In an environment of prayer, learning, and Christian fellowship, over 30 couples from across Bangalore came together at St. Gaspar Retreat Centre, Kithaganur for a Marriage Enrichment Retreat (MER 1). The programme started on the morning of 2nd November 2019 and concluded the following evening. Across the two days, the couple-participants were presented with seven teachings, couple discussions after every talk, a unique Lord’s Day celebration and a special evening of quality time. Meanwhile, the kids had a wonderful time watching movies, playing games and doing other fun activities with the singles.
The first talk focussed on ‘Serving God through Christian Marriage’ where it was highlighted that the most important service God is calling married couples to is to build strong Christian families. The talk stressed upon the need to give oneself and to serve their spouse and on how they should try to bring God into every area of their lives under His Lordship.
Once the participants realised this great call, them operating as a ‘Pastoral Team’ was introduced in the second session. The speaker highlighted that the husband and wife rather than competing with each other are to work together! God is calling them to be ‘The Good Shepherd’ where they jointly protect and take care of their families, just as He would feed and care for His sheep. The fact that homes need to be a domestic church where practical steps are taken to make Christ the centre of their values and relationships was also discussed.
Holy Mass was then celebrated and being All Souls’ Day, it included special remembrance and prayers for the dead and a short prayer service at the Cemetery. Post lunch, the next two talks shed light on the role of a ‘Christian Husband’ and that of a ‘Christian Wife’. For the men, their roles as a husband and father were discussed while for the women, their role as a helpmate was brought to the front. Both sessions also dealt with how they can each effectively contribute to a wholesome home environment.
What followed was the Lord’s Day Celebration, a short ceremony of how the early Christians prepared and welcomed the Sabbath. Celebrated in a spirit of joy and thanksgiving, the experience was a first for many of the attendees. The highlight of the day, however, was the beautiful ambience created for the couples to have a period of meaningful quality time. Post dinner, they were welcomed into a beautiful space adorned with twinkling lights and the mood was set by some romantic numbers playing in the background. The couples got some time to share and whisper sweet nothings over delectable brownies! They also presented each other with a love letter that each of them had handwritten and decorated.
Day two started with Praise & Worship which was succeeded by the session ‘Effective Communication in Marriage’. The talk encouraged the couples to be desirous of wanting to spend quality time with each other and to ensure that their communication only encourages, affirms and offers constructive criticism.
An important aspect of ‘Healing our Marriages’ was the focus of the next talk where the different areas of hurt they may be struggling with was touched upon. The couples were reminded that only if they are healed, can they build up one another. The speaker then invited the couples to come before the Blessed Sacrament so that the Lord could heal their marriages especially their emotional and physical pains. Followed by a general prayer for inner healing, the husband and wife took turns praying for each other’s bodily ailments, asking the other for forgiveness and then meaningfully saying the words:
“I love you and I forgive you….”
The final session on ‘Building our Homes for God’ presented ideas on how to build homes where Christian culture can be truly lived out to the fullest. The characteristics of a Christian home with Christ as the foundation, a roof of Love and walls of Faith, Service, Peace and Order were also described. The talk concluded with the exhortation to go and build with the Lord as He is the architect and the very life of every Christian home!
With better understanding and appreciation of God’s plan for their marriage and family life, the couples along with their children attended Holy Mass and during that time, also renewed their marriage vows and committed themselves to living out God’s plan. A keepsake photo shoot where each family was individually captured brought the beautiful program to a close by creating lasting memories.