We all learned on our weekends that the Spanish word Ultreya means “onward,” and that it was the cry of encouragement among pilgrims hiking the arduous Santiago de Compostela route to visit the shrine of St. James the Greater. We have monthly gatherings of Cursillistas throughout the Archdiocese in a venue with the same name. We could think of this as having monthly access to a recharging and new infusion of our Cursillo charism of friendship in Christ — a monthly dose of “encouragement,” one might say.
Over the course of our 32 years of living the Cursillo Method from St. Paul’s Highland Park, my wife Mary and I have gone from having an Ultreya within a 10-minute walk from our house or a 5-minute drive, to having to drive distances of 18 miles to Minnesota Valley Ultreya in Burnsville or 22 miles to North Ultreya in Fridley, or 18 miles to North-east Ultreya in White Bear Lake. Over the course of the ten years or so since the Highland and Midway Ultreyas disappeared, we have driven to one or another of those distant Ultreyas. We have lately discovered the new Southeast Metro Ultreya at St. Patrick’s Church in Inver Grove Heights, a “mere” 11 or so miles away, and we have embraced this shorter drive, because it is important to us to continue the practice of attending monthly Ultreya, to get our “Cursillo booster shot” — especially when the venue for meeting other Cursillistas at Closuras has dropped to four per year.
Sadly, wherever we go, attendance is down at our monthly Ultreyas. Even those with higher numbers of attendees are down in number from just a few short years ago. How and why has this happened? What is it that dulls for us the grace of rubbing shoulders and sharing stories with long-time Cursillistas at Ultreya, of being inspired by stirring witness talks, and keeps us from “catch-up” chats with long-time friends in Christ? Is it creeping secularism or the challenges of aging or the lure of southern climes in winter and lake homes in summer? Is it spiritual complacency? Is it the disappointment of making the effort to get to an Ultreya, only to find the Cursillista friends you wanted to see not even there? Does our spirituality lose its luster and its enthusiasm, and, if so, why?
Early on, I mistakenly thought Ultreyas would recreate the magic of a Weekend, but I soon learned it was wrong to ask that of any event in my faith walk —what could ever recreate the spiritual excitement, the mountaintop experience of our own Cursillo Weekend? But if not that, then what is an Ultreya for?
While no expert or Cursillo guru, I think that the season of Christmas helps answer that question. Who of us does not look forward to the company Christmas party, where we can “let our hair down” and speak to our favorite co-workers free from the pressures of work? Who of us does not look forward with excitement to our family dinners and gatherings to celebrate the birth of Christ, when we get to again be with family members normally spread far and wide? Who of us does not look forward to days off work, to entertain friends and rekindle friendships in our homes?
But isn’t that what Ultreyas do on a monthly basis, that is, bring dear friends in Christ together to be energized by the grace of such gatherings? Those friends in Christ who you do not get to see at Closuras, who are not in your parish or area of the Cities, whose joy-filled faces fill you with spiritual fellowship and sense of Christian community—they’re all there, at your local Ultreya! Why don’t you come on by and see them? And, if they’re not there when you do, call them and invite them to come to the next one! Maybe they’re not coming any more because you’re not! The call of the world to selfcenteredness and fierce personal privacy can encroach upon our spiritual energy and resolve—but your brothers and sisters in Christ at our Ultreyas are there to rekindle your energy for evangelization and sense of strength in community, and to remind you that Christ is the way and the truth and the life in today’s world! These Ultreyas are the embodiment of the cry Ultreya to Cursillistas in our modern world, the wellspring of spiritual encouragement to the world-weary in our Cursillo community.
Why not make a New Year’s resolution to circle the dates for your Ultreya gatherings on your 2019 calendars? “Come and see,” come and re-discover the grace that is to be found at Ultreya! And, best of all: there is still no entrance fee to attend! See you there soon!