Love Your Marriage retreats help marriages to thrive, remain holy

Richard and Megan Burks’ marriage was good: They served as Eucharistic minsters at Our Lady of Loretto Parish in Aurora, and while there was nothing necessarily wrong with their relationship, they knew God was calling them to more. This is why they chose to attend a “Love Your Marriage” retreat. With an enriched family life, they recommend the retreat to any couple of any age who wishes to love God and one another in a deeper way.

“We wanted to go and continue to invest in our marriage,” Richard said. “We wanted to figure out more ways to love each other.”

Among the practices they incorporated into their marriage and family was an intentional time for communication.

“[Now], we do a weekly recap of what were some good and not-so-good things during the week to help our communication and make sure we’re focusing on each other and making sure we’re keeping our relationship strong,” Megan said.

This also gives them accountability in praying together and passing on their faith to their two children, Richard added.

“It wasn’t just ideas, but specific examples. Being able to walk away with tangible things [from the retreat] was very helpful,” Megan said.

The “Love Your Marriage” retreats are part of an archdiocesan initiative to help couples accomplish their mission amid the strains of life.

“We need strong marriages.  With the demands of our daily lives, it can be hard to fit in quality time with our spouses, but it is so important,” said Carrie Keating, NFP and Marriage Specialist for the Archdiocese of Denver. “The Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries wanted to create retreats around the archdiocese that would serve marriages, bringing them closer to each other as well as to God.”

One of the many things that make the “Love Your Marriage” retreats so great for couples is their structure, which is parent-friendly.

“We have six parish host sites for ‘Love Your Marriage’ retreats.  They provide couples an easy way to invest in their marriage,” Keating explained. “We wanted it to be accessible on lots of levels: affordable, half-day time commitment, with food and childcare included.  ‘Love Your Marriage’ retreats also have wonderful content developed by trusted experts in the relationship field — St. Raphael Counseling and Marriage Missionaries.”

“The format is wonderful!” Megan said. “It’s so easy to attend and not too overwhelming like a whole weekend. Also, you meet other couples who try to live out their faith, and to hear what they have implemented in their own families and what they are doing is very helpful.”

“[These retreats] are good whether your marriage is good or not, no matter where your marriage is at, no matter where you are at in your faith journey,” Richard said. “People get the impression that you should go only if you’re in trouble, but it’s good even if you’re not, like it was for us.”

COMING UP: Searching for wisdom in a confused world

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Jordan Peterson became an overnight celebrity with the success of his book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Random House, 2018). A viral interview from January of this year with Kathy Newman of England’s Channel 4 News brought immediate attention to Peterson’s newly released book, which has sold over two million copies since its release. The interview proved emblematic of Peterson’s popularity for attempting to retrieve common sense and to push back against the ideology overtaking our society.

Why has Peterson proved to be so popular?  A clinical psychologist, who teaches psychology at the University of Toronto, Peterson addresses issues that people care about: finding meaning, relationships, parenting, and gender, to name a few. People are looking for a guide, they desire wisdom — knowing how to order and make sense of reality — and Peterson has offered some needed insights. He tells his readers, “Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles into traversable pathways and expanding opportunities. Strengthen the individual. Start with yourself. Take care with yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality. Choose your destination and articulate your Being” (63).

This quote illuminates both the allure of Peterson’s writing, helping people to seek definition for their lives, but also its limits, as the definition of self he recommends lacks mooring. Writing from the viewpoint of secular psychology, Peterson can help us to reflect, but his 12 Rules for Life can come across as sophisticated self-help devoid of deeper wisdom. He engages the Western tradition, including the Bible, and offers a fresh, but ultimately unsatisfying, reflection of the stories that define our tradition. He does bring needed common sense, such as “stop doing what you know to be wrong,” (which should not even need to be said) but fails to provide answers to the ultimate questions that define meaning and identity (157).

Greater depth and wisdom can be found in Leon Kass’ Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times (Encounter, 2017). Kass, a Jewish medical doctor and bioethicist, draws from his lengthy experience in science and teaching the Great Books at the University of Chicago to take us deeper into the human condition and point us toward a richer understanding of the human person — body, mind and soul. Kass, like Peterson, does not write from a religious perspective, but engages the same general themes and classic works, such as the Bible, though with a more convincing explanation of their meaning.

Kass’ book has four major sections, treating themes of love, human dignity, education and our higher aspirations. Kass guides us to reconsider the importance of the foundational goods of life — finding meaning in work and married life — as well as calling us to “the cultivation in each of us of the disposition actively to seek the truth and to make the truth our own” (256). We pursue this liberation by entering into the great tradition of Western thought, which provides an “education in and for thoughtfulness. It awakens, encourages, and renders habitual thoughtful reflection about weighty human concerns, in quest of what is simply true and good” (ibid.).

The thoughtfulness encouraged by Kass is needed more than ever to address the key concerns he raises: a collapse of courtship and marriage, biomedical challenges to the integrity of human nature, and a decline of citizenship. The first two themes share a common source in the “the rejection of a teleological view of nature,” which finds no intrinsic purpose in the human body or even life itself (54). Speaking of the threat of biotechnology and transhumanism, but in a way applicable to gender as well, he relates that “only if there is a human givenness that is also good and worth respecting — either as we find it or as it could be perfected without ceasing to be itself — does the given serve as a positive guide for choosing what to alter and what to leave alone” (149). We must learn to appreciate and cultivate the good of our nature, rather than manipulating and controlling it to our own demise. The same is true of our nation, as Kass, drawing on Abraham Lincoln, points to the need for “enhancing reverence for the Constitution and its laws” (377), as we appreciate, preserve and advance the heritage of our country.

Kass, drawing on his unique background, guides us through an integrated discovery of the good and points us toward the wisdom we need to live a worthy life.