From the Psalter:
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Psalm 118:24 (NRSV) – January 8, 2014.)
My wife and I met at a Cursillo three-day weekend event. I was a part of the team (one of the cooks) putting on the Cursillo; she was “making” her Cursillo (as the lingo has it). She claims we’d met before at a fund-raiser fair at my parish (she attended elsewhere), but I was very busy during the fair and don’t recall that. I remember meeting her at the Cursillo weekend.
The Cursillo movement and the Cursillo community became an important of the early years of our marriage. We married about six months after meeting and in another six months we relocated to another state where I attended law school. There was an active Cursillo community in that location and we became involved.
An eye-opening move, that was. We discovered that the Cursillo community in our original home had been doing things incorreclty! Not just different. They’d been wrong. They’d been violating of the agreement between the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Cursillo Movement, which had licensed the Cursillo method to the Episcopalians. And, we later learned, they knew they’d been doing so.
This comes to mind today because one of the major elements of a Cursillo weekend is music. In those communities, it was the sort of music that today might be called “praise choruses” or “church folk” or “contemporary.” Simple, easily remembered, repetitive songs accompanied by guitars, banjos, tambourines, bongos. One song common to both communities was based on this verse; in fact, it was this verse so far as I can remember.
There may have been verses and this may simply have been the chorus, but all I can recall is this verse: “This is the day, this is the day, that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. We will rejoice, we will rejoice, and be glad in it, and be glad in it.” A catchy, bouncy little tune to which one could dance a formless dance, whirling like a dervish! It was easy to get caught up in and it demonstrated to me the spiritual power of music, simple melodies, and physical movement. Whirling and spinning and experiencing the power of the Spirit!
When my wife and I returned to our original home after three years in law school, we were asked to be the leaders of a coeducational three-day Cursillo event. We agreed, but we said we wanted to try to abide by the agreement between our church and the Roman Catholics, to discontinue those practices which violated the accord, to keep faith with our brothers and sisters who had gifted us with the Cursillo as a tool for deepening the faith of mature Christians.
There was push-back. In fact, there was outright rebellion. Members of the community refused to sponsor candidates to the weekend we were to lead; others refused to contribute to the cost of the event. Evelyn and I resigned from leadership and felt we had no choice but to withdraw from the community.
What had been an important support for us in the early years of married life became a source of grief and sadness. It still is. We miss being a part of that community and we miss the nearly automatic entry being in the Cursillo community gave us to a wider circle of church friends when we relocated. Where we live now, there is no active Cursillo community so the sharpness of the grief is dulled; there are no “Reunions,” nor “Ultreyas” (as the regular get-togethers of Cursillistas are called), so no constant reminders that we are no longer a part of Cursillo.
And yet we rejoice that we were fortunate to have been called to that community. It’s where we met; it sustained us. Like each day the Lord makes, it has passed. When it was here, we rejoiced in it and we were glad. And we look back on it still with gratitude. When I think of it, I think of this verse and that danceable chorus, and my soul comes alive in the Spirit, whirling and spinning, and expressing the joy that community gave us . . . and how grateful I am to that experience for the gift of my wife and the family we have created.
Everyday is a new day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it, whirling and spinning in the power of the Spirit.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.
My wife and I have had extensive experience with Cursillo, and we also have been places where the movement has degenerated into a kind of personality cult and the original intent and integrity have been lost. Cursillo died in Milwaukee and in Ohio because folk were unwilling to accept new leadership and especially to insist on the Fourth Day aspect of Cursillo–the most important aspect in my opinion. the only option we have now in Ohio is to send people to Walk to Emmaus. The lack of teaching on the Sacraments is my only problem with Emmaus.
Does this mean there is no way to bring cursillo back? I would dearly love to be part of this wonderful renewal and connect with people from across the diocese in a spiritual way using the cursillo model.