Baptized by a Benedictine, in the Church of Saint Benedict, maybe it was only a matter of time before I would become an oblate. A very long time, but God’s good time.
It was just three* years ago that Sister Laureen Virnig asked whether I’d considered becoming an oblate and then invited me to an upcoming information session. Several oblates would share their stories, a good opportunity to learn more. I was being called to listen.
Truth be told, I already had been listening—to why I should probably not become an oblate. For starters, I was resistant to any further commitments that pulled me away from family or took away precious free time. I knew enough about Benedictine spirituality to know the importance of moderation and balance. Knowing as I did about moderation and balance, I felt sufficiently Benedictine already! I worked for a Benedictine publisher, was at home both in the choir stalls at Saint John’s Abbey and in the pews at Sacred Heart Chapel. What would being an oblate add to that?
Feeling uber-Benedictine as I did, at the same time I thought I was too un-Benedictine to be an oblate! It seemed to me oblates must by their nature be peaceful and calm. Not prone to anger. Not stubborn. I’m Irish and German. Enough said?
Suffice it to say, I had a lot to learn, and the oblate panel at Saint Benedict’s monastery was just the place I needed to be. The right place, the right people, the right time. As the oblates shared their stories, I was taken by how different each was. But there was a common thread, a spirit of careful listening, a sense that only in community can we become who God calls us to be. These oblates weren’t coming to the monastery to escape from the world. Rather, being an oblate helped them to be more intentionally present to their families and friendships, their work and their communities.
Desiring to listen more deeply, I retrieved the Rule of Benedict from my bookshelf and began to read anew. This “little rule for beginners” drew me in. The community of sisters and oblates drew me in. God was drawing me in, calling me to the oblate life.
I find in the Rule of Benedict an invitation—an invitation to seek Christ in the daily round of prayer and work, to do so within a community that cultivates individual gifts for the good of the whole. Being an oblate doesn’t mean I am good at all the Benedictine practices all the time. But by God and near God—and in community—I try. That’s what Benedictines have been doing for the past 15 centuries. That’s a long and rich history, a God-filled story with lots of ordinary and colorful characters. I’m a Benedictine oblate because I want the story to continue.
Mary Stommes, OblSB
*This blog was first published as an article on page 5 in the 2019 edition of Call magazine. Mary Stommes became an oblate of Saint Benedict’s Monastery in September 2018. She is a wife, mom, grandma and editor of Give Us This Day.
Photo: Mary Stommes (right) signs her oblation document in front of Prioress Sister Susan Rudolph, taken by Sister Karen Streveler