Cursillos for Catholics: How they work

The Cursillo Movement began in Spain after the Civil War through the spiritual reunions of those who had made the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela for the renewal of the war-ravaged country. From that beginning the Movement developed as a method of preparing potential leaders who could bring an effective Christian influence into our secularised society. Soon it was seen that the Christian leadership required for this task could only be developed through an intensive experience in Christian living.

THE THREE-DAY COURSE in Christianity was designed to provide such an experience. It begins on a Thursday evening with a meditation, the Stations of the Cross and a silent retreat throughout the night. During the next two and a half days fifteen short papers are delivered on such subjects as grace, sacraments, study and leadership. The specifically theological papers are delivered by priests who act as confessors and spiritual directors throughout the weekend, but the rest are given by lay people. In addition there are various group activities, though no-one is required to do anything they do not want to do. During the three days everyone is flooded with assurances of prayer from those who have been to Cursillo in the past and are fasting, making visits to the Blessed Sacrament or offering Masses on their behalf. Finally on the last day there is a great Sung Eucharist with several hundred people present to greet those who have just made their Cursillo.

IT IS ALL VERY SIMPLE. There are no tricks or gimmicks. There are surprises because the Christian life is full of surprises, but there are no secrets, no hidden mysteries revealed only to the initiated. Instead there is a community of love into which the participant enters and by which he experiences the operation of Gods grace. By knowing he is loved he himself desires to love others; perhaps by becoming a member of staff for a future Cursillo, but mostly by offering himself to Christ in his saving work throughout society. The Cursillo develops a kind of apostolic succession of love witnessing to the saving work of Christ, and it is this apostolic succession which keeps the Cursillo Movement growing and expanding.

THE CURSILLO MOVEMENT is one of many renewal movements in the Church today, one which exists for a specific purpose, to renew the face of the earth, to re-Christianise contemporary society. It is not designed to help people with problems, to revitalise our parishes or to encourage charismatic renewal – though in particular instances it may do any or all of those things. It is simply an intensive preparation of those people in a position to witness to the wholeness of the Christian life in their families and neighbourhood, at school or work or business. It offers an experience of the Christian life which every parish church should provide, but in a more intense and concentrated form. It is an extreme measure for renewing a society in which extreme ;measures seem desperately needed.

Father John Heidt

Up Hatherley Vicarage, Cheltenham