As Christians, we are called to love — God first, then our neighbor. Jesus said the entire law and the prophets were summarized in that double directive called “the great commandment” (Mt 22:35-40).
“For married couples, our first neighbor is our spouse,” said Father Armando Marsal, a Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary priest and parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Littleton. “Couples are called to love through their marriages.… The greatest need of society is for couples whose marriages really are a sign of the sharing of the love of Jesus.”
To help married couples deepen their love for God and for each other, St. Mary’s is offering a commuter retreat titled “Called to Love” Nov. 9-11 at the parish. It starts Friday evening and has all-day sessions on Saturday and Sunday. It is open to any married couple, regardless of age or years of marriage.
“Marriage is the place where one learns to love, to give your life to another person,” Father Marsal said. “It’s the way to God. It’s every day of our lives.”
While priests are involved, the retreat will be led primarily by married couples who will share their experiences related to issues couples face, including forgiveness, families of origin and communication.
Married 30 years and parents to four young adults, St. Mary parishioners and marriage preparation facilitators Meg and Ophil D’Costa will be among the presenters. They will share their experience with the challenges and blessings of forgiveness.
All ongoing relationships require forgiveness — particularly marriage. A whole host of serious issues can shake the foundation of a marriage and tempt spouses to divorce. Catholics have the graces of the sacramental marital bond and of the Eucharist and reconciliation to help them persevere.
“Our sacramental marriage is why we were able to get through what we did; you have to fall on your faith and the sacraments when things are tough in your marriage,” Meg D’Costa said. “The most powerful thing for us [are] the fruits that come from forgiving. The graces the Lord has given us have been amazing.”
After each talk, couples will be able to discuss privately what they heard and make resolutions for moving forward, explained Brian Donelson, St. Mary’s director of catechesis and evangelization and an organizer of the retreat. At the end of the retreat, couples will put together a plan to renew their marriage. The retreat will also offer an opportunity for follow-up support via a small faith community.
“Sacraments aren’t an end point, but a new beginning,” Donelson said, quoting Father Marsal. “This is meant to help couples live their marriage sacrament more fully.
“It’s meant to change the whole course of their lives. It’s directed to their hearts and minds. We’ll offer aids to help them grow in their relationship and, ultimately, to become fully alive in their marriages and families and to become missionaries [of Christ’s love] to the world.”
Impelled by this year’s 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), Pope St. Paul VI’s encyclical on marriage and responsible parenthood, organizers said the retreat also draws on another Vatican II document, Guadium et Spes (Joy and Hope, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) and on Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila’s recent pastoral letter on human sexuality, “The Splendor of Love.”
Sacramental marriage is the path to holiness for spouses, for it’s in the day-to-day living and loving that “authentic married love is caught up into divine love,” notes Gaudium et Spes. “Thus the Christian family, which springs from marriage as a reflection of the loving covenant uniting Christ with the Church, and as a participation in that covenant, will manifest to all men Christ’s living presence in the world, and the genuine nature of the Church.”
Only with God is this love possible, Father Marsal said.
“This is to help families to become missionaries [of Christ’s love],” Donelson said. “Not that they’re perfect, but they’re on the way.”
CALLED TO LOVE
What: Marriage retreat
When: Nov. 9-11
Where: St. Mary School (Joachim Hall) 6853 S. Prince St., Littleton, CO
Cost: $100 per couple, includes materials and meals. Childcare options are available.
Information/Register: visit stmarylittleton.org go to Called to Love or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 720-283-4731