Stewardship of the Charism of the Cursillo Movement

Ottawa, November 27-28 2009

A year or so ago, I attended a meeting of the OMCC (the world organization of the movement) in Dallas.  To begin the meeting with leaders from around the world, we participated in a sort of mini-retreat. The retreat was directed by a Franciscan monk who spoke to us of Stewardship, in the biblical context and also in the context of Cursillo. It was one of those occasions where one hears things one has always known and yet suddenly, what is being said takes on new meaning. I was very impressed  by what was presented when I thought of it in terms of Cursillo. We are called to be stewards of a gift that has been bestowed on us through a humble man named Eduardo Bonnin through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This thing that we all give ourselves to in varying degrees, is not ours to adapt, alter, improve, or distort. It is what it is, nothing more and nothing less.

Father Sanchez, the Franciscan who so caught my attention opened the retreat with this scripture.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other servants their allowance of food at the proper time?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions.” Mt. 24:45-47.

I am going to open this workshop by recapping some of what I heard at that retreat, and in addition some of the reflections of myself and Officers of the CCCC.

The servant to whom Matthew refers, the one whom the Master has set over his household, is elsewhere called a steward.  The steward is one who not only looks after his Master’s goods to be sure they are not wasted, but also sees to it that those under the Master’s care are properly looked after.

The teaching of the Lord in this scripture passage has to do with ‘right relationships’; the Old Testament would speak of it in terms of ‘righteousness’.  When we read or hear the word righteousness it should register in our minds and hearts as ‘due regard’.  The faithful and wise steward recognizes that he is simply that – a steward, a caretaker – one to whom a good has been entrusted for safekeeping.

   

Faithfulness and wisdom in relationship with the  Lord  is at the heart of our discipleship.  The way in which I steward what has been entrusted to me reveals the heart of my relationship with Jesus as my God and Saviour. As we come together in an attempt to revitalize and re-energize our movements, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. “Do I carry out the task entrusted to me for the building up of the body of believers or for my own up-building?  How much of a ‘mix’ is there in my stewardship?  What do I have to do to make sure that I am more disciple and student and less Teacher and Master of my own life and works?

   

Cursillo

The question that the scripture passage asks of we who are stewards of the Cursillo movement, however uncomfortable it may be, is – am I stewarding what has been entrusted to me?  Am I being faithful and wise in my administration of a good that belongs to another?  Do I recognize that the Lord has called me to be responsible and accountable to Him for the goods that He has trusted me to care for to share with others at the proper time?  Am I being obedient to what He asks of me? In terms of Cursillo, do I even know what has been entrusted?

Just what is it that the Lord has entrusted to us? An answer to this of course pre-supposes that we understand that we are called to be a servant of others and that we are called to service for the good of His people. ‘At the proper time’, referred to in the scripture, doesn’t mean when we feel like it because we don’t want to be bothered right now. 

Obedience

The model and image that we look to for guidance in answering our questions about Cursillo is found in the model left by our Lord in the Gospels, as well as in the attitudes lived-out by the Apostles.  There has to be prayerful discernment not only when ‘problems’ arise but in the everyday life of the disciple.  One cannot hope to just expect the answer to fall from the sky when we want or demand it.  A genuine relationship with the Lord in which we can expect His guidance, is one that is developed over time and with the investment of myself in this relationship.

   

Cursillo is a movement in and of the Church.  It is based on a particular charism given to Eduardo Bonnin for the good of the whole Church.  It is different from other ecclesial movements, each of which has its own charism.  Through His Holy Spirit, Jesus entrusted Eduardo and therefore all Cursillo leaders with something very special, to be cherished not simply for its own sake, but to be shared in various degrees with all whom He was calling to know the Good News that God loves them.  The ‘various degrees’ does not mean any exclusiveness but to acknowledge that the object of Cursillo is not to make everyone Cursillistas but to give everyone the opportunity to know that God loves them.

  Cursillo is specifically a lay movement.  Its primary but not exclusive target is the person who is in some way distanced from God, Christ and the Church – the one sometimes referred to as the ‘faraway.’  Its message to all is simply that God loves them.  Its means is friendship and the example of a life lived in grace, made manifest to those within the environment of the one living it. This, in a nutshell, is the Charism.

Cursillistas must be good stewards in the sense that I have used this word above, in the sense indeed that it is used in the passage of Scripture quoted at the beginning of this presentation.

To be good stewards as Cursillistas means that we must take care of what we have been given, as it was given and not how we think it should be. It also means to share it properly with God’s people.  We must cherish the charism of Cursillo, not allowing it to be distorted, and using the means proper to Cursillo to attain its goal, the spreading of the message that God loves all people.  Cursillo has developed its own method for achieving that goal, which includes Group Reunion, Ultreya, School of Leaders and Cursillo Weekends.  These are not independent of one another; they work together, and where one or the other is lacking or is poorly implemented, Cursillo will be deficient as the lay ecclesial movement it is meant to be.  This is what we will be discussing together during this weekend.

Where Cursillo fails to achieve its goal, much of the problem is with the failure to understand

its charism and its special means, and the method of bringing that means to bear on the environment.  This means that to be good stewards of the resources provided to Cursillo, its members must study the charism, the method, and the environments in which we live.  Otherwise, we are bound to fall into error and to make Cursillo into something it is not intended to be.  To say that this has happened in some cases is to make a huge understatement.  We must acknowledge our mistakes and do our best, as good stewards, to correct them. 

The point here is that we must realize that Cursillo is not ours to do with what we will. It has a specific purpose and a specific method. We are called to be stewards of that purpose and method and to use them both, not for building a movement but for building the Kingdom of God.

Shortly before his death, Eduardo Bonnin produced a document which he entitled My Spiritual Will. He prefaced the document with these words,  “I sincerely believe that one of the greatest assets that I possess is the knowledge of what the real Cursillos in Christianity consist of, as well as the Movement engendered by them. And I know by proven experience that when each piece that makes it up: pre-cursillo, three-day weekend and post-cursillo – fulfils its purpose, it responds with clockwork precision to its aim, which is no other than to try and get the Good News of the Gospel to reach as many people as possible, and preferably the most remote from the Church and Christ, ‘The far away’.”1

As I have said. we are stewards called to give our time, our talent, and our treasure to building up the Kingdom of God here on earth. We do so most effectively and efficiently by allowing God to form us and prepare us for the great work that is always at? hand which is not putting on weekends but being the Good News to those in our environments. Through Eduardo we have been given this wonderful method and movement, the Cursillo, a means to accomplish a great end. We need to have an understanding, a working knowledge of this gift in its entirety. Without this perspective, we run the very real risk of under utilizing and under appreciating this gift. A partial understanding permits us to accomplish only a fraction of what a full working knowledge of it would allow.

During the past 16 National Conferences the CCCC has been trying to give to the Canadian Movement a perspective from which to view this great gift of the Holy Spirit. We have, in a figurative sense, been trying to get the participants to “stand on the moon and look at the earth.”in other words, to step back and take a long look at the whole, rather than focusing on one aspect which is usually the weekend.  We have done so because all of us, planners and participants, need to understand and to appreciate the gift.

Far too often the Gifts that God gives to his people go under used and under appreciated. This perhaps is a symptom of our consumerism.  Just consider the attitude to gift giving and receiving in today’s world.

It is little wonder that this attitude toward giving and receiving has dulled our appreciation for even the things of God. We need look only at our own Cursillo movement in Canada. The foundation of our movement is a charism, a gift from God. He gave this gift to Eduardo Bonnin who viewed it as answered prayer. Eduardo shared his vision and his mission with some close friends and from that collaboration of both the human and the Divine grew the Cursillo method and the movement. The giver of the gift and the receiver of the gift have become one in spirit and this has transformed lives and those lives have transformed environments. The Gift has become the foundation of a vast movement that has the potential to solve all of the world’s problems and create the unity for which Christ prayed: that all may be one.

In Mallorca, the Cursillo today is the same as it was in the beginning. It has been faithful to the charism, the gift, and to the vision and early history of its founder. This is true because they have taken the time to pray, to study, and to allow that prayer and study to guide their action. Their group reunions flourish. Ultreya is well understood and attended. The School of Leaders is vibrant, alive, and is what keeps all things in the movement faithful to the charism and to the vision of its founder and to its history. Their emphasis is not on the weekend; it is on the whole experience. They see the Cursillo method as a way of life. They understand that the Cursillo is God once again reassuring His people that He loves them completely and unconditionally.

The method that His Gift to the world through Eduardo inspired is based on friendship. It calls all of His Children to live the Gospel naturally, normally, genuinely, and daily. We must become the Good News. We must be the continuing presence of Christ in the world where we live and can have an impact. We must be light in a dark world. We must be the face of hope to those who desperately need to experience the love of God in the person of His Servants, us.

The Cursillo, when understood and lived, can be for us and for the world the palanca that is needed to move the world from self-absorption to self giving. The evidence of this is the strength of the movement in the birthplace of its founder. The evidence of this is found in those movements that live the authentic Cursillo.

Our piety, study, and action need to be directed to understanding the whole as it is lived in places where the authentic Cursillo is found. Our Schools of Leaders need to provide forums for our leaders in the Cursillo to learn the method so as to become good stewards of it. We must constantly remind ourselves that being familiar with the parts of something doesn’t make us experts in its use. As George, our national chairperson put it:  “I know the different parts of the brain and the general functioning of each, but would you let me operate on your head? I think not, at least I hope not!”

The CCCC has heard from many parts of the country that the School of Leaders is either non-existent or, where it does exist, under utilized or misunderstood. It is the School of Leaders that ensures that the movement remains true to the charism and to the vision of its founder and its early history. If that important element is not properly understood and functioning as it should, there is little wonder why there are problems with candidate selection and sponsorship. If there are problems with these, then we need to look at the Pre-Cursillo. Do we understand its role in the Cursillo method and movement? Are we equating it with organizing weekends, team selection, candidate selection, menus, and a host of other details that are part of the three-day weekend and not the Pre-Cursillo?

Only you will be able to answer these and similar questions and you will only be able to provide answers for yourself after you experience this  workshop. In many ways this is like the Cursillo weekend. On the Thursday of the Cursillo you were asked to set aside any preconceived notions, ideas, or prejudices. If your mind is already made up, there will be little room for new ideas. We need you to forget for the moment the way it’s done in your movement and hear how it was meant to function. We need once again those three theological virtues: your enthusiasm, your dedication, and your spirit of charity. Together we will explore and discuss so as to leave here with something to think about and hopefully to continue studying in an ongoing School of leaders here in Ottawa.

None of the presenters are here because of their expertise but they are people who have become leaders in the Cursillo in their respective movements. They see the method and movement as a solution to all of the world’s problems and they live the Cursillo in their own environments. They are sharing what they live, nothing more. Their presentations are starting points. Your private reflection, your table discussions, your large group sharing, and your conversations with one another in non-scheduled time will be what shapes your understanding of this topic.  You will be given the opportunity to listen, to reflect, to share, to question, to challenge. Your Cursillo leaders here in Ottawa have taken a step towards recapturing the vision of Eduardo Bonnin, the founder.

Remember, we have come here to learn together about this movement and method so that we will be the wise stewards who pass on to future leaders in the Cursillo and Cursillo leaders the authentic Cursillo whose foundation is the Charism given to Eduardo by God, whose Grace and Wisdom guided its formation and development. We study because we need to understand how it is meant to work. We study so as to come to believe what Eduardo himself said and I repeat: “I know by proven experience that when each piece that makes it up: pre-cursillo, three-day weekend and post-cursillo – fulfils its purpose, it responds with clockwork precision to its aim, which is no other than to try and get the Good News of the Gospel to reach as many people as possible, and preferably the most remote from the Church and Christ (“The faraway”).

Having said this, we need to be aware that we cannot ‘receive’ or ‘discern’ in prayer simply as individuals but must be willing to bring our understanding before the leaders in our movements through the means provided. CCCC is not an authoritative body but simply attempts to share with the Canadian Cursillistas what it has learned and is learning from our contact with first Eduardo Bonnin and now, after his death, the leaders from the Mallorcan movement who are carrying on the work entrusted to them. No one is saying you must, you should. All we are asking is that you open your minds to the possibilities and discern together through a properly functioning School, how to proceed.

   

I bring this up because there have been many a good intentioned soul that has deviated from God’s Will because they only consulted themselves and no one else. 

As I said at the beginning of this presentation, some of what I have shared here is based on a mini retreat that I attended prior to an OMCC meeting in Dallas. The closing words of the Franciscan monk who lead the retreat on Stewardship were, 

“You as the world secretariat and as individuals must recognize the importance of a genuine committed prayer life because others will ask things of you that you do not like or agree with and maybe you will ask of others to do what they do not like or agree with.  If this is done correctly and with a genuinely prayerful and discerning spirit, it is then that you become wise and faithful stewards.  You may have to apply an ointment or a salve upon a wounded or sick part of the community and it must be done in love.  You must be able to discern what are the healthy and the sick parts of the body and what do you apply to them; what do you give them for nourishment so that they come to health or grow stronger?”

The steward must not only open up the storeroom, he must know what it is that the storeroom contains. I can only encourage you to take the time this weekend to discover together just what treasure we have in this movement that began as a dream for a humble little man from an obscure island in the Mediterranean and which through his love and dedication to God and his fellow human beings , has spread around the globe. Let us try to capture his dream and live it as he intended.