This post is the first of a two-part series.
We’ve been asked recently for our tips on making your marriage preparation as in-depth and transformative as possible. Whether you’ve chosen a day-long workshop, pre-Cana classes at your parish, or meetings with a sponsor couple, consider taking time for further education and prayer, as time and finances allow, with a supplemental retreat for you and your beloved. In these days of the New Evangelization, the Church is rich with resources ancient and new that invite rest, contemplation, and time to be drawn nearer to one another as you both are drawn into the Father’s love.
Because so many worthy resources exist for different spiritualities, devotions, and needs of the heart, it would be impossible to list them all. Your diocesan website is a good place to begin seeking upcoming events that might bear fruit in your relationship. Another is the dwellings of religious orders in your area, some of whom welcome visitors to join in their daily rhythms of prayer, work, or ministry or who host speaking events.
And think beyond the confines of topics related specifically to marriage prep: retreats with the themes of prayer, art, theology, mental wellness from a Catholic perspective, and beyond allow ample time for discussion, self-examination, and growth in faith. Below, by region, are a series of programs and ministries that can provide the silence and deeper dive you might be thirsting for.
Charis NYC: Ignatian retreats by and for Catholic young adults, with several program options centered on spiritual concerns common in this stage of life, including discernment, contemplation, meaningful living, and life’s transitions (New York City).
Given: A day-long event for engaged or married couples featuring talks, worship, and the sacraments (Baltimore).
International Institute for Catholic Culture: Founded in response to John Paul II’s call to the faithful to re-evangelize the culture and form a “civilization of love,” this non-profit educational center well-suited to lovers of theology and academics provides classical language courses, lectures on the intersection of faith and culture, art exhibits, and musical performances (Philadelphia).
Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center: An apostolate of Regnum Christi that hosts Ignatian-inspired retreats of varying length, as well as monthly reflection events. The center is particularly gifted with meeting the needs of couples, offering its own marriage prep program for engaged couples, speaking events for newlyweds, and marriage workshops. Catholic counseling and therapy are also available onsite, through the Alpha Omega Clinic (Washington, D.C.).
St. Joseph Retreat House: Serving the New England region with guided retreats inspired by St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, with time included for structured prayer, recreation, and spiritual direction (Boston).
Theology of the Body Institute: Offering a variety of 5-day courses designed to form the entire person, “head and heart,” the Institute combines academics with the sacraments while educating on Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body Audiences, Love and Responsibility, and other writings, alongside topics like beauty, interior prayer, and a retreat created specifically for engaged or married couples (Philadelphia).
Love Your Marriage: An day-long event for married couples, with an emphasis on creating a holy, thriving relationship through all stages of life, including newlywed years and parenting (Denver).
Ruah Woods: a Theology of the Body education center offering study courses and retreats both on and off-site. The center also offers psychological services from Catholic professionals whose worldview informs their work with clients (Cincinnati).
St. Benedict’s Abbey: Men’s, women’s, and couples’ retreats led by Benedictine monks (Atchison, Kansas).
Tabor Life Institute: Programs and retreats that teach the Theology of the Body through the use of Scripture, writings by Church mystics, art and iconography, and the Eastern Rites of the Church. The Institute--whose staff includes a priest who attended some of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body audiences in Rome, the first time they were delivered--additionally hosts Pre-Cana weekend event for couples preparing for marriage in the Byzantine Rite (Chicago).
Alexander House: Founded by a longtime-married couple who restored their relationship from the possibility of divorce with the help of a Catholic therapist, this apostolate for couples in all stages of marriage and family life provides courses for engagement and problem-solving for troubled marriages, all in light its mission to help couples create a joyful domestic Church (San Antonio).
Casa Maria Convent & Retreat House: Offering structured retreats, including those for couples, that include talks, personal prayer time, the sacraments, and participation in the Divine Office with the beautiful Sister Servants of the Eternal Word (Birmingham).
Catholic Charismatic Center: Offering retreats for young adults and couples (recent leaders include Father Stan Fortuna), rooted in the spirituality of the Charismatic renewal movement (Houston).
Three to Get Married: An engagement retreat aimed at comprehensive formation of spouses-to-be--spiritual, psychological, emotional, and cultural--through presentations from priests, married couples, medical professionals, and trained psychologists (Nashville).
John Paul II Resource Center: Providing day-long Theology of the Body retreats on a variety of topics--including those geared toward women, men, parents, couples, and educators--as well as talks for marriage preparation and enrichment (Phoenix).
New Camoldoli Hermitage: A beautiful, coastal Benedictine hermitage, offering preached retreats throughout the year by the Camoldolese Benedicitines and inviting participants into the prayer of monastic life (Big Sur).
Our Lady of the Rock: Retreat opportunities hosted by Benedictine sisters, inviting guests to participate in the daily prayer and tasks of their monastic farm life, which is largely self-sufficient (Shaw Island, Washington).
Sacred Heart Retreat House: A site run by Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart, this house provides retreats for men, women, couples, and young adults, rooted in the Carmelite spirituality of leading the faithful into a deeper relationship with Christ (Los Angeles).
Passion and Purpose for Marriage: An initiative of Dynamic Catholic, this one-day event, hosted across the U.S. and based in California, offers talks for couples in all stages of their relationship on practical matters in the vocation of marriage, prayer and worship, and time for one-on-one discussion.
We thrive on the community you help us to grow. If a program or retreat you’ve attended has blessed your relationship outside of marriage preparation, be sure to share it with other brides in the comments and on our social media.
Next week, read more on retreats, including digital resources and how to plan your own retreat with your beloved.