In the early sixth century, when St. Benedict wrote his Rule and gathered disciples into small communities called monasteries, parents offered their sons as "oblates," or gifts of God to the monks.
The word oblate comes from the Latin oblatus, which means someone who is offered up or dedicated to something. The boy oblates lived the monastic life in much the same fashion as their elders, and many became full-fledged monks as adults.
In addition to the boy oblates, others also lived in the early Benedictine monasteries. They were generally older men who did not wish to be monks, yet had a desire to be connected in some way with the community life. They were also called oblates.
Over time, men and women outside the monasteries wanted to be affiliated in some way with the work and prayer of the monks and nuns. But these individuals were married, had family obligations and employment. They lived in the secular world, but offered themselves to God, dedicating their lives to the guidance of the Rule of St. Benedict.
Over the years, as society continued to change and progress, one thing didn't change: the value and wisdom found in the holy Rule. Thousands of oblates worldwide continue to find inspiration and spiritual fulfillment as they follow the treasure of the Rule of St. Benedict.