Cursillo and the Camino de Santiago
“A highlight of my pilgrimage was reaching a place known as Cruz de Ferro, or ‘Iron Cross’…At its base, a rocky mound (now a fair climb up) has been forming over the years. The tradition is to lay a stone, brought from the place of the pilgrim’s origin, at the top of the mound, so I placed a Kiwi stone given to me by my brother just before he died in 2001,” says The Rev’d Pauline Harley on her intertwined Cursillo and Camino journey.
When I was first asked to go to a Cursillo retreat weekend in 2006 by The Rev’d David Cox, I was like most people when asked, with my response being, “What? Why? What for?”
My ‘sponsor’ (who explains Cursillo and guides you in your first year) had to take on the responsibility of looking after my two small children and driving me from the Gold Coast to the other side of Brisbane so I could attend.
The weekend retreat at Queensland Conference and Camping Centres (QCCC) in Brookfield, was an opportunity to remove a lot of negative stuff and allow myself to be emptied before being filled with love…It was during the Clausura (Spanish for ‘opening and closing’) that I realised that it was okay to be loved.
I was allowed to be loved! God loved me! Wow!
That weekend experience remains a significant part of my faith journey.
It wasn’t an ‘altar call’ response, but I went home and made the decision that God would be first in my life – that everything I do would be for the glory of God and that I would give to God first. That I would give my time, my energy, my commitment and my money to God first. Believe me, as a single struggling mum this wasn’t a light-hearted choice. Giving God everything first was a massive leap of faith. I did this with no expectations from God. None.
Yet something amazing happened. My life changed. Sure, I still struggled to pay the bills and put food on the table at times for the kids. I even had times when I wasn’t sure how the rent would be paid in full. Even when I literally had only 5c left and it would be three to four days before pay day, somehow God always provided.
God has turned my world upside down by inviting me to listen to God’s call for my life’s direction. God made sure that I didn’t stray too far from the path that God has now set for me. And, believe me, I did try! I tried ever so hard to ignore the call into ordained life; however, God kept me on the path to where I needed to be.
Cursillo originated in Majorca, Spain in the 1940s with a group of men who dedicated themselves to bringing other young men to know Christ. Before the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, a pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle St James at Compostela had been planned. This spiritual journey to the great Spanish pilgrimage centre of the Middle Ages would provide a time for the young men and women of Spain to dedicate themselves in a renewed way to the work of the apostolate. The pilgrim style has marked much of the spirituality of the Cursillo movement.
Once learning of this, my husband, Peter, and I were drawn to make our own pilgrim walk through Spain on The Camino de Santiago (known in English as ‘The Way of St James’) to the shrine of the St James at Compostela. Starting on Anzac Day in 2019, Peter and I walked from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. And, then on to the rock-bound peninsula of Finisterre, which was known as the end of the world in medieval times. We completed just over 900km in 33 days carrying all our gear and trusting in God at the end of each day for a place to rest.
A highlight of my pilgrimage was reaching a place known as Cruz de Ferro, or ‘Iron Cross’, located between the Spanish villages of Foncebadón and Manjarín. At its base, a rocky mound (now a fair climb up) has been forming over the years. The tradition is to lay a stone, brought from the place of the pilgrim’s origin, at the top of the mound, so I placed a Kiwi stone given to me by my brother just before he died in 2001. Another highlight that moved me to tears was the final pilgrims’ service in Santiago de Compostela where thousands of people said the Lord’s Prayer together in their own national languages.
Cursillo has an ongoing element to it where folk meet on a regular basis. I’ve found Group Reunion (a conversation about the presence of Christ in our lives) is a key tool in moving me forward in faith, as it keeps me accountable as we share the highs and lows of life together. I have been fortunate enough to ‘group’ with some women for many years who have become like sisters to me.
I see Cursillo as one tool for clergy and laity alike to help discern a call into a ministry or reaffirm one that they are already serving in. It can also be a pathway to help heal past hurts and to celebrate current blessings.
Moving away from the Gold Coast and my dearest friends to Toowoomba, where I am now serving as a parish priest, has been the most challenging part of my call into ordained life. Yet I know that I must look forward, not back, and give thanks to God for the gift of love, friendship and family. My Group Reunion sisters have been key supporters in my faith journey. My ‘fourth day’ journey (which refers to the rest of the person’s life from the time the initial three-day Cursillo weekend closes) thus far since my first Cursillo weekend in 2006 has been bright and remarkable.
Thank you, Jesus!
Ultreya!! (‘onwards and upwards’)
Editor’s note: For more information on Cursillo, including forthcoming events, please contact Alan Gray via firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0425 288 985.Jump to next article