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Retrouvaille: 'Married Couples' Spirituality
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by Fr. Jerry Foley
"I realize now what counselors lacked was spirituality!" The women who made this comment at the end of a Retrouvaille weekend for hurting marriages reflected the deep hunger for a meaningful spirituality in our society today.
Jack shared this hunger as he wrote after a Retrouvaille weekend: "This past weekend may have saved more than our marriage. I have not been a very devout Christian these past few years, and this weekend has given me reason to evaluate my faith. I believe I was touched more on a personal level because I had a change of heart spiritually."
Spirituality has more to do with relationships than with individual activities. We are told the biggest spiritual problem in American today is boredom, which is lack of meaningful relationships.
Team couples in Retrouvaille don't preach but share their own faith life through stories of how God has graced the ordinary events of their lives. Even in the painful darkness and loneliness of a couple whose love has turned cold, people can find God in the very longing to be reunited, healed, and whole.
That need for God is reflected in the Alcoholics Anonymous' second step, namely the need for a Higher Power if our lives are to become manageable.
Unfortunately, many hurting couples are not actively involved in church. Some are indifferent, but more are alienated by hurts or caught in pain and feeling angry at God for their misery.
Arlene deliberately married civilly because of her anger with the Catholic Church. She participated in an alienated Catholics support group for seven years, determined there was no way she would have a church wedding. After making the Retrouvaille program, Arlene said: "This is the first time I have experienced a church that cared." She added that she was "really impressed by the fact that the church was getting involved with people in their hurt and pain. I don't know if that's the church's responsibility to reach out to families in crisis, but that is my expectation. " I validated Arlene's marriage several months later.
Carol's Retrouvaille experience was similar. "Thank you for helping me understand what free will is. I've always been so heavily laden with 'shoulds' and guilt. Now I see how this has hampered my attitude toward God, my husband, and society in general. I know I have a long way to go for a full understanding, but for the first time in my life it feels okay to be me - loved, honored, and accepted by God."
Studies show the most predictable factor for marital success is a strong faith life. Yet couples often acknowledge they hear very little about the spirituality of marriage and relationships in their parish churches.
More attention is given to weddings than to living the sacrament of marriage in daily life. A billboard in my city wisely reads "Loved the wedding. Invite me to the marriage - God."
That God loves marriage may be evident in the testimony of a woman finishing a Retrouvaille weekend: "57 days ago we were going to get a divorce. We already had the court date. Then we decided we would do one more thing for our marriage, we would make a 54 day Rosary novena. Half way through the novena, our daughter and son-in-law gave us a brochure for Retrouvaille. We had never heard of it but agreed to attend. The novena ended on Thursday, we came here on Friday, and today is the 57th day and we aren't going to get a divorce!" She had the sense that God led them right up to the Retrouvaille experience.
Information on the Retrouvaille program is available by calling 1-800-470-2230 or on the website at www.retrouvaille.org.
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Spirituality in Marriage
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