From the earliest days of Benedictine monasticism lay people were attracted to Benedictine spirituality and wanted to be close to a monastic community so that they, too, might profit spiritually by living according to the spirit of the Rule. One way of doing this was by becoming a Benedictine Oblate.

The term Oblate was originally used to refer to those who were offered to God by their parents to be dedicated to His service by entering a monastery. This form of oblation although provided for by Saint Benedict in Chapter 59 of the Rule, was gradually abandoned and replaced by another form approved by Pope Urban II in 1099. The term Oblate then referred to persons who, without taking vows, dedicated themselves to the active service of a particular monastery and lived under obedience to its Abbot or Abbess.

At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII this form of Oblate disappeared from England. However, quite large bodies of Oblates still existed in one form or another on the continent until the time of the French Revolution. When Benedictine monasticism was revived in the nineteenth century the institution of Oblate groups also revived but took a different form. Statutes for Oblate groups that had been drawn up in the seventeenth century were revised and given official approval by the Holy See in 1904. A few slight changes to the Statutes were made in 1927.

According to the 'Statutes and Declarations of the Oblates of Saint Benedict', by making an Act of Oblation adult lay persons 'spiritually affiliate themselves with a Benedictine monastery and its community in order to lead a more perfect Christian life in the world according to the spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict'.

Candidates enter upon a one year period of noviceship at the time they are enrolled in the Scapular. If they persevere in their desires to live in accordance with the spirit of the Rule they are permitted to make their final act of Oblation. At this time the Oblates fill out a formula of profession which is retained in the archives of the monastery of their choice. They also add to their baptismal name that of a Benedictine saint they wish to have as a special patron.

The Statutes spell out in detail the religious practices expected of an Oblate. Those emphasized today are frequent participation at Mass, daily recitation of, or attendance at, some part of the Divine Office, and spiritual reading. Oblates are under the spiritual guidance of the monastery with which they are affiliated and are expected, when possible, to attend monthly meetings of the Oblates and to make an annual renewal of their Act of Oblation.
Belmont has had Oblates for well over 50 years, and they now number some 150, in various parts of the country. They have one full Retreat every year in Lent.

For further information on the Belmont Oblates please write to the Oblate Master:
Dom Bernard Wassall,
Belmont Abbey
Hereford
HR2 9RZ
brbernard@belmontabbey.org.uk