Living Well as Cistercian Associates

Living Well as Cistercian Associates of
Southern Star Abbey, Kopua, within a
Fellowship of Spiritual Friends
Part A
The Kingdom of God does not mean eating or drinking this or that, it
means righteousness and peace and joy brought by the Holy Spirit. If
you serve Christ in this way you will please God and be respected by
others. So let us adopt any custom that leads to peace and our mutual
improvement. (Romans 14:17-19). (“Others” was replaced by “men” in
the original Jerusalem Bible translation)
As the Cistercian Associate Community of Southern Star Abbey, Kopua,
Aotearoa/ New Zealand grows in size and in strength, conflict will occur, even
within “a school for the Lord’s service’” (, 2017) and we will need
to develop ways to grow spiritually as these opportunities arise. It is the hope
of the Cistercian Associate’s leadership team that we will draw on Scripture
and the Rule of Benedict to guide how we collectively and individually may
respond and be reconciled to conflict or hurt. St Benedict’s “Tools of good
works” in the Rule of Benedict, Chapter 4, have a key role (,
Conflict and the situations that lead up to it occur everywhere even in a
gathering of ”spiritual friends”. There are a number of possible factors
including personalities and stress. The reality is that “a lot of people are
uncomfortable with conflict and will avoid raising the issue and acquiesce-or
jump to an undesirable compromise—rather than get involved with the
conflict. Those who do not shy away from conflict will often take a competitive
approach, which results in a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser” and inevitable damage to
relationships. (Powell, 2017)
In preparing this document, I came across the Australian Benedictine
Review called Tjurunga in the Kopua Monastery library. Tjurunga is an
aboriginal word meaning a sacred object and a treasured possession. This
Journal has been published since 1971 and Fr Michael Casey, who has visited
Kopua a number of times and published some very useful books on Cistercian
life, is the current editor. It is a wealth of information and insights about a
variety of topics about current and historical issues relevant to monastic
communities and others. A few articles seemed relevant to this topic.
Margaret Malone SGS in an article in Tjurunga cited David Armstrong’s
words, “A community that has nothing to say about reconciliation has nothing
to say.” (Malone, 2009, p. p.82) She went on to develop this and commented,
“A family, a school, a parish, a work place, a government, a religious
community that has nothing to say about reconciliation has nothing to say.”
(Malone, 2009, p. 82). In all authentic communities individual members, over45
time face past trauma or hurts, present tendencies and future fears in our
discussions and interactions.
One article by Michaela Pfeiffer featured over 25 years’ work in conflict
management by Gerhard Schwarz. (Pfeiffer, 2007) He was Doctor of Theology
and Philosophy and an international expert on group dynamics and conflict
resolution. He developed a Phase Model of “Six Basic Stages of Conflict
Resolution” depicted as an “Ascent to Consensus”.
According to Schwarz, conflicts pass through, six stages. (Pfeiffer, 2007).
Although the stages are described at a group level. They can mirror one on one
conflict reactions as well. Earlier stages equate to a form of fight or flight
reaction and the later generally a step removed from attributing blaming and
then at the final stage more likely to put restoring relationships at the heart of
efforts. Schwarz comments that humanity has itself passed through these
stages in the development of civilisation.
The succession of stages shows the stage the conflict is in and the most
effective way to progress.
Escalating Development
Stage one; Flight –The first instinctive reaction to danger. It is at work and
organisations or in the church when conflict is ignored, seen as insignificant,
postponed, referred to a committee, or dispensed with by attributing the
blame to a scapegoat.
Stage two; Annihilation –The problem will be isolated and destroyed, example
ethnic cleansing or economics a monopolistic action to cut others out of the
market. In organisations and in the church, this equates with involuntary
retirement or dismissal, reassignment, character assassination, ganging up on
someone or exclusion.
Stage three; Subordination — Instead of killing the opponent enslavement. In
organisations and in the Church, hierarchy comes to the fore in deciding who
is right in a conflict situation. The one in charge uses harsh delivery of
instructions, persuasion, bribery, manipulation, threats, intrigue and
Stage four; Delegation — New departments, positions and functions are
created for some neutral party to be called in with the authority and
jurisdiction to mediate and solve the conflict. In organisations and in the
church, higher competent authorities or judicial inquiries are called for.
Stage Five; Compromise — As a result of insecurity concerning who really
holds the power or the potential power, where is divided equally, people decide
among themselves without referring to any higher authority. In organisations
and the church, negotiation is undertaken with the object of an agreement
between the parties. Compromise is therefore the first form of self-determined
conflict resolution.
Stage Six; Consensus– This is the second and highest form of resolution of
the deeper issues of conflict are considered. One acknowledges that on each
side there is truth and right. In organisations and in the church, negotiations
start by separating the people and the problems; interests, not the positions,
are emphasised. One looks for solutions that are good for both sides. The
question is: is the outcome sensible, practical, reliable and last thing? Does it
create better relationships between the people concerned?
In recent times, an approach that uses the processes featured in Stage
Six; Consensus, has been becoming more prevalent. It is a restorative justice
or a restorative approach. This is a process of working with people rather than
for people and doing things to people. This will feature in more detail in the
Part B document.
Theologians such as Guy Mansini have identified the origin of the term
restorative (justice) as coming from the Rule of Benedict. Benedict has been
described alongside many including St Francis as an “Ambassador of
Reconciliation.” (, 2017). Restorative justice is a part of the
restorative culture being promoted more widely in recent times in schools ,
workplaces and communities to replace a more punitive or retributive
approach (ie Gerhard Schwartz’ Stage 3 or 4).
For Cistercian Associates, underlying all approaches are tools of good
works and these are featured in Chapter 4 of the Rule of Benedict and
include around 70 short statements of how we are to live our lives as
Christians. Some include;
• 64 To hate no one,
• 66 Not to love contention,
• 70 To pray for one’s enemies in the love of Christ,
• 71 To make peace with one’s adversary before the sun sets and
• 72 And never to despair of God’s mercy.47
Using the “Tools of good works” is about building harmonious
relationships being transparent and it is also about how we prevent problems
from occurring in the first place.
An article written in Tjurunga 56 in 1999 by our Father Nicho Verkley
OCSO states that “When aspirants enter a community they expect to find holy
and saintly people. They soon discover that this is not the case and in their
disappointment consider the community to be made up of horrible sinners. My
own experience teaches me that the more I begin to see and accept myself
and be reconciled within, not denying any truth about myself, the easier it
becomes to live in peace and in mutual forgiveness—reconciliation with
others.” (Verkley, 1999, p. 56)
Restoring our relationships when they are strained or broken and
building on that restoration so that they are deepened – this mirrors God’s
dealings with us. And Jesus insists on our seeking reconciliation with one
another before approaching God in worship (Matthew 5:23-4), and on the role
of the Christian community in ensuring reconciliation (Matthew 18:15-18).
Henri Nouwen comments, “If we want other people to give us something
that only God can give, we are guilty of idolatry. We say , “Love me!” and
before long we become demanding and manipulative. It’s so important that we
keep forgiving one another —not once in a while but every moment of life.
This is what makes community possible , when we can come together in a
forgiving and undemanding way.” and comments further , “…forgiveness and
celebration can come to characterize authentic community even with its
challenges.” (Nouwen, Christensen, & Laird, 2006, p. 119)
At the recent meeting of the International Association of Communities of
Lay Cistercians at Avila, 20th June 2017, Abbot General Mauro Giuseppe
Lepori discussed this theme along with Truth and Mercy in his address. He
alluded to the difficult parts of his ministry and commented that sometimes
“… we listen to so many maledictions of one another , that we no longer know
who to believe, we no longer know where the truth lies….” and goes on to say
that the early apostles Peter, John, James, and Paul were “unanimous in
their awareness that truth can never be sought confronting malicious gossip,
but by seeking to call down a blessing (Merton, 1990) …we need to look for or
create an opening, a fissure, which lets the original truth of God’s blessing
enter into this situation of falsehood.” (Lepori, 2017)
He describes a situation of falsehood “even if those who make
accusations or criticise are often right”, he comments that a “community is
never renewed by accusations, even just ones.” A main point he makes is that,
“One may be right in the way of describing the behaviour of a brother or sister
a whole community but in doing so we do not reach the fullness of truth about
them. God alone can, and knows how to understand the truth about a person,
a heart, a life..” (Lepori, 2017). It is the Abbott General’s view that we can only48
attain the truth by “adopting an attitude which welcomes from God the truth
about the other and before all else, about ourselves.”
Thomas Merton (Merton, 1990), son of a New Zealand father, comments
more harshly perhaps “Do not be too quick to assume that your enemy is an
enemy of God just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy
precisely because he can find nothing in you that gives glory to God. Perhaps
he fears you because he can find nothing in you of God’s love and God’s
kindness and God’s patience and mercy and understanding of the weaknesses
of men. (Inchausti, 2005, p. 187)”
The Abbot General concludes his address at Avila by referencing two
verses from the first letter of St Peter 1:22-23, who writes, “You have been
obedient to the truth and purified your souls until you can love like brothers
and sisters, let your love for each other be real and from the heart – your new
birth was not from any mortal seed but from the everlasting word of the living
and eternal God. (Lepori, 2017)
The Abbot General adds, “I find that this text of St Peter gives the
essence of the whole way of conversion of life that Benedict proposes in his
Rule and that the Cistercians took up and wished to deepen. Indeed the whole
Rule offers an accompaniment of the purification of our souls, that is to say of
our persons through obedient listening to the truth about God about ourselves
and others this culminates in fraternal love literally “Philadelphia” ……where
we love one another with a pure, sincere, attentive heart one could say a
“transparent” heart.” (Lepori, 2017).
The personal discipline of “examen of conscience” and the Church’s
practices of Reconciliation are of course available to us all. For Catholics, this
Sacrament is offered in several ways:
Rite 1 as individual reconciliation – one-on-one, penitent and priest;
Rite 2 Reconciliation as a Communal liturgy of Reconciliation, with
individual confession and absolution;
Rite 3 as a general liturgy of Reconciliation (with general
absolution) at and within every Catholic Mass.
For Anglicans, the general communal liturgy is more commonly used (as in
other denominations from which Associates come) but there is also an
individual rite called The Reconciliation of a Penitent found in A New Zealand
Prayer Book.
The experience of God’s grace through forgiveness enables healing to
begin and relationships to change. This document has been particularly
concerned with ongoing relationships between Associates and so offers tools
for our life together to become deeper and more loving over time.
So, let us in this Kopua “school of God’s service” and as “a family of
spiritual friends” by using the “Tools of good works” be a witness of a living49
fraternal communion and to try to reflect in action the words of the Abbot
General from the Psalm 84:11, “that truly love and truth have met, justice and
peace have embraced.”
“Sisters and Brothers, you have been called and chosen: work all the
harder to justify it. If you do all these things there is no danger that you will
ever fall away. In this way you will be granted admittance into the eternal
kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10-11
Inchausti, R. (2005). The Pocket Book of Thomas Merton. Penguin.
Lepori,M.G. (2017, June 20th).The Community : Truth and Mercy
International Association of Communities of Lay Cistercians. Avila, Spain.
Malone, M. (2009). Life Together. Tjurunga, 75-86.
Merton, T. (1990). The Seven Storey Mountain. London: SPCK.
Nouwen, H., Christensen, M. J., & Laird, R. J. (2006, April 15th ). Spiritual
Direction; Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith PDF EBook. Rotorua , Bay
of Plenty, New Zealand.
Pfeiffer, M. (2007). Disunity in the Monastery? The Letters of Bernard of
Clairvaux. Tjurunga 73, 65-70.
Powell, C. (2017, June 15th). The Cost of Conflict in the Workplace. I tīkina mai
Employment Today HR Solutions : http:// www.employment
Verkley, F. N. (1999, May). The Rule of Benedict and Reconciliation. Tjurunga,
wh. 75-77.
Additional Reading Recommended
Gillette, G , (2009) Why are anger and friendship aligned in Cassian’s
Conference 16? Tjurunga 76 May 2009
Tombs, D (2016) Living Well and for Others; The Meaning of Reconciliation.
Mike Stone
Part B
Restorative Practises
Restorative Justice has origins in scripture and in the Rule of Benedict.
(, 2017) In the last thirty years Howard Zehr, a writer, theologian
and University Professor is identified as a pioneer of restorative approaches50
now widely adopted in communities and schools throughout the world (Zehr,
2015 ). He credits two indigenous peoples as having made profound
contributions to practises in this field and this includes the Māori people of
Aotearoa, New Zealand. He is very familiar with restorative practises within
the wisdom tradition of early Māori and identifies these and similar practises
as a way forward for communities around the world. A New Zealand city,
Wanganui, is aspiring to adopt this approach city-wide as a more effective way
of restoring relationships following hurt and harm and so building a
connected community.
Zehr’s book, Changing Lenses, (Zehr, 2015 ) offers a different response to
repair the harm from conflict, more humane than punitive alternatives. A
number of members of the Leadership team use these processes in schools
and community settings where young people have been in conflict and think
that some elements can be useful in any organisations policy or procedure to
address incidences of conflict in a deeply respectful and non-shaming way.
The restorative approach can only begin where there is a mutual and
voluntary willingness to engage in restoring relationships. Often the initial
hurt and emotional heat of an event or series of events makes it seem
impossible to consider rational steps to move forward. This is a process of
working with people and not doing things to people. Confidentiality is an
essential part of restorative meeting so that people feel safe in the process.
Restorative practice outcomes allow for a way forward that maintains the
dignity and mana of all people participating in the restorative process.
Restorative work is underpinned by a fundamental respect for people and
their personal autonomy and agency.
A RESTORATIVE APPROACH emphasises reflection, repair and
reconnection, based on self-knowledge and a willingness to give and take,
within a process where there is safety and respect for each person, and a
focus not on personalities but on particular events or behaviours.
Restorative processes have three recommended components;
1. Reflection: Thinking on ones’ own actions, responses and feelings in the
events that have led to the broken relationships. Deep and honest reflection
will open hearts and minds to a willingness to participate in a healing process
for all parties. Exploring the risks and impact of shame and finding the
courage to engage in addressing this with others is part of the reflective
2. Repair Restorative conversations are not about blame and they are not
about personalities. They are about telling the stories and exploring the events
that have led to harm and brokenness. These restorative conversations are
structured to give a place and space for the sharing of invisible hurts and51
room for the grace of comfort, consolation and healing to take place. There is
no blame or punishment. The use of ‘I’ statements and adherence to the set
processes maintain the safety of all participants.
3. Reconnection. Some form of reconnection is important in re-establishing
effective working relationships and dispersing shame. Different people find
different ways of reconnecting. A co-constructed plan is written that enables a
way forward.
A restorative meeting allows for stories to be told and the hurt, that is
often mutual, to be explored and relationships restored through
understanding and acknowledgement. The process enables the people most
concerned to have a safe forum to share more deeply and express sorrow or
remorse as is appropriate without blame, shame or punishment being the
focus of energy. The focus is on healing the hurt and harm while restoring
relationships so that both parties can move forward.
There is a continuum for working restoratively through issues. When a
difficulty arises, the least intrusive approaches should be taken first.
1) A face to face (kanohi ki te kanohi) chat, initiated by a personal request
signalling the general theme and asking for a suitable time to talk. This
may involve an agreement to meet at an agreed time to talk about a
“concern” or “an event”. Once present there may be some clarifying
questions initially and the use of “I” statements such as “I felt vulnerable
when I saw/heard ..(describe the behaviour).” Reflection time about our
own part in the problem and what its resolution might best look like.
If someone finds it difficult to initiate the above, a trusted Associate
could be canvased for options to interact with the person viewed as the
source of conflict. Discretion would be essential to avoid further
2) A small group restorative meeting with support people such as a mentor
or partner that is facilitated by a peer facilitator who is trusted and
respected by both parties with careful preparation. Usually there is a
brief agreed summary of events that will be the focus of the meeting.
3) A more formal conference facilitated by a neutral third party who is
trained in restorative practice, if necessary sourced from outside the
Associates Group (or involving the National Coordinator or his/her
delegate). This will involve a written agreement and individual meetings
by the facilitator with all participants prior to the formal conference.
There will be an agreed summary of events that have brought people to
the meeting.52
References (2017, November 19th November). Retrieved from Order of Saint
Zehr, H. (2015 ). Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times (25th
Anniversary Edition). Harrisburg; USA: Herald Press.
Mike Stone and Erika Locke
Guidelines for Participants in Formal Restorative Meetings
Thank you for your willingness to take part in a restorative conference. It is important
to remember that a restorative conference is not just an ordinary meeting –
conferences are focused on finding out who has been affected by an event and in
what ways, rather than focusing on blame or what rule was broken. There is also a
strong focus on people ‘putting it right’ when there has been harm done to others.
Below are some simple guidelines that will help make this conference a really
successful experience for everyone:
• Please support the process by letting the facilitator run the conference. They
have been specially trained in this technique.
• Please be patient with the speaking order – this is designed to enable a space
and place for everyone to share and to tell their stories of the harm that has
happened. Everybody will be seated in a circle and will have an opportunity to
speak and share their perspective and how this has affected them. You will
have more than one opportunity to speak.
• Try to always keep an open mind – you may only know one side or part of a
story. Remember that truth is experienced differently by others.
• When it comes to your turn to speak, please have respect for others present at
the conference – speak quietly and use language and behaviour that others
will feel comfortable with.
• When you speak, please speak to the entire conference rather than an
individual – everyone needs to hear about experiences, not just individuals.
• When you speak, try to talk from the perspective of the impact that an event
has made upon your life or life for your family.
• Although your first thoughts are about our own stories and our own feelings,
please be open to understanding the stories and feelings of others.
• Following the conference, please keep the details of the meeting confidential,
for everyone’s benefit.53
The website of the International Association (
WELCOME to the International Association of Lay Cistercian Communities.
This site is for the use and benefit of the Lay Cisterciuan Communities. This
site is for the use and benefit of the Lay Cistercian Communities around the
world, monasteries with which they are associated, and any person interested
in learning more about the birth and development of this contemplative
movement within the Cistercian family. We believe the Cistercian Charism is a
window through which monks and nuns and lay people interact with one
another. Members of Lay Cistercian Communities around the world look in
this window for guidance and support, and out this window to their Cistercian
lives in the world. Like a window, the Cistercian Charism sheds light on both
sides of the enclosure wall.
Lay Cistercian Vocation.
“As individuals, we recognize a personal call that is experienced in community
as a gift from God. We define it as a call to be an active witness of Christ and
his church in the midst of the world, providing a prayerful and contemplative
testimony in a life defined by the values of the Cistercian Charism.” (Lay
Cistercian Identity {Huerta, June 6, 2008})
Lay Cistercian Life
“We are convinced that it is possible to adapt the Cistercian spirituality to the
lifestyle of the lay person though it is very clear that there are two different
ways to live it, monastic and lay, and both are complementary. Lay people
have found in Cistercian spirituality a way to live in the world with greater
commitment and spiritual depth. We are unanimous in our belief that the
Cistercian Charism can be lived outside the monastery”
(Lay Cistercian Identity {Huerta, June 6, 2008})
Bond with the Monastery and the Cistercian family.
“For all the groups, it is the monastic community, represented by the Abbott
(Abbess), that recognizes in them the charism and confers on them their
membership in the Cistercian family, according to the nature of the bonds
that unite them. “(Lay Cistercian Identity {Huerta, June 6, 2008})