A vocation?
A foundational rupture!


Yes! A person doesn’t become a monk or nun all at once simply by entering monastic life! Why? Because it’s a life, a process of conversion. “Conversion”, what’s that strange thing? Above all, let’s not moralize! Otherwise there’s no need for a rupture; in general, we already moralize enough!

Let’s rather look at the Bible: all those converts, from Abraham to Saint Paul, who are they? People who were “seized” by God. Seized in order to let go of something and then to return to real life with a different way of seeing, a seeing with compassion for the human persons and for the human condition. For this, Saint Benedict, who knows something about it, tells us that we must let go of our “own will”. Our own will is when everything starts out with me: I have good ideas, good initiatives…, but it’s me, always me, whether I give others a big smile or am aggressive because my own will is threatened! That reveals a lot.


Still according to Saint Benedict, the “community” is the place where I find my breath as a monk or nun: I am no longer at the center. And things will get done anyway, so that things move and so there is life, if possible while letting God distribute God’s own love. This is far more interesting than “my own will” so that the Kingdom of God can grow and not my own kingdom. It is a choice: that of leaving the things I myself choose for a while (until death, and sometimes this costs something), so that something else can grow, something that comes from Christ and will continue to come every day from him.

The paradox is thus that one enters monastic life by choice, but that this choice (with all that is obstinate in it) is automatically left at the door when one enters. And since one then enters into “Life”, as Saint Benedict says, one finds one’s joy by losing oneself. And the brothers and sisters are inevitably the place of this joy, in spite of or including the combats.

It’s banal to say this, but a person learns. Thus, a person enters and then looks, and then applies (to receive the mercy of God in the midst of his or her brothers and sisters); then they take a first risk, that of this newness of life in Christ: a novitiate. And then finally, well, he or she has to profess his and her faith and the desire always to be converted to the very end… to the day that Christ alone knows!

Saint Benedict calls this an “oblation” because this desire is placed on Christ’s altar, together with the desire of Christ to lead us to his Father. And Saint Benedict’s wish is heard when a person comes to this point! “All together”, as he says.

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The oblate is a living person who has known in his or her heart what an oblation is: he and she has the desire to live in obedience to God.

Unlike the monk and the nun in their community, the oblate does not obey an abbot, for the oblate lives in the every-day reality of the world and of all human beings. The oblate is simply someone who wants to obey God as Christ did, and who has understood that he and she can root this personal wish in the concrete of a Benedictine community: because there, the only aim (and that is what one returns to constantly!) is to enter into this obedience, which the Bible calls “hearing”, and into which Christ Jesus placed all his love of the Father.

So the oblate lives like the monk or nun – yes, he and she will really live this aim of constant conversion like the monk and nun, in the very midst of his and her essential existential aim, which is to love.

He and she have been loving for a long time – their family, their parishioners, their Church… One day they are given to understand that there is now in a certain community a call to him and her to love with his brother monks, her sister nuns, like Saint Benedict taught his followers to love: from now on, that is his and her way to give themselves to God and to offer all that they are and their way of loving (oblation).

The community welcomes this desire of the oblate as a gift from God. The point of the oblature is to seal institutionally this mutual knowledge. On both sides, the persons know that there are different ways of loving, that different notes are possible in the great concert of God’s covenant. For them, it is the gift they have received from the Spirit of God. Thanks to Saint Benedict.

At the Abu Ghosh abbey, there is only one oblature for both the brothers and the sisters: because the treasure we bear together is contained in a very small vase. Thus, a master and a mistress of the oblates watch together in order to keep alive the link between the oblates and the brothers and sisters.