at WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY
Oblates of St. Benedict
A Lutheran Benedictine Confraternity at WVU
Protestant & Monastic?
If you have read this introductory material on the
homepage, feel free to skip to stuff you haven't yet
seen by clinking here.
A little history
The two concepts are not antithetical, and there is
actually history to support their relationship.
Contrary to popular opinion, Luther did not close the
monasteries. While he had sharp criticisms of what
monasticism had become by his day, he also wrote
several letters defending monastic foundations from
aggressive civil rulers. Some monasteries and convents
actually converted to Lutheranism, and the vestiges
survive to this day in Germany. Monastic foundations
also continued in the Anglican tradition, and,
following W.W.II, a rebirth of Protestant monasticism
took place in both the Lutheran and Reformed
What's that got to do with WVU?
This past year, we committed to the formation of a
confraternity, a local group of people who desire to
enter into a deeper, more disciplined spirituality
shaped by daily prayer, study of the Word, Christian
fellowship, and growth in sanctification as informed
by the Lutheran and Benedictine traditions.
The confraternity will open to men and women,
students, faculties, staff, and members of the local
community. Before joining, one can explore life in a
confraternity as a guest, and then as an aspirant and
postulant, without making formal commitments.
In addition to the mutual support of the confratres
in things spiritual, the confraternity will also
provide devotional resources, periodic communal meals,
an option for religious housing, and the opportunity
to make retreats at a Lutheran monastery.
When does this begin?
We already have. Seven signed aspirancy before the
end of this past academic year. Postulancy will begin
for those aspirants wishing to continue during the
first fortnight of this new academic year.
Does that mean it is too late to get involved? Not at
all. If you are interested (or merely curious), feel
free to join in the prayer services and various
aspects of oblate life as a guest. We'd also be happy
to send you a copy of the customary, answer any
questions you might have, or meet with you. Drop us a
line (Monk@LutheranMountaineer.org) or call us
this about housing?
Lutherhaus becomes an "oblate house" (or
"confraternity house") with the start of the 2015-2016
academic year. As a privilege and aid to oblate life,
members of the confraternity have the option, limited by
availability, of living in Lutherhaus.
A few years ago, the Lutheran Campus Ministry at WVU began offering students the opportunity to visit St. Augustine's House, the only Lutheran monastery in the Western Hemisphere. Located just north of Pontiac, MI, the priory is less than 400 miles from WVU --- not quite around the corner but close enough that long weekend retreats are not unreasonable. For the past few years, students have joined Chap. Riegel in an experience of the Benedictine rhythm of daily prayer (seven canonical hours), daily mass, study, work, and rest. Most recently, two of our number joined Chap. Riegel for part of spring recess at the monastery. They reported having an amazing time. Yet another of our students, who joined Riegel for a retreat over the Christmas recess, made a personal week-long retreat this summer. Obviously, there is something special about the place.
At present, we are planing Labor Day Weekend retreat. There may also be retreats over the mid-term recess, Thanksgiving recess, and Chrsitmas recess. Think about it. More information to come.
The CustomaryThe confraternity employs a "customary" (one might think of it as bylaws or a rule) to guide and inform its life. The eight-page document is divided into multiple chapters (headings) that detail expectations for prayer, deportment, and interaction. Three main areas are covered. The first set of chapters concern spiritual disciplines and manners that are expected of all members of the confraternity. The second set applies to confraternity members living in Lutherhaus --- life together often requires extra clarity. The last set covers processes for exploring membership.
The customary is in a provisional form as we refine the various elements in the light of lived experience. To download a copy, click here.
Of course, you might want a synopsis...Oblates commit to twice daily prayer (morning and evening recommended) and prayers at meal time. Most of the time, these are prayed privately, but nothing prevents oblates from joining together in small groups or as a whole for the daily prayers as may be practical. When an oblate is on the Lutheran Campus Chapel grounds at one of scheduled prayer offices of the campus ministry, an oblate shall not fail to attend, thus satisfying the coordinate prayer expectation.
Oblates commit to grow in their knowledge of the Word of God and the Faith of the church. This can be done through private or group study as may be practical.
Oblates strive to live a life consistent with the Decalogue as explicated in Luther's Catechisms.
The customary spells things out in more detail, but there is surprising freedom to work out for oneself how these commitments are lived out in each person's life. The oblates commit to support each other in this journey, and pastoral counsel is always available.
The Confraternity at WVU & St. Augustine's HouseSt. Augustine's House has been mentioned several times thus far, and it is worth clarifying the relationship. At this point, the WVU confraternity is developing in parallel to St. Augustine's own oblate program. In some respects, we are the leading edge, but we are working cooperatively with the Congregation of the Servants of Christ, the monastic foundation housed at St. Augustine's House. Eventually The Congregation of the Servants of Christ will formally adopt its oblate program. When that happens, it is hoped by both parties, that the WVU confraternity will fold into the Congregation of the Servants of Christ. We believe that the establishment of this formal relationship will provide greater support to those pursuing oblate life through the WVU confraternity.
Want to learn more?Inquiries can be directed to Chap. Riegel or Senior Katie Lago at Monk@LutheranMountaineer.org or by calling 304-680-5388.
Lutheran Monastery Reaches Out to Collegians & SeminariansSt. Augustine's House has issued a special invitation to collegians and seminarians to visit.
Spend a day, a week, a month at the only Lutheran monastery in America. The Congregation of the Servants of Christ, living at St. Augustine's House in Oxford, Michigan, invites you for a time (whether long or short) of formation in the life of prayer. Please make arrangements for dates and accommodations at StAugHouse@aol.com or 248-628-5155.
For more information about St. Augustine's House, visit http://www.StAugustinesHouse.org or speak with Chap. Riegel.
Chaplain Serves on Monastic CouncilChap. Riegel was elected by the chapter of the Congregation of the Servants of Christ, the only Lutheran Benedictine body in the Western Hemisphere, to serve on the congregation's council. Riegel served on the council prior to the birth of his second daughter fifteen years ago. In fulfillment of his obligations, Riegel will be making a few trips each year to St. Augustine's House, a Lutheran Benedictine priory. There may be room on some of those trips for a co-pilot. If you are interested in accompanying Riegel, let him know.
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