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Letters

From time to time we will be posting letters from our Spiritual and Lay Directors as well as other Cursillo positions. We will place the date of each letter at the top so that you may see when the letter was submitted.

October 2017

Dear friends and comrades in faith,


     A few weeks ago I found myself unusually weary and discouraged: so many demands on my time and energy, so many hurting people, so many things not working out as I had planned. On top of all that, there's been such devastating loss from natural disasters, the teetering on the brink of another war and continued violence on many fronts. The little kid in me asks the nagging question: "Why can't people try harder to live in harmony and peace?" "Isn't this world EVER going to learn from the mistakes of the past?” I was wondering if ANY of my efforts was making even a tiny drop of difference in this big ocean of hurting humanity.


     So I went to God with a heavy heart, and surprisingly, as I prayed, I heard God ask me what it was that I needed. The question itself felt like a soothing ointment; it took me only a short moment to find the answer. "I need a sense of hope," I heard myself say. I had not even known it until I spoke the words. But hope is so beautiful, a gift that as soon as I asked for it, I began to experience the first tender signs of it in my heart again.


      Before I say more about what hope is, let me get rid of the superficial stuff. Hope is not wishful thinking or dreaming, such as we might use when we say, "I hope it doesn’t rain next weekend" or "I hope my parents never find out what I did!" Certainly, it is not a weapon that we use against one another: "I hope you fall flat on your face!" And it's not naive optimism either, "head-in-the-sand" or Pollyannaism that refuses to notice pain and misery. So what am I talking about when I focus on this virtue of hope?


     Hope is an act of trust in the ultimate goodness and care of God. It is based on the solid conviction that God, who loved this world enough to create it and sustain it, will never abandon it, no matter how far we stray from God. Hope in its truest and most beautiful form doesn't exist apart from this belief. We have the promise from Jesus himself that truth, justice, mercy, and goodness (in a word, love) will one day carry the banner of victory. Or as Julian of Norwich, a medieval mystic, once said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” That’s not naïve optimism; that’s looking pain and tragedy and sadness straight in the face and saying, "You may be winning now, but in the end, you will lose." That's Christian hope, based on God's promise.


     That's my first point: goodness will prevail. My second point regarding hope is this: Hope is given to God's anawim, God's little people - those who seem to count for nothing, those whom courts and agencies and neighbors and classmates, and maybe even churches have ignored or despised. Not to the strong and influential; they don't need it; they think they are self-sufficient; everything is going their way; they're ahead in the race and it looks like they're going to win. People aren't open to the virtue of hope when they feel no need for it. No, hope is God's gift to the simple, beautiful people who realize they have no one else to turn to for strength, who need to see "a light at the end of the tunnel" and know that sadness and pain will not last forever, that this, too, will pass, and growth will come of it. Hope learns to carry the inevitable crosses of life with the inner strength of conviction that life is still noble, worthwhile, and a great blessing.


     I grew up on a farm and we had a big family garden. Mom and Dad expected that we kids work in that garden - hoeing, picking vegetables, etc. I hated it; hot sun, mosquitoes, back aches, etc. and I avoided gardening well into my adulthood. But after my dad died I was drawn mysteriously back to the soil; I found that planting, and weeding and harvesting gave me an immense comfort. I was experiencing the virtue of hope in the simple act of putting seeds and bulbs into the ground and waiting for them to grow. And, you know, they did! I came to trust that I would grow through this tremendous loss (now including my mother who was also a gardener), because love was good and God was good. When we are experiencing fear or failure or loss or great physical or emotional pain, when we're most vulnerable, that's also when we're ripe for hope. And believe me, that's far more than just wishing that things would get better!


      May we be people of hope. This story that we are living will one day, maybe only in the far distant future, but surely, nonetheless, have a good ending and the good will be there to celebrate the victory!


De Colores!
Sr. Edna


P.S. Years ago Sr. Agatha Lamberjack (Cursillista) planted six English Walnut trees in the backyard of the motherhouse in Tiffin. The trees flourished and produced abundantly. Then a tornado ripped through the property on a November night in 2003. The walnut trees were not destroyed but traumatized and stopped producing walnuts. Year after year.. nothing… until this year, 14 years later. Abundance once again. I joined the nut gatherers today to celebrate the ‘come back.’ What a lesson in healing! Never lose hope!



September 2017


My beloved sisters and brothers in Christ,


      May the gracious peace of our Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God, our heavenly Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.


      I pray that the Men’s Weekend September 14th -17th will be successful and fulfilling for the candidates and the team as they add to our numbers and refresh and renew our whole Cursillo Community.


      Piety (holiness) is our attitude and way of life in responding to God’s initial invitation to us to have a relationship with Him. He speaks to us in His Word, the Sacred Scriptures, the Eucharist, and in our daily activities as well as our quiet moments. Our response to Him is our prayer life, or piety.


     We are called to respond to God’s giving of God’s self to us, to likewise become “holy”, that is, to become a part of God. A definition or description of “holiness” From the Concise Theological Dicitionary.


     The word itself comes from old German “whole” and means whole or complete. On our own we are not complete, although we more often think we are. “I’ve got it all together.” It is an attribute of being that entirely fulfils the purpose of its existence and is thus one with itself. Strictly speaking, only God is holy as being –“the awesome and fascinating mystery “utterly other” than human beings, and indescribably holy. (Is. 6:3,5)


     God wants - desires to share his holiness with us by the grace of His Son, Jesus. It is ours. A free gift with no strings attached. It is there for us, all we have to do is respond. Our weekends help us to learn how as we support each other through our prayer and palanca.


     The Holy Spirit of God, who works in and through our lives, sanctifies us (making us holy) and empowers us. To live our relationship with God (our holiness) is a sacramental sign, and by our words and actions we proclaim it to the world around us. That’s evangelization!


     I would like to invite all of you to the Sanctify and Empower Us! Let us Proclaim! Conference at St. Jerome Parish in Walbridge on October 6&7. We begin Friday evening with check in at 6pm. Program of Praise begins at 7pm.


On Saturday the sessions begin at 8am and run to 5 pm. The weekend vigil Mass at 7 pm (on Saturday) will be followed by a healing service. Fr. David Pivonka, TOR, will be one of the speakers, and James “Butch” Murphy will be the other speaker.


     A flyer with information is provided in this ARK. Please come to the conference. I know you will enjoy it.


Pray for me, as I will pray for you.
Fr. Jim




August 2017


Sisters and Brothers All,


     Thought I'd share some thoughts on the feast of the Transfiguration that we celebrate in this month. It's right up our alley as Cursillistas -- to share the light of Christ. This feast was established in our very own generation -- we can kinda "own" it. Jesus was fully human in all things but sin and had to learn just as we do about who we are and how to put on clothes and what to eat and what not to eat. He had to learn from the Father who He was. At His baptism at the Jordan by John, He experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit and spent 40 days in the desert letting that sink in. He would go up the mountain to pray to the Father (as a human He didn't have a constant beatific vision!). Near the end of His life, He took Peter and brothers James and John with Him to share with them something special: His sense of being light in darkness (MIGHTY important for all of us) and how He fit in the Father's plan with Moses (bearer of the Law in the Ten Commandments) and Elijah (personification of the gift of speaking the wisdom of God: prophecy).


      This gets pretty connected for us especially as evangelizers (bearers of the Good News) as we seek to bring others to Christ. We get to ponder how shedding light in the darkness encompasses following the Commandments and allowing God to speak in, to and through us. We then discover, just as Jesus did, how God can use us by our just being very open to that. Peter was so excited about that he wanted to erect three tents to celebrate it and keep it alive, but Jesus told them, it'll be with you all the time, so don't be afraid.... We get that same message on our weekends and then in grouping and ultreyas as we let the Lord use us. We all have experienced a time or several of Jesus being present in a challenging time or a family gathering or tough time at work when we weren't just too sure about what to say or do. But we felt ourselves being led -- and we cooperated!


     Jesus' warning to the Apostles not to tell anyone about what they had just experienced until He had risen from the dead was to teach them what the context is for it all -- so that it makes sense to us and others. That's light in the darkness, and how we need it now in our own generation as much as ever!!! Every generation gets the gift -- it's basic to however the human race is heading. We can make it special at every Mass we attend, but it's even more powerful for us through our being cursillistas. Let's get out and gather more of us.


With prayer and companionship,
Fr Skip



July 2017


Dear Cursillo brothers and sisters,


     As I reflect on this sharing with all of you, I am also joined in spirit with all peoples who have taken one of the many quotations of Pope Francis into their heart. He has said on numerous occasions, “human beings are deeply connected with all of creation." As Cursillistas we cherish this quotation because we know we have been made in the image of God, “temples of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 3:16) We are the living Body of Christ. We experience the interconnection among all our brothers and sisters within the beauty and majesty of all creation.


     Through our graced humanity, we are called to a new deeper awareness of God’s love and presence. We listen, pray and notice God’s movements and inspirations in our lives. Our prayer becomes more contemplative as we begin to see the value and goodness of our natural world with its invaluable resources and how we can protect and share these resources with others in our world community.


     Recently my Community Leader quoted St. Bonaventure, one of our early Franciscan theologians, in a letter to our Community. St. Bonaventure stated that “creation was the first book God wrote. It’s still in print and best seller ever.” Sister Renita went on to say: “We've realized that the diversity in creation teaches us about the diversity in humanity. We've recognized that all the signs of the Sacraments are from earth - ashes, bread, wine, oil, fire, water ... We've allowed earth to teach us about beauty, patience, death and life.”


     As I reflected upon her words, I was reminded of the words we pray at the Preparation of the Gifts in our Liturgy of the Eucharist: “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer to you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.” And “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.” Truly the “fruits of the earth” and the “work of human hands” have become the living Body and Blood of Christ.


     It is no wonder that Pope Francis has asked us to read, study, internalize and live the words of his 2015 encyclical entitled On Care for Our Common Home, Laudato Si’. Pope Francis even went a step further in 2016, during the Holy Year of Mercy to include Care for Our Common Home as one of the Works of Mercy.


     As Cursillistas, we’ve learned about and integrated the traditional corporal and spiritual works of mercy throughout our on-going spiritual formation. But now Pope Francis is asking us to “enshrine ‘care for our common home’ as an official act of mercy for Catholics to perform.” Pope Francis states in his message, “…if we look at the works of mercy as a whole, we see that the object of mercy is human life itself and everything it embraces.”

He defines: “As a spiritual work of mercy, care for our common home calls for a “grateful contemplation of God’s world”… (Laudato Si’,214) . As a corporal work of mercy, care for our common home requires “simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness” and “makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world.” (Laudato Si’, 230-31).


     Throughout this past year, the School of Leaders used Pope Francis’s encyclical, LAUDATO SI’ as the resource for their many sharings. The encyclical is profound spiritual reading and life-changing. It’s also an easy read. We are all invited to this energy-filled love relationship with all creation. The words of my Community Leader resonated in me when she said: “we’ve allowed earth to teach us about beauty, patience, death and life.”


     There are many wonderful and helpful Catholic Advocacy groups which provide valuable resources and information for our on-going formation. Among them are Global Catholic Climate Movement, Franciscan Action Network, and Catholic Climate Covenant. You are invited to check out their websites.


     And perhaps one little practical way to honor our call to Care for Our Common Home is to recall the beautiful prayer entitled the Canticle of Creatures written by St. Francis of Assisi. He describes “Sister Water” as “very useful and humble and chaste.” May we cherish and reverence water as one of our precious gifts and pray that it will always be available to those most in need of it.


Sister Pat Meyer, OSF




June 2017


Dear Cursillistas,


     Since April, 2016, those who have attended School of Leaders have been studying and discussing Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, on our Christian and human responsibility to care for our environment. The awakening of consciousness that I’ve seen has been tremendous. I believe we now better understand the interconnectedness of all creatures - human, animal, plant and inanimate. We talked about the trends toward greed, consumerism, individualism and selfishness that can plague not only the human spirit, but whole countries. We learned that caring for the environment cannot simply be the practice of recycling, reducing and reusing, especially if our true motivation is to save money on garbage pick-up. If the practice of responsible stewardship is to become firmly rooted in our lives, it will have to draw its motivation from a profound awareness of the extraordinary giftedness of creation, especially life on our living earth. It will have to come from the practice and teaching of Jesus himself, who showed such a reverence for everything and everyone around him, using creation to teach lessons about God, and thereby acknowledging its holiness.


     Following the lead of Jesus and his patron, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis, in this encyclical, is teaching moral truth, not just personal opinion. We need to take it seriously if we want to consider ourselves seriously committed to Jesus.


     Just one week after President Trump’s visit with Pope Francis, during which Francis gave him a copy of Laudato Si and asked him to honor international attempts to address climate change, our president decided to withdraw our country from the Paris Accords to “free up” US corporations which find current environmental controls too financially costly. When I heard this news I was shocked with disbelief and frustration. This is more than tension between conservatives and liberals, it is a moral choice made in the name of our entire country that is immoral. In many ways it compares (for me) to the Supreme Court decision to make abortion legal in our country; in both cases the value of life is being undermined in favor of greed and selfishness. Economic prosperity (for a few) is held in higher esteem than goodness, justice, righteousness, concern for the poor, and respect for life in all its forms and stages.

Remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus at his gate; it pertains directly to this decision.  Cf. Luke 16: 19-31.


     So what will be our response as Christians, as Catholics who look to Pope Francis as our pastor and teacher, and as Cursillistas who make a commitment to pray, study and act to transform our own hearts and our environments? Let me suggest two.


1) Contact your representatives at the national, state and local levels and express your dismay at this decision. Speak as a follower of Jesus who warned against valuing money over what is morally right. Ask for the rescinding of this decision at the national level and, despite what is decided at the federal level, to continue with environmental controls at the state and local levels. You can find names of representatives and contact phone numbers and email addresses on the web.


2) The hectic pace we choose to live can easily prevent us from times of quiet reflection and attentiveness to the wonders of creation around us and beneath our feet. Commit to a solid block of time each week (preferably several) to spend in nature, training yourself to be attentive to what’s there. As we ponder the quiet, small wonders around us, we discover on our own the interconnectedness, the true communion that exists among all creatures. That’s a real attitude-changer and what will develop within us is a stronger commitment to protect, cherish, appreciate and defend our myriad “brothers and sisters” whose survival depends on our conscious decisions. Then read Scripture through this lens of respect for all creatures; you’ll find solid support for this position, as well as the strength to withstand the barrage of critics who prefer self-interest and utility over respect and gratitude.
For me, it comes down to this: Do I believe America is made great again through a closer following of Jesus and his challenging teachings or by claiming more of the wealth of the world for ourselves? What is your operational creed?


With great concern,
Sr. Edna Michel


“As stewards of God’s creation,
we are called to make the earth
a beautiful garden for the human family.
When we destroy our forests,
ravage our soil and pollute our seas,
we betray that noble calling.”
~Pope Francis




May 2017


My beloved sisters and brothers in Christ, our risen Lord and Savior,


Praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
he who in his great mercy gave us new birth;
a birth into hope which draws its life
from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead;
a birth to an imperishable inheritance,
incapable of fading or defilement,
which is kept in heaven for you
who are guarded with God’s power through faith;
a birth to a salvation which stands ready
to be revealed in the last days.
(1 Peter 1:3-5.)


      Our Spring weekends are completed but not over. Please continue to welcome our new Cursillistas:


      Cursillo #267: Terry Bettinger, Bryan Blevins, George Dallas, Manuel Garcia, Dick Miller, Jim Patterson, John Shuler, Toby Smith, and Pat Temple.


     Cursillo #268: Gwen Achen, Lynn Bine, Amanda Borer, Karen Caputo, Sally Meier, Janice Miller, Barbara Stager, Ellaine Sweet, and Francis Thompson.


      Please keep these folks in prayer, palanca, grouping and ultreyas. The Fall Weekends are almost here. Let’s not wait until September to gather new candidates. Prayer, planning and graced courage to ask is what it takes. Put in your application now if you want to work on a weekend. We encourage a list of applicants for teams.


     May 13, 2017 marks the 100th Anniversary of the apparitions of our Lady in Fatima. The celebration will begin this May and conclude on November 26, 2017.


     For the longest time I didn’t care for the Fatima apparition thing. Mainly, because of the way the statue is treated.


     It appears so effeminate and plastic looking… making me think of idolatry. Plus some of the political accusations that are bantered about regarding the three “secrets” made me skeptical. However, I have been given several books on the history and story of Fatima, and the topic of the place and name “Fatima, is making me take another look. “Fatima” is a Muslim name and when the Muslim Turks controlled that part of Spain and Portugal, the village was named after the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter, “Fatima.” For me, that put a whole new light on Mary’s choosing to appear there to the three children. I think of the possibilities of Mary’s work in bringing about a whole new understanding for the Muslim people, and perhaps this 100th Anniversary may be the spark.


     What an awesome opportunity we all have to learn more about the apparitions and the Fatima story in these next months. I invite you to keep up with the news about the Anniversary Celebration in Fatima, at the Vatican, and elsewhere. This offers us another reason to Pray the Rosary often.


     How are you preparing for Pentecost? I would like to invite you to St. Joseph Church in Marblehead on the Vigil of Pentecost. The Vigil service will begin at 7:30 pm until 9. We are cohosting this event with the MCCR. Come join the exciting experience of the Holy Spirit.


Ultreya!
Fr. Jim




April 2017


Dear Sisters and Brothers in Jesus,


     Blessed Holy Week and Easter Season to each and all! Hopefully we all made a bunch more progress in coming closer and closer to Our Savior as we had the added spiritual enticement of a weekend for the men and team preparation for a weekend for the women and their weekend falling quickly in the celebration of the Easter Season. I love the way our God puts wonder-full things together so nicely!


     As our world-wide Christian family gets to celebrate the most important message of all time, we can get better and better at telling the Good News (evangelizing!!) year after year and person upon person in the Movement -- for all the world to hear, Christians and non. We're about getting better and better at telling the fantastic love story the Creator wants everyone to hear and know. And we love what we're doing and enjoy one another and celebrating life -- not just here and now but for ever and ever! Whoopee!


     Let's make an additional effort this special year of the hundredth anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima to make her message better known and exciting to celebrate -- as an ADDED reason to smile, and spread joy, and take great CARE of one another (not just our fellow Cursillistas)! Knowing our God and the Mother of Jesus we can expect and look forward to some amazing things to happen in our lives. The world needs us. We're here. We'll come through!


Flourish forever,
Fr. Skip


Jesus said: I am the resurrection. Anyone who
believes in me, even though that person dies,
will live, and whoever lives and believes in me
will never die John 11:25-26




March 2017


In the tender compassion of our God…


(Luke 1:78 as translated for the Gospel Canticle for Morning Prayer)


      As we enter into Lent, it is a good time to reflect on an aspect of God that is often overlooked. God is infinite and has an infinite capacity for love and for compassion.


      Compassion means to “suffer with”. A compassionate person has the ability to suffer with another person who is going through a rough time. God has an infinite capacity to suffer with us yet we feel like He has abandoned us in our time of need.


      Even Jesus in his suffering cried out: “My God, My God, Why have you abandoned me?” If Jesus, who is fully human and fully divine felt abandoned by God in His suffering, it is natural for us to feel abandoned in our suffering. Yet God is with us always. Even when we feel abandoned, He is there with us.

God was present with and in Jesus at the time of his suffering. God did not abandon Him but suffered with Him. The same is true for us. In our Baptism we were filled with the Holy Spirit. In our Confirmation, we were confirmed in the life of the Holy Spirit within us. Paul reminds us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Whenever someone goes through great suffering, whether it is physical, emotional or psychological, God is there suffering with them.

When someone is dying, God is there suffering with them. When a mother cries out for her child who is suffering from disease, God is suffering with her. With the addict, God is there. With the victim of human trafficking, God is there. With us when we come face to face with the consequences of our actions and know we have failed, God is there.


      When we sit with a friend who asks why God let her child die, know that God was with her child through the ordeal and God is with her in her suffering. We don’t need to look out into the sky; we can look to ourselves and know that God is with us.


     Recently I watched the Song of Bernadette on TV. I was struck by the words Our Lady gave her at their first meeting. “I can’t promise you happiness in this world.” It rang a bell with me. Remember the Baltimore Catechism and the answer to the question of Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, love Him and Serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him forever in the Heaven. Bernadette knew joy at times in her life and she knew great physical suffering and died at a young age. I think also of the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes at the grotto at the Pines. One Cursillo, I was preparing for a rollo and was drawn to the grotto. I stood next to Bernadette and looked at Our Lady. It struck me that Our Lady’s head was not tilted so it looked up at the heavens; it was tilted slightly up as one looking at someone slightly above them. It was the posture of Mary looking up at her son upon the cross. Our God is not a god distant and uncaring. Our God suffered and died upon the cross and stood with Mary as she watched her son suffer and die. In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Suffering and death give way to resurrection and peace.


DeColores!
Deacon Andy McMahon



February 2017


Dear Friends,


     A few weeks ago I saw the newly released film, Hidden Figures. It tells the incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) - brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA in the early ‘60s, and who served as the brains behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. The recognition of their talent, however, came ever so slowly, and they suffered the prejudice that still throws doubt on the mental acuity of anyone who is a woman and who is black. Because February is Black History Month; because racial tension has seen a new rise in fear and violence in our country, and because the Gospel consistently calls us to welcome and love our neighbor, I want to reflect with you on what may be going on in us.


      Do you remember the book, and later the film, Black Like Me? A Caucasian journalist, Howard Griffin, has his skin temporarily darkened and travels through the states in the Deep South around 1960, to find out firsthand how he will be treated. Not long ago I imagined myself as a black mother of two sons, ages 14 and 8, living in a poor black neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. I pictured myself teaching them to respect their elders, to help those less fortunate than themselves, to be honest and to stand tall in their own dignity as beloved children of God. Each day as they left for school I sent a prayer, mixed with worry, for their safety because I knew there were gangs in their school. Recent incidents with the police who patrolled this part of the city gave me additional reason to fear that one of my sons might be threatened, beaten or shot if they looked askance at an officer. Each evening I breathed a sigh of relief to see them return safely and with no reports of being bullied, spat upon, robbed, kicked, tormented…. or arrested. I want them to believe that they have worth and talents that will contribute to society. I want to protect them from harm and hatred. Isn’t that what every mother, every parent wants for their children?


      There are not many jobs here; I work as a cleaning lady in a downtown office. I did well as a student myself and was hoping to get an accounting job in one of those offices, but they told me cleaning was the only job they would offer me “because of my credentials.” It’s hard to feed two growing sons on what I get paid, besides paying the rent. Life gets pretty hard sometimes; I thank God for my faith. I trust he sees my heart and not just the disfavored color of my skin.
This morning, shortly after I sent my sons out the door to school, I heard police sirens. I ran out into the street and then heard gunshots. My heart raced; my motherly instinct pulled me, terrorized to the scene. There lay my son, my beautiful 8 year old son. I think I died that day also….


     Terrorism comes in many shades. It has darkened our country with extreme fear and anger since September 11, 2001. But for our black brothers and sisters, terrorism has been their history since the arrival of the first slave ships in the 1600s. Enslavement, rape, lynching, burning at the stake, being treated as ‘less than’, being shot ‘as a preventive measure’ or to teach a lesson, being ridiculed, demeaned, and shunned. What are we doing? What will it take to work through our fears and prejudices to meet the real person behind the dark skin? Dare we believe that these are our brothers and sisters, that we share the same humanity and thus, God’s dignity? What am I doing about my own prejudice? (and no copping out by denying that I am prejudiced.)


I wish you some discomfort this month, for we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy and enlightenment.


Sr. Edna




January 2017


Greetings and Blessings of this New Year to all of you my beloved sisters and brothers in Christ.


     We have begun this New Year, 2017, with a renewed sense of hope and promise and many of us have sent greetings and blessing to family and friends for a happy and holy New Year. I certainly want to extend my same sentiments to all of you in our Cursillo Family.


      As we are in the afterglow of the Feast of Epiphany and the Christmas Season perhaps we can learn from the Magi how to extend this hope and blessing into the whole year. Pope Francis gives us a wonderful reflection on the Epiphany story of Matthew’s Gospel.


     “Like the Magi, every person has two great ‘books’ that provide signs to guide us through our pilgrimage to truth and abundant life: the book of creation, the star that guided the Magi and human reason; the Book of Scriptures, the Divine Revelation they found in Jerusalem.


     Imagine that following the star cost a great deal in expense of time, treasure and travel. Following the Scripture demanded even more – a costly conversion. They expected to find the new born king in Jerusalem, in a palace. Instead they find a powerful, pathetic and eventual homicidal king Herod. The Scriptures challenged them to recalculate the journey towards an insignificant village outside of Jerusalem. By humbling themselves the Magi rediscover the star and following it led them to a deeper challenge: could they recognize in a poor child – born to powerless parents the mystery of God with in us? They did! And humbly prostrated themselves in heartfelt worship.


     By showing us that we encounter God personally, not by the splendor of worldly power, but by the gentleness of humble love, the Magi challenge us to an on-going conversion, to chart the course into this New Year of 2017 by the bright star of God’s mercy and Jesus’ Gospel of love presented this year by Matthew.


     So what ‘recalculation’ of our lifestyle, schedule or priorities do we need to make as we begin this New Year? The Gospel challenges us to a personal encounter with our Lord Jesus – our own epiphany experience.


     One epiphany tradition that can extend the Christmas spirit into the whole year is the blessing of our homes. It is a simple process of marking the inside lentil of the door of your home that is the main entrance with chalk a simple 20-C-M-B-17. 2017 of course is this year and the C,M,B stand for the traditional names of the Magi, Casper (or Gaspar), Melchior and Balthasar. It also is the blessing “Christus mensurat bendictus” – “Christ bless this house.”


      In this way you are consecrating your home, family and this year. The gifts of the Magi then become the very symbols of our family’s life: GOLD –represents all the treasures of our family and home, especially our relationships as well as our valuable ‘stuff.’ The INCENSE stands for our prayer life and our relationship with our Lord. And the MYRRH points to the suffering, pain, disappointments that the year will certainly bring.


Each room can be sprinkled with holy water (the kids love to do this –especially each other’s rooms) and a simple prayer of blessing:


God of Bethlehem and Cana, God of Jordon’s leaping waters,
in baptism You bring us into your family.
You wed us, embracing us as your beloved.
May we fill this home we have made with kindness for one another,
with hospitality to guests,
and with abundant care for every stranger.
By the gentle light of a star, guide home
all who seek You on paths of faith, hope and love
where they will join the angels in proclaiming your praise.
Glory in heaven and peace on earth now and forever.
Amen.


May each of you be blessed in the New Year, and BE a blessing to each other and to all you meet.


Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Jim



December 2016


Beloved Sisters and Brothers,


We're on the launch pad for another year of Evangelization! We're proudly and excitedly in a kind of "preface" as we help others look forward with hope and longing for the telling and re-telling of the greatest story of all time. We've got not only the Good News to share, but it's the BEST news there is - and ever will be.


I'm thinking that with all that's going on in our world right now from fighting in the very place on earth that Jesus set foot, and war in the first big Christian nation where there are innumerable refugees and people being forced to go to other parts of the world just to stay alive, to our own nation where we are in the midst of a new leadership launching that has us all wondering: some hopefully, some fearfully, some repentantly, some carefully, and all looking forward to
promises -- and all of us tied together on the same planet, we have an excellent opportunity (and challenge) to share astounding GOOD NEWS that is out of this world but meant entirely for it. [How's that for a sentence?! Might be good to read it again s l o w l y.......]


Two things to get in touch with: the meaning of the last paragraph, AND the Savior of the World. Each year Advent gives us the time and the opportunity to get yet closer to Our Savior in order to live and tell the story even better than we ever have so far. We ask "Who is Jesus for me?" and get a richer, deeper answer to share with family, friends, acquaintances, even enemies -- and even ourselves. Get in touch with that effort so that you can share even that when it's
appropriate! That's evangelization; it's what we're all about and get to practice in grouping, ultreyas, weekends, closings, school of leaders and one-on-one. The Savior comes to be in touch with our messy world and our pure hearts, to put them together to last joyously forever!!! Isn't that WONDER-FUL??? LOVE is the answer, eh?


DeColores!!!...???...!!!
Fr. Skip




November 2016


My dear Friends in Christ,


     In the Women’s three day Cursillo “retreat”, the spiritual director has a pastoral option to provide at Morning Prayer on Saturday a meditation on Mary of Nazareth. I have always used this option when on team and it has proven powerful, grace-filled.


     My own conversion to Mary, acknowledging her as a flesh and blood woman with an awesome faith pilgrimage, dates to 2002 through the care of a woman retreat director in Farmington Hills, MI. Then and there, Mary revealed herself to me most intimately. Since that time, my awareness of, and love for her has deepened. One of the fruits of that deepening has been the privilege and honor of offering the Saturday meditation by imagining Mary’s life through the Scriptures.


     St. Luke and St. John both provide insight into her roles as one called to be faithful daughter and betrothed, kinswoman, spouse, mother, disciple, widow, childless mother, dependent upon another, and finally, Queen Mother. Mary is revealed as honest, authentic, and yet human in grappling with life, much of it ordinary, with no preview of how it would turn out. She chose to be faithful in the moment, participating with the assistance of pervasive grace. She learned to ponder, not resist, the call she received, then take the next steps in answering that call, and repeat it again, always surrendering to God as His servant, letting it be done according to His Word. Her Son, Jesus, would teach his disciples to pray in a very similar fashion as they learned to say “Father, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done….


     At Cana when wine ran low at a wedding feast, Mary and Jesus both interacted in the back room with the wait staff. Mary laid the need before Jesus. “Son, they have no wine.” Turning to the servants (the diaconos), Mary cued them (and us) to do whatever He tells you. Jesus in turn addressed the servants to fill the jars with water and generosity mirrored that of Mary as they filled their vessels to the brim. More than wine flowed. Miracles poured forth.


     Mary consistently listened and accepted, not without much lifelong reflection and pondering, the gift of her life, destined to be mother of God, and eventually, our Queen Mother. She is a remarkable witness to the depth of the life of God within each of us. She is a compelling woman shaped by suffering, love, death, and resurrection. She is ever one with us, laying our needs before Jesus, as we ask her to pray for us now and at the hour of our death, and the deaths of our loved ones. She faithfully remembers us and companions us in our distresses. Do you recall the Memorare? Remember your Mother. “Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary….”


     I encourage you to stay true to your own conversions, to your deepening understandings of grace, the God-life, fellowship, prayer, living faithfully and responsively in the environments shaping your current life. May our fidelity to the grace life be a source of strength for our Church and our world.


Ultreya,
Sr. Mary Jo Szpila, SND





September 2016


Dear Cursillistas, Beloved of God,


      Grace is the topic for two Friday rollos and another on Saturday afternoon on every Cursillo weekend.  Grace is fundamental for being a Christian; that’s why the topic and the experience of grace is part of the weekend in such an all-pervasive way.


      Unfortunately, fundamentals tend to be taken for granted rather easily and their profound significance may become lost on us.  We end up holding definitions, empty shells, but are no longer familiar with the experience itself.  I do not want to pass on more definitions, but rather to invite you to enter this fundamental mystery with a greater awareness and to let God be gracious to you.


      Rejoice and be glad; you are loved by God far beyond what you can even imagine!  It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done or failed to do; the most righteous among you cannot merit communion with God.  That is a gift, a pure gift.  And that is the meaning of grace: pure gift.  God’s love in overwhelming measure, beyond comprehension, is poured over us – into us - with the intent to fill and satisfy us, heal and forgive us, console and strengthen us, delight and energize us.


      All we have to do is open up to receive this love, this grace.  In doing so we become graceful, gracious, holy people.  Consider your own experience of being loved by another.  How beautifully it heals us!  When someone expresses genuine love for you in word or deed, what happens inside you?  Doesn’t it immediately lighten the load you are carrying or brighten your day?  Don’t you greet the next person you meet in a warmer, friendlier manner than you might have done otherwise?  Likewise, have you discovered that when you’ve become harsh or judgmental of others it’s because you’ve lost touch with the tender, powerful love of God for you personally?


      God is telling us he loves us in a thousand ways every day.  When we are open to him, open to those moments of grace, we are renewed in mind, body and spirit.  And so we quite naturally extend a warmer, more compassionate presence to others.  We become like fountains overflowing to water and refresh arid land.


      Holiness is not primarily an accomplishment.  It is not the accumulation of all the great things we’ve done or the bad things we’ve avoided.  Like grace, it is not something we can boast of due to our strong determination and character; it is not a level of spiritual development that gives us the right to look down on those “lesser souls” who haven’t attained to the heights we have.  Holiness is a grace which abides in us because God loves us and we believe in and accept that love.  Our attitudes and actions follow from that belief.


      I pray that all of us may be able to let go of our fears and doubts that get in the way of the love and intimacy God so desires.  May you be graced!  May life and love be yours in abundance!


 Always,

 Sr. Edna



August 2016


      The month of August has always been the month of Mary for me in celebrating the Feast of the Assumption. Of course, in the early days of growing up it meant going to Mass, especially on weekdays. I don’t ever remember it being a chore for us kids, but I imagine it was for our parents. I remember one summer at camp special arrangements were made for the Catholics to get to Mass. I’m sure it was not convenient for the leadership, but in those days they conformed to our needs. I’m sure there were questions from the non- Catholic boys but I don’t remember any conversations around why we had to go to church in the middle of the week.


      There are three Marian Solemn Feast days throughout the year: the Immaculate Conception, on December 8th, the Motherhood of Mary on January 1st and the Solemnity of the Holy Assumption of Mary into heaven,, body and soul that we celebrate on August 15th.
In all of these feasts we celebrate what God has done for Mary, as well as for us through Mary. As she prays in the Magnificat, it is not about her but about what God is doing for our salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son our Lord.


      It is interesting that we use the word “assumption.” We associate that word with English - assume -meaning having an unwarranted expectation or an entitlement. But the Latin root “assumptio” actually means “to be taken up.” Again…it is what God is doing for her.


     In all of the mysteries of the rosary, 18 of them have to do directly with Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. The other two - the Assumption of Mary and the Coronation - are given to her, not done by her. Because she was so open to God’s call and presence in her life she becomes a model for us in how we are to live and love and respond to God.


      Someone once asked me why we pray the rosary and say the Hail Mary. Where does it come from? They were totally surprised when I told them it is from St. Luke’s Gospel, the Annunciation and the Visitation. They had no idea. Thanks to Pope St John Paul II for his gift of the Luminous Mysteries so we now have the whole sequence of Jesus’ infancy, childhood, public ministry, passion and death, and his resurrection, ascension and gift of the Holy Spirit.


     As we hear the Gospel for the Feast of the Assumption we find Luke presenting Mary as a symbol of the things God has done for us, and what our response to God should be. We see an image of Mary in the woman in Revelation “clothed with the sun,” but Revelation wants us to see Israel as she gives birth to a savior and then see that it is the Church (that would be us) that now sustains those who follow the Messiah…Jesus the Christ.
 

God bless you with all good things!
Fr. Jim




July 2016


To my Sisters and Brothers in the Lord Jesus,


      I'm writing this article the day before I leave for a pilgrimage to Italy for the week. Also grabbing my attention is the current news about the slayings that seem so race related and are continuing to get worse. As I get an audience with the pope, and can visit awesome historical Churches and museums and other sites in Rome and Venice and Assisi I am lifting up world peace, justice, love and the need for forgiveness and reconciliation.
      

     As chaplain for a pilgrimage with people whom I haven't yet met but will get to know somewhat well, I will be celebrating Mass each day -- in Churches, Basilicas, Chapels and even hotel rooms with the idea of bringing together the Body of Christ in a small venue to be with and pray for the whole world-wide Body of Christ.


      I've been chosen to go as a representative of the Cursillo Movement, and it was expected that I bring along a bunch of cursillistas (but I didn't realize that until way too late; SORRY!). So all this is fitting together in my (our) eyes of faith to bring the Good News of the Son of God who was crucified as a human being to take away our sins and who taught us that we who believe in good news are caught up in His divinity and have the indwelling of His Holy Spirit to help us cope with a lot worse than this!


     So count on our being together in this effort. I will include our Movement in each of the Masses we celebrate, and ask your prayers for our safety and our witness to all we meet. Let's be looking for something wonder-full to happen that will bring the Peace and Joy of Jesus into our lives and throughout the world! I hope to have a fantastic story to share.


Flourish,
Fr. Ed



June 2016


Dear friends,

 

            One spring evening a few weeks ago, I took a meditative walk around our lovely campus here in Tiffin.  I had been so pre-occupied for most of the month of May that I had been oblivious to the hyacinths, lilacs and lilies of the valley whose fragrance I so look forward to each spring.  I didn’t want to miss anything that was appearing and later wonder what had happened to my favorite season! - hence my walk of discovery and appreciation.  Hundreds of purple and yellow irises were growing along the creek bank that runs through the front of our campus.  The rose bushes in front of the spirituality center were coming into full bloom; the delicate white blossoms of spiraea were waving gently in the evening breeze.  The little purple flowers that are so abundant in spring were adding their brilliant color to the landscape very simply and humbly. Though tiny and rather insignificant (by all popular standards), when gathered in community, they were breathtaking! The birds couldn’t be happier as they sang and called to one another from the pine and hardwood trees overhead.   Of course I thought of Cursillistas!

 

            I stood for a moment on the bridge and watched the water dance and sing over the stones in the creek, as it happily flowed downstream in a carefree, surrendering manner.  Along one of the drives on the property are bluebird houses.  Wrens and swallows had claimed a few of them but two were indeed occupied by bluebirds; I peeked in and discovered momma bird peacefully sheltering a batch of eggs, quite undisturbed by my visit. Hello, little creatures; God bless and keep you safe from harm, always sheltered in divine providence.

 

            I saw the newly planted marigolds growing under the Pottery Shop sign and glanced up the fire escape stairs where pots of geraniums graced every other step.  Along with nature’s lovely way of gracing landscapes I also saw and appreciated the little garden areas here and there on campus, lovingly attended to by various Sisters and other campus residents. 

 

            Gratitude welled up in my heart and I was drawn to sit in the garden swing for a while as the sun was setting, to smile at the patch of daisies next to me and take in the peace of the evening. (No mosquitoes to chase away – yet!)  “O Lord, our God, how glorious your name in all the earth!”  (Ps.8)  Thank you, God, for goodness and beauty which reflect you so well!

 

            Beauty feeds our soul; without it we starve spiritually and psychologically.  Do consciously take time this month for a walk in the woods. Head to one of the metro parks or county parks near you or the open country. Slow down. There I believe you will find the sights, sounds and smells that carry messages of comfort, peace and calm.  Tender your own little garden for the sole purpose of enjoyment and appreciation.  Watch the sun set along a body of water- a wonderful way to gain perspective. Let nature’s wonders touch you where you most need healing, refreshment and encouragement. 

 

            May summer be good for each of you.  May God, speaking through this lovely creation, soothe your pain and heartaches, strengthen your faith and trust, and fill you with deep, amazing gratitude.     


Love, Sr. Edna 





May 2016

Brothers and Sisters –

     Certainly, as we enter the month of May, our hearts are filled with lasting memories. There’s First Communion, Graduation, Mother’s Day, May Crowning, picking lilacs and lilies of the valley. Also, those of us from a certain generation probably remember the song that goes—“M is for the million things you gave me, O means only that you’re growing old; T is for the tears you shed to save me; H is for your heart of purest gold; E is for your eyes with love-light shining, R’s for right and right you’ll always be. Put them all together they spell MOTHER, the word that means the world to me.”

      If we take the time to reflect even briefly on any or all of those memories, we become very aware that they all have played an integral role in our Catholic Christian formation. None of us would be the woman or man we are today if God hadn’t provided those poignant events and faith-filled people for us.
    
     Also, this year in May we celebrate the birthday of the Church—Pentecost. In his reflections on the feast, Pope Francis notes three characteristics of the workings of the Holy Spirit: “newness, harmony and mission.” On first blush, his reflection may meet with “thumbs-up.” As we sit with them a bit longer, we may squirm as each of them stretches us. Yet, judging from our frequenting the gym or pool, we like to be stretched, don’t we? Just as stretching demands conscious effort, we know the benefits when we are stretched either physically or spiritually. May we each let the Spirit stretch us to be transformed into Jesus which happens ever so slowly but surely.

      Newness: If we have our own way of doing things or attitude toward an issue or person, how open are we to another way of looking at that issue or person? Can we allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to open us to a little different “twist” which may simulate cataract surgery on the eyes of our soul? Our God is a God of Surprises. What would happen if we unguardedly released the Spirit of God to let us see people and events in our life through new lenses? Might we perceive more sharply the face of Jesus in them all?

     Harmony: What if everyone was like me? OMG! What if the only flower was a rose? What if the only tree was a buckeye tree? Where would we get those delicious apples, peaches, pears and cherries? Rather, our Creative God provided for diversity in nature and in gifts given to each person. The best part of it is that if we are respectful and conscious of the diversity, great harmony is created. Consider the diversity in an orchestra that creates uplifting and enjoyable harmony. Pentecost would be a good time to examine our own gifts and those of other people, especially those who disturb us, to see how they contribute to the harmony in our life. If disharmony is created, the Holy Spirit is with us to offer just the gift we need to live in Jesus’ spirit more radically. What do you need to appreciate more harmony in life?

     Mission: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (Jn. 14:12) I don’t know about you, but those words of Jesus always make me pause in wonderment. It seems that just being responsively attentive to the Spirit’s working in us moment by moment is to live our faith in Jesus as he lived in his Father and his Father in him. Jesus was always responding to his Father in love—and that Love was the Person of the Spirit. Is that not our mission as well—to be love where there is none, to be love for the person feeling alone or forgotten? Sadly, there are plenty of those in our society today. Might that not be with whom the Jesus we have caught glimpses of overtime is asking us to share his spirit?

May PENTECOST be a NEW DAY—a NEW BIRTH-DAY in the Spirit!! Happy “May-ing!”

Blessings,
Sr. Joanne Mary Frania, SND






April 2016

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

     Easter Greetings! May the Holy Spirit be with you all. Even as we celebrate the Resurrection in these days we also know all too well that death is very real in our lives. Scott Otermat's very sudden and seemingly untimely death brings that reality to home. But it also gives us an opportunity to reflect on the gift that Scott and Kathy are to us and to our Cursillo family. Standing in line for the visitation or gathering for the funeral gave us a chance to see each other, to greet each other, to share common experiences we had with Scott, and to remember how he touched our lives.

     For me, Scott, as is Kathy, was a Leader in the Cursillo sense. That is, always willing to be there, volunteer, take charge and make things happen. Scott's quiet way of leading - whether it was Secreteriat, as rector, or just encouraging us with his "bag of percussion" at closings - will always be a part of my memory of him. He was authentic. What you saw in him was who he was. Scott was a very genuine Christian man, husband and father. I was always impressed by his 'bonding trips' with each of his children - an extended time traveling together with each one, just the two of them, to get to know each other and share memories. That has got to be an important part of each of their lives and memories of their father. It was a joy to watch the family grow up in the videos as we inched along inline to greet Kathy and the family.

     As I reflect on how his life touched my life, I am very appreciative of the gift he was to me from the Lord. I can't help but think of him doing in his fifth day what he always did here on earth in this dimension of life. Sure there were flaws that he contended with. Scott knew them and was working on them. The family knew them as well, yet the Mercy of the Lord was also very much a part of his life and his faith. So we continue to pray for Scott that he may live for the resurrection of his body and continue his work in heaven for our sake.

     And we pray for Kathy and his family as well. This huge change in their lives has got to be devastating., and yet supported by their faith they were able to be gracious to us in spite of their pain and loss. We, as a Cursillo family and community, now entrust our friend and brother in Christ to the Fifth Day of Cursillo. May he rest in the Peace of the Lord.

     As we continue to unfold Easter we have the opportunity to share with our new sisters on their weekend #262. Please keep up your palanca for them and the team. I look forward to seeing all of you at the closing on Sunday evening, 5 pm, April 17th, at the Pine's, St Bernadine's Chapel.

     May God's abundant grace and mercy continue to flow over you and through you as this Jubilee Year of Mercy unfolds. Pray for mercy for our world, for our Church, for our families, and for our movement. Study the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and apply them to all your activities as a motivational force.

Come Holy Spirit!

I love you all in the Lord Jesus,
Fr. Jim



March 2016

Beloved Sisters and Brothers,

An election year in a Year of Mercy for an Evangelist Movement such as we. I have a bit of wisdom I thought I would share with all of you (even though some of you have already received it in my Christmas letter!) as it speaks so eloquently to our generation even though the Holy Spirit gave it to our world sixteen centuries ago! It is attributed to St. Augustine and goes like this:

      "Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance.

       Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth.

       Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us.

       For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed."

Just maybe in our conversations about truth, justice, love, well-being, peace and reconciliation, our sharing the wisdom of the ages (and dare I say it: from above) may make a whole lot of difference -- or even a world of difference! I'm wondering how the Holy Spirit could really use us if we were to make this quotation part of our morning prayer and act on it in this generation of widely increased communication opportunities. St. Augustine entitled it "ON WHAT IS NEEDED FOR CIVIL DISCOURSE."

It is certainly something we could offer; but I have to admit my prayer leads me to the question: if this statement is so genuinely true, why haven't people (especially those in leadership positions) taken it in??? Maybe the answer is just that it needs constant repetition for every generation. We can do that for our own generation now, right?

I'm wondering what would be the effect if we sent a copy to each representative in Congress, each person running for office, national and state. Would that be "overkill" and get written off? Maybe not if it came from individuals, (like it would come across as a "secret"!!) Worth talking and praying about, eh?

De Colores ---Fr. ED


February 2016

To all you lovers, wherever you are,

      Stores and classrooms alike are dressed up in red and white these days, with plenty of hearts and lace and candy and cupids to remind us of Valentine’s Day. The feast is rather charming (regardless our age) and it does spark up an otherwise drab moth, but there’s a far more profound truth hiding under the surface. It has to do, of course, with the truth and mystery of love.

     I’m convinced that the only reason God put us here on this beautiful earth is to love and be loved and thereby to encounter God. John writes in his letter, “Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God. The one without love has known nothing of God, for God is love.” 1 Jn. 4:7

     What a comfort and what a challenge! Comfort because our most profound need as humans is to love and be loved; Scripture tells us that that longing is ultimately our need for God, because GOD IS LOVE. It follows, then, that because we’re human and naturally yearn for love, that we naturally are inclined to God. We don’t have to really exert ourselves to add love to our life: Love is already there, waiting patiently to be recognized, accepted and passed on. Together with Paul we can sing out in jubilant proclamation: “Who, then, can separate us from the love of God? Rom. 8:35

      Every time we are prompted to reach out in love to a person or a situation, it is God initiating our desire to do so, God who is being awakened in that other,  and God who is being shared with that other. The challenge is to believe that with all our hearts. The energy to love is not coming from our own storehouse; we are, rather, conduits of a Love whose source never dries up.

     I believe that ultimately all the efforts, all the longings, all the struggles, all the joys and sorrows of human love become one with the divine Love within us. I believe that we experience God dwelling in us when we cherish people and carry them around in our hearts.

     God is a part of our lives, not because we are the chosen few, but because we are the chosen many. Every single person we meet is a wellspring wherein God who is Love abides. Because of our own short-sightedness we sometimes fail to recognize that awesome truth, so we ask LOVE (God) to widen our vision and to stretch our hearts.

     May this Valentine’s Day give you time to peer into the infinite mystery that YOU ARE! May you recognize God in what makes you most human – your ability to love. And may you acknowledge the sacred beauty in every person you encounter.

In God’s love – delightfully,
- Sister Edna


January 2016

Dear Cursillistas,

     By now your Christmas tree is a thing of the past.  All your decorations are taken down and stored for another year.  The magi have come and gone, and like Mary and Joseph and Jesus your Nativity scenes have fled into the Egypt of your attic or garages to await their return.   Yes 2015 is gone and our journey into 2016 is underway.   What is the promise of this brand New Year?   What do we carry with us, and what do we leave behind? 
 
     What I hope we all carry with us this year is the joy of being in a Jubilee Year of Mercy.  Maybe you had the opportunity to walk through one of the designated Holy Doors around our Diocese, or a symbolic door in your own parish as the Year of Mercy began in December.  Even more importantly, have you taken time to walk through the door of your own heart?  Where is your heart as this New Year has begun, and the Year of Mercy continues?
 
     Fr, John Lehner in one of his talks during a Cursillo weekend a few years ago defined mercy as “treating others better than they deserve.”  I liked that definition.  That is after all how our God treats us.  So many times we fall short of all that we can and want to be and do. (Are your New Year’s Resolutions already a bit tarnished, or forgotten?)  But like the Father in the parable of the Prodigal our God receives us back with open arms and throws a party for us.  Knowing that we have a loving, forgiving God how can we not be that way with one another!  “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36).
 
     Pope Francis says “At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of God’s action in our lives.”  And so, we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries, admonish the sinner and pray for the living and the dead.  Yes, this year walk through the door of Mercy, gaze attentively, and live deeply the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.  Our world needs it.  So do we.

In Mercy,
Sister Wanda Smith, RSM




December 2015


Beloved sisters and brothers in Christ,


 “Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father’s mercy. These words sum up the mystery of our Christian faith.”

      Misericordia Vultus is Pope Francis’ letter to the world inaugurating this Extraordinary Jubilee year of Mercy – “a special time in the Church when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.”

      This special Holy Year is to begin on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and conclude on the Feast of Christ the King next November.
 Normally the Jubilee Year comes every fifty years and is marked by some extraordinary events, prayers or actions. The holy doors which are sealed during the interim are unsealed and opened in the four major basilicas in Rome - St. Peter’s, St. Maria Majori, St. John Lateran and St. Paul Outside the Wall.  In local Churches (dioceses) around the world certain churches are designated to imitate the four basilicas in Rome that have holy doors.
 
      The Pope can call for a special Holy Year at any time, as we know St. Pope Paul VI did in 1975 and St Pope John Paul did even before the year 2000. Each of these years have a unique theme calling us Catholics to proclaim our faith to the world. This present Jubilee Year is a cause to reflect on God’s Mercy – His tender loving care for us, in spite of our sinfulness and unworthiness.
 
      What is Mercy? It is the form love takes when it encounters misery. First of all it is a form of love because it wants what is good for the one who is loved. Mercy is not condescension; instead it is restoration. Think of the story of the Prodigal son that Jesus tells us. The son is restored back to his original status in the family. The visual image for the Year of Mercy is a man being carried by Jesus on his shoulders as being rescued.  
 
      As a Cursillo Community I think we have a unique place in the life of the Church, in our homes and families, in our neighorhoods and work places to be the catalyst for mercy by simply applying the Cursillo method. For example: prayer – for mercy for self and others using the chaplet of Divine Mercy, the rosary or other kinds of prayer.  By our study –reading the Pope’s document, Misericordia Vultus The Face of Mercy and using the Diocesan website www.toledodiocese.org /yearofmercy. That will open lots of other possibilities.  And our action plan… which we already have two dimensions available to us:  a) the corporal works of mercy, and b) the spiritual works of mercy.
 
      Finally perhaps this is a time to reflect on our own life’s journey and how it has been impacted by mercy shown to us by a multitude of people. Then again think about how merciful you are or have been. Make a plan to work on strengths and eliminate the negative stuff.
 
     The merciful Face of God shines forth in His Son Jesus our Lord. As we prepare to celebrate his birthday on Christmas may we resolve to be the face of Christ to all we meet.  
 
      May you all have a tremendous Spirit-filled and holy Christmas Season throughout Advent and all the way to the Baptism of the Lord on January 10th. May you be blessed and may you BE a blessing to everyone. 

Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Jim



November 2015


Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

 

          The feast of All Saints has always had special meaning for me. But ever since the parish that I am a member of has been renamed “All Saints”, this feast day has even extra special meaning. What makes All Saints Day special is the fact that we are celebrating all of the saints in heaven and not just those who have been canonized. We are celebrating people we may have known-people who have worked with us, maybe even on a Cursillo team, suffered with us, laughed and played with us. And yes, there may even be someone there who we are surprised to see because in our mind they didn't seem to us to be holy or good persons. But God sees better than we do. God knows the depth of our hearts and loves us as God's own. 


          The Scripture Readings for the Mass on the feast of All Saints remind us of how much God loves us—so great a love that God calls us children. Of course, being considered children of God doesn't mean that we have a joyful, happy life without suffering. Jesus didn't. But God's love for us gives us the hope we need so that we may live a life based firmly in faith.


          The Gospel reintroduces us to the Beatitudes. We need to remember that the Beatitudes are not commandments or laws. They are a way to live. They are the values and virtues that should form our character. The Beatitudes should be evident in our daily lives, our families, our neighborhoods, in our work and in our leisure. They are the means by which we live and grow in God's love. The Beatitudes help us to truly be God's children and share the love of God with others. Remember what St. Francis said; “Preach the word of God wherever you go, and if necessary use words.”


          This means that we are all called to live and share God's love. Jesus gave us an example. He lived for others and died for all of us. He understood the pain and grief of others. He wept at the grave of Lazarus. He cured the sick and fed the hungry. Jesus gave us his example of how to live the Beatitudes.


          This is the time of year when we are preparing for winter. The time when it just seems that it is normal for us to huddle up and become a little more complacent with our spiritual lives. A time when we are encouraged to think that maybe we will get a little more serious about living the Beatitudes when the weather gets warmer. But as I write this, the weather in early November is at seventy degrees. Yes, we still have the reminder of summer. Rather than thinking of the cold and gloomy weather that is coming, we are able to focus on all that summer had to give us and our spirit's are renewed. 


          Cursillo is like the summer season. Through our groupings and Ultreya's, we share with others how Christ is working in our lives and in the lives of those around us. 


          The overlying theme of the Beatitudes is complete trust in God. In some ways, if we really heard the Beatitudes we would need to read no further in the gospels. They convey the whole gospel message for us.

 

          Ultreya,

 


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