SOL – August 2014

Synopsis of School of Leaders Presentations

August 16, 2014


1. Deacon Geoff Ashman on The Power of Intercessory Prayer

I.  Intercessory Prayer in Scripture:

Genesis 18: 22-33 Abraham Intercedes for Sodom

22 As the men turned and walked on toward Sodom, Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said: “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there were fifty righteous people in the city; would you really sweep away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from you! Should not the judge of all the world do what is just?” 26 The Lord replied: If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake. 27 Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am only dust and ashes! 28 What if there are five less than fifty righteous people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?” I will not destroy it, he answered, if I find forty-five there. 29 But Abraham persisted, saying, “What if only forty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it for the sake of the forty. 30 Then he said, “Do not let my Lord be angry if I go on. What if only thirty are found there?” He replied: I will refrain from doing it if I can find thirty there. 31 Abraham went on, “Since I have thus presumed to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?” I will not destroy it, he answered, for the sake of the twenty. 32 But he persisted: “Please, do not let my Lord be angry if I speak up this last time. What if ten are found there?” For the sake of the ten, he replied, I will not destroy it. 33 The Lord departed as soon as he had finished speaking with Abraham, and Abraham returned home.
The Word of the Lord

Intercessory Prayer.  This passage from Genesis is probably the most famous passage on Intercessory Prayer found in the Bible.  It raises the question, “What happens when we pray?”  Do our prayers ever change God, or do they mostly just change us?

Now Abraham’s intercessory prayer for the sake of the people of the city of Sodom seems to definitely change God.  God had plans to destroy Sodom but Abraham was able to get God to agree to spare Sodom if 10 righteous people were found there.  Although, somewhat ironically, Abraham wasn’t able to find 10 righteous people in Sodom so the whole city was destroyed.  Perhaps Abraham should have kept negotiating down to “If I find 1 righteous person…” He did find and rescue 1 righteous person: his nephew Lot before Sodom was destroyed.

II.  Intercessory Prayer in the Canonization Process:

The remaining step before beatification is the approval of a miracle, evidence of the intercessory power of the Venerable Servant of God and thus of his or her union after death with God.

The theological commission must also determine whether the miracle resulted through the intercession of the Servant of God alone. If the family and friends have been praying without cease to the Servant of God exclusively, then the case is demonstrated. However, if they have been praying to the Servant of God, to the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and others, then the case is clouded, and probably cannot be demonstrated. Thus, the task of the theological commission is two-fold, judge whether the cure was a miracle, and judge whether this miracle is due to the intercession of the Servant of God. The decision is forwarded to the Congregation in Rome.

III.  Intercessory Prayer in Church Liturgies:

(Note:  All Masses are Liturgies, but not all Liturgies are Masses)

A)  Liturgy of the Hours.

“The Liturgy of the Hours is intended to become the prayer of the whole People of God…The laity are encouraged to recite the Divine Office, either with the priests, among themselves or individually.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1175

Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer include Intercessory Prayer for the needs of the whole world.

B)  Other Liturgies: Baptisms, Weddings outside of Mass, Funerals Services outside of Mass all contain Intercessory Prayers.

C)  Mass:  In the early Church, intercessory prayer took the form we still use on Good Friday.  We pray for groups of people:

the church,
the pope,
the clergy and laity of the church,
those preparing for baptism,
the unity of Christians,
the Jewish people,
those who do not believe in Christ,
those who do not believe in God,
all in public office, and
those in special need.

This was shortened in the 5th Century to more of a list read by the Deacon with the people responding “Lord have mercy”.

In the 6th Century, Intercessory Prayer vanished from the Mass – and so did the Deacon!

Vatican II brought them both back.  It always made sense for the Deacon to read these prayers because part of his role is charity: a special concern for people who are poor and needy.  A Deacon should have a great awareness of the material needs of the people.  Since the Deacon should know the needs of the people, it only makes sense that he should be the one reading these prayer requests.  There was only one problem, when Intercessory Prayer was reintroduced into the Mass following Vatican II, there weren’t any Permanent Deacons.  The only Deacons – we’d call them Transitional Deacons were in Seminaries – men who had been ordained a deacon on their way to becoming a priest.  Since there weren’t any Deacons in parishes, a layperson would read the Intercessory Prayers at Mass.  Once more and more Permanent Deacons were being ordained though, the role of reading the Intercessory Prayer has gone back to them – at least in some parishes.

One purpose of Intercessory Prayer at Mass is to draw us away from only thinking about ourselves, and our personal needs, and to think and pray for the needs of others.

From the General Instructions of the Roman Missal:

The Prayer of the Faithful
69. In the Prayer of the Faithful, the people respond in a certain way to the word of God which they have welcomed in faith and, exercising the office of their baptismal priesthood, offer prayers to God for the salvation of all. It is fitting that such a prayer be included, as a rule, in Masses celebrated with a congregation, so that petitions will be offered for the holy Church, for civil authorities, for those weighed down by various needs, for all men and women, and for the salvation of the whole world.[67]
70. As a rule, the series of intentions is to be
a. For the needs of the Church;
b. For public authorities and the salvation of the whole world;
c. For those burdened by any kind of difficulty;
d. For the local community.
Nevertheless, in a particular celebration, such as Confirmation, Marriage, or a Funeral, the series of intentions may reflect more closely the particular occasion.
71. It is for the priest celebrant to direct this prayer from the chair. He himself begins it with a brief introduction, by which he invites the faithful to pray, and likewise he concludes it with a prayer. The intentions announced should be sober, be composed freely but prudently, and be succinct, and they should express the prayer of the entire community.
The intentions are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the deacon or by a cantor, a lector, or one of the lay faithful.[68]
The people, however, stand and give expression to their prayer either by an invocation said together after each intention or by praying in silence.

IV  How does Prayer Change Us?

Earlier I asked, “What happens when we pray?”  Do our prayers ever change God, or do they mostly just change us?

In terms of Intercessory Prayers, it definitely seems like we try in influence God to do something He otherwise might not have done.  Most of the time though, I believe our prayers change us, not God.

God definitely wants us to invite Him into every aspect of our lives.  From medical miracles to finding a really good parking space.  But what I’ve found is that by praying, I become more at peace.  And when we are at peace, we are more able to accept the graces that God is trying to give to us.  Some miracles might not happen, not because God wasn’t sending us what we need, but that we weren’t open to receive.  Palanca which Christine will talk about later is a great example of this.  Our prayers and sacrifices aren’t so God will send down His graces, it’s to open up hearts to receive the graces God is already sending our way.

2. Christine Hamann’s presentation on Palanca

Good Morning everyone,

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Chris Hamann and I am a member of the Secretariat. This morning I am going to talk to you about Palanca and my role as Palanca Coordinator.

Palanca is an important part of any Cursillo weekend as it lets the candidates know that people near and far are praying for them as they live their weekend. The Cursillo Movement assures us that prayer has always been the strength of all functions of the movement.

In the FICM (Fundamental Ideas of the Cursillo Movement), it says that Palanca is one of the basic elements of the Cursillo strategy. (#237) The FICM also says that Palanca is crucial to the spiritual success of any Cursillo weekend. (#333) Every Cursillista, after returning home from their weekend, knows what Palanca is. What they may not realize, at the time, is how important it might become in their 4th day journey.

So, what is Palanca?
1Thessalonians 5:17 says,”pray without ceasing”
Palanca is prayer, sacrifice and works of mercy. It is a tool, a lever, to assist us in every phase of the movement: Pre-Cursillo, Cursillo, Post Cursillo, Ultreya, Group Reunions, and in any Cursillo function, such as this School of Leaders.  Some of the most common prayers offered as Palanca are: Holy Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, praying the Rosary, reading Scripture, Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, and Liturgy of the Hours, just to name a few.

Prayer alone is not Authentic Palanca. So, we also include almsgiving, fasting, and acts of self denial that is offered with our prayer. Some of those acts might be giving up snacks, chocolate, or coffee, less time using electronic devices, or walking with a pebble in your shoe all weekend. I am sure all of us have heard of these things being done, or have done them themselves.
***Prayer with sacrifice, Authentic Palanca, is not always pleasant or easy things to do, but they are very effective in securing God’s Grace.

A Palanca letter is a letter, sent to the candidates and team on the weekend, informing them of the prayers and sacrifices being offered to God on their behalf. It should be understood that letters are not Palanca, but merely the means of communicating the Palanca that is currently being offered- the intercessory prayer, sacrifices, and works of mercy.

Why do we offer Palanca?
In John 15, Jesus tells us: “apart from Me, you can do nothing”. That is why we invoke Jesus’ help as we offer our Palanca.
Palanca is the responsibility of all Cursillistas, and should be part of our daily piety and action.

My role as Palanca Coordinator is to collect and send out Palanca letters that I spoke about a little while ago. When I began doing it, all my Palanca requests came from the Palanca Magazine, which was a monthly publication that listed all upcoming Cursillo weekends in the US, as well as featured articles about Cursillo. I sent all letters out snail mail. It was small expense for me and it was a time sensitive task. The good thing was there were only 10-20 letters to be sent each month. It didn’t take much time and it was fairly easy. At the same time I was collecting Palanca letters, I was also receiving Palanca letters for our weekends as well.

That was 14 years ago. The Cursillo Movement has grown tremendously since then. Now, my role has become more involved, more time consuming, and all done electronically. The Palanca process begins with me adding our weekend information to the National Cursillo website every three months. This is where most of the requests and letters come from that makes my job an on-going process.

I receive weekly requests from a national Cursillo list and an international list. I also receive requests on a daily basis in my own e-mail address which I write down and keep on a separate chart. I have to cross reference each list because some addresses appear on more than one list. Every weekend, I send our Diocesan Palanca letter to every e-mail address I have for the following weekend.

In addition to all requests for Palanca, I also collect Palanca letters from all over the world for our Cursillo weekends. The list of requests varies in length depending on the time of the year. The spring and the fall have longer lists, while the summer and winter months are shorter with fewer requests. I  collect anywhere from 75-100 letters for each of our weekends and it is my responsibility to make sure they get to the Sarto Center and, beginning this fall, to the North Country weekends as well.

I keep 2 separate folders that I use to collect Palanca letters for our Cursillo weekends, men’s and women’s. Each folder contains a list of where each letter is from and how many there are. I do this for 2 reasons: first, so I do not send duplicate letters and make more work for myself; secondly, and more important, I add that information in the Palanca envelope with all the letters that I send to the weekend so the candidates can be told of how many people have been praying for them and from all over the world. This fall, with 4 Cursillo weekends, I will be very busy collecting and sending Palanca.

I also get requests from National Cursillo and other Schools of Leaders for our Palanca letter. The national list I get has requests from at least 20 states, within the United States. The international list has requests from at least 25 other countries. Most of the requests are in English, but some are in other languages like Spanish, Italian, and Vietnamese.

I also receive requests from non-denominational ministries similar to our Cursillo weekends. So, I also send our Palanca letter to:
– Tres Dias- they explore basic Christian beliefs and describe their weekend as a spiritual encounter with Jesus Christ
– Emmaus- their mission is to serve people of all faiths who answer the call
– Kairos- ministry to imprisoned men and women, helping to give them a new vision for a new or better relationship with God
– Credo- a ministry for those seeking recovery and freedom from addictions
– Chrysalis- their mission is to facilitate the personal, emotional, and spiritual transformation of incarcerated individuals, those formerly incarcerated and their families

Lastly, I receive letters from other Cursillo World Organizations that share information about Cursillo in their area such as:
– OMCC- World Body of Cursillos in Christianity, in Portugal
– NACG-North American and Caribbean Group

The National Cursillo also has a list of daily Palanca requests we should all be doing. You can find this list also on our Cursillo website:

Monday- for all National, Regional, and Diocesan Secretariats
Tuesday-all Schools of Leaders
Wednesday- all Cursillistas in the US
Thursday- National Cursillo Movement’s Apostolic Actions
Friday- all Cursillo weekends currently being held
Saturday- the Executive Committees for the OMCC and NACG
Sunday- all international Cursillo weekends being held

I also send out a personal Palanca letter to each candidate on our weekends. I sometimes offer Holy Eucharist, or pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or the rosary for the weekend.

Recently I have taken on a new challenge in my role. Currently, the Palanca letter I am sending is the same one I started with 14 years ago. The members of the Secretariat have decided a change is long overdue. So, I am in the process of redesigning a new Palanca letter.

So……. this is what I do as Palanca Coordinator. After 14 years, I still enjoy doing it. It is my way of giving back to the Cursillo Movement and I get to spend more time with my husband Don and share in the Cursillo Ministry. Now, our son Jason has become involved in the movement and we do it as a family. That is awesome!!

I will end with this scripture passage from Mt.7:7, Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and it shall be opened to you”.
It happened for me and it can happen for you.