Well, it has been a month since I took my Promises as an Oblate of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine. And a month wearing the St. John’s Cross visibly and constantly. And for the last 2 days here in Thermopolis, Wyoming, home of the world’s largest hot spring, I am not wearing it, to protect the silver from tarnishing in the sulphur of the spring. But I’ve learned there are things that are true whether I have my cross on or not.
- I live a prayerful life.
- I live according to certain beliefs, principles, and practices
- I feel and live called by God to a life of service and message.
During my discernment time, my partner and I joked about me as a “paduan” oblate, like the young Jedis in Star Wars, but what came clear through that time was that my life rhythm is rooted and generates from these three tenets above and that I was happy, healthy, and sound, living this way.
So, what does an oblate do? An oblate lives a monastic life in the world, but supported by an established monastic community. They live this life in the world, emulating the tenets of the particular monastic community and the spiritual principles of the life of Christ in their everyday work and play.
How that looks depends on the individual. I am a 51 year old high school special education teacher from a large Western city in the United States. When I returned from taking my Promises, the students had a lot of questions. Their closest equivalent of monasticism was a gang… They asked,
“Is there a uniform?” Yes, nuns wear a habit, and oblates wear skirts when at the convent.
“Are there colors?” Yes, our color is bright blue.
“Are there hand signs?” Yes, the sign of the cross, bowing
“What do you do at the convent?” We work and study all day with specific times for prayers and meals.
“So, it’s kind of like school?” Yes, a little bit. But it is very quiet.
“Is there a boss?” Yes, there is a Reverend Mother, who is elected. And there are leaders for different areas and activities.
“What were you doing there?” I was taking Promises to live according to my spiritual beliefs, and to support their work.
“They support you?” Yes.
“You support them?” Yes.
“So, what that means is, they’ve got your back!” Yes.
“Miss, they are your crew! You have a crew!” Yes. The Sisterhood is my crew.
To my mind, my monastic commitment as an oblate is critical to my work as a teacher. I am a living, breathing, interacting example of the radical community needed to combat the loneliness, dissociation, heartbreak, and separation of the world. An alternative to presence of the gangs, drugs, disengagement, and violence my students face every day. SSJD and my sister oblates are my crew. This form of monasticism for me is the way God’s Light shines in the darkness.
By Maggie Grace Moore, Oblate of SSJD