Program #0050 for Wednesday, May 18, 2011: Cursillo

May 18, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chip Hines

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Martin Hyatt, bso, and Paul Blanchette

Today’s topics: The Cursillo ministry

A summary of today’s show: Fr. Martin Hyatt and Paul Blanchette talk with Scot and Fr. Chip about Cursillo, its origins, its aims, its wonderful fruits and just what a Cursillo weekend is all about.

1st segment: Scot welcomes Fr. Chip back to show as a substitute co-host for Fr. Matt Williams who is still traveling. The radio studio for The Good Catholic Life is dedicated to Bl. John Paul and today would have been his 91st birthday. Today is also the 50th broadcast of The Good Catholic Life. On today’s show, we will discuss Cursillo. Many people of faith throughout the archdiocese that Scot admires have the common background of having lived a Cursillo, including Cardinal Seán. Fr. Chip said he’s seen how the Cursillo brings people closer to Christ.

2nd segment: Scot and Fr. Chip welcome Fr. Martin Hyatt and Paul Blanchette to The Good Catholic Life. Paul said he has been involved with Cursillo for about 20 years and that’s where he met Fr. Martin on his own weekend. It takes place in Framingham and Methuen. Fr. Martin has been general spiritual director since 1994 and has been helping with Cursillo since he was ordained in 1984.

Fr. Martin said Cursillo comes from the Spanish word meaning course and it means literally “little course” or “a short course.” The full name is a “short course in Christianity.” It was born in Majorca, Spain, where the bishop was meeting regularly with a group of men and they were planning a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela. First it was delayed by the Spanish Civil War and then by the World War, and all this time the men grew tighter and tighter together. So this weekend experience took place and caught on like wildfire. It traveled to mainland Spain to Portugal to France and Italy and all over Europe. It came to the US through the US Air Force. During an exchange with the Spanish Air Force at the Air Force base in Waco, TX, the American airmen noticed their enthusiasm and made their Cursillo. The Cursillo came to Boston in 1963 and the first one at the St. Basil center in 1969.

Fr. Martin said Cursillo is not a retreat. It’s a method. It’s how we develop a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus and how we live to serve him. The tripod of Cursillo is piety, study, and action, or holiness, formation, and evangelization. This is the foundation. Holiness begins the relationship with Christ, formation feeds the relationship, and evangelization brings it out to others.

Scot said many people might have gone through religious education to learn facts about their faith. What makes Cursillo so much more powerful and different and so impactful in 4 days? Fr. Martin said the short answer is the Holy Spirit. The long answer is three full days of time and no distractions: no watches, no cellphones, nothing like that. They take off the masks: cool and macho. Instead they talk in a simple, non-threatening way about things that really matter. Like on the road to Emmaus, the disciples comment that their hearts were burning when Jesus taught them.

Fr. Chip said he often saw parishioners, especially men, who would go on Cursillo would come back without the tough veneer and demeanor they left with. Fr. Martin said God breaks through if we are open and receptive. The deepest desire of our heart is our salvation. God created us to love and to be loved. So when Cursillo talks about things that really matter, it touches the hearts’ deepest longing. He hears many stories on the reunions that take place one month later about people who have begun to reach out to God in their lives and that they have changed their lives in simple but profound ways. We have to tap into the Holy Spirit living within us. Because faith is something living, it must be nurtured and fed through prayer.

Scot said a cursillista once told him that before Cursillo they knew a lot about Jesus, but didn’t know Jesus. Paul said knowledge in the head and the journey to what you know in the heart is an amazing experience.

3rd segment: The program begins on Day One with getting to know yourself. Paul said before his Cursillo, he hadn’t really looked at himself before his weekend apart from his job and being a father and husband. Cursillo’s tripod model teaches balance and he looked at himself and realized he was not in balance.

Fr. Martin said Cursillo is not a secret, but you can’t describe certain things without trying them. “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” The gift of Cursillo is the Holy Spirit and men and women sharing their personal experience of Jesus Christ. People can identify with others who are like them and then imagine how their lives can end up in a positive way. The longest 18-inches in the world is the distance from the head to the heart, and while you can know Jesus in the head, it is not the same as knowing Him in your heart.

Fr. Chip asked Paul to clarify what a personal inventory means. Paul said one of the first talks on the weekend calls the person to take a look at what and where you spend your time and resources to show where your priorities and then to determine what your goals are in life. He found that he didn’t know what his goals were and has since found that most people are like that. He’d found that was very me-focused, feeling that if he went to work and earned money, then he could leave the rest up to his wife and spend a lot of “me-time”. On his weekend, he got rid of his masks and was able to empty himself of what he had done.

Scot asked how many people show up on the weekend not sure they really want to be there? Paul said a large percentage are like that, although there are many who have been developing a spiritual life already.

Fr. Martin said each of the three days has a theme: Know Yourself, Know Christ, and Have Courage. There are talks followed by table discussion which is more sharing than discussing. It’s not about right answers, but about sharing feelings and experiences. It is rooted in sacraments. All day Friday looks toward confession on Friday night.They start hearing confessions at quarter to ten at night and end at midnight. There is also the Mass and time for prayer, time with the Blessed Sacrament. There is plenty of time for self-examination. Everyone wants to be a better person and better at what they are doing in life.

Fr. Martin said they have separate weekends for men and women. Part of the reason is the masks that can be worn in the presence of the opposite sex.

Paul has led Cursillo weekends since his own. He said typically the weekends at St. Basil’s have 40 or 50 candidates on them. They also do them at prisons and he recently had about 40 men at Norfolk prison. Each of the people on the team, which numbers about 20, has a specific role.

Fr. Martin said there have been about 13,000 people who have made Cursillos in Methuen, not counting all the others in Framingham and in the Worcester diocese and Fall River and Springfield.

4th segment: When Paul came to make his longest journey of 18 inches on the first couple of days of his retreat. When he made his retreat 20 years ago, he’d already been married 20 years. His wife Christine was the rock of faith in his family and he said he’d put her through a lot as an independent man as she stood by him. The Jesus he sees in Christine has helped him find Christ in himself. In those days, they went through financial difficulties, even bankruptcy, but after Cursillo he was able to put the material possessions in their proper place. He was a golf nut before Cursillo, but just after his weekend, he seriously injured his shoulder in a golf cart accident and was unable to play for two years, helping him to put things in the proper order in his life.

Paul said not every story from every speaker affects every candidate on the weekend. But there is always something that touches everyone that they can identify with. Fr. Chip asked if he’s ever seen someone leave the weekend who wasn’t affected. Paul said no two people are ever affected in the same way at the same time. Wherever you are in the moment, Jesus is with you in the moment.

Fr. Chip said everyone always worry about numbers, but if someone is brought closer to Christ, whether one or 13,000, it’s worth it. Fr. Martin said Jesus said to feed My sheep, not count My sheep.

He said the witness talks are critical to Cursillo because they put flesh on the bones of facts about the faith. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “If you love Me keep My commandments.” We need to know that obedience is the fruit of relationship and rules without relationship equals rebellion. Once we love Jesus, we want to please Him and serve Him.

The preaching of the early Church was always “Jesus is Lord. Jesus is risen.” It wasn’t the 10 commandments or social justice. Those aren’t unimportant, but they come after the relationship with Christ.

5th segment: It’s time to announce the winner of the weekly WQOM Benefactor Raffle. Our prize this week an 8-CD set of Mother Angelica’s program “Living the Scriptures.” This series brings you vintage Mother Angelica episodes that will profit your soul and cheer your spirit with her insights, wisdom, and humor. This week’s winner is Nicholas Russo from Winchester, Massachusetts. Congratulations Nicholas!

If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for our weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.

6th segment: Paul said he has been on four different Cursillo teams that go into prisons. This brings the team into an uncomfortable place, but he learned that the souls inside are like the souls on the outside of the walls. Fr. Martin said the St. Basil’s community has been bringing Cursillo into prisons since 1989, starting at the women’s correctional center in Framingham. They have run 20 at Old Colony in Bridgewater, 20 at Norfolk, 16 at Framingham, and 1 in Plymouth. There is a huge need to bring Cursillo everywhere. About 1 in 100 Americans are in prison. 1 in 38 kids have a parent in prison.

Fr. Martin said the problems of society won’t be solved by more prisons, but only by bringing Jesus Christ to them. Scot said that while it’s politically convenient to say we need to throw them in prison and throw away the key, these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Fr. Martin said some of the best people he’s met are behind the walls.

Part of what’s different is that in prison it’s barebones. In Methuen, they have a beautiful snack table available from morning to night, but in prison there is no frills, yet the men and women are hungering for Jesus. It helps them to experience what Jesus meant when He said if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed. Some of the candidates will say suddenly in the middle of the weekend that they’d forgotten they were in prison.

Fr. Martin tells the story of a young woman who realized that she had come to like herself for the first time. They give them the opportunity to serve each other. It’s all about being a servant.

On Cursillo, the clergy and the laity work together as equals. The weekend’s leader gives a talk on how a Christian leader is called to serve.

If someone is interested in Cursillo, they can connect with an Ultreya, a parish community of those who have gone on Cursillo, to get an idea of making a Cursillo. They can also go to the websites listed above for more information.

That will conclude today’s presentation of The Good Catholic Life. For recordings and photos of today’s show and all previous shows, please visit our website: You can also download the app for your iPhone or Android device at to listen to the show wherever you may be. We thank our guests, Father Martin Hyatt and Paul Blanchette. For our co-host, Father Chip Hines, our Production team of Rick Heil, Anna Johnson, Justin Bell, Dom Bettinelli, and George Martell, this is Scot Landry saying thank YOU for listening, God bless you and have a wonderful evening!

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