One of the hidden treasures of the Church in NZ is the Cistercian Abbey of Kopua in Central Hawkes Bay in the Palmerston North Diocese. A small community of monks there come together at regular intervals during the day for prayer. Following the pattern of St Benedict they divide the day into eight hours of work, punctuated by times of prayer amounting to eight hours, and eight hours of sleep.
Cistercian monasteries are found on all continents of our world. Today I visited the Xito Chau Son near Hanoi. It’s had an extraordinary history. As a center of prayer, learning, farming and contemplative life it was feared by the communist leaders. The crowds of visitors it drew of every persuasion and none infuriated them and so, after much intimidation, in the late 1950s all the monks were imprisoned or forced to flee. The government’s goal to extinguish this flame of faith seemed complete.
But the embers of faith kept burning. And as the government fought fires of faith and freedom elsewhere, a small band about ten years ago emerged once again to resurrect the monastic life. Brick by brick they built by their own hand the current monastery and its magnificent chapel.
Today it has well over one hundred members with fifty plus in formation. It is not yet an Abbey because the oldest member is too young! Fr Dominique is just 45. What a challenge to have.