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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.

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.

Formation for Holiness

Christ said that there are two great commandments. Love God with your whole mind, heart and soul. And love your neighbor as yourself. So holiness is really all about love. God calls us to become great lovers of God and others. What does this challenge do to our concept of formation?

Formation cannot be understood in splendid isolation. It can only be understood in its relationship to holiness and our call to be contemplatives in action. Holiness is the goal; formation is only the means. If holiness is the process of our becoming great lovers of God and man, then formation is involved in that process. But is this your perception of the concept of formation? Or does it still mean study to you?

Let us look at a whole new way of perceiving formation. The inspiration for this new perception comes from Erich Fromm’s book, The Art of Loving, a classic on the subject. Fromm says that love is not a sensation, but a faculty, a power, a capacity. He says that “love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting or carpentry.” It requires knowledge and effort. He divides the learning process into two parts: “one, the mastery of the theory; and the other, the mastery of the practice.”

Thus, formation can be defined as the art of loving God and others. It means mastering the “theory” of the Good News and the wisdomof spiritual writers, and mastering the practice of the Cursillo virtues, until eventually the results of our theoretical knowledge and the results of our practice are blended into one, our total transformation into Christ, the greatest lover the world has ever seen.

Note: no one can teach us how to love; it is just too personal. However, Fromm shares with us approaches to the practice of love. The practice of any art, and by extension the art of loving God and others, has certain general requirements. First, it requires that the mastery of the art must be a matter of ultimate concern. There must be nothing else in the world more important than the art—for us, the art of loving God and others.

Second, the art of loving God and others requires discipline. We will never be good at anything, unless we do it in a disciplined way. Doing it when “I am in the mood” may be nice, but it won’t make us masters of the art of loving. Not only does it require us to practice a certain amount of time each day, but it requires discipline in our whole life—performing our spiritual exercises on a regular basis, not indulging in escapist activities, not overeating or overdrinking.

Third, the art of loving God and others requires concentration. Anyone who has ever attempted to learn an art knows this. Yet, our culture drives us to an unconcentrated and diffused mode of life. The most important step in learning concentration is to learn to be alone with ourselves—without reading or listening to the radio. For instance, practicing centering down and being aware of one’s breathing. Our power of concentration is also helped by learning to be concentrated on everything we do—in listening to music, in reading a book, in listening to a person, in contemplating a view.

Fourth, the art of loving God and others requires patience. If we are after quick results, we can never learn an art. Most arts require learning rudimentary skills before they are practiced. An apprentice in carpentry begins by learning how to plane wood. An apprentice in piano playing begins by practicing scales. For the art of loving God and others, we may have to learn: how to pray; how to be aware of our interior feelings, moods and desires; how to practice mindfulness.

Indeed, formation is the art of turning us into great lovers of God and others!

Dynamic Evangelization Model

We are all familiar with the Cursillo tripod of piety, study and action, or under its new nomenclature, of holiness, formation and evangelization. Whatever we call its three legs, the tripod remains a mechanical model, incapable of showing relationships between the three legs.

However, the article, “Recapturing the Vision of the Cursillo Founders.” introduced a new perception of the Cursillo tripod. We now see the Cursillo tripod as a dynamic model, a dynamic process, depicting the dynamic reality of the evangelization process. Therefore, we are calling the Cursillo tripod our Evangelization Model.

By perceiving our Evangelization Model as a dynamic process, we see the relationships between holiness, formation and evangelization and how they interact with one another. In general, our growth in holiness drives us to focus our efforts on formation, which is our on-going search for ways to deepen our holiness. Together, our holiness and formation drive us to share the Good News with others. And in the process of sharing the Good News with others, we deepen our own faith experiences and are formed by our evangelization of others.

What does this dynamic model tell us about our Cursillo spirituality? First, it tells us that evangelization determines the nature of our holiness or spirituality. Everyone is called to holiness, but there are different types. Our holiness is not a monastic holiness. The goal of our holiness is to evangelize society and bring Christ into society’s institutions. So, we are called to be contemplatives in action.

Second, evangelization is the fruit of our growth in holiness and our efforts at formation. You will know them by their fruits. The energy of a vital spirituality must flow into evangelization and mission that include social concerns, justice and charity to all persons without limit of human boundary.

Third, matters such as social and justice issues demanding evangelization will also dictate in part the nature of our formation.

Fourth, and most importantly, when we evangelize others, we evangelize ourselves most of all. In the middle of our evangelization activities, we discover new spiritual insights, we find more courage to act and to lead, we commit ourselves more deeply to Christ’s mission, we become more aware of the Spirit’s presence and empowerment. Evangelization becomes holiness in action. Evangelization becomes the practice of Cursillo virtues. Evangelization transforms us into contemplatives in action.

Fifth, the evangelization process begins with our efforts to grow in holiness. Our holiness is the first and foremost element. Our holiness is the fire that gets the process going. There is no formation or evangelization until we have a burning desire to deepen our relationship with Christ’s Spirit. When desire enters our hearts, we look to spiritual formation for ways to deepen our holiness, our relationship with the Spirit.

Sixth, formation is subservient to our search for holiness. Our holiness even dictates the type of formation that we require. Normally, we think of formation as an activity that we run: we decide what spiritual books to read or practices that we will perform. However, if we think of holiness as our relationship with the Spirit, we should allow the Spirit to guide us to the formation that we need to grow in holiness. So, we should pray for guidance and make decisions about our spiritual formation during prayer.

Lastly, we need to see formation as adding fuel to the fires of our holiness. We are not seeking to be theologians. We are seeking to be contemplatives in action or saints and apostles. Our formation efforts must contribute to that goal.

Spiritual Action Plan

To live the Christian Vision, we need to charge and recharge our spiritual batteries. The source of that energy? Our spirituality! For Cursillistas, living the Cursillo Tripod empowers us to discover and grow into rich depths of spirituality.

Actually, the Tripod is not a spirituality. It is an Action Plan. It is a point of departure for searching for spirituality. For searching for piety (holiness). For searching through study (spiritual formation). And for searching through action (evangelization). We commit to this Action Plan—after we have made the Spirit-driven decision to shift from a life of self-centeredness to God-centeredness.

“Every moment of the search is an encounter with God,” writes Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist. Every moment of our searching through the Tripod is an encounter with Jesus’ Spirit. Our spirituality begins with our searching!

Commitment Spirituality. Let’s start with two points. One, that there are at least three milestones on the spiritual journey for Cursillistas. Two, and most importantly, that the Cursillo Tripod is an essential element of all three. The first milestone is Commitment Spirituality. Here is how it evolves. On the Weekend many Cursillistas have a mountaintop experience. They have seen the Christian Vision. They have heard how others have responded to Jesus’ call to evangelize themselves and the world around them. They know they want to do something—for others, for society. They know vaguely that they should do something to grow in holiness and spiritual formation.

Yet they are faced with a dilemma. They feel committed to the Action Plan of the Cursillo Tripod. At the same time, they realize that they don’t have the capacity to bring about their own holiness or anyone else’s. They understand that God created their hearts for infinite love, but carrying on a love affair with the Infinite Lover is far beyond them.

Here is where Commitment Spirituality comes in. Cursillistas commit blindly to live the Christian Vision through the Cursillo Tripod. Further, they commit to putting themselves at the disposal of Jesus’ Spirit. Trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide them in their search for holiness, spiritual formation and evangelization of others. Surrendering themselves to the unknown. Not fully understanding. But having faith that Jesus’ Spirit will work through the Cursillo Tripod. Commitment Spirituality commits them to both trusting and acting at the same time.

Ideally, this deep, fundamental spirituality begins on the Weekend. But Jesus’ Spirit constantly prompts us to abandon ourselves to his guidance—whether we are a beginner on the spiritual journey or a saint in the making. For Cursillistas, Commitment Spirituality converts the Action Plan of the Cursillo Tripod into a dynamic spirituality of devotion to Jesus’ Spirit as their inner mentor and guide.

Process Spirituality. The second milestone? Cursillistas discover that the Cursillo Tripod works. They discover that the Cursillo Tripod is not a static, mechanical device. Not a spiritual shopping list. They discover that Jesus’ Spirit operates through it. They discover it is a dynamic process. Their search for holiness is the fire that drives the process. Their holiness drives their search for spiritual formation and their spiritual formation drives their holiness. Both their holiness and spiritual formation drive their efforts at evangelization. And their evangelization impacts their holiness and spiritual formation. A truly dynamic process!

Here is how I discovered that dynamic process. For many years I devoted myself to spiritual formation. But when the number of applicants for Cursillo Weekends had dwindled, I felt challenged to promote Cursillo by speaking at all Saturday and Sunday Masses at some 40 parishes over a two-year period. Amid this hectic activity, I was discovering new spiritual insights. I was finding more courage to act and to lead. I was becoming more aware of Jesus’ presence and the Spirit’s empowerment.

The light went on. The Cursillo Tripod is a dynamic process. What I had taken on faith had become a lived experience. This illumination is the second milestone that Cursillistas achieve—in their own way and in God’s time.

Jesus-centered Spirituality. The third milestone? Through living the dynamic process of the Cursillo Tripod under the guidance of the Spirit, Cursillistas begin to discover Jesus in all his dimensions—the historical Jesus, the Spirit of Jesus and the Risen Jesus. Why? Because the Spirit does not point people to himself, but points them to the other–namely Jesus. Each dimension of Jesus they discover grows them into a deeper relationship with Jesus:

  • They want to grow in their capacity to live according to the mind, heart and will of the historical Jesus.
  • They want to grow in their dependency on Jesus’ Spirit who was a constant presence in Jesus’ life and guided his every action.
  • They want to grow in the Risen Jesus’ empowerment to carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation— being compassion to others; being sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness to others; and being channels of faith, hope and love to awaken these powers in their sisters and brothers.

As Cursillistas, we are always in process, always evolving. It is in our Witness Talks and in our Group Reunions that we share the process, the evolving that we are living. Our witnessing supports others in living their process and evolving. Our mutual sharing gives witness that the Spirit is operating in our lives. The result? Strengthening each other’s faith. Cursillistas committed to the Cursillo Tripod always have something to share.

The Cursillo Tripod is an Action Plan. Living it empowers us to discover and grow into rich depths of spirituality. In the final analysis, our level of holiness is what defines as a person.  And our holiness  is what we arrive at after we have completed the three milestones on our spiritual journey of Commitment Spirituality, Process Spirituality and Jesus-centered Spirituality.