The Marriage Enrichment Retreat was held at the Divine Retreat Centre in Mulki from 7th to 9th February 2020 and was attended by twenty couples. During these three days we went through various teachings, sharings and activities which helped us renew our love and appreciation for our spouse and of our togetherness in loving, honouring and serving God.
The first session was conducted by Lavisha and it helped us understand what our ‘love languages’ are and how by knowing our spouse’s love language we can efficiently express love which is understood by the other. She spoke about how this may not always be easy, but it is definitely rewarding. She helped us do a questionnaire through which we were able to discover each other’s love languages.
The following day Melvin and Neetha talked about ‘serving God through Christian marriage’, on the significance of Christian family – that it is the basic unit of the Church and by protecting the family we are supporting and strengthening the Church. They reminded us that the call to family life is also a vocation and we cannot neglect our responsibilities in raising our family according to God’s will by being preoccupied with Church or community work. This involves being good role models for our children and serving together as a family whenever the opportunity arises.
The next session was by Elvis and Gladys on ‘the Christian couple as a pastoral tool’ where they shared how a married couple is a team working together with complimenting roles and functions. The man’s role being provider, protector and governor and the woman’s role being helpmate and partner, they together ensure that Jesus is the Lord of their home. As a couple, we are called to pastor our children just as Jesus, the Shepherd pays attention to His sheep with love and dedication.
The key ingredient in working as a team is ‘effective communication in marriage’ and to understand this Jeswin and Lavisha shared about how communication is required to move us together according to God’s purpose and some of the obstacles we face such as difficulty in dealing with the spouse’s kind of communication, holding on to hurts and resentments, etc. They then gave practical tips on how to communicate effectively such as listening to what the spouse has to say, being Christ to the spouse, accepting corrections, being objective and focusing on the issue, etc.
Gerard and Audrey then shared in detail about ‘role of a Christian husband’ and ‘role of a Christian wife’ in a family. Gerard explained that a man fulfils his responsibility as a ‘priest’ by bringing up his family spiritually, protecting and is ready to die to himself for the family. As a ‘prophet’, he is called to be Christ to his family and leads them to grow spiritually i.e. taking responsibility to teach the kids about the Lord. Finally as a ‘king’, he handles the affairs of the house and ensures that all needs are met and everything is in order including the family schedule. Audrey shared that a woman is a helpmate and that she should be submissive, and that it is not an attitude which is enforced on her but is a whole-hearted choice. She helps her husband fulfil his role as prophet, priest and king by interceding for him, providing a listening ear to him and is a wise voice as he makes family decisions and helps him to follow through those decisions. She also helps him serve in any way that is required of her. On the whole, the relationship between a husband and wife is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and His Church.
The Lord’s Day celebration was celebrated which brought everyone together as one big family, thanking God for all that He has provided and preparing ourselves for ‘spiritual rest’ we would be receiving the next day. Almost as a follow-through of the same celebration, a ‘date night’ was arranged for the couples. We exchanged decorated love letters in a romantic setup and had a guided heart-to-heart talking time that allowed us some joyful moments thereby ending day two on ‘cloud 9’!
With a better understanding of our call as couples, day three was all about rebuilding our marriage and home for God. Gerard spoke about the need for ‘healing in our marriages’ , where he shared that due to the baggages we bring from the past, we tend to hurt each other despite out best efforts to contribute in building a happy and loving marriage. This, in turn, prevents us from implementing all that we have been learning in previous sessions. The only way out is to allow the healing to take place in us which is possible chiefly through forgiveness. However, this forgiveness is not a one-time thing as it needs to be given freely to the spouse always. He then took us through an inner healing session where we were guided to pray over our spouses, forgive them and ask forgiveness for all the hurts we have caused them.
We were then taken through steps of ‘building our home for God’ by Melvin and Neetha on the importance of a properly-structured home environment where Christ is at the centre of life for the family. It is the responsibility of the parents to teach their kids by being good examples themselves, through prayer, family time and service, to help them experience God’s providence and love. We learnt that order in a family should not be established out of fear but through love, patience and faith.
The Mass we celebrated was coincidentally on the feast of the Holy Family and asked for their intercession to bless our homes and instil in us the desire to raise a family after God’s own heart. We then renewed our marriage vows, reminding ourselves of the promises we made on our wedding day, as well as giving us new hope of implementing the decisions we made over the past three days to love, honour and serve each other.
The MER ended on a high note with everyone coming forward and sharing how God has spoken to them in these three days and what they would like to do going forward. We then had a ‘praise fest’ where we thanked God for the marvels He had done and will be doing in our marriages.
Altogether it was a truly unforgettable and moving experience. With love and anticipation in our hearts we moved out with a greater fire for each other, knowing that God is at work in us, building and moulding us to be families after His own heart.