Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cursillo: I Have No Idea... Sort Of...

OK. This image is a little creepy. But I didn't make it up. I'm going to meet it this weekend, "face to face." Uh.... Let me explain. As a teacher at Malvern, and hopefully soon a leader and mentor for the students when they go on their senior retreat, I've been invited to go on a Cursillo Retreat for adults this weekend. Now I've been on lots of retreats in my life. I love 'em! I love having the chance to squander time with God, walk the fields, sit in chapel and just BE, read good spiritual reading, eat good retreat house food, sleep in beds that are a foot shorter than I am tall. I love getting refreshed by the reminder that, indeed, all shall be well. To know again that when my life is a question mark, Jesus is the answer. But from the little splinters and shards of hearsay, from what I know of Cursillo retreats and have gleaned from random conversations and stuff over the years, I think this weekend will be .... different. THE FOLLOWING MAY OR MAY NOT BE TRUE.... OR FALSE (in other words, this is all I know of this mysterious movement of faith in the Catholic Church) 1. Cursillo is a mysterious movement of faith in the Catholic Church. 2. There is a rainbow involved, sometimes streaming from a rooster's backside, and today I've discovered, often amassing itself into a slightly creepy smiley face. 3. Anyone who has gone on Cursillo is sworn to secrecy about what actually DOES happen, under penalty of "death by smiley face." 4. Everyone claps alot. 5. Everyone is REALLY happy. 6. You must bring an umbrella (this has been conveyed to me like 4 times already) 7. You don't really sleep (this frightens me) 8. You walk away changed, affirmed, blessed, happy, and... mysteriously quiet about how that all came to pass. So these are just some of the pictures in my head of what this weekend holds in store for me. When it's all over, I'll be sure to blog about it and tell you what REALLY happened. I think. Maybe... YIKES.... I gotta go grab my umbrella.


Anonymous said...

WELL? I'm dying to hear...

The Heart of Things said...

sorry, sworn to secrecy...

Just kidding, still recovering, processing, waiting to see how to share that experience...

Anonymous said...

Cursillo is a beautiful experience for many... as it was for me. Allow people to experience it for themselves and your opinions.. keep them to yourself

Anonymous said...

This was all written in 2007. It's now July of 2009 and I would love to hear some TRUTH about this Cursillo.
My sister has been after me to go for quite sometime, as well as others at church. I don't like the fact that no one tells you what it's really about, except that "you have to go and see for yourself".
I Googled the pros and cons of Cursillo and found a lot of the comments similar to what I was feeling....very leary about the whole thing. Some people who went thought it was the most wonderful thing since buttered toast and others didn't have good things to say, except it was "religious badgering and brainwashing". I don't like the idea that the "sponsor" is suppose to tell you that it is NOT a retreat and that you're "coherced" into joining this thing, which I find very deceptive that this is not explained at all.
I didn't know that Jesus wanted secrecy in his teachings.
My husband was talked into going and came back saying only that he "would like for me to go to Cursillo" and that REALLY turned me off.
I wasn't impressed with the way they came out to my home, unannounced, and decorated the outside with colored paper all in my trees, bushes, flowerbeds and wrapped around my house posts for my husbands "homecoming" with De Colores, Ultreyus, etc. all over the sign they attached to my carport door.
That's when I realized who had decorated my home. I first thought it was someone who was giving a surpised birthday party and got the wrong house.
My husband got home way after dark so he didn't even get to see all the decor but everyone in my neighborhood who passed by....very slowly....must have thought that Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition was meeting at my house!
There are questions as to where the money goes and does Cursillo pay taxes?
It looks to me that this "organization" (cult?) simply runs on new "recruits", similar to the Shakers and it's methods have been compared to the Unitarian Church (Moonies). I've also read where it takes away from the church, itself, and that a lot of churches refuse to participate. I've ask around my community and that seems to be the case.
I don't like the description of the "intense, emotional weekend, the crying, hugging, lack of sleep, no private time and, once again, brainwashing so that everyone's "lips are sealed" as to what went on!
Not for me.
This is long but I worry about this taking over the church that I attended....I'm back at my original church who do not participate in Cursillo.
Thanks for your time.
Mary Anna

The Heart of Things said...

Hi Mary Anna,

Thanks for the comment, and the invitation to finally address the retreat I made over 2 years ago!

My thoughts about Cursillo.... Honestly, I don't like it. I think it's well intentioned, and a great many people have in fact been comforted and found a renewed faith in their "undisclosed locations" but overall, it left a bad taste in my soul. Here are a few reasons why:

1. THE SECRET: Cursillo thrives on the element of "secrecy" and "surprise." Why? Why is a retreat with God and His people shrouded in such mystery? Because an assumption is made that "you've never really experienced your faith like this before." The danger I see inherent in this assumption is that it assumes it knows me. So you've judged that I have never really met Jesus, huh? You think I've just been a pew potato for my entire life and now YOU are going to open my eyes to the real Jesus? Sounds fishy..

2. FEELINGS: Another issue I have with Cursillo is the emphasis on feelings. I have never truly "felt" my relationship with Christ and the Church before. I need to really "feel it"... let it out. There are elements of Cursillo that are designed to produce this euphoric feeling of being loved, affirmed, and God willing bring you to tears. This will lead to excessive hugging, which is the real catharsis and watermark of Cursillo. Hugs. Big on the hugs. I'm all about a good hug, but come on!

3. THE BELLS! THE BELLS!: When on Cursillo, you are left to the mercy of the Bell. You are not told where you are going, how long a given event is, what's next, etc. You are, for all intents and purposes, a prisoner. They've got you where they want you! HAHA! Now this can be fun, and we could all use a little surrender now and then. But this is not for everyone.

4. NOTHING NEW: With all of the secrecy involved, you'd think there'd be some new gnostic truth revealed. That's what you feel from all of the build up anyway. But instead (SPOILER ALERT!) we were given nearly 14 talks over the weekend on the basics of Christianity, with some group sharing/activities sprinkled in for good measure. It was solid stuff, granted. No heresies, no wacky new angles on the Faith. There were some beautiful testimonies, touching stories, real heart to heart sharing but... it was kind of like Catholicism 101. To which I responded, WITHOUT SARCASM, thank you for the refresher, sincerely... can I call my wife now?

5. IN THE CLUB (SPOILER ALERT!): After the experience of Cursillo, we were bussed back to our drop off point. It was nearly 7pm on a Sunday night. I had work in the morning, and had been away from my wife since Thursday. But as we departed from the bus and saw for a fleeting moment the Parking Lot of Freedom, we were quickly diverted to a church basement where over 100 "friends I'd never met before" greeted us with, you guessed it, hugs. We had to hug everyone of them, and then sit up at this stage in front of everyone with a microphone and a podium. We were then "invited" to share our experience of the weekend... more gushing, more hugs. Another hour of my life taken from me.

So yeah, Cursillo. No thanks. To me it seems too forced, too structured. On retreat, I prefer to sit in the stillness and let God do the talking, with a few pointers from homilies, devotions, scripture. And I don't like the assumption that I've never really encountered my faith before. That if I am not overwhelmed by the love gushing out at me that I am "closed to the Holy Spirit" or something. Creepy.

Again, I know that many have enjoyed a retreat like this (oops, it's not a retreat! ;) and maybe some Cursillos have a totally different format (though from those I've talked to it's the same stuff).

Anyhoo, I hope this helps Mary Anna! And now perhaps I shall receive some heated comments from Cursillo devotees???

Peace and Prayers,

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your candor about your Cursillo experience. It’s important to get this information out there, so people can make informed decisions.

In “The Abbey Up The Hill”, Carol Bonomo writes of her Cursillo experience. It can be read here:


My experience at a Cursillo spinoff was quite like hers. It was disturbing. For years afterward I had nightmares about it.

I have high-functioning autism, and am an abuse survivor with a psychiatric history. These factors doubtlessly contributed to making the weekend a living hell. (They also should have disqualified me from attending, but no one asked about such matters, and I had no way of knowing they’d be pertinent.)

A "friend" of mine from the Carmelites invited me and pushed through all the paperwork. As recruiters were told to do, she did not give straightforward answers to my questions but smoothly deflected them.

She also insisted on driving me to the retreat, even though I had a car available.

When we arrived at the remote rural church, and grinning men were taking our luggage, she chose that moment to tell me that she would not be attending with me at all, but would stay with a friend in town. (Later I found that this was a lie; she and other candidates' sponsors were hiding in the church basement the whole time.)

Therefore, in the space of 60 seconds I found I would be alone the entire weekend with a group of total strangers, and with no access to a car. The only person I knew, who had vetted these people, had just left me stranded there.

Furthermore, among the first things I was told by my new captors was that I would not be allowed access to a telephone.

Frankly, I was so unsettled by this sneaky beginning (which echoed other instances in my life where I had been ambushed), I was unable to be emotionally present, or stop having flashbacks, the whole weekend.

A long list of intrusive ground rules followed, which exacerbated this sense of being taken captive: we were stripped of our wristwatches; our medications were confiscated; we were told we had to limit ourselves to scheduled bathroom breaks; solitude, which I thrived on, was forbidden.

We broke up into small groups and went into classrooms where the leaders told intimate stories about themselves, bursting into sobs a few minutes into the story. Clearly we were expected to do likewise -- strip emotionally naked and spill our guts to strangers.

We had to move from classroom to classroom holding hands, which felt silly and infantilizing.

There were endless little surprises, mostly of a kindly and corny variety. They might have been heartwarming if there weren't so many so close together.

Worst of all, massive hug-a-thons were held after each class, in which it would be difficult to get out of the classroom without being grabbed. I found such relentless pushing of physical affection among strangers disturbing as well as dishonest.

When I told of how uncomfortable I was, the counselors smilingly pathologized my feelings. "I used to feel that way, too, until I got therapy." My choices, my walk with God, were thus discounted. Pressure to participate in the hug-a-thons continued throughout the weekend.

Most disturbing was the way they confidently appointed themselves to teach me the “right way” to relate to God, as if my entire faith life up until then had just been a dry run. The pants-suited nun who was one of the leaders at my table proceeded to inform us of what a fool Pope John Paul was, and how the only way to be genuinely Catholic was to be a dissident.

As Carol Bonomo said, “I did what I had to do to get out of there.”

My apostolate is to make this information available to those who are considering, or being pushed into, a weekend. I believe that someone with mental health challenges could have a psychotic break in response to its stresses, mind games, and boundary violations. It concerns me that the recruiting is so aggressive and the screening is so poor.


Unknown said...

The Cursillo is a three day dynamic session about a deeper walk with Jesus. It takes you to the 4th day which is the rest of your life. It is based on the example of a tripod of piety, study and action to follow in your walk with the Lord.

It can be something very personal or something where only a community can support you. The 4th day is centered on the Ultreya. The Ultreya is regular meeting where all meet to share their moments with Christ.

However, this was the part where many failed to keep going. The challenges of living a life in Christ in the workday is not easy and this is where many felt the pressure. Many found they could not live in two different worlds and ended up making a choice of going on their own taking as much of the Cursillo they could absorb into their daily lives. In the 1970s, after reading a study by a large church association which reported that 70 percent of all church goers were unable to match up their work week with their day of worship, I became an advocate for workers dignity plugging in the economic day into my own spiritual quest.

Online since 1998, we now have thousands of references and resources on the worldwide web. Search under tapsearch.com, tapart news, ray tapajna live or ray tapajna color therapy art. View it live in motion at http://tapsearch.com/about-ray-tapajna and let the colors help wash your troubles away. De Colores has become a greeting between those who made the Cursillo.

De Colores is a Spanish expression which means in colours. If there are sad moments in life, there are also others when we see everything in colour. This is the case of a person who discovers that he or she is loved by the very person that he or she loves. For lovers, everyday life loses its sadness, the sun shines, life is beautiful, and we see it through rose-coloured spectacles. In the same way, the realization that we are being loved by God in a way that is unparalleled and unconditional, creates in our inner self, a feeling which is like an incredible rainbow.' - Ref.: Cursillo

View our new Living Healing Color Therapy art live at http://tapsearch.com/about-ray-tapajna We made the Cursillo in 1964. It is nothing to be afraid of because we always have a gentle Lord who follows us wherever we go. He never pushes you forward but patiently waits for you to come His way. For many of us, He patiently waits a very long time. View our Living Healing art knowing this and let the waters from His pierced side come your way that announce the perfect sacrifice of eternity has been completed. And it would have happened the same way if you were the only person in the world.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts? Don't go. Period. It was a nightmare. I was held against my will, not allowed to be alone (there was always someone hovering), lied to, manipulated and, most importantly, I was physically restrained (yep) and then told by a "pastor" I did not have Jesus in me. Oh Jesus was in me alright, He was the one holding back that f-bomb!

I'd been saved for 10 years at that time, heavy volunteering in my church and walking the walk. There was not then, nor is there now any doubt who lives in me.

I still have bad dreams from the experience, and when I'm around some of the ladies who refused to let us out of the room to use the bathroom (yes, that happened... They stood in front of the doors and wouldn't budge), who attend my church, my guard goes up. I went 2&1/2 years ago and I still get nervous around them and tell myself that I'm free and able to walk away at any time now.

Their "mountain top experience" was nothing new to me... I experience those feelings when I sing on worship team and sometimes during prayer. And at those times I am neither sleep deprived or on a sugar high. Experiencing God isn't about feelings, in my opinion, though "feeling" His presence IS amazing, to say the least!

Sorry to be so harsh, but this needs to get out there. Besides, most of the Cristo ppl from my church don't do much volunteering except within the Cristo community. And they'll skip church events if it coincides with a Cristo event.

As you can see, I'm not a fan.

Ps. Disturbing statement I heard today from one of the Cristo workers who will be giving a Rollo (teaching with personal story) on the next weekend: I'm going to act just like a candidate, I'm going to keep to myself, remain quiet and pretend to be one of them so when they see I'm not they'll be really surprised!


The Heart of Things said...

I am grateful to those sharing their experiences here over the years. This is so important, and it is truly helpful (through both the positive and negative experiences) mainly BECAUSE of the secretive nature of the Cursillo experience. Again, I feel that is one of its tragic flaws. Good intentions perhaps, very poor execution.

"So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." - John 8:36

Anonymous said...

My husband and I left the LCMS church because of ultreya infiltration.

Anonymous said...

The people in the group need to know that they are to prideful in talking about there religion to others. It is not right and against the Bible.

Anonymous said...

Autism and/or anxiety and Cursillo are not a good mix. 40 hours of trying to be bright and shiny wore me out, and made me feel unacceptable. That and the purple haired oriental woman trying to perform an exorcism on me for being bad, made me feel I was copping everyone's happy buzz. Once again, I ruined it for everybody. There were good parts, some things I will always treasure. But I would suggest you brush up on your social skills and masking before attending. There is no "come as you are," for those with anxiety.

Strangely enough, the Lord gave me Isaiah 53:3-5 after I came home.

I hear ya, Lord.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I'm sorry to hear you left your Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) church due to this reason, but I'm also quite surprised. The LCMS does not typically go for things like Cursillo, so my guess is that your particular congregation might be an outlier in this regard. The LCMS focuses on the Cross of Christ and preaching His gospel, and generally avoids the touchy-feely nonsense of Cursillo. Personally, I'd encourage you to find another LCMS church in your area which wisely eschews the spiritual junkfood of things like Cursillo. All Christians need a church where the gospel is rightly preached and where the sacraments are rightly administered, and the best place to find that is in an LCMS church.

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