I 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.