vows like the choir monk
In Roman Catholicism the term "Choir Monk" is used to distinguish monks who may become priests from the lay brothers who are occupied mainly with secular affairs....
s, and wore the scapular
The term scapular as used today refers to two specific, yet related, Christian Sacramentals, namely the monastic and devotional scapulars, although both forms may simply be referred to as "scapular"....
; the commissus
made simple vows, and was dressed like a monk, but without the scapular; the oblatus
made a vow of obedience to the abbot, gave himself and his goods to the monastery, and wore a sober secular dress.
But, in 1625, we find the conversus
reduced below the status of the commissus
, inasmuch as he was permitted only to make simple vows and that for a year at a time; he was in fact undistinguishable, except by his dress, from the oblatus
of a former century. Then, in the later Middle Ages, oblatus
, and donatus
became interchangeable titles, given to any one who, for his generosity or special service to the monastery, received the privilege of lay membership, with a share in the prayers and good works of the brethren.
Canonically, only two distinctions were ever of any consequence: first, that between those who entered religion "per modum professionis" and "per modum simplicis conversionis" the former being monachi and the later oblati; secondly, that between the oblate who was "mortuus mundo" (that is, who had given himself and his goods to religion without reservation), and the oblate who retained some control over his person and his possessions – the former only (plene oblatus) was accounted a persona ecclesiastica, with enjoyment of ecclesiastical privileges and immunity (Benedict XIV, "De Synodo Dioce.", VI).
In modern practice, many Benedictine communities have a greater or smaller number of secular oblates
. These are either clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....
In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...
affiliated in prayer with an individual House of their choice, who have made a formal private promise (annually renewable or for life) to follow the Rule of St Benedict in their private life at home and at work as closely as their individual circumstances and prior commitments permit. Non-Catholics can be received as oblates of a Catholic monastery.
To be distinguished slightly from other secular oblates, there is a small number of conventual
oblates, who reside in a monastic community. If the person has not done so previously, after a year's probation they make a simple commitment of their lives to the monastery, which is received by the superior in the presence of the whole community. More on the level of committed volunteers, they would share in the life of the community and undertake, without remuneration, any work or service required of them. They are not, however, considered monks or nuns themselves. Often they wear a religious habit
A religious habit is a distinctive set of garments worn by members of a religious order. Traditionally some plain garb recognisable as a religious habit has also been worn by those leading the religious eremitic and anachoritic life, although in their case without conformity to a particular uniform...
similar to, but distinct from, that of the monks or nuns. A conventual oblate may cancel this commitment at any time; and it is canceled automatically if the superior sends the oblate away for good reason, after simple consultation with the chapter
Chapter designates certain corporate ecclesiastical bodies in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Nordic Lutheran churches....
Religious orders that use "Oblate" in their name
There are several religious orders (i.e.
, living the consecrated life
The consecrated life in the Christian tradition, especially the Roman Catholic Church, but also the Anglican Church and to some extent other Christian denominations, is, as the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law states: "a stable form of living by which faithful, following Christ more closely under...
according to Church Law) that use the word "Oblate" in their name, or in an extended version of their common name. These are not oblates like the oblates (secular) and (regular), and should not be confused with them.
Examples include the:
- Oblates of St. Francis de Sales
The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales are a congregation of Roman Catholic priests and brothers who base their spirituality on the teachings of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales (Latin: Oblati Sancti Francisci Salesii, O.S.F.S.) are a congregation of...
- Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate is a missionary religious congregation in the Catholic Church. It was founded on January 25, 1816 by Saint Eugene de Mazenod, a French priest born in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France on August 1, 1782. The congregation was given recognition by Pope...
- Oblates of the Virgin Mary
The Oblates of the Virgin Mary is a religious order founded by the Venerable Bruno Lanteri, who was born on 12 May 1759 in Northern Italy and died 5 August 1830....
- Oblates of St Frances of Rome (founded 1433 in Italy)
- Oblate Sisters of Providence
The Oblate Sisters of Providence is a Roman Catholic women religious order, founded by Mother Mary Lange, OSP]], and Rev. James Nicholas Joubert, SS in 1829 in Baltimore, Maryland for the education of girls of color. It has the distinction of being the first Roman Catholic religious order began for...