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Philosophy Lite: Going on a Walk to Emmaus

By By Raymond Smith
March 2, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 1, 2012 at 9:02 p.m.

Raymond Smith

I recently had the privilege of helping sponsor a "pilgrim" on the Walk to Emmaus. I have been on the walk myself, and I also have been on a Catholic ACTS retreat (the two are similar in most respects). The retreat is a time for spiritual renewal and a rededication to Christian living. Details of the retreat are not generally revealed, so the pilgrim is in for many pleasant surprises.

What can be said is that it is a time for recalling basic Christian tenets, fellowship, music, inspiration, sharing and a close warm environment similar to early Christian home groups.

Those on the retreat vary in age. The event lasts 72 hours, from Thursday evening to Sunday evening. Men and women attend separate weekends. Meals and sleeping accommodations are provided. Two sites are available for these events: The Catholic Renewal Center near McFaddin on the San Antonio River, and Cathedral Oaks near Oakland, just this side of Schulenburg.

Protestants and Catholics use them both alternately. The setting of each is rural, isolated and inspirational, especially in the spring with wildflowers in bloom.

After the event, those on the retreat are encouraged to follow up with "fourth day events," which are a continuation of the retreat at some local establishment or church. The idea is to keep the spark alive, for human nature is prone to let things slide. Members of the small groups challenge and support one another in faithful living.

The testimony of the participants is often stirring as they testify to a renewed dedication to a spiritual life, reconciling family problems, breaking bad habits and to living an exemplary life among their peers.

The Walk to Emmaus originated in Spain in 1949 and was adapted from the Spanish word "cursillo," which means little course. The term cursillo suggests the idea of doing a great deal in a very little time. During the '60s and '70s, the Episcopalians and Lutherans, along with several non-denominational groups began to offer Cursillo.

In 1978, The Upper Room of the Methodist General Board of Discipleship adapted the program for a primarily Protestant audience and began to offer it under the name The Upper Room Cursillo. In 1981, The Upper Room made further adaptations and changed the name of the program to The Upper Room Walk to Emmaus.

In 1984, The Upper Room developed a youth expression of Emmaus called Chrysalis. The word Chrysalis relates to the idea of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Young people are often at a crossroads in their lives and this experience can let them blossom as effective Christians in their community..

To attend this inspirational event, each person must have a sponsor who has already attended Emmaus. You may have a friend who has already attended one of these non-denominational events and they can tell you about their experience. Otherwise, call any Methodist church to find out when and where the next event will occur. But be warned, it can be a life-changing experience

Raymond F. Smith is president of Strong Families of Victoria.

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