The term is from the Latin for "offered." Historically, in medieval times, oblates were children who were "given to God" in a monastery by their parents. The child would be educated in the monastery with a view to becoming a member of the religious community. This practice was endorsed by the Rule of St. Benedict. It was the origin of Benedictine schools and colleges. The practice was criticized because the children lacked freedom of choice at the time of entering the monastery. This practice was eventually abandoned. The term was later applied to laity who lived in a monastery or who maintained a close committed relationship with a religious community without taking full religious vows.
Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.