The Story of Cursillo
The people of Spain had already suffered the effects of the Wall Street Crash and together with many other nations entered the ‘Great Depression’. Political division and anti-clericalism brought Spain into a second Civil War which didn’t end until 1939. The young people of Spain emerged restless, profoundly affected by it and felt very far from the God of their salvation.
A group of laymen began making plans for a youth pilgrimage to help restore the spiritual life of this war-ravaged country, workshops were established to study the fundamentals of Christianity and to spiritually prepare themselves to be apostles of Christ, re-dedicating their lives to Christian Mission and to prepare themselves for the journey ahead. However, no sooner had the Civil war ended, the Second World War had begun.
It wasn’t until 1948 that some 70,000 young people set out in pilgrimage to the shrine of St James at Compostela, known today as the ‘Camino de Santiago’ or ‘The Way of St James’. Of course this pilgrimage was nothing new, medieval pilgrims made this arduous and sometimes dangerous journey, often wearing a scallop shell attached to their cloaks or hats. More than being just a symbol of a pilgrim, the scallop shells had a practical purpose: they were the measure for the food they would be donated at churches and hostels along the way.
The pilgrim’s shell is just one of the symbols we use in Cursillo. Other symbols that are synonymous with the Cursillo movement are the rainbows and the butterflies, which not only provide us with a splash of colour, but they remind us of God’s promise to Noah, and like the butterfly, that we too can be transformed, and have fun… we even sing the traditional and rather daft Spanish folk song Des Colores!
And so, Cursillos a short course in its earliest form was launched, the shape and content of the course was positively influenced and adapted by one of its earliest pioneers Eduardo Bonnín who said of the Cursillos, “This is not a doctrine that must be learned.” rather, it is a “reality that must be lived.” In 1949 Juan Hervas the Bishop of Mallorca together with Bonnín held the first Cursillo weekend, which became known as Cursillos de Cristiandad – a short course in Christianity. The format of the weekend remains much the same today.
Well the good news is that we and thousands of others around the world can ‘proclaim’ that the Cursillo movement is very much alive and kicking! The even better news is that we don’t have to actually walk 500 miles to make this pilgrimage!