Together in Holiness Retreat reminds couples of centrality of God in their marriage

By Ed Hopfner

“So, so good.”  “It was great – and tangible (I was worried it would be too theoretical or theological).”

These were some of the reactions of the more than 60 young and not-so-young couples attending the 7th annual Together in Holiness day retreat last Saturday at Immaculate Heart parish.  The event is co-sponsored by the Archdiocese and the Saint John Paul II Foundation to offer support for couples at all stages of marriage, from engaged to great grandparents (on or near St. John Paul’s feast day of October 22).

The annual retreat is part of ongoing Archdiocesan efforts to provide resources for marriages and families. Both are a priority for Archbishop Cordileone, who has been determined in recent years to increase the availability of such resources to support and strengthen couples.

Jackie Angel, began the day with a dynamic presentation, reminding everyone that since God is love, God must be at the center of our marriages if we are to truly love our spouse.  Marriage is an icon of God’s love for His people, and our marriages are called to show that love to the world. The marriage vows themselves are a promise to love our spouse as Christ loved us: freely, fully, faithfully, and fruitfully.  Every time married couples come together in the one flesh union, it is actually a renewal of their marriage vows. And, at the very time we are united with Jesus in the Eucharist, it is a renewal of our baptismal vows and a sign of unity.

Local speakers Andrew and Mary Beth Brown spoke on prayer for couples: the importance of prayer in their own lives, various forms of prayer the Church offers, benefits of prayer in the life of a family, and suggestions for overcoming difficulties in prayer (which we all have at times).  Andrew challenged the men of the retreat to be leaders and models of prayer in their own families, reminding them that children are taught primarily by the examples they see in their own parents. The presentation concluded with an opportunity for couples to briefly pray for each other.

Jackie’s final talk was on deepening love and intimacy in marriage.  It begins with self-knowledge, being able to answer the questions “Who am I?” and “What am I made for?”   Those able to answer the questions truthfully (“I am a beloved child of God, made to love and be loved, here and in heaven”) have real direction in life, and power over any obstacles the devil presents to us.  Then we need to know our spouse to better love them. Tools for this include understanding the “love language” of your spouse,  understanding unhealed wounds they may have, and (always) a forgiving heart.

The day concluded for the couples with a vigil Mass offered by Archbishop Cordileone.

In his homily, Archbishop Cordileone spoke on the sacredness of marriage, thanking those who attended the conference and Mass for their “commitment to living those sacred vows, keeping the dignity with which God has created you and given you in your own vocation of marriage.”

Ed Hopfner is the director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.