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Renewing Cursillo

Two factors call Cursillo to renewal. First, in the 1940’s the Cursillo founders created our Movement to draw young men in Spain to Apostolic Action. They had to keep it simple. So they gave them an Action Plan, an unforgettable Weekend experience and a methodology to live their Cursillo Vision. A very sound psychological approach for the times and their young audience. But more is needed today.

Second, the Catholic Church itself has undergone renewal through Vatican ll to bring Catholics into a more mature, adult practice of their faith. Remember that when the founders created Cursillo, they did not have the advantage of Vatican ll. Or the inspiration of the Charismatic Movement in the 1960’s which opened the Church’s eyes to the Holy Spirit. Or the Church’s newly discovered Resurrection spirituality in the 1990’s. The Church has evolved. Can Cursillo do less? Cursillo needs a spirituality that embraces these advances in theology and spirituality.

Renewal does not mean abandoning Cursillo’s legacy. It requires discovering the implicit spirituality at the heart of the Movement and discerning the intentions of the Cursillo founders. Using this approach, we discover their deep appreciation for the Holy Spirit’s role in empowering the Movement and we perceive three powerful spiritual engines that drive the Movement. They are: the Holiness Engine, the Community Engine and the Evangelization Engine.

First, let us focus on Cursillo’s Evangelization Engine. Note: I am calling the Cursillo tripod  Cursillo’s Evangelization Engine—the familiar Holiness (Piety), Formation (Study) and Evangelization (Action).

The first requirement for Cursillo’s renewal? Realize that the Cursillo tripod is not a checklist of spiritual duties to be followed. Rather, it is a Spiritualization Process. Cursillistas must call upon the Spirit to set in motion the Process. Otherwise, we do the spiritual unspiritually. This dynamic Process is the Spirit at work in us. It is the Spirit who awakens our hearts to desire Holiness. It is the Spirit who enlightens us through Formation. It is the Spirit who incites us to Evangelization.

The result? The Spirit makes things happen. We discover that our pursuit of Holiness is the fire that drives our Spiritualization Process  We discover that our quest for Holiness and Formation activities ignite one another. We discover that together they arouse our desire to Evangelize, and our Evangelization efforts vitalize our Holiness and Formation. For when we evangelize others, we discover that we evangelize ourselves most of all. Put the Spirit into the Process!

The second requirement for Cursillo’s renewal?  Realize that the Cursillo community methodology of Group Reunion and Ultreya are added forms of the Spiritualization Process—the Spirit transforming us through others. Otherwise, Cursillo could become Club Cursillo, or simply intent on methodology. Put the Spirit into the Process. Put the Spirit into Cursillo’s Group Reunions and Ultreyas!

The result? Cursillistas are incited to expect the Spirit’s presence and operation in their communities. That expectancy will produce wonderful experiences. Through our Ultreyas and Group Reunion we will experience personal and spiritual growth in our on-going Spiritualization Process of Holiness, Formation and Evangelization. We will be moved to greater Apostolic Action.

The third requirement for Cursillo renewal is to power up our Holiness Engine. Unlike the other two spiritual engines, we have had to create it from scratch. Why? Because before Vatican ll, the Church held out Holiness as a life vision only for those in religious life, the state of perfection. It took Vatican ll to open up Holiness to all. However, in the article, Recapturing the Vision of the Cursillo Founders, which can be found under this blog’s heading, Founder’s Endorsement, our Cursillo Weekend experience was used to create our Holiness model with its seven virtues. Msgr. Sebastian Gayá, the priest/founder of Cursillo, endorsed this approach in an email, also on this blog.

However, we need to take a fresh look at the seven virtues and see them as our Holiness Engine’s powerful cylinders. First, note that the Church has focused almost exclusively on the Historical Jesus. That left the Holy Spirit as the Forgotten God. The Risen Jesus has been treated as an historical fact, rather than the source of empowering spirituality. We need a threefold spirituality based on all the dimensions of Jesus—the Historical Jesus, the Risen Jesus and Jesus’ Spirit—to fuel Cursillo’s spiritual engines.

For Cursillo’s model of holiness, we will use this chart of Vision, Values and Practice. Vision represents our attitudes toward Jesus in all his dimensions—Historical Jesus, Risen Jesus, Jesus’s Spirit. Values are the virtues needed to live our threefold spirituality; and Practice, the activities that flow from this spirituality. Let’s look at the seven Cursillo virtues in this light:

  • God-centeredness—The Historical Jesus revealed God to us and a new way of life. Jesus’ revelation helps us to move from an Ego-centered life to a God-centered life, our first conversion. We begin to see all through the eyes of God—ourselves, others, life, creation. We discover that this way of life fulfills our deepest heart wishes. It is a virtue that we have to work at constantly.
  • Compassion—The Historical Jesus chose a life mission of compassion for the wounded in society. But Jesus took his compassion to a whole new level—beyond mere pity. Those Jesus healed saw him as a person fully present to them, with a caring heart and attentive mind. Jesus is our model and empowerer of deep compassion for others.
  • Spirit-Dependency—The Spirit gifts us with faith that gives us an intelligence and vision that no human reasoning can provide. The Spirit grants us the strength of hope beyond human expectations. The Spirit inspires us to be generous givers beyond any human measure. We need to depend and call upon the Spirit to live the Cursillo Vision.
  • Courage to Act—The Spirit is our Higher Power who strengthens us for courageous Apostolic Action. But it is not the courage of the foolhardy or the power hungry. It is a faith-based courage that always translates itself into courageous action and even risk-taking. We need to ask the Spirit to transform us into bold evangelizers to transform our environments.
  • Discipline—The Spirit is our coach and trainer who carries on a Divine Dialogue with us to help us discern both the holy and unholy movements of our hearts. Discipline is to the spiritual life what training is to the athlete, or practice is to the musician or dancer. We need to keep in touch with the Spirit and ask for help.
  • Openness to Community—The Risen Jesus sends his Spirit to inspire us through others, if we are open. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am,” promised the Risen Jesus. And powerfully so. Our Cursillo communities of Group Reunion and Ultreya are occasions for our Spirit-empowerment. Before meetings, let us practice openness of heart.
  • Faith in Community—In making community the occasion for Spirit- empowerment, the Risen Jesus empowers us to greater faith in communal prayer and action. We must be believers in the power of prayer. We must practice Palanca to open others to the Spirit in them. We must act with boldness as a community, knowing that the Spirit is our Higher Power.

The Cursillo founders have given us a great legacy—the building blocks to create a Spirit-driven spirituality. We have drawn out Cursillo’s three spiritual engines from their resources. And we have created a threefold spirituality based on Jesus in all his dimensions to fuel those spiritual engines.

In the Gospels, we read of the land owner who provided his stewards with talents to invest for him while he was on a journey. The fearful steward hid his talent in the ground. Isn’t that what we are doing when we imitate slavishly the Cursillo founders’ original methodology? Should we not be using their legacy to renew Cursillo into a Spirit-driven Movement for our times? Remember: if Cursillo is renewed, we will be renewed.

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!

Fueling Cursillo’s Engines

In the article, “Recapturing the Vision of the Cursillo Founders” which appears under the Founder’s Endorsement on this blog’s opening page, three spiritual engines were identified as driving the Cursillo Movement—the Holiness Engine, the Community Engine and the Evangelization Engine. The question remains: What fuels these three spiritual engines?

The short answer? The fuel of spirituality. The spiritual formation process described in this program invites us to fuel up our spiritual engines. A Resurrection-based spirituality is presented that focuses on helping us to develop deep relationships with all the dimensions of Jesus—the Historical Jesus, the Risen Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus–for an integrated and dynamic spirituality. It is this threefold spirituality that provides the high octane fuel to drive Cursillo’s three powerful spiritual engines of growth.

1. Holiness Engine.The Spirit powers our Holiness Engine through invitations to us to grow in faith in God, in the Historical/Risen Jesus and in the Spirit himself. What happens when we accept the Spirit’s invitations? We grow in the seven Cursillo virtues that we have identified as Cursillistas’ path to holiness:

  • We grow in faith in God which leads us increasingly to God-centeredness, our breakthrough conversion from self-centeredness and our lifetime pursuit.
  • We grow in faith in the Spirit which leads us to greater dependency on the Spirit for empowerment, to greater courage to complete Jesus’ mission, and to greater power to live the discipline of love.
  • We grow in faith in the Historical/Risen Jesus which leads us to greater compassion for others and to greater faith in the presence of the Risen Jesus in community as the source of Spirit-empowerment, strengthening our faith in community prayer and action.

Holiness is simply the Holy Spirit inviting us to deepen our relationship with Jesus in all his dimensions, and our gradual, increasing acceptance of those invitations. Further, the practice of Spirit-centered spirituality awakens us to the Divine Dialogue between God and ourselves. Imagine: God dialogues with us! The greatest story NEVER told!

As the star salesman in Music Man said, “You gotta know the territory.” The territory is our deepest, positive feelings. Here God calls us to make changes in our lives for greater growth and to live more creatively and fully. But you gotta know the discernment process! A deep relationship with the Spirit is absolutely essential: “Human life is Christian life in the measure that it is lived under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of Christ,” writes Fr. Jules Toner, SJ.

2. Community Engine.The Risen Jesus powers our Community Engine. He sacramentalized Christian community, and so we can grow our spirituality with one another (Group Reunion, Ultreya, Leaders School) through Spirit-empowerment. Our Community Engine requires the high power energy of both Spirit-centered and Incarnational (Resurrection) spiritualities.

  • The practice of Incarnational spirituality enables us to grow in faith in the promise of the Risen Jesus to be present with us whenever we gather in community in his name. We need the faith that the Risen Jesus here and now penetrates our communities. We must believe that the Risen Jesus still penetrates closed doors and rooms, closed minds and hearts to gift us with his peace and the Spirit’s powers.
  • The practice of Spirit-centered spirituality can power our communities to become Spirit-driven, growth-oriented and evangelizing communities—the signs of truly dynamic Christian communities Cursillistas must come to believe that Cursillo possesses a special charism—Spirit-empowerment through Christian community.

Cursillistas must come to their meetings with the expectancy that that the Spirit will empower them to grow individually and as members of a community. Cursillistas must come to their meetings with a hunger for spiritual growth, knowing that we are all in the development process powered by the Spirit. And Cursillistas must leave their meetings with the desire to spread the Good News to others.

Otherwise, Cursillo communities can degenerate into Club Cursillos (social organizations) if they are not driven by people who are sensitive to the presence and guidance of the Spirit, the gift of the Risen Jesus. And when events call for change requiring communal decision-making and discernment, its success will depend on the daily practice of personal discernment of the Spirit’s directions by the individuals involved. Cursillo is a spiritual enterprise: we need the Spirit as guide and mentor.

3.  Evangelization Engine. This is our dynamic growth process engine of holiness, formation and evangelization. It takes all three spiritualities to drive the Evangelization Engine. Here we will focus on evangelization:

Become evangelizers. We don’t wake up one morning and decide that we are evangelizers. Becoming an evangelizer is a process that begins with our first efforts at evangelization. Our Christ-centered spirituality focusing on the Historical Jesus helps us to put on the mind and heart of Jesus.

Jesus was a fully integrated person. He could be an idealist, but he could also be a Good Samaritan. He      could be an achiever but also an optimist. He could be a  searcher for wisdom but also a feeling person. He could be serene, and loyal to institutions, but also a bold leader who could confront the establishment. As such, Jesus is an ideal model of an evangelist for us. To be successful at evangelization,we must become the fully integrated person that Jesus was.

Most importantly, to become evangelizers, we must become fired up by the love and compassion for others that drove Jesus. Jesus demonstrated the ultimate possibilities of love by showing how far love can drive a person. Jesus revealed God as radical love and manifested God’s radical love in a radical way, becoming our Crucified Lover. In so doing, Jesus gave us a life vision based on radical love, on the primacy of love.

Proclaim the Good News. When Jesus came out of the river Jordan anointed by the Spirit, he became a man passionate about his mission. The Spirit, who was a continuous presence in Jesus’ life, had called forth Jesus’ radical faith, hope and love which transformed him into a kerygmatic evangelizer (an absolutely confident proclaimer of the Good News). Jesus’ holy partnership with the Spirit is another case of the greatest story NEVER told. Jesus lived a Spirit-centered spirituality. To proclaim the Good News, we need the fire of the Spirit. We need the Spirit as our inner guide and mentor. It is the Spirit who will put the right words into our mouths and it is the Spirit who will open up the hearts of those we are striving to evangelize.

Be Jesus to Others. Evangelizing is more than what we do or say to others: it is being the Risen Jesus to others, manifesting the Risen Jesus to others, carrying on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation. It is in the Program’s Incarnation-centered Spirituality that we discover that Jesus did not live on earth for just 33 years and then disappeared into heaven. Jesus lives on in us. It is in Incarnation-centered spirituality that we discover that as members of Christ’s Body, we are empowered to carry on the work of Jesus. What Jesus did, we can do. Through the presence of Jesus in us, we are empowered to be sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness to others, as Jesus was in his times. Another case of the greatest story NEVER told!

What we have said is that this threefold spirituality described in this program provides the high octane fuel to drive Cursillo’s three powerful spiritual engines of growth. Christian spirituality is all about Jesus. Spiritual formation is all about discovering Jesus in all his dimensions. But we cannot stop at our new knowledge.

We must practice union with the Historical Jesus in our prayer, study and actions because Jesus’ whole life on earth was sacramentalized by the Risen Jesus and is a source of empowerment for us. We must practice Resurrection with the Risen Jesus by looking upon all of life with a Resurrection mindset. And we must practice Pentecost with the Spirit of Jesus by calling upon the Spirit for wisdom and courage in our daily lives.

Without this threefold spirituality, Cursillo’s spiritual engines run on empty. With this threefold spirituality, Cursillo’s engines roar and Jesus’ mission gets accomplished.

If our pursuit of holiness deepens our faith in God, in the Historical/Risen Jesus and the Spirit, and if evangelization fires up our love of others, then our striving for spiritual formation produces hope in us. And hope energizes our faith and love. As we penetrate more and more the mystery of Jesus through spiritual formation, leading us to increasingly practice the fruits of our search, we become more immersed in hope. Spiritual formation is the dynamic catalyst of the spiritual life, and consequently of the Cursillo Movement itself.

Community Power

Through the ongoing Incarnation of Christ, each of us has the powers to heal others and to bind others to Christ through our love. Our powers are derived from the fact that we as individuals are incorporated into the Body of Christ. The question remains: Does the special presence of the Risen Christ in communities give any special powers to those who come together in community?

Growth Power. Something happens when people come together in the name of Christ. The Risen Christ is present, gifting them with His Spirit. In this environment, they have the capacity to actualize the power of the indwelling Spirit within each other. Given the chance, the Spirit releases dimensions of our personalities that in our ordinary lives we are unwilling or unable to display. We call these growth experiences moments of Spirit-empowerment through Christian community, Cursillo’s special charism.

Psychologists tell us that we grow or become more fully ourselves through other people. As Christians, we would say that differently, because we believe that there is essentially a spiritual reality that we are dealing with, namely, an encounter with the Spirit’s power in our relationships. Of course, we must come to Christian community (Ultreya, Group Reunion, etc.) with openness to the empowerment of Christian community, with an awareness of Cursillo’s charism, and with an expectancy that the Spirit will empower us to grow individually and as members of our community.

Prayer Power. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells us: “Everyone who asks receives; everyone who searches finds.” But why does God not answer our prayers? We ignore the meaning of Christ’s ongoing Incarnation. In his book, The Holy Longing, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser answers that question by making two distinctions. First, when we petition God through Jesus Christ, what is being asked for must be asked through Jesus Christ and ourselves as members of the Body of Christ. Second, he says: “Prayers of petition have power to the extent that they are linked to concrete action within a community of faith and love.” For example, our personal Palanca is part of a communal effort to petition Christ’s Spirit for candidates’ conversion. Christ’s ongoing Incarnation has changed the way we petition God: we flesh out our petitions with action.

Forgiveness Power. As Catholics, we believe in the forgiveness power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That said, Rolheiser points out the role of community in having our sins forgiven: “To state things rather crassly…if I commit a serious sin on Saturday night and, whatever my physical state on Sunday morning, enter a church with some sincerity and contrition in my heart, I am forgiven my sin. I am touching the hem of Christ’s garment….We can forgive each other’s sins; not we, but the power of Christ within us.” He points out that St. Augustine stated that when Christians stood around the altar as a community and prayed the Lord’s Prayer, any sins they had ever committed would be forgiven. Such is the forgiveness power of community.

Infallibility Power. Infallibility is another power of Christian community. Are you surprised? Fr. Ladislas M. Orsy, SJ, a professor of law at Georgetown University, quotes the Vatican ll documents: “The whole body of the faithful who received an anointing which comes from the holy one…cannot be mistaken in belief. It shows this characteristic through the entire people’s supernatural sense of the faith, when, ‘from the bishops to the last of the faithful’ it manifests a universal consensus in matters of faith and morals.” Fr. Orsy writes: “Infallibility is not the exclusive privilege of the pope and of the bishops in council: it resides in the whole people.” Of course, the pope is the guide and spokesperson for the gift of infallibility.

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.

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.”

Holiness and Virtues

This program begins with a discussion of holiness in general and the Cursillo virtues that lead to holiness.The concept of holiness may embarrass us, leave us lukewarm or fire us up. It all depends on our perception of holiness. A positive perception converts us to become seekers of holiness. An ambivalent perception produces half-hearted quests. What is our perception of holiness? Is it really positive?

Like a diamond, holiness is many-faceted. No one description will define holiness. Each description will catch one facet of holiness. However, taking all the descriptions together will give us a deep insight into this very rich concept. So, let us try to describe holiness in various ways, and even give a working definition.

Holiness is process, not a state of perfection. It is our process of striving to live the ideal vision, the Christian Vision. It is our process of becoming contemplatives in action by living the total Cursillo tripod. It is our process of stretching ourselves to embrace Christ’s entire Mystical Body with all its wounded humanity. It is our process of entering more deeply and identifying with Christ’s life, death and resurrection—the ultimate process that leads us to become other Christs. It is our process of fulfilling our own heart wishes to love and to be loved, to share our life experiences and to grow.

Holiness is logic. We might reason: A basic flaw exists in our human nature that alienates us from ourselves, God, others and creation. If we want to live a fully human life, we must admit our powerlessness, realize that there is a Higher Power Who can help us overcome our human condition, and decide to turn our lives over to the Spirit’s empowerment. Perfectly logical!

Holiness is wholeness. One way to look at the basic flaw in our human nature is that we have holes in our psychic lives. Holiness can be looked upon as striving for our own unique wholeness. We are all wounded. We all need healing. Paradoxically, striving for holiness is the process of becoming more fully human. Holiness is the pursuit of the meaning of life and the fullness of life.

Holiness is commitment. Once we discover the presence and empowerment of Christ’s Spirit in our lives, commitment takes place. We conclude that such a Higher Power is worth knowing better, worth being very close to. We commit to living the interior life, a personal relationship with Christ’s Spirit.

Now here is a working definition of holiness that we can apply to our spiritual lives: holiness is the process of acquiring the virtues that we experienced deeply on our Weekend, through human effort and Spirit-empowerment. Those Cursillo virtues are God-centeredness, openness to community empowerment, dependence on the Spirit, compassion, courage to act and to lead, faith and discipline.

Two points about this definition. First, human effort is necessary. It demonstrates that we have the right intentions and prepares us to receive the Spirit’s empowerment. We have to exert human effort while we are mindful of our powerlessness—a tricky balancing act. Second, think of Cursillo’s seven virtues as spiritual muscles that we need to develop with spiritual exercises to live our Cursillo spirituality, to grow in holiness.