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Divine Eros

How do you address the Holy Spirit in your prayer life? I call upon the Spirit as my Higher Power, my inner guide, my mentor. But upon examination, I find terms of love are missing. My perception of the Spirit? The One who gets things done. When I need guidance as to what God wants of me, I turn to the Spirit. Or if I need courage to evangelize, I call upon the Spirit.

Of course, I am aware that in the Prayer to the Holy Spirit, we ask that the Spirit: “Kindle in us the fire of Your love.” I am aware too that theologians describe the life of the Trinity as the Spirit flowing from the mutual love of the Father and the Son.  Obviously, the Spirit has a lot to do with love, even the fire of love. But that perception has not penetrated my spiritual life. How do we explain this?

For the longest time, I suspect, we have attributed the actions of the Spirit to the term “grace”, the unmerited assistance given persons by God for their conversion and sanctification. In this view, there is a Higher Power who makes things happen, for which we are grateful, but not quite the Lover in our minds.

Further, the Spirit has been AWOL (absent without leave) for almost 2,000 years of Christian spirituality, until the Charismatic Movement rediscovered the Spirit for us in the Sixties. No doubt, the Spirit’s absence created a certain awkwardness of language. Instead of perceiving the Spirit as the source of loving assistance, we have lived our spiritual lives with the abstract concept of grace. Our spiritual love life needs rekindling.

Fr. Jules J. Toner, SJ states that faith is the radical work of the Spirit, and charity is the principal and crowning work of the Spirit. Let me suggest that we can come closer to an appreciation of the Spirit’s work if we recall Eros from Greek mythology. Eros is the son of the goddess of love who excites erotic love in gods and persons with his arrows. In our times, he gets a lot of publicity around Valentine’s Day.

For us, the Spirit is Divine Eros. The Spirit’s arrows are loving invitations to us to grow in faith in God, in the Historical/Risen Jesus and in the Spirit as well. These loving invitations are the calls of a Lover, calling us to expand our capacity for love. It is the Spirit who awakens our hearts to the possibilities of love each day. It is the Spirit who calls us each day out of our tombs to experience new life like Lazarus. It is the Spirit who invites us daily to live a life vision based on the primacy of love, the radical life vision that Jesus manifested for us.

The Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts through gifts of consolation. Through these gifts we experience our living faith increased in depth or firmness or purity or intensity or effectiveness. Through the Spirit’s consolations, we recognize that something beautiful is happening to us as we experience peace, joy, confidence, exultation and the like. When that happens, we know that we have been struck with the Spirit’s arrows. We know that Divine Eros, the Spirit of Love, is at work.

Of course, we cannot always expect such consolations, because they are the Spirit’s gifts. Let us be grateful when they come; in dry periods look forward with expectancy.

I believe that the Song of Songs in the Bible, which describes a torrid love relationship, is an allegory for the love relationship between the Spirit and ourselves. It is full of the language of desire and passion. Saints like Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross used this book to grow their spirituality. For the essence of the spiritual life is the heart’s surrender. Yet, we have no control over our hearts. We need to depend totally on the Spirit, Divine Eros, to direct arrows at our hearts to awaken them to greater love of God and others.

Perceiving the Spirit as Divine Eros radically changes our relationship with the Spirit and the tone of our spiritual life. Not that our perceptions of the Spirit as our Higher Power or mentor and guide are incorrect. They are correct, but they energize the faculties of our will and our mind, whereas the perception of the Spirit as Divine Eros energizes our heart which is really surrender of our total person to the Spirit—heart, mind and will.

If Cursillistas could discover the Spirit as Divine Eros, the Cursillo Movement would be revolutionized. If the Church proclaimed the Spirit as Divine Eros, it would be as if the Risen Jesus launched the Spirit of Love into the world for the very first time.

 

 

Divine Matchmaker

In the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, there is a character who plays the role of matchmaker. The young men and women in a small Russian town look to her to find marriage partners. Likewise, we can view the Spirit as the Divine Matchmaker who unites us with God the Father and with Jesus and with one another.

In John Haughton, SJ’s Conspiracy of God, the author asks the question: If the Spirit was so important in Jesus’ life, how do we explain the relative silence of the Spirit in the Gospels? He answers: “…the Spirit acts not to point to himself, but to the Other. In the case of Jesus, the Other was the Father…The Spirit inspires in Jesus a desire for union with his Father in his prayer, in his works, in his will…. With us, the Other the Spirit points to is Jesus and through him to the Father.” The Spirit is the Divine Matchmaker!

Come Holy Spirit. We find that same relative silence of the Spirit even in the prayer dedicated to the Spirit, “Come Holy Spirit.” Only one sentence addresses the Spirit directly. Immediately, the Risen Christ (implied) is called upon to “send forth Your Spirit” and in the concluding section God is asked to grant us the Spirit’s gifts.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us Your faithful

and kindle in us the fire of Your love.

(Risen Christ), send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created,

and You shall renew the face of the earth.

O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructs the hearts of the faithful,

grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice

in His consolations. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This prayer sums up the Spirit’s role as Divine Matchmaker. Note: when we pray:  “kindle in us the fire of Your love”, that love is the mutual love of Father and Son. For the Spirit is the expression of Trinitarian love and is therefore the Divine Matchmaker within the Trinity. So, our prayer asks the Spirit to be Divine Matchmaker for us with Jesus and Abba, our Father. Further, we pray that with the Spirit we will reach out to others in love and “renew the face of the earth.” The Spirit is the unifying force within the Trinity, between us and the Trinity, and between us and the whole Body of Christ.

Necessary Dependence. We need the Spirit of love to well up within us to live the spiritual life. By ourselves, we cannot love deeply. Love is a divine virtue. God has gifted us with partnership with His Spirit to live lives of love. Consequently, we need to pray before we pray or before we enter into any spiritual activity, such as celebrating Mass. Or even before we reach out to others in love and compassion. We need to pray that the Spirit will stir up our desire and inflame us with divine love to empower us to love Jesus and be compassionate to others. We have to plug into the Spirit as the divine power source of desire and love as Jesus did. The Spirit is the Divine Matchmaker!

Dependency Transcended. However, there is a dialectic here, the presence of two opposing concepts with a surprising resolution. As Jesus grew in dependency on the Spirit, he grew in awareness of himself as the Chosen One of God, and as truly gift for others. When people encountered Jesus, they knew they encountered the Compassionate One. He gifted them with his presence and affirmed their giftedness. Likewise, we too can experience this same dialectic—the awareness of our own powerlessness and the empowerment by the Spirit of love. As we grow in our dependency on the Spirit, we too can grow in awareness of ourselves as chosen ones of God, who are being empowered to experience ourselves as gift and who can affirm the giftedness of others.

Divine Plan. In the article, The Jesus Process, we saw the historical Jesus as the starting point in the Purgative, Illuminative and Unitive processes we experience in the spiritual life, with the Risen Christ making Jesus’ lived experiences present here and now, and gifting us with his Spirit. But the process does not end with the Spirit. Not only is Jesus the starting point, he must also be the ending point. And that must include the whole Body of Christ. For the deeper we plunge into a life with the Spirit, the more profoundly do we enter into our inner self, and the more wholeheartedly do we reach out to others. The Spirit is always the Divine Matchmaker! That’s the Divine Plan!

Vision for Life Meditation

For a long time I have prayed the Vision for Life Prayer each day, because it sums up the Christian Vision succinctly and reminds me of the virtues that I need to live the Christian Vision. Then one day I began to meditate on this Prayer. I have received much inspiration from this practice, and so I want to share my meditation with you in the hope that it will inspire you to create your own meditation. The prayer appears in boldface; my meditation in lightface:

VISION FOR LIFE PRAYER

My God, be the center of my life.

Be the center of my feelings, desires,

intentions, relationships,

energy and creativity.

Be the center Who brings order

out of the daily chaos

in my mind, heart and will.

Be the center Who empowers me

to cope with my daily dialectic

of positive heart wishes

and powerful death wishes.

Be the center Who calls me each day

out of my tomb to new life

like Lazarus.

Be the center Who awakens my heart

to the possibilities of love each day.

 

Let me see all through Your eyes.

Through the eyes of the Creator

who brought all into being

and saw that it was good.

Through the eyes of the Divine Artist

who brought all into being

in such magnificent beauty

and exquisite design.

Through the eyes of our Father

who loves all his creations

with unconditional love.

Through the eyes of Divine Compassion.

Lord, You are fully present to all Your

creations with infinite love and infinite

attention. You “receive” the presence

and giftedness of each of Your

creations, and You pour out Your life

energies to sustain each in being.

 

Let me see myself as beloved by You.

And that from all eternity.

 

Let me see others

   as my sisters and my brothers.

Equally beloved by You

from all eternity.

We are Your unfinished creations.

We are Your creatures

in the process of becoming.

We are Your diamonds in the rough.

We are Your Spirit-driven creations,

For each of whom You have a vision:

Christ incorporated us all into Himself

at the beginning of time,

and at the end of time

Christ will gather us all unto Himself.

 

Let me see life and creation

   as Your gifts to me.

The gift of personhood.

I am a knowing, loving, willing being

infused with the Spirit

Who empowers me to live a life

of faith, hope and love.

Life is beautiful. Life is Your gift to me.

Creation too is Your gift to me.

You created out of Your own

resources a stage for me to live

my life on, an environment for me to

discover Your presence, beauty and

wisdom.

Creation is beautiful.

Creation is Your gift to me.

 

Jesus, let me see You as the model           

   of compassion to others.

You gifted others with Your presence

and You affirmed their giftedness.

And You carry on Your life

of compassion and communion to

others through the likes of me.

A poor substitute!

So empower me to live like You,

fully present to all my sisters and

brothers with a caring heart

and an attentive mind.

Empower me to be sacrament

of peace, healing and forgiveness

to my sisters and brothers

   as You were when on earth.

Empower me to be channels

of faith, hope and love  to my sisters

and brothers to awaken their faith,

hope and love, as You did

 

Let me see Your presence in

   community as the source of Spirit-

   empowerment.

Let me see Your presence in

   community as the source of my faith

   in community prayer and action.

Risen Jesus, You sacramentalized

community and made it an occasion

for us to grow our souls

through one another

in union with the Spirit.

You empowered community

to be a force for compassion and

enlightenment in their environments.

Risen Jesus, help me to believe

that You still penetrate closed doors

and rooms, closed minds and hearts

to gift us with Your peace

and the Spirit’s powers.

 

Spirit of Jesus, let me see You

   as my Higher Power who guides    

   and enlightens me.

You are my inner guide, my inner

mentor.

I need Your guidance and mentoring

to discern God’s will for me

and the direction of my life

that God desires for me.

Let me see You as the source

   of my courage to act and to lead,

   Completing Christ’s mission.

Spirit of Jesus, put heart into me,

lest I become disheartened.

Due to my own weakness.

Or due to the weakness of my com-

munity that I need so desperately

to support me.

 

Let me see You as my power

   to live the discipline of love.

Spirit of Jesus, Spirit of Love, Divine

Eros, let me see You as my power

to live Jesus’ life vision

of the primacy of love.

Jesus manifested the radical love

of God in a radical way and

gave us a life vision of radical love,

the primacy of love.

Spirit of Love, Divine Eros,

help me to live Jesus’ life vision.

Spirit of Love, let me see You as my

power to live the discipline of love—

to love despite my feelings, my

fatigue,  my differences with others,

and despite the arrogance and

self-centeredness of others.

Spirit of Love, let me see You as my

power to concentrate on pursuing

Jesus’ life vision. Keep it in my focus

through Your initiatives,

inspirations and invitations.

Spirit of Love, let me see You as my

power to patiently pursue Jesus’ life

vision,  one act of love at a time. Amen

 

 

Vision for Life

The book, Psycho-cybernetics, told of successful salespeople envisioning what they would say and how they would act in front of clients. It told of successful golfers envisioning how they would swing a club before they teed off. So, we need a vision for our everyday lives. Even more so for our spiritual lives!

On our Cursillo Weekend, we heard about the need for an ideal vision. The Christian Vision was presented as the ideal vision. But how much of that vision did we capture? Most of us caught that piece of the Vision that says that God loves us. But there is a big difference between our initial response to God’s love and our life-long spiritual journey.

There is a depth and a width to the Christian Vision. Even the piece of the Vision that says that God loves us has many layers of understanding and appreciation. For example, its impact on our relationship to others. Surely, the saints dug deeper into this truth than we have. For us, there is room to move deeper into this piece of the Vision.

As for the width of the Christian Vision, there is the part where Christ calls us to become other Christs to complete his mission of moving people from lives of unholiness to holiness, from slavery to freedom. And there is the role of the Spirit and the role of Christian community that are key elements of the Christian Vision. We must embrace the total Christian Vision to live our lives as Christians and as more fully human beings!

For a vision to be a driving force in our lives, we need to be able to express it. Fortunately, Cursillo has given us the total Christian Vision for our spiritual lives in the Cursillo Holiness Model. The seven Cursillo virtues are the elements of our vision. Last month we said that living the Cursillo Holiness Model will deepen our relationship with each of the Persons of the Trinity. It is by deepening these relationships that we will change our attitudes toward God, self, others, life and creation—the very factors that comprise our vision of life. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Create a prayer that describes the Christian Vision for you.
  2. Repeat this prayer every morning. It will help accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.
  3. Integrate your Vision into your life, recalling it in meaningful moments.

Here is one attempt to express the Christian Vision in prayer:

My God, be the center of my life.

Let me see all through your eyes.

Let me see myself as beloved by you.

Let me see others as my brothers and sisters.

Let me see life and creation as your gifts to me.

 

Jesus, let me see you as a model of compassion to others.

Let me see your presence in community,

As the source of Spirit-empowerment.

Let me see your presence in community,

As the source of my faith in community prayer and action.

 

Spirit of Jesus, let me see you as my Higher Power

Who guides me and enlightens me.

Let me see you as the source of my courage to act and lead,

Completing Christ’s mission.

Let me see you as my power to live the discipline of love.

Model for Holiness

Prior to Vatican ll, holiness was viewed as being a goal only for religious and priests. Since Cursillo was founded prior to Vatican ll, it was only proper that the founders should use the term “piety” for holiness, laypersons being only able to aspire to piety. However, the Spirit was alive in the Church, and Vatican ll proclaimed that holiness was for everyone. So, Cursillo exchanged the term of piety for holiness, but in fact holiness for Cursillo has remained piety since we dwell on external practices, rather than on interior dispositions or virtues.

The good news is that the Spirit is alive in Cursillo. Thanks to the Internet, a proposal for a Cursillo Holiness Model was endorsed by a Cursillo founder on April 1, 2000. These past months, we have been reflecting on this Model of seven Cursillo virtues one at a time.  It should be noted that the founders gave us a living model of holiness, a living experience of holiness which we experienced on our Weekends. It was from this experience that the seven Cursillo virtues were deduced. Now let us ask ourselves: What does this Holiness Model give us and what do we do with it?

First, living the Cursillo Holiness Model will deepen our relationship with each Person of the Trinity. Take the virtue of God-centeredness. As we seek to break out of the prison of self-centeredness and live lives of God-centeredness, we will make God the center of our lives, seeing ourselves, others, life and creation through the eyes of God. God will become our Vision for our entire life. We will become visionaries.

Living the Cursillo Holiness Model will deepen our relationship with the Spirit. As we practice the virtue of dependency on the Spirit, we will look to the Spirit more and more in moments of confusion or when we strive to cooperate with the Spirit’s inspirations. As we strive to grow in courage, we will look to the Spirit to give us the right words to say in our evangelization. Even our resolution to exert discipline in our spiritual lives will be performed, knowing that we are powerless to grow unless we have the power of a Higher Power, the Holy Spirit, to advance in the spiritual life.

Living the Cursillo Holiness Model will deepen our relationship with Christ. Each time we encounter our Christian community, such as at Ultreya and Group Reunion, we will realize that Christ is truly present in this body of believers and that we must grow in the virtue of openness to Spirit-empowerment through Christian community. Further, we will grow in faith that our Palanca prayer and sacrifice will be effective prayer since it is linked to concrete action within the Christian community, where Christ is vitally present. Lastly, as we progressively grow in our capacity to live lives of compassion and communion for others, we will enter more deeply into the life and mission of Christ.

Second, the Cursillo Holiness Model will give direction to our spiritual lives. Depending on our personalities, some Cursillo virtues will be more difficult to acquire than others. The Model reminds us that to live Cursillo spirituality, to live the fully human life, and to become effective evangelizers, we must acquire all seven virtues.

Third, the Cursillo Holiness Model gives us an effective tool to measure our progress in holiness. Asking ourselves in Group Reunion the question: “What spiritual aids have helped me in my spiritual growth?” puts our quest for holiness at the level of practices. The Pharisees would have had a field day with that question. They kept the Sabbath. They gave tithes. And on and on. More appropriately, we can now ask ourselves: “Have I grown in one of the seven Cursillo virtues?”  In effect, this question asks whether we have grown in our relationship to God, to Christ and to the Spirit through our pursuit of the Cursillo virtues. The Cursillo Holiness Model is truly a model for holiness!

Discipline and Spirituality

Discipline and spirituality seem like strange bedfellows. Our spirituality is our personal relationship with Christ’s Spirit. What does discipline have to do with that relationship? When you think about it, discipline is involved in maintaining and nourishing all our relationships. How much more so in a relationship with Christ’s Spirit who constantly calls us to the best that is in us!

Discipline is the training that corrects, molds or perfects our heart desires, our mental faculties and our character for the living of our relationship with Christ’s Spirit. Its goal is to develop habits or virtues, those stable and lasting dispositions that enable us to act or behave consistently in a certain way.

Discipline is to the spiritual life what training is to the athlete, or practice is to the musician or the dancer. Think of the Cursillo virtues such as God-centeredness, compassion, and dependency on the Spirit as spiritual muscles that we need to develop with training to live our Cursillo spirituality, to grow in holiness. It takes the virtue of discipline to develop all other Cursillo virtues.

The need for discipline arises from our human condition. In his book, The Holy Longing, Father Ronald Rolheiser says that we are born with fire in our bellies, an energy source, that drives us to love, beauty and creativity or to destructiveness. Spirituality, ultimately, is what we do about that energy. That energy drove Mother Theresa to heroic accomplishments and that energy drove the rock star Janis Joplin to death at an early age from an overdose of life. We are dealing with a powerful inner force. There are no options here. We all have to deal with it. Discipline channels our inner energy.

A second aspect of our human condition is that we are faced each day with a decision to follow the way of God-centeredness or the way of Ego-centeredness, the way of loving, compassionate living or the way of alienation. Our spiritual accomplishments are not set in concrete. In fact, when we don’t decide for the positive path, we automatically return to the default position, the way of alienation.

For this fact of life, we need the spiritual discipline of attentiveness. We must be aware of, we must pay attention to the interior landscape of our spirits. What directions are our heart wishes driving us? How healthy are our inner soliloquies, the constant dialogue we conduct with ourselves? How are the exterior landscapes of our lives affecting our interior lives?

A third aspect of our human condition is that the average person has some 60,000 separate thoughts each and every day, according to Psychologist Wayne Dyer. Most of them are a repetition of the previous day’s chatter. He describes the chatter this way: “Our thoughts are a hodgepodge of continuous dialogue about schedules, money worries, sexual fantasies, grocery lists, drapery problems, concerns about the children, vacation plans, on and on.” How much room does that deluge allow for living the spiritual life?

For this fact of life, we need the opposite of the spiritual discipline of attention; we need the virtue of inattention. Inattention means not taking our egos with its plays for sympathy or admiration too seriously, being able to watch one’s compulsive needs wilt under the discipline of inattention

Further, effective discipline always requires an ongoing training program. That is why formation is such an important element in Cursillo spirituality. However, it takes discipline to make formation happen. We need the discipline to manage our time to allow room for spiritual reading and other spiritual exercises. And we need the discipline to plan and manage our own spiritual formation process.

Faith in Prayer and Sacrifice

As Cursillistas, we are called to be Palanca people. On our Weekend, we discovered a faith community who believes in the power of prayer and sacrifice to open others to the Spirit’s empowerment. There are hidden depths in our practice of Palanca. When we discover them, we realize that its practice offers us the opportunity to deepen our faith and spirituality.

Palanca is essentially intercessory prayer. However, when we really pray for another, not just say words that are nice, we take that person to our inner center, where we share that person’s concern with God. We become gift to the other person through the operation of the Spirit. So intercessory prayer benefits us first of all by turning us into gift. When we reveal our prayer to the person for whom we are praying, we are encouraging that person by our support. My revelation stirs the Spirit within that person. Whether or not the Spirit heals that person, or provides the strength to accept his or her problem, something has happened. The Spirit in us has moved the Spirit in another. Our Palanca give us the opportunity to experience this spiritual communion with another.

Father Ronald Rolheiser in his book, The Holy Longing, tells us that our faith in the power of prayer depends on an important piece of theology—Christ’s Incarnation. If we look upon the Incarnation as a 33-year experiment with Christ physically walking the earth and today present just in the Eucharist, leaving us the Holy Spirit, a real but less physical presence of God, we don’t have the whole picture. The Body of Christ also means the community of believers, which is also the real presence. So Christ is Jesus, the Eucharist and the community of faith. Through us, Christ still has physical skin, and can still be physically seen, touched and heard. Not metaphorically, but in a real sense.

Not only is this a dogma to be believed, but it is the core of Christian spirituality—with important consequences for our understanding of the power of prayer. We often wonder: “Why does God not answer our prayers?” Rolheiser says that prayers of petition have power to the extent that they are linked to concrete action within the Christian community: “To pray …demands concrete involvement in trying to bring about what is pleaded for in the prayer.”

Thus, our Palanca is based on solid theology and Christian spirituality. It is not just some nice practice. It is incarnational, meaning that it is physical. We don’t just remember the candidates in our prayers. Palanca is putting flesh behind our petitions. We make sure that they know about our prayers and sacrifices. We are the hands of Christ that write the letters.

Further, our personal Palanca is part of a communal effort to enable Christ’s Spirit to empower the candidates to conversion. Our prayers and sacrifices are added to the concrete efforts of the team and the outside community. In so doing we are living the dogma that Christ is present in the community of believers.

Also, we deeply believe that our Palanca, in the form of sacrifices, put us in touch with Christ’s suffering. Through Christ’s Self-gift, he won for us a great victory of reconciliation, making possible personal integration, union with God and others. Through our self-gift in our Palanca, we fill up what is lacking in Christ’s suffering to secure wholeness and healing for others.

Yes, Palanca is intercessory prayer at its best, but it is so much more than that. Palanca is living the ongoing Incarnation of Christ in his community of believers.

Further, our acts of Palanca are a manifestation of our faith and the opportunity to grow our faith and spirituality.

Courage to Act

Certainly, it takes great courage for Cursillistas to be evangelizers bent on transforming the world around them. However, note that the courage that we are asked to grow in and exhibit is a faith-based courage. It is essentially spiritual in nature, but always translates itself into courageous action and even risk-taking before God and people.

We see many examples of this kind of courage in the Old Testament. One such example: God told Abraham: “Go forth from your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, to the land I will show you.” In other words, leave the known for the unknown. Sever all ties to your present life. Make a whole new fresh beginning. Risk-taking was, and is, an essential element of our faith.

The early civil rights movement was literally an act of faith-based risk-taking. Deeply affected by the biblical account of Moses and his role in the liberation of the Jewish people fromEgypt, Dr. Martin Luther King inspired men, women and children with the courage to confront police dogs, shotguns, fire hoses and tear gas. Black Americans and their supporters were asked to put their faith on the line, leaning on God as they shouldered the risks. Faith-based courage won the final victory.

The famous psychologist Rollo May had this to say of courage: “It is not a virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundation that underlies and gives value to all other virtues and personal values.” A pretty strong statement that suggests that a faith-based courage underlies all Cursillo virtues.

It takes a faith-based courage to be God-centered in our culture. To live our faith, we really have to be counter-culturists. We need the courage not to conform to the dictates of the entertainment world, media and peer pressure.

It takes a faith-based courage to be dependent on the Spirit in our efforts to evangelize people. We need the faith to believe that the Spirit will put on our lips the right words to say and that the Spirit will open the minds of our hearers.

It takes a faith-based courage to be open to the Spirit in Christian community and to be compassionate to people whom we don’t like. And so with the other Cursillo virtues.

Other signs of a faith-based courage are a spirit of initiative and a sense of responsibility. Our faith will reveal injustice wherever it appears, and we must be people who recognize it, feel responsible for its elimination and be ready to take the first steps that are called for—after prayer to the Spirit for guidance.

Human structures, institutions and programs are all subject to decadence; revisions and critiques are always called for. Here the solitary voice is always needed. We need to be “people who risk the loneliness of thinking things through and who in doing so opt out of the collective and point out in a stumbling or faltering way what needs to be said in a search for truth”, according to Trappist Father James Behrens.

Our calling as Cursillistas is to Christianize our environments. If we are going to change the environments that we circulate in, we will need a faith-based courage to step out and initiate a plan for action.

It takes courage to invite someone to make a Cursillo Weekend. “Will they think of me as a religious freak if they are not interested? Will it change our relationship?”

How do we grow in faith-based courage? By performing acts of courage. The repetition of such acts will produce a “holy” boldness. The author Goethe wrote: “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Only engage, and then the mind grows heated—Begin it, and then the work will be completed.”

Compassion for Others

On our Cursillo Weekend we experienced very deeply God’s compassion for us and the Cursillo community’s compassion for us. We encountered a love community who was there for us, and their care, attention and self-gift to us enabled us to encounter the One who is Absolute Love, Presence and Self-gift. Ideally, our gratefulness for this gift of compassion should convert us to a new relationship with others. Indeed, we should want to grow in the virtue of compassion to live lives of compassion to others.

Our Weekend experience gives the word “compassion” a whole new dimension of meaning. Compassion for Cursillistas is being fully present in a caring, attentive way to another so as to receive the presence and giftedness of the other. When we are compassionate, we give the other person our presence, our hearts and our minds. We offer ourselves totally as self-gift with the expectancy that we will discover the giftedness of the other. Since we are totally committed to the other, we suspend judgment of the other. Consequently, we see the other in an entirely different light.

Christ exemplifies for us the virtue of compassion. Christ lived a life of passionate relationship to others, was fully present to those whom he encountered and was totally self-giving to others. What a magnetic presence Christ must have been! How his sense of love and fellowship must have resonated with those who followed Him! He was clearly an enormous love force in their midst.

There are two essential steps to exercise compassion. First, center down by focusing your attention on your body, mind and will in a very gentle and loving way; we might look upon this step as being compassionate to ourselves. This act of self-compassion enables us to reach out to others. Then, focus on the person you wish to encounter in compassion, again in a gentle and loving way until you experience the presence of the other’s spirit. It will take some practice; so make a deliberate practice of being compassionate toward others. Being Christ means being compassionate toward others.

When we live compassion for others to its fullest degree, we become communion to others. As compassion is being spiritually present to others, communion is being physically present to others. In his book, Our Journey Home, Jean Vanier gives us an insight into the meaning of communion. He says that communion is being bodily present to others. Body language—gestures, tone of voice, the look in our eyes, a handshake or a hug—is the fundamental instrument of communion. In the way we look and listen, we can reveal to someone his or her importance and uniqueness.

People are hungering for communion,Vaniersays, though they may not be aware of the term. Compassion brought to the height of communion is the radical love of others that Christ is asking of us. Christ understood the human need of people for communion. On the night before He died, He gave us the Eucharist. Being communion to others helps us appreciate Christ’s being Communion to us.

As other Christs, we are called to love others as Christ did, but it is difficult. It takes practice and education of the heart to accept the unique differences of others. We must learn to accept that they are called to develop their own potentials, and we should be willing to help that process. We must learn to respect their personality types, especially when they are so different from our own. People’s diversity is God’s creativity.

Be compassion, be communion to others. In this way, we are empowered to make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ, whether the person is a candidate for Cursillo or a fellow Cursillista.

Openness to Christian Community

At every stage of our developmental growth from childhood to adult, we become ourselves through the others in our lives—our parents, our teachers, our friends, our spouses, our mentors and spiritual guides. Probably we can all look back at some juncture in our lives and say to ourselves: “How I wish I could have been more open to so and so!”

Grace builds on nature. “Where two or three are gathered in my Name, there I am.” And powerfully so. Beware of entering into Christian community: beautiful and won-derful things can happen. Christ’s Spirit operates on us through others. If we are open!

Our Cursillo Weekend was an experience of Spirit-empowerment through Christian community. Despite the fact that we were told that the Weekend was not a retreat, in our heads we thought of it as a retreat. We discovered that it was an encounter with a Spirit-driven community. On our Weekend, we were drawn gradually, almost effortlessly, into the community. Spirit-empowerment came easy.

In some ways our Cursillo Weekend spoiled us. We expect to be overwhelmed by the power of community, and instead find ourselves underwhelmed. The big difference now is that we must consciously and deliberately choose to be open to the Spirit’s presence and power in our community. The need to choose to be open can be better appreciated if we understand our human condition. We must experience inner freedom to be open to the workings of the Spirit in our lives. It is as if we are closed in on ourselves, and we need a miracle to open us up. Christian community is involved in the miracle of inner freedom and empowerment, the gifts of the Spirit.

Openness is being fully present to others to receive their gifts of the Spirit to us. Openness is being willing to change—our attitudes toward God, self, others, life. The Spirit does not operate in complacency. Openness is being willing to take risks, to be vulnerable; perhaps to reveal in group reunion something that we are not comfortable with. Openness is the willingness to do the uncomfortable; for example, to speak in public. Openness is approaching community with the expectancy that you will experience the Spirit’s empowerment.

Openness happens especially when we have experienced inner change. All of a sudden, due to our altered state, we understand what we have not understood before. We perceive what we could not perceive before. Reality has not changed; we have changed. We are looking at reality through another pair of eyes.

What are the obstacles to openness? Mental blocks—she is only a woman or he is only a man. Misperceptions—religion is all about conformity to laws or spirituality is only for New Agers. Willful obstinacy—we don’t want to accept new ideas, new perceptions, new visions because we would have to change present attitudes, and therefore unconsciously we render ourselves incapable of understanding them.

Another obstacle to openness is our attitude toward ourselves. In Gregory Baum’s book, Man Becoming, the author states that if we perceive ourselves as static, unchangeable, complete, we lock out the Spirit from our lives. Each of us is in the process of becoming, and the Spirit is deeply involved in that process.

The Holy Spirit has given Cursillo a special charism—Spirit-empowerment through Christian community. It does not work automatically. We must perceive it as a gift that our Cursillo community can give us. We must hunger for it. We must be open to it.

Openness to the power of community is essential to our own personal spiritual development, and it is essential to the development of a truly Christian community.