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.”