A little history...
Cursillo was born in the socially and religiously oppressed atmosphere of Franco's Spain. Catholic Action, a lay organization, was searching for a way to make the Gospel a significant and living force in Spanish society. Political action was not possible; Franco's Falangist party controlled all levels of society. As a result of a series of treaties and concordants with the government and the church, the hierarchy of the church was very much a part of the Franco government.
The Catholic Action group in the city of Majorca developed the idea of "penetration of the environment" by small groups of dedicated Christians who would by their work and witness change the character of workplaces, communi¨ties, and society itself. They worked under the direction of Bishop Juan Hervas, who encouraged this novel strategy for the witness to Christ.
The men of the Catholic Action began meeting weekly in small groups to pray, to encourage each other, and to plan for the future. As the number of Groups began to grow, Catholic Action began to hold three-day retreats as training sessions on what is fundamental to being a Christian and on how to live out the Christian life. These retreats were called Cursillos de Cristandad which means "Short Course in Christian Living".
The Cursillo movement came to the Spanish-speaking Roman Catholic communities of the United States in the 1950s and began to grow in the Protestant Church in the 1960s and 70s. Via de Cristo is the Lutheran expression of the Cursillo movement.
Why do we serve on a Via de Cristo Weekend?
Via de Cristo's purpose and focus remains the same as that of the Cursillos of the 1940s in Spain: To bring every pilgrim into a closer, more meaningful personal relationship with our brother Jesus Christ and to train lay people to bear witness to Christ in their daily environment.
The Holy Spirit, through prayer and trust, guides and directs us.
The team's purpose is to serve God by serving the pilgrims and sharing God's grace with them and each other. We are God's apostles.
The Rector(a), Professors, and Spiritual Directors create a community at each table in the Rollo Room to encourage the maximum possible spiritual growth of each pilgrim.
The Cha-Chas anticipate and satisfy the needs of the pilgrims and team, eliminating as many distractions as possible. Serving as a Cha-Cha provides unique and rewarding opportunities to serve our Lord, and is perhaps the most unselfish giving involved in making a Via de Cristo a success. We have been selected to serve, just as the pilgrims are selected to learn and grow. We serve on the weekend to display Christian discipleship, love, and acceptance of others as individuals. We display leadership and loving concern, not dominion or glory seeking. We are good listeners and guides, not counselors.
We submit our hearts and souls to God's will so that our love will bloom and grow. In all things, we should ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do?". Love and sensitivity through Godís Holy Spirit should govern us.
We serve and love with sensitivity to the pilgrims' and each others' spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. We serve as examples, so that when the weekend is over the pilgrims will be able to say, "I came looking for Christ and I found him here."
We serve because servanthood is one of the keys to growing in Christ-likeness. Jesus said, "For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45).
Servanthood is the mark of a leader. Jesus, "though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant." (Philippians 2:6-7) We can express that Jesus is Lord of our lives in the way we serve others. We can demonstrate our love for God by showing love for our brothers and sisters, by serving them.
Servanthood is an attitude. Paul set the example of being a "slave to all" so that he might win more to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19). When Paul was under arrest, traveling under Roman guard, and was shipwrecked on an island on a very cold day, he went out and gathered firewood. He did his part. He didn't wait for others to do it. (Read Acts 27:14-28:10.)
Why do we serve? For Jesus' sake! Pick up a bundle of sticks or a plate or someone's spirits. . . for Jesus' sake. Be liberal with your time, energy, and ideas. . . for Jesus' sake. Serve one another. . . for Jesus' sake.
What do we share and learn on a Via de Cristo?
The Focus on Thursday On Thursday, we ponder God's love and compassion for us and condition our soul for what is to come.
In the KNOW YOURSELF meditation, we look closely at our inner selves, examine our conscience, and meditate on Christ's love for us.
The PRODIGAL SON meditation reminds us that God loves us and is waiting with open arms to receive us.
The Focus on Friday As the day begins, the pilgrims are, for the most part, among strangers. They are not open to personal involvement yet, but this changes gradually throughout the day as friendships begin to form.
On Friday, we come face to face with ourselves and try to answer the question, "Who am I?" We are presented with the ideal of living the life of grace.
The THREE GLANCES OF CHRIST meditation helps us to respond to God.
The IDEAL talk presents the concept of the ideal, that which motivates us to act and react in a certain way as we strive to reach particular goals. We are challenged to examine our current ideals and encouraged to choose a worthy ideal. This talk does not lend itself to personal sharing and is not a spiritual talk.
GRACE defines the Christian ideal: That all God's children might live in His grace and love.
LAITY presents the layperson's view of the church as the family of God and emphasizes the mission of the laity as living, active members of the church. We are challenged to respond to God's grace by taking an active part in the ministry of our church. This talk can use personal examples, but not emotional examples because pilgrims may not be ready to let down their emotional guard.
The GRACE IN ACTION talk reminds us that we are not left alone in our efforts to live a dynamic Christian life, but are empowered by the Holy Spirit who lives and works in us. Palanca, the spiritual lever of prayer and sacrifice, is introduced.
The PIETY talk helps us understand what it means to live an intentionally growing life of grace and encourages us to develop a close personal relationship with God. Personal testimony is often used in this talk to emphasize why a close relationship with God is important.
The WAY OF THE CROSS (or its substitute) and CONFESSION are vehicles to help us understand what God has done for us, to receive God's peace, and to increase our desire for life with Him. By the end of the day Friday, many of the participants will have abandoned any defensive attitudes and taken on the spirit of an open mind and heart.
The Focus on Saturday Most participants will be eager on Saturday to begin to learn how to live out the Christian ideal. So Saturday's talks answer the question "How can I attain the ideal of a conscious and growing life in Christ?". We become more aware of being the People of God, the Body of Christ. On Saturday, we focus on Christ.
The FIGURE OF CHRIST meditation shows Christ's human aspect and invites us to intimate friendship with Him.
In the STUDY talk we learn the importance of studying so that we can grow in our knowledge of Christ and mature in our Christian faith. Examples of personal study experiences and benefits inspire the pilgrims to study in order to transform their hearts and minds and conform their lives to God's plan.
GRACE FILLED DAYS presents the sacraments as the words and gestures of Christ, as our personal encounter with Christ. The talk defines the ways in which the grace of God touches us through the many events of our lives from birth to death.
ACTION shows that living the Life of Grace produces love in us. Out of that love comes our natural response to God's love: apostolic action. Through Apostolic action we reach out and bring others to Christ. Examples show that apostolic action is not just doing good things, but is doing things to bring others to Christ.
In a positive and constructive way, OBSTACLES TO GRACE reminds us of the real difficulties we will encounter in living the life of grace. We see that the real obstacles are we ourselves and learn that in spite of these obstacles, life can be joyful and triumphant.
The LEADERS talk complements the Action talk, teaching that everyone can become a leader in bearing witness to Christ. Our traditional view of a leader is broadened to include anyone who influences the thoughts and actions of others. A Christian leader is defined as one who influences others for Christ. Pilgrims are encouraged to consider their leadership qualities and are given the hope that they can make a difference for Christ because they are leaders.
The Focus on Sunday On Sunday, we turn our eyes toward the world and are called to apostolic action. Most pilgrims are renewed, committed, and filled with enthusiasm.
CHRIST'S MESSAGE TO THE PILGRIM meditation tells us that we are chosen and appointed so that we will go and bear fruit.
The ENVIRONMENT talk tells the pilgrims where to begin acting on their desire to do something for Christ. We are encouraged to broaden our sphere of influence by seeking out and getting to know the leaders in our environment so that we can influence them for Christ. Personal examples should show how the environment can be influenced.
LIFE IN GRACE explains how to maintain the awareness of Christ we have gained this weekend by making a personal commitment to Christ, including piety, study, and action in our daily spiritual life.
In the FORMATION OF A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY talk we are given specific information on the ideas presented earlier in talks on Action and Leadership. This talk shows how a group of Christians working together is more effective than individuals working independently. We are prepared to work as members of the Christian Community.
The TOTAL SECURITY and FOURTH DAY (GROUP REUNION AND ULTREYA) talks assure us that what we have experienced on the weekend is only the beginning to a richer Christian life. We are encouraged to become involved in a Reunion group, where we can inspire each other to grow in the life of grace. Personal testimony shows that it is possible to live and grow in the life of grace throughout the rest of our lives.