What is Via de Cristo?

de-colores-cursillo-clipart-1I just recently came back from another wonderful Via de Cristo weekend.  Before I left for this weekend I did a little bit of internet research on Via de Cristo and other three-day renewal movement groups like Cursillo (Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian), Tres Dias and Walk to Emmaus just to name a few.  All of these three-day movements are basically the same.  Lay people, just plain, everyday people from the church that are not clergy, run them.  They are not run by a particular church, but follow the doctrines of mainstream churches like Lutheran, Methodist and, as stated above, Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian.  To keep this blog simple, I’m going to be writing about the Lutheran Via de Cristo.

During my research I came across some blogs and forums that really had some awful things to say about these movements.  We’re secretive, we’re a cult, we’re all crazy!! (really???), we’ll try to “convert” you; you can only go if you’re invited (goes with being secretive), we have all these “code” words, and on and on.  Now I have to say here that a three-day weekend isn’t for everyone.  Some stories about people who had a hard time when they attended a weekend really should not have gone in the first place.  Many felt they were pushed to go (some will say coerced).  No one should be forced to go on one of these weekends. In this blog, I’m going to talk about some of these issues.

To go to a Via de Cristo weekend, you have to be asked to go or be “sponsored”.  If you would really like to go and haven’t been asked you could talk with your pastor.  If others in your congregation have gone then he should know about it and someone would be happy to sponsor you.  Before asking anyone to attend a weekend, a sponsor should pray about and for that person.  The person who would get the most out of a Via de Cristo weekend is a person that already attends church regularly and may be searching for a deeper understanding of Christianity.  Perhaps someone who does not completely understand what living the life of a Christian is about. These are examples of the kind of people who may go, maybe with a few reservations, but they would be willing.

The weekend itself is three days of being away from the world.  We ask new participants to shut off their cell phones so they are not distracted.  This bothers some, that there is no contact during the weekend.  We want the new participants to concentrate on their spiritual selves during this time.  It is a retreat, and by the very definition of the term (the act or process of withdrawing…) you withdraw from the world.  If there is something going on and the participant needs to be in touch, then a word to the leader (or Rector/Rectora) will let us know that arrangements need to be made.

I’ll state here that there is a whole new vocabulary you learn when you participate in a weekend.  It is not a secret code.  Via de Cristo started in Spain many years ago and it has many of the Spanish names still in use, Rector/Rectora is only one of many.  The name Via de Cristo is Spanish for “Way of Christ”.  A song called “De Colores” is sung as a theme song of sorts.  This song was written years ago when the movement first started and is still sung today.  The word has also become a signal of sorts.  These movements are all over the world, so if someone who has gone on a weekend sees a “DeColores” sticker on your car, they will know you’ve been on a weekend as well.  De Colores means “in Color” in Spanish and there’s the thing with the Rooster.  You’ll have to hear the song to figure that one out.

During the three days you listen to fifteen talks, lay people give ten and pastors give five.  These talks outline the Christian way of life with an emphasis on Piety, Study, Apostolic Action and God’s Grace.  The pastor or spiritual directors give the talks on God’s Grace.  Surrounding these talks are others titled Ideal, Leaders, Christian Community in Action and others.  It can be very intense.  There is Chapel and communion offered at least once a day.  There is music, singing, food, fellowship and fun.  We do laugh quite a bit.  The cares of the world drop away and then as everyone relaxes the laughter starts.  It’s so healing.

If you’ve already been on a Via de Cristo weekend you then get the privilege of making one of these weekends happen for others.  You serve the participants by giving one of the ten talks, working in the chapel or the kitchen, cleaning up after everyone (we have several people who do this) or serving drinks and snacks in-between talks.

I look forward to serving on these weekends.  It is such a privilege to go and work for the Lord. I get a time to “unplug” from the world, serve the Lord and help others.  I really can’t see anything bad in that.

If you’ve heard anything bad about the Via de Cristo weekends, feel free to comment and we’ll try our best to answer any questions.

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Spend Your Time on Today

This is not something I wrote, but something I was given on my original Via de Cristo retreat weekend and kept. It seems appropriate for our theme of “spending time.” The author is unknown:

There are two days in the week upon which and about which I never worry–two carefree days kept sacredly free from fear and apprehension.  One of these days is Yesterday.  Yesterday with its cares and frets and pains and aches, all its faults, its mistakes and blunders, has passed forever beyond my recall.  It was mine:  now it is God’s.

The other day that I do not worry about is Tomorrow.  Tomorrow, with all its possible adversities, its burdens, its perils, its large promise and performance, its failures and mistakes, is as far beyond my mastery as its dead sister, Yesterday.  Tomorrow is God’s day:  it will be mine.

It isn’t the experience of Today that drives us mad.  It is the remorse of what happened Yesterday and fear of what Tomorrow might bring.  These are God’s Days–Leave them to Him.

Remembering to be Humble

“So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men.”  Genesis 24:59

“Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse died and was buried under the oak below Bethel.  So it was named Allon Bacuth (oak of weeping).”  Genesis 35:8

I was quite excited on the first full day of the Via de Cristo weekend I attended many years ago, to be assigned to sit at the table of Deborah.  After all, everyone has heard of Deborah, right?  Deborah, the judge;  Deborah, the warrior;  Deborah, the woman who was famous as a leader in a patriarchal society.  What a role model!  Who wouldn’t be honored to sit at a table named after her?

But my bubble burst when I read the card on the center of the table closely.  I discovered that I was not sitting at the table of Deborah the Judge–I was sitting at the table of Deborah the nursemaid.  You probably don’t know who she is — I sure didn’t.  She is only mentioned twice in the Bible (see the verses above), and only once by name.  Frankly, I was disappointed.  I resolved that secretly, I would continue to think of my table as the table of the “famous” Deborah.

In the years since that weekend retreat, I’ve come to rethink that position.  I’ve read the two references to “my” Deborah and what comes between them.  Do you realize that Deborah served Rebekah and her family for over eighty years?  She must have been greatly loved and greatly mourned for her death to be noted at all.  She was buried with honor under a venerable oak, symbol of long life.

If I am honest, I must admit that I’m a lot more like Deborah the nursemaid than Deborah the judge–in fact most of us are.  We may not be the star of the story, but we can be humble, faithful servants to the people around us.

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Remembering My Via De Cristo Weekend

As I write this post, a Women’s Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend is beginning.  The retreat starts on Thursday evening and ends on Sunday afternoon.  When you think “retreat” you may imagine lots of free time, reading the Bible and praying alone, maybe communing with nature.  Via de Cristo is not like that!  It is a weekend jam-packed with singing, fellowship, worship, talks by laypeople and clergy on spiritual topics, discussion and (what Lutherans love best of all) plenty of coffee and good food.

The weekend is designed for Christians who want to grow in their faith, and the amazing thing is, everyone experiences it differently.  For many it is a real mountaintop high;  for some a time to cast off burdens; others experience the love and presence of Christ in a special way;  still others find it a time of refreshment and renewal.  On a weekend, you will meet Christ where you are, and receive something special that He has planned just for you.

When I went on my weekend, over 25 years ago, I didn’t hear anything new or startling–but it put all the pieces together for me.  Suddenly I could see my faith journey as a whole and it has been a big help in keeping my focus in the right place.  On my weekend, I made friends, found a way to go closer to the Christian friends I already had at church, and learned to see myself as a leader in the Christian community.  It changed my life.  Not in a lightening flash, but gradually, over time, as the message of the weekend was absorbed and incorporated in my daily life (hmmm…reminds me of the leaven in the bread thought).

So readers, this weekend, please pray for the ladies on retreat, and consider going on a Via de Crist weekend yourself (by the way, you don’t have to be a Lutheran to do this and there are weekends for men as well).  If you would like to learn more, contact the Lutheran ladies for more information, we will be happy to help.

For those authors and readers who have made a weekend, I hope you will post and comment.  And remember, God loves you and so do I!

 

 

Set Your Mind on Grace

In my last post, I talked about how a reborn Christian should think, and the kind of things we need to “set our mind on.”  It made me remember my Via de Cristo weekend and how it was a time of “renewing my mind.”(Romans 12:2).

 A weekend is 72 hours away from the world.  Participants (they are called pilgrims) are asked to turn off their cell phones, take off their watches and leave their electronics at home. They don’t need to worry about the time.  They don’t have to cook or clean up. There are no chores. They have three days to “set their minds” on God’s grace. 

 There are a number of talks on the weekend, some by pastors, others by lay people, but the thread holding them all together is grace.  We talk about how God’s grace is habitual, i.e., everyone in the world benefits from it (you know, rain falls on the just and unjust alike).  However, we each experience times when God acts “gracefully” and specifically in our own lives. In fact, every one of us lives a grace-filled life and if we only take the time to let this realization sink in, we will naturally want to share His grace with the world.

 In addition to hearing about grace, we experience it directly in the love of team members who give up their time to serve coffee, cook food, clean up, and take care of the hundreds of details that make up the retreat.  We meet new Christian friends who have time to share and listen and hug and laugh and sing and cry with us.

 What an opportunity!  At home we have a million things to distract us:  bills, chores, children, spouses and yes, even those worthwhile church and volunteer activities.  How often do most of us get to truly be Mary, setting at the feet of Jesus and just listening, being completely focused?

I didn’t get any new knowledge or secret insights on my weekend.  The theology is just straightforward Lutheran teaching. What I did get was a taste of “ fixing …(my) eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”(Hebrews 12:2) and some tools and suggestions to help me keep doing that.

Via de Cristo is a national organization that sponsors weekends all over the country.  You can learn more at www.viadecristo.org or email one of us at our church website www.leitersburglutheran.org.

Via de Cristo

I came home yesterday exhausted but renewed from spending the weekend with 50+ Christian sisters and a few brothers. The brothers that were there were Spiritual Leaders (pastors) from various churches and there was one brave soul who volunteered to be our tech person.  I’ve always loved getting away to be renewed this way and have done this (when I’m able) since 2001. My first weekend was a turning point in my life.

At that time I was married with two teenaged boys and working full time.  My husband was recovering from having a Grade 4 malignant brain tumor in 1999.  I was trying to manage his health, work, home and the boys.  I really wasn’t doing well mentally or spiritually.  I felt like a nervous breakdown was coming on all the time.  I went to our pastor to see if anyone in the congregation would be suitable to be a mentor for me since I was struggling so badly.  He sent me on a Via de Cristo (The Way of Christ) weekend instead.  I’m so glad he did.

The biggest, but not the only, thing that the weekend helped me with is that I am not alone.  I could take my burdens and give them to the Lord and he would guide my path.  Of course this is a learning process, but I had the tools I needed to continue on.  The neat thing is, I got a mentor, too!!

As the years have gone by I’ve served on these weekends providing support to other Christian women who come.  Every time we meet it is different; as different as the people who attend.  But the Lord is always there, wrapping us in His love.  We laugh, we cry, we sing, we praise His name..  we pray.  I come home fed (not with food, although food is there), full and relaxed.  The world has fallen away for 3 days while we go to the mountain of the Lord.

This year I feel strengthened in my determination to study, pray and write more.  I want to know Jesus more fully.  I want to know what He has in store for me, my direction.  I feel this direction will come to me as I study, pray and write.  Part of the writing is for this blog!

God Loves You and So Do I (GLYASDI)

Beth Ann

Be Transformed

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:2

Last month we talked about sacrifice, and this verse comes right after the one about being a “living sacrifice” to God.  I think that’s interesting.  When we present ourselves sacrificially to God, our minds are renewed and transformed.  We are able to better discern God’s will for our lives, instead of giving in to what the world tells us is right.

How does our mind become renewed?  Although we are reborn in our baptism, and justified with God through the sacrifice of Christ, our sanctification is a process in which we participate.  Renewal of our mind is part of our sanctification.  We learn to see things through the mind of Christ, we learn to do the things the Bible tells us are right, we have a different viewpoint than we had before.  There are many tools that may help us to “renew” our minds.  This past weekend some of my fellow bloggers were on a Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat weekend.  I am hoping this week they will blog about how their weekend was a renewal and a transformation.

A Via de Cristo weekend is three days of concentration on the fundamentals of Christianity, concentrating on the teachings of Jesus Christ and how individual believers can influence the environment of their homes, communities and churches.  It is not just academic, there is much fellowship and singing;  there are times of worship.  Often participants come back feeling they have changed.

So, I am asking those who have attended a Via de Cristo weekend to send us your comments on how this experience renewed and transformed you.  (There are similar retreats in other denominations:  Cursillo, The Walk to Emmaus, Tres Dios )