by Barbara Levich

As I was working out one day, I was listening to some of Blessed Mother Teresa’s teachings. She was telling how she started by just picking up one man on the streets to care for. It was a long time after that before she picked up a second one and more time yet before the third. It was a long, long time before her ministry to the street people of Calcutta grew to the point where it is now. I got to thinking that we in Cursillo need to go back to the one-by-one that she began with. It seems to me that we seem to look at people around us as part of a group and we don’t relate to them one to one. That makes it very hard to become real friends with them because we know them very superficially because we don’t want to spend much time. As a sponsor, it seems that once the paperwork is turned in, the responsibility for the candidate is turned over to the team. That seems to be the end.

And the team also views the candidates as a group rather than one by one, so deep friendships rarely form. At the end of the weekend, the Spirit has done His work but we bid the new Cursillistas farewell saying, “Find a group and attend Ultreya” and consider our work done. Well, read James 2:14-17:

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

Can we say that our faith is alive if we do not give these new Cursillistas what they need? We need to actually do the work: group with them, talk to them on the phone, go out to dinner, answer questions, encourage, invite to Ultreya, actually take them to Ultreya. We need to spend time enough to really settle our new Cursillistas in a new direction, where they can carry on by themselves and we may eventually find a new person to sponsor or work with after a weekend. 1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.

We need to be like our Heavenly Father. He worked and we are created for work too. The first work we hear of Him doing is the work of creation. We are blessed to be creators, too, after His model. John 5:17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” When new Cursillistas come off a weekend, they are new creations having been transformed by the Spirit. We have had a hand in His work. But we shouldn’t shirk the work that comes after if we are truly going to be our Father’s children. They are like seeds planted in the freshly turned soil. If we do not water them with encouragement, pull the weeds of doubt, prune away poor direction or fertilize them with gatherings with us, then we are poor excuses for God’s co-creators! What does our faith profit us?

What is our problem?! French Father M.-D. Molinié, O.P. gives me an idea: “Instead of responding to God as he requires, with a total, almost insane love, we fall into the habit of substituting veneration. We prostrate ourselves before him while at the same time holding him at arm’s length. Instead of total gift-of-self, we prefer submission. This is sad; it is the easy way out – to offer a bent back instead of a bared breast. In this posture we try to be just, to offer what is due to God and neighbor. Yet as long as such “justice” contains none of the secret leaven of love, it is no better than that of the scribes and Pharisees. Submitting oneself in place of giving oneself is a desperate effort… No matter what a man does to ‘put God in his life’ he will always seem to be giving at once too little and too much – simply because each partner requires all, and because the endless negotiations to set things right while holding something back, no matter how small, are hopeless.”

We are free to give God whatever we wish. If we chose to sponsor a candidate for Cursillo, we have give God the time He requires to fully form that person into the person He desires them to be. But so often we have taken back that time to use selfishly. We fail to become friends, with Christ in the middle of the relationship. I am mindful of the scripture in Acts 5:1-4, “But a man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” It did not go well with Ananias and Sapphira, God struck them dead! He has been more merciful to us who have similarly failed to deliver what we promised. Let us amend our ways and be faithful to our promises.

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and spiritual writer, said that the greatest problem facing Western civilization was “efficiency.” Efficiency drives us in a sense of needing to do what we need to do. But, hard-driven efficiency (according to Merton) also places us in danger of losing our souls, because there is no space or time for hospitality, and hospitality is the mark of a truly gracious soul. As we approach weekends, we want to be efficient by having a certain number of candidates, so we efficiently busy ourselves asking whomever we can think of to attend the upcoming Cursillo. So what kind of hospitality is that? It certainly is not the friendly welcome or generous treatment that one might expect. It is rather soullessly doing the least we can get away with, making no real commitment to the candidate or to the community to which that person will go after the weekend. Shame on us.

I think we need to slow down. If there are not enough friends to hold a Cursillo, then we should be patient and wait until there are. If we talk regularly, see each other frequently, then this prospective candidate will be able to wait until there is a sufficient number of other candidates to hold a weekend. And in the mean time we will be proving ourselves to them and their eagerness to make the weekend will grow, not diminish. And after the weekend, they will be a real part of the community instead of feeling like an outsider who is perhaps tolerated but not encouraged. We should be saying, “Come in and honor us with your presence.”

Pope Benedict XVI said, “From the perspective of biblical tradition and within the realm of Judaism in which Jesus’ work took place – despite its newness – it remains clear that the entire mission of the Son-made-flesh has community as a goal: He came specifically to unite mankind which was scattered, and he came specifically to gather together and unite the people of God.” God does not relate to us generically or as a group. Christ saves each of us personally that each may become part of His family. We, too, must deal with people one by one not as a group. A blanket invitation goes nowhere. We must be in personal contact with each one, one by one. There is more work to be done in forming community after a weekend. Even if we have not sponsored a candidate, we are obliged to greet the new Cursillistas as brothers and sisters in Christ. And to work on getting to know them and become friends with them. There was a time that Cursillistas felt that they could ask almost anything from the members of the Cursillo community and they would receive help. I’m willing to bet that few of the Cursillistas in the last five years feel that way.

We proclaim God’s message of salvation and love by being leaders. The dictionary defines leader firstly as one who directs by going along with, by physical contact, as in leading by the hand. We have looked at leaders as the influential, head-of-the-organization sort of people but we want ones who lead (by the hand) to Christ. If we have personal contact with others, we should be close enough to offer a hand. A true friend is aware of the reality that surrounds a person. Everyone has things to deal with which are difficult. A true friend helps his friend to bear his burdens.

Our end in sponsoring candidates is not to just fill the weekends, it is just a means to bring them into friendship with Christ and with the communities of friendship group reunion and ultreya which will help them walk with Christ as we also strive to do. The Cursillo weekend is just a portion of the journey of friends: friends who are made one by one, face to face, hand in hand.

The world says, “Look forward to retirement, to ceasing to work.” But we who are of God’s family do not retire. We do not come to the end of doing His work. At life’s end we want to hear: “Well done good and faithful servant!” If you have stopped working, begin again that you may hear praise from your Heavenly Father, “Come, enter into my joy.”

Barbara is a Cursillista of the Archdiocese of Seattle, former regional chairperson and former member of the US National Secretariat. She has been in regular communication with the Centre, purchasing everything that CCCC produces, sharing it with the Cursillistas of her community.