An oblate is one who is offered
In the days of Saint Benedict, the offering would have been made by the person himself or on his behalf by others in the case of a child. The days of child oblature have gone forever even though in its day it was perfectly right.So, we confine ourselves to a presentation of what the oblation of oneself to God means
The greatest oblation that one can make to God is that of the will. The supreme oblation of human history, which is the source and means of every oblation that is made, was the total oblation of the human will of the Son of God. The Oblate offers himself precisely because he believes it is God's will and, therefore, his own.
Writers on the history of oblature are quick to point out that from the beginnings of monasticism there were lay people attached to and living in monasteries, such as servants, pensioners, permanent guests and so on, all placing themselves under the direction of the Abbot. The need for a form of religious life for laymen living outside the monasteries was apparent and it was from this need that there developed a direct tie to a monastery for those whose secular life and obligations prevented their becoming monks, but who nonetheless experienced the need for a close tie to the monastic life. It is with this group, technically known as"extern oblates", that we are concerned.
Oblates are not monks but rather are those who are seeking to model their spiritual lives after those of the monks, but in the setting of their own secular lives. The ties to this structured spirituality brings the monastic ideal within their grasp, hence they are "religious".
Oblates are those who have offered themselves to God, without condition, to live under the direction of a Monastic Superior but in the secular world as they pursue their careers and raise and provide for their families. They are those who discern that God has called them to more of a life of prayer and study and who have turned (for advice, help and direction) to the experience that monasticism has developed over the centuries. They arethose who try to keep the monastic ideal before their eyes, even though they are not monks.
The one who becomes an oblate does not join an order of oblates. His bond is a personal one, and his responsibility is to the Superior of the monastery through the Master of Oblates. It should be made clear, and without equivocation, that an Oblate is not a "stand-alone" being -- there must be a Monastic Order to which he is tied and a Superior to whom he submits himself for spiritual direction. It is not unusual, however, for oblates to arrange gatherings from time to time, or to form Chapters, so that they may experience the corporate life, the community life that is so important to the correct development of Benedictine Spirituality.
The Oblate pursues his normal occupation in the world, living under direction from the monastery a spiritual life distinguishable by its holiness from that of his neighbors. He may wear a scapular when attending religious services and he may take a religious name, otherwise his oblature is, though no secret, a hidden thing, the hidden life of the cloister or a form of hidden life in the world.