Monday, July 2, 2012

Final Oblation - A New Adventure

18 months ago, I was beginning to expand my horizons within my newly found faith. Being Catholic all my life, I would say for much of my young adult life I was "catholic" in name but spiritually out to lunch. Several years ago, with a renewed vigor and an unquenchable thirst for more understanding and instruction, I took the advice of my Pastor and attended Saint Meinrad on retreat with one of my very close friends.

I had never heard of the Benedictine's, the Archabbey, nor understood what I was getting myself into. I went to a series of conferences delivered by then novice monk Br. Matthew Mattingly on Lectio Divina (which admittedly I hadn't heard of either at the time). I recall my initial impression of the towering spires around the bend, the drive up the hill, the quality of the lectures, and the peace in that place. All together it was an incredible experience, and the prayer time spent with the monks was frankly riveting (in a quieting sort of way). I left the Archabbey stunned and unsure of the gravity of what I had just experienced. True peace and silence and prayer, something I think many Christians are yearning for in our increasingly busy lives.

After the first visit I had a desire to return, but was more interested in learning about the Benedictine way of life. I downloaded an app on my iPhone for the Divine Office and began to do that daily. I figured if I could do that a few times a day why not! So after 30 days of praying the Office I was online and found information regarding the Oblate program. Prior to this I had no clue it even existed on the Hill, much less what it meant nor anything really at all about the tenants of the obligation. I sat on the information for several months and then determined I would investigate by contacting the Oblate Office.

Now, being 30 at the time, and relatively young-looking I must say, I find it a bit awkward finding this all so fascinating around so many seasoned adults. I decided after some back and forth with the office that I would begin my Oblate faith journey. After having been invested into the novitiate in May of 2011, I met so many WONDERFUL people! Members from Dayton, Columbus, and Cincinnati. I quickly joined the Cincinnati Chapter and attended regular meetings, and continued to learn and discern my journey forward. I started a personal Blog that I shared with friends to keep tabs on my thoughts, musings, and readings. It was a great exercise early on, but then a job change occurred and my schedule suddenly changed where regular updates were difficult to complete.

I chose to participate in the monthly reflection with the Oblate Director which were extremely satisfying! Not only was it a great way to focus my attention to a particular theme during each month, I found the questions and the responses from the Oblate Director were both rewarding and educational. I learned a lot about myself, my time management, my life, my dealings with others, and more importantly my relationship with God.

Keeping up with my responsibilities as an Oblate Novice were challenging at times. Admittedly, keeping up with a lot of work travel, business at home, and my busy volunteer-oriented life, left me a little frustrated during the process. This frustration however, really kept me focused on the task, whether or not I was capable of flexing my time to complete the Oblate's very simple tasks, and just to slow down and focus. These learned lessons were very instrumental in helping learn to better manage my day, to focus my energies in a way that did not induce stress, and to live out my novitiate year with a terrific sense of peace and accomplishment. Most things in life worth doing aren't easy. And this process posed some challenges to me personally, and spiritually. Some challenges at the time were difficult, but most most were a good kind of challenge causing me to evaluate and then fully invest myself during the time I have in a day. This is not to say that everyday is successful. Life certainly happens, and one must be willing to allow life's ebbs and flows to drive on occasion. This process allowed me to better understand these things, and I believe has truly made me a better man.

I attended several more retreats during the course of the year with various friends and compatriots, and fully took advantage of the educational offerings made available by the monastery.

In June I went to the study days for my Final Oblation and with a good friend whom I had discussed starting his Novitiate. Younger than me, Phil is a brilliant mind and theologically well-versed in his faith but often struggles with the same things many of us do; namely where can I find some peace, so quiet and some time in my busy day/life. Fr. Prior Kurt delivered the conferences on the Sacraments, and what a remarkable understanding he has of the blessings and grace we receive through the. His insights as well as his book following up on those topics was an outstanding read, and so good I read his work in a day. Riveting material!

We both really enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of the week and recommend attendance to anyone who is an Oblate interested in learning more about their faith and to stay for an extended period on the Hill. Finally came the day for the Investiture and Final Oblation. Phil was up first and was received as a novice into the Oblate community. We had mutual friends drive up for the day to support us, and my wife attended as well truly capping off the days events!

When Phil's section was over I was asked to step forward with 2 others Helen and Jerry, fellow novices who were to complete their Final Oblation along with me. We had a really good time with each other during the week, and getting to stand in the church with such distinguished and loving people was a terrific treat.

When it came time for me to step forward and make my promises, I was a little antsy. Mostly in part due to having selected my Oblate name and not having shared it with anyone, including my wife. The process for choosing this name took me MONTHS! I prayed about it, slept on it, prayed some more and researched more resources than I think the law allows given my hectic schedule. Nonetheless I was determined to choose something that was appealing for faith reasons, someone whose life reflected mine in a way, and one whose journey led to the strengthening of virtues that hope to achieve myself someday. 

I chose the name of Saint Anselm who was a Benedictine monk, Abbot and Archbishop of Canterbury before the English bowed out of the Catholic Church. Anselm was a tough man who endured great hardship, relocation, deceit, struggle, and a dose of politics thrown in for good measure. He was a busy man! Somehow in his free-time he managed to write the original ontological argument (for you philosophy geeks out there) which basically for the first time used logic to prove the existence of God. His works earned him the name of  the "Father of Scholasticism" and rightly so!

At the close of our Oblation ceremony, Fr. Meinrad gave each of us a gift. The gift (pictured below) is a beautiful hand carved plate painted and made with the loving hands of another. We posed for a picture of it, and let me tell you, not only was the gift a surprise, but also an incredible work of art that I proudly display in my own home. What a blessing!

Following the presentation, all Oblates and guests in attendance came around and offered their sign of peace and support. This kind of fellowship is difficult to find and was a blessed ending to a long journey!

At the end of the ceremony we all were caught in a very cool live action pose (below) that I think really does describe the personalities of the group we had, and really captures the spirit of the day, the week, and really the entirety of the yearlong journey. I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life, to have met so many caring and compassionate folks who are out to learn more about God and their own faith journey. This group, this calling, this life is too short to spend on getting caught up in the nitty gritty. Spend a little time with the Lord, take a retreat and who knows where He will take you!

Yours in St. Benedict,

Oblate Nicholas Anthony Paul Anselm DelleCave