Newlywed Life | A Letter to the Wife Striving to Be Like Mary.

KATE THIBODEAU

 

To the wife striving to be be like Mary,

Twenty-three years old, Catholic, and married to a wonderful Catholic man seems like ad ream, one I’m blessed to experience day by day. I met my husband in college, and we became friends. In the crazy hectic time of our senior year we fell in love, getting engaged shortly after graduation.

  Photography:    Dennis Crider Photography   , c/o Spoken Bride Vendor    The Mantilla Company

Photography: Dennis Crider Photography, c/o Spoken Bride Vendor The Mantilla Company

In one quick and eventful year, I graduated, carried on a distance relationship, worked multiple jobs, lived alone, moved home to my parents’ house, got engaged, planned a large wedding, moved belongings into our new apartment, and married my best friend. It seems like a beautiful, chaotic whirlwind. Yet as a millennial introvert, plagued with a one-track mind and fear of change, I find myself married and unsure of what on God’s green earth I’m doing.

So much happening in my life at once was possibly God’s greatest challenge to me: a challenge to come out of my stationary existence and instead pursue greatness.

In moments of self-doubt, I still wonder how I got here. How I could be seen as worthy to be a good wife to my husband; his greatest helpmate towards heaven?

The most obvious sign my husband and I experienced in knowing we were called to this shared vocation came through daily opportunities to better our individual spiritual lives. We held each other to high standards of holiness, knowing we each desired a saintly spouse who would raise a faithful family.

During engagement, we prayed for chastity and for the strength to reach the altar as the best versions of ourselves. We appealed to the saints for their assistance and implored Mary’s divine aid through consecration. We received the sacrament of confession within an hour of our nuptials and made it to the altar in a state of celestial happiness and joyful hope for the future.

 With the honeymoon over and our lives settling down from the highs and stresses of wedding planning, I realize so much has happened, and feel like I still do not know how to be a wife. I am a terrible cook, an “adequate” housekeeper, and more than a little overwhelmed by the new changes my life has undergone--trying to find a new normal.

I find myself worrying about the novelty of married life: what can I make my husband for dinner today? Would he like this painting hung here? Am I giving him the support he needs? When will we know God is calling us to parenthood? Where will we live in five  years?

I find our anxieties and worries are rarely from heaven. In moments of stress, we tend to assume we are alone or that no other person could have experienced exactly what we are going through. However, that is simply not so.

My consecration to Mary in the 33 days preceding our wedding brought such peace; a peace I hope will always remind me to dismiss my negative thoughts and focus on Mary’s example.

In reflecting on the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary alone, I recall the challenges presented by Gabriel’s announcement and Mary’s  forthcoming marriage to Joseph. I cannot imagine a more stressful scenario than being told you are to carry the Son of God, along with the typical changes that accompany married life.

Mary rises to the occasion without question, and with a grace-filled yes. She is the ultimate example of a selfless, worthy wife. She was not ready for such an urgent and special task and did not know how to be the perfect wife or mother. Yet her trust and faith in our Lord proved her an ideal woman, a  model to all young and inexperienced wives.

 The greatest takeaway from my consecration came from Mother Teresa’s prayer to Mary to “lend me your heart.” I find myself praying these words whenever I struggle with patience, stress, anxiety, or self-doubt.

To young wives unsure of what they are doing or what their new vocation entails, I encourage you to join me, asking Mary to lend you her heart.

 Let her fill you with her virtue and grace to approach marriage as our husbands’ best friends and helpmates. Do not allow fear to paralyze you or doubt to detain you from serving God through your vocation. God calls us only to missions he knows we can gracefully undertake. He provides us with examples by which we can accept and rise to the occasion, with Mary’s yes as our wifely motto.

To new brides, know you are not alone. Look to Mary’s example and allow your vulnerability to help you love your husband through a season of change. I promise I will be praying along with you as we tackle the beauty of this: our vocation.


About the Author: Recently married to her best friend and partner towards salvation, Kate Thibodeau is learning how to best serve her vocation as a wife while using her God-given talents. With an English degree from Benedictine College, she strives to live the Benedictine motto: that in all things, God may be glorified. Kate loves literature, romance, beautiful music, pretty things, wedding planning, and building a community of strong Catholic women.

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Bridegrooms Share | On Differences of Opinion in Wedding Planning, Long-Distance Engagement, and Arguing with Love.

How beautiful that women called to the vocation of marriage are disposed to receive the love of both the divine and an earthly bridegroom. Married life, in its purest form, affords an opportunity to know the Father’s love more perfectly by giving to and receiving from our spouse. Every person, however, remains a mystery to be constantly unveiled and made more real--true to who God has created him or her to be.

To illuminate the engagement, wedding, and marriage experiences from the perspective of men chasing sainthood and excruciating love, we’ll be periodically sharing a word from the bridegrooms in our lives. This week we chatted with Andrew, a high school teacher, father of three, and husband to Spoken Bride’s Co-Founder and Editor in Chief, Stephanie Calis.

Tell us about your discernment journey, before and during the time you began dating your wife.

When we met in college, Stephanie was in a relationship and I wasn’t the sort of guy to try and intervene. In the classes we had together, I found myself more and more interested to hear what she would say. But I refused to admit I was romantically interested. I told my friend and bandmate, “I don’t want to date Stephanie, but I want to find someone who has all her qualities. Just someone like her.”

Although I had a consistent prayer life at the time, I was still in a band, doing band things, and didn’t always watch my language or sense of humor. There was something about my wife that’s hard to put into words; something that made me want to be better. It’s not just “pure,” or “holy,” but maybe “deeply worthy of love.” Like someone that you want to cherish.

What saints have played a role in your relationship?

JPII!I learned about the Theology of the Body from Stephanie and it was one of the most formative times in my life. I also have a longtime devotion to Saint Jude, because I can be dramatic and think normal things are “hopeless cases” like finishing a paper on time or getting a job. These two men of faith have always pulled through for us.

What was your engagement like, and how did you work through its challenges?

Our engagement was mostly grace-filled. We were in different states, however, five hours apart. We spent a lot of time on the phone, which was good for us in so many ways. When we’d see each other, though, it was tough not to be overwhelmed by our physical closeness. In striving to practice chastity, we tried to hold one another to a high standard and went to confession frequently.

One unexpected challenge of engagement was the necessary material preparations for marriage. We fought about everything. I thought Stephanie was materialistic. She thought I was an ascetic. I thought she was just tossing on everything in sight onto our wedding registry: tiny hand towels? Sure! More tiny hand towels in another shade? Sure! Sixteen champagne flutes as a future heirloom? What? It was awful. But we tried to persevere in communication and forgiveness.

To serve each other well in your wedding planning, I recommend being easy-going about the particulars. If something doesn’t fit your exact vision and is not a major question of morals or finances, let it slide. I’ve seen instances where one person’s ideals trample on the other’s opinions. Accepting one another’s choices for things like attire and flowers are a small way of sacrificing for your future spouse--accepting that his or her tastes aren’t identical to yours.

How do you handle disagreements and problem-solving with your spouse?

We try to hold hands or touch in some way while working out an argument. It calms us both down. We also try to give each other the benefit of the doubt. I once accused Stephanie of intentionally burning my scrambled eggs, for instance. It was pretty petty of me--it was also pretty ridiculous--and over time we’ve tried to apply the approach of trusting and assuming the other’s best intentions before making accusations.

What has surprised you most about married life?

How natural it felt. It just felt like the next step in our relationship. It was--and is--absolutely wonderful.

Andrew’s advice for Catholic grooms and husbands:

Do something kind--just one, tiny kind thing, even just saying, I love you--whenever you recognize the impulse to do something selfish or speak something unkind. It goes a long way to helping your mood and your relationship.

And forgive immediately, endlessly and unconditionally. You’ll both mess up, again and again and again, often making the exact same mistakes you just repented for. Forgive unconditionally.

To our brides, we hope you’ll share these words with your beloved. If there are particular insights or questions you’d like addressed in future posts like this one, and if the man in your life has his own wisdom to share, be sure to reach out on our social media or at submissions@spokenbride.com.

Newlywed Life | Accepting Imperfection

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

My prayer during my engagement was earnest and intense, if not terribly varied. Most of my petitions revolved around the hopes I had for my marriage:

Prepare me to be a good wife. Prepare him to be a good husband. Slay my selfishness, Father, and help me make a gift of myself. Help us have long, happy, life-giving years together.

I was determined to make marriage make me better, not for my sake but for the sake of the man I loved.

Over the course of a year, I made my way through Venerable Fulton Sheen’s Three to Get Married, highlighting entire pages with his meditations on love and sacrifice. Sheen frequently notes the that even in all the beauty of married life, God alone satisfies our deep ache for completion, asking questions like, “How can one love self without being selfish? How can one love others without losing self? The answer is: By loving both self and neighbor in God. It is His Love that makes us love both self and neighbor rightly.”

Somehow, this point got obscured in the elation of my engagement. It felt impossible not to imagine that, despite our human weaknesses and the inevitable arguments and inconveniences, marriage would be a perpetual state of transcendence. The heights.

And in many ways, it really has been. I try to stay aware and thankful of the fact that my marriage has been a purifying gift, with many moments of scarcely believable joy and true communion. Yet as I anticipated these days I once only dreamed of, I still created an elevated ideal of what I thought marriage would be--and, more specifically, how I would be.

I thought love would drown out any voices of self-doubt in my mind. I thought gratitude for my husband would make petty bickering simple to resolve. I thought no matter what lay ahead on the exterior, that the interior--the particular relationship and bond I’d share with my husband alone--would be untouchable.

As with any great love, there’s a heady early stage filled with infatuation and good will. Even for those of us aware of this tendency, it’s hard to avoid that rush. Without intending to, I’d become infatuated with marriage itself, idealizing it, and idealizing who I wanted to be as a wife, in my hopes for perfection.

After our wedding, I found myself wrestling with my worth through a season of unemployment and loneliness in a new town, annoyed when my husband did chores differently than me, and resentful that exterior issues like in-laws and long-distance holidays still cast frustration on my overall happiness.

I wanted to be the best wife I could be, and ended up misinterpreting “best” as “never dissatisfied.”

It wasn’t my husband’s doing. Never in our relationship have I felt on less than equal footing with him, and never has he been less than affirming and consoling when I’ve needed his tenderness and strength most. It was my own self I had to confront. Just as my veil was lifted at the altar on my wedding day, I was forced to see the me that resided beneath the veil of my ideals. The lifting of that veil, and the opportunity to contend with the fact that, despite my efforts, I couldn’t be a perfect wife--nor was I called to be--was painful.

I became so aware of my shortcomings in a way I hadn’t been before getting married. Seeing how I reacted to irritations and trials in relation to another person were like a mirror to a version of myself I’d never seen before. The image wasn’t the one I’d always hoped to see.

But who you are in your vocation isn’t just the person you or your spouse sees reflected back at you. Who does the Father see?

In all my concerns, all my desires to be the best I could be at marriage, my focus was so narrow I often forgot to welcome the channel of grace. I forgot to invite the Lord to form me alongside my inferior human designs, to welcome the formation that hurt. And ultimately, to trust that even in my imperfection, he loved me the same. It’s the same kind of love spouses are called to bear to one another--the holy one’s own face--and the kind of love I received time and again from my husband.

During a recent storm of anxiety and self-contempt, a therapist showed me an image with three concentric circles. The outer ring was labeled facade, encompassing the people, things, achievements, sensual things, and tendencies to pride and vanity we might attach ourselves to in the world. Within it was a circle called defects, including our failures, past sins, disappointments, anger, and means of escapism (food, materialism, sex, or substances). The center circle read core, and listed who every child of God is and is made to be: Beloved. A temple of the Holy Spirit. Full of grace. Holy. A new creation.

These three circles, she said, together make up our spirituality. While we, and others, can see the facades and the defects--surrounded by our idols, the things we desire to be or what we want the world to see--God’s transforming, radical love, his vision of us, quite literally cuts to the core.

He sees the us in that center circle, not discounting the imperfect parts of us, but never withdrawing his love in spite of them. Knowing this, it’s like having permission to let the idols topple. It’s natural, and good, to desire becoming your spouse’s closest earthly example of excruciating love. It does take three to get married, though, because peace lies in knowing you aren’t doing it alone and, moreover, knowing the Lord wants us to become more and more an embodiment of his love in our vocation.

Imperfection is a part of us, but it’s not who we are. Our identity doesn’t lie in our shortcomings or in the masks we wear. It lies in who we are: his daughters and sons.

Images by Rae and Michael Photography, as seen in How He Asked | Jocelyn + Cheyne


About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

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Newlywed Life | When You Aren't Able to Have a Cocoon Period

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

I clearly remember the hours spent on the phone with my husband-to-be during our long-distance engagement. At some point, at least several times a week, we’d express how much we missed each other, following our unintentional script: “I can’t wait until this time is over and we can see each other every day.” “Me neither. We won’t have to say goodbye anymore! Instead, it will be goodnight.”

Short of a handful of work-related trips and bachelor and bachelorette weekends each, my husband and I have been blessed with the opportunity to come home to one another almost every day of our marriage, a gift we try not to take for granted. Having friends in the military, ministry, and the corporate world, we’re aware that for some couples frequent travel and separation is the norm, not the exception.

What will your own living and time situation look like after your wedding day? Being able to insulate and fortify your marriage in its early days--a “cocoon period” wherein your relationship and its boundaries are a top priority--is an incredible grace. But if by necessity or circumstance--school, a job requiring regular interstate trips, selling a home, or otherwise--you and your spouse aren’t able to be together daily, your marriage certainly isn’t doomed. Where some opportunities are absent (namely, the ease of spending significant amounts of time together as husband and wife--and it’s alright to find this difficult and undesirable), others present themselves. But only with the Father’s hand.

I recently talked to two friends, a couple married six years who spent the first six months of their marriage living in two different states as one spouse completed her PhD and the other established his business. I find their devotion to prayer, theology, and liturgical living so inspiring, and as we chatted about their advice for married couples who are frequently separated, it appeared clear to me that some of the very habits established during their time apart later flowed into the habits they maintain still, now together each day and with their children.

Here, their tips for couples experiencing temporary long-distance marriages.

Invest in your prayer life as a couple.

My friends told me when they shared their forthcoming situation with their pastor during engagement, he urged them to develop habits of regular prayer, both individually and as a couple. Going so far as to schedule specific times to pray is very helpful for accountability--they committed to praying on the phone before work each morning, using this prayer for married couples, followed by spontaneous prayer and intentions.

If necessary, get creative with your time and schedules.

Making time to chat each day was a priority for my friends, one that involved a well-worth-it effort to align their schedules across different time zones and responsibilities. Depending on your situation, this might look like one or both spouses waking up an hour earlier or talking during meals or work breaks.

Know your limitations, however, and prioritize each other’s well-being--my friends decided to impose a rule of no evening Skype calls on weeknights, because they’d both be too willing to stay up too late.

Find things to do together from a distance.

Reading the same book, watching the same show, or even making the same recipe can help you feel connected across the miles.

Try to see each other as much as possible.

As time and finances allow, it’s worth making efforts to see one another often. This might involve certain sacrifices; my friend, for instance, decided to live with family during his time apart from his wife, and the money they saved in rent went to plane tickets, instead.

Expect an adjustment when you’re reunited.

The end of your time apart will surely be one of great joy. Bear in mind it will also be a big move for at least one spouse, with many changes: living with someone new and adjusting to a new location, job, and community. Give yourselves times to ease into the transition, in the form of taking a few days off from work and taking things slowly before overloading yourselves with social commitments.

A temporary long-distance marriage probably feels more unfair than a long-distance engagement; after all, the contentment of significantly more time together is a privilege of becoming husband and wife. Yet opportunities for your sanctification and the strength of your relationship do exist; gifts even in a less-than-ideal situation. If you have or will experience frequent separations from your spouse, be assured of our prayers, and be sure to share the practices that have helped you on your journey.


About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

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Editors' Picks | Vol. 12: Favorite Love Stories

At Spoken Bride, we love a good book, a good meal, a standout statement necklace, a heel you can dance in, and the list goes on. And when we make those discoveries, we want to tell everyone. So every month or two, we're sharing our latest and favorite finds in everything engagement, wedding, and honeymoon-related.

The best romances direct our earthly emotion and longings to the Holy One, the beloved of our souls whose love is bottomless. Today, we're sharing the love stories that inspire us from literature, movies, TV, and the lives of the saints.

Jiza, Co-Founder + Creative Director

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series: Oh, where to begin?! There is something about Anne and Gil that will always give my stomach butterflies or make my heart skip a beat. I love Gil’s devoted pursuit of Anne and that he loves her for who she is, even when she is absolutely stubborn and unreasonable. From their early rivalry to their friendship to their eventual marriage, this fictional romance is one of my all-time favorites.

Chiara Corbella Petrillo and her husband, Enrico: Chiara is a young Italian wife and mother who died in 2012 of carcinoma. When you read her biography, Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy, written by her friends Simone Troisi & Cristiana Paccini, the beginning delves a great deal into Chiara and Enrico’s roller coaster courtship. Their marriage, too, was also not short of great suffering and sacrifice up until her death. Their relationship is real, gritty, and painful, yet still full of joy, trust, and redemption. In a world that idolizes the appearance of a curated, blissful marriage, I find great consolation in Chiara and Enrico and their absolute surrender to always serve God and do His will, no matter how much it hurts.

 

Andi, Business Director

Jim and Pam from The Office: this has got to be one of the most down-to-earth, relatable love stories out there (you know you cried at their wedding!). From the start I loved how Jim and Pam were friends; their relationship just slowly grew from there, and the show drew it out over a few seasons because real life is messy and doesn’t always happen on our schedule. Jim was so patient and it was worth it in the end!

 

Mary and Joseph: As I recently prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, I was reflecting on the theological virtue of hope, and Mary and Joseph came to my mind. Saint Joseph shows us so much trust in the Lord when he decides to marry Mary, despite the unexpected news of the Word becoming flesh in her womb. They both show us hope by trusting in God’s plan for their marriage and family, even with all the unexpected circumstances they had to endure.

Ella and Kit from Cinderella (2015): I had very low expectations going into this Disney remake and ended up blown away by the tenderness and affection that grew between Cinderella and Prince Kit. So much depth, personality, and actual motivations were given to these characters, and it made them so real! I think my favorite aspect of their relationship is the purity it’s portrayed with: neither had the intent to use the other for their own purposes, and neither felt worthy of the other, allowing real love to grow.

 

Stephanie, Co-Founder + Editor in Chief

Kitty Scherbatsky and Konstantin Levin from Anna Karenina: Tolstoy’s novel is most famous for its portrayal of a love story gone off the rails, via the affair conducted by the title character. So I found myself surprised, as well as incredibly moved, when I read the book for the first time and discovered that in contrast to Anna’s infidelity and emotional caprice, the story also traces the development of another relationship, one rooted in constancy and personal growth. The romance between Kitty and Levin matures as each grows in awareness of human nature and suffering, culminating in one of the most beautiful proposals I’ve ever encountered--fictional or real.

Saint Gianna Molla and her husband Pietro: Saint Gianna, to me, is a woman of vocation. She embraced all the Lord called her to in both gladness and trials; her decision to give birth to her fourth child at the cost of her own life embodied our ultimate call, as Christians, to lay down our lives. Her sacrifice is heroic, yet what stands out to me most is the ordinariness of who she was, in the best way: a 20th-century working mother, like so many of us, who desired to create a joyful and peaceful home for her family. The number of canonized married saints is few, so I am grateful for the poetry and encouragement I’ve found in the letters exchanged between Gianna and her beloved husband, Pietro. They cared for one another with a beautiful regard for one another’s spiritual well-being, with a sweet tenderness, and even a holy boldness--feeling certain of her devotion to Pietro, who was the shyer of the two, Gianna was the first to say I love you, expressing her desire for a lifelong commitment and family!

Tami and Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights: I consider myself emotional when it comes to love (read: crying over practically every Spoken Bride wedding submission), but I’m not easily swayed by shallow sentiment or sweeping gestures. I find the real and the messy romantic, because that’s who we, as humans, are. It’s what I love in the relationship between Coach Taylor and his wife. I truly can’t think of another TV marriage that is so realistically and positively portrayed: one rooted in abiding trust and good will, even when frustrated by life and work’s demands, one that doesn’t blow problems out of proportion for the sake of drama but confronts them with honesty and respect, and one with expressions of endearment and physical affection that feel so unaffected and true to life.

Did we include your favorite couple on this list? Share the love stories you love in the comments and on our social media.

Engagement + Newlywed Retreats, Part II | How to Plan Your Own Personal Retreat

This post is the second of a two-part series. Find Part I, our regional guide to the best retreats for Catholic couples, here.

If you and your beloved crave a respite from wedding planning or life’s busyness--quite literally, retreat--yet your time, travel, or financial circumstances aren’t suited to a more formal, sponsored retreat, it’s still possible to create your own day(s) of contemplation and fruitful discussion.

Here, our tips for planning a DIY retreat.

 Photography: Dominick Tardogno, seen in How  He Asked | Caty + Ryan

Photography: Dominick Tardogno, seen in How He Asked | Caty + Ryan

Choose a destination.

A shrine, monastery, cathedral, or other holy site in your area (or within day-trip distance) are good potential retreat locations. If you live in or near a city, consider planning a day of pilgrimage to several shrines or chapels. This directory of Catholic sites in the U.S. is a handy starting point for your plans.

Seek out the sacraments.

In the real presence of the Lord, the sacred beckons. Allow time in your day and travels for Mass, confession, spiritual direction, and/or Eucharistic Adoration.

Bring materials for introspection and prayer.

As deeply as we all desire quiet and rest, once we find it, it’s easy to feel...restless. The fruit of our perpetually connected, phones-at-the-ready habits. It’s alright if you struggle to focus during longer periods of prayer; persist, asking the Father to remove distractions from your heart and draw you into himself.

Moreover, come prepared, and allow time to practically and spiritually renew your relationship. Plan for at least one, and up to several, periods of Adoration or quiet prayer before the Tabernacle during your day of retreat. Designate a time for structured prayer, reading, or other devotions. You might consider…

Lectio divina (read Spoken Bride vendor Liz Escoffery’s tips for praying with your wedding vows here) | Spiritual reading on love and marriage (find our recommendations here) | Beloved, a video series on Catholic marriage | The Culture Project International’s lecture series on St. John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility | a talk from the National Forum on the Theology of the Body | How-To Catholic, a podcast on liturgical living and the daily life of the faith, hosted by a husband-and-wife duo | Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire podcast | Leah Darrow’s Do Something Beautiful podcast | Dr. Gregory Popcak’s More 2 Life podcast, focused on relationships

Talk.

Discuss the thoughts and insights borne of your prayer, reading, or listening. If questions surface--from the fun to the serious--ask them. A Q+A book for Christian relationships, like this one from the author of The 5 Love Languages, can spark your inquiries. Should particular issues arise that invite further probing and communication, pray about whether pre-marital counseling or spiritual direction can benefit you.

Plan a date.

End your day of retreat with dinner, a long walk or hike, or favorite hobby. For movie buffs, Christopher West’s The Cor Project offers a free, downloadable guide to “Theology of the Body at the movies” when you subscribe to their mailing list.

As Christ is transfigured atop the mountain, a vision of heavenly glory, his friends desire to linger there. Yet, he gently reminds them, they aren’t meant to stay forever at the summit; it’s back on the ground, amid the world, that they’re called to be his witnesses.

And so it is with a retreat, just as with marriage: some moments are so elevated, so glorious, we never want to leave. In the times we’re back in life’s trenches, when the crosses feel heavy, when our hearts cry out, it’s those memories of transcendence that sustain us. May you find true peace and rest during your time of retreat, re-entering the world remade and brought to life.

Engagement + Newlywed Retreats, Part I | Supplementing Your Marriage Prep

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.

  Photography: Mel Watson Photography

Photography: Mel Watson Photography

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.

 

East Coast

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).  

 

Midwest

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).

 

South

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).

 

West Coast

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).

 

Nationwide (U.S.)

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.

Miles Christi: Guided Ignatian silent retreats hosted by the Miles Christi brothers, offered nationwide and based in Michigan and California.

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.