The year as an Oblate novice is for discerning whether God is calling you to the Oblate life.
When I became an Oblate novice, listening to God was the most important lesson I learned about Benedictine spirituality. The best book is to sit quietly and listen.
A first and continuing education resource for new Oblate novices is Saint Leo Abbey and its peaceful grounds and the abbey church. Spend time in the stillness of the church and join the monks in their daily praying of the divine office.
Seek God in all that you do. Find Benedictine balance in your life so there is not a life of work and another life of prayer, but one life set apart to God. Live by the Rule of Saint Benedict to the extent you are able.
But Benedictines love books, they copied books by hand, they use books throughout the day for prayer.
So, here's my favorite list of books for the Oblate life:
1. Rule of St. Benedict.
A beautiful and now classic version of the Rule is the 75th anniversary edition of The Liturgical Press. More information.
You can receive each day's reading from the Rule e-mailed to you or read each day's reading online at St. John's Abbey.
Reading the Rule of Saint Benedict every day is encouraged by Saint Benedict and repeated readings slowly opens Benedictine principles to the Oblate life.
Daily reading of the Rule is made easier if your book has the daily readings marked so the Rule is read through three times each year.
Here are two books with the daily readings marked:
The classic anniversary edition. About $30.
A pocket-sized, paperback edition. About $6.00
2. Rule: RB 1980
RB 1980 is a major modern commentary on the Rule and all things Benedictine. At 672 pages, this is a key scholarly reference book in a Benedictine library. More information.3. Life of Benedict.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great wrote the only account of St. Benedict's life. It is available online. The Life gives a good sense of the spirit behind the Rule.4. Benedictine Handbook
In terms of a comprehensive introduction to Benedictine life, this book is often cited because of its Benedictine spirituality. At 320 pages, this book may best answer the question, "What's the best single book to explain the whole thing." More Information.5. John Cassian's The Conferences
Egypt's greatest gift to the world was monasticism that developed in the 300s AD in the Egyptian wilderness. The monk John Cassian (360 to 435 AD) brought that monastic life and culture to the West. Cassian's Conferences were a significant source for St. Benedict's famous Rule (written about 530 AD). St. Benedict urged his monks to read the Conferences, we should too. Seeking God is the monastic path. The Egyptian Desert Fathers marked the way for monastics since the earliest days of Christianity. Available online.
The Conferences is also available in a new translation by Boniface Ramsey. This is the "first complete translation of The Conferences of John Cassian to appear in English, as well as the first extended commentary on an annotation of The Conferences since 1617."
The Conferences in Ramsey's new translation is available in hardcover, Kindle (on the same page as the hardcover) and Google books.
6. Divine Office
The Divine Office (also called the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Opus Dei -- the "work of God" ) means certain psalms, prayers, hymns, antiphons, and Biblical readings recited at fixed hours of the day or night according to a general and ancient structure.
6. Practice lectio divina.
When you use a book for your daily divine office, it helps if you have a calendar. Universalis has a calendar I keep with my reading stack. Universalis also has a nonmonastic liturgy of the hours.
St. Leo Abbey is part of the American-Cassinese Congregation which publishes a yearly Ordo -- another calendar to keep with your prayer materials.8. "The Benedictines"
Dom David Knowles, "The Benedictines," A Digest for Moderns, Second Edition. Forward by Marion R. Bowman, O.S.B. Abbot of Saint Leo Abbey, The Abbey Press, Saint Leo, Florida, 1962 Online version (but this online version omits chapters 5 and 6, the last two chapters).
Although this little booklet is listed last, it should be one of the first three books in an Oblate's library, the other two being the RB 1980 and the anniversary edition of the Rule).
Progress in the life of an Oblate comes with the revelation that the monastic-based life begins and ends in seeking God and is not advanced by the acquisition of more doctrine. As an abbot at Saint Leo Abbey has said, "The Benedictines" is the best concise and intelligible exposition of what it means to be Benedictine." This little booklet was published by Saint Leo Abbey and is available (I think) only at the Saint Leo Abbey Gift Shop.
9. Commentaries on the Rule of Saint Benedict
Those two commentaries are still available at used book stores in their original hardback versions. There are also copies of the books available -- sometimes the quality of the copies can less than perfect.
Many of the books in this list of resources are available at the St. Leo Abbey Gift Shop.
Computer Tip: When reading a web page, if you hold the CTRL key while rotating your mouse wheel, the size of the text on the page will be made larger for easier reading.
Benedictine Facts: There are 20 monasteries in the American-Cassinese Congregation with about 840 monks.
The American-Cassinese Congregation is one of 21 congregations of Benedictine monks with a total of about 8,000 monks worldwide. There are 61 women congregations/federations with about 16,000 Benedictine nuns and sisters in the world.
If you become a Benedictine Oblate, you will be one of about 25,000 Oblates in 50 countries. About 10,000 Oblates are in the USA.