Online retreat concludes in prayer

First slide
First slide
First slide
Previous Next

More than 100 married couples gathered in prayer on St. Valentine's Day with Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde to conclude a seven-day online retreat. The morning event included a final reflection by the bishop, benediction and Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

At least 700 couples registered for the first Busy Couples Online Retreat, which was sponsored by the Office for Family Life. Each day included a brief videotaped message from the bishop, followed by discussion points and prayer exercises.

"We ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to love each other more fully, deeply and faithfully," Bishop Loverde said in his final reflection.

The bishop said that in St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he describes love in many different ways, but love is more than a feeling or emotion.

"Love is a decision," the bishop said. "It is an act of the will to be for the other's good, the other's welfare. This love is rooted only in Jesus Christ."

The bishop told the couples to take part in the holy Eucharist every week at Mass and to reflect on the virtues that St. Paul mentions in his letter.

"Think about how your spouse exemplifies one or more of these virtues," he said. "Choose a virtue that you wish to grow in, and begin to practice that virtue more intentionally.

"I eagerly desire that every married couple would experience real fulfillment in their lives, and that will happen if you stay close to Jesus," Bishop Loverde said.

The bishop told the couples that their marriages will be successful "if they travel well together."

In his homily during the Mass, the bishop focused on the Gospel reading of the wedding feast at Cana in which Jesus performed His first public miracle by turning water into wine.

"I want to remind you how Jesus blessed marriage at the beginning of His public ministry," Bishop Loverde said. "His presence (and that of the Blessed Mother) showed the importance of a husband being joined to his wife."

The bishop summed up the online retreat by using an acronym for COUPLE that emphasized confidence, openness, understanding, prayer, love and Eucharist.

Paraphrasing the words of Pope Francis, the bishop said that husbands and wives are the cornerstone of the family, and the family is the cornerstone of society.

"May each of you participate in the survival of humanity," Bishop Loverde said.

Married couples who participated in the online retreat had high praise for the series.

Steve and Barbara Burnett from Church of the Nativity in Burke, who've been married for 46 years, said it was their first retreat together as a married couple. They thought it was the perfect length as a starting retreat.

"I loved the bishop's approach on the computer," said Barbara, who is a retired teacher from Holy Spirit School in Annandale. "He was very warm and got right to the point.

"I enjoyed the Bible readings that he picked," she said. "One of my biggest takeaways is to pray together. That struck me as being a very meaningful thing to do."

She was especially moved by the one passage from Tobias in which the husband got out of bed and had his wife kneel down as they prayed together. "That struck me like a bolt," she said.

"I just love Bishop Loverde," said Steve. "He just has a way of bringing the message to you in a very challenging fashion. What he's done with everyone supporting him in the Diocese of Arlington is tremendous. He reaches all aspects of life. He's the right man for the job."

Amy and Tom Pengidore from St. Louis Parish in Alexandria said they got an email from the diocese letting them know about the retreat and it sounded appealing.

"It was great," Amy said. "It was very thought provoking. Each day there was something to think about, to pray about and talk about together. It was wonderful how it helped us address some issues that you don't, but should, talk about.

"It was perfect having the videos so we could do it at a convenient time," Amy said.

"How it was done was exactly how it was presented," said Tom. "It was for busy people. It was something short and concise, and it gave you something to think about as a married couple.

"As the bishop said it's about the vocation of marriage," Tom said. "He took topics that married couples may want to think about, if you're not already doing it."

"You can always strengthen your marriage," Amy said, "and with prayer that is wonderful."

Jack and Ann Mika from St. Lawrence Parish in Alexandria heard about the retreat through an online newsletter.

"I was really impressed with how professional it was," said Ann. "I wanted more of this. It's ending, and I want to watch it again."

"It was a good length," said Jack. "It took about five minutes to watch the video, and then a few minutes to discuss the topics. I thought it was very well done.

"You can always find five minutes, even when you're busy," he said.

Ann said she is looking forward to the idea of praying together as a couple.

"We've done that before at various times in our marriage, and at other times life takes over. But Jack said he would like to start praying together again. We have a Lenten devotion that we want to go over together and I think that's wonderful."

Thérèse Bermpohl, director of the Office for Family Life, encouraged the couples to continue their prayer journey during Lent by attending either the Men's Conference March 7 or the Women's Conference March 28, both of which will be held at Foxchase Manor in Manassas.

The Office for Family Life is supported with funds from the Bishop's Lenten Appeal.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015