Thousands of spiritual seekers are discovering and re-discovering the wisdom of Saint Benedict, embracing the balanced, Christ-centered, and practical approach to daily living that he espoused for his monks almost 1500 years ago in Europe. By some estimates, Benedictine oblates outnumber vowed monks and nuns by ten-to-one. Rachel Srubas writes these uplifting, thought-provoking reflections out of her own profound experiences of learning the Rule, and implementing it in the midst of a "secular" life. She is attentive to the power of words, and writes like a poet. Each reflection is prefaced by an excerpt from one of the Rule’s seventy-three chapters, and explores the Benedictine themes of humility, prayer, community, compassion, justice, hospitality, moderation, and reverance. Srubas also offers insights for those interested in incorporating into their prayer lives the Benedictine practice of lectio divina (sacred reading) and related contemplative writing disciplines. Personal, accessible, and deeply relevant, the prayers offered here invite readers to make their own thoughtful reflections on the timeless principles found in Benedict’s Rule and how they may be applied in concrete ways in everyday life.
I first read Oblation: Mediations on St. Benedict's Rule by Rachel
Srubas wedged into a crowded Greyhound bus on a rainy Easter Sunday afternoon.
Though that may not have been the ideal setting for a good spiritual read (nor
probably where the author anticipated it would be read), it was actually quite
lovely. It is advantageous, when reading this text, to have time to look off
and think, and to be surrounded by very human faces about which to ponder. Come
to think of it, that may be exactly what the author intended.
In this small volume Srubas presents the reader with the resuits of her
"scriptio divina": poem-meditations on most of the chapters of the Rule of
Benedict. She calls it, in the preface, "a cliary of Benedictine prayers"
composed in response to her reading of the Rule. The "oblation" of the title
refers not to the liturgical act of oblation (though Srubas is an oblate of the
Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Tucson and a Presbyterian clergy.
woman) but to her concept of these prayers as an offering to God and to the
wider Christian community. A preface and introduction explain both the writer's
personal history and the process through which the book came to be. Each
reflection roots itself in a chapter from the Rule, specifically a verse or two
from Patrick Barry's translation. Understandably some chapters are combined
(e.g., 23.30 on the penal code) and some are expanded (each step of humility
merits its own poem).
The book possesses several strengths. Srubas' idea of writing as a valuable
tool in engaging with sacred texts could easily be a jumping-off place for
monastic ongoing formation committees, oblate groups, or parish adult education
programs. Her articulation that her poems are "responses to" the Rule, not
"translations of," is appreciated for its respect for Benedict's text and the
tradition of scholarly interpretation.
And, most importantly, some of the poems hit those truths about how God is, and
how we do—or do not—respond. Her reflection on chapter 43, "Lateness for the
Work of God or in the Refectory," packs a delicious moment of self-recognition
for most of us. I think:
A singular, demanding note,
the bell of disciplined devotion,
intervenes in the day. Didn't I already pray?
What more is there to say, so soon?
As poetry, the pieces are somewhat uneven, and not all may ring true to
experiences of Benedictine life. But, of course, they're not meant to. They are
one person's meditations. One of the gifts of the text may be to drive the
reader to pick up pencil and paper and name her or his response to the
particular chapter, especially if it's significantly different from the author's.
So whether one picks up Oblation: Meditations on St. Benedzct's Rule on
a Greyhound bus or in a choir stall, in solitude or the company of others, it
is a worthwhile endeavor. The book is yet another vehicle on the ever-expanding
landscape of ways to encounter the Rule of Benedict.
|Susan Quaintance, O.S.B., St. Seholastica Monastery, Chicago, IL |
|This book is by Rachel Srubas, Presbyterian clergywoman, wife and Benedictine oblate, who embodies the ecumenism common to the Benedictine family. While personal, her prayer reflections also connect the Rule of St.Benedict to familiar experiences to both oblates and other readers. Srubas says that her writing talent has been nurtured and celebrated for years by the Arizona Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration with whom she is affiliated. Picking up on the Benedictine practice of praying with Scripture known as lectio divina or "divine reading," Srubas calls her reflections scriptio divina or "divine writing." Inspired by the Rule that in its time wedded ancient ideals to contemporary practices, Srubas allows both the Holy Spirit and Benedict's spirit to infuse her words. "Every one of the prayers is an oblation, an offering to God," she writes. Accompanying each prayer is an excerpt from the section of the Rule that was its inspiration. Readers unfamiliar with that book still may find themselves intrigued by such engaging prayer titles as "Go Home Hungry," "Two-footed and Striving," "I, Too, Belong" and "Each Sacramental Thing." For those who know the Rule, these reflections permit the familiar words to take on a different and perhaps deeper luster. "All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ," St. Benedict urges those who would follow him. Both Brother Benet and Ms. Srubas offer just such a warm welcome to everyone who may be curious about this1,400 year-old tradition.|
|St. Anthony's Messanger|
|November 1, 2006|
This tiny book is a collection of prayers, in the form of poems, based on the rule of St. Benedict, whose 1500-year-old guide to a faithful life is used today in a variety of prayer communities. The author, Presbyterian minister Rachel Srubas, is an oblate-a member of the community of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration-who considers Benedict's teachings to be "the practical wisdom of the Christian gospel-" Srubas introduces us to contemplative prayer. Already a practitioner of lectio divina, which she calls "listening to the gospel with the ears of the heart," she was led to lectio scriptio, the writing of prayers. The strength of these prayers is in their everyday-ness, in their use of images taken from the common objects and struggles we all confront. The poems are both adventuresome and quieting as they focus on the smallest moments of our humanity and life of the spirit. As poetry these pieces are the work of an accomplished, compelling voice. They draw from spiritual hunger, joy, discipline and silence. Oblation is also the remarkable story of a spiritual journey. As such it is a welcome traveling companion for solitary personal reflections or for small groups which are engaged in a communal walk of faith. This tiny book of prayers is a welcome traveling companion for groups and individuals engaged in a walk of faith.
|Sally Curd, a member of Southside Presbyterian Church, Tucson, Ariz.|
|October 1, 2006|
|Skillfully combining images that are personal and universal, practical and mystical sometimes whimsical, Rachel Srubas offers a unique perspective on the Rule of Benedict. By training she is writer, poet and pastor, a mix that accords well with Benedictine tradition and spirituality. In a lively and perceptive introduction, she describes how her practice of Scriptio Divina (sacred writing) is an adaptation of the ancient monastic practice of Lectio Divina (sacred reading). Accustomed to using this writing practice for meditation on Scripture texts, when she encountered the Rule Benedict wrote 1500 years ago, she used the same method. The 73 Benedictine prayer-poems in this slim book are the fruit of these reflections, her "Oblation" (offering) to others who wish to savor the wisdom in that ancient text. This is a book to which thoughtful readers will want to return again and again.|
|Sr. Lenora Black, OSB|
|March 20, 2006|
These two books deserve dual consideration. Both issued by Paraclete, they make a powerful case for the revival of one of the less well known monastic traditions of the West, the "oblates," who, while remaining laypeople in a lay life, are affiliated with a monastic house by their adherence to some of the basic tenets of the Benedictine rule. Tvedten (director, Oblates, Blue Cloud Abbey, SD) explains the history of Benedictine monasticism simply but in some detail as well as the history of oblates and their place in contemporary monastic houses, both Catholic and non-Catholic Benedictine. Srubas, herself both a Benedictine oblate and a Presbyterian clergywoman, has written a collection of poem-like prayers and meditations directed at oblates and inspired by the Benedictine rule. These volumes cast fresh light on a little-known practice and should interest many readers. For most collections.
|January 20, 2006|
|"Srubas, herself both a Benedictine oblate and a Presbyterian clergywoman, has written a collection of poemlike prayers and meditations directed at oblates and inspired by the Benedictine rule. [This volume] cast(s) fresh light on a little-known practice and should interest many readers. For most collections."|
|January 20, 2006|