The oblate candidates spend 24 hours at the monastery for a final discernment retreat. We spent much of our time either in silence or prayer, even taking our meals separately from the monastic community, but still participating in all the chapel prayer times.
Discernment combines figuring something out with supernatural revelation. Discernment does not happen without both the person searching and the Holy Spirit showing.
Before receiving instructions for the retreat, I thought this would be the time when I decided if I would complete oblation, and for one in our class that is what this 24 hour period was for. For me, and others, going through the year of formation had already cemented the decision for oblation, which left us with a more challenging task. The Benedictines designed this time of discernment for us to write down our ongoing (over the next year or so) goals as an oblate.
A few stand out moments confirmed to me that my goals were on the right track:
- Friday evening prayer including a reading from 1 Peter 2, the passage from which Living Stones derives its name.
- A prayer on Saturday which ended with the words, “We may in our time keep that light burning as a reassurance and a challenge for ourselves, for the Church, and for the world.” Three areas in which my goals focused.
- Other than one particular goal, I didn’t need to make all new goals, but instead purpose to continue work I had already begun.
We sought to discover a path, not so much the “treasure,” so I walked the prayer labyrinth, and wrote this poem about the prayer walk, walking in step with the Spirit, and our journey with each other.
Walk with me.
You have not walked on this part of the path before.
Grass overruns the path, but you will not lose your way.
This holy path has shit on it, but it comes from God’s creations.
The cold path brings pain to your bare feet; the growing path delights your eyes with yellow flowers.
This path has an end, but perhaps not the end you expect.
Walk with me.
I set the following goals:
- To continue to grow prayer as the rhythm of my day, and in the Daniel model of prayer, next adding mornings to my praying of the hours.
- Continue to work ahead, maintaining my sermon preparation in advance of the current week, to make more room for meditation/lectio on the scriptures. I am currently one week ahead, and would like to work towards being a full two weeks ahead.
For the Church:
- Continue integrating community prayer and the Psalms as part of the pulse of my congregation, along with the marks of: fellowship, sacraments, and the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42).
- To prayerfully bring Living Stones to the use of the whole Church for discipleship. I finally feel I am at a place that I am writing for the good of the Kingdom, and not merely to say, “I am published.” The project proposal and two chapters are due by the end of the summer. I will work to have the first book draft completed by then.
For the community:
- As the mayor has brought together a team to have the religious community serve and partner with the city to improve quality of life, to work to bring regular (with the goal of monthly) prayer for the community of Oakdale, to coincide with the work of service, that our work may spring from prayer, and that all will see not only what Christ’s disciples can do, but also the greater things God can do.
- To continue my work with First Care Pregnancy Center, serving children, families, and especially fathers in life-affirming decisions.
What I realized in becoming an oblate, is I am not adding another thing to my to-do list, but accountability and companionship in doing those things I am already called to do and have been doing, with a new group of people also committed to working out their own salvation in fear and trembling, with God who is at work in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).