Oblate Commitment Ceremony 2018

Oblate Commitment Ceremony 2018

I always feel that it’s rather anti-climactic to give a reflection during the oblate commitment ceremony because your very presence, your energy, your participation and enthusiasm, your wholehearted commitment to your calling as oblates with this community, really say so much about what it means when a group of individuals join together to help make the world a better place and to make each of us more committed followers of Jesus and Benedict in the process.

However, I will share a little from a book I’ve recently been reading, Living With Contradiction, one of the many reflections on the Rule of Benedict by Benedictine oblate and spirituality writer Esther de Waal.

In the preface to the book, she shared an insight she had after a “Benedictine Experience” week while she was living at Canterbury in England. She notes that the experiences of the week were both for the participants to learn things about themselves and also brought a corporate experience for everyone by making a sort of temporary community with people of differing backgrounds, cultures and even religions.

She noted one of the insights from the Rule of Benedict, as she writes, “Unless we learn to live with ourselves we cannot live with others. But, equally, unless and until we have learned to live fully and creatively with others we cannot hope to live with our own selves. At these Benedictine Experiences we had to face the tension of that constant inward/ outward movement which is one of the inescapable contradictions of all our lives.”

I would also like to make note of one thing she says about the Prologue to the Rule itself. We all know that the Prologue is the keystone of the Rule. DeWaal’s way of acknowledging this is to write: “The Prologue is like the overture to a great orchestral work setting out all the main themes which are to follow. Here St. Benedict gives us some of the most memorable passages and the most lyrical of phrases of his writing.” I found this reflection a beautiful analogy of the relationship between the Prologue and the 73 chapters of the Rule that follow it.

The rest of the book contains her shared ideas of the Rule in twelve themes she developed, through which, in her familiar style, she intertwines Benedict’s Rule with the scriptures, contemporary wisdom and personal examples and thoughts.

After reading Living With Contradictions, I again was struck by the reality that reading commentaries from a variety of writers, from diverse times and cultures never fails to give new insights to the endlessly fascinating living of the Rule of Benedict and the Gospel of Jesus.

The Gospel reading we just heard this afternoon supports that pairing. Here is one of the best-known miracles of Jesus: enabling the blind to see. As children we are amazed at such a feat—a seeming impossibility, changing a human being’s body. As adults we know much more about what “seeing” is really about and perhaps, as I was, we are drawn to the very last line: “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.”

After all, there is sight and there is sight.

We followers of the Gospel of Jesus and of the Rule of Benedict are much more concerned with the second type of seeing: the seeing that comes with finding in life, knowing in our hearts, and living out with our very lives a way of life that leads us to goodness, gives us a more compassionate heart, drives our actions to selflessness and justice and covers our every day with great hope in God’s ways and in God’s love for us, for all people and for all of creation.

I wish for our new initiates, new oblates and for each of us, the kind of sight that Bartimaeus received: the eyes to see the needs and the challenges around us–along with the graces and gifts that have been given to us to respond in hope–for the sake of the world.

Sister Anne Wambach, OSB, the twenty-first prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania is a native of Philadelphia. She moved to Mount St. Benedict Monastery in 1992 to respond to a desire to experience the monastic way of life. Previously a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Chestnut Hill, Sister Anne began the formal transfer process to the Erie Benedictines in 1993 and made her monastic profession in 1997.

Sister Anne has served the people of the Diocese of Erie as a teacher at St. Gregory's School in North East, Pa., from 1992-1995, and at the Neighborhood Art House in Erie, beginning as program director in 1995 and as executive director since 2005. She served on the Monastic Council from 2006-2010.