Cursillo began in Spain but can actually be traced back to an encyclical written by Pope Pius XI in which he invited the laity to become ‘true leaven of Christ in the human dough’. Through this, Catholic Action was born. In Spain, the young men formed the most active wing of this.
After the Spanish Civil War at the end of the thirties, the Christian Church was under attack. However, many of the young Christian men remained faithful to Christ and decided to work at transforming a society which was without Christ into one that was centred on Him. After reflection and prayer, it was decided to stimulate the Christian faith in young people through a great pilgrimage to the shrine of St James in Compostella. It was to be an opportunity to share and to pray, to deepen faith and commitment to Christ. Group leaders were to be prepared through short courses (Cursillos) which dealt with the knowledge of faith, the nature of leadership and Catholic Action and the organisation of the pilgrimage. 70,000 young people took part in the pilgrimage which was a great success.
One of the leaders, Eduardo Bonnin, was captivated with the whole idea of the Cursillo and the pilgrimage, which led him to the concept of pilgrimage to the Father to which we are all invited. Together with others he formulated a three day Cursillo which sought to remedy the ‘ignorance of faith, the superficiality of ritualism and the apathy of non-faith commitment in daily life’. Immediately after the three days, the new ‘Cursillistas’ were integrated into permanent group reunions to maintain their commitment and aid their spiritual growth.
The movement spread from Spain throughout the world. Cursillo is now active in nearly all the South and Central American countries, the USA, Canada, Mexico, Portugal, Puerto Rico, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Australia, Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, several African countries and South India.