Associate Life

Cistercian Associate life outside monastic walls can be a richly balanced lifestyle of reflection and activity, work and recreation, prayer, and action. It is within a community of spiritual friends that we grow closer to God, to others, and to our true selves through an active prayer life, by discovering the treasures of Cistercian literature, and by the grace of God.

Table of Contents

1. What do Associates do?
2. The Relationship of the Associate Community to the Monastic Community
3. Becoming an Associate
4. Te Rau O Te Huia
5. Resources for those beginning the Journey.
6. International Lay Communities

What do Associates do?

Associates seek to:

  • shape their lives by the principles enshrined in the Benedictine-Cistercian spiritual tradition.
  • live a balanced lifestyle combining worship and prayer, study and reflection, work, and recreation.
  • live out in their own circumstances the values of community, solitude, simplicity and hospitality.
  • embody the Cistercian charism as lovers of their families and local communities, and as lovers of the place in which they live, as well as of the monastery at Kopua.

There will be annual opportunities to be part of the community of spiritual friends through:

  • Attendance at guided retreats in the Retreat Centre at Kopua based on a variety of Cistercian themes or On-line studies due to choice, pandemics or other serious ongoing restrictions.
  • Providing a voice to determine relevant themes for study or retreat. There will be opportunities to comment through biennial surveys of information needs, Cistercian interests etc.
  • Having access to regular regional gatherings (for some Associates).
  • Completing an on-line or book study that explores more deeply some Cistercian themes of living a simpler life or forming a deeper understanding of “St Benedict’s Rule” or living by “listening with the ear of the heart”. An on-line study may just explore a book from the treasure of Cistercian literature.
  • Receiving four newsletters a year usually matching the seasons of Lent, Advent, Matariki (or Feast of St Benedict) and Easter.
  • Assisting in supporting a Habitat Restoration Plan at a wetland at Kopua Monastery
  • Every three years all associates are invited to attend a gathering, usually at Kopua, to elect a leadership team and discuss modifications to our Handbook or Constitution, or ways that we can support each other better.
  • Kopua Cistercian Associates send representatives along to an International Gathering, held every three years, with a variety of Lay Cistercian Communities.

The Relationship of the Associate Community to the Monastic Community

The Relationship of the associate Community to the Monastic Community is one of partnership in a bond of charity and mutual prayer.
Within that bond:

  • Associates and monastics each have their own form of community life.
  • the community of Associates receives its Cistercian identity through the monastic community, which has the responsibility of discerning, fostering, and safeguarding the Cistercian charism.
  • the Associate community is led and resourced by a Leadership Team comprising the Abbot (or a monk appointed by him), Associates elected by a triennial Associates Chapter, and a National Coordinator approved by the Abbot.

Becoming an Associate

First, please contact the National Coordinator via the contact details below.

After initial discussions, there begins a stage (normally up to eighteen months) to acquaint an inquirer with basic Cistercian spirituality and identity, incorporate him or her into relationships with Associates and the monastic community, and mutually discern God’s leading.

Mentoring is by the National Coordinator in consultation with the Abbot, and (when appropriate and possible), within a regional group.

At the conclusion of this, an inquirer would prepare a personal statement of how they will seek to live a balanced life of prayer, recreation, and work in the Cistercian Charism in their own lives. This becomes a personal “Rule of Life” and is presented to the Abbot when there is a formal recognition of the inquirer as an Associate.

Te Rau O Te Huia

This is a set of questions or prompts that can be used by Associates as a way sharing their spiritual journey. It integrates the well-known wellbeing framework (Whare Tapa Wha) of Sir Mason Durie, who supports its use by us in this way. He also suggested questions for us to use, which we have integrated into our profile prompt. Local Cultural advisor Dr Manahi Paewai (QSM) also endorses our use of the mana of the huia in this way. The huia, once common in the Kopua area, now an iconic symbol of that which is sacred and unique.

Resources for those beginning the Journey.


Some basic sources for enquirers to learn more about the Benedictine tradition, the Cistercian charism and related Christian spirituality include the following.

Contemporary Monastic Based Spirituality
Chittister, Joan.  The Rule of Benedict: a spirituality for the 21rst century
Day, Trisha.   Inside the School of Charity – Lessons from the Monastery
De Waal, Esther.   A Life-giving Way: A commentary on the Rule of Benedict
The Way of Simplicity: The Cistercian Tradition and Living with Contradictions
Derske, Will.   A Blessed Life: Benedictine Guidelines
Fry, Timothy.   The Rule of Benedict in English 1980
Kardong, Terrence.   Benedict backwards: Reading the Rule in the Twenty-First Century,
Benedict’s Rule: A Translation and Commentary (long, academic, very good)
McColman, Carl.   Befriending Silence: Discovering the gifts of Cistercian Spirituality
Norris, Kathleen.   The Cloister Walk
Steindl-Rast, David.   Music of silence: a sacred journey through the hours of the day
Swan, Laura.   Engaging Benedict
Tomaine, Jane.   St Benedict’s Toolbox – the Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living
Wilkes, Paul.   Beyond the Walls – Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life

Classic Christian Spirituality
McGinn, Bernard. (ed)   The essential writings of Christian mysticism (excellent selection of spiritual writings across the Christian tradition, well edited)
Matarasso, P. (ed)   The Cistercian world: monastic writings of the 12th century (excellent collection of classic Cistercian writings, well edited)
Keller, David. (ed)   Desert Banquet: A Year of Wisdom from the Desert Mothers and Fathers

Modern Cistercian Writers
Casey, Michael. The Road to Eternal Life: Reflections on the Prologue of Benedict’s Rule
Strangers to the City: Reflections on the Beliefs and Values of the Rule of Saint Benedict.
Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer
Keating, Thomas.   Open mind, open heart: the contemplative dimension of the gospel
Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer
The Heart of the World: An Introduction to Contemplative Christianity (remove underline)
Merton, Thomas.   New Seeds of Contemplation
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander,
Contemplation in a World of Action
(many other books on a variety of topics available)
Pennington, Basil.   A Place Apart – Monastic Prayer and Practice for Everyone
Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form

Kopua Monastic Writings
Hynes, Kieran.   Pray as you Can.
Kelly, John.   A Journey in Faith and Prayer
Spirituality in the 21st Century
Personal Prayer (all available from the monastery or coordinator)

Contemporary Meditative Spirituality
Freeman, L. Jesus: the teacher within
Main, J.   Word into silence
Nouwen, H.   The Way of the Heart
Rohr, R.   The Universal Christ

Useful links
Southern Star Abbey, Kopua Road, Hawkes Bay
Kopua Cistercian Associates
International Cistercian website
Centre for Action and Contemplation
World Community of Christian Meditation (especially Meditatio Talks Series)

WCCM App This app is for those interested in or with an established meditation practice. It provides a gateway of resources from the World Community for Christian Mediation. It has a Meditation timer, podcasts, online courses and regular news.

International Lay Communities

The Associates of Southern Star Abbey, Kopua, is affiliated to the International Association of Lay Cistercian Communities, and thus linked to a much wider family of prayer, wisdom, and resources. (See the international website: