Posted by: Msgr. Larry White
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
A group of married couples started meeting the third week of June preparing for a Couples’ Shared Prayer Retreat. This is a retreat that a few couples and I experienced in 1913 at a place called Mo Ranch in the hill country. Msgr. Pat Cronin, then the pastor of Prince of Peace parish in San Antonio, put this retreat together to help the couples of his parish to establish a community between the couple and their family. This is called a Domestic Church. It is a retreat that gives couples a deeper appreciation of the Sacrament of Matrimony and how they can live this sacrament to the fullest each day of their lives. You may remember that the Sacrament of Matrimony is the only sacrament that the priest or bishop does not administer. The couple administers this sacrament to themselves when they commit themselves to live a life together on the day of the wedding.
As a couple lives this sacrament they have to face the realities of life. In the modern day, usually both the husband and the wife work. When children come, they have to accept the responsibility of caring for them as well as educating them. It often happens that the couple gets so involved in his or hers respective career and the responsibility of parenting that they forget to make time for themselves. As the result, living their sacrament suffers.
When a couple comes to the church to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony, they come as two; but once they confect this sacrament, they leave the church as a threesome – man, woman and Jesus. When one of three is left out of the equation, the marriage begins to suffer. It frequently happens that Jesus is first to be left behind. Just as a husband and wife have to communicate to each other each day so that their love can grow, so they have to pray – communicate with Jesus. Once the obligations of life over power a couple’s obligations to God, the couple’s relationship with the Lord begins to suffer. This begins to show when the couple stops coming to Sunday Mass together or missing Mass completely because they do not have the time. The couple may also stop praying together as a couple. The couple’s busy lifestyle does not permit time for the family to gather as a family to pray. Soon other areas of the couple’s married life also begin to suffer. The end result can be that the couple may live under the same roof while living the life of two single persons. This is not living the Sacrament of Matrimony.
To live the Sacrament of Matrimony, the couple must keep Jesus at the center of their relationship. The Couples Shared Prayer Retreat is design to help couples strengthen their commitment to each other by making time for shared prayer thus assuring themselves that Jesus is indeed in the center of their lives as a couple.
When couples come to me for preparation for marriage, I tell them to daily remember to make sure that once they are married to love each other more than they did the day before. Once children enter the picture, the best way to love their children is to love the child’s mother or father first and allow that love to spill over onto the children. The children will learn how to be loving themselves by the example given to them by their parents. I also tell them that should never love their children more than they love each other. It is precisely in the oneness of marriage that a couple’s love for each other will grow each day. Didn’t Jesus tell us “for this reason a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife so that the two become one flesh.” This applies to both the man and the woman.
This weekend, August 18-20, I am serving as the spiritual director of the Couples Shared Couples Retreat. By the time you read this letter, the retreat will be almost over. Since Friday night, I have witnessed the Holy Spirit at work as couples opened up their hearts and minds to be filled with His love and to deepen their loving commitment to each other. It was a beautiful thing to watch. I am sure that the couples who are on this retreat will tell you that it was worth the investment of time and money. I am equally sure that they will tell you that if you ever get the opportunity to make this retreat, to sign up without any hesitation. Over the past few years, there have been couples who were married a few years to couples married more than 50 years on this retreat. They all were moved by the Holy Spirit in some form or another.
I want to thank Msgr. Pat Cronin and the couples from Prince of Peace for reaching out to us once again to help this parish grow as a family. It was these same people who gave us the ACTS retreat.
I look forward to serving you one of these days on a Couples Shared Prayer Retreat. Remember that the only requirement for the retreat is that you be married by the Catholic Church. It makes no difference to which parish you belong.
I love you,