Oblates of the Order of St. Benedict are lay people who are formally associated to a monastery. They aren’t monks, but normal, everyday folks who strive to follow the guidance given by St. Benedict in his Rule in a way that is proper for life outside of a monastery. Oblates make three promises, the phrasing of the first stands out: stability of heart.
The professed religious who live in Benedictine monasteries make three promises: stability of place, that is, they are bound to that particular monastery and not the Order at large (which is a misnomer in itself as each monastery is independent of the others), fidelity to the monastic life, and obedience. Oblates, on the other hand, as lay people in the world, make three slightly different promises: stability of heart, in that while they are bound to a monastery, they are not bound to stay there, fidelity to the spirit of the monastic life and obedience to the will of God.
Stability of Heart.
To turn the phrase slightly, the phrase struck me as not only being stability spiritually to a place, but being stable spiritually period. I saw the possible outward appearance of this often as a campus minister. Freshman would join virtually every group—the youth retreat team, the Catholic fraternity, the Bible Study, all liturgical ministries, and everything else advertised the first weeks of the semester.
Most of the time, it naturally worked itself out. Students would get a sense of which activities were more important to them, back out of the ones that didn’t make the cut and become “stable” in their activities.
There would always be a couple that didn’t get the memo. Their list of activities at the start of the second semester would actually be longer than their list after the ministry fairs in the first. They would start volunteering for more leadership/volunteer roles in these groups. Yes, there are those amazing students who are capable of doing all of that, doing it well, and seemingly be fine. There would be those others who we’d sit down in our offices and have the talk. They were doing too much, too scattered. In addition to often not being able to keep up with their obligations, they were never at peace.
In my life, the problem isn’t joining too many ministries. The three kiddos kept us realistic about our time outside of the house. In starting a freelance business, I’ve found myself not focusing enough on what would be my core offering. Initially, I would say yes to projects outside of my comfort level and stress over realizing I shouldn’t have taken it on. I’d try to be too much to too many. As I reflected and realized this, I’ve been able to be more granular about what I do as a freelancer, find more business success and being more at peace.
You don’t need to be an Oblate to realize that having stability of heart is good. No matter the chaos around us, when we focus on that stability given to us in Christ, we can weather the storm, realize if we need to make changes or say no to an upcoming change, and be better able to hear God’s whisper.