Oblative Spirituality

By Br. Stephen, MIC

It was Christmastime, and a 12-year-old boy was looking at gifts for his two older brothers. Heeding the Biblical command to "love your neighbor as yourself," he bought a small LEGO set for each one, since he himself enjoyed LEGOs very much and expected that they would, too. He was almost breathless with anticipation as they were unwrapping their gifts. However, to his disappointment, his brothers were not as eager as he was to open the boxes and start building.

In the exuberance of Christmas giving, we sometimes find it hard to know what gifts to give or thoughtful deeds to do for those around us. The hardest people to give gifts to can be our close family and friends. In such close relationships, we desire to give each person, not only something that he will enjoy, but also something that shows our affection. The gift here represents us, and thus it approaches the true meaning of the original Christmas Gift, in which Jesus gave Himself to us.

Generosity is at the very heart of the Christian life, but it was newly presented as a particular spirituality by St. Stanislaus PapczyÅ?ski, the Founder of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. In his Mystical Temple of God, St. Stanislaus wrote that every Christian can generously offer himself to God (Latin offero, meaning "offer/sacrifice") as a temple of the Holy Spirit. The word offero, and its derived noun form oblatio ("sacrifice"), is rich with Christian meaning. The prayers of the Mass in Latin (whether before or after Vatican II) consistently call the Eucharist an oblatio. As a priest in the late 1600s, St. Stanislaus prayed the Mass only in Latin, and so his new use of the word bears a firm Eucharistic stamp. By offering himself as an oblation to God, a Christian becomes like Jesus in the Eucharist. As Jesus "emptied himself" (Phil 2:7) totally before the Father, we too can offer ourselves wholly to the Father through Him, with Him, and in Him.

The oblative spirituality of St. Stanislaus does not stop, however, with a general self-offering. In giving ourselves to God, we offer Him everything that we are and have. Saint Stanislaus delights in cataloging the details of his consecration. The morning offering he recommends to the faithful in his Mystical Temple of God lists 58 different offerings, and 48 ways in which God might use these to save both the soul and the world. A shorter version of this prayer, which the Marian Fathers pray every Sunday, goes as follows:

O my God, I offer you my heart, so that it may love only you, and nothing apart from you. I offer You my soul, that it may serve you. I offer you my intellect, my memory, and my will, that they may be submitted to you. I offer you my lips and my tongue, that they may glorify You and proclaim Your works. I offer You, O God, all that I am, and all that I possess. Bring it about that I may be completely Yours now and forever. Amen.

Expanding the analogy of the human person as a temple of the Holy Spirit, St. Stanislaus adds that the altar of this temple is our heart, and the priest is Love. We do not sacrifice worthily simply because we will it. True oblations come from love - that is, from Christ in us - and only this "Love-priest," as St. Stanislaus calls Him, can offer a sacrifice pleasing to God. Although the special oblatio of the Eucharist can only be offered by an ordained priest acting in the Person of Christ, all the faithful can offer sacrifice through Christ's Love in them. Thus, in all the oblations of the ordained or the lay faithful, Christ is the One Priest sacrificing through the members of His body.

Many external sources could be found to enhance our understanding of an oblative spirituality, but I will just mention two, one from the official teaching of the Church and the other from private revelation.

The first is a well-known quote from Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope), 24: "Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself." Saint John Paul II quoted this often, since he saw "gift" as something related to our very identity as persons.

The second is the prayer that the Fatima children were taught to say when making any sacrifice: "My Jesus, it is for love of you, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary." The word "it" only makes sense as a placeholder for something concrete, a specific oblation.

The best way to start practicing an oblative spirituality in your own life is the simple practice of a morning offering. Make it as simple or as detailed as you like, so long as you can pray it intentionally every day. You may start by using St. Stanislaus' prayer (given above), or by a consecration to Mary that has become part of the Marian Fathers' daily prayers:

My Queen, my Mother, I give myself entirely to you, and to show my devotion to you, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my whole being without reserve. Wherefore, O good Mother, since I am your own, keep me and guard me as your property and possession. Amen.


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