Wednesday, February 18, 2015

For Your Piety and Study During Lent

Here are three resources to deepen your Lenten experience:

Mary Ann Dowd and others recommend Father Robert Baron's daily Lenten meditations at http://www.lentreflections.com/lent-starts-tomorrow/ (The sign-up link is towards the bottom of the page.)

The Jesuits offer “Igniting our Values,” a Lent 2015 digital prayer experience beginning on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18, through Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015. Each evening, material for the following day’s prayer will be posted at this web site: 


Don and Kathy Geiger recommend "Best Lent Ever" as a source of renewal at 
http://go.dynamiccatholic.com/f00Pf0F0GJ005H1jHSO2m05

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Note from Ronnie Martella, Lay Director

Like many of you, we read the "Word Among Us" reflections.  Often they give exactly what is needed, sometimes a particular day really hits on something or helps in our discernment.  

The readings at the end of January focused on the work of evangelization.  They included the call,  "Jesus went up to the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted, and they came to him. Mk 3:13"; "Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.Mk 1:17 "; the method, "God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.2 Tim 1:7 ";  "The sower sows the word."Mk 4:14;  "Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear."Mk 4:23; "The seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.Mk 4:27 "; and the best reality of the best news...God loves us. "The one who had made the promise was trustworthy.Heb 11:11"  

The reflections on two days really made me think..."did a Cursillista write this?"  

This is from the reflection on the 'Fishers of men' verse. "So here are some suggestions that will help make you into a vessel of grace: First, ask God to give you a desire to share his good news.  Second, find the courage to ask people, even strangers, "Can I pray with you about anything?"  You'd be surprised at how many people are open to a quiet, nonthreatening invitation.  Third, invite people to join you at Mass.  Offer to come and get them if they can't make it on their own.  Take them out to breakfast afterward. Become a friend, and your love for Christ will rub off on them."  

And from the reflection on the 'Sower and the Seed'. "Think for a moment how many other seeds the world, the flesh and the devil are sowing all around us.  There's nothing stingy in their tactics.  How much more, then, should we counter all these poisonous seeds with the seeds of the gospel!  The need is great, so don't be intimidated! And by all means, don't feel defeated or outnumbered!  God has promised to be with you always as you spread your word.

So how are you going to sow today? What opportunities will  you seize to spread the seeds of the gospel? They're all around, after all.  Keep your eyes open, as you ask the Lord to help you see ways you can creatively witness to his love.  Who knows?  He may even give you brothers and sisters in Christ who are just as zealous as you to proclaim the word, in season and out." 

FOR YOUR STUDY by Deacon Tony Martucci, Deacon Spiritual Advisor

Are you a carrot, an egg or a tea bag? Think about that for a moment. We’ll come back to it later.

We read in Mark's Gospel that in the synagogue in Capernaum “all who looked on were amazed.” How many times in the Gospels do we hear that the people who listened to Christ’s teachings and or witnessed his miracles were “amazed?” Just what does that mean? Have you ever watched a magician and wondered “How did he do that”?  Did you stand there with your mouth open in total shock? Being amazed by something is like looking at beautiful fireworks. We say, “Ooh” and “Ahh” when we see it; but when it’s over we walk away just the same as we were before. These people in today’s Gospel were very much like that. They loved to hear the words of Jesus, to see His miracles, but they didn’t change the way they lived or the way they thought.

Contrast that with the Blessed Mother. The Gospel tells us in numerous places that “Mary pondered these things in her heart.”  She listened to the message of Her Son and took the time to think about it and to apply it to her own life. She was changed by what she saw and heard. Mary was the first Christian and the example for each of us of what we should be.

When we come to Church on Sunday, are we changed by the message of the Gospel, by the homily, or by the Eucharist that we receive? Do people see anything different in us?  Do we leave here and ponder what we have witnessed, or are we just amazed, and unchanged?

Many of us, perhaps most of us, look at the world around us, the corruption in government and in business, the failing economy, the poverty and ask “Why?” We need to know that God has put us here to make a difference. He wants us to hear His word, make it a part of our lives, and to transform us so we can transform the world. The problem is that many of us are not changed by participating in the Mass.

I want you to imagine three pots of water on the stove. Into the pots we put a carrot, an egg and a tea bag. We bring the water to a boil for several minutes. Then we remove the carrot, egg and tea bag. The carrot, which was once firm and crisp, is now soft and limp. The egg, which had been liquid inside, is now hard. The teabag, although wet, is relatively unchanged; but the water it was in is changed. This illustrates an important lesson for us. The boiling water is the obstacles and trials of life. We can be like the carrot, the egg or the tea bag. We can lose our faith and become soft like the carrot; we can be hardened by the events of our life and become hardened like the egg; or we can learn from our troubles and change the environment around us like the teabag.

The Gospel gives us the opportunity to see what God’s plan is for us and how to face our surroundings. Our world is a very different place than it was when we were younger.  It has become very modernistic and materialistic. It is anti-Christian. Perhaps that is because the Christians of the world have been changed by the environment. Think of those Christians and Muslims who are fundamentalists. They are almost fanatical about their faith, while we are almost indifferent. Something has to change in us if the world is to change. Christ has said, “Let your light shine before men, so that seeing your good works they may give glory to God the Father.”

Most of us are very excited about today’s Super Bowl. The players who are there have worked hard to get there. They practiced long hard hours and trained their bodies. Some of them are even playing with sore muscles and bones. But they want to win that trophy and get their Super Bowl rings. These are good things, but the life that Jesus is offering us is worth much more than a Super Bowl Ring.  Don’t you think we should work just as heard to be the best person we could be, like Christ was and is?


In another verse of scripture, Christ says, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, will He find any faith on earth?” I once marveled at this and wondered” How can that be?” Today I see that it is very possible. You and I must make a choice as to where we are going and where the world is going. We can no longer be lukewarm about our faith or we will be changed by the world around us. We must  be changed by Christ’s words and be the light and salt that brings change to the world.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

SCHOOL OF LEADERS SUMMARY by Rick Klarmann, Assistant Lay Director

Deacon Tony Martucci and Dick Hemler did an awesome job talking about the right to life and the charism of Cursillo.  I asked Dick if it was okay to put his talk on the website. He said it was okay and it is below.

The numbers were small but the spirit was definitely present in the talks and sharing. We started off the evening with the Prayer of Reparation for Roe vs. Wade  and a short meditation. 

In the Doctrinal Talk, Tony walked us through the birth of Jesus, the angel warning Joseph to take the child Jesus to Egypt, and what Herod did. I could see in his words how little has changed in 2000 years; Herod thought it was acceptable to kill innocent children to keep his way of life. And if it meant killing hundreds of innocent children to kill the newborn baby (Jesus) it was okay. Why didn't anyone see anything wrong with what was happening and say, "This is wrong! I won't do this!" I sat there wondering how many times I didn't stand up for what is right because I didn't want it to interfere with my way of life. I realize that this has to change.

Then, we took a walk down memory lane asking us to think about what it was like 50 years ago. On TV, husbands and wives slept in separate beds and any violence was done off camera, while today, you see all of the blood and gore and it inst only at a time that children are asleep. He reminded us that living together wasn't the norm and abortion was illegal.

Tony's talk was not only about the rights of the unborn but also about the right to life of all of us. He pointed out that several states have already approved assisted suicide and that once you get your prescription for the pills that will take your life; a doctor is not required to be present. So, if you change your mind after taking the pills, there is no medical help.

We then had a short prayer service which Tony has adapted from the Litany of Life.

Right after the prayer service we had the Techniques Talk presented by Dick Hemler. Dick spoke about the history and purpose of Cursillo--the charism of Cursillo. Rather than write about his talk, I believe it is important to read his words.

On January 22nd, the March for Life took place. We prayed for those who marched and that someday the scourge of abortion will end.

"God does not call us to be successful, but to be faithful." - Mother Theresa

FOUNDATIONAL CHARISM OF THE CURSILLO MOVEMENT by Dick Hemler

Charism is a word we have heard a lot in the movement in recent years but what exactly is a Charism? Paragraph #798 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

"The Holy Spirit works in many ways to build up the whole body in charity by the many special graces (called Charisms), by which He makes the faithful fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church."

The Foundational Charism of the Movement would be the special graces given to the founders of the Movement. That’s nice but we already have the movement so why is it so important for us to know?

Any idea or movement that gains any sizable following always runs the risk of having followers who want to modify or change the original with “improvements” that they think will make it fit better into their purpose. The problem is that these “improvements” or changes to the original also change the goals and purpose for which the original was developed. While these new or modified versions may well be good and lead to other desirable ends, they leave the original goal unaccomplished. How do you prevent this erosion of purpose and insure that the original goals are met? By continually going back to the beginning to rediscover the Charism which brought it about. To do that, it is necessary to know who the founders are.

You may be surprise to hear that there has been quite a bit of contraversy as to how, when, where and by whom it was actually conceived and started.

The first Cursillo weekend took place on August 19 to 23, 1944 in Cala Figuera. It was the first Cursillo carried out in 3 ½ days and not specifically as a preparation for the 1948 National Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Eduardo Bonnin was the rector. It contained all the structures of the future Cursillos. Fr. Ivan Rohloff, in his book “The origins and development of Cursillo” states “the leadership of Eduardo Bonnin and Gabriel Segui gave birth to the Cursillo de Cristiandad.” The book “Signs of Hope – Picture of seven Ecclesial Movements” by Bishop Paul Josef Cordes who was the Vice-President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity through 1995 presents Eduardo Bonnin as the founder of the Cursillo movement. The 1944 date and the listing of Eduardo as rector are from the manuscript of Gabriel Segui, which was presented to Pope Paul VI at his request.

Most of us have heard that the movement developed out of the Spanish Youth Catholic Action movement. While that is partially true, the initial impetus was actually an address given by Pope Pius XII on Feb.6, 1940 where he acknowledged that there were a great number of people who had moved away from the Christian life. He challenged the Church leaders to make every effort possible to bring others back to Christian values. The reading of this address inspired Eduardo, who at that time was not a member of the Youth Catholic Action, to carry out a thorough and deep study of the problem. Eduardo wrote a paper, which even then in 1940 was named STUDY OF THE ENVIRONMENT, in which he concluded that the world was becoming less and less Christian and consequently, Christians were even less influential in their cultural and social environments. That situation stimulated him to develop the Cursillos Movement that we know today.

There were short courses, or cursillos, before the Aug. 1944 date but they were held for the expressed intent of preparing pilgrims for the 1948 pilgrimage to Compostela. It was after attending one of these that Eduardo realized that much of the structure used on that Cursillo weekend, including, at least in name, 5 of the talks given on the weekend, could be adapted for use on the Cursillo de Cristiandad and that in turn lead to much of the structure we use today on the weekend.

Even though Eduardo was the founder of the movement, he didn’t feel free to write a history of the movement because the National Cursillo office of Spain did not accept his account. They wanted to be viewed as the “founder.” While Eduardo didn’t care who would get credit, he did care that the movement would stay true to the Foundational Charism. In “Historia de Un Carisma” Eduardo states:

“It is not through a desire to be recognized as the lead player, but rather in the service of the truth and to clarify concepts and events, that we (Secretariat of Mallorca) have found it opportune to make available to people interested in the Cursillo Movement, what occurred in the beginning, and in this light to make it clearer, always counting on the grace of God, we have tried to be faithful to the intention with which the Cursillos were proposed, prayed, reflected, structured, and for which we give thanks!”

The Mallorcans and many world Cursillo leaders repeatedly asked Eduardo to share his understanding in order to preserve the Foundational Charism while he was still able to do so. His sharing and call to return to the basics have been the basis for much of the reforms we’ve seen in recent years.

Some of those changes such as eliminating Las Mananitas, Serenades, and the involvement of the outside community on the weekends have lead to decisions that have caused a lot of difficulty within our various Diocesan movements including our own. Circumstances here, however, have made many of those concerns a non issue because of the facilities we now have available to us but I’m sure many of us remember the turmoil created before circumstances settled things for us. There were many who thought that the call to go back to the basics caused an awful lot of turmoil for very little real reason. Why did it matter? Let’s look a little closer at one of those changes.

Remember Holiness, Formation, and Evangelization? Many of us experienced the change from the original Piety, Study and Action and, as a result of the effort to return to the foundational charism, the movement returned to the original Piety, Study and Action. This may seem superficial at first but let’s look at Study and Formation to get an idea of what the change really meant. There is a fundamental difference. Study is something a person does; Formation is something a person receives. When I was teaching, I certainly tried to form my students so that they could do those mathematical things society said they needed to be able to do in order to be proficient, productive, and successful. This is what society needs and this is what you need to do to satisfy that need. Formation directs one to a prefabricated model, a mold. It is imitative. Study, on the other hand, can lead a person anywhere; it is creative.

Eduardo Bonnin, in his definition of Cursillo states that “Cursillo intends that the realities of what is Christian become incarnate in the person.” That person then has the freedom to act out of their convictions. We do not have to tell Christians to evangelize just as we don’t have to tell water to be wet. If a person has a true conversion, then evangelizing becomes a part of their nature and they will be most effective in their own unique way in their natural environments. The purpose of Cursillo is to save souls and structure Christianity in the world in order that its goal of making the world more Christian can be achieved. Cursillo accomplishes this purpose and goal by focusing on the conversion of the individual, especially those who are far away. It awakens in us a hunger for God and gives us the tools or method for perseverance, for a progressive conversion. The Movement evangelizes as a consequence of this focus and not by any system. Nothing is imposed or mandated. Cursillo provides the means and method of perseverance, which motivates us to enter into an ever-growing and loving relationship with God. In other words, it drives our Piety.

The word Evangelization tends to lead us into being evangelizers preaching the Good News instead of becoming the Good News. We are either Christians or we aren’t, there is no in-between. We are Christians 24/7. Our actions are a natural consequence of our convictions, of who we are, and not something we do to accomplish a goal, such as evangelizing an environment. If we are truly Christian then Christ is alive in us and present in our environments by our very presence. The likeness of God will emerge in our brothers and sisters when they become aware of God’s love for them. Evangelization of environments is a consequence of the personal conversion that is the focus of Cursillo.

How does this conversion take place? By coming to the realization that God loves us. We start by coming to terms with ourselves, who we are. By realizing that God loves us in spite of all those things we think of as faults. The Almighty, the creator of the Universe, already loves us. We don’t have to change in order to obtain or be worthy of His love. Everything we do is simply a reaction to this great love God already has for us. This knowledge frees us to love ourselves as we are and our brothers and sisters as they are. That freedom is the basis of true lasting friendships, which allow us to help each other grow in our ongoing conversion.

Perseverance is necessary to deepen our discovery of ourselves, of God, and of others. The Movement provides us with a method of perseverance to help facilitate our progressive conversion, the tripod, group reunion, and Ultreya. Our conversion is enhanced through sharing our Christian life. Christian life that is not shared is not lived and if it is not lived it is not shared.

In chapter VI of My Spiritual Testament, Eduardo writes: “If we compare the Cursillo Movement to a tree, we are happy to see that it has grown, but it also hurts us to see that in some places, no doubt with the best of intentions, they have taken the tree of the Cursillos for a Christmas tree and have been hanging lights and decorations - their favorite brilliant ideas – and have gradually been spoiling its clear and simple profile.”

Fr. Frank Salmani points out that: ”the Founder was led by the Holy Spirit and the Cursillo Movement is God’s gift to us - the Church.” He writes: “To tamper with its essence is to interfere with the work of the Spirit. The Spirit gave us this Movement with its method. We have no right to tamper with it. The Cursillo did not invent what is fundamental to being Christian. We are simply carrying on the mission of Christ, which is the mission of the Church.”

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Invitation to all Cursillistas from Terry A. Ginther. Executive Director, Office of Pastoral Life and Mission, Diocese of Trenton

Invitation to all Cursillistas from Terry A. Ginther. Executive Director, Office of Pastoral Life and Mission, Diocese of Trenton

Our Diocese has sponsored a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC every other year since the early 1970’s.  It has been a wonderfully enriching experience of prayer and solidarity for participants of every age.  During my tenure as President of the Catholic University, I witnessed millions of pilgrims coming and going to pray in this magnificent basilica church.  I recall with special fondness the visit of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI to the University Campus and the Shrine.

This year the faithful from our Diocese of Trenton will make the pilgrimage on Saturday, November 7th 2015.  I ask that you reserve this date in your personal schedule and your parish/ministry calendar.  There are no particulars available at this time.  The Shrine Staff will be hosting an orientation session for Diocesan Coordinators this coming March 2015.  Father Jeffrey Lee, Diocesan Director for Pilgrimages will be participating as my representative.  I trust that more particulars will follow that meeting.

I am grateful for all that you are doing in service to the people of our diocese.  Thank you for the overwhelming sentiments and prayers that are being offered for me as I continue to recover from surgery.  I look forward to being with you in the coming months.  Thank you for helping to make the 2015 Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception a great opportunity for spiritual renewal.  “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”