I made my Cursillo as a young adult 44 years ago at St Paul’s Center when it was located on Humboldt St. in  Brooklyn. For me, as I know for many, my Christian Awakening changed my life and gave me the tools to grow closer to God every day. I remained active and met my dearest friends, including my husband Joe, through St. Paul’s, and so my marriage was destined for perfection, right? Wrong! Just like any other couple, our marriage has faced many challenges, and through hard work and the Grace of God we continue to grow together. I think every marriage starts out with good intentions. On our wedding day, we are so in love and so desirous and optimistic of sharing our lives together, and then life happens. The stress and worry that comes with our jobs, kids, extended family, finances or our health can make us forget the vow we took to put God first, and then each other, above everything else. It’s so easy to drift apart if we choose to weather the storms alone.

I am so grateful that St. Paul’s offers the annual Married Couples Retreat. Joe and I had made the retreat many years ago and, for whatever reason, dropped the ball on making it again. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit nudged us, and when Darlene and Mike McGovern invited us again to make the retreat, we agreed—and it was the best decision we had made for our marriage. We now make sure to block out the time in our calendar to make it annually.

This year’s theme was the Beatitudes, based on the book by John Bosio called, “Blessed is Marriage: A Guide to the Beatitudes for Catholic Couples.” What a weekend! From start to finish, the weekend was so powerful. We focused on four of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, Blessed are They that Mourn, Blessed are the Merciful, and Blessed are the Peacemakers. You can do a weekend just meditating on one, but we took the time for these four.

Whenever I considered the Beatitudes before, I thought of Jesus teaching the people how to treat our neighbors. I never contemplated before what the Beatitudes would mean to me in how I love and treat my husband. Do I recognize my poverty in Spirit? Am I self righteous with my husband? I need to recognize first, my need for God in my own life, to listen to God’s voice, to be aware of His mercy, and to see that we need each other in our marriage to bring us both closer to God. Blessed are they that Mourn. How do I deal with the crises in our lives? They can be the big things, or they can be the little mundane things. One of phrases that will stay with me is what we all know but sometimes forget, “The most important things in life AREN’T things.” How do I get through disappointments? Remembering that we can be both the giver and receiver of God’s gifts to each other, reminds me that by getting through the mourning process— we can find comfort. Before, my understanding of the Blessed are the Merciful Beatitude was doing service for others. It is easy for me to write a check for a charity, send food for someone who lost a loved one, donate clothes to the poor, or sponsor a family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But how do I show mercy in my marriage? Do I have to be right all the time? Do I listen to my spouse or do I have to try and jump in and solve the problem when my spouse just wants to be heard? Showing mercy to my husband does not diminish me. If I take the focus off of myself then I can be compassionate to him, and in doing so, I allow him to experience God’s love. When Blessed are the Peacemakers comes to mind, I think of Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King. How am I a peacemaker in my marriage? Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to forgive when you have been hurt deeply. Do I truly forgive but really bury the hatchet and mark the spot with an “X?” Do I hold out and expect my husband to apologize first before I can let go of my anger and resentments? Forgiveness is not always about the big things, but being able to forgive can be a mindset. If I can have a heart with the attitude of forgiveness, it can only bless and strengthen our marriage. I loved the takeaway that forgiveness is not an attribute of the weak, but of the strong. The only way to know peace is to learn how to forgive.

We had a weekend filled with so much camaraderie, laughter, tears and fun. We were able to renew our marriage vows at a beautiful Saturday evening Mass and find each other anew in serving one another. We were so blessed to be with other couples who, like us, are not perfect but are looking to strengthen their marriages. Some are  married for just a few years and starting families, and others have children that are grown and out of the house, but all of us were there sharing our journeys and doing our best to live out our marriages with God’s Grace.