Cursillos In Christianity

To Pray the Prayer of Christ ~ To Learn the Mind of Christ ~ To Do the deeds of Christ

The Work of Cursillo is the Work of the Church

A Brief Introduction to Cursillo

Since 1978, over 3000 participants have been exposed to this “short course” (that’s the literal meaning of “cursillo”) in Christianity. It is one of the many instruments currently in the Church which are oriented toward personal renewal and the renewal of the Church and the world.

Central to the “short course” is participation in a Cursillo weekend. The form of the weekend has changed little over time, although the content has shifted somewhat from its Spanish and Roman Catholic origins to take on a South Carolina and Anglican flavor. Each weekend ends up having its own identity resulting from the unique mix of thirty or more participants and an equal number of team or staff members who come together for supper on Thursday evenings.

One of the songs that has come down to the present from the earliest days of the movement in Spain in the 1950’s has given rise to the bumper sticker and greeting that some people use to identify themselves as participants in Cursillo. “De Colores” means “the colors” and is a call to a celebration of all of God’s creation (all of “its colors”). In the same song, a rooster crows to signal a new day. The movement in this Diocese has adopted the rooster as its symbol not only for the calling to a new day, but also as a reminder of our tendency (as it was Peter’s) to boast of our commitment to Christ.

The Purpose of Cursillo

The work of Cursillo is the work of the Church: to prepare Christians for their part in fulfilling the Divine Commission to make disciples of all nations. It proposes no new theology or spirituality, but a method for personal development of the desire to live an authentic Christian life in response to one’s baptism.

The Cursillo Weekend is Not a Secret

What happens during the weekend is not a deep secret. The weekend is led by a lay persons aided by three clergy. Central to each weekend are:

  • A presentation of the Passion of our Lord, the place of reconciliation
  • 10 talks given by lay persons and 5 by clergy
  • The discussion of these talks by the participants in table groups
  • The daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and other acts of worship such as Compline
  • Special times of prayer and reflection
  • Singing and lots of laughter and good food

There is a full schedule during the weekend. The person who hasn’t attended a weekend and participated in the movement might be confused or puzzled about Cursillo. The process of “recruitment” has sometimes led to misunderstandings about Cursillo. When someone says, “I can’t describe it; you have to experience it”, the impression can be created that there are secrets that the “newly initiated” can’t reveal. There should be no secrets, but there are surprises – fun surprises! There is absolutely no requirement that anyone get up and give a talk, or witness, or say anything besides introducing oneself.

The “real secret” is the dedication, preparation, support, prayer, and reliance on God’s Holy Spirit. When the gathered community is being truly the Church in action, there is a reliance on the grace of God to give all the freedom to respond to faith to fulfill in a deeper way one’s own baptismal covenant. Christ and His Church need leaders for today’s ministry. Cursillo is one means for finding inspiration and direction for Christian leadership.

The deeply personal religious experience of a living, giving Christian community leads many with enthusiasm to recruit friends to go to a weekend. That can be and often is a mixed blessing for the recipient of such enthusiasm. As a consequence, the waiting list is so long, it can take over a year to attend a weekend.

Each Cursillo Weekend is Different

The participants are requested not to judge the weekend by any of its parts, for it is the experience of the whole weekend that is most significant. Any description of the weekend does not seem to account for the powerful emotional impact that it has on many people. It has been described by participants as:

  • “fun”
  • “the greatest outpouring of love I have ever experienced”
  • an “eye-opener for a life-time Anglican”
  • “a truly joyful time”
  • “an encounter with Christ”

At a recent gathering of persons who had attended a weekend, one person in later reflection said,

“I have been in the Church for a long time not knowing I was looking and searching. Up to the weekend I had always considered the phrase “the Body of Christ” to be a metaphor. Now I know it as reality.”

Not everyone has that experience. At its best, Cursillo only offers…….it does not set up expectations for specific responses.

As mentioned previously, each weekend ends up having its own uniqueness resulting from the blending of unique participants and unique staff members, who come together on Thursday and spend three days together.

The only characteristic that makes each and every Cursillo weekend the same is that the leadership of each weekend has dedicated itself to prayerfully prepare and present the weekend by certain guidelines. The leadership of the movement has dedicated itself to the continual call of Cursillo to lift up their friend, Jesus Christ, and to rely upon the Holy Spirit to make Him known to others.

A Cursillo Weekend is a Beginning

On the last day of the weekend, the participants are told how to continue the process in the after-the-weekend period (the rest of your life, known as the “Fourth Day”). The key to this is the perseverance and encouragement (the Spanish word “ultreya”) to be found in becoming involved in weekly reunions in small groups. These small groups are open in most cases to all people and have been vehicles for them later to attend a weekend.

Another form of encouragement comes from regional and Diocesan meetings called “Ultreyas”. The latter are held about four times a year in various parishes throughout the Diocese and provide an opportunity to renew the ties made at one’s weekend. For many, this has led to the development of deep and lasting friendships across the Diocese. That is, in fact, the “glue” of Cursillo, for it keeps alive the theme of Cursillo:

Make a friend ~ Be a friend ~ Bring that friend to your friend, Jesus

Cursillistas, as they are known, have found ministries in prisons, hospitals, businesses, and schools, and in so doing, have established friendships with Cursillistas of other denominations.

If Cursillo has not always lived up to its potential, it has been in not giving all participants the encouragement and support in their “Fourth Day” to help them seek out and persevere in their growth and ministry. Many have not carried the weekend experience into their congregations, the Diocese, or their own world. In addition, some fall into focusing on their own weekend experience and not – in the words of the banners in the Diocesan office – on the Christian mandates:

 “To Pray the Prayer of Christ, To Learn the Mind of Christ, and To Do the Deeds of Christ.”

Contact Chris Sosnowski