MOUNT ANGEL — They feel called to be in the world, but not of the world.

For 46 years, lay women and men have been linking themselves to Queen of Angels Monastery and the Benedictine nuns who live within. The mission of Benedictine Oblates is to live everyday life inspired by monasticism in their cities, neighborhoods and homes.

“People are looking for a deeper meaning in their lives,” said Nancy Hendricks, an oblate of Queen of Angels since 2012. “People realize we need to have meaningful relationships with God and others. People are searching for meaning.”

Oblates, who learn the 1,500-year-old Rule of St. Benedict, seek to convert their lives, open themselves to spiritual strength, do good works and receive inspiration that helps them carry monastic values into the world: obedience, stability, conversion, listening, hospitality and care for creation.

But first, like the nuns, they pray the Liturgy of the Hours and practice lectio divina, or holy reading, a multi-layered approach to Scripture that deepens meaning, life lessons and contemplation.

Asked what an oblate’s life in the world looks like, Hendricks said prayer comes first. Hospitality is next. “You receive everyone as Christ,” she said, admitting how difficult that can be, but how valuable.

The term “oblate” means “an offering of oneself.” The practice of laity associating with monasteries dates back to the 9th century. There is at least a nine-month period of study and formation as an inquirer before someone becomes a Benedictine Oblate.

Queen of Angels has about 50 oblates now. About half come regularly to the monthly Oblate Sundays, which include morning prayer, Mass, brunch and a gathering of oblates. The events have been on hold during the pandemic, but are scheduled to start up again Sept. 12.

But first, on Saturday, Aug. 21, the monastery will bless eight new oblates and hold a day of inquiry for prospective oblates. Men and women are welcome.

The program is ecumenical. Rae Parlier, coordinator of the oblates, is Lutheran. Most are Catholic, but there are Baptists and Quakers, all hungry for monastic ways. Parlier, who became and oblate in 2007, was drawn to prayer and silence.

She said it is vital for Benedictines to be linked to a concrete place like a monastery, but oblates show that people can take the monastery with them internally.

“It’s been called the monastery of the heart,” Parlier said.

The Benedictine Sisters are mentors to the oblates.

“We love the sisters,” Hendricks said.

The regard goes both ways.

“It is a marvelous group of people, really committed to the spiritual life, dedicated to helping others,” said Sister Maureen Niedermeyer, a Benedictine since 1954 who helps guide the oblates. “They affect us, too. These are people who are serious about seeking God. That’s an inspiration to us.”

Sister Maureen, whose own mother became an oblate in the 1970s, thinks the group gives hope to a divided society.

“If we can listen to God more and take more opportunities for silence, the world would become more reconciled,” she said. “Christ can bring us all together.”

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