On Thursday last week, I hugged my toddler and left him with my parents while my husband and I set off for a retreat. Since giving birth, I had never spent a single night away from my child, and now I was going to spend three nights away from him. Why?
There was this retreat being held, called the Domestic Church Evangelization Retreat; a weekend for married couples to recharge or begin their spiritual life together and grow closer to God. This would be a time for silence, growth, and learning. While I was excited for all of these prayerful aspects, I also was pretty deliriously excited about the opportunity to spend a long weekend relaxing with my husband and not changing dirty diapers or cooking or cleaning. Altogether, I was pretty excited about this weekend away-and the retreat did not disappoint.
The weekend followed a pretty basic rhythm: Wake up, meet in the chapel for silent personal prayer and group Liturgy of the Hours, then eat a deliciously unhealthy breakfast of biscuits & gravy and omelettes that were saturated in butter. Then, we'd have a morning session presented by a priest on marriage, followed by Mass and lunch. A few hours in the afternoon were deemed "Family Time," and then we'd have an afternoon session that would teach us about the Domestic Church movement, followed by dinner and various evening prayers or activities. My husband and I were both very excited-and relieved-to hear the couple in charge tell us at the beginning that this would be a relaxed retreat. It was extremely chill, and a very peaceful time.
The organizers also informed everyone that this retreat was a stand-alone weekend. While they would teach about the Domestic Church movement, there was absolutely no commitment to join, and they wouldn't even ask us if we wanted to join formation in Domestic Church! I thought this was pretty cool, because it placed the whole emphasis of the weekend on your journey towards Christ as a couple, and being open to whatever would bring you to Him-it could involve formation with DC, but it may not, and that was okay.
This weekend wound up being exactly what I needed. I had been trying to trust God in this pregnancy, and in the 48+ hours leading up to the retreat, this was feeling like a pretty difficult battle. I also thought I'd have a difficult time being apart from my little toddler. However, I really experienced the grace of so many people's prayers, because I encountered a huge outpouring of peace while on retreat, and I did not experience any anxiety, and actually barely thought of my toddler (which really surprised me!).
Over the past few months, my husband and I had been struggling to regain the rhythm of our spiritual life and practices. We'd get an awesome routine for a couple weeks, but then someone would get sick for a week, and by the time we'd get back into a routine, someone else would get sick...you get the idea. And then the holidays happened and I started getting pregnant-nauseous, so most days I felt like we were floundering when it came to prayer. This retreat came at the perfect time to help us get back on track. As part of the weekend, we spent an extended period of time doing Couple Prayer, following guidelines that really helped us get deeper than sharing our general thanksgivings and intentions. Another part of the weekend was the Couple Dialogue, in which we had a chunk of 3 hours in which we could prayerfully discuss our life as a couple, our life as a family, and our life with God. This uninterrupted time, away from the concerns of the home, to share and talk with each other was priceless.
Another aspect of the retreat which I really enjoyed was the fellowship with other couples. It seems that often, at church events, we mainly get to know other couples as parents, because everyone's kids are running around nearby. While breastfeeding babies were allowed on retreat (there were four cute babies!), and everyone talked about their kids a little bit, we mainly got to know each other as adult men and women who are striving to live out the Sacrament of Marriage. We played games, laughed til we cried, and talked about deep and superficial topics. It was really, really awesome.
I am so grateful that God presented the opportunity for my husband and I to attend this retreat. Already, in the 30+ hours since we left, I've seen a change in our marriage and home life. This weekend brought my husband and I together in a deep and beautiful way, and I am so thrilled to see how God continues to work in our life over the coming months. The Domestic Church Evangelization retreats are kind of hard to come by, since the movement is so new to the U.S.A., but if any of y'all have an opportunity to attend one, I highly recommend that you consider going!