Do you have a personal Cursillo (or other Three-Day Weekend) story to share?
The Cursillo movement is often promoted through "testimonies" of those who enjoyed the weekend, and are most commonly solicited at the close of the weekend, before critical evaluation can occur. What you will not hear are the "other stories" of those who have been troubled or adversely affected by the Cursillo (or similar) weekend or movement.
The author of the book, Cursillo: Little Courses in Catharsis, is planning a follow-up book sharing the "testimonies" of those who have been adversely affected by the movement. All inquiries will be kept strictly confidential, and each story will be checked for accuracy.
If you have a Cursillo story to share, please contact the author at: email@example.com
Read the Following TRUE STORY as told in "Pauline's" Own Words:
Call me Pauline. I want to tell you the story of my experience at a Protestant Cursillo-based retreat.
The retreat was very popular in my church community; almost everyone had been to it at one time or another, and a few had gotten deeply involved. My husband and I were among the last hold-outs; I'd been invited many times, but had felt a slight reluctance, especially when people insisted it was important that my husband go to a men's retreat at the same time. My husband is a very spiritually focused introvert, and I've grown so tired of being asked where he is, at church potlucks and other social functions, that I've started to answer the question literally. “He's at home.” (In fact everyone in my church has duly stopped asking.) I doubted he would ever go to such a long event involving so many people.
But finally a good friend—an intelligent and balanced person—invited me in a low-key way and said she felt it was fine for my husband to stay home. I decided it was time—I had always thought I would attend it eventually—and agreed. She sponsored me. She had had a very good experience on her retreat and genuinely thought that I would too.
I came to the retreat right after the ending of my very demanding seasonal job. I had one day of rest between the last grueling push and the beginning of the retreat; I was hoping for a continuation of that rest (I had heard that they served you hand and foot!) and a renewal of the devotional life I'd had depressingly little time for lately.
My friend drove me, which didn't surprise me; I don't have a car. The odd thing is that she parked at a church where we were both transferred to carpool vehicles; not that I thought much of this at the time. It didn't bother me to be asked to give up my cellphone and watch; I own neither, and besides, that sounded like an excellent condition for a Sabbath experience.
We were told we would not be given a schedule, that we should just relax into the experience. A woman pastor came to the podium and gave a “meditation” whose central message was “You may be feeling apprehensive about this retreat and wonder what will happen. Don't worry. Don't try to evaluate your experience till afterwards. Just give yourself over to it.” This seemed a little odd to me. Next we were led in a chapel service—some liturgical readings, some singing—and were told to keep a prayerful silence until the end of the next chapel service the next morning. Then we were sent to settle into double rooms, all of us with complete strangers as roommates.
If you've ever unpacked your bags alone in a room with a perfect stranger in complete silence, you know there's nothing prayerful about it. After ten intensely embarrassing minutes, my roommate broke the rules to warn me she'd have to set an early alarm to take a medication. It was a profound relief.
They woke us at 6:30 the next morning, and we went into a brisk schedule of chapel services, meals, and above all, “rollos”. These were talks on the Christian life, mostly on a very, very basic level (though some included excellent personal stories), punctuated by the speaker saying “Please write this down” and repeating a sentence over and over till we had written it down, complete with instructions on how to spell certain words. We sat at round tables with assigned groups to listen to these, then with the same group we were to discuss the talk and make a poster about it—quickly. Our first attempt at creativity foundered when the bell rang before we were half done, and the short time we were given for discussion seemed to prevent our talking about anything very deep; soon we were using our discussion times to plan our posters till the bell rang for our poster materials to be brought. We sat through rollo, discussion, poster, rollo, in a brisk and seemingly endless round. I was bored.
Meanwhile waitress-like volunteers calling themselves “chas” catered to our every whim—as long as our every whim involved something to eat or drink, rather than say, free time. The schedule was packed, from six-thirty in the morning onwards (that day it did not end until nine-thirty at night), and we were not allowed to deviate from it. There is simply no other way of saying it; we were told where to go next and we went, and if anyone was not with the group (I was frequently this person, lagging behind inattentively) the “chas” shepherded that person along. We were given occasional “nature breaks” of roughly ten minutes (I suppose; I had no watch and there was no visible clock) and when these were over the “chas” gathered us up. There was no chance for real rest, not even a break after lunch. I got the idea pretty quickly that this was no Sabbath experience, nor anything like what I'd had in mind. I decided to just go along and get through it. It was only a weekend.
So for two days I participated. By Saturday evening, I was tired and headachy, bored to tears, and completely frustrated by the lack of solitude. But a deeper, more nagging distress was the lack of freedom. Smiling “chas” refused me the chance to get up from the table and get a drink from the coffee machine that stood in plain sight, insisting that they would do it for me. I was returned from brief breaks on the lawn with my much-needed book of poetry by smiling “chas” saying it was time for the next event. I felt trapped; never knowing what was coming next, nor when the day would end, and knowing full well what to expect if I wandered off before it ended: smiling “chas” gently but firmly returning me to my dreaded seat.
I longed for solitude more than anything else. I had been hoping to pray deeply, even write poetry. Instead I was going through the motions in a sort of spiritual emptiness, a shallow, bored, exhausted, frustrated state in which my highest hope was for a sweet half-hour of novel reading before falling asleep. I had been thinking about it since lunchtime. Supper was a lovely banquet with a surprise serenade by Way of Christ men. “Surely they'll end it on this note,” I thought happily. No, we were to present the posters our groups had made, like the night before. I got through it somehow; then we were to listen to some very funny songs by the “chas”. They were funny, but I didn't feel like laughing. Then the “rector” announced that we would have a “very short break.” I stared at her open-mouthed.
As the “chas” unrolled a long piece of newsprint in a circle around us showing all the people who were praying for us in shifts around the clock, thoughts raced through my mind. I understood by now that I could not just ask to go to bed, but I had to go. It was too much. I was too tired, too cooped-up, I was going to go insane. Could I slip out? Where were the bedrooms from here? I went into the hallway where the bathroom was and peeked out the outside door at the end, uncertain—and there was my cabin maybe twenty yards away. I used the bathroom and waited for the coast to be clear. Then I ran for it. I made it to my room and shut the door.
I checked my alarm clock and found it was 10:30. And then it started. Slowly.
A “cha” came after me, as I knew she would. She “strongly encouraged” me to return, told me what was next on the program (emphasizing that she was normally not allowed to do so) and told me several times that she did not want to pressure me, in between explaining that it's important not to skip anything because the weekend builds. I was preparing to get steely with her when she suddenly backed off. I am grateful.
A few minutes later a second cha appeared. I was a little more prepared to be steely this time. She offered me a “last chance” to come back and said my table mates were worried about me. I said “I'M IN BED.” She said it would be fine to come to the chapel in my pajamas. I told her I wasn't coming.
I tried to read myself to sleep, but I was tense and angry. My roommate and the others returned at 11:50. My roommate said we had to be packed and ready to go in the morning; there was a commotion of packing and talking all up and down the hall. I got up and packed since I wasn't getting any sleep. Finally things calmed down, we both went to bed, and I was almost asleep when a third knock came on the door. Insistently, with a voice calling for me. Finally I sighed and got up. At the door was one of the spiritual directors, a woman who had given a gorily detailed talk on the Crucifixion. With a look of loving concern on her face, she said, “Would you like me to pray for you?” I said in a hard voice, “I would like to go to sleep please. It's after midnight.” She said, “Can I give you a hug?” I leaned forward, gave her the world's briefest hug, said Good night, and shut the door in her face.
I checked the clock. It was around 1:15. I did not go to sleep for a long time.
I told myself that night that if they woke us at 6:30 as usual, I would leave the retreat. I tell myself things a lot, to be honest, just to see if I believe them. This time I ran smack up against the fact that I had no obvious way to get home.
Now the carpooling system came back to haunt me: not only did I not have a car available, no one I could turn to as a friend did either. Their cars were miles away. My roommate had kept a cell phone, against the retreat volunteers' request, but she had told me it was not getting reception. Though I knew my husband could borrow a car at need, I did not know where any functional phone was located.
Thank God, however, I knew one area of the retreat center quite well: a house where an employee lived with her husband. Let's call them Jake and Joanne. They had been my friends for almost a year and I trusted them. They would be home, since the only worship service they attended was Sunday evening rather than morning. The husband, I knew, was a free spirit who hated any form of coercion, and the wife was very kind. I was sure they would help me. I decided I would leave if they woke us at 6:30. I would sneak into the woods, double round to their house, and ask for sanctuary.
They woke us at 6:00.
I got up, uncertain of whether I would truly have the strength to make my break for it, and dreading the further concern and pressure I knew I would face. I feared the betrayal my table mates would feel, and my friend and sponsor, whom I'd hardly seen all weekend. I wanted to speak to her but couldn't bear to face her distress at my decision while I was in such a vulnerable state. I knew she had really enjoyed her own retreat, and I supposed that, not feeling any need to deviate, she had not seen, as I was seeing, what the program could lead to.
I left my room early, carrying my backpack; I worried that someone would ask me why, but no one did. I stashed it near the woods in the dark.
I sat through a breakfast Love Feast with footwashing, my emotions running riot in my chest; deciding at each moment to tell my table mates of my intentions and the next moment deciding not to. I never did. I cried several times as we sang, praying others would mistake my tears for the “legitimate” emotions of worship. Finally a break was announced and I estimated it was late enough to knock on the door of my friends' house without rudeness. I was still uncertain, worried about the logistics, wondering whether to tell one table mate, or whether I might write a note without being seen. A “cha” approached me and urged me to let a certain spiritual director pray for me over a personal matter she had overheard at the table—the same spiritual director who had knock on my door at 1 A.M. I would have felt this to be an intrusion on my privacy any day. That day it made up my mind.
I scrawled a quick note to my table mates, choosing to emphasize one part of my situation—the fact that I had been burned in the past by people trying to control me in Jesus' name—because I felt this would be most effective in helping them to excuse my offense. I went outside to where I had stashed my bag behind a low wall, took it, and doubled round to a service area by a dumpster where I could enter the woods without being seen from the building. The terrain wasn't easy to navigate in my shoes, and the autumn leaves were loud. I heard a voice behind me.
“Are you going for a walk in the woods?”
I turned. It was a “cha” with whom I'd had a lovely chat about farming. Unwilling to lie, I said lamely the only thing I could think of: “I like the woods.” “Don't you think you should take your walk on another day when we're less busy?” she said, getting ready to gently shepherd me back into the fold. I had only two options and one of them was by now unthinkable. “I need to go home,” I said, and burst into tears.
This woman was a decent person, perhaps the most decent person of all the ones who tried to do their job and bring me back in line with the program. She listened as I told her exactly what was in my mind, loudly, the sobs beginning to come. “This is not good for my spiritual life... I'm an adult. I need to sleep. There are older women with health problems here and they're not letting them sleep!” She made some brief but earnest attempts to bring me round, in the process letting me know that she had hated the beginning of her own first retreat with a passion (unfortunately I didn't get around to asking what changed her mind), but as my emotion grew stronger she turned to the problem of finding me a ride home. She was from out of state and didn't have a car there. She begged me to sit at a nearby picnic table and not leave until she came back with someone who had a car. Because she was kind and decent and I did not want to hurt her, I sat down.
She had only been gone a minute when a spiritual director, an older woman, sat down beside me. I don't know why I hadn't seen it coming. I asked if the other woman had fetched her; she said no, that someone had seen me and told her. I had promised the other woman that I would wait, so I saw that I would have to endure the presence of this person while I waited. She was one of the ones I had thought fairly decent too, and I imagine that in “real life” she was. But our talk at that picnic table is the moment that is the most painful to recall.
I almost trusted her at first, and gave her the explanation about the issues from my past, which was a mistake. She clearly saw it as her job to counsel me. For counseling, trust is required; to persist in the face of its refusal is, quite simply, to try to maneuver the person into the vulnerable position of counselee. This is what, to my mind, she did. It is painful beyond measure to me to have someone to whom I have not give my trust pry into my soul and try to “help” me. I had to resist and yet I did not dare to resist too hard. I felt myself being pushed into the category of the runaway, the teenager on drugs, the broken young woman with “issues,” the sinner and rebel whom the loving Christian is trying so hard to “reach.” The profanity I was so tempted to use, the steely voice, the standing up and walking away, would mark me as a sinner, and her as in the right for trying to restrain me. This is how I felt. Twice, as we talked, I began to sob so hard I could hardly speak.
Somewhere in this conversation, and I do not remember where, she said something I will not forget. She was discussing the “hardness” and supposed goodness of the retreat. She said “The lack of sleep is to break you down.” She said it in a tone that implied this was good, that we were being broken down so as to be more open to, say, the love of God, or the workings of the Holy Spirit. I said, “That's what I thought.”
At one point she asked if I was angry with my friend and sponsor for not warning me that the weekend would be so “intense.” (In fact that was the exact word my sponsor had used; I'd just had no idea what she meant!) I said no. She said what they had all said about the retreat, including the line about not skipping any part of it because it all built up to the end. I told her everyone was saying it built, but it wasn't building for me, unless where I was now was where I was supposed to be according to the program.
“You mean here at this picnic table?”
“And pissed off.”
“...Who are you angry at, Pauline? Is it God? It's okay if it's God.”
That was when I felt the best and cleanest anger of all that weekend surge up in me. “No,” I snapped. “It's not. Not at all.” Then I hesitated. I still did not want to hurt these gentle and concerned women; my friend was still one of them and had done nothing wrong to me; and I sensed that they had all been trained in this, that it was not, originally, their idea. “I'm angry,” I said slowly, “with whoever came up with the idea that it's good for your spiritual life to be helpless before another human being. Being helpless before God is another thing.”
I don't remember what she said to that.
She said she believed God was working in my life. I said I thought so too. She continued, "He's just not working in the way you expected or wanted him to." Oh, because he's working the way you people wanted him to, is he? I thought. I had seen Christians identify their own authority and their own agenda with God's before, though I'd never seen the conflict start over a person's right to go to bed at 10:30. I turned to her and laid out to her the question I considered the acid test: if I said, and believed, that this retreat was bad for me, and walked away, did she or did she not think I would be walking away from God? She admitted that I would not. I snapped, “Good, because I don't think so either.”
I suppose that may have been the turning point. Somehow, a little after that, I heard her saying her heart's desire was for me to come back, but if I insisted on leaving we needed to discuss options. No one could be spared, she said, to drive me anywhere. I brightened. It felt like my soul snapping suddenly back upright, from agonized teenager into active adult.
"Oh, that's all right,” I said. “I have a plan.”
I explained about my friends' house. She worried that they wouldn't be home, etc, etc. I mentioned that I planned to come back for the closing service to say good-bye to my table mates, which I had promised in my note. I even said I would consider staying at the retreat if I were given assurance that no one would come and wake me if I went and took a nap. She explained that if I left and came back (I believe she meant both alternatives—going home or taking a nap) I would have to be in the congregation at the closing service, unable to sit with my table mates, go through “the ceremony,” or get my cross. I almost laughed. “I'm not invested in the ceremony and the cross,” I said. The idea of my taking a nap was dropped and never brought up again. Within another minute or two she was insisting that she had to walk me to my friends' house in case they weren't home. (What was she afraid would happen to me unaccompanied if they weren't?) I stood up, and asked her to make sure and tell the “cha” who had gone to fetch me a car; I didn't want to leave her hanging. She explained that the “cha” had approached while I had my back turned, and she had waved her away.
Yes, waved her away, requesting her not to interrupt such a good, deep counseling session.
We set up off the path, in awkward silence interspersed with awkward chat. We came to the door and knocked. The moment the door opened she turned to me, and, as my friend Jake looked at us in slightly sleepy confusion, gave me a big hug, looked me hard in the eye and said “See you tonight. Okay?” I said okay, and practically pushed past poor Jake into his own home in my eagerness for sanctuary. (He rallied magnificently with an immediate, unquestioning "Need a ride home?") The door closed somehow.
I was free.
Then came the talking, and the crying, and the being comforted by people who were not trying to control my life. The drive home and Jake's increasing shock at my full description of what had happened to me. Thanking him. Walking out into the woods behind my house, into freedom. Finding my husband at our favorite spot by the creek, my dear husband playing his recorder, music drifting into the air. So surprised to see me. So stunned by what I had to tell him. So proud of me.
I'll never forget that afternoon. I was exhausted and on edge, but once I had had a nap, the hours turned quietly beautiful: solitude, silence, sunlight, the woods. I'll always remember it. It was a little piece of Heaven.
My husband immediately set about researching Cursillo on the internet; among other things he found the website of Brian Janssen, who has written a book called “Cursillo: Little Courses in Catharsis.” His theory was that the weekend was designed according to psychological techniques to produce a strong cathartic effect at the end, which people believe to be a spiritual experience. I realized that in my own way, ironically, I had also been through a cathartic experience.
I did go back that night, but I was late, so I did not get to hear the others give testimonials of their experiences. Instead I was just in time to hug the people I had met and say goodbye; the spiritual director had already gone. I suppose she thinks I broke my promise. I'm not too troubled.
I spoke with my friend and sponsor, of course. She was very troubled by how the experience had turned out for me. She was disturbed, among other things, when I quoted “The lack of sleep is to break you down”—she had simply thought it a by-product of a full schedule.
She, of course, had been in on the other side: the nightly meetings of the volunteer staff in which they discussed each person's progress. (I later discovered that the volunteers had outnumbered us three to one, and that, out of five people in each assigned “table group,” two were staff who didn't identify themselves as staff till they were “outed” by giving a “rollo” talk. There were, in fact, in this group of 45 women, only 12 real participants.) She described the sense of shock and concern that had pervaded the group when I turned out to be missing. With my mind now firmly in my own culture rather than the mini group-culture of the retreat I was able to see how odd this was, that anyone should be shocked that a person had left before the end of a long-running program; that anyone should continue to be concerned after finding the person in bed.
She assured me these people were not intentionally practicing social control on me, and I believed her. I think that they were simply faithfuly following the program—and the program was designed to produce the effects that it produced. In faithfully following the program they had become their own little temporary culture, with its own expectations quite different from the norm; with such a high value on conformity that my small act of independence genuinely seemed to them irrational, dangerous, shattering.
I was not in on the end of the retreat, but I do know about one element of the last day's program. Before the retreats, the sponsor obtains from the “candidate's” spouse the addresses of her family and closest friends, and writes to them asking each one to write a letter to the “candidate,” an encouraging, personal letter about what she means to them. This produces the kind of letter a person may get only once or twice in a lifetime, containing the kind of concentrated, deeply personal praise people normally reserve for funerals—from every significant person in the “candidate's” life at once. I can only imagine the effect that receiving these letters would have had after three days of enforced boredom; maybe this is the catharsis in itself. (I should add that I think this is a wonderful idea in itself, and I would love to see it incorporated into a more free and restful retreat.)
This is what my friend said about my letters: they had been entrusted to her, and according to the program, she was expected not to give them to me. She had argued and obtained permission to give them to me anyhow. Ordinarily, she explained, she would be expected to hold on to them in hopes that I would attend another retreat and could receive them then. I said "I'll never attend another retreat." She said, "I know." She gave me the letters. It disturbs me profoundly that they put any pressure on her not to do so.
Coming out of this experience, my husband and I firmly believe—and our online research has turned up some very thoughtful people who agree—that Cursillo-based retreats are at best a social experiment in conformity and a distraction from the Christian life, and at worst, for some sensitive individuals, a true potential trauma. They are not a cult in the sense that they do not extract money from participants, seek to control them long-term, or commit serious abuses. But they do use techniques that are psychologically manipulative—techniques quite similar to cult techniques—to produce a supposed experience of God. If God is real, God has no need of such things; they only serve to give faith a bad name as mindless conformity. And these retreats do encourage conformity. We have heard often from participants that “[Cursillo] is not for everyone,” but I found “[Cursillo] is not for me” to be an unacceptable attitude as soon as I had entered the retreat. We've analyzed many of the elements of the retreat—far too many to tell about here—and suspect, with Brian Janssen, that they all are calculated to encourage a following of the group, a childlike relaxing into obedience. But far more difficult for us to deal with, now, is the Cursillo technique of having each participant invited and sponsored by a friend.
Consider this: a friend invites you to an event, pays money from her own pocket for your attendance, and works on the staff to make sure you have a wonderful time. But you have a terrible time. How much pressure are you under, at that point, to lie to her about your experience? What kind of friend would you be if you went around telling others what a terrible time you had at the event your friend invited you to, believed in and put so much of herself into? This isn't only my own dilemma: this is—I believe by design—the dilemma of every Cursillo participant who has had a negative experience. If you wonder why you have heard little criticism of the Cursillo experience, consider that.
My real name is not Pauline. I am not coming out against the Cursillo-based retreat in my local area except on a very quiet individual level. This is for the sake of my friend. But for the sake of everyone else, I felt I should make my story known. Please feel free to contact me at libertyingod at gmail dot com.
ANOTHER ANONYMOUS ACCOUNT
Maturity Doesn't Come In Three Days
By_________, Ph.D., Pastor of _____ ______ Baptist Church, ______, __ and Adjunct Professor at __________ ________ Seminary
While on staff at a church in _______ in 19__, an energetic couple in our congregation asked me to attend a Cursillo Weekend. I had never heard of Cursillo, but several new people who joined the congregation talked very highly of it. Cursillo was described to me as a "spiritual retreat." Beyond that, I was not told much. These folks were insistent that my wife and I both attend. Since I was in college, time was a premium. They kept asking and I finally attended a Cursillo Weekend at _______, ______. My wife, ____, went the following weekend. I did not know quite what to think of Cursillo, but I had a lot of reservations afterwards. ____ and I knew we were not comfortable with the whole experience, but we did not really know why. After about a year of reflection, we identified several problems we had with the whole movement. Ten years later, we still feel our initial conclusions are correct. I would like to share four problems I see with the Cursillo movement.
1. Cursillo is heavily influenced by Catholic theology. No one denies that the Cursillo movement began as an effort at spiritual renewal within the Catholic Church in Spain. The weekend I attended was sponsored by the _______ Cursillo Council, a Protestant organization. However, on the first evening we recited Catholic liturgy underneath a Crucifix. It was the first time in my life I had ever heard of Veronica.
2. Cursillo is influenced by a charismatic approach to sanctification. Many people involved in the Cursillo movement seem to think that three days at a Cursillo retreat means someone is instantly mature and ready for service. The whole concept is similar to the Charismatic belief in a "second blessing" whereby one becomes instantly sanctified and free from sin. In response, the traditional reformed view is that sanctification is both instant and continuing. When someone is saved, they are sanctified in that God now sees them through the holiness of Jesus Christ. We stand holy in God' sight because Christ's righteousness is imputed to us. Sanctification is continuing in that we continue to be set free from the power of sin. Sanctification is complete when we die and are free from the presence of sin (glorification).
This is my primary objection to Cursillo. Maturity does not come in three days and it is misleading to teach someone that it does. Instead, maturity comes from a consistent, daily walk with Christ. There are no short-cuts to Christian growth.
3. Cursillo undermines the local church. While I believe in the universal church, I am equally convinced that the local church is God's organization for the spread of the Gospel. Regrettably, many people in the Cursillo movement are more dedicated to Cursillo than their local church. I realize that this is an ad hominem argument. Nonetheless, it is true. My personal experience with Cursillo people in a local church has not been positive.
After I attended the Cursillo Weekend, my senior Pastor asked me what went on. He had not attended and the same people who urged me to go were urging him. After discussing the matter with me and with other Pastors, he determined that he did not want to encourage further involvement with Cursillo among our members. This frustrated the Cursillo people in our church because a Pastor is suppose to sign a recommendation form for someone to attend. When our Pastor did not want to sign these forms, the Cursillo people came to me and asked me to sign the recommendation form. In this instance, the Cursillo people in my church wanted me to reject the leadership of the Senior Pastor.
Cursillo also cultivates trouble in a local church because of a super-spiritual attitude among many people active in the movement. The assumption is that a Pastor who does not support Cursillo is not led by the Holy Spirit.
4. Finally, while I do not believe Cursillo is a cult, it does have cultic tendencies. One such tendency is secrecy. Traditional Christianity has no hidden agenda. Our Gospel message is open for all the world to see. Yet, Cursillo veils itself from outsiders. Those who attend are urged not to tell others what happened. I was even told not to tell my wife what the Weekend would be like. Cursillo also utilizes long hours of indoctrination. I sat for three days listening to short talks. At a very practical level, these folks need to learn that the mind cannot absorb more than the seat can endure!
I do not recommend the Cursillo movement for anyone who is serious about spiritual growth. Doctrinally, the concept has a flawed view of sanctification. Practically, it creates a super-spiritual attitude that is divisive to the local church.
I went to a Cursillo Weekend. I wish I had not gone to a Cursillo Weekend. I do not encourage anyone else to attend a Cursillo weekend. If one wants a good spiritual retreat why not contact the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove?.... If either of these options will not work, why not take your Bible and camp-out for a few days in a favorite park?
Retreats are a great idea. However, they are only a tool to help us grow in Christ. Maturity does not come in three days, even three days at Cursillo.