REVEREND PAUL TILLMAN, Obl.OSB
Benedictine and Wesleyan traditions emphasize prayer: to pray without ceasing is our labor and power.
Becoming an Oblate
Prior to my visit to St. Paul’s Monastery in the summer of 2014, my only experience with the Benedictine tradition came from college and seminary courses in Christian mysticism and Church history – and it seemed to me that Benedictine and Wesleyan-Methodist traditions aligned quite well.
However, when I chose to pursue oblation, my friends, family and I naturally had many questions:
- Why and what would it mean to become an Oblate of St. Benedict?
- Would I have to change denominations; would I have to pray to Mary?
- Would I have to give up my ordination in the Wesleyan-Methodist Church?
- Is my wife okay with me becoming a “monk”?
- Would I get baptized again?
These questions and many others, I continued to ask and contemplate during my year of Oblate formation.
Once I became an Oblate in 2016, most things stayed the same, but were enhanced. I am still an ordained Protestant pastor at Oakdale Wesleyan-Methodist Church, but am also Benedictine. I am still a father and husband to a pregnant wife (due this summer), and now I have the opportunity to walk the prayer labyrinth with my daughter.
Both traditions have an emphasis on personal holiness and Christian perfection, in the biblical sense of maturity. Neither tradition would say we become infallible, but we can and should persevere and mature to that end. Both traditions also emphasize holiness in action as a social good. Benedictines are not cloistered, but out in society; Methodists believe the gospel not only transforms the individual soul, but also society through action.
Both emphasize accountability. The fifth step of humility from The Rule is accountability, a form similar to John Wesley’s Methodist Bands. Lastly, both traditions emphasize prayer: To pray without ceasing is our labor and power.
With these parallels in mind, what it means to me to be an Oblate is to continue to do those things which Christ calls me to do as His disciple; only now doing so in a larger Christian community. I continue to read, attend seminars and classes, and maintain my personal devotional time in order to grow more mature in the Faith. In addition, I now come together with the Sisters and other Oblates for spiritual formation at the Monastery.
I continue to volunteer at First Care Pregnancy Center and I now partner with my Oblate sponsor to get human trafficking educational materials into schools. I have accountability partners, and now I also have Sisters who pray for my soul and teach me humility and listening.
Along with personal prayer time and corporate prayer time with my congregation, I also pray the Liturgy of the Hours with my Catholic brethren. I pray for the Sisters of St. Paul’s Monastery, and about once a month, I am able to pray with them at the Monastery.
Shortly after completing final oblations, I rearranged the degrees and certificates on my office wall. I happen to have two baptism certificates: One from when I was baptized at 7 years old and another from a trip to Israel as an adult, when I was baptized in the Jordan River. In the new arrangement, Baptism is at the top and the bottom, beginning and end.
To answer another of the questions I had at the beginning of Oblate formation: No, I did not have to get baptized again. But becoming an Oblate of the Order of St. Benedict (OblOSB) is ultimately me working to live out and live into my baptism.